Posted by: Sean | October 8, 2008

Theme Week Dwarves: The Dwarf Play File

We like semi-regular columns here at Blogatelle because they require less intelligence than original ones. What’s that you say? Brain is refusing to work? Throw together a “Do It Different” and declare it done for the day. But lately, I admit, we’ve been hit by a worse than usual brain freeze. I blame bears.

And so, here is a new semi-regular column. The Play Files will, using as many lore sources as we can lay our hands on, try to give a solid understanding of how one race views each of the in-game classes, and how they are likely to relate to each of the other races (within both factions) and how they view each of the classes. Our analysis will be half informed exegesis of canon sources, half pure wild speculation. I suspect the latter half will be more entertaining.

We’ll try and do at least one of these a week, and we’ll fill in the Blood Elves and Draenei ones soon. But first: Dwarves.

The Alliance

Draenei: The draenei arrived at a very intriguing time for the dwarves. Had they arrived even a few years earlier, they would likely have been welcomed with open arms as living embodiments of the Light. However, with the dwarves swinging around to Titan worship, the draenei may now have an incendiary effect within their society – They’re powerful advocates for a philosophy the dwarves are now questioning. While paladins and Light oriented priests are likely to be reservedly enamored of them, those who are leading the charge to the Titans are in turn likely to see them as throwbacks, as outdated and dangerous to Dwarven society. In addition, the dwarvish society may not be as anti-magic as the Night Elves, but it’s clear they put very little truck with the arcane. The draenei, by contrast, are a society steeped in the arcane, a fact that frustrates their dwarvish supporters and lends credence to their detractors. As such, those who disapprove of the draenei probably do so often and with vigor.

Bah! Look, live and let live, but the draenei, they ain’t right. Strange folk, they are, and don’t trust one for a moment. It ain’t their fault, it ain’t. But they’re tearing dwarvish society apart…

Gnomes: The gnomes have been allies of the Dwarves for years upon years, pretty much from the moment the two nations met. This is an incredibly rare occurrence in the real world, enough so that I can’t think of any real world parallel off the top of my head. However, the dwarves seem to be mostly the more outgoing of the two, and they certainly have a larger economy. (The Great Forge bespeaks a roaring economy; probably founded on arms.) It may very well be that the gnomes were something of a client state to the dwarves, the dwarves sponsoring their research and capitalising on it by providing it to the humans and high elves. If this is the case, then it’s likely that there’s a fair amount of dwarven pride and sense of duty to the gnomes, but not a lot of sense that the gnomes are really an equal in the partnership. (The political parallel here is the USA and Israel.) This is probably only increased by the gnome’s childlike manner, but it probably has less of an effect on dwarves than other races; the dwarves aren’t a whole lot bigger than the gnomes, and they’ve had the longest to accept gnomes as full-adults rather than precocious children.

Ach, the little buggers need their city back, they do. We shoulda been there for them back when things were goin’ southerly; breaks me heart it does. They’re absolutely brilliant at what they do, and we gotta watch out for them, y’hear.

Humans: Unlike the gnomes, there’s an immediate real-world parallel to be had for the dwarves and the humans. Both nations have a long history together, with one of the two (humans) being a reckless but successful nation, the other an unquestioned ally but regarded as steadier and more constant in temperament. Basically, they’re the USA and Canada. (A similar dynamic would be Australia and New Zealand.) There’s probably a lot of jocularity in the relationship between humans and dwarves, with the dwarves seeing humanity as basically the same as themselves, with most of the same values. If only they could keep their heads screwed on for a little while and stop upsetting the apple cart all the time. Your average dwarf likes humans, but may very well see Admiral Proudmoore as a more typical human than his daughter, and the story of Arthas Menethil and Maurdin Bronzebeard still gets told, in hushed tones, as proof that the humans remain a risk.

See, here’s the problem with that lot. They need to learn to let things grow a wee bit, let ‘em all settle. You do that, and they have a tendency to grow all on their own. But nae, the humans have to have everything right now. I’ll grant ‘em that it gets results; without ‘em there wouldn’t be an Alliance at all. But without us, where would they be?

Night Elves: Much like most of the Alliance, the dwarves are still getting used to the idea of the night elves as allies. (The two forces were as much enemies as the orcs were during the Third War.) And traditional fantasy tends to pair up elves and dwarves as tenuous allies at best; an unspoken difference in philosophy making rivalry between the two inevitable. But this may not actually be so in Warcraft. In fact, there’s reason to believe that the two have closer philosophies than (say) humans and night elves. If nothing else, look at the classes: Both races can be warriors, rogues, hunters, priests, and a single ‘specialty’ class. Neither can be mages, warlocks, or shamans. In short, both societies clearly have similar philosophies regarding magic specifically, and maybe even life in general. Heck, even their building philosophies are really quite similar – Darnassus is a model of economy in design that the dwarves would be proud of. So the dwarves dig down and the elves grow up. So the dwarves have a bit more time for technology. So what? The real difference between the two is in appearance, not substance, and as such it may very well be that after a few years as allies, the two races wind up with surprising mutual respect and admiration.

You only gotta know one, y’know? They ain’t bad people, it’s just whispers what get around. They’re a little shady, but what would you expect from ‘night’ elves? Point is, they mean what they say, and they have good values. I don’t think they’ll stab us in the back like those other elves did.

The Horde

Blood Elves: The newest enemies of the dwarves, of course, have a long history with the Alliance – A fact that is likely to mean they may well be the most hated of the Horde’s races amongst all of the Alliance members. This is, however, probably most true of the dwarves. Unlike the Night Elves, the dwarves fought with the High Elves. (You can even see them doing so in Warcraft III – dwarvish bombers fight alongside high elven priestes. But unlike the night elves (with whom the dwarves have surprising similarity), the high elves have all the classic hallmarks of the antagonist elf/dwarf relationship – the magic-wielding, artful and fanciful elves against the dour and practical dwarves. As such, the betrayal probably surprised the dwarves least… and bit most harshly at the same time.

See this? This is what happens when you rely on fancy-pants magic and parlour tricks instead of good honest labor. Ruthless bastards now too – Don’t ever turn your back on one, not even to flee. Cut ‘em down as quick as possible – And if you’re sharin’ a city with ‘em, walk down the other street if you see one.

Orcs & Trolls: The orcs have been the ancestral enemies of the Alliance since they can remember, and while the dwarves missed the First War, they were there from the Second War onwards. As such, they have strong memories of these two races. Unlike humans, however, they’re unlikely to distinguish much between the two. The orcs are green, short and muscular; while the trolls are skinny, tall and more likely to chuck spears at you. In the end, though, both count as “them bastards you’ve been fighting for years”. That said, it’s been a couple of years now where the hatchet has been semi-buried between the Alliance and Horde. Unless you’re fighting them over Alterac Valley, it seems likely that there’s been an opportunity to see the orcs and trolls at their best, and at their best the orcs are noble and even spiritual warriors. One of the ironies in the dynamics between the orcs and the dwarves is that they are, in many ways, flipsides of each other: Both are furious warrior races with a spiritual bent. Most dwarves still probably see the orcs and trolls as rampaging monsters, but it is probable that an increasing percentage are starting to respect their long-time foes.

They’re a frightenin’ mob, make no mistake, and they’re the last thing you ever want to see on a battlefield. The scourge, the Legion, me wife when I come home plastered… none of ‘em have half the fury of an orc in a rage. (Well, maybe the wife gets close.) But y’know, they don’t exactly fight honorably, but I can see they fight honorable battles. Does tha’ make any sense? When you’re facin’ one down, you want him dead, he wants you dead, and you’ve both got yer reasons. Tha’s fair as you can get in war.

Tauren: While the Tauren are enemies of the Alliance, and the dwarves know this, there’s not likely to be an undue amount of hatred and anger for the Tauren. Probably there are some agitators within Ironforge who’ve cooked up anti-Tauren propaganda and stirred up hate, but there’s really not a whole lot to go on. By the time the Tauren joined the Horde, after all, the Horde never really got into an extended campaign against the Alliance. (There were a few skirmishes in Kalimdor, but not many.) By that stage, the Night Elves and

Y’can trust one in a city to not lob an axe into yer back, I’ll give ‘em that much. If I were to see one of these lot fighting some scourge abomination, I’d fire at the abomination, not the tauren. Mind you, I’d be keeping a bloody tight aim on the tauren soon as the dead thing stopped movin’. Just to be safe, mind you.

Undead (Forsaken): This is a more complex relationship. There is unlikely to be as much sympathy for the undead than the orcs, trolls and tauren, because the Scourge were one of the major enemies of the Third War. The undead Scourge were an all-consuming, horrifying force, one that has most certainly not been forgotten. That said, the dwarves (like the humans) by now know that the Forsaken are not the Scourge. They have intelligence, free will. But I have to think that to most dwarves, I suspect this just makes them worse. The same motivations (kill destroy eat flesh) are likely to be ascribed to the Forsaken as were ascribed to the Scourge, and their added intelligence simply makes them more dangerous. That said, there are probably a few dwarves (particularly those in the Argent Dawn) who have seen the Forsaken’s hatred of the Scourge and can at least accept them as a lesser evil. This doesn’t mean they like them, but they accept that the Forsaken aren’t the major worry… yet. If diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock, then this is advanced diplomacy: Letting two dogs fight it out until one dies, at which point you’ll have found your rock.

If it moves, an’ it’s dead? It ain’t meant to be. They ain’t natural, and they oughta be in the ground. We’re always happy to help them there.

Viewing the Classes

Death Knight: While I’m not in the beta and thus can’t authoritatively say for sure how the Death Knights will work as introduced; it seems pretty fair to say that as former elements of the Scourge, the Death Knights won’t be trusted. Expect, at least early on, to see Death Knights to be barely tolerated. Spitting on them, cowering away from them, all would be good responses. If you’re playing a Dwarven Death Knight, it may very well be that you leap at the developing Titanic religion – The Holy Light may well have a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth these days.
Druid: The dwarvish religions are open, very friendly to the layperson, and evangelical. (In the literal sense of that term; they seek to get others to join – Other dwarves, at least, in the case of the Titans.) The druids are, by contrast, a closed off, exclusivist religion. Dwarves probably see them as a sect, a cult. While there is likely some level of respect toward them (once you’ve seen a bear go ballistic on your enemies and save your ass, it’s hard to keep up too much hate) there is probably always a slight measure of distrust toward the druids.
Hunter: While a night elven hunter may love all animals, there are probably more dwarven hunters who love all animals cooked lightly with a good sauce. The very inorganic, materially focused dwarves just probably don’t have that many nature lovers among them, and so their hunters are probably more about the hunt than anything else. Of course, they probably adore their pets, and they have a high respect for how dangerous nature can be. But when they see a bear, they’re likely to first think, “Threat!” or “Food!” than “Oh, how majestic.” Good shooters are also likely to be very respected in dwarvish society. As the race that invented firearms, they’re likely to revere them.
Mage: The dwarves don’t trust magic. You can’t see how it works, and that means you can’t rely on it. Unlike the night elves, they don’t see it as an inherently evil force, merely a foolish one. At the same time, mages tend to be incredibly intelligent and clever, traits the dwarves have a lot of time for. But you can be very intelligent and foolish at the same time. Dwarves probably treat mages with a slight level of contempt by default, although (as with all of these descriptions) individual experiences can overpower this basic instinct.
Paladin: Paladins are, in many ways, probably an old guard amongst the Dwarves now: Their devotion to the Holy Light remains currently something they have in common with dwarvish society. (According to the World of Warcraft RPG, the Titans haven’t become gods to the dwarves yet.) But they represent a link with the past for the dwarves, at a time when the dwarvish people are clearly excited about the future, and a changing way of life. One wonders if paladins aren’t seen a little bit the way that royalty is perceived today: still respected, but disregarded as a force.
Priest: Dwarven priests probably find themselves in a very curious position. The developing interest in the Titans is becoming its own religion – Fast. This erodes your power base, if you are a priest of the Light. In addition, you’re probably worried about your parishioners, since after all, the Holy Light is a much better faith, surely! (If you’ve been so moved by it to become a priest, then you likely think this way.) At the same time, the discovery of the Titans has galvanised dwarvish society like nothing else. What should you do?
Rogue: Unlike the humans (who do have SI:7), dwarvish rogue elements seem to be purely criminal in intent. Since they don’t tend to prey on their own, they seem to be roughly tolerated, but your average dwarf certainly doesn’t trust a rogue. Think of them as a good European might have thought of privateers. It’s good they’re on your side, but you’d really rather not have them around at all.
Shaman: The dwarves are currently knee deep in the study of the elements. Could the shamans not intrigue them? While there’s probably a good bit of distrust toward the shamans in total (as a group who’ve not traditionally been part of a very traditional society) there’s every good chance that a dwarf is going to look at the draenei shamans (or even the horde shamans!) with more than a small dose of curiosity.
A menace. Traitors, each and every one of them. The only question is whether or not an individual dwarf sees all warlocks as irredeemably evil, or if they can make an exception for some of them.
Warrior: Dwarven warriors are highly respected. The dwarves range from stoic arms and protection warriors to rampaging fury beserkers, but lean toward the former more than the latter. There are few things more implacable than a wall of dwarvish troops. Most warriors among the dwarves are likely to be soldiers or ex-soldiers.


  1. I don’t have a whole lot of recent experience roleplaying in World of Warcraft, so I’m going off of memory here, but:

    I really wish more people would play up the “warlocks as menacing traitors” thing. It seemed like most people just played and reacted to them as just another class, which makes me a sad panda.

    Personally, I think they’d have made a good Burning Crusade hero class, but ’twas not to be.

  2. I know what you mean, but it’s worth noting that the game itself does try to keep that idea up: Look at where the Warlock trainers are in Alliance cities. I’m pretty sure there isn’t one in Darnassus or the Exodar at all.

    They are in an easier to find location in the Horde cities, but 1) In two cases, this makes sense, and 2) In Orgrimmar, it’s brutally clear Thrall is letting them stay in a bit of ‘keep your enemies closer’ logic.

    The problem is that it’s hard to make them outsiders and yet keep on playing with them. It’s one reason I put in the ‘individual exceptions’ line, you need some way to interact.

  3. I think it should be noted, as we can RP the other two factions of dwarves with the versatility of character creation in the game. I would say, including how the Wildhammer & Dark Iron clans feel about said races and classes might be a nice addition. For both factions, views in many cases be very different as the nature lovin’ Wildhammers clearly have different views on the tauren, night elves, druids, hunters…etc.

    Course at the same time, I would think anyone who actually take the initiative to RP one of those factions, probably would do the research on them and in turn know the answers already. But I thought I add my two cents.

    And, I don’t know if you noticed but the Tauren part cuts off at “Night Elves and” then there is nothing. Not sure why no one else noticed and/or brought this up.

  4. Just a few things to point out: For the Humans the USA/Canada analogy was bad, USA/UK would be more fitting.

    Also; Dwarves should naturally hate Night Elves more than they hate regular Elves. Dwarves don’t give a damn about nature and druidism. When it comes to the two races’ ambitions they’re completely contradictory.

  5. Good article, although I disagree about their feelings about orcs and trolls: Trolls are still a menace in Khaz Modan, which is made obvious starting at level 1 for dwarves and gnomes, where they’re the big threat to Anvilmar along with a few trogg raiders.

    And I don’t believe most dwarves will have forgotten the Dragonmaw orcs, who tried to conquer Khaz Modan and who are still causing trouble in the current day in the Wetlands and the Loch Modan region.

    Add in the orcs attacking the archeologists and explorers in Alterac Valley — along with trolls, once upon a time — and I think a forgive and forget attitude would be pretty rare.

    And while the tauren have a lot of attributes dwarves might agree with, their pesky religious fundamentalism leading them to kill archeologists in Mulgore and the Barrens is certain to color the attitude of any dwarves who hear about it.

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