Posted by: Sean | October 21, 2008

Retrospective Theme Week Blood Elf: The Blood Elf Play File

Cough. We can put stuff into a previous theme week after the fact, can’t we? Of course we can. Especially when, frankly, I need to take a mulligan on this race. (As I will explain below, I blew it on the Blood Elves.)

And with that, into the Blood Elf file. As always, there are three things we look for in the play file. The first and most important is lore; anything we can find in lore supersedes our own speculations. But, failing that, we look for two things, both equally important. We look for real world parallels, trying to work out how similar peoples in history have interacted. The second thing we look for central themes to the race, and here are the ones we found:

  • Desperation: There is no question that the years have not been kind for the Sin’dorei. Ravaged beyond measure by the undead (remember how bad we said the gnomes got it? Yeah, the blood elves got it worse) and thrust into a dreadful situation afterwards, addicted to magic, descending into bitterness and anger… the blood elves were without any real chances, or so it seemed. Desperation fueled anger and a program of vengeance based more about spite than strategy.
  • Hope Rising. And yet, a chance has emerged for the Blood Elves. This is something I flatly got wrong in my previous article on the Blood Elves — They have much more hope than I had previously discussed. (My previous article still remains worthwhile, I maintain, but it describes the Blood Elves better at the start of Burning Crusade than now at the end of it. Whatya know, Status Quo is Not God.) The actions of Velen and M’uru have given the Blood Elves a chance.
  • Arrogance, Elitism and Entitlement. However, history argues against them taking it. The high elves are, frankly, the most petty and selfish race in the history of Azeroth. After ignoring the humans for the most part, they suddenly decided to be their Bestest Friends Ever when the trolls looked keen to wipe them out. Yet when the orcs threatened the humans, the high elves sent a token force to their aid and otherwise forgot about them. When the orcish horde mounted a second surge, the high elves once again yawned and contributed the minimal force they could. Yet suddenly, when the war turned on them, the humans rushed forward to defend their elvish allies none the less, hundreds of their soldiers dying to defend Quel’thalas. The humans reward? Bickering and angry accusations that the humans had not come forward quickly enough. And thus, the high elves withdrew from the Alliance.

In short, the Blood Elves are now a race in the balance. They have a real chance in front of them, an opportunity to improve their lot and find the salvation they seek. But their addiction remains, at the most dampened a little. In time, it will vanish… if they let it. But if they continue to blame others for their failures, if they continue to use other races as their playthings rather than their friends, if they continue to act upon rage and blame and impatience…

Then it may well be that the Sunwell falls yet again, and this time the sun-blessed with it.

These are what I’m trying to keep in mind below.

(P.S. Bloody hell, this got long. Sorry about that. I hope it’s worth the read.)

The Horde

Orcs: There is possibly no more strained relationship within a faction than that of the blood elves and the orcs. When the blood elves joined the Horde, they did so purely for a single reason: They needed allies, and the Alliance had declared them anathema, so the Horde was the only option available. Importantly however, Thrall knew the horde were not desperate for allies at this point. While smaller than the Alliance, the horde had established itself. It is highly likely that the blood elves would not have joined the horde at all save for the intervention of the Forsaken. (More on them later.)

As such, the blood elves know they are on borrowed time with the orcs. Most blood elves see the orcs as crude, primitive beasts, but beasts the hope will keep their homelands safe from the vengeful Alliance. They feel they must tread lightly around them to maintain the allegiance, but few can likely contain their disgust enough to resist some choice verbal darts. This is, after all, the same race who only recently roared blood-curdling screams and assaulted Quel’thalas. Each and every Blood Elf can probably remember friends and family who died to these monsters. Yet now, and this must surely rankle their noble little hearts to no end, they need the orcs now more than the orcs need them. Hence, obsequiousness and veiled insult rule the day.

Of course, Lieutenant General. As always, your strategy is impeccable. That it has lead to our defeat in the last three battles is of course merely due to the larger forces we faced. Nobody could have done any better. I shall relay your commands to my troops with proper respect and consideration.

Trolls:The trolls, meanwhile, come with their own considerations, issues, and history. Where the orcs have the warchief and can on the whole be considered the dominant race within the Horde, the trolls are a distinct second best, maybe even a third best. (It’s difficult to say whom has Thrall’s ear more these days, Vol’jin or Cairne.) The Sin’dorei know they can’t compete with the orcs, but the Darkspear Tribe may be another matter, and it’s therefore worth it to them to jostle for position. As such, the blood elves approach the trolls with barely disguised hostility and bitter competition. After all, the trolls were fighting right alongside the orcs when they burned the edges of Quel’thalas. And while the Amani may have been a different empire, the high elves had long and bitter it’s not hard to see how the blood elves might see trolls as an ugly and detested species. When alone, blood elves are likely to treat trolls with condescension and insult. When others are around, they none-the-less will seek any opportunity to diminish the worth of the trolls to the Horde, thus elevating their own standing.

Oh, what? Was that your foot? I’m so sorry. I didn’t know where else to stand, you gangly blue-faced mutant. Your feet cover the entire earth in this area. Now get out of my way so I can walk. I’ll tell you when I need you.

Tauren: The tauren, like the trolls, are a race most blood elves see as competition. They know that if they wish to secure the place within the Horde, they need to tear a hole into the fabric of the society that they can fit in, and they see loose threads around the tauren. However, they’re not likely to be quite as vicious in their assaults as they are to the trolls, simply because the tauren never really have done much to hurt them. Furthermore, the tauren as a race have a certain quiet calm to them. While the blood elves would like to see them as pointless nature-worshipping savages like the orcs and trolls, it’s harder to make that charge stick; the blood elves are forced to acknowledge that while primitive, their society more or less works. It’s just more primitive than their own, which is hardly cause for rage. Pity and contempt, certainly, but not rage.

Don’t you dare talk down to me. We have achieved greater heights as a people than your precious Thunder Bluff has possibly aspire to. We sought the sun, and we touched its periphery. You have nothing to pride yourself upon.

Undead (Forsaken): A more curious relationship exists between the Sin’dorei and the Forsaken, as evinced by the fact that the two races begin as friendly toward each other, rather than neutral. None the less, calling their relationship truly friendly would be a misnomer. It is simply that, alone among the Horde, each race needs each other as much as they are needed in turn. When the blood elves sought entry to the Horde, it would have seemed likely that Thrall might very well have refused. Allow a stinking group of fel-smelling, magic-addicted aristocratic pains in the ass into your private club? My goodness, let me get the papers ready immediately. Y’know what, let me fill them out for you.

But Sylvanas, on the other hand, was in a different position. She had joined the Horde under similar situations, distrusted and on the outside. The only reason they were allowed in was that at this point, the Horde desperately needed more soldiers to combat the growing Alliance, and the Forsaken offered them. Sylvanas had her way in, but she was well aware that her power-base was limited. Distrusted by the rest of the Horde, she knew a single shift in the political environment could see the Horde turn on them, especially given her questionable plans. She needed leverage, a true ally to shift the balance of power.

Enter the blood elves.

The blood elves know all this, too. They’re no dummies when it comes to politics, and they know that the Forsaken pushed for their inclusion purely because it shored up their own political situation; as the Sin’dorei entered the political fray, the Horde changed from the shamanic races +1, to a truly divided pair of sub-factions. This is, in fact, fine with the blood elves, since it ensured they joined the Horde, and joined it with a reasonable position of power.

Yet this doesn’t mean the blood elves like the Forsaken. They remain rotting ghouls who are strikingly similar in form to the ones who destroyed their beloved paradise on Earth, murdered the majority of their kind, and plunged them into an eternal aching hell. You just can’t say, “Well, hey, you’re not the same guys.” For one, many of them are the same guys, since they were Scourge at the time. Sylvanas was a high elf before she became undead, and that is not likely to really improve the political situation between the two races.

In short, the Forsaken and the blood elves, for now, have an understanding based upon their mutual desire for more power and their shared fury at the Lich King. Should their political powers improve, however, look forward to seeing that understanding plunge… and fast.

Ranger Sylvanas was an honorable patriot in life, who fought valiantly to protect our homeland. Alone against impossible odds, she nearly defeated all of them single-handedly. I do not question her patriotism and determination now. That is why I am terrified of her, and her kind. Claim that they have free will all they want; they remain an instrument of her will, much like the Scourge was an instrument of Arthas’s.

The Alliance

Draenei: What a complicated relationship these two have! But recent acquaintances, the blood elves found the draenei at their weakest, fleeing the orcish hordes, unable to even fight them without becoming corrupted and defeated. They were possibly the most piteous race they had ever seen, and as such they likely took great pleasure in the sabotage of the Exodar. And yet… due to that sabotage, the draenei found their way into the Alliance, and through the turns of fate were eventually the potential saviors of the Sin’dorei. They know full well that they owe Prophet Velen a great debt. And a few of the more contemplative ones might even wonder: What if he had died in the crash we created? In short, the draenei confuse the blood elves. While they remain enemies, they are likely now looking at the draenei people with renewed respect. In fact, of all the races of the Alliance, it is likely the draenei they respect the most.

Do not ambush a draenei. Draw your sword, announce yourself, and slaughter him on the field of battle. They have earned this much.

Dwarves: Intriguingly, the high elves were most aligned with one of the dwarvish factions; the Wildhammer clan. Something about the two groups clicked, and as such they enjoyed stronger relationships with that clan than they did with the humans. As such, they must be at least interested in some way that the Wildhammer dwarves are at best tangentially connected to the Alliance, and that it is the Ironforge dwarves who have been the driving force for the dwarves. Benefiting from an insider’s perspective, the Blood Elves likely respect the dwarves as a determined, implacable enemy, but are disdainful of their fear toward magic, and know this is the key to defeating them.

Ha. They call themselves fearless? Not true. They are merely stoic; not letting that which should send them screaming into night past their eyes and into their brain. I, of course, can bypass such rudimentary mechanisms, and show them their fears directly. Make no mistake, the dwarves will scatter before our might.

Gnomes: While most horde races do not distinguish between the gnomes and the horde, the high elves had a solid comprehension of the Alliance during the Second War, and knew where the weaponry was coming from. In some ways, the gnomes are both the most derided and yet most feared race for the Blood Elves in the Alliance. The gnomes themselves are little more than an annoying pest, ever asking questions. Stained with grease, living in their rat-hive hovel of a city, the blood elves can look down on the gnomes with greater strength than just about any other race on Azeroth, Horde or Alliance. Yet those blood elves who did fight know firsthand how much damage gnomish weaponry did during the Second War, and even those who didn’t fight likely heard the stories. The Sin’dorei know magic back to front. They do not fear martial might. Yet technology, this crude mechanical aping of magic, may just be the force they cannot understand.

They send fire in sticks and fly above us on metal wings, the filthy little runts! Hurl ice into their crafts, hurl flame back at their fire throwers! Destroy these pathetic worms!

Humans: Ah, the humans. The most presumptuous of races. They saw the high elves working magic, and thought they could do so as well. They saw the dwarves fight and sought to emulate them. The most contemptible thing about the human race is that underneath it all they have no actual original ideas. They ape and mimic their betters in every way, stealing from other races rather than develop themselves. They stole magic from the high elves, shared their faith with the dwarves, learned their ‘technology’ from the gnomes. Is there anything uniquely human? Anything at all? Of course not. How low has Azeroth sunk that these hasty, short lived people have now become the most powerful race.

Oh look. A man. What now, human? What pathetic trick will you use to stop your inevitable death this time? No matter. I’m not going to wait to find out.

Night Elves: And then we have their ancient cousins. To describe the feelings the blood elves have toward the night elves as ‘bloodcurdling rage and hatred’ would be an understatement of epic proportions. If it were not for the thrice-damned Kal’dorei, the blood elves would never have had to leave their homeland. If it hadn’t been for the night elves, the Sin’dorei would never have been on Lordaeron’s borders, awaiting the attacks of the Scourge. Everything, every woe and crime against their people can all be traced back to being outcast by the night elves, and for what? For daring to explore the arcane? For seeking out power in all its forms? How, they cried, can it be a sin to find greater and better ways of shaping the world? We can make the world a better place. But no. The night elves, so blinded and lacking in vision, could not see the glory ahead. And this lack of vision damned the Quel’dorei, and then the Sin’dorei.

Did you ever hear the story of our old friend, Ranger Windrunner? She was captured by the Lich King. Bleeding and hurt, he tortured her body until she died, and then lifted her soul from her body so that her torture might never end. I swear to you, by the time I’m done with you, you’ll beg for her fate.

Viewing the Classes

Death Knight: No race suffered more from the Scourge than the Sin’dorei. None. In one fell swoop, the high elf race was all but destroyed, their most sacred site demolished, and what remained of their race scattered to the four winds. The Death Knights stink of all this. Few, if any, blood elves will have time for any of the Lich King’s castoffs, and woe betide a Sin’dorei Death Knight, he will be regarded as the twice-traitor he truly is.
Druid: Relics of a time long past. The druids worship a balance in nature that doesn’t actually exist; the strong destroy the weak, that is the nature of nature.
Hunter: Now here is an approach to nature the Blood Elves can appreciate! Hunting is a noble sport, and those blood elves who take it up likely see it as exactly that: Sport. If they’re hunting magical creatures, whose flesh may be consumed to relieve their pangs and aches, then so much the better. Hunting, to the blood elves, is an act of dominance over nature, and one they have great time for.
Mage: The high elves discovered the arcane. It is their raisons d’etre, their religion, their world. To be a mage within their society is much like being a doctor in our own; it’s the profession every parent hopes their child becomes, the point of highest respect. Anyone who is not a blood elf and studies magic is, of course, a thief. But at least they had the taste to steal the best.
Paladin: The Blood Knights are a curious order, and one now in a curious place. They had prided themselves on being the masters of a god. Think about that. They held captive M’uru, drew power from him against his will, and channelled it upon their enemies. Yet now they have learned M’uru was never captive, but stayed of his own free will. They have just had a crippling bolt of humility. Some will give up the sword they wielded as paladins. But others will take up the hammer, so to speak. Moreso than any other class, the paladins represent the blood elves now, and so each individual paladin must make his own choice where to go next.
Priest: On the other hand, priests are now torn. They had preached a foul, twisted version of the Holy Light. Not the Cult of Shadow, but rather a version of the Light that had the Light serve them, a version of the Light that put them at the center of the universe. Much like the paladins, they have had this delusion ripped away from them. Do they mend their ways? Likely not – To do so would destroy their power bases. New priests may carve out a more humble path, but for now, Sin’dorei priests are likely to be zealots, raging against a literal dying of their Light. As such, this is the image of all priests most Blood Elves will have.
Rogue: Only fools earn. Wise men take. Rogues are therefore seen as completely untrustworthy, deceitful, and wise. After all, they have survived by any means possible and not become Wretched. This is worthy of praise.
Shaman: Primitive savages, all of them. Barely worthy of a second thought.
Warlock: Probably before the destruction of the Sunwell, the high elves would have had nought but contempt for the warlocks. They commanded earth and nature on their own terms, and could well see that seeking to command demons only left yourself enslaved. One horrid hunger for magic later, however, and it’s amazing what now seems appealing. While warlocks are probably treated as just another kind of mage in blood elf society, surely some of them (now that the Sunwell is restored) have to be wondering if the warlocks aren’t looking like a problem now. The next few years will be critical.
Warrior: It’s not so much that blood elves shy away from a fight, but to be a warrior is so… brutish. Other races have warriors. The blood elves long ago created a system of magical defenses (as high elves) and left being a foot-soldier alone. They’ll battle, there’s no question there, and in many ways, rogues are the warriors for the blood elves. But the kind of heavy armor, stand up fight that a warrior represents is simply too classless to imagine for the Sin’dorei, and they treat warriors with barely disguised contempt.


Responses

  1. Well, aren’t they a lovely bunch lol. But really, you do give a good example of how most blood elves are for the most part.

    As for the M’uru/Sunwell incident. I think that is sure to be a pivotal moment to really change how blood elves act as a whole. Hell, it might even change their physiology as its uncertain whether the Sunwell will return to as it was or become a fount of Light energy rather than Arcane energy. But even if it is just restored to normal, they still will have a strong connection with the naaru and the draenei are a perfect example of where that gets you, so we might see some humble, pious blood elves in the future akin to the draenei.

  2. nice article, even before the sunwell incident, i had high hopes in the redemption of the blood elves i always tought that liadrin was armored in redemption for some reason.

    Anyway, just time will tell how far they will go now in the paths of the light.

  3. Nice article, but I have two things to note..
    1: The Horde didn’t allow the Forsaken to join them because they needed soldiers, but because the Earthen Ring convinced Thrall to let them join.
    2: Blood Elf Warriors actually do exist, it’s just that we can’t play them. Just because we can’t play a certain race/class combination doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist in lore.

  4. Nice post, but I think you’re too critical on priests and hunters. Becoming a blood elf was an only way to survive for those who were IN Quel’Thalas during Second War, so some may not completely share unique bloodelven traits. There are records of almost pure ‘the Light’ priests among High Elves and they must indeed be presented in bloodelven society(though in minority). Same applies to Farstriders who seem to have becomen blood elves out of convenience. They have little magical support and are more druids than mages. Player hunters and rogues have an option to be a Farstrider ranger and thus be more or less disconnected from any politics.

  5. I don’t agree with a lot of the points presented in this article. First the one about the Forsaken, you have forgotten that among the races of the Horde, the Blood Elves and the Forsaken are the only ones to share a profound love for the arcane, this bond and the fact that some of the Forsaken were high elves themselves (they CANNOT spit on those who have suffered the most from the terrible assault of Arthas on their whole race by not even dying), and the most important and crucial point, Sylvanas, who still feel a bond with her former brethren, is what make the Blood Elves see the Forsaken as allies. Do not see them as just replica of the humans who just hate what they have to hate and love what they have to love.

    Also where I think some points need to be added is with the class parts:

    -First, the Hunters. Unlike the Gnomes, the Blood Elves are not a TECHNOLOGICAL (opposed to nature) race, they are a MAGICAL one, and in warcraft, magic is a part of nature, nearly all beings have mana in them and can use it. Blood Elves have the capacity to be in communion with nature, by at the extent that they are able to reach the subtle and beautiful side of it, they will seek to tame elegant and mystical creatures, and try to learn how to better harness the magical energies present around them. So its not just a sport, its a way of life, as much it is for the Night Elf and the Tauren.
    -Then, the Rogues. The same way the Night Elves consider rogues as a part of society, Blood Elves see rogues as something that has something that is good for them. The Blood Elves are not have very strong race in arms, their only way to fight with a chance in melee range is to master the arts of subtlety and make the most of their natural agility to ever hope to win the fight, then rogues are the warriors of the Blood Elves, in the aristocratic and politically active society of the Blood Elves, rogues have a role, either as couriers, spies or warriors ready to defend the Blood Elf race in the most effective way. They are an integral and necessary part of Blood Elf society and then respected for that (unlike the way humans see rogues).
    -And for the priests, the same thing that made the Blood Elf use M’uru with no remorse is the betrayal they felt toward the Light during the attack of Arthas. Now they have resolved to have the Light serve them instead of serving the Light. They no longer see the world as their religion told them to but as it is. Priests now are just going to turn their ancient faith around and effectively become realistic zealots urging the Blood Elf people to find the Promised Land (that they thought Outland would be) whatever it could be. Blood Elves priests are likely to be Discipline priests as the Forsaken are likely to be Shadow priests, they won’t really use the power of the Light (Holy) but will rather learn how to command the spirit and enhance the abilities of their brethren either with preaches or just magic, studying it as a mage would study the arcanes. So now the Blood Elf priests are no longer sacred preachers as they used to be, but rather cultural landmarks in their society expert at the manipulation of the mind and the spirit, standing at the same levels as mages, fighting for the Blood Elf upcoming.
    -And finally for the Paladins, most of them aren’t likely to give up the new powers they have mastered. They rather see it as a way to take revenge from the betrayal the Light has cast upon them. Learning that M’uru was willing in the process will just make them think that her/his suffering was the rightful price the Light has to pay for the destruction of Quel’ Thalas, they will use this power as much as they can to give glory again to their race, dealing with the threats that need to be dealt with brute force where their rogues and hunters brother in arms can’t stand.

    Overall I’m a bit disappointed that you see the Blood Elves only as a negatively driven race (bitter and disdainful). They also have an ideal to make the world more beautiful as you said when you were talking about the relation between Night Elves and Blood Elves, but also which to be able to enjoy life again despite the terrible catastrophe that was bestowed on them.

  6. Hey Dante,

    FWIW, I think the Blood Elf one has been the most disagreed upon file. And part of it is a key point in how you view them: Is what defines them the sense of tragedy following their destruction by the Scourge; are they tragic Bryonic heroes, driven by vengeance?

    Or are/were they defined by the magic addiction, by the driving pain and suffering it inflicts? Was it not the destruction of Quel’thalas but the destruction of the Sunwell that turned them from high elves into blood elves?

    Is their world defined by loss, or pain?

    My opinion was always the latter. This was partly because we’ve already had the suffering race whose lost much done a couple of times (That storyline basically covers the Night Elves, the Gnomes, and the Undead) and partly because I found the addiction plotline one of the most compelling in Warcraft.

    As such, I tended to view the Blood Elves in light of the magic addiction as the key point in understanding them. You needed to understand what it was, and what it’s being lifted means.

    As such, my take on them was pretty negative. I saw rogues not as scouts and messengers but to a large extent through the junkie mentality – Lie cheat steal kill; anything for the next fix.

    I did want to suggest that there is hope for the blood elves. The paladins in particular represent this. But I just didn’t see the blood elves as that beautiful race you do; I saw them as a truly foul race at heart, concealed by a beautiful facade.

    That said! You easily could reverse this. If you view the key point in their history as not the loss of the Sunwell, but the destruction of Quel’thalas, their great work. In this light, they’re less dark, more tragic. I think this is the more popular take amongst players – It just was never mine. I don’t think either take is less true, or more true. They’re interpretations of the race. Each interpretation leads to some elements being more positive, and others more negative. (Your interpretation of the paladins is WAY darker than mine is.)

    Now what I want to know is… what have you got against the humans? “Hate what they have to hate and love what they have to love”? That’s not the humans I see at all. The humans I saw as a truly noble, striking, arrogant, flawed and messy race that none the less represents the best hopes of Azeroth. They’re one of my favorites.

  7. Sean, why don’t you mention Farstriders as an alternative source of hope? In fact, having Loth’remar Theron standing in between of Magister Rommath(representing the agressive Arcane and ‘Bloodknightish’ way) and Ranger Brightwing(representing old-school druidic way) is somewhat symbolic, showing two alternative sources of power for a blood elf to embrace.

    On a note, high elves did have druids. Some blood elves seem to be druids aswell(e.g. High Botanist). Blood elven hunter may be a weak druid in fact, just non-shapeshifting, but holding the same affinity for the nature.

    Said this, there seems to be a big crack in the society, split inside onto ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ parts if you would.

    Everything is IMO though, just wanted to shre.

  8. In my opinion, the Blood Elves do not see the Forsaken as mere political allies. After all, they did help the Blood Elves a lot in Ghostlands. If it weren’t for them Blood elves would be most likely crushed, no matter what the Undeads intentions initially were.

    A bit gratitude would be appropriate, I think.


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