The draenei seem to be immensely long-lived. Lore has it that Prophet Velen, for example, must be tens of thousands of years old. Without knowing an exact life expectancy here, I’m going to run with the assumption that the draenei are more or less immortal unless killed. The youngest draenei player characters you’re likely to stumble upon are, therefore, probably at least hundreds of years old themselves – decades, at the very minimum, and this would be considered very young.
Looking at it from our perspective, we tend to assign approximate age brackets to people of other races with different life expectancies; the ‘elf equivalent of a teenager’ for instance, or the ‘draenei equivalent of a 20-something’. In terms of the culture of the draenei, I don’t think we can put an exact number on it, but let’s assume that a draenei would be seen by society as more of an ‘adult’ rather than an adolescent around, say, 200 – 300 years old. Within the draenei culture, this, and anything younger, would be seen as hopelessly young and inexperienced, still wet behind the ears and needing more guidance.
Now consider two things:
One, if the draenei in general think that, say, a 200 is naive and inexperienced, what do they possibly think of a twenty year old human? Could a four thousand year old draenei ever take orders from a forty year old human – and if they do, what on Azeroth are they thinking as they do it?
Two, if a draenei comes of age at 200 years old, are they in the same state as a human who comes of age around 20? Typically, in roleplay, we see them being played this way – the ‘draenei equivalent of’ that I was talking about above. But really, even though they weren’t ‘of age’ until this time, a 200 year old is going to have considerably more life experience than any 20 year old – unless the 200 year old has led a singularly uneventful life, and the 20 year old has faced things beyond their years. Generally speaking, however, they aren’t going to have the same kind of life experience — and if they don’t have the same kind of life experience, how can we even say that they’re similar?
Both of these points were briefly discussed in the Ask A Lore Nerd column on WoW Insider, but I wanted to go into a little more detail on the subject.
If we look at the real world, children of different ages will act more or less mature at different ages, depending on what kind of experiences they’ve had and how they are treated by society. It is a sad but true fact that children in the real world mature faster when they have to cope with things like abuse, while those who are raised to be more naive seem to ‘grow up’ slower; it takes them longer to reach the same level of maturity and wisdom. Similarly, societies in past years where children were expected to behave in a mature fashion faster, expecting children to come of age at around the age of 13 had much more mature 13 year olds than our modern society, where we have introduced this concept of adolescence.
There is no reason why this would not also be true of the races in fantasy. In the case of an immortal race like the draenei, where the coming of age is marked in centuries more than years, there are these two factors at war: the idea is that as long as society treats them like youths, they allow their ill-wisdom and ill-judgment to stagnate for longer; they are fun-loving, reckless and irresponsible; they, in short, feel no need to actively ‘grow up’ and take control. On the other side of things, they will have experienced more things. In the past, maybe they were more reckless, but war has matured a lot of them faster than society would anticipate. Maybe their elders are despairing for them not taking the time to enjoy their childhood, maybe they themselves fret over the fact that they won’t be getting a 210th birthday party this year, but they’ve had to grow up to face up to the unfortunate reality.
Compared to the 18 year old human who has grown up in war, the 300 year old draenei has had a lot more time to mature and cope with this. The end result is a curious mix, both like and unlike a human adolescent. Certainly, they won’t be as mature, responsible or wise as an adult draenei, but certainly they will appear to possess more maturity and wisdom than the ‘equivalent’ in humans. Further, if a human uncovers their exact age, they will probably be treated with more deference – and how would they react to that?
The concept of what an older draenei would think of a so-called ‘older’ human virtually goes without saying. Just keep these things in mind when roleplaying: what we consider to be normal behaviour for an adolescent isn’t even the same worldwide in the real world, much less in Azeroth. Talk about culture shock.