Posted by: Sean | October 28, 2008

Theme Week Human: The Human Play File

I blew this the first time. I made the Bush mistake. Here’s what I wrote on my first attempt at this:

Humans and orcs are the most iconic races of Warcraft, and with good reason. Not only was the series built around them, but lore-wise they’ve been far and away the two most politically active races in Warcraft history. We know that before the First War, the humans were the most populous race in Azeroth; it seems humans live short but breed often. They made good use of this in befriending the high elves and smashing their trollish enemies with sheer numbers, getting magical knowledge out of the deal. (Very good deal indeed.) But their reach extends further than their numbers, due to their unequalled skill in diplomacy. Consider: Throughout their history, the humans have managed to forge allegiances with the high elves (didn’t work out well long term, but the humans came out the better for the allegiance), the dwarves (an enduring and powerful ally to this day) and the night elves (yet to be determined how well this works out, but seems to do well for now).

Yet they are dividers as well as uniters. No race is perhaps quite so fractured as the humans, divided along seven kingdoms (most of which are now destroyed) and with innumerable small groups (such as the Defias and the Syndicate, both of whom have substantial ties to the greater human kingdoms) bucking for their own power. The human race is as power-obsessed as the blood elves are, but they hold that power comes from the loyalty of other men, not from magic. This is the maxim we have kept in mind while framing the below speculation: Above all else, loyalty is rewarded by humanity; treachery is punished.

Absolutely true, and I stand by this comment. As a uniquely political race, the humans are likely to look at loyalty as a prime virtue in how they view the rest of the world and how they see other people. But then, I made the Bush mistake of confusing homogeneity for loyalty. And this is flat out untrue: Humans don’t care, for the most part, what you are and what you’re like. They’re distinctly Hamiltonian in their political leanings: They don’t care what you think, so long as you help maintain the body politic. As such, I really needed to do this over, and thanks to Blogatelle for giving me a second go at it.

The problem is that this creates a very unsurprising view of the Alliance; the humans generally like all the races who comprise it, although they potentially see the Night Elves as a little shady. After all, there just aren’t many questions of loyalty within the Alliance. As noted before, the human viewpoint is the ‘default’ one, so in many ways the official Blizzard pages are the human play file. That said, I’ll try to keep this as entertaining as I can.

The Alliance

Draenei: The humans and the draenei have probably had one of the most staggeringly swift positive receptions in history – The draenei’s reputations for honesty and forthrightness have preceded them. While humans don’t tend to see divergent cultures as a bad thing, the shared religious culture between the two societies likewise probably shores up the relationship a bit too; although it may also be the one tearing point between the two races. Religion is, of course,a very powerful and personal thing that people have a lot of trouble giving way on. And the draenei’s version of the Holy Light, while similar, is not quite the same as that of the humans. I’ve compared it to the differences between Protestants and Catholics before, and I think the comparisons hold (even if the details mix a little). Draenei probably see their faith as much more personal, iconic and immediate; humans see it as more institutional, abstracted and distant. Still, the two races work well together: Humans still see the draenei as honest above all else, and this endears them greatly to the human race.

Listen to me, boys. Don’t be afraid of the blue boys. I’ve fought with ’em before and they’ll look out for you as much as each other. I’ve fought with ’em, prayed with ’em, talked with ’em. I wouldn’t eat their weird cooking, but otherwise they’re brothers in arms.

Dwarves: What’s to discuss? (Answer: The question of religion, see below.) The dwarves and the humans forged allegiances in the leadup to the Second War and have since been the closest allies of the human race; fighting side by side in every major conflict since. In addition to this, the cultural interaction between the two races has been enormous; there’s a whole dwarvish section in Stormwind, and there’s no question of the loyalty between the two races. Their religion has been shared, their culture has been shared, and it’s not a coincidence that the most connected two cities in the game (well, on the Alliance side) are Stormwind and Ironforge. Unlike most of the allegiances, the dwarvish people have something unique to the humans: Their friendship. More humans than not are going to see a dwarf as nothing more than a human with small legs and arms. (This, of course, is a false belief, but it’s a mostly harmless one.)

However, there is a fly in the ointment: The Mysteries of the Earthen. It’s no secret that the Mystics (which I now propose should be their shortened name) are a growing movement within the dwarven kind. And this is why I downgraded my previous sentence from saying, “Most humans see dwarves…” to “more humans than not are going to see dwarves…”; the fact is that there is probably a whisper campaign amongst humans now wondering how loyal the dwarves really are.

It’s nothing more than rumor at this stage yet. Few humans give it much credence. But loyalty means a lot to the humans. And if the rumors continue, the idea of a dwarvish separation may well become a self-fulfilling propechy.

So we’re in Menethil, waiting for our posting orders to come in and board a boat off to wherever it was we were meant to fight – Turned out it was the plaguelands, but anyway – This local yob starts ragging on Kraz, calling him a rock-sucker and all that. We’re all getting up to stand up for him, but he just steps forward and headbutts the guy, straight ahead. Yep, exactly there. And he still wears the helmet with all the spikes on it. I swear, we were laughin’ the whole boat ride, couldn’t stop.

Gnomes: And then we have the gnomes, whose relationship with the humans is a case study in how humanities conception of loyalty works. Do the humans trust a gnomish invention? Never. Ever ever. For god’s sakes, they want to combine drills and forks into a single unholy combination that drills and forks all at once. (Mostly forks.) Their inventions seldom make any sense, and humans just can’t see the need for them. They’d honestly be happier if gnomes were all just happy to keep pouring out the clever military inventions that they joined the Alliance to provide. But come hell or high water, the humans are going to defend the gnomes if the gnomes ever need it. Because the gnomes have been doggedly loyal (and I think most humans understand why the gnomes didn’t leap to their aid in the Third War now; it’s hard to miss mass dispossession) and humans repay loyalty, damn it all.

I don’t know. Look, it’s not that I don’t trust your inventions. Honestly, I do. And sure, I absolutely agree that flanking the orcs would give us an unparalleled advantage in the battle. I just think that when it comes to being hurled from a gunpowder-driven, spring-loaded catapult, um… ah… you’d do better to use someone a bit lighter on his feet, is all. Y’know, Hamsig would be perfect for it, why not ask him?

Night Elves: The night elves are mostly trusted by humanity. Really. It’s been two years now since they joined the Alliance and they’ve been absolutely faithful, and this is the kind of thing humans notice. Their joint efforts have all been successful, and there’s no reason to distrust them, except that…

They’re so reserved.

Humans encourage difference. They love it. But they love it because it creates clashes, and arguments. Because humans really believe that difference creates progress. And that just can’t happen if the night elves insist on keeping to themselves whenever possible, smiling politely at suggestions they disagree with and otherwise avoiding conflict.

Most humans feel that the kal’dorei seem prepared to live in their own little world, part of the Alliance but not part of it. As such, they trust the night elves.

Of course they do.

No more of that! I hear one more loose remark about the kal’dorei in this unit and you’ll be peeling potatoes for weeks, you hear me! They’re the finest archers in the army, and they’ll have our backs. Dismissed! Captain Hunearce, stay back please. … Captain, keep an eye on the long-ears, alright? Make sure they’ve got our backs.

The Horde

Blood Elves: Which race is it that the humans will have the most antipathy for? It’s not the orcs, despite three bitter long wars. It’s not the forsaken, despite the undead destroying Lordaeron. Nope, for most humans, it’s going to be the Sin’dorei. The orcs may be a hated and feared race, but to most humans they’re nothing but brutal monstrosities. The forsaken are the same, only tinged with bitter regret over Lordaeron’s passing. But the blood elves were once allies of the humans, before they went and allied with the demons. Is that statement true? Of course not. But do a large percentage of humans believe it? Probably. There’s simply no rumour so nasty that a sizable number of humans won’t believe the blood elves aren’t capable of it. The humans knew the blood elves, or so they thought. Now, they don’t. That’s a harsh reality to face.

Take them out, men! Take them all out! Let none of their number survive! Show them what the Alliance does to traitors.

Orcs & Trolls: The humans don’t distinguish between these two races a whole lot, mostly because ever since they’ve been fighting them both since the second war. (Granted, the Darkspear Tribe aren’t the trolls they were fighting in the second war, but how many humans do you think know the difference anyway?) As such, the opinions of both races are roughly the same: They see the orcs and trolls as frightening, horrible monsters who murder and butcher anyone they come across and for some insane reason, the humans currently have a shaky ceasefire with them. Is it any wonder there are agitators in Theramore, and that the Stormpikes are well regarded?

Those soldiers who fought in Kalimdor during the third war are probably a bit more reasoned in their beliefs, although they still don’t distinguish much between the two. They see the orcs and trolls as savage but reasonable foes, and that ceasefires and treaties with them (temporary ones, at least) are reasonable to consider. For these humans, the Scourge and Burning Legion are greater worries.

Hold, hold! We have word of Scourge to the South. Wait until our messenger returns with word from their commanders. We may be holding the line against these monsters. I said HOLD! Anyone who fires one shot will be court martialled!

Tauren: The humans have about as much experience as the dwarves in fighting the tauren, and much like them, there’s probably not a huge amount of vitriol directed their way. In fact, the humans probably even have fewer issues than the dwarves about the tauren; humans are big on diplomacy and the tauren’s calm approach to conflict means that diplomatic outreach would certainly be plausible. In fact, many humans probably wonder if Cairne Bloodhoof might be the best choice to approach if peace becomes a realistic proposition on Azeroth. (These people are wrong, but it’s a sensible mistake to make.) When on the battlefield, humans respect tauren for their size, speed and capacity to surprise. But they’re targeted for those reasons, not ancient racial grudges.

Marksmen! Target the big ones first, you lot! If they reach our front line they’ll make mincemeat of it. I want to see those bulls turned into porcupines before they reach us! For Light’s sake, they’re hard targets to miss! Hit them! HIT THEM!

Undead (Forsaken): Bitter anger, rage and horror, mixed with terrible sadness. The human race saw one of its finest kingdoms completely destroyed by the Scourge, and it’s a wound that is still fresh and painful. All humans know just how close they came to absolute obliteration in the face of the undead. Fighting one is a horrifying proposition viscerally and emotionally; you know you’re tearing apart something that was a human being, but now is a lump of berserk bone, flesh and pus. In the face of all this, it’s no wonder that very few humans distinguish between the two undead factions. (Yes, I know I’d previously said they probably did, but I’ve rethought it.) Even thought humans who intellectually know the difference probably can’t find the heart to do so emotionally. As such, the forsaken are the main reason the humans still consider the Horde evil, and they burn the Forsaken to the ground whenever they find them.

We are victorious! Take the bodies and pile them up around the bonfires. They’ve risen once, we don’t know if they will again. Surround their village and burn it. Leave not one building standing. Destroy everything.

Viewing the Classes

Death Knight: Traitors and turncoats, twice over. How dare these men and women, who turned on humanity in their greatest moment of crisis, now dare to try and rejoin them? Few humans will ever forgive the Death Knights for their sins. In human cities, they will be feared and detested, spat at, and run from.
Druid: Humans probably see druids with a little bit of amusement and awe. There’s no question that it’s flat out awe-inspiring watching a night elf man suddenly drop to the ground as a cat, hurling himself with feline grace at his opponents and tearing them limb from limb. On the other hand, the humans probably find the entire religious order a bit odd. Druids are secretive and try not to discuss those secrets with outsiders; humans generally like to talk. (Probably a little too much.) They think druids are amazing, but a bit full of themselves.
Hunter: Humans admire hunters of all races. It’s a difficult art, requiring an attachment with the land in one way or another that few humans have, and they’d dearly love to have the knack because, well, because humans want to have the knack of doing everything. But humans are, perhaps even more than dwarves, a race who bends nature to their will, not exists within its flow. It’s just not a class they have the mindset for. For now, they’re glad that they have both dwarvish and night elven sharpshooters within the Alliance.
Mage: Ever since they learned the arcane arts from the high elves, the humans have been deeply enamoured of magic; they see it as a greater and more elegant solution to problem solving that most things. They see magic as graceful and beautiful. However, unlike the high elves, they don’t have a natural bent for it. Good mages are hard to come by among the humans, and as such it’s seen as a very academic and qualified discipline. There are probably a few mothers among the humans who hope their children grow up to be sorcerers. (Or if that becomes clearly an impossibility, to at least marry one.)
Paladin: But no class has the humans respect quite like the paladins. The Silver Hand is a near legendary organisation within Stormwind, an order whose story has outpaced truth itself. Most human children look at paladins with starry eyes and wonder, imagining them holding off entire orc, undead or demonic armies all by themselves. After all, the Silver Hand is credited with winning the Second War single-handedly. (Again, not true, but the timing was fortuitous.) And Stormwind, a city sacked and occupied by orcs within the First War, is more likely to venerate the paladins than any other. I don’t think any paladin ever pays for a meal in Stormwind.
Priest: Priests are likewise highly respected within the very religious Stormwind, but the relationship is very different. After all, you don’t often talk to a paladin. Their talents are on the battlefield, not within a city. Unless you’re an adventurer yourself, you’re more likely to be talking with the priests. As such, priests are seen as more relatable and personal than paladins, less avatars of the Holy Light and more guides to its path. That same mother who hoped her son would become a mage would probably be delighted to learn he’d become a priest, but might wonder if he could handle the pressure of it. Stormwind expects much of its priests, and priests who don’t measure up probably don’t get a lot of sympathy.
Rogue: Now, this time, we need to talk about rogues in a much deeper way. Enough so that if I have time, I may do a whole post devoted to them. But humans fear rogues in a way that the dwarves, gnomes and night elves truly don’t. Those races see rogues as selfish, untrustworthy and (if they go … ahem… rogue) a menace. But the humans see rogues as terrifying, possibly even moreso than warlocks. Why? Because of SI:7. Humans know damn well that they are being spied on, that Stormwind has a whole network of spies whose job it is to make sure you’re not going anything naughty… and that the definition of naughty changes daily. SI:7 is a scary proposition, and humans know this. The odd thing is that if a human rogue told his colleagues he was a thief and a bandit, they’d be relieved.
Shaman: Shamans probably confuse the humans. Since it’s their primary point of similarity, most humans see the draenei in terms of their devotion to the Light. But shamanism inverts that, and has its own practices. Most humans ultimately still trust a draenei, and don’t know enough about the orcs to know shamanism as ‘an orc thing’. So they’re fine with it. But they don’t understand it at all.
Warlock: A menace. Traitors, each and every one of them. The only question is whether or not an individual dwarf human sees all warlocks as irredeemably evil, or if they can make an exception for some of them. (Hey, why rewrite it when it works perfectly?)
Warrior: Humans probably have fewer warriors than soldiers. While they’re a jack of all trades race, their society is based strongly around group loyalties and such, and the Stormwind guard is always hiring. That said, there are no doubt some schools of combat training, and if a human wants to become a sword for hire, or even a justice-seeking fighter, then there’s plenty of scope for him to do so.


  1. Another great play file! 😀

    Unlike, the others, I definitely liked the class section more this time around. Because truthfully, humans have never been a race I wanted to play as much as the others, primarily because they are our race after all and they never seemed very appealing when compared to the others for obvious reasons. But after reading the class section, and other talks about them lately, I definitely have been inspired to roll more humans in the future. So I can blame this place for turning me into a human lover now, I just hope the gnomes don’t think I am stepping out on them lol.

    As for some things you’ve said. I would say when it comes to dwarves, I doubt humans feel as strongly as you indicated they could ultimately feel when it comes to dwarves exploration of their titan origins. Because truthfully, I think humans would see it more a positive than a negative to them & the Alliance. As them discovering their roots, will in time give them access to powers that have long lied dormant within them. And for humans who have seen or heard of the feats performed by Dwarven Avatars and the Sisters of Steel, for sure can see the benefit to the Alliance, if the dwarves as a whole had access to such power. But beyond the potential for a vast increase in the Alliance’s power base, I still think humans wouldn’t mind too much as dwarves as a whole would not change too much. Sure they would possibly abandon the Light, which ruffle some feathers amongst humans for sure but I think the change up happen gradual enough that humans ultimately as a whole would welcome such a change. And that, plus the fact that dwarves have never really been heavy worshipers of the Light like the humans and now, the draenei, would make me think the humans wouldn’t hold it against them too much as their faith has always been more a side thing after all.

  2. Great analysis, and stirring quotes which give great food for thought on human opinions regarding other races and classes. And, like every Theme Week column, an absolute joy to read!

    I just had a few thoughts:
    1) Humans and magecraft go way back. After all, humans run most of the Kirin Tor, and the city of Dalaran is managed almost entirely by human magic users, with a few high elves and gnomes thrown in. Also, humans and high elves convened many centuries ago to create the Guardians of Tirisfal, a secretive order charged with eliminating all agents of the Burning Legion in Azeroth. And of these Guardians, most were human, including the great Medivh. I think then, that mages are definitely quite prevalent in human society.
    2) I also think that while humans certainly don’t differentiate between different troll tribes, they probably know the difference between orcs and trolls. After all, orcs are comparatively new to the scene, while trolls are one of Azeroth’s most ancient races. While human hatreds of orcs stems from their brutal savagery and rampant destruction, their fear and loathing of trolls more likely stems from the fact that trolls practice ancient magics, including voodoo, which humans and the other Alliance races cannot possibly comprehend.
    3) I think humanity in WoW is so varied, that it’s safe to say some human factions don’t have a problem with warlocks. After all, gnome warlocks are even told that with Gnomeregan fallen, the center of warlock studies has shifted to Stormwind. Yes, warlocks are not “out and proud” dancing down the streets of their capital, but they’re not necessarily all outcasts, loathed and despised, either.

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