Posted by: Jess Riley | February 17, 2009

Urban Legends

In real life, we have an incredible variety of urban legends that we like to share with one another – or, in this modern age, that we like to read about online. They cover a startling range of topics, from big businesses and food companies, to mysterious and supernatural events, to things that we know could happen to us, but which we really hope ever wouldn’t. There are different legends that are associated with different cultures, that are more popular among different areas of the world, and so on.

Is there a particular reason why different World of Warcraft races wouldn’t have their own urban legends and, branching out a little further, superstitions?

First of all, I do want to establish the difference, here, between a mythology and what I’ll refer to in this article as an Azeroth urban legend; none of the cultures would really be described as ‘modern’ or ‘urban’ in the same way our society is, but the general construction of the typical urban legend doesn’t necessarily require a modern society to get the general idea across. The legends and mythology would be their religion, their histories, and so on – but the things which someone swore happened to a friend of their hairdressers, just last week… that’s a different category.

So, how does this come up in our roleplay?

For a start, there’s a lot of people in real life who put a lot of stock in urban legends – either because they are easily frightened and worried, even while acknowledging that the legend probably never took place, or else because they are superstitious, and believe that it is true until told otherwise. As such, it’s only a logical extension that in World of Warcraft, there are going to be characters of all races who are going to put a lot of stock in these legends and stories of various kinds. They’d act uncertainly in some situations for fear of the same thing happening to them, they’d share the stories with others, and so on.

So, we’ve established that the World of Warcraft races would have their own stories akin to modern ‘urban legends’, and that the more superstitious or easily scared characters would make reference to and behave suspiciously or fearfully with regard to these stories. That’s all good and well, certainly, but alright – exactly what kind of stories are being told by these orcs, elves, trolls, and so on?

There’s no lore sources on the subject, most likely because this isn’t the kind of thing that most developers think about when they’re designing a fictional universe. This does, however, allow us a lot of reasonable creativity in coming up with the kinds of stories that may be floating around. Of course, keep it realistic and relevant to the race – tauren aren’t going to be sharing stories about that time that someone went camping alone and found photographs on their camera of themselves, sleeping. They may, however, be aware of the story of the time that two very young tauren, who should not have been so far from home by themselves, fell asleep by a campfire that they’d built together, and one of them woke up to see the other one dead, with a note by his body reading, ‘Aren’t you glad you never woke up?’.

Or worse, that neither tauren ever woke up at all.

It’s true, it happened to my hairdresser’s brother’s friend just a few weeks ago, and they still haven’t found out what happened. You shouldn’t do that until you’re old enough to learn how to fight. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that, kid?

(It’s important to note that while your typical urban legend can be told for any number of reasons, one of which is the cautionary tale. In current World of Warcraft, there are a lot of reasons to tell cautionary tales – Arthas and the Scourge, for a start, but also the Horde/Alliance, depending on which you are, and any number of wild animals. Keep in mind that a lot of urban legends, particularly to parents, could be cautionary tales to spin the reasons why you don’t want to go into some place unaccompanied in a new and unique way – preventing kids from going ‘aw, mum, but you always say that we can’t go out alone because of the Scourge’).

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Responses

  1. Some urban legends and superstitions have already either translated over to Azeroth from our world, or have developed on their own.

    -It’s pretty common among the people I play with to keep a rabbit’s foot in their bags at all times, for luck. I played a character who kept a whole stack of them at one point, and you can occasionally find this completely useless grey item in the auctionhouse. OOC it’s been theorized that they have a hidden ability to affect the random number generator in the owner’s favor, but this is has no sold basis or evidence.
    -The boss drops in dungeons seem to favor armor and weapons for classes that aren’t represented in the party. Take five people wearing plate and mail through an instance, and 90% of the drops will be cloth. This doesn’t really translate into roleplaying all that well, but it is a pervasive superstition in the player base.

    -Having recently talked my girlfriend into playing along with me I’ve found that as I explain little neat things in the world we’re moving through, they’ve been made into myths and urban legends by patches.
    The giant crocolisk that lurks in the Stormwind canals? I swear it’s real. I once heard the screams of a young warrior that tripped into the canals and was snatched up by it! I tell her everytime she decides to take a dip, and she doesn’t believe me. Who knows where that thing came from? Or where it hides?
    I’ve got her always watching the underwater portion of the tram for Nessie. I don’t know if she’s humoring me, or if she honestly believes that this aquatic monster is real. But what used to be a common and happy sight for me has not appeared for months. Nessie’s become a word-of-mouth myth, as far as I can tell.


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