Posted by: Sean | June 3, 2009

Reflections on trade and family.

It’s 6:37am on a Wednesday and I’m sitting in the food court of the University. The staff are about, but not the professors. One thing the movies miss about Universities is the reality that they’re nearly always under construction – Universities get built up over decades and there’s always one building or another in desperate need of renovation. It’s true of the oldest and the newest – There’s always something to build.

The construction workers mill about, it’s too early and too dark to start work; once the daylight breaks a little bit more they’ll finish up their coffees and go to work. And I know from my other viewing that they won’t be going home until late as well. Long hours of physical, tiring work. And they wear it. You can see a weariness in them even now, perhaps especially now when the weekend was long enough ago that it’s failed to rejuvenate them further, and the coming weekend remains most of a week away.

One of them in particular catches my eye. He’s young, certainly younger than me and frankly, I’d guess a teenager. An apprentice, I suppose. I don’t know his story, of course, but I mentally fill it in anyway; creating a life with wrong guesses and stereotypes. He’s seventeen, I say. Left school a year ago. Picked up an apprenticeship. He doesn’t hope to have his own firm, that hope will come later. Right now he’s just desperately trying to absorb the knowledge he needs to do this work safely and effectively.

It used to be that this kind of work was family business. Lessons got passed down father to son. That’s why we have family names like Mason and Thatcher; was such a time that for the men those names were accurate. Peter Mason’s son is a mason, and so was his father, down and down it goes.

And I think of the Defias Brotherhood. And their sons.

Imagine the promises rebuilding Stormwind held. You could make your name doing that – And set yourself up for life. More to the point, you could set your son up for life, too. He would never go again hungry. Never again would he worry about the simple need to keep a roof over his head. Some of them didn’t even dare to say it to their children. More naive ones promised them everything.

They were, as we know, betrayed.

Imagine all those hopes, those dreams, twisted and inverted. You turned down work for this. Family savings, what pittances they were, kept you going through those months. Then, their money gone, their hopes all that remain, they were forced out at sword-point from the city and exiled.

At that point, one of them looked at his son.

Now go and run through Westfall again. Do all the quests. I dare you.

— —

At a looser level, these kinds of trades are technical and difficult in many ways. There’s an endless knowledge of techniques; right ways and wrong ways to do the various tasks. The equivalent for World of Warcraft is, of course, professions.

But who the hell taught them to you? No. Stop. Do not answer, ‘the trainer’. The trainer is an in-game construct. If you wish, you may indeed have learned tailoring from someone named Ambershine or engineering from Jenna Lemkenilli. But even if you did, it didn’t cost you fifteen copper and emerge in a flash of light. What were her classes like? How long did they take? Why did you do it in the first place? Did the promise of mystic tailoring soothe the savage need for magic when you were addicted? Did, upon leaving Teldrassil, the urge to do something truly and utterly at odds with your life before take hold? What does this say about your training? What does it say about you?

And it’s better to find other ways. Was it a family trade? Did you learn it from a local tradesman as a child, back when your family thought that they might have a bit of peace in between the horrible wars, that their son might be a blacksmith instead of a swordsman?

Are they thrilled at their son’s bravery or disappointed that their hopes were for naught?

What jobs have you done? Not just the stuff you make in game. If you’re a tailor, have you repaired clothes for someone? Have you ever done honest tailoring work? You should know how to measure someone correctly, what cloth breathes and which doesn’t, how to cut cloth so it sits right on someone. Engineers may have made clocks, cleaning devices, anything to make life easier. Blacksmiths should know how to make horseshoes.

Why is your trade?


  1. That first bit, about Westfall, is something I think too many people overlook or just don’t realize about Westfall. Or about Stormwind. About the “beautiful city” that gets talked about because in game, it /is/ beautiful. So much lore gets glossed over by folks that assume that everything is exactly how it seems, and it’s really too bad (A lot of that goes on in the Plaguelands as well).

    Annie Mae (who is from Westfall) certainly knows it, it’s why she left instead of fighting back, and why she doesn’t go back to Westfall now. She may have been one of the ones “pushed aside” by the Defias, but she does have a measure of sympathy for them. It’s hard not to, when the kids you grew up with, who wanted to be farmers or masons or carpenters like their dads, got to see that turned to ruin in front of them.

    • I think a lot of people do understand the basic dynamic of Westfall and the Defias — Defias were artisans shafted by the city nobles, became vengeful and turned to Banditry. What I was trying to do here was explore the emotions of that a little more, to show that it wasn’t just an issue of vengeance. Or more accurately, to show this wasn’t about money, how sensitive trade professions would have made this a family issue.

  2. This was very well done. Showing this around to my RP peeps.

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