I like to be canon-compliant, but this is absurd.

I've been working on the Nancie Lighthammer biography since November 1st (I'm behind on my projected count but still confident that I'll finish the story itself by the end of the month — whether it takes up 50,000 words is another matter), and although I'd really like to be as canon-compliant as possible, there are some things that are really hard to reconcile with the game — and therefore really hard to reconcile with my story.

  • Dwarf paladins. Okay, I understand that Uther was The First Paladin, and that in spite of the fact that, say, draenei clearly had paladins (Vindicators) long before they ran into the Alliance, it's generally accepted that dwarves did not.  Fine.  I'm working with that (and it's got some neat twists that will add to my story in the long run) — but it's annoying that canon kind of shoehorns people into either having characters who were "battle clerics"/"battle medics"/"something that looks like a paladin and quacks like a paladin, but is not, in fact, a paladin" — or having them forced into being relatively young characters.
  • Dwarves and the Light in general. Canon differs on the Light and its relationship to paladins.  The RPG sourcebooks all treat WoW paladins as classic D&D paladins, who lose their powers if they do bad things.  This is more or less backed up by Of Blood and Honor, although it's made clear that the Light can be giveth, and the Light can be taketh away — sort of, unless emergencies arise.  Frankly, dwarves in general are less "follow the Light blindly even though you can't see it, touch it, smell it, or swing a pickaxe at it", and I'm not at all sure how a dwarf paladin is going to react when she recognizes she's done something immoral.  (Well, I know how mine is going to react…)  Dwarves and religion are sort of hard to pin together at all, although I've seen some lovely things from dwarf RPers who touch on the connection to the Makers and Order for Holy powers/connection to Chaos for Shadow powers.  For younger dwarves, of course, this gets easier: a dwarf raised around humans is perfectly well likely to have some influence from her peers…
  • Magni Bronzebeard and the War of the Three Hammers.  We have an approximate date for the War itself, but how long has Magni been king?  How old is Magni?  Dwarf lore, why are you so difficult to pin down?  (Actually, I suspect it really isn't dwarf lore in particular that's hard to pin down, it's just what I'm looking at right now.)  While I'm at it, I can't tell precisely how long the Explorer's League/Guild has been going, and what the hell happened to the rest of Muradin's expedition after Arthas grabbed Frostmourne?  Did they all end up with Baelgun, and did Arthas kill all of them?
  • Dwarf ages.  I've seen some suggestions that dwarves reach adulthood at 40 and are more long-lived than humans.  Okay, I can't deal with the idea of an infancy that lasts four years at all (let alone the thousands of years it could conceivably last for elves), so I'm going with the ElfQuest school of thought here: they age to young adulthood rapidly and just stay there for a really, really long time.  I am more or less scuttling the "adulthood at 40" concept.  (Maybe that's when they start being able to vote.)
  • Dwarves and written language. I took one look at this page on WoWWiki and more or less thought "Oh, screw that."  Look, I can put up with the idea that the humans introduced the dwarves to the Light — maybe (although since it really does seem like different races have different relationships to the Light that lead to similar skills and abilities, I don't see why the dwarves can't just have had those different relationships from the beginning).  I can put up with the idea that, before there were humans and before there was the Alliance, there were no dwarf paladins.
    But the idea that the dwarves had no written language before the humans came around can bite me right in my dwarf-shaped rear end.  Excuse me, humans, but you do not get credit for everything in the damn world.  Let me guess: the dwarves didn't have fire before they met the humans, either.  Or wheels.  What's next, we find out humans introduced the dwarves to boomsticks?  And beer.  Humans definitely introduced the dwarves to beer.

    Obviously, everyone has their pet class/race/etc., and humans and orcs were certainly the focus of the Warcraft world for many, many years.  It makes sense that their history is richer and deeper than everyone else's.  But why make a race as unflaggingly cool as the dwarves and then say "Oh, hey, everything the dwarves did?  It's really just because humans did it for them."  And written language?  Come on.  How do you have a race as advanced as the various types of dwarves and still say they've got no written language?

When it comes to canon-compliancy, I really enjoy the mental exercise of figuring out how my character could have fit into times and places without breaking obvious canon.  On the other hand, Warcraft spans so many things — the first three games, the novels, the comic books, the RPG books.  I'm sure the tabletop game adds things, and I shudder to think how much I'm missing by not playing the collectible card game (to say nothing of rocket chickens.  God, I want a rocket chicken).  But how much is definitive canon and how much is only sort of canon?  Is it like the Star Wars movies, where only what shows up on screen is really canon and the rest, while pretty neat, isn't confining on Lucas's need to make movies in the future?  Is it like Star Trek, where the show and movies are canon, and sometimes what happens in the books can influence and later affect canon — but only sometimes?

I dunno.  I've seen people who go both ways on this.  I've seen people who think if you don't stick to every piece of canon, including in the RPG sourcebooks, you're basically playing a vampire catgirl in Goldshire.  I've also seen people who don't feel constrained by the limitations the game puts on them (not every draenei RP backstory puts the draenei in question on board the Exodar when it crashed).  There's also the fact that canon doesn't always comply with itself — there are plenty of resources that say the Scarlet Crusade is a bunch of racist pricks who wouldn't piss on a non-human if they were on fire and they sure won't let 'em into their secret club (hint: We Like Red), but if that's the case, why do they have statues built to great Scarlet Crusade non-human heroes?  And how old is Anduinn Wrynn now?

I wish there were easier answers for all of this!  I would love a complete, detailed timeline marking down the birth and death of every major and minor character, plus when various things were built, when wars happened, and so on.  We'll probably never get that, because honestly, it's not easy for Blizzard to keep up with their own history.  Which probably says something about how hard it is for the rest of us.  It irks me to think I'm probably going to have to tack a note onto stories that says "By the way, I went with this canon, and not this canon, and also, dwarves are not in diapers for four years."  But I probably will.

Nov 4th, 2009
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  1. Nov 8th, 2009 at 00:43 | #1

    "…but it's annoying that canon kind of shoehorns people into either having characters who were "battle clerics"/"battle medics"/"something that looks like a paladin and quacks like a paladin, but is not, in fact, a paladin" — or having them forced into being relatively young characters."

    I don't see why these have to be the only choices. When the first human Paladins were ordained, they came from different walks of life—the only thing that really tied them together was devotion to the Holy Light and enough sense of duty to respond to Archbishop Faol's/Uther's call to arms.

    I see nothing that says that dwarven Paladins couldn't have arisen the same way. It's quite likely that some of them were fighters/guards/warriors/gladiators/mercenaries/etc. who had fighting skills and took up faith as an additional tool in their arsenal, just like it's likely that some were religious devotees who felt the need to pick up weapons and fight for their beliefs. But that doesn't negate the chance that it's equally possible that there were peasants and miners and artisans and hunters and whatnot who embraced the Light and were taught their current skills by the Silver Hand. Sure, some were probably young, but it's just as possible some were pretty old, too.

    It's not too much of a stretch to imagine a grizzled old hunter hanging up his boomstick and picking up a libram when he finds that wielding the Holy Light takes the ache out of his bones and gives him a sense of fulfillment that no hunt ever could.

    Now, if you're insisting on a Paladin-like dwarf character that existed before the Second War, then perhaps you should look at shamanism. I believe shamanism existed in dwarven society prior to the introduction of the Holy Light. It could have been something of a dying system of beliefs that was simply replaced by worship of the Light (and is being revived in Cataclysm due to strengthened ties between the Bronzebeard and Wildhammer Clans). A dwarf shaman who converts to the Light amidst a crisis of faith and/or in an attempt to remain relevant in a rapidly changing society (and then potentially returns to shamanism in Cataclysm) sounds like a plausible story to me.

  2. Teuthida
    Nov 8th, 2009 at 07:50 | #2

    I think I'm getting overly hung up on terminology and the tendency of sources to declare that the Knights of the Silver Hand were the first-and-only Paladins (as if other Light-infused warriors were, I dunno, cheesecakes). Also, I swear when I was first doing my research, I found things that said humans introduced dwarves to the philosophy of the Holy Light itself, but now looking back on it I can't find anything that suggests that — just a bunch of stuff that says the Light used to have tons of dwarves and high elves practicing it, but not so much these days. (This is going to make me crazy…)

  3. Nov 9th, 2009 at 09:36 | #3

    I haven't read the various WoW source books, but as far as I'm aware, the Knights of the Silver Hand were the first-and-only Paladins in Azeroth at the time — the Light-infused heavily armed and armored combatants archetype didn't exist prior to this (at least, not in Azeroth). The Draenei, and their vindicators, had existed for quite some time by that point, true, but they were not known to the followers of the Holy Light in Azeroth (and WarCraft lore is, essentially, Azeroth-centric).

    Anyway, if I recall correctly from the novelization of WarCraft 2 (and I know I do, since I pulled out the book to reference the scene this occurred in), the entire Holy Warrior concept was revolutionary in Azeroth at the time, and arose from the decimation of the ranks of the clerics of Northshire Abbey who (like the rest of the clergy of the Church of the Holy Light at the time) were just too fragile to withstand the onslaught of the Horde. After hearing the fate of the Northsire clerics, Archbishop Faol had the idea to combine the martial prowess of knights and warriors with the faith of his priests to create a new branch of the Church—the Paladins.

    This leads me to believe (and I've seen no evidence to the contrary) that prior to the creation of the Silver Hand, the "other Light-infused warriors" you refer to simply did not exist in Azeroth. If you can provide a concrete example, then I can see where your dilemma arises from, but as it stands I think the lore is pretty solid in this regard. I guess you could argue that there were knights and warriors who believed in the Light prior to the creation of the Silver Hand (which is true) or that there were priests with some martial ability (which is also true, since martial prowess was one of the criterion by which Archbishop Faol chose his first Paladin candidates—the other being piety), but you can't really argue that warriors were infused with Light-given powers nor that the priests could combine their martial prowess and Holy powers into a cohesive style, and so they were Fauxadins at best. =P

    Out of curiosity, what exactly brought on this conversation in the first place? Did you read something in the lore somewhere that brought this into question, or did you just envision Nancie as a "battle medic" or somesuch before the creation of the Order of the Silver Hand?

  4. Teuthida
    Nov 9th, 2009 at 10:13 | #4

    This leads me to believe (and I've seen no evidence to the contrary) that prior to the creation of the Silver Hand, the "other Light-infused warriors" you refer to simply did not exist in Azeroth. If you can provide a concrete example, then I can see where your dilemma arises from, but as it stands I think the lore is pretty solid in this regard.

    No, that works for me! My frustration has been a lack of solid information. I can work with the idea that there were no armored-battletank-Light-users in Azeroth before the creation of the Silver Hand. I can work with the idea that there were. But being stuck in the middle with unclear statements was driving me batty, much like my inability to figure out whether or not dwarves revered the Light before they met humans and joined up with the Alliance. I keep running across things that say "dwarves and elves used to follow the Light in droves, but they don't anymore", but does "used to" mean "during a time before they had a lot of contact with humans", or does it mean "after the Alliance got started, dwarves and elves investigated the Light, and have since moved on"?

    Because, really, in terms of in-game settings, there is no overt presence of the Church of the Holy Light for dwarves and elves, both of whom seem to draw on separate sources for their beliefs (in the case of the dwarves, the Makers/Titans, and in the case of the elves, Elune). There's no Cathedral in Ironforge, unlike in Stormwind, say. Sure, there are priest and paladin trainers there, but nobody's a bishop, nobody wears super-fancy Church of the Holy Light clothes, and so on — it simply doesn't seem to be an organized practice for the dwarves. (And if you have any more solid information on this than I've been able to turn up, I'd be very happy to hear it. >_>)

    As for where this all came from, it's all related to trying to figure out Nancie's backstory (and although I keep thinking for sure I saw something that said the dwarves had no knowledge of the Light before the Alliance was formed, I just cannot find it at all now, argh). When I was first playing WoW, I thought Nancie was a priest before Ovi was a priest, but really digging into Nancie's personality, she is much more "battle" than "medic". XD

    Obviously, there's no difficulty in making her a mountaineer pre-First War, and certainly she could have medic training and physician training (unless we're going to give humans the credit for dwarves learning about medicine ALTOGETHER, in which case, screw that noise, that's just stupid — er, don't mind me, I'm just bitter about the written language thing. What else? BEER?! FIRE!?! THE WHEEL??! ANVILS?!?!). If the Light is a philosophy they've heard about but haven't really dug into deeply, she could even have an interest in it, something she doesn't talk to with most people for fear of being snorted at. Otherwise, she could be a dwarf who just has an inner belief that there's some kind of higher power out there guiding her from time to time, and when she runs into humans, the pieces kinda fit together, and she becomes a devotee of the Light. But I do see her as being an armored, mounted warrior long before she's ever got a deep inner connection to the Light, or becomes a paladin altogether.

    I'm also a little unclear about things like — okay, the Silver Hand had Exclusive Rights to the Registered Paladin Trademark for the duration of the Second and Third Wars (and before that?), but then Uther's killed and Arthas goes crazy and the Order of the Silver Hand just falls apart. But in the meantime, there are still paladins. The Silver Hand doesn't get reformed until Tirion Fordring comes back, right? But there are paladins happening all the time between Arthas and Tirion. Clearly there's a way to be a paladin, if not a Paladin(tm), without Archbishop Faol himself running you through the ceremony and ritual.

    Also, while the Scarlet Crusade is full of former Silver Hand paladins, I imagine that they've been broken off from Northshire and Stormwind quite long enough so that their new shiny Scarlet paladins are blessed by somebody, but it ain't anyone in Northshire or Stormwind. (Or, I dunno, maybe there are a bunch of infiltrators who stay in Northshire just long enough to get their paladin training complete, and then they run off to be part of the Scarlet Crusade, and the priests and bishops at Northshire all kind of go, "Crap! That's the third fake paladin we've lost this week! HEY YOU GET BACK HERE AND BRING THAT HORSE WITH YOU." But I doubt it.)

    Ultimately, I'm sort of picturing the difference between paladins of the original Silver Hand, and more recent paladins, being a bit like the difference between being Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight, who was raised from infancy/childhood and was apprenticed to a Jedi Knight and passed the trials and is a Jedi Knight(tm), and Luke Skywalker, who has a genetic affinity for the Force and finds a couple of guys to train him and doesn't even actually complete his training but is told, "Okay, good enough. Now triumph over your dark side and stuff." and goes on proclaiming I Am A Jedi Knight for the rest of the series, and no one really has the ability to say otherwise, because he's all they've got left anyway.

    And like I said on Twitter, don't apologize for wall-of-text; I really appreciate your knowledge and willingness to share it with me. ^_^ You are definitely the first person I think of when I think about people who would know lore in general, and paladin lore in specific. So thank you for commenting!

  5. Corise
    Nov 9th, 2009 at 13:18 | #5

    Hee… just to add to the confusion regarding paladins, Blizzard has been very inconsistant in its references to the Order of the Silver Hand in WoW. As you mentioned, the Silver Hand fell apart after Arthas went all evil and killed Uther and that whole mess, to be reformed by Tirion Fordring after the quest "In Dreams."

    However, when a level one human paladin delivers the Consecrated Letter to Brother Sammuel in Northshire Abbey, he or she is addressed as "Knight of the Silver Hand." Likewise, a brand-new dwarf paladin is informed, "You're a Knight of the Silver Hand now, be ready to play the part." So clearly, even if the Order of the Silver Hand is officially defunct after the Third War, there are still a lot of paladins (including the ones who train new paladins!) who consider themselves to be a part of it still even before Fordring declares the Order "reborn."

    I've always played it as the Order continuing to exist through its surviving members and the young paladins they train, but being fairly disorganized and leaderless until Fordring comes out of exile and steps up to the plate as Highlord.

  6. Teuthida
    Nov 9th, 2009 at 13:38 | #6

    Corise, I've been seriously thinking about rolling a new dwarf paladin just to see what the newbie quests say to them — it's been so long since I rolled Nancie that I can't remember! (…okay, so I could look it up on WoWHead, but where's the fun in that?) I know there are several quests I couldn't do, back in the day, from the human trainer — I had to come back to Ironforge even though I was adventuring in Elwynn back then (oh, the days before Goldshire went totally to hell!). And the redemption/resurrection questline was completely different and involved going all over Dun Morogh…

    I think that's a totally valid way of approaching the Silver Hand, btw. Oof, Blizzard! Be more consistent!

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