Thinking of rolling a new character in time for Legion? World of Warcraft features a long and elaborate backstory, filled with more betrayals, battles, politics, and more beloved character deaths than you can shake a Game of Thrones at. If you're the type of geek who cares about the backstory behind your character's race and starting zone, look no further than our primer on the playable races of World of Warcraft.
In Part I, we bring you an introduction to the mighty Humans, the reclusive Night Elves, and the stout-hearted Dwarves of Azeroth.
Of all player races, Humans have one of the richest backstories in World of Warcraft. Descended from the barbarian-clans of the Arathi Highlands, Humans first learned of magic from reluctant tutors among the High Elves of Quel'thalas, who were desperate for allies against their ancient enemies the Forest Trolls. In spite of their short lifespans compared to most of the other races in Azeroth, Humans proved highly adaptable and quick learners, rapidly expanding their holdings and developing technologies to further their growing civilization.
In the span of several generations, Humans had founded the mighty kingdoms of Lordaeron in the north and Stormwind to the south, as well as the powerful magocracy of Dalaran in Hilsbrad. Humans have played pivotal roles in many of the world's defining moments in history, for good or ill. It was a Human mage, Medivh, who first opened the Dark Portal to Draenor, flooding Azeroth with the demon-tainted Orc armies in service to the Burning Legion. Many years later, it was the Human prince Arthas who fell to corruption and, wielding the cursed blade Frostmourne, single-handedly brought ruin to the realms of Quel'thalas and Lordaeron.
But Human heroes have also made their mark on history: from Force Commander Turalyon, who led the charge to seal the Dark Portal; to noble Uther the Lightbringer, who stood against the march of Arthas and the Scourge until the bitter end; to Tirion Fordring, Highlord of the Argent Crusade and wielder of the legendary blade Ashbringer.
Believed at one point to be distant relatives of the Trolls, the Night Elves are an ancient people who draw strength and mystical sustenance from the moon. Indeed, their religion centers around the worship of Elune, the Moon Goddess.
Eons ago, when Azeroth existed as one unbroken continent, the Night Elves ruled over a massive and decadent empire. But they were betrayed by their Queen Azshara, who had conspired with the demons of the Burning Legion and brought them to Azeroth. So great and terrible was the demons' onslaught that their eventual and costly defeat shattered the landmass of Azeroth into three separate continents, with the chaotic whirlpool known as the Maelstrom at its center.
Mournful of their past mistakes, the Night Elves retreated to seclusion as a society, only recently being 'rediscovered' during the events of the Second War. Illidan the Betrayer, the first demon hunter, was a Night Elf, as was his brother the Archdruid Malfurion, and his unrequited lover and current leader of the Night Elven people, the High Priestess Tyrande.
"I like my ale like I like my women," says the Dwarven racial emote, "Stout, an' bitter."
Stalwart allies of the Human kingdoms and the Alliance, Dwarves have recently been gripped by a fervour for exploring the deep places of Azeroth in search of artifacts dating back to the time of the Titans, enigmatic colossal beings believed to have brought order to the chaos of the universe and created the Dwarves as hardy builders of their great works.
But their recent discoveries have led to the accidental trapping of their High King Magni Bronzebeard in a crystallized state of suspended animation, and the Dwarves now face an uncertain and tumultuous political future as they find their kingdom under the rule of not one High King, but the Council of Three Hammers.
Indeed, three distinct cultures make up the Dwarven species: the Dwarves of Ironforge, stout and hardy miners, architects, and master smiths; the wild, shamanistic, gryphon-riding Wildhammer Dwarves hailing from Aerie Peak; and the oft-mistrusted Dark Iron Dwarves of the volcanic mountain Kingdom of Thaurrisan.