Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Games: World of Warcraft and Werewolves

Hello and welcome again everyone! After a series of werewolf trial accounts and some songs, I present you now with a – slightly changed – article I wrote in September 2009 concerning the motif of werewolfism in the extremely popular MMO franchise, World of Warcraft. 2009 was a good time to talk about lycanthropes in WoW, following the announcement of the game’s third expansion which would feature Worgen – the werewolves of the WoW universe – as one of the two new playable races. I have made some changes to the article, however, to more reflect the current, post-Cataclysm state of things. So without much ado, here we go.

Worgen as NPCs (Non-Player Characters)

Let’s start from the beginning. Surely every player, Alliance or Horde, has sooner or later come across Worgen during their adventures in Azeroth. What are they? There probably isn’t a person in the world who, seeing them for the first time, wouldn’t involuntarily call them werewolves. From appearance they look like your usual crinos werewolves – bipedal wolf-human hybrids with long claws and fangs, a bit hunched stature, with a small demonic spicing in the form of red eyes. By all means, they can be called werewolves, but why my question was ‘what’ and not ‘who’ I will answer in a moment. But for now, let’s focus at the subject at hand. For the first time, we meet the Worgen as hostile creatures divided in a few clans, distinguished by colour and sometimes armour, too.  Like all good fantasy werewolves (and what Blizzard likes to take advantage of in its games) the names of the particular clans are wolf, silver, or moon-related. The same applies to places where they can be found. And so, on our way we encounter the following clans: Nightbane, Moonrage, Terrorwulf, the Wolfcult, and Greymane. Examples of place names are then: Silverpine Forest, Silverbrook, Pyrewood Village (a reference to pyres that the Holy Inquisition burned those accused of werewolfism and witchcraft on?). When fighting against the Worgen, most of the time we learn that they are cruel monsters that delight in torturing and murdering of other creatures, for which reasons they are considered a threat to the inhabitants of the nearby settlements. And so it is from Eastern Kingdoms, through Kalimdor, to the snowy reaches of Northrend that Worgen are regarded as corrupted and wild monsters that are to be wiped from the face of the world.

Pyrewood Village

Before I continue, let’s stop for a moment in Silverpine Forest in the Eastern Kingdoms. It is there that a village by the name of Pyrewood is located. Despite the entirety of Silverpine literally crawling with the Worgen and worgs (large wolves), Pyrewood Village is an interesting place in a different regard – curious things happen here, about which many players don’t even know. The village is home to many seemingly ordinary people found in other villages – we have craftsmen, an apothecary, even a mayor. These villagers, however, are cursed – every day at sunset (which usually happens on the servers between 8pm and 9pm) they transform into Worgen. In this form, even though friendly before, they become hostile to both factions. They remain shapeshifted until dawn, when they return to their human forms. Lycanthropy, however you would look at it.

2012 edit: After the release of Cataclysm, the Pyrewood I speak of in this article no longer exists. It has been taken over by the Forsaken and turned into one of their many camps for the production of the plague.


Another interesting place where we encounter a story concerning the Worgen and their curse (or at least the Alliance does) is the Grizzly Hills region of Northrend. While doing quests there, we are eventually sent to Silverbrook – a seemingly ordinary human encampment. Initially, we are sent there to help its inhabitants who give us various, increasingly suspicious, tasks – first, we have to get rid of Horde spies who supposedly endanger the settlement, then we are ordered to pluck out wolfsbane from the area surrounding the village under the claim that it is vile to other plants, and finally we are sent to kill a woman captured by the Orc spies, who we in the end rescue. This woman reveals to us the truth about Silverbrook and warns us about the curse, having made sure that we are not members of the Wolfcult by asking us if we had been bitten by anyone or anything (a clear reference to werewolf lore). As we progress through the story, we end up running away from Silverbrook on horseback through the woods, chased by packs of bloodthirsty Worgen in their true forms. Another werewolf motif we can add to our collection in our adventures across Azeroth.

Bloodmoon Isle (2012 entry addition)

As we continue the story from Silverbrook in our quests, we learn that Archmage Arugal (who will be described in more detail later in this article) was raised from the dead by the Lich King, following his defeat in his former stronghold of Shadowfang Keep, with the purpose of spreading the Worgen curse across the lands of Northrend. In his undeath, Arugal is then found by the player and defeated, this time for good, in his keep situated on Bloodmoon Isle, to the eastern coast of Grizzly Hills. We also learn from the questline that many of the trapper communities of the region had willingly joined the Wolfcult and those who refused had either been killed or cursed with undeath.

The Howling Vale (2012 entry addition)

Located in the north-central part of Ashenvale, in Kalimdor, the Howling Vale is another good example of a place where one could find the Worgen before the release of Cataclysm. What used to be the Shrine of Mel’Thandris, became the Howling Vale due to the Worgen of the Terrorwulf clan that had taken up residence there. During the questing in Ashenvale, the player used to be sent there in search of sentinel Velinde Starsong’s legacy, of which a few words are written in the latter part of this article. Unfortunately, now there are no more Worgen in the Howling Vale and the cave entrance to it has collapsed (though there is a way of entering it regardless), the vale itself being overrun now by hostile Ancients.

Blizzcon 2009 and the Revelations of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

A Worgen Rogue.
Like every year, also in the summer of 2009 in the USA the convent of the WoW creators, Blizzard, was held. As early as a few weeks before the event, there appeared on the Internet supposedly leaked content that was to be part of the upcoming new expansion to the game. The expansion was to not only reshape the appearance of Azeroth, but also introduce two new playable races. The rumoured leak caused a stir among the community (like it usually happens before the official announcement of the next expansion). Having heard about it, some players began jumping up in joy, others frowned upon it, keeping to the mindset that nothing is true until it has officially been announced by Blizzard themselves during Blizzcon. On August 21st 2009 it became official – not only did Blizzard announce Cataclysm as the third expansion to its MMO, but all of the changes that had leaked out the weeks before were confirmed. I will not discuss the details of the expansion here, because what is of most interest to us are the Worgen. Quite a big surprise here that gave wings to the Alliance – the Worgen were one of the new playable races to be added in the new expansion. How is it possible for the Worgen to join the Alliance? Let’s take a look at the story presented to us by the creators of the lore themselves…

Greymane, Gilneas and the Alliance – Allies of Old?

Up until then quite little was known about the relationship between the Alliance of Lordaeron and the Worgen. Till the times of Wrath of the Lich King it was known that during the time when Lordaeron was being overwhelmed by the plague of the undead under the leadership of Arthas Menethil, the future Lich King, the subjects of king Genn Greymane fell victim to a cruse which made them turn into savage beasts, the Worgen.

A Gilnean Worgen as portrayed on the cover of
the Curse of the Worgen comic book.
The cause of this curse was to lay in the person of an Archmage of Dalaran, Arugal, who had summoned the Worgen to Azeroth from a different dimension in order to use them as a weapon against the undead armies. It turned out, however, that the Worgen could not be so easily controlled as Arugal had hoped and they soon spread their curse to the inhabitants of Gilneas. Having realized what he’d done, Arugal lost his mind, proclaimed the Worgen as his children and took to the recess of his keep, Shadowfang, in Silverpine Forest, drowning himself in darkness. Killed later on in his own keep by a band of heroes, Arugal came back in Wrath of the Lich King, along with some of his minions, in the service of the Lich King and, known under the name of the Shade of Arugal, was tasked with spreading the Worgen curse in Northrend.

King Genn Greymane fighting the vicious Worgen.
Cataclysm sheds some more light on the fate of the kingdom of Gilneas during the plague of the undead. The kingdom of Gilneas, though officially being part of the Alliance of Lordaeron, prided itself on great independence and king Greymane himself was viewed as a grim king unfavourable towards king Terenas Menethil’s kingdom. When the undead armies walked into Lordaeron, Gilneas initially resisted their attack hand-in-hand with the people of Lordaeron itself. When, however, it became obvious that the enemy’s force is too strong for the Humans to defeat, Archmage Arugal (called here by Blizzard ‘a patriot’) decided to summon the Worgen, possibly from another dimension, into Azeroth to help with fighting off the attackers. In time, this goal had been achieved and the undead were chased out of Gilneas, but by that time the Worgen had irreversibly become a part of the kingdom. Bloodthirsty and without foes to battle, the Worgen reacted with hostility towards the mages controlling them. After a while, a new plague had begun to spread among king Greymane’s subjects – this time not of undeath, but of lycanthropy, the curse of the Worgen, which turned ordinary men into uncontrollable creatures that were no longer a guarantee of safety, but constituting a danger to those who they were meant to serve. Seeing what was happening, king Genn Greymane decided to confine Gilneas and its people behind the great Greymane Wall, which was to serve as a barrier between the outside world and the cursed kingdom. With the return of the dragon Deathwing, who had been banished from the world thousands of years before, and the destruction he lay to the world, the Greymane Wall was shattered and the link for the Worgen of Gilneas to the rest of the world reopened.

Relationship With the Night Elves (updated)

Watching the official trailer of Cataclysm we see that it is the Night Elves who introduce the Worgen to the Alliance after the fall of the Greymane Wall. The Worgen themselves are called “old allies”. What connection do the inhabitants of Darnassus have with the werewolves? Well, it turns out that roughly at the same time when in Lordaeron Archmage Arugal decided to summon the Worgen to the Eastern Kingdoms, in Kalimdor’s Ashenvale the Night Elves were waging their unending war with the demons of the Burning Legion. One of the Sentinels – Velinde Starsong – was ordered to rid the primordial forests of Ashenvale of the demons’ presence. As an answer to her prayers, the Night Elf moon goddess Elune sent Starsong a gift in the form of the Scythe of Elune, which enabled her to summon the Worgen to Kalimdor. Taking advantage of it, Starsong summoned a great number of the creatures to fight the demons of the Burning Legion, however, after a while it turned out that more Worgen arrived in Kalimdor than the Sentinel had planned. It was almost as if the Scythe of Elune could summon Worgen without Starsong’s consent. Noticing the growing problem, she ordered the Worgen to remain at the Shrine of Mel’Thandris in Ashenvale, while she herself went to search for Archmage Arugal who she had heard had also been summoning Worgen. She then travels to the Eastern Kingdoms, but news of her is lost somewhere in Duskwood and the Scythe’s location becomes unknown. It is said that it then became of interest to the Black Riders of Deadwind Pass (of whom very little is known since there are only mentions of them in the lore), who arrived in Duskwood and began murdering the families of the people living there in order to find out about the Scythe’s location. The Black Riders weren’t the only ones, however, who began to show interest in finding and claiming the power of the Scythe for their own – a sorcerer by the name of Morganth, who after Archmage Arugal’s death stole from his possessions Ur’s Treatise on Shadow Magic which originally helped Arugal summon the worgen.

Worgen Druids in bear form, cat form and humanoid form.
In the third expansion the story of the Scythe of Elune is expanded. During the Worgen starting zone questline, the player learns that the Scythe at one point came into the possession of the Worgen Druids of Blackwald, but had then been stolen by the Forsaken during their assault on Gilneas. The questline then leads the player to recovering the Scythe for the Worgen and since then it remains in the hands of the Druids of the Scythe. Not much of an expansion (and how did the Scythe even get to Gilneas from Duskwood?), but it’s as good as it will get.

Speaking of the Druids of the Scythe, as the Worgen Druids call themselves, druidism is another link between the Worgen and the Night Elves. It turns out that the Night Elves’ connection to the Worgen is even deeper than it would seem.  Cataclysm revealed that the first Worgen were, in fact, a group of Night Elf Druids who, during the War of the Satyr that the Night Elves fought after the War of the Ancients in the past advocated shapeshifting into feral wolf-monsters using the power of the Wolf God, Goldrinn. These original “Druids of the Pack” became, however, consumed by the instincts and rage of their wolf forms and eventually became the first Worgen. Tearing through friend or foe during the war, these Druids made other Night Elves contract a virulent curse that would also change them into Worgen. When the situation began going out of hand, Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage banished the Druids of the Pack to a pocket dimension of the Emerald Dream, where they were to stay in slumber forever. Millenia afterwards, they were summoned back to Azeroth from that dimension by Arugal and Velinde Starsong – and the rest is history.

Who are the Worgen… in the Alliance?

What might the inhabitants of a kingdom whose ruler had long since proclaimed he does not need the help of Humans want from the Alliance? First of all, they are in a dire need of a place to be – during the starting area quests we see that the Forsaken attack and take over Gilneas, the cataclysm’s tidal wave finishing the job for them. Without their old home, they are now searching for a new destiny outside of the Greymane Wall. And secondly, the Worgen, with the help of the Alliance, strive to preserve their humanity. How much of the humans they once were has remained? Or have they completely submitted to the beasts within? Will they ever be able to find a cure for the curse? These are all the questions that the Worgen seek answers to as part of the Alliance.

Worgen are able to become every class apart from Paladins, Shamans and now Monks. The characteristic trait of the race is that, like the usual werewolves, they can swap between their human and wolf forms according to a player’s will, but only out of combat. The playable Worgen went through two model changes in order to be made more customizable. As can be seen, they are significantly different from their originals and, what is worth mentioning, with the coming of Cataclysm nearly all old Worgen models were swapped to the new ones, so there are very few places still where the old model can be seen. Of course, like with every playable race, there also has to be a female character – something that wasn’t needed in the past (yes, the old Worgen didn’t have any gender differences). Comparison images below.

Original Worgen model, early Beta model, and the current model.
The old and the new/current Worgen female model.
And that’s all for now when it comes to Worgen and World of Warcraft. If you’re interested in the topic of Worgen, however, I encourage you to pick up the game itself, or the comic book Curse of the Worgen.
Click here to shop for the
Curse of the Worgen comic
book on Amazon!

Since I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, you can directly support Werewolf Theory by purchasing a copy of your own of DC Comics' Curse of the Worgen comic book from Amazon! Should my article spark your interest in the story of the Worgen, please consider buying the comic using the link provided next to this message. Simply click on the cover of the comic on the right-hand side and you will be sent to a page listing all the offers related to it! Thank you and enjoy!

Like the Worgen say, “let the light of the new moon guide you”!

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  1. Awesome article, handles both lore and some real world game information + very nice explanation of some of the history of implementing the worgen into the game (the beta screenshots, recapping the announcement, etc.)

    3 things:

    - The modern Forsaken plague isn't a plague of undeath, until the pact Sylvanas made with the Val'kyr, Forsaken were not able to reproduce. The plague is more a of a chemical weapon, that for some reason, kills both the living and the unliving, reducing them to goo.

    - About the druidism of the Gilneans: I always thought that the Gilneans, as a different culture of the humans, developed druidism in the form that is more known in the real world. As a worgen druid, you start off as a human and can cast basic druid spells that require communing with nature. It is only after their worgen transformation they acquire the ability to shapeshift into the animal forms. This used to be the case with the night elves, were the old quests would have you commune with the spirit of the bear (the spirit of the cat was in the area as well), and complete a quest for him to learn to shapeshift.

    - I've also always viewed the old worgen that Arugal and the Scythe summoned as not sentient, more monsters. I think that only the Gilneans and any other sentients are capable of thinking for themselves, and it still requires some guidance from the night elven deity, in order to keep their feral side in check.

    Anyway, that's it from me, 10/10 :)

  2. Right, I'll make an edit concerning the plague, then, thank you for pointing that out :)

    Concerning the druidism, the version of the story you read is what is currently considered canon, and which can be read in the comic book I mentioned. Obviously, the modern Worgen Druids are not the transformed Night Elves that were banished to the Emerald Dream - the whole story is, I think, simply a way to explain the reason why Worgen can become Druids apart from their relationship with the Night Elves after the fall of Gilneas.

    And yes, you are right, the Worgen that Arugal and Velinde summoned were more monsters than sentient beings, like you said. Gilneans surely are the main 'sentient group' of Worgen, however if you look at some other instances of Worgens' appearance in quests, there exist a few who were actually able to think for themselves, e.g. the people of Silverbrook (it's not stated whether they retained this sentience when shapeshifted, though), and the Worgen you fight in the Howling Fjord who has taken the shape of a mighty worg to take control of the local worgs.

    Cheers for the feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed the read.

  3. I've additionally consistently seen the old worgen that Arugal and the Sickle summoned as not aware, more beasts. I suspect that just the Gilneans and any viable sentients are skilled for the purpose of deduction for themselves, and it still needs some direction from the night elven god, with a specific end goal, which is to hold their wild side under wraps.

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