Friday, March 23, 2012

Lore Figures: Can Good Be Bad?

     Bolvar Fordragon rocks.  He really does.  I love him as a character, specifically as a figure of awesomeness that both factions can easily acknowledge.  I doubt you'll find an Alliance or Horde player that doesn't know immediately who Bolvar is.  His great works have ranged from Vanilla all the way up to the end of Wrath, and silently continue even through Cataclysm.

     But is he too good?  He doesn't seem to have a single flaw to his character.  I cannot recall any moment in lore where he shows the slightest hint of bad judgement or selfish intent.  Is he as believable a character as he could be with some more human flaws?

     Take a look at some other notable figures in lore.  The easiest example would be Varian Wrynn.  Yes, he is the leader of the Alliance, and yes, he does do some good work.  But most of his good works tend to be side-effects from his own deep-rooted rage and thirst for vengeance.  He helped the Horde retake the Undercity after the Wrathgate, but he did so specifically because he wanted vengeance against those who he blamed for the alleged death of Bolvar Fordragon.  He is incredibly racist in his hatred for the orcs, and he shows no signs of viewing them as anything with feelings and emotions.  In this way, I feel that Varian is a more believable character.

     If you look at some other notable figures in lore, the fact that their good intentions were punctuated by moments of - I hesitate to use this word - evil adds more depth to their characters.  Maiev Shadowsong, the jailor of Illidan Stormrage, stood guard over the Barrow Dens for ten thousand years.  She never wavered in her duty.  When Illidan was freed, she saw everything that blocked her from recapturing him as an enemy, even Tyrande Whisperwind.

    If you've played Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, you may recall when Tyrande gets swept downstream and Maiev loses sight of her.  Maiev, in order to get Malfurion to continue pursuing Illidan, tells him Tyrande was torn apart by the naga.  She lied in order to advance her own lust for revenge over the deaths of her fellow Watchers and to imprison Illidan once again.

     This single-minded obsession makes Maiev a much more interesting character in my mind.

     I must reiterate that I think Bolvar is awesome.  I think he's done some really kick-ass things in the service of Azeroth as a whole, regardless of faction.  But I do feel he could use some kind of darkness.  Something needs to shock us.  The players needs to be amazed that their once-glorious hero could commit some act of cruelty or malice.

     I'm hoping that his current state as the Lich King will provide that very avenue somewhere down the line.  However, I doubt very much that Blizzard would be so willing to sacrifice their greatest hero to progress a storyline that would be equally epic.

     I can imagine some expansion down the line where we, the players, "discover" what happened to Bolvar Fordragon, and then discover that the entity of the Lich King that resided in the helmet, or perhaps some new Old God, has begun corrupting Bolvar and turning him against the very world he swore to protect, even in his own state of undeath.

     I know I'd feel some strong emotions if it came down to a moment where we, the players, were forced to kill Bolvar Fordragon.  I don't think I'd be alone in that one, either.

     I'm starting to ramble a bit, so I'll just get back on point.  Bolvar, while awesome, needs to have some more depth.  Because as good as he is, even now, it's hard to get a real grasp on just who he is.  I would like to know far more about him and his life.


  1. You need one or two nearly perfect characters as the contrast to everyone else. It works that way in real life. We punish and alienate people who actually live up to their ideals because they make us feel like we are failures.

    Bolivar is that guy that never ever did the wrong thing but got punished over and over for refusing to submit to reality.

    1. I understand the point you're making, but I don't know of anyone in the real world that would count as being that way for the rest of us. And as far as Bolvar goes, the punishment he suffers for his good deeds should, in and of itself, be enough to make him question things, or make him have that very human moment of doubt. But it doesn't. Nope, Bolvar just bears the punishment along with everything else. I mean, I almost wonder if Bolvar is the Azerothian version of Jesus or something.
      Hell, there are quite a few parallels when you think about it.

  2. Too Good = The entire Draenei race. It's my biggest complaint about them and it's why I think they are so hard to relate to. They're too damn perfect.

    I have a post brewing about this - and it involves the discovery by the rest of the world of Bolvar's fate, too. :)

    1. Well, collectively, yes, the draenei are a little too good. Velen is a perfect example. I don't recall where, but I know it's been stated that Draenei lore itself is very difficult to swallow because it's pretty much entirely from Velen's words, and we have little to no actual proof of anything he says.

      I'm looking forward to your post about Bolvar! I can't imagine the whole of Azeroth will simply go "Oh, he's sacrificed his very soul to maintain our safety!"
      There's gotta be at least a few of them out there who are more of the "Och, another Lich King? Back on the boat, lads! We've got more killin' ta do!"

      For some reason, it was dwarves when I was typing it out. Don't ask me why.

  3. Having a perfectly moral character is fine as long as you treat them with consistency and don't also pair them up with excessive relative power. They aren't deep characters, so it's difficult to make them the main character, but in a supporting role like the one Bolvar had, it can help to illuminate the depths of the more central characters. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia. Would the story be as good if Aslan sold Edmund up the river to the white witch? Now, if Bolvar suddenly starts using the scourge to punish evildoers in Azeroth, then the story will start to get too preachy very quickly. But as long as the portrayal is that he's locked on the throne, then Blizzard used him as a plot device, and let him exit the story at the right time.

    It becomes an issue when it becomes inconsistent, like it was with the Jesus Allegory Orc, Thrall. He hates slavery, but allows it in the Horde, and values the advice of slavemasters. He hates demonic magics, yet he allows blood elves and warlocks to cooexist in the Horde. He claims to desire peace, yet he allows the Orcs and Forsaken to attack and antagonize the Alliance at every turn. Because of those inconsistencies, Thrall comes off as a terribly written character.