I’ve always had a thing for the underdogs of the fantasy genre. They are universal cannon fodder for villains, they are the whetstones upon which first level adventurers hone themselves, and they are just so, so fun to hate. Small, green, big eyes, sharp ears, smelly, gibbering and comical in ferocity, I’m talking about goblins here.
Age 14: sitting around the gaming table bored with my friends, the GM suddenly spouts that he’d like to try running an evil campaign. An evil campaign?! But we were heroes! There is dissension, disorder, amazement, and several pubescent young men throwing d20s to simply reject the statement. It was too late. The idea was firmly planted, and it began to germinate. Chuck wanted the evil ranger, Todd took an assassin, Terry the anti-paladin, and Phil the evil mage. Me? I wanted to play a goblin. Classless.
They all stared at me like pole-axed fish, jaws agape. A goblin? Do they even have stats? Yes, but very, very puny ones. I didn’t care. I took it. I was the whipping boy of the group. If we came to a cave with strange sounds coming in it, I was hurled in (Hey, I had infravision, right?) I would be shoved into a backpack upon entering a city, and the ranger would usually try to sell me off to a zoo or a slaver if he could find one.
It was one of the most fun roles I have ever played in all of my gaming career.
Leap forward twenty years, and I’m still gaming. I’ve just broken. I’ve left my long, loving career of text gaming on MUDs and stepped over to The Dark Side. I joined World of Warcraft. Horde vs. Alliance wasn’t a question. I can’t stand gleaming armor and chiseled jawlines. I need chaos, I need destruction, and I need to be universally hated. I agonize over character generation for over an hour, sifting between the races, looking at the facial structures and hair styles and wishing oh-so-badly that I could put some customizable tattoos on there. Eventually I settle with a Tauren Shaman. Why? Because deep within my blackest heart of hearts I wanted to somehow get the virtual version of Mad Cow Disease.
Before I hit level 10, I realized my mistake. There was a race far, far superior to my cow. They were small, they were green, they were awesome, and they were unplayable. The Goblins. They were there! All $&@^@&* over the place! Behind desks, standing in front of weird machines, shooting people into the sky, racing contraptions across the salt flats, and being used as lures for other, larger critters. Like a starving man looking through bulletproof glass at a 40 person buffet, my life-dream was in sight, but just out of reach.
Now, that bulletproof glass is slowly cracking, shattering with the sifting of sand down the hourglass as the Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft draws closer. It is inevitable. In the words of Reagan (kinda), “Mister Blizzardchev, Tear Down This Wall!” I always knew there was something more to the goblins than Blizzard was letting on. I would stand around the UnderCity, or Booty Bay, watching them scurry and ply trade, desiring dearly to know more. To know why they were such shrewd traders. To know why they had such wondrous technology.
The goblins began as a slave race to the jungle trolls of Azeroth, tearing ores out of the earth. Eventually they discovered an ore called kaja’mite that somehow increased their intelligence. Realizing this, they kept it hidden from the trolls, fashioning it in to tools and other ritual ornaments. After many years, they began to create the technology that would allow them to throw off the shackles of slavery, but the supply of kaja’mite was already beginning to run thin. They searched Azeroth in wondrous flying ships for more of the sacred metal, to find their hopes dashed as it was proven that there simply was no more. They had reached a pinnacle, and began a slow decline.
While creating new technology is almost impossible, they can clap-trap the old stuff together and keep it operational, ensuring their continued value. Realizing that the world of technology was growing a dimmer reality, the goblins, still quite keen, turned their efforts towards trade. They have remained mostly neutral in the world, though have sided with the Horde on several occasions during times of great conflict.
The Cataclysm expansion will be no different. It will put the goblins firmly in the Horde court, and to balance this out, the Alliance is gaining a new race as well, the monstrous-looking Worgen. The very name inspires fear in Azeroth, promoting images of feral half-wolves who ravage the countryside and devour anything they come across as they howl madly at the night sky. The origins of the Worgen are not so pure as the goblins. Created for battle by the Night Elves, the Worgen are not a natural race, but were brought in to being by the manipulations of magick and the knowledge of a secretive druidic order. First appearing during the Third War when Arugal employed them against the scourge, Arugal was caught by surprise as the Worgen began to spread like a magical epidemic. Hoping to contain the problem, Arugal took many of the worgen as his wards and retreated with them to ShadowFang Keep, a place any well-heeled WoW player knows by heart.
Now, many years later, the worgen have been talked into the Alliance by the Night Elves, and have thrown in firmly against the powers of the Horde. As the cliche goes, “hardship brings strange bedfellows,” and nothing can be more true than this strange new member. Once universally feared in Gilneas, the worgen may be the Alliance’s best hope during the Cataclysm.
The Cataclysm itself is brought on by a being known as Deathwing, who is (and here’s the surprise twist) An Ancient Evil That Has Re-Awoken (AAETHRE). Deathwing the Destroyer (I know, I know) was once Neltharion the Earth-Warder, who was put here by the titans to keep Azeroth healthy and happy. Evil being what it is, however, it found a chink in his scales and started to whisper sweet everythings into his ear, perverting him and making him change his name to something much more lame. Deathwing the AAETHRE has risen, and has brought ruin upon Azeroth, causing all sorts of environmental muckity-muck. There are new volcanoes, old tropical zones will be frozen, old frozen zones will be molten, frogs will rain from the sky, cats and dogs will live together, and things will just basically be pretty chaotic.
As sarcastic as I may sound, I am very excited to see what Blizzard will do with the old zones in the new expansion. The level cap, naturally, is going up. 85 now, and climbing, I’m sure, with the next expansion after Cataclysm. One very nice feature will be that flying mounts will be allowed over the whole of Azeroth, which should add an interesting aspect to all of those Crossroads Free-For-Alls that constantly go on.
And after the dust is settled, the smoke has abated, the volcanoes have calmed, and the tropical songbirds have unfrozen, the goblins will continue to reign supreme, bright and shiny goggles reflecting images of the world they now own due to some deal they cut with both sides. I beseech Blizzard to just cut straight to the chase, to eliminate the use of the word Cataclysm (it’s really a bit over done anyway) and just change the title to World of Warcraft: Rise of the Goblins.