An Introduction to Warcraft Lore for WoW Classic.
The wide world of the warcraft universe has captivated millions of people since it’s first
inception two and a half decades ago. From the early RTS beginnings of Warcraft: Orcs
& Humans to the MMO juggernaut that is World of Warcraft, the franchise has continued to
build an expansive universe filled with unique characters, locations, and stories. Between
the numerous video games and novels, it can be difficult for a newcomer to begin to comprehend
the scope and the ins and outs of the setting, and so with the release of World of Warcraft
Classic, I’ve decided to compile an introduction. This video will specifically focus on the
history of the world leading up to the start of WoW, ignoring any of the later events to
come, to prepare you as you enter the World of Warcraft. The titular world of warcraft, at least as
far as WoW classic is concerned, is known as Azeroth, a lush world featuring a wide
array of biomes and locales, but one continually conflicted with war. This naming gets a little
more confusing, as Azeroth is also the name of a human kingdom as well as a subcontinent,
but mainly it’s known as the planet. In the early days of Azeroth, the four elemental
lords continually battled with one another, keeping the world in constant flux. The lords
fighting was stopped however, by the arrival of the old gods on azeroth, eldritch abominations
that hail from outside of normal reality. The old gods began corrupting Azeroth and
building an empire, and although the elemental lords attempted to stop them, they were each
enslaved. Azeroth was saved by the arrival of another ancient race of beings, the titans,
who managed to defeat the old ones and the elemental lords, and reshape the world. With
Azeroth as a much calmer place, life began to flourish, kickstarted by the titans powers.
The titans left behind some intelligent constructs, but the first real sapient beings are presumed
to be the trolls, who quickly spread across the single continent located on azeroth. They
founded several massive empires during this time, including the Gurubashi and Amani empires,
but they eventually went to war with a race of insects called the aqir, who were created
by the old gods corruption. This war went on for thousands of years, with the trolls
eventually winning out and the aqir kingdom splitting up and going in different directions
across Azeroth. A small tribe of trolls had distanced themselves
from the rest of their brethren, moving into a network of deep tunnels beneath Mount Hyjal.
They grew to detest daylight, and eventually their skin turned into hues of gray, earning
them the name dark trolls. As this tribe continued to develop and further explore the deeper
parts of azeroth, they stumbled upon an enormous lake filled with magical energy left behind
by the titans, the well of eternity. The dark trolls of course began living near it, and
over time, the energy of the well changed these trolls, physically and mentally. They
became wiser, taller, stronger, and virtually immortal, with their skin taking on shades
of violet. They believed that a moon goddess named Elune slumbered within the well during
the day, and began communing with and worshipping her. From strange artifacts around the well,
they developed a new language, and began calling themselves kaldorei, meaning children of the
stars. They would come to be known as Night Elves. The Night Elves had fully abandonded their
troll heritage, and with the power granted to them by the well of eternity, they began
a war with the troll empires, led by Queen Azshara, although it was more of a massacre.
The Elves saw the trolls as a more of a nuisance in their conquests than a threat, and the
trolls were eventually forced to surrender in order to maintain their small kingdom,
creating a lasting enmity in the trolls hearts. The Elves now controlled practically all of
Azeroth, but their rampant use of magic from the well of eternity had drawn the attention
of darker forces. The pantheon of titans that had previously
helped out Azeroth also had a former member of their group that had gone rogue, Sargeras.
Sargeras can be considered one of the principal antagonists of the warcraft universe due to
his desire to destroy all life, and although he himself isn’t seen in WoW classic, the
reverberations of his actions certainly are. Sargeras commanded a vast army of demons known
as the Burning Legion, and he began communicating with Queen Azshara and her councilor in order
to convince them to open a way into Azeroth. They recognized his power and began worshipping
him as a god, along with most of the upper class of elves, and eventually they opened
a portal, beginning the demonic invasion. The ensuing conflict is known as the War of
the Ancients, as the burning legion warred with a resistance formed from the rest of
the night elves. Some notable members of that resistance include Tyrande Whisperwind, a
high priestess of elune, and brothers Malfurion and Illidan Stormrage. Illidan was a highly
capable mage who wielded the power of the well of eternity, while Malfurion embraced
the druidic powers of nature as taught by Cenarius, demigod of the forests. Although
we’ve been focused on the elves, there were other sapient races living on Azeroth by this
point, notably the ancestors of dwarves, the bovine tauren, and the dragons. Together,
they fought against the burning legion, but it was still not enough to win the war. Malfurion
became convinced that the well of eternity needed to be destroyed in order to stop the
legion, and although his fellow night elves were horrified at the thought, tyrande agreed
that it was their best course of action. A group of the resistance managed to make their
way to the well, and successfully reversed the portal, banishing the burning legion from
Azeroth. Unfortunately, the strain on the well was too much, and it imploded, breaking
apart the continent in an event known as the sundering. In the end, as far as WoW Classic
is concerned, there are now two continents on Azeroth, Kalimdor to the west, and the
Eastern Kingdoms to the east, with the great sea between them. The elves that were loyal to Azshara were
twisted into a serpentine form, becoming the naga, while Azshara’s councilor was turned
into a demonic satyr by Sargeras, and then proceeded to spread his curse to other higborne
elves. The highborne elves that had sided with the resistance were still addicted to
the energy of the well, and were eventually exiled, becoming the ancestors of the blood
elves. The remaining night elves rebuilt their kingdom and turned away from their arcane
connection to the well, instead looking to Malfurion and his druidic teachings. Led by
Tyrande and Malfurion, the night elves became much more connected to nature, and although
they had a few more wars, including a notable one with insectoid descendants of the aqir,
let’s look at some other races. A number of the sapient races of Azeroth can
draw their heritage back to the creations made by the titans. When the titans came to
Azeroth and fought against the old gods, they crafted a number of constructs from azeroth’s
crust. These creations were known as titan-forged, creatures of stone and metal, and were instrumental
in winning that war. After the war, the titan-forged were left on Azeroth to reshape the land into
a hospitable world, and a new forge was built that could create more titan-forged. Unfortunately,
one of the old gods, locked away in a prison, managed to spread a curse into that forge,
making it so that any titan-forged produced there would succumb to a curse of flesh, and
would also spread to previous generations. In time, the various titan-forged races became
mortal beings of flesh and blood, resulting in a number of different races currently in
Azeroth. The earthen, tasked with shaping the deep reaches of the world, became the
dwarves. The mechangnomes, mechanical servants, became gnomes, and the Iron Vrykul became
the Vrykul. One clan of the Vrykul however began to have children that were seen as weak
and deformed by vrykul standards, and so their king decreed for any baby born this way to
be killed. Some vrykul parents couldn’t live with this however, and managed to smuggle
their children to another land, the eastern kingdoms. Here, these weak and deformed vrykul
would develop their own civilization, becoming humans. The tauren instead developed from
a yak-like race of humanoids, who were changed by the energies of the well of eternity, and
some were guided by Cenarius in the ways of druidism, while others connected with the
elemental powers, becoming shamans. Orcs on the hand, have perhaps the most unique
origin in Warcraft, as they don’t originate from Azeroth at all. I don’t want to go into
too many details here, but the orcs come from another world named Draenor, and can trace
their lineage back to a massive stone giant created by a titan. Over millenia of evolution,
including sharing a heritage with ogres, orcs came to be, possessing intelligence, ferocity,
and a sense of community. The orcs reproduced quickly, and as their population on draenor
swelled, they split into a number of different clans. Some orcs of the shadowmoon clan discovered
a connection with the spirits of the four elements, becoming the first orcish shamans.
This connection to the elements gradually spread to the rest of the orcs, and they grew
more powerful because of it, eventually becoming the dominant species of draenor. An alien
race fleeing the burning legion, the dranei, would later land on the planet, and although
they originally lived alongside the orcs in peace, the demons eventually caught up with
them. Kil’jaeden, a demon lord, began whispering to a susceptible orc with darkness in his
heart, Gul’dan. Through Gul’dan’s actions in convincing other orcs, notably the Shadowmoon
chieftain, the orcs began slaughtering the dranei. The elemental spirits severed their
connection with the orcs, but that was fine with Gul’dan, as he answered to a different
power now. He developed a secret cabal of like minded orcs, known as the shadow council,
and together they ruled the orcs from behind the scenes. Gul’dan persuaded most of the
various orc clans to drink the blood of a powerful demon, which resulted in a curse
upon the orcs, binding them to the will of Kil’jaeden. The dranei were mostly either
exterminated or taken prisoner, and the rest went into hiding. With draenor fully conquered, the ferocious
orcs needed a new target, and the burning legion still had its sights set on Azeroth.
Medivh, a powerful mage who was part of a line of individuals tasked with protecting
Azeroth from demons, had secretly been possessed by Sargeras his entire life. Sargeras used
Medivh to contact Gul’dan, convincing him of the power he could gain if he brought his
horde to Azeroth. Gul’dan and the shadow council agreed, and constructed a dark portal that
could take them across the stars. Every dranei prisoner the orcs had was sacrificed in an
instant to open the portal, allowing a small army of orcs to travel to Azeroth. This led
to the first war, as the orcs attacked the human kingdom of stormwind, which is depicted
in the first game in the franchise, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Although the humans were
unprepared for such bloodthirsty adversaries, they quickly mounted a capable defense. The
orcs marched across the Eastern Kingdoms, razing human cities as they went, and ended
up at the gates of the capital, Stormwind City. Meanwhile, the humans discovered that
Medivh was responsible for bringing the orcs here, and he was killed in combat. Ultimatelly,
Stormwind was taken by the orcs, and the king was assassinated, causing the rest of the
humans of Stormwind to flee north. The refugees of the stormwind kingdom went
to the human kingdom of Lordaeron, and informed them of the grave threat the orcs presented.
The king of Lordaeron understood that his own kingdom couldn’t prevail alone, and thus
created an alliance against the orcs. This might start to sound pretty familiar, as the
alliance consisted of a number of human kingdoms, as well as the dwarves, gnomes, and the high
elves of quel’thelas. The night elves were still isolated from this war, far away in
Kalimdor, along with the Tauren. A tribe of trolls in Lordaeron had gone to war with the
high elves and humans a while before this, and saw an opportunity to join the orcs in
their war. The ensuing conflict between the horde and the alliance is known as the second
war, as depicted in Warcraft 2. Unfortunately for the horde, Gul’dan’s attention is diverted
by the presence of the tomb of Sargeras on Azeroth, a source of great power. He takes
a large chunk of the horde’s army to go claim it, allowing the alliance to overtake the
horde. The dark portal was finally destroyed, and rather than executing the rest of the
orcs, the alliance placed them in camps. Cut off from their demonic masters, the orcs slowly
languished and slipped into lethargy. The end of the second war doesn’t leave the
orcs in a great place, but a new leader is on the way. Thrall is another one of the most
important characters in Warcraft history, and he was born as the son of the chieftain
of the Frostwolf clan. The Frostwolf clan had not partaken in the demon’s blood like
most of the other orcs, and because of this, they had been exiled to Azeroth after the
portal had been created. Thrall’s father continued to speak against Gul’dan resulting in both
of Thrall’s parents being assassinated and him being left for dead. He was found by the
human commander of the orc interment camps in the wake of the second war, and was raised
as a slave and a gladiator. Due to this however, Thrall received both a traditional education
as well as a combative one, and he excelled in both. He eventually escaped from captivity,
and learned of the plight of his kinsmen. Thrall was eventually taught the old ways
of the orcs by a shaman of the frostwolf clan, Drek’Thar, and became the first new orc shaman
since Gul’dan had corrupted their people. Since the elemental spirits had long since
abandoned the orcs, this was a significant event, and he began rallying other orcs and
breaking them out of the camps. Thrall met with the warchief of the horde, Orgrim Doomhammer,
and bested him in a duel. Later, when Doomhammer was killed during the liberation of a camp,
he gave Thrall his warhammer and apppointed him as the new warchief. Thrall had successfully
freed and united a number of the orcs, but they had no centralized home on Azeroth, only
a handful of outposts. If you recall the former chieftain of the
Shadowmoon clan of orcs, he ended up being captured by Kil’jaeden and punished for failing
to conquer Azeroth. His soul was bound to a suit of armor, and he was encased in a block
of magic ice, the frozen throne. Now known as the Lich King, he sat on the frozen throne
on Azeroth and telepathically formed an army of the undead, called the scourge, to once
again attempt to destroy the world. He finally unleashed the full force of the scourge on
the kingdom of lordaeron, sweeping through villages and towns whilst spreading a plague
of undeath that caused the deceased to rise again as part of the scourge. The king of
Lordaeron’s son, Prince Arthas Menethil, led the charge against the undead, managing to
kill one of the Lich King’s principal servants, a mage named Kel’thuzad. Kel’thuzad would
later return as a lich, commanding the flying citadel of Naxxramas. Arthas began to take
more and more drastic steps to stop the scourge from devouring Lordaeron, including ordering
the execution of every citizen in the city of Stratholme, although most of them had already
been exposed to the plague. Arthas tracked down a mighty runeblade named Frostmourne,
a weapon of great power that was, unbeknownst to Arthas, an extension of the lich king’s
will. Arthas used the sword to kill a powerful demon that served the lich king, but ended
up losing his sanity in the process, becoming a death knight in service of the lich king.
He returned to Lordaeron, slew his father, and became the new king of the scourge-infested
Lordaeron. Meanwhile, the resurrected mage Medivh appeared
to Thrall in a vision, and told him to take his horde across the sea to Kalimdor in order
to escape a great threat. Thrall obeyed, and the orcs sailed west using stolen human ships,
although some of the orcs got seperated due to the maelstrom in the middle of the sea.
Thrall managed to save a tribe of trolls from their sinking island, and they swore allegiance
to the horde. After arriving in Kalimdor, Thrall encountered the tauren, who shared
the orcs connection to the elements, and they eventually would join the horde as well. The
other group of orcs that had landed seperartly on Kalimdor ended up collecting lumber in
the region of Ashenvale, where they encountered the isolated night elves. The night elves
grew angry at these foreign creatures cutting down their beloved forests, and a battle ensued,
resulting in the appearance of Cenarius. The orcs there realized they couldn’t kill Cenarius
as they were, and so they drank from a mysterious fountain that happened to have been tainted
with the same blood of a demon the orcs drank long ago. They were energized with demonic
power, but once again became servants of the burning legion. They managed to slay Cenarius,
and later, with the help of Thrall, an orc named Grom Hellscream would kill that demon,
severing the orcs connection to the burning legion once and for all at the cost of his
own life. Grom is a rather important character in Orc history overall, as he was the first
one to originally drink the blood of the demon. With the eastern kingdoms battling the scourge
however, Kalimdor would have its own war, against the burning legion forces led by a
powerful individual named Archimonde. The night elves, still led by Tyrande Whisperwind,
realized that they could not stay in isolation if the burning legion had returned. Malfurion
was awakened from a lengthy sleep so that he could rouse the numerous druids and go
to war. Tyrande however, believed that they needed the power of Illidan to win. Illidan
had been in prison since the destruction of the well of eternity, as he had betrayed the
night elves by stealing some of its water and creating a new well, due to his addiction
to its energies. Tyrande trusted that Illidan would do the right thing, and although he
initially proved to be a capable leader of night elf forces, his lust for power returned.
Illidan encountered Arthas, who told him of a powerful artifact in order to bait him into
further corruption. Illidan found the artifact, the skull of Gul’dan, and used it’s power
to slay a powerful commander of the legion. Unfortunately, the war was not going well,
as the scourge had run rampant across the eastern kingdoms, and had now come to ruin
Kalimdor as well. The third war came to a climax at Mount Hyjal, where the second well
of eternity was located, underneath the world tree. Archimonde hoped to use the energy of
this new well to summon Sargeras himself to Azeroth, conquering the world once and for
all. A coalition of the night elves, humans, and the horde fought against the burning legion
at the battle of mount hyjal, ending with the destruction of Archimonde, the majority
of his forces, and the world tree itself, severing the night elves immortality. With the world saved, Thrall and his horde
traveled to the eastern coast of Kalimdor, where Thrall named the region Durotar, after
his father, and founded the city of Orgrimmar, named in honor of Orgrim Doomhammer. The orcs
helped the tauren reclaim their ancestral land of Mulgore away from the centaur, and
they founded the Tauren capital of Thunder Bluff. Over in the Eastern Kingdoms, Stormwind
City had been rebuilt and became the new capital of the alliance, and the dwarves in their
ancient capital city of Ironforge would be their closest allies, with a tram system connecting
the two cities. Ironforge also was home to a number of the mechanically gifted gnomes,
who had lost their capital city of Gnomergan during the third war due to a barbaric race
of creatures known as Troggs. The night elves ultimately ended up joining the alliance due
to the orcs continued practice of deforestation, despite Thrall’s protests. They would create
their capital city of Darnassus on an island off the norther coast of Kalimdor. There’s one race that I haven’t discussed
yet, and that’s the horde race of the Forsaken, also referred to as simply the undead. After
the death of Archimonde, the demon Kil’jaeden went to Illidan and offered him untold power
if he would go and destroy the lich king, who had slowly broken free from kil’jaeden’s
grasp. Illidan agreed, and ended up using a spell to create a large crack in the frozen
throne, which caused the lich king’s power to slowly seep out. This loss of power affected
the lich king’s connection to a number of undead members of the scourge, and they regained
control over their bodies. Many of these undead succumbed to madness as they realized what
they had been forced to do, but some remained sane. These renegade undead were rallied by
an undead high elf general named Lady Sylvanas Windrunner. They became known as the forsaken,
a race of sapient undead mostly composed of former humans, and they established a new
city underneath the ruins of Lordaeron’s former capital, now called the Undercity. Sylvanas’
only goal initially was to destroy the lich king, but the forsaken soon came under attack
from humans dedicated to destroying any and all undead in the wake of the third war. Sylvanas
reached out to a number of other factions, and an archdruid of the tauren saw the potential
for the redemption of the forsaken. He spoke to Thrall, who eventually invited the forsaken
to join the horde, giving the horde a presence in the eastern kingdoms. Overall, the alliance
and the horde had formed a tenuous pact of peace, but there is a lot of bad blood between
many of the factions, and hostility between the alliance and horde is certainly not gone
completely. This is a lot of lore to take in if you are
completely new to the franchise, but I hope that I’ve painted a general enough picture
of the state of Azeroth at the start of World of Warcraft. This video definitely won’t answer
every question you might have while playing through WoW Classic or while learning about
Azeroth, but the journey is part of the fun. You should be prepared now at least to dive
in as one of the 8 races, travel across Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, and fight for either
the Alliance or the Horde for honor and glory. While there are always going to be members
of the opposite faction to fight, don’t forget about the various powerful entities that will
require a number of brave adventurers to defeat, such as the Lord of Fire Ragnaros in his mountain,
or the old god C’thun slumbering in the ground. It’s a wide world out there, filled with countless
friends, enemies, adventures, dangers, and memories. Welcome to the world of Warcraft.