Friday, February 15, 2008

WoW vs. WoW:RPG

When one runs into a D&D or Vampire based video game one can usually find a book at their local gaming store on the same regions and peoples that video game is based upon this conversion from table top to electronic format is practically traditional and in many cases is the first experience anyone has with a table top game.

In my case the first experience I had with table tops was through the Pool of Radiance game on my dad’s old commodore 64. Some years later I'm in a comic book store rolling a Barbarian.

I'm sure similar patterns have repeated themselves over and over again every time such a game comes out. Can you imagine how many people started playing D&D when Never Winter Nights came out? Imagine there surprise when they found out D&D doesn't actually have a point system that pushes your alignment one way or another.

In any case Warcraft is unique in that it doesn't base itself off a tabletop. Rather, it is a tabletop based off a videogame. This in and of itself creates some unique problems. Particularly when one must work with a company as tight lipped as Blizzard.

The first problem one has to deal with is translating a video game into a table-top, and not just any table top, but one that has been hailed and recognized before the concept of Night Elves was dancing nakedly in the back of someone’s head (purple elves? hawt!). This creates some challenges that the writers have proudly faced in WoW:RPG and its Predecessor Warcraft: The Role Playing Game. After all while videogames take their basic game mechanics from the tabletop itself the writers are forced to handle the ever changing philosophy of blizzards developers regarding the game while still keeping to their own format. Thankfully d20 is adaptable enough that no matter what direction blizz decides to go with the game the writers will always be able to keep up mechanically. But then, we get into lore....

Blizzard loves to retcon so much that it gave players an instance in which they can retcon time itself at the behest of times lords and masters. This is easy for them, after all they own the property and retconning is as easy as making a few code changes and releasing another patch. For the writers, retconning isn't really an option, once a book is out: it's out. The writer of those oh so popular Drizzt novels may have decided midway through the series that a Star Elf might have made a more popular choice then the now cliché drow (by the way if anyone ever pick up the new Drow book I recommend it, it gives them their balls back). But, because he can't simply grab every book in the world and rewrite history he has to stick to his guns and keep Drizzt a drow.

In blizzards case they've had a very hard time deciding just where their characters stand. Garona for example was a half human half orc. Then by Warcraft 2 one of her parents was Draeni. There was only one variety of troll, now there's five. All in all Blizzard loves to implement new ideas with the exuberance of a new GM constantly adding new details to his world despite already laid foundations from earlier in his campaign. That’s great for them but bad for the RPG.

If we sit down and think about all the stuff released, particularly about content which hasn't been released yet, then there’s a huge margin for error, and it already shows. How? Just look at Lands of Mystery, particularly the section on Northrend, then go to the World of Warcraft website and check out Wrath of The Lich King. See some problems? Already a lot of the preconceptions and lore given out in Lands of Mystery is being proven as not what Blizzard intended.

So, what are the repercussions of this on the line? Well, it hurts. New players will pick up the book, find the differences, and not buy it. After all, the book is called World of Warcraft. Automatically that associates it with the videogame, and automatically that gives the impression that the content and lore of the book will be identical if not more then what the game provides. But, if there are contradictions and errors in the book in comparison then it's not World of Warcraft. Thus, the prospective buyer won't spend the time, let alone the money on it. I don't think it takes an economics class to spell out what that means for the line. No money = no new books.

Unfortunately the eventual opening up of blizzard to the people who have the license to write these games is out of ours, the fans, hands. Blizzard isn't going to change it's tight lipped policy, and the writers and developers still need to eat, so sooner or later something is going to have to give and either the line will die out or simply go in a completely different direction.

But, that doesn't help us. So what are we to do? IF you don't play WoW online and are happy with the books, then good for you have nothing to worry about or think about until some player that does comes in and points out the inconsistencies. But, for the rest of us there are only two real solutions. The first is simply roll with the punches and retcon campaigns as easily as blizzard retcons itself. This has problems, but for those that want to maintain consistency that’s the best solution. The other solution, and the best in my opinion, is simply ignoring the inconsistencies if they're already in your game. Simply put your game is simply that: yours. So what if blizzard decides that Blood Elves now serve the Naaru? That’s fine, move on and continue having your Bloodknight BBEG give your ally players a hard time. Thrall assassinated? Who cares? In other words D&D is your game, your rules, the writers might have contract obligations, but you don't nor should you. So, go forth, have fun and decide how Your World of Warcraft should be run.


Guide for World of Warcraft Gold said...

great post!

Apolleon said...

Dude, I really enjoyed this post, but still..
A lot of the errors/differences between the RPG and the online game you've mentioned are not relevant.
One must remember that the WoW RPG takes place right after the events of the Frozen Throne, where as the computer game takes place a few years later.
the blood elves are starting to serve the Naaru only after Kael'thas invades Tempest Keep, so in the time of the RPG, nobody actually knows about the exsistence of either the Naaru or unbroken Draenei of any kind. Moreover, considering that in the era of the RPG, the blood elves are still a part of the alliance, the organization of the bloodkinghts does not exsist either.
If a GM wants to create an adventure that takes place in the era of the WoW MMORPG he will have to modify his game anyway.

As for rectons and changes that have to do with actually relevant history, I agree with your second solution (the one suggesting that the GM should do whatever he wants), but I'd like to take it even further. I think players shouldn't even relate the RPG to the MMORPG. I mean, when people are playing the role playing game, and it happens to contain material that is a bit different from the lore presented in the WoW MMORPG, it's not the GM's problem. Players should realize that in Warcraft, the only material relevant to the RPG are the RPG sourcebooks, and anything else may not be conveyed in the RPG exacly as it does in the MMORPG.
That's one of the reasons, by the way, that wowwiki tags RPG sourced information and differs it from other context materials.

eaglejorge said...

Yeah, I also enjoyed the column.

I'm trying to run a wow campaign though the d20 system i cannot comprehend. So I'm running it using ad&d thaco :D

It builds theory. does It bring hard work? Not for me. Get the lore and play wow rpg using ad&d tested and well-aged mechanism and enjoy-adapt the ever expanding lore to what you play in the mmorpg.

Aren't you going to use the book after cataclysm? that comes soom, and do u already hae the cataclysm wow rpg books?

You can play the mmo, watch cataclysm and use it in your campaign. What if you are in the middle of a jungle, or over a pirate boat. or walking in a desert....the wow universe is inmense. it's a finest world for a referee to run his campaigns! Cheers everyone!!!