Character Timelines

By | March 22, 2010

I’ve had these two notes on my desk for close to five years now.  Look:

A long, long while back, I was writing a story for Davien and wanted to refer back to how she felt about… something.  I’m not even entirely sure what it was, though looking at the mention on there that Anduin Lothar died when she was six, I’m pretty sure it revolved around that.  So I dug around in the World of Warcraft timeline for a while, and looked on a few other sites that summed up the events of Warcraft I, II and III, and took down my notes.

And discovered that, well, Davien was six when Lothar died.  Chances are, a six-year-old’s not going to think very much about him at all, outside of what her parents told her or what word trickled in from the rest of the world.  Might she have heard tales of his heroism?  Sure — she was a farmgirl from Westfall, and Stormwind isn’t far away.  But most of the knowledge that Davien might have had about Lothar’s life probably came years later.

When you’re creating a new character, often one of the first things you’ll do is determine his or her age.  It helps you figure out where they are in their lives, and to an extent how they’ll interact with others (and how others will interact with them.)  You probably know a few significant things that happened to them in their personal lives:  when he was ten, he was thrown from a horse and spent the summer with a broken arm; when she was sixteen, she went to Ambermill to study magic.

But how do these events line up with the main storyline?  Did something happen in Azeroth or on Kalimdor that might require you to take a second look at the character’s backstory?

When I originally rolled Threnn, and started telling stories for her and Annalea, I had it set in my mind that they were Stormwind born and raised.  But looking at their ages, I had to do some adjusting.  Stormwind was sacked the year before Threnn was born.  It wasn’t reclaimed until she was two.  Which means that, by the time Annalea was born a year later, Stormwind was probably still being rebuilt.

Did it throw a major wrench in my story?  Not entirely — I had to account for where their parents were during the war, but it also gave me an opportunity to look deeper into what their early childhoods must have been like.  Imagine growing up in a city that’s recovering.  They probably slept in tents and temporary shelters for a while.  Food must have been scarce.  Their days were probably filled with the sounds of hammers and saws.  What kind of community would the refugees have built up?  While I filled in a lot for Threnn and Anna, Bricu added to the story of what their parents did during the hard times:  how Padraig helped defend the city, how Thenia cared for other families as much as her own.

Knowing what was happening in the world helped bring another level to all of those characters.  I ended up starting a spreadsheet for Threnn (yes, a spreadsheet.)  The left side is Threnn-specific:  her age and significant events that happened.  On the right side, matching up with Threnn’s age at the time, are the significant events in Warcraft history.  While not all of them are important to Threnn’s story, if someone else is talking about, say, Admiral Proudmoore’s death, I can take a peek at that and see what Threnn was up to at the time.

Playing a dwarf that’s only 100 years old?  Then she didn’t fight in the War of the Three Hammers.  But maybe her parents or grandparents did, and she grew up hearing their stories.

Was your Darkspear troll there when Thrall came and rescued the tribe from the Sea Witch, then brought them to Kalimdor?  What was the journey across the sea like for him?

Did your Tauren join with Cairne Bloodhoof and Thrall’s orcs to drive back the centaur in Mulgore?  How did that affect his feelings about the orcs?

Recent history factors into this as well.  Did your orc ever see Varian Wrynn fighting in the pits under the name “Lo’Gosh?”  And how does your human feel about the return of her king?  Gnomes and trolls will soon be retaking the lands that have been lost to them.  Where were they when Gnomeregan fell or Zalazane drove the trolls from the Echo Isles?  Will they participate in the push to get those lands back?

Your turn — have you discovered any Warcraft-canon events or NPCs that have changed the way you thought about your character’s backstory?


1 Comment

Bricu on March 23, 2010 at 11:56 am.

Uthas and I have a number of email exchanges that tweaked our timelines. Originally, Uthas was going to be significantly older than he was now, but that didn’t fit the vision I had for Bricu.

I’m a lazy bum though. I let my machine index all the Bricu stuff and I just pull up the relevant doc when i need to see something that I forgot/don’t remember clearly.

If I was more disciplined, I’d have a full on journal for Bricu, as his current timeline gets more and more complex with each tuesday.