Flavor Text and Lore: The League of Explorers

After my last few articles exposing a bit of the lore behind some of the most popular Heroes in Hearthstone, I decided to take a break before taking on the next hero and do a short article talking about the latest adventure and the cards that are on everyone’s mind right now. The League of […]

After my last few articles exposing a bit of the lore behind some of the most popular Heroes in Hearthstone, I decided to take a break before taking on the next hero and do a short article talking about the latest adventure and the cards that are on everyone’s mind right now.

The League of Explorers is the odd one out of the three Hearthstone single player adventures, as it’s the one that has had completely new characters thought up as its protagonists.

Well, with one notable exception. Newcomers reno-jackson, sir-finley-mrrgglton and elise-starseeker are joined by old World of Warcraft staple brann-bronzebeard.

Regardless of the newcomers and the narrative not being a retread of a World of Warcraft event or dungeon, it still treads common ground with the Massive Online Multiplayer game’s lore, due to many of its cards and locations being lifted straight from WoW’s questing areas and dungeons.

The Second Bronzebeard Brother

As explained in the article about Magni Bronzebeard, the alternate Warrior Hero, Magni wasn’t looking forward to one day being King of Ironforge. But he didn’t have much choice, as Muradin died on Arthas’ Northrend campaign, and Brann… Well, brann-bronzebeard is a special kind of guy, but not the special kind of guy anyone would want as king. He tends to be very absent-minded and aloof.

Brann is not only one of the curators of Ironforge’s Museum, the Hall of Explorers, he is also their chief archeologist, and as such, is always travelling around the world, being found (and often rescued) by players while venturing across areas where remnants of old civilization exist. He has a special interest in the legends of the Titans and the origins of the dwarven people.

The thing about brann-bronzebeard, however, apart from his propensity to get himself into dangerous situations, is that he tends to drone on and on – hence his double battle cry ability.

He really is a very talky guy, and to many players’ dismay, will happily chat on and on about some ancient relic or mysterious runes while walking at a snail’s pace across a dungeon filled with dangers, while being needed to solve some crucial puzzle or open some magically sealed door.

It’s true, he mostly has interesting stuff to say for us lore-seekers, but he can be frustratingly slow…

The Origins of Origination

While the Staff of Origination that the League is looking for is not in World of Warcraft, it is tied to the mythos of the world’s creation, as an artifact left behind by the Titans.

The Titans are huge, humanoid creatures, and their bodies are shaped from metal and adorned with elemental glows. They travel through space (the trolls call them “the Travelers”, while most other races calls them “the Makers”) terraforming wild planets. It is not known at the present if they are able to manipulate time or access alternate dimensions, but as some of their creations are able to do it (most notably, nozdormu’s Bronze Dragonflight), it is likely that this is the case.

When they arrived in the world of Azeroth, they found it in thrall of the Old Gods and ravaged by their lieutenants, the Elemental Lords. As described in the Elemental Lord section of the Shaman lore, the Titans fought them back and brought balance to the world, shaping its many races.

They left long before Azeroth reached its current state, but they created a set of guardians in their image, gigantic Watchers that possessed a fraction of their god-like powers to guide and protect the land.

It was these Watchers that later empowered a representative of each of the five dragonflights – ysera of the Green Dragonflight as mistress of dreams and the wilds, alexstrasza of the Red Dragonflight as the guardian of all living things, nozdormu of the Bronze Dragonflight as the custodian of time, malygos of the Blue Dragonflight as the master of magic, and finally Neltharion of the Black Dragonflight – would would later go mad and take on his new name, deathwing  – as the warden of earth. They were from then on known as “The Aspects”.

As the world developed, the Wardens were less and less interventive, keeping to their retreats and observing. The dragons played a big role in the first war with the Burning Legion, and it was during this time that Neltharion betrayed the others and became deathwing, but that is a story for another time – what’s important here is that the Dragonflights took on much of the responsibilities of the Titan’s Wardens, even though they themselves knew very little about the Watchers in the first place, so anything related to the Titans faded away over the millennia.

And this left the races of Azeroth with a very big puzzle, a puzzle teased by the odd ruins that could be found in hidden corners of the world, and the occasional powerful artifact. A puzzle that people like the League of Explorers and harrison-jones could not resist – and so they traveled the world hoping to make sense of the things the Titans left behind.

The Secrets of Uldum

The ruins left by the mysterious titans are spread all around the world, and one such ruin is the Temple of Orsis, representing the first wing of the adventure. I don’t remember ever visiting the Temple of Orsis in my World of Warcraft adventures, not had I found any references to it previous to Hearthstone.

However, both the architecture and the guardians had lead me to believe that the temple is located somewhere in Uldum – and one of our readers lately helped by pointing out that Orsis is actually a sub-zone in Uldum; I went to visit it again later and confirmed it.

Uldum itself was a mystery that puzzled brann-bronzebeard and harrison-jones for a long time – they knew from ancient writings that it was a place, and heavily related to the Titans, but could find no way to get there, nor even be sure of where it was located, though all clues pointed to somewhere around the desert of Tanaris, in the southern edge of Kalimdor.

The Cataclysm changed everything. After the destruction caused by deathwing’s return, a whole landmass appeared south of Tanaris, a region that had been inaccessible until then.

It turned out that Uldum was not a temple or ruin, but a whole area that had been secreted for thousands of years, by a very advanced Titan cloaking device – a device that was broken by the cataclysm. It’s Word of Warcraft’s egyptian themed region, inhabited by the half-man, half-beast race of the Tol’vir – yet more servants of the Titans that have forgotten nearly all about their masters with the passing of the ages – and elemental creatures like djinni-of-zephyrs or rumbling-elemental. And of course, the abundant jeweled-scarab.

Uldum is still one of the most intriguing and beautiful World of Warcraft areas, its egyptian theme combining huge, epic structures representing great architectural feats, with large stretches of desert punctuated by beautiful oases.

It is also a land that is often scoured by players looking to complete their mount collection, as certain artefacts can be found randomly in the sands, artefacts that will grant them the reins of the elusive desert-camel, still one of the most unusual mounts in the game.

On one final note, while not 100% related to Uldum, it’s worth mentioning what a great job anubisath-sentinel does in mimicking its World of Warcraft counterpart. The sentinels were originally encountered on the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, the refuge of the Old God C’thun and one of the hardest of classic WoW’s forgotten raids.

They were an especially challenging enemy to fight, because, once they died, the other sentinels in the fight would be healed by 50% of their health, and acquire que dead sentinel’s power. The Hearthstone version is not so inconvenient, but still a very nice throwback to those fights.

Venturing into Uldaman

As someone who has played World of Warcraft since the beginning, I was overjoyed to know that Uldaman would be featured in Hearthstone.

Uldaman was one of classic WoW’s many “leveling” dungeons, dungeons that were not intended for max-level players but for players that were still around level 40 (of a maximum of 60 at the time).

In those early days, leveling was a slow process, and having a dungeon to go to and grab new loot was a nice break from questing. It was not at all like today, where most of the game is a rush to get to the maximum level and that’s where most of the content is.

Uldaman was an especially good dungeon, a sprawling labyrinth that, while mostly filled with tunnel-troggs, also had a lot of bosses and decent variety of locales. Players would go from rocky tunnels to temple ruins to treasure rooms to ancient observatories.

Uldaman’s final boss transitioned directly from World of Warcraft to Hearthstone, the stone watcher Archaedas. In WoW, just as in the Hearthstone Adventure, he swamps the players with his golem constructs.

Finally, it’s worth noting that keeper-of-uldaman is a representation of one of the most memorable mid-dungeon bosses, Ironaya. This huge stone lady was not a difficult fight, but what was memorable about it was the way the fight was activated.

Players had to find pieces of a staff (sounds familiar?) in previous locations within the dungeon, in order to then mount them atop a stone model of an ancient city, which would then, in yet another Indiana Jones reference, “show them the way”. In this case, the way to opening a door from where a huge, aggressive stone lady came out.

The Green Hills of Stranglethorn

If previous areas were homages to classic Indiana Jones movies Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, “The Ruined City” is much more Temple of Doom, set in the lush and dangerous jungles of Stranglethorn Vale.

Before Cataclysm, the Vale was a true gauntlet, especially on Player VS Player servers, where players of opposing factions could ambush at will the players trying to traverse the valley while attempting to reach the neutral goblin town located in the far southern cape.

Besides the opposing faction, players had to contend with a huge density of hostile wildlife as well as the native troll tribes and sea horrors – the vale had a particularly rich Naga and Murloc presence.

These sea species are the focus of the second-to-last location in our Hearthstone adventure, both due to the hero – sir-finley-mrrgglton – and his opponents.

While there are no known reports of Titan structures in Stranglethorn, there is an abundance of abandoned ruins from the ancient troll empire of Gurubashi.

The trolls’ tribal civilization was ancient, predating even the elves, and as such it can be speculated that they might have had some interaction with the ancient Watchers, especially since they at one point were sworn enemies of the insectoid Aqir, servants of the Old Gods.

But after many millennia, both internal conflicts and an ill-fated war with neptulon the Tidehunter shattered the continent-spawning troll empire, leaving only scattered tribes and lost ruins behind.

It’s probably one of these ruins that sir-finley-mrrgglton explores in search for the final part of the Staff, ruins occupied, as usual, by the more savage form of Naga.

The most interesting aspect of this part of the adventure is Sir Finley himself. Murlocs occupy an unusual spot in the World of Warcraft mythos: at the beginning they were just one more kind of savage beast to oppose the players; later, they started becoming popular as pets, used as promotional rewards for buying into expensive collector’s editions of the expansions or attending Blizzcon.

Recently, World of Warcraft players have gained access to a naval warfare mini-game where they build and equip ships to send on missions to gather resources while they aren’t playing, and as players construct the ship, there is a small chance of the ship being crewed by Murlocs. To my knowledge, this is the only in-game hint at Murloc capability of cooperating with other sentient races – though in the old tabletop Warcraft  RPG rules, there is reference of some Murlocs learning the Common language for trading purposes.

It’s debatable, then, whether Sir Finley is just a curious one-off, or one more step into making the Murlocs into a more important and relatable race in Warcraft lore.

The Hall of Explorers

The Hall of Explorers is the closest thing to a museum in all of the World of Warcraft mythos. The dwarves have always greatly prized their history and the seeking of knowledge and lore, and as such the Hall occupies a whole wing of the dwarven capital of Ironforge, with as great an area of the city devoted to it as the Mystic Ward, devoted to contemplation and spiritual matters, and the self-explaining Military Ward.

While the foes faced in the Hearthstone adventure aren’t properly represented (the huge T-Rex skeleton is merely a skull in Ironforge’s version of the Hall, and Lothar’s armour is merely a non-identified prop of little significance ) there are about a dozen exhibits with interesting reads attached, as well as a big library with a couple of lore short stories (in the form of small, in-game books).

One of the cool things about it is that, as World of Warcraft can be played for free up to level 20, anyone can actually sign up and visit the Hall of Explorers after about forty-five minutes of play or so. While the free trial covers a very small chuck of the WoW experience, it at least allows you to run around the capitals and get a feeling of the world.

If you opt to give it a try, make sure your character is a human, gnome or dwarf, as all other races would have a hard time reaching Ironforge.

And that’s it for this lore article – I hope you enjoyed it being something different, and soon I’ll get back to talking about the heroes and their history.

Please let me know if I missed something, and what you enjoyed reading about, in the comments!