13th Age and I are BFFs for life. I think I might like it better than FATE but nobody tell FATE I said that, okay?
Anyway, I had this idea while I was driving from Texas to New Jersey that if you wanted to run a tabletop World of Warcraft game you could really do a lot worse than use 13th Age’s ARCHMAGE system to do it with. Now, granted, someone (Blizzard, probably) put out a WoW RPG a long while ago. It was just your standard d20 clone, nothing remarkable about it. And yeah, just using d20 would work fine.
But we can do better. That’s why we’re here.
There might be a couple posts’ worth of material in this idea. To start with, I’d like to see if we can come up with a solid 13 Icons for Azeroth. Icons, for those not in the know, are the “Masters of the Universe” in a campaign setting — they’re the movers and shakers, the leaders and conquerors. But an Icon is an archetype, or an office, more than an individual — if an individual Icon dies, in many cases, another can take on the mantle. (This is not always true — while the Dwarf King, or the President of the United States, are examples of Icons who could easily be replaced, the Great Gold Wyrm and Hitler are not.)
So who are the Icons of World of Warcraft?
The Warchief of the Horde: This one’s obvious. The leader of an entire faction of people definitely has the global reach to be considered an Icon. Interestingly, though, the flavor of this Icon changes depending on who the Warchief actually is. The Warchiefs of old were clearly along the lines of the Orc Lord, as was Garrosh; while Thrall and (one hopes) Vol’jin seem to be taking the office in a new direction.
The Lich King: Again, obvious. The path to this Icon was different than in 13th Age, but the end result is the same. The tenor of this Icon has changed somewhat from the “old days,” now that Bolvar’s put on the helm; still, the Lich King endures.
The Black Prince: Wrathion fills a Prince of Shadows-type niche here, but from the “other end” of the Rogue arts — he’s more the “master of assassins” than he is “beggar king.” Either way, he definitely keeps his fingers in all the pies.
Guardian: Possibly a vacated Icon, depending on if you want to count Med’an (I don’t); regardless, the Guardian played a strong role in the history of Azeroth, and given that Med’an continues the story, it’s possible that there could one day be a new Guardian (who isn’t a total Sue). This role is closest in tone to the Crusader — a being of great puissance whose purpose is keeping the demons in check.
Leader of the Kirin Tor: I don’t know if this office has a “proper” title, like Archmage; regardless, I think that the organization’s reserve of magical power and global reach warrants the inclusion of its leader as an Icon.
The Banshee Queen: While Sylvanas ostensibly has no more power than any of the other faction leaders, she earns a spot on this list thanks to her agenda of “murdering everything that lives.” She remains technically subservient to the Warchief, but we all know just how hollow that obeisance is. Sylvanas could be cast as the Lich King, or perhaps as the inheritor to the Diabolist — either way, she’s the current face of evil on Azeroth.
The Prophet: I’m going to go ahead and include Velen on this list only because he shares an agenda with Wrathion — both of them foresee the coming of the Legion, and both of them are frantically searching for a way to stem the tide. This forward-looking attitude sets Velen apart from the other leaders of the Alliance, and inclines him, in principle, to involve himself in the wider world. However, his pattern of inaction renders his position on this list shaky.
The King of Stormwind: I’m going to give Varian a pass on this one as well. While the Alliance doesn’t have a titular leader, it’s apparent that, for the time being, Varian is the de facto head of the faction. Including him as an Icon is shaky, though, because his ascension to that kind of power is very recent, and there’s no guarantee that Anduin would enjoy the same prestige were his father to die. (In fact, Anduin would likely rise as a new Icon – the King-Priest.) Nevertheless, in contemporary Azerothian politics, Varian has the cachet to be an Icon.
The High Druid: Malfurion might not have an actual title but he fills this Icon’s shoes fairly reliably. He’s important enough that he commands the loyalty of non-elves — his prestige, in fact, crosses factional boundaries. Like the 13th Age High Druid, there might not always be one — but for now, there is, and he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Thrall: I think Thrall qualifies as a Great Gold Wyrm-esque Icon. Sure, there’s only one Thrall and there will only ever be one Thrall, but like Malfurion, he is powerful and respected. The Horde still looks up to him as Warchief Emeritus, and even the Icons of the Alliance remember the days when they fought together as ersatz allies. Players from either faction would happily accept quests from Thrall, and this, I think, makes him Iconic.
The Demon Queen: Azshara’s still out there, somewhere. Given her power, and the threat she represents, I’d be at least moderately surprised if she didn’t show up as the villain in the next expansion. If Azeroth still has a Diabolist, it’s almost certainly her.
So there’s eleven. There’d be more but we, as players, have a pattern of murdering the hell out of villainous icons. The Destroyer (Deathwing). The Lord of Twilight (Benedictus). The Blood Prince (Kael’thas). The Betrayer (Illidan). The entire Black Dragonflight, who would have easily been Azeroth’s Three. The only reason there’s still a Lich King is because there must always be a Lich King. You get the idea.
So why aren’t the rest of the faction leaders included? Why no Elf Queen or Dwarf King? Essentially because, in my opinion, as Azeroth currently stands, those leaders aren’t important enough to be Iconic. Take Tyrande, for example, or Lor’themar. While both of them command great influence among their own people, that’s really as far as that influence goes — as players, the only time you take quests from Tyrande is when you’re leveling through Teldrassil. Even as blood elves, you don’t interact with Lor’themar at all during the endgame. Other than the ones mentioned above, the faction leaders just don’t have the global presence to be Icons.
How about the dragons? Well, prior to Cataclysm, the Aspects would certainly have been Iconic, Nozdormu and Alexstrasza in particular. But now, stripped of their station, the great dragons are merely dragons. Their part in the story seems to be over.
World of Warcraft is an environment in flux, and necessarily so — as the story changes, so do the players. As a result, Azerothian Icons may rise and fall with more regularity than those in 13th Age. Nevertheless, it’s fairly easy to spot them, and it’d be quite straightforward to make use of the system to integrate them into a campaign.
Next: adopting 13th Age classes.