In which there was a lot of pondering.

February 24, 2009

Edit: This post is somewhat out of date as of… well, most of Wrath, actually. It reflects ideas based on game/quest/lore design that doesn’t really exist, especially since the chaos of the Cataclysm. It has nothing to do with a world in which Moira Bronzebeard is trying to rule the dwarves or a world in which Garrosh has visited Azeroth and become a faction leader.

While portions of both factions maintain some of the aspects I’ve highlighted here, the broad generalizations are much less accurate than they had been.


So Etsugal and I were sitting around having lunch yesterday and somehow go on the subject of Warcraft lore, and how everyone has a side. It was brought up that the Alliance is always seen as the “Good Guys” and the Horde, depending on point of view, are “Bad Guys” or at the very least “Monsters that Don’t Deserve to Live”. From this point, as is natural (of course), it then branched out and we explored the classic Warcraft villains and heroes and tried to define what exactly we were talking about.

Now, the first way that we tried to define evil was, “Destruction. Ultimate selfishness, something for you on someone else’s tab. (Be it their money, time, or their physical, emotional, or psychological well-being.)” A hero, then, was someone who did things at personal cost for a moral or ideal. One caveat, of course, is that a hero to one side of a situation is often a villain to the opposite side. For example, the Burning Legion are Bad Guys; they want destruction and a world of their choosing at the expense of lots of other people. Easy. The Scarlet Crusade has lots of people fighting for a cause that actually does have good intentions, I mean: who doesn’t want to see the Scourge eradicated? On the other hand, they also want to kill us and anyone that isn’t human and part of their order so… Heroes? Sure. My heroes? Not so much.

I liked this because by these definitions, a farmer in the third war just trying to get the harvest in before fleeing the country from the Scourge is a hero. He could flee and be safe, but he knows that the army needs food and so he puts himself in danger for the sake of a greater cause.

And then I remembered a much better explanation of it all…

In Digger, Usula Vernon (great artist, BTW) came up with the best explanation of  “good” and “evil” that I’ve, personally, ever heard. It just took me until about 2am this morning to remember where it came from.

For the lazy, link-wary, or those that find it awkward to read one random page from an ongoing comic series, it basically says the following (As translated from Anthro-Tribal-Hyena-Speak):

“Evil” has a reason. Always a reason, and many reasons.  A man beating his wife always has a reason. “You’re lazy, you burned the food, you’re stupid, you never just shut up.” Evil is always trying to punish the world for not being what they want it to be. The world should be different, that’s the reason. Only good doesn’t need a reason. Why hug a child? No reason. Give to the needy? No reason, it just is.

That’s… deep.

Thinking and re-thinking then, the Alliance are now “Bad Guys”. They want to fight because the Old Horde and the Scourge took their land and they want it back. The world should be the way it was before all this stuff happened, it’s not fair that things have to change. The Horde are monsters, and monsters don’t deserve to live. I can’t stand the sight of them. Even Varian Wrynn doing his whole angst-y “some orc took advantage of my amnesia and made me fight in an underground circuit and I have to get back at all of them for that!” thing.

And the Horde…isn’t any one kind of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If anything, they’re tragic. The Old Horde was bad, yes, but the New Horde are just trying to live. You could say, “But Mitawa, they killed Cenarius and took the elves’ lumber!” Except that A) They didn’t really know that the elves had claimed every single tree as… well, a member of the family almost. They just saw a great resource they needed to continue living and the weird stag thing was keeping them from it. B) I personally discount physical needs like shelter as part of the whole evil-reason thing. and C) They were under the effects of Mannoroth’s blood at the time, effectively discounting them as part of the New Horde anyway.

“But Mitawa, they keep killing people!” Again, the whole needs thing… You know shelter, food, water, keeping the blood inside your body instead of in the ground. Yeah, no. That doesn’t count. It’s not good or evil because you have to keep existing to be good or evil and the whole death by hypothermia, starvation, or dismemberment thing kind of throws that off.

Yes, certain groups of the Horde go out and fight Alliance for a reason. That goes under ‘evil’. But their orders are not to do so, so the Horde as a whole stays on the ‘neither’ category. And also true, the people (farmers, tradesmen, whatev’…) don’t go out beating the Horde down in Righteous Anger ™(c)(r), so they go in that ‘neither’ and occasionally ‘good’ category too, but the governing bodies of the Alliance have a reason. The official state position on the matter is a reason, so as a whole, they go into the evil/bad guy category.

Seriously. Alterac Valley? The Stormpikes feel entitled to the relics that may (or may not) be under the ground there, the Frostwolves are trying to continue living.

Warsong? Well… that’s difficult because the gut reaction is to say the Horde is stealing and therefore evil but then again, as above, elves=vengeance, orcs=need shelter. Okay, so it’s been a pretty long time, and we probably don’t need the lumber anymore, but then again, I’ve killed every leper gnome in Gnomeregan multiple times but it’s an instance and can’t move forward in time.

Arathi Basin? Um, wait. What’s the story there? Was it humans had it and the Defilers want it? Or was it undead were there and the Humans want it back? Or… was it that Blizzard wanted a 5-node king-of-the-hill match and just kinda threw it in there with no explanation? Well, alright- it’s up in there air as to which side is good or evil in some places. On the other hand, battlegrounds are extra factions and not actually the ‘Horde’ and ‘Alliance’, so take it all with a grain of salt.

In any case, history is written by the victors so we’re used to taking the ideals of our culture and calling them “good”, whether or not those ideals actually hurt other people who have just as much right to what they’re doing as what we want to do. I hope that in any future Rp, forum flames, etc. I and anyone that actually reads this post may sit and think about the true nature of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ before saying anything. The issues may actually be more complex than they look at first.

P.s. It’s nothing against the Alliance. My main may be Horde, but I do have a number of Allaince alts that I love; particularly dwarves, draenei, and night elves. I just feel that the ‘Ally good – Horde bad’ perspective is the most common, and when Horde try to dispute that, they can’t often articulate why they’re not evil. Besides, mortals tend to be varying degrees of good, evil, and neutral all at the same time anyway. Also, it’s my ‘blog and I can write whatever I want. So nyeah!  XD

Edit: Digger jumped websites on me and now all the archives are free, yay! So I fixed the link. Please read the comic (it’s awesome) or at least the couple of pages before and after the one linked for to make better sense of the argument. :)



  1. […] genuine, shameless plugs I liked this a lot. « […]

  2. […] Some really interesting thoughts about Alliance vs. Horde and “good” vs. evil over at Going Bearfoot.  It’ll make you stop and think about just who the “good guys” and “bad […]

  3. […] remarkable job of putting words onto what I tried to come up with last night. Here is the post Pondering this topic.. “Evil” has a reason. Always a reason, and many reasons.  A man beating his wife always […]

  4. *dies* I logged into my WordPress Dashboard today and the little line graph that tracks how many views you get per day was… Broken. It’s like a flat line until two days ago, where it suddenly goes exponentially…exponential! (Yeah, I’m articulate right now.) You guys are awesome!

    Thank you all SO much for linking to me!

    Best. Birthday. Present. EVER.

  5. Also, I’m still trying to figure out what WordPress thinks whether the Alliance and Horde are “good” or “evil” has to do with John Dingell. o.O

  6. […] really enjoyed this post from Going Bearfoot (hat tip to Ila and Panzercow)! I started to leave a comment, and then it got […]

  7. […] all.  But occasionally I come across an article that makes me think, as was the case with this post at Going Bearfoot. The idea being explored is the merit of good versus the merit of evil.  It seems that the crux of […]

  8. Terrific post, great reasoning and also what we (as Horde Lifers) have been feeling for a while.

    The Alliance quests (with the possible exception of the Drenaii) seem xenophobically centred around “Kill these Evil Orc/Troll/somethingwhichdoes’tlookorsound likemeevenifit’sdanceisbetterthanIdo for the Glory of the Alliance!”.

    Whereas in my experience Horde quests are “Hey mate I have this AMAZING recipe for cat face soup, grab me 8 cat faces and we can share it”. Or from the Tauren/Troll side “There is a great disturbance in the natural mojo of this place, find it and fix it so we can all live in harmony. P.S. try not to get ganked by Ally’s on the way out they think we are the baddies!”

    It often looks very reminiscent of the early Americas where the Europeans systematically annihilated the native American population and the Mexican Empire for being, well there! As Horde I REALLY hope we do better out of multiculturalism than they did!

  9. […] remarkable job of putting words onto what I tried to come up with last night. Here is the post Pondering this topic.. “Evil” has a reason. Always a reason, and many reasons. A man beating his wife always […]

  10. I just recently started playing WoW, as Alliance mostly because the person who was helping me out with stuff was (is!) running mostly Alliance these days, but I have to say the Lore didn’t lead me to believe the Horde were evil. (It may have been trying to, mind you — but it definitely didn’t take.) And there are some quests that, I think, make it clear that not all the Alliance folks are what I personally would consider to be “Good Guys.” (And I don’t just mean the Scarlet Monastery guys, though the whole “anybody who doesn’t look like us is obviously Evil” schtick is Real Old.) Quests where you’re supposed to beat somebody up so they tell you stuff? Um, yeah, ‘cuz that works so well… but since RP is pretty hard to pull off with NPCs, ‘kfinewhatever. But quests where you’re supposed to interrogate and then kill a prisoner without benefit of law? Um, no. Not so much, really.

    So I’ve been tending to figure that Horde and Alliance have good and bad, and the places where they overlap are the ones where there’s likely to be a problem. AFAICT, the actual Bad Guys are the Scourge/Burning Legion/Whatevertheheck, the primary source of the unbalancing of the world and associated issues.

    Just (finally, yeah I can be slow to RTFM!) figured out today that you can have Horde and Alliance characters on the same account, and I’m thinking I may have to see what that’s like.

    (BTW, found this on a websearch for Digger — I like Ed’s definition of evil a *lot* (and I *love* SC’s latest comment about that — !), but I have Digger’s Morality printed out and posted at my cubicle. I admit a special fondness for “Always double-check your math if there are explosives involved.” But “If you screwed it up, you need to see it gets fixed” is right on up there.)

  11. […] Going Bearfoot: In Which There Was A Lot Of Pondering […]

  12. Reblogged this on Side Quest Publications and commented:
    The site seems to be focused on gaming–World of Warcraft in particular–but the content of this page is useful for writers who are trying to figure out good ways to make their villains “evil.”

  13. […] Going Bearfoot: In Which There Was A Lot Of Pondering […]

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