Welcome back to Game Design Exercise, where I try to write up an expansion to World of Warcraft as I would have done it, despite about three or four people total caring about what I post here! As I would have done it, if I had a thousand pairs of hands and a mountain of money to spend. Really, it’s my wish fulfillment fantasy, taking the best parts of various expansions and doing them in the context of the Emerald Dream. Like I said in the last post, I’m in a slightly resigned mood when it comes to these. In the time since the last post I’ve been thinking about various other design options. A Dishonored sequel about an Overseer who becomes the next Outsider! My original game idea about playing as a guild, which turns out to be a lot like Garrisons: the Game! Ultimately, all of those ideas are extremely unlikely to become anything more than ideas and with this one, at least I have a few more people reading it. So I might as well keep going.
Now, to end the rant, today we’ll embarking to the first zone of the expansion proper, Verdant Plains. Like in Warlords of Draenor, I decided to go with an Alliance/Horde split between starting zones. In part because I thought it worked, and in bigger part because I decided the entrances to the Emerald Dream become the racial mini-capitals for the new races. It would be like Alliance players entering the Cataclysm zones through Bilgewater Harbor. So today’s post is the beginning of the Alliance storyline, and involves several factions, including Greymane Crossover (a new Alliance reputation faction), Skettis Exiles (the arakkoa racial faction), a continuation of the Wild Hunt storyline and an introduction to a few new elements.
Once the expansion is launched, or once your new character reaches the previous level cap, you get an automatically assigned quest to visit Genn Greymane in Stormwind City. Genn now resides in his new manor in the rebuilt Park District along with Mia and upon your arrival he tasks you with finding his daughter, Tess, in Twilight Grove. As it turns out, when the news of a campaign to the Emerald Dream spread amid the worgen, they began petitioning their king to let them head the campaign. With Genn’s and Varian’s approval, a special force called the Greymane Crossover was formed and Tess was predictably put in charge of it.
Once in the Twilight Grove, you find a worgen army in the middle of the arakkoa settlement there, and next to Rilak stand Archdruid Verroak, Talonpriest Tharra, as well Tess Greymane, Lorna Crowley and Ivar Bloodfang. As you’re informed by the gathered NPCs, you’re crossing over into the area that when last seen was attacked by Nightmare-loyal forces, and has been since used by the Wild Hunt to attack the waking world. Ivar is upset two humans, including the daughter of a “traitor” (Lorna) are sent to command the force and refuses to leave until he’s allowed to come with them. Rilak tries to mediate but is quickly shot down. Tharra doesn’t know why they (arakkoa) need the worgen at all, but Verroak responds they will be useful. After you accept the next quest from Tess, you have to talk to her again to begin the cutscene.
All the assorted NPCs leave through the portal, then your character is shown going through, and behind you arakkoa and worgen troops cross over. After a loading screen of the Emerald Dream map, you get another cutscene where everyone emerges on the other side and finds the battlefield you left at the end of Ravenwood zone. Except, the battlefield is overtaken with specters of the Wild Hunt. Lorna yells at the troops to get ready, Ivar runs off and Tharra begins casting spells.
Chapter I: Hunting the Hunters
The area you find yourself in is marked as 0 on the map above. It’s the same Verdant Outskirt and the remains left after the last battle are still there, but it’s filled with the Wild Hunt mobs. Lorna orders you to help your soldiers fight the Huntsmen. Rilak wants you to find the spot where Kirrik made his last stand and mark it with a flag, so that arakkoa troops can protect it. Tharra orders you to gather some magical ingredients nearby so that she can summon pre-made elements for the new settlement – they do not want to disturb the Dream’s nature. Tess has another quest, to bolster the morale of worgen troops fighting with a quest item.
After those are done, you get a quick cutscene where the area is turned into Veil Kirrik – your mini-capital in the Dream until you get to your proper one. Here you’ll find profession trainers, basic vendors and other services, including an arakkoa flight master. One of those services is an “Outpost”. This building houses a few “garrison” elements. It has a mission control table, as well as a work order table, which lets you simply assign a follower to specific work orders without assigning them to garrison buildings. The outpost also gives you a “call to arms” garrison ability which works just like the Shadowmoon Valley garrison ability. You will have a similar outpost in every zone in the Emerald Dream, making this a simplified continuation of garrisons.
After Veil Kirrik is established, you’re sent to the Fields of Omens (1). This larger area is where the majority of chapter I will take place. Your first quest orders you to find Ivar Bloodfang who went off with his troops last you saw him. Predictably, you find Ivar’s troops in a lot of trouble, getting attacked by the Huntsmen. You meet several new “wild worgen” NPCs, including Ivar’s First Mate, Semia and it quickly turns out it’s not a nautical title – she’s his primary mate. After helping Semia and the other worgen fight off the attacking force, you continue down the road, following a trail of specters. You finally find Ivar and a few other worgen captured and somehow sedated. You help Semia fight the named elite Huntsman (who threatens he will convert you all) and free Ivar, who upon waking up proclaims angrily he didn’t need her help. The worgen take over the hunting lodge, creating a small Bloodfang Camp (the flight path in area 1).
Upon doing that, Lorna Crowley and Verroak show up with some of their forces and begin plans for further attacks. Verroak notices the similarity this lodge has to night elven buildings, despite being different, and that it shows some vrykul influences. With his help, you’re disguised as a huntsman and sent to a gathering of specters on a nearby hill. At first you learn that the remaining commander of the local forces is planning a counter-attack on your lodge, but then they notice you’re a living person and turn against you. After that is dealt with, you return to your quest hub and are informed by Lorna you have to strike first. You go into the remaining Wild Hunt camp in the sub-zone and fight the commander, who however teleports away at the last minute… promising he will yet claim your souls.
Upon finishing the first chapter, you are sent to another area nearby, Moonsbed (2). You learn that Celestine, the worgen archdruid, has arrived in the Emerald Dream and left for Moonsbed because of its rumored connection to the worgen. You find Celestine inside the Harvest Oak, another tree similar to the Howling Oak where Celestine has established herself, along with a few other worgen of her order. There are indeed a lot of worgen in the nearby fields, although some of them are being hunted down or caged and harnessed by the Wild Hunt. Because the Huntsmen are treating them like beasts, you are tasked with freeing them, although most of the captives simply immediately attack you in return. Verroak arrived at Moonsbed as well and seeks to learn about these Dream worgen at all costs and gives you a special item to summon him against the local alpha. You fight the alpha together and in the end, Verroak captures him with a magical cage from another world and sends his murloc minions to carry him away.
You return to the Harvest Oak and find Celestine protesting Verroak’s treatment of the alpha, but he and his helpers, including Tharra, are going ahead with the process anyway. Verroak uses an anti-magic mixture to temporarily suppress the worgen curse on the alpha, which turns him into a night elf. You learn these Dream worgen are the original, ancient, night elven worgen which were never cured of their loss of sanity. In the end, the alpha turns back into a worgen but remembers a bit of his sanity and kills himself to prevent losing his mind again. After that, one of Ivar’s underlings appears again and demands your help – Ivar and Semia ran off together to join the other major pack in this area. The characters agree something weird is happening to the worgen.
You find Ivar, Semia and some of their underlings have joined the Oldmoon pack, or rather Ivar has killed their alpha and claimed the pack for himself… but remains hostile to Alliance. You kill the Oldmoon worgen, disable the Bloodfang ones, and continue to gather clues into what’s happening. Blood runes scribbled by Ivar and Semia tell you a story about how they felt the primal call of the wild again. Apparently the Emerald Dream has this effect on worgen. With Celestine’s help, you capture them alive and purge their minds on the spot. It’s a temporary measure, but it’s all you have for now. In the conclusion, both the Bloodfang and the Oldmoon become friendly (although the Oldmoon still only snarl in response), and you get another flight path in this area.
In the conclusion of this chapter, you hear the local commander has resurfaced and has recently abducted some of your troops towards a structure nearby. You follow him there and briefly fight him, get completely overwhelmed, and get Ivar’s and Semia’s help. The commander retreats once again into the structure which turns out to be one of the new dungeons – the Conversion Pits. Within, captured mortals are being turned into Huntsmen and Lorna gives you a quest to go in and kill the bosses. The dungeon is, however, the subject of another post.
Chapter III: The Hunt and the WIld
You return to Veil Kirrik and find new directions to a completely different area to the north. You are told the aerial scouts have spotted the Wild Hunt in conflict with some other natives of the Dream up there. The flight master sends you on a dread raven to the new flight path up on the Shimmering Highlands (3). You find an area named the Court of Bliss which is house to several fey creatures which most of the Alliance forces are encountering for the first time. The Bliss’ fey are being attacked by the Wild Hunt and unlike mortals who get carried off for conversion, the fey are being killed. They send you to kill the attackers at their gates and help the defenders with special berries.
Then, they send you to look for their leader, a princess in charge of this court who was last seen in the woods to the north. When you go out there, you find a dead body of an unnamed fairy, and another small, flying fairy named Badba above it. Badba introduces herself as the princess, and the dead fairy as her sister, slain by the Huntsmen. You help Badba take revenge on the specters, including one quest in which you first shrink them down and then stomp on them. You continue to another area where three kitsune, in their humanoid fox forms, have holed up in a cave. The kitsunes don’t like Badba and want her out of their cave, but she refuses. Here you learn about the animosity between three courts of fey – the Seelie Court to which the Court of Bliss is sworn to, the Unseelie Court about which both Badba and the kitsune have only bad words (the nastiest of the fey) and the Trickster Court which contains fey like kitsune – selfish, manipulative fey who are nevertheless not overtly evil.
The kitsunes send you off on a quest to find trail of a night elf druid their leader fell in love with. As you follow the trail, Badba continues to tag along and give you other quests, that are mostly damaging in nature – even damaging to nature which of course doesn’t raise your suspicion because PCs are obedient idiots. On the end of your trail, you find an overgrown skeleton of a night elf. The kitsune leader shows up and begins lamenting the death of her beloved, only for him to show up. Before she can get too happy… the beloved kills her with a shadowy spell. In an incantation that follows, it turns out sacrifice of his past love was the last thing necessary to transform him into a nightwalker – which then stuns you and goes off.
You finally return to the Court of Bliss. Badba strangely turned away at the sight of it and left you, As it turns out, it was not this court’s princess at all and the dead body was the true princess. Who was it that tricked you that way remains a question. However, the Alliance forces also appeared at the Court, including Rilak and Tess. With the help of their forces, you go to the northern part of the sub-zone and find the Wild Hunt attacked from two sides by the good fey and the Nightmare. Only while defeating their forces here you learn the Nightmare was pushing the Wild Hunt out of their usual territories and forcing them to seek new converts to replenish their numbers. Suddenly, you realize the real threat in the Emerald Dream and return to Veil Kirrik with the news.
Chapter IV: The True Hunt
When in Veil Kirrik, Tharra informs you of a strange request that arrived while you were gone. A specter, a Huntsman, requested a meeting with you at a lodge west of Shimmering Highlands. You follow that request, being sent alone to check if it wasn’t a trap. The area is called the Core Hunting Grounds (4). You arrive at the lodge to find the local Huntsmen to actually be friendly towards you. When you talk to their leader, he announces they’re part of the Trooping Fey – a small group of spectral huntsmen who are not insanely hostile to every single form of life. Even these specters don’t remember the origin of the Wild Hunt, but they know that ever since its inception, their state crippled their minds and made them single-handedly obsessed with hunting everything and everyone. Every “generation” a few Huntsmen manage to avoid that corruption for a short time, and with the blessing of the Ancients, they can maintain their sanity.
The Trooping Fey consider themselves the True Hunt, but the Wild Hunt considers them traitors who are just as useless as mortals. They find themselves in a pinch and need your help. You destroy the siege machines and the cavalry attacking the lodge, leading to approaching the local Hunt Master. Before you can do it, several winged nightgaunts descend and kill the Hunt Master and the Nightmare begins their assault of the area. After you clear it again, you return to the Trooping Fey’s leader, who’s worried if the Great Lodge, the main house of the Wild Hunt, and a raid available soon after release, has fallen. You must continue south, to relieve other Trooping Fey there.
When you arrive in that area, Talonpriest Tharra and a Windroc Tamer Ikash arrive to help you. The arakkoa left Veil Kirrik on Rilak’s command upon hearing of your success. Ikash introduces arakkoa flying cavalry, mounted on windrocs “zhe” (as Ikash wants to be referred to) brought over from Outland. In one of the quests here, you mount a windroc and not only fight the nightgaunts, but also bomb the Nightmare camps. In other quests, you help the Trooping Fey defend their camp, and also collect “spectral meat” (as the item tooltip points out, it might be an oxymoron) to feed them. In the end, the Trooping Fey retreat to the gates of the Great Lodge, to try to take it before the Nightmare does. They return at level cap as a reputation faction.
In a side quest here, Badba returns. She knows you know she’s not the princess of Court of Bliss, but she says you nevertheless have a common enemy. With her help, you fight the Nightmarish monsters that took over the area at the southern tip of the Core Hunting Grounds. Their leader is an elite nightmare dragon you can’t defeat alone. After letting Badba gather the power of slain enemies, the fairy helps you in the fight with the dragon. At the end of it, she unloads a powerful spell that drops her disguise, and for a moment she appears as a powerful, dark shay covered in a black mist, so that you can’t see her features – but she does give you her name – Morrigan, Queen of the Unseelie Court. She thanks you for your help and hopes you two will have a great future together.
So this post has gotten kinda big already, didn’t it? And I still have a lot left to write – Chapters V and VI, as well as the information about some additional parts of the zone. All of that will come in the next post, which will see the culmination of this zone’s plotlines. And hopefully less rants in the opening paragraphs. That post is coming soon, sooner than these normally do. I hope you enjoyed this part.