On The Forsaken


Those of you who’ve read my fiction pieces on CBM (especially Homecoming) know that my main character has issues with the Scourge and the Forsaken. Cynwise’s issues with the Forsaken are less poltical and more personal than simply that they’re the bad guys of the Horde; Homecoming gives a personal reason to hate, but her disgust stems from many of the events she went through in Wrath; the Wrathgate, the Battle for Undercity, and fighting in ICC. She doesn’t see a lot of difference between the Scourge and the Forsaken, and she’s pretty much in support of any campaign to rid the world of either or both of them. (She and Greymane would get on fabulously together.)

That’s my main character, though – not me, Cyn. While much of my own attitues are reflected in her behavior, I’ve struggled to keep separation between player and character. I’m not a mercenary in real life (though I tend to be somewhat nonemotional in business transactions.) I switch between factions without compunction, though I am more familiar with playing Alliance, I don’t look at them as a morally superior choice. There’s the Blue team and the Red team, the game is designed so that they look to be about equivalent as faction choices, play what you like.

But in this case, I share Cynwise’s very real dislike for the Forsaken.

It all started with Cynderblock, the Ambassador, and over 10 years of playing Vampire: the Masquerade.


For a while, ‘block was a Tauren Warrior, a sweet-faced cowgirl who enjoyed bashing in the heads of the enemies of the Horde. I enjoyed being a Tauren, to be honest; there’s a certain moral simplicity to the race, simplicity coupled with depth. I found it easy to flow along with the stories of Mulgore and the Barrens, Eversong and Ghostlands.

But it was in Undercity that Cynderblock met Theresa, the mindslave.

That’s how she appears in game: <Gerald’s Mindslave>. I watched her go back and forth between Gerald and Lazarus, Gerald prattling on about how he was able to completely enslave this woman to his will, to break her spirit and leave her completely dominated. Torture, invasive surgery (while she was awake), alchemy – all in the name of utterly possessing someone.

I watched Theresa go through her eternal motions, and let the impact of what I was feeling wash over me. It’s not just that the Forsaken keep living, sentient creatures caged to experiment upon, or enslave them – it’s that they were willing to go further than mere slavery. They are willing to completely destroy someone’s free will, to leave them aware of what has been done, screaming silently in horror through the end of her days, but unable to change any part of it.

I watched Theresa pace back and forth. Mere feet from the throne room, captives wailed as the RAS continued their experiments. Back. Forth. Slavery, unending. Complete domination of free will.

It was then that my peaceful Tauren knew the rage of the Brujah. If she could have, she would have assaulted Gerald right there. She would have stopped at nothing to tear down the Forsaken, allies of the Horde or no.


The Brujah are one of the original 13 clans of Vampire: the Masquerade, a game I started playing in 1994. I played the LARP version – Mind’s Eye Theater – with over 100 people in a large, independent game which ran for more than 10 years (and is probably still running, in a smaller format.) And I played a Brujah.

The Brujah are a study in contradictions. They were originally the scholars, the intellectuals, the rational and logical thinkers – but due to their curse, as their bloodline thinned they turned into the brutes, the thugs, the anarchists. Their particular weakness is anger – overwhelming anger, barely contained at times by the most placid elder, often left unchecked by the young.

But no matter if they are old or young, the Brujah prize freedom above all else – sometimes to the point of absurdity. Intellectual freedom, freedom of action, freedom of expression – freedom is essential to understanding the Brujah ethos. The Brujah are often misguided, easily led astray, and deeply flawed – but their hearts burn with the idea of Freedom.

The Brujah are one of many clans in V:tM, where the central tenet of the game is monsters we are, lest monsters we become. You do bad things to prevent worse things from happening. You have to go out and feed, and you try to feed in such a way so that you don’t freak out and slaughter a shopping mall – and blow everyone’s cover. Vampire is a horror RPG, not fantasy, and the central struggle is always between your character’s humanity and the Beast, of resisting the base urges of your condition. The more powerful you become, the harder it is to hold on to your humanity, and later, even your sanity.

This is the backdrop with which I view the Forsaken; not just through the eyes of the Tauren, or citizens of Stormwind, but rather through the eyes of Vampire. The horror of undeath is magnified by retaining free will and memories of your life. You are you, but you are this rotting, undead … thing, cursed for eternity. How do you deal with it? How do you spend the long nights, stretching through the years? Is it a curse, or a blessing?

Because WoW is a fantasy RPG, not horror, the concept of the Beast Within isn’t part of the Forsaken, either through lore or through game mechanics. Generally speaking there’s not a spiral towards evil that all Forsaken characters have to fight against, if they choose not to.

In the absence of a mechanics-mandated ravening beast of the psyche, I have to assume that the Forsaken are normal people, in full possession of their faculties, confronted with a horrific situation and trying to make the best of it.

So far, this sounds like a great place to start role playing, to be honest.

But it also provides no excuses for the behavior of the Forsaken we witness. There is no moral excuse of Blood Frenzy to explain why you killed your family. There is no special justification for inhuman acts; just a terrifying void of the horror of what you’ve become, and of acting in fear of what might be done to you in return.

I’ve played other clans in Vampire – you should see me play a Ventrue, for reals – but I’ve played that same Brujah, in some form or another, since I started the game in 1994. I’ve had a lot of time to play through that struggle with the Beast, of what it means to be free but also a productive member of Vampire society, of staying strong against those who hate and fear you and not giving in.

And it was with the righteous fury of the Brujah that my Tauren wanted to tear the bricks of the Undercity apart.



Let’s talk about freedom and the Forsaken for a bit.

The Forsaken were born out of the dead humans of Lordaeron who were raised by they Lich King to serve in the armies of the Scourge. When Illidan assaulted Northrend, the Lich King’s control over his distant armies weakend, allowing many of them to regain their free will. The Lich King sent Dreadlords to take command of the newly-freed masses of undead, but they rallied under the leadership of Sylvanas and secured their liberty.

The newly-christened Forsaken remembered what they’d done in life, and what they’d done as mindless automatons of the Scourge. Every horror they’d inflicted was theirs to bear, and the realization drove many mad.

But those who survived, sane, were the first generation of Forsaken. As a race, they tend to be fanatically devoted to their Queen and an equally fanatic desire to kill the Lich King. They had their freedom, and they would fight for their right to exist – no matter who tried to kill them, no matter what methods they had to employ, they would remain free.

Cynderblock looked at the slave pens of the Undercity, the experimental cages, the mindslave Theresa – and she saw dead humans who saw no problems with inflicting the exact same cruelties upon others as were inflicted upon them. In the name of their right to exist as free, sentient beings, they would take away that right from other living creatures. And not just take it away by killing them – they would take it away by enslaving them.

There is a difference between killing someone and enslaving them. There is a difference between degrading someone and treating them with respect. There is a difference between fighting to protect yourself and your ideals and fighting to exterminate all life.

On every single one of these moral boundries, the first generation Forsaken saw no difference. The hate, the rage, the fear of being exterminated – all of the past atrocities commited to the people of Lordaeron by the Scourge and Scarlet Crusade would be used to justify the unjustifable. Genocide was acceptable because their neighbors wanted to kill them – better develop a Plauge to be used against their allies. Physical enslavement of the living is acceptable because it furthered their genocidal research. The living are subhumans, to be experimented upon without hesitation.

Back and forth walks Theresa, a living condemnation of every value of freedom the Forsaken could hope to espouse.

Questing through the Forsaken areas in Wrath, it struck me that they wanted to kill the living not to be left alone, but at best for breathing room – and at worse simply for the joy of homicide.

I remember watching the Wrathgate for the first time, in shock at Putress.

Did you think we had forgotten? Did you think we had forgiven? Behold, now, the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken! Death to the Scourge! And death to the living!

Here, the aims of the Forsaken are made plain. Sylvanas would have likely been more patient, focusing on the Lich King, knowing that the Horde made useful allies against the Alliance – but while her timing was more paitent, her goals were the same as Putress’s.

Use the New Plague against the living.

Wipe them all out.

Freedom? The Forsaken aren’t fighting for freedom. They’re fighting for revenge, and they don’t care if you had anything at all to do with their current position. They will kill every living being they can, out of hate and anger. Responsibility doesn’t matter. The innocent will eventually be guilty, so they should die.

That was Wrath, though.

Maybe Cataclysm changed things up a bit.


The genesis of this post had nothing to do with some sort of deep-seated grudge against the Forsaken. It had to do with me rolling an alt on Drenden to check out the guild of some Twitter friends of mine. I don’t have a lot of Horde alts, so I figured I’d roll one, maybe move some heirlooms over if it looked like a good place to level.

I was staring at the screen, trying to decide what to roll, when I thought to myself – I should do something I don’t normally do, something new, something I have had trouble with in the past.

So I rolled a blood elf paladin.

(Wait, what?)

At the time, I thought this was a good idea – I’ve struggled with Pallies for ages – but then I realized that I’ve done this before, and the last thing I need is another blood elf paly.

So I deleted her, thought some more, then realized I could roll a Forsaken.

See, the guild I was checking out is also the home of Rades, of Orcish Army Knife fame, who is a known advocate of the Forsaken. He finds them interesting, and challenging, he enjoys their lore, and finds depth in their stories. Surely, with someone like Rades around, I’d have a good chance of at least tolerating the Forsaken?  Maybe finding out what it is that makes them SO popular (and make no mistake, they are very popular.)

So I rolled Cynwise, a Forsaken Warlock, shuddered at my shilouette on the screen, and started questing.


It was in Trisifal that I met two people who really helped me understand the Forsaken: Lilian Voss, and the Dark Queen.

The second generation of Forsaken are being raised by the Lich King’s Val’kyr under Sylvanas’ command. I’m going to point you over to Rades’ site for more on this, where he’s covered this in amazing amounts of detail, including a great conspiracy post which rings far too true. But, suffice to say, Sylvanas has now taken on the role of the Lich King, bringing people back from the dead to serve in her army. Like the original Forsaken, they have free will and their full mental abilities (with some exceptions), but unlike the first generation, they’ve not been slaves to the Scourge. The horror of that experience is gone, replaced by… what, exactly?

One of your first quests as a Forsaken ask you to talk to three recently awakened folks: Valdred Moray, Marshall Redpath, and Lilian Voss. Valdred reluctantly joins the Forsaken, Redpath leads an assault against them, and Lilian Voss runs away in horror.

Those are pretty much the three responses you can have – if you don’t go mad or suicide right away – flee, fight, or accept your fate.

As a PC, I found it interesting that you’d already accepted that you were going to join the Dark Lady. Listen to your conversation with Lilian – you’re calm and reasonable about being undead, while she’s freaking out. Who were you in your previous life that you can be so calm about your current situation?

You’re already one of the Forsaken, that’s who you are.

But why?

Every few quests, I listened to someone tell me about the Dark Lady in reverential tones. But who is she to me, the newly-risen dead? She’s some lady, some figure. If I died before the fall of Lordaeron, I wouldn’t know Sylvanas Windrunner from a hole in my head. If I died afterwards, I’d probably not trust her one bit – so why should I revere her?

The first generation Forsaken – I get the reverence. If nothing else, you can sit there and say, I was there, she fought for me.

But now, she’s the one who has done this to me – ripped me back from whatever resting place I had, into a shambling, decaying body. All to serve her.

The very lady who led the Forsaken out of bondage has no compunctions about putting others into it, should it suit her needs.

And her needs right now are a really, really big army.

The statue of the Dark Lady in Brill really made it all click for me.

The Forsaken is a cult of personality directed towards Sylvanas Windrunner.

I look at that big statue, and think about Max Weber’s writings on charismatic authority. About how the power of the state derives from the image of a single indivudal, giving a totalitarian regime legitimacy and focus, of assigning all that goes right to the heroic leader, and all that goes wrong to the enemies of the state.

Forsaken really love their Dark Queen. I don’t think I’m talking just about the characters, either – one characteristic about players who really like the Forsaken like the character of Sylvanas. And there’s a lot to like, in all seriousness! She’s ruthless, strong, interesting, fighting for her people’s place in the world. I think it bothers some people that she’s basically turned into the Lich King in Cataclysm with her current methods, but in other cases that’s turned into a positive, not a negative.

I looked up at that statue, and I realized what I’d seen over the last 10 levels; a systematic campaign to get me to adopt the Dark Queen as my savior and leader. Are you worthy to serve the Dark Lady? Deathguard Shimmer asks me. Dark Lady watch over you. Will you serve the Dark Lady, Lilian? Will you serve the Dark Lady, Cynwise?

The RP potential of a cult of personality is really, really big. The storylines it opens up, the twisted motivations it introduces in people – it’s good, meaty stuff.

But when I sit down to make a character, I’m wondering why I should go along with this. The notes ring hollow and false. I find myself more in agreement with Lilian Voss – who are you people, why are you doing this, the Dark Who?, OMG GROSS WHAT IS THAT  THING – than I do with Valdred, who accepts that hey, he’s got new hands, so it can’t be all that bad.

Quest after quest, I’m told to do something that I might not have done as a human, but that the Dark Lady’s will is that I do these things. I’m a monster now, so it’s okay. If I want favor with the Dark Lady, I will do these things.

The combination of being raised by Sylvanas to serve her, and then seeing the indoctination techniques used by the Forsaken to encourage her worship, is one of the biggest problems I have with the Forsaken post-Cataclysm.


The alienization of humans by the Forsaken is really interesting to observe. Watch the languge that the Forsaken use to describe humans, and you’ll see phrases in use to (for lack of a better term) dehumanize them. “Humans are notoriously fickle creatures,” says Deathguard Shimmer on a quest where he tells you to go kill 10 farmers – because someone might come along and recruit them.

Humans are not aliens to Forsaken. No matter how the Forsaken spin it, they are mentally and spiritually still humans (or elves). That’s the horror of their situation.

This mental disassociation with their past is really interesting, and certainly at the root of their capacity for cruelty to the living. In Vampire, mortals were known as kine, a flock of animals to be fed upon. The effect of the food chain dehumanized mortal humanity in that game, moreso than the super powers granted to the Kindred.

Forsaken have none of those advantages, nor do they assume a different place in the food chain because of their condition. They are not zombies, driven to eat braaaaains. They don’t have to eat people or drink their blood to stay moving. (What do they eat, anyways?)

No, the dehumanization of their past selves is both a coping mechanism, and a societal norm to justify the hypocricy of the Forsaken movement. We must kill everyone around us, because they might turn against us. Someday.

We must develop a plague not only to kill the Scarlet Crusade, but to kill every single living thing.

Only then will we be safe.


Dark Lady, watch over me.

The near-religious reverence with which the Forsaken treat their Queen is astonishing. For people who are supposedly less emotional than their living counterparts, the Forsaken display a great deal of emotion towards her – and towards the Scourge.

The Forsaken are a bundle of contradictions; the living dead, the religious scientists, the freed slave who chooses to return to slavery.

I know why I don’t like them as a player, now. I don’t like someone who is freed from bondage turning around and enslaving people. I don’t like someone who is hurt lashing out and inflicting the same pain on other people. Saying “X did Y to me, so I am justified in doing Y to Z” makes no sense, but it is the core of the Forsaken movement.

I look at the Forsaken, and go: you were free, and you choose to enslave others. You were free, and yet you choose to return to bondage.

Why don’t I like the Forsaken? Because they turn freedom into a mockery of itself.

They may be the most interesting race in the game right now – I think they definitely have more going on than most of the Alliance races – and that if you find the dichotomy of a Forsaken interesting, then you can have a great time playing one.

But they offend this old Brujah.


After writing all this – and staying true to the CFN ethos, there will be no editing, no going back, no wondering if I should post this or not, damn the torpedoes – I am left in a quandry.

I think the best leveling in the Forsaken zones is yet to come. I have actually enjoyed my time leveling in Trisifal, and fully intend to hit Silverpine and Hillsbrad on the Forsaken Cynwise, so I can see it firsthand, with my warlock’s hunched shoulders and creepy gait. (Too many PvP instincts to suppress.)

None of this, none at all, should be a condemnation of your desire to play a Forsaken. I honestly think they’re an interesting race, and in choosing to play them I don’t somehow think you’re an evil person, or into bondage, or anything like that. I play a warlock, but I sincerely hope people don’t think that’s a reflection on me as a person – same thing holds for the Forsaken.

But I don’t like the Forsaken. I really don’t. I don’t have sympathy for them as a faction, and I have little sympathy for the followers of the Dark Lady. They are choosing their own dark path, and dragging the Horde down with them.

Time will tell if Silverpine and Hillsbrad’s story lines change my opinion on the Forsaken.



Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

38 responses to “On The Forsaken

  1. soylentverde

    You’ve summed it up quite well. I actually stopped playing my (completely In-Character from level 1) forsaken when we killed LK. She retired shortly after the battle, satisfied with the outcome of her one passion in life.If I were to attempt to RP another forsaken I really don’t know where I’d go. The last was more than slightly mad, she was an incredibly fun character to roleplay. This is a great analysis I think, worth a read from anyone… trying to RP or not.

  2. perculia

    I think the starting zone is less effective in Cata once it’s assumed the player is not a first-generation Forsaken. I was flipping through some old quests recently that are no longer in-game, such as the backstory behind the cockroach vendor, and I think something complex and weird has been lost in favor of a plotline that’s more cut and dry evil. I’m also the sort of person who would rather meditate on emotions/the meaning of souls/individual will over a political propaganda plot.It’s Blizzard’s choice how they decide to portray the races, but I liked the direction things went in earlier–morally ambiguous instead of straighforwardly bad. I don’t think that quests like Sylvanas’ locket would make it in a post-Cata environment.(Also I have issues with her being felled by a single bullet, even if it’s magical.)

  3. Windsoar

    I really enjoyed your post, as I’m sure many will share similar feelings. I’m sure others will bring up the respect they have for Sylvanas themselves–that cult of personality has been going strong since she was introduced…the only Forsaken to be dominated but free to remember her past. Her fellow banshees just….fed.I’ve played Forsaken, as has my husband. The way I feel about them is this: do I only read literature or watch movies that make me feel comfortable? Have I never roleplayed a truly evil character? While other races in the game allow me to incorporate a bestial, war-like nature on both sides of the coin, the Forsaken are honestly the only race I feel actually acknowledges and accepts the seedy underbelly of their own natures. I’m actually disappointed how strongly the Forsaken has been centered around Sylvanas, as when I first started playing, it seemed individual Forsaken, like Night Elves, or Orcs, had more “choice” in how they fit into the tapestry of their racial identity.Before, it was much more common to see a storyline that accentuated both those who had completely abandoned their humanity, and those who struggled to fit that humanity into their new situation. What DO you do when you’re no longer dead. How do you cope? Does death make you MORE moral than you might have been in life? Surely not.I think the bigger problem I have with the portrayal of the forsaken is not that things like you describe, where the enemy (the living) is totally de-humanized, but that ONLY the Forsaken have ever been allowed to have this point of view “in the open.”

  4. Orvillius

    So I’ve been spending a lot of time on my forsaken rogue, Ronte (thanks again for the great rogue links Cyn!) and I really want to go back and do the new quests (as soon as I have time..). I don’t play on an RP server and I don’t RP with my characters but I feel like I have a good sense of “who” most of them are as people, and what you said here really made some things “click” about how I think of Ronte. One of the reasons I like PvPing so much on him is because it feels “right” using a forsaken character for pvp, I feel like he personally worries about what is going on in Arathi Basin, that he worries about the Alliance getting resources that could be used against the Horde. In short, he’s drank the kool-aid, he’s bought into the Dark Lady’s war propaganda and he will personally murder every human, gnome, dwarf, night-elf, space goat, and Gilnean he can get his daggers into. I dragged Orv (my paladin main) through levels 50-80 heavily in Alterac Valley and I am willing to do things on Ronte I never would have done on Orv, I’ll camp a graveyard if there’s clearly no cohesion in the group running the battleground, and trying to cap a flag is a lost cause, I’ll stand by and let my allies die horribly if we’re outnumbered too far. I’ll run away and hide instead of dying nobly. I don’t always care about winning, just as long as I can murder as many of those Alliance scum as possible. Right… what I’m trying to say is, great post Cyn, very insightful.

  5. Lani

    Great, great post Cyn! I have two Forsaken characters–one rolled back during TBC in the original Old Azeroth, and one rolled post-Cataclysm (a warlock as well, heh). They are an interesting group, and I agree that some of the best and most thought-provoking storylines are coming out of the Forsaken arc. Sylvanas is a great character precisely because she invokes such strong reactions both among the in-game NPCs and among players as well. I actually don’t think it’s that hard to comprehend why she is the way she is as Banshee Queen, though; after all she was that way in life as well. There isn’t a huge amount of lore surrounding Sylvanas during life, but we do know that she was an immensely popular military leader among the high elves, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that she’d keep her popularity into undeath.One of the things that makes me slightly more sympathetic to the plight of the Forsaken than you is that I feel a lot of their fear of humans is quite justified. Once the Forsaken had managed to break their bonds from the Lich King they were treated with revulsion by the remnants of Lordaeron and continued to be persecuted. Understandably, in a sense, because they had just, as members of the Scourge, been instruments of war. Yet they were still given no real chance to make amends once they had regained free will–I don’t think it’s much of a strech to imagine that, given the situation, many would become equally bitter toward the humans they once had been as they were toward Arthas. That of course only explains the sentiments for first-gen Forsaken; as you point out, this new generation is a bit more perplexing, but also potentially more complex.I’m actually working on and researching a Forsaken post of my own for (hopefully) soon, about my speculations on the nature of how consciousness is tied to the body in the WoW mythos and the potential effect that has on the Forsaken mentality. Gah! I need to finish it soon so I we can converse about it!(Also eff yeah Vampire; though I haven’t had the opportunity to get into a Masquerade game yet. 😉 )

  6. Rhoelyn

    It seems I need to go back and see the post-Cataclysm Forsaken starting zone. While I did roll a rogue, once, and play may way through all of the lands of once-Lordaeron in the old world, the Death Knights are my only significant experience with the undead, particularly in a story / RP sense. A friend once wrote a very apt description of my character that basically said that while the Lich King had brought her back from the dead, he had left some part of her heart behind. In my experiences with the Forsaken, this is where I put the blame for the inconsistencies, the unfathomable contradictions between what they ARE and what they do. Who’s to say that the whole person, the whole creature who USED to be Cynwise the human, made it back? Maybe the best parts, the most human parts, were left behind.After all, Sylvanas needs an army. The Lich King needed an army. They don’t need bleeding hearts… they need to make hearts bleed.

  7. Pike

    This is somewhat of an aside but…”Because WoW is a fantasy RPG, not horror, the concept of the Beast Within isn’t part of the Forsaken, either through lore or through game mechanics.”That made the hunter that is still in me giggle just a bit!

  8. Stormy

    Gah. Posterous ate the first version of this comment…which is probably a good thing. It was long and wordy and melodramatic, so I’m glad it disappeared into the ether.The TL;DR version is thus: You expressed some angst earlier today with respect to posting here at CFN. I also know you’re quite serious about preserving your anonymity and so on, and I completely respect that and the battle with how much is too personal and all that. That said, I hope that when deciding whether or not to post, you err on the side of posting more often and posting the more personal stuff. I’ll be honest–I don’t PvP, and my warlock is stuck at 77, so CBM isn’t really my cup of tea–but as a socially awkward person who constantly feels like a n00b in the game of Life, I surround myself with people who I think are better at it than I am. You are one of those people. I enjoy reading your perspective on lots of things, and I want to keep reading–even if I disagree with your position on Sylvanas and the Forsaken.TL;DR version of the TL;DR : You amaze me as a person. Your blog is a reflection of that. Moar, pl0x.

  9. _Rades

    A really great post, Cyn. I was very interested to see the personal perspective (not in-character) and hear your feelings on the Forsaken. Before I start rambling – and I mean rambling – thanks for the links to those posts. Looking back, they’re some of my favorite lorespinning posts on my site. :D[One thing I will good-naturedly protest is the condemnation of the entire race based on the behavior of the race’s most vile examples. Is Theresa the Mind Slave absolutely disgusting and abhorrent? Of course. But so are Xavius, Arthas, and Dar’Khan. Their races aren’t loathed just because of these specific bad apples, so I think hating the Forsaken because of three over-the-top NPCs is slightly unfair. Trust me, even the players who play Forsaken because it’s fun to be evil (and in a game, it IS fun to sometimes not be the shining paragon of virtue) find them horrible and gruesome.]Now, I don’t disagree with your perspective about how you feel the Forsaken have embraced the very things they, by all logic, should be fighting against. But, and this is honestly how I view the race, that’s a very HUMAN (or LIVING) impression. From the stance of someone living and breathing, with normal mortal capacities for love, hate, etc., it’s a completely foreign and incomprehensible attitude, sure.But who is to say the Forsaken aren’t an entirely different beast now? I imagine being killed, forced to serve as an undead puppet for the Lich King and made to slaughter innocent people, and then have your soul hurriedly and abruptly slammed back into your dead body could have some serious mental trauma.Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that your friends and family, the ones you would have turned to in pain, desperation and suffering for comfort and understanding, wanted only to kill you (again!) and even formed a nationally recognized and acclaimed group to do so. I’m sure that betrayal and undeserved hatred wouldn’t embitter and twist someone’s already incredibly-strained mind, not at all.You say that there is a difference between killing someone and enslaving them. And to an average Stormwind resident or Orc hanging out in Orgrimmar, sure.But try telling that to a former Lordaeron citizen who was butchered in their barn and raised as a hideous, shambling ghoul.THEY didn’t get the freedom of death. THEY didn’t receive that simple dignity.There is a difference? They beg to differ.Now, opponents of the Forsaken would point out now that the Forsaken don’t HAVE to be cruel, that they don’t HAVE to repeat the injustices that were inflicted upon them.I say to them, “Easy for you to say.”Varian lost his kingdom and father. The Draenei lost their homeworld. The Night Elves lost their immortality. Everyone feels sorry for these poor victims.But none of them lost their SOULS. None of them were made into the Lich King’s playthings, being subjected to unheard of dark magic originating from the Burning Legion. Who can possibly say what that is like? That they should be able to forgive and forget, and get over it? Picture the most horrible mental trauma someone could possibly endure – torture, rape, the murder of their entire family, being forced to commit unthinkable, monstrous deeds – and realize that what the Forsaken went through are all of these things…and worse. Because their torment transcended death itself.There’s a very good chance all Forsaken are decidedly insane. Or rather, insane by LIVING standards. I’m sure a modern psychologist would have a field day analyzing their culture, and would point out the distinct lack of various personality traits/emotions that would indicate sociopathic or psychotic tendencies. But they might simply just not be able to think or process information in the same way as living creatures do, or even have the capacity for many “human” emotions left within them anymore. And this isn’t even through any fault of their own. Their “birth” and the circumstances of their origin, events entirely out of their control, and impossible mental anguish they endured have all shaped them to be the creatures they are today.I don’t really even know if their decision to “return to bondage” as you put it, is a conscious decision, or one that they can even actively decide. Why does anyone persist with self-destructive behavior? Why does a spouse return to an abusive relationship? Why do people keep smoking? Sometimes choices just aren’t that easy, even when – logically – the “correct” answer is obvious.I’m going to end this here with a snipped quote from Firefly, when Mal is talking about someone who survived a Reaver (space cannibal/barbarian/pirate) attack.Mal: [That poor bastard] looked right into the face of it — was made to stare. That darkness. Kind of darkness you can’t even imagine. Blacker than the space it moves through.Mal: You call him a survivor? He’s not. A man comes up against that kind of will, the only way to deal with it, I suspect, is to become it.

  10. _Rades

    @perculia “(Also I have issues with her being felled by a single bullet, even if it’s magical.)”See, I don’t…not really. Not when you consider that it was Godfrey who shot it, who was raised by the Val’kyr to begin with. It’s a PERFECT puppet-master play, empowering your pawn with the kryptonite bullet (so to speak) to achieve your end goal, if your end goal was to raise Sylvanas…and by raise I mean “raise” her. 😀

  11. Donovitch

    You are gonna be really interested when the Dark Lady takes personal interest in you and then you deal with her closest advisers in the invasion of Gilneas. Killing, brutally slaughtering your neighbors, for no better reason than how close they live to your territory.I think the recent change in the mindset of most of the Forsaken is a great mid-point for a Forsaken character to play into- where in the grey of morality do I choose to draw the line? I do disassociate myself from my nation and seek refuge amongst those that are predisposed to attempt to destroy me or do I throw away my morals and join into the mad crusade my people are on?

  12. Nina

    This makes me want to go back and play on my Forsaken, and RP her again (or at least write stories about her).After the fall of the Lich King, I was left with the thought, “What now?” since she was a G1 Forsaken. She turned into a morose Deadder with the thought of just wasting away after she saw what she had become in the Halls of Reflection. It might be an idea to revisit her properly now that its been about 3 years after the Lich King’s fall. One thing though that did pull a twist in my stomach was half of the Hillsbrad quests, and it made me ashamed of being Forsaken.

  13. Carina

    The forsaken are nothing than a dark mirror of the humans themselves. The forsaken have done nothing, NOTHING, a human couldn’t have done either. Even in WoW they haven’t done anything a human hasn’t done worse, often too each other.We try to ignore, to forget that, justify the exclusion of people like Arthas or Kel’thuzad out of humanity by all means possible; just to ignore the fact that all those people are human; the dark sides to our light heros like Uthar Lightbringer or Tyrion Fordring.And now we have the forsaken, which literally used to be human but now aren’t quite anymore, zombies, literal monsters. We as players, tend to project all our grieviances with humanity, all things we call evil, onto them – up and until completly denying their humanity, declaring them less worth and players and npc’s calling for their genodice.Sounds familiar?If you’re humanity itself is suddenly revoked, how would you decide to react? If people aren’t respecting your right to exist, how far do you go in order to protect it and your friends? When does selfdefense turn into an act of cruelity, especially when the other side sees everything but laying down to die as proof you’re an evil to be destroyed? If the others call you monsters and animals; is it you or them who is in the wrong? What if the others use it as justification to go hunt you down?…I love how varied the reaction of the Forsaken to their predicment is:Some Forsaken give in and decide to embrance darkness; the majority seems to just want to continue to exists and thus embrance sylvanas, who gives (and gave) them a new purpose a new way to define themselves and some rise above everything and do the best they can. There are Forsaken in the Argent Dawn, afterall, and you can’t get more honourable and good than that. That’s so typical human, too: Some go bad, the majority just wants to have a decent life, some go out of their way to do good.But whatever the Forsaken do, all of them strive to better they situation. Some of that strive needs to be redirected, some of it pruned, but they strive. After everything they still strive.And I think this striving makes them more human than the farmers and grifters in Westfall, who’ve just given up and lie in a corner waiting to be fed.

  14. celticlibrarian

    Excellent post, Cyn! Had no idea you were a LARPer – very much enjoy your take on the Brujah, rarely played one myself. I’ve always leaned towards Gangrel instead. But I found your outlook on the Forsaken quite interesting, esp. considering the lens you’re viewing them through. On one hand I’m right there with you – how can they be so willing to subject others to a similar horror – to take away their freedom and will? But then on the other hand – to the cracked mind of the forsaken, when they raise new ones they’re giving a gift. The honor of fighting for and supporting the Dark Lady. They’re giving a chance at life without remorse or constraints save the bonds of loyalty to Sylvanas. The Forsaken really are one of the most interesting races in the game. I truly enjoyed the morally ambiguous feel they had pre-cata. Now you’ve got me wanting to make a new toon and see what their quests are like now.

  15. Cynwise of Stormwind

    Okay, wow! Thanks for the comments, everyone! @soylentverde: I think the Forsaken have the worst case of the post-Arthas blues, though it’s seemingly affected all characters who played through Wrath. Killing the LK ended a lot of storylines, and it almost feels necessary to start over again. I am certainly at a loss with most of my Alliance toons!@perculia: I think that’s an excellent point. The quests then were more varied in their tragedy. Sometimes it would be a letter that needs to be delivered, or a wife to be avenged – only to have the hands be more valuable than the wedding band. The 1st Gen had issues, deep issues, but there was indeed a lot more flexibility.Chalk this up to the trend towards railroading the players through stories?@windsoar: You bring up some interesting points. I think there’s a common theme here, shared with @perculia, that the 1st generation had more leeway in how their characters are formed. I think about the starting areas I enjoy, and the ones that allow a lot of flexibility and ambiguity are my favorites. I think there are other races which are allowed to be brutal – Orcs certainly are no wilting wallflowers here – but the Forsaken are accepted as being totally off the charts evil, which is both good (for roleplaying variety) and bad (for group cohesion within the Horde). I’ve played evil characters before. They can be enjoyable, though I don’t really find them such for long. I need to have motivations to be evil, and being evil all the time is kinda … cartoony? Like you said, I enjoy having ambiguity, a dark underside that sometimes surfaces, someone who maybe fights to do the right thing, but is horribly, horribly misguided. That’s interesting, and meaty, and you can hang a lot of story off of that concept.@orvillius: See, I think you’re doing it right. If you accept the premise of the Forsaken – that you’re a fanatical soldier in the service of the Dark Queen, the Horde is a tool to an end, DEATH TO THE LIVING – then they’re really quite interesting. My own biases are not in that direction, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not a heck of a lot of fun. :-)@lani: This was a strange post to write, if for no other reason than it’s articulating a personal dislike of something that is well done – possibly the best in the game – and rewarding to a lot of players. I’m looking forward to your post on the matter!As far as sympathy, well… this is a tricky subject, and the argument you bring up is pretty common, that the Forsaken have a reason to be afraid and bitter. Because they were turned upon by those near and dear to them, that their lashing out against everyone, even those not involved in the original persecution, is understandable. It’s a reason, certainly.I guess I look at it and go, if the Forsaken don’t want to be feared and reviled by their neighbors, don’t act in a way that inspires that fear. The people around them are afraid of the Forsaken for a reason – not only because they’re dead, but because they ARE evil, as a society. They will kill you and your family and feast upon your flesh. If you’re lucky, you’ll just be enslaved and degraded; more likely you’re going to wind up as an experimental subject in some RAS lab somewhere!The evidence gathered by the Alliance forces in the Battle for Undercity is pretty damning on this point. I don’t think that the Forsaken should expect a lot of sympathy after that point. Not only did they give the Alliance reason to actively wage war against them, they seriously damaged the cause of the Horde.Sympathy for individual undead? Yep. I’ve got that. For the political group known as the Forsaken? Nope, I’m not budging. :-)Now, the second generation forsaken, they’ve got some interesting choices ahead of them. @rhoelyn: You should take another look. They’ve got a different feel now.That’s a good point about possibly leaving the best parts behind. I think from an RP standpoint it’s more interesting if they came back with the capacity for empathy intact, but are choosing to ignore it or suppress it. Yet, if they did come back without it, they become basically psychopaths… and less interesting to me as a character. There’s no hope for improvement – you’re as good as you’re going to get in that aspect.(I’m sure that could still be spun into some interesting RP, though. The struggle for the capacity to care about other people, and failing all the time.)@pike: LOL, I was pretty sure that there was some Hunter related thing I’d forgotten!@stormy: Thank you, I really appreciate it. We can disagree on a point – many points, even! 🙂 – and still keep a good discussion going.Like most people, I tend to shy away from controversial topics, and – the internet being what it is – this can be twisted into a controversial topic. I can see how this post can be misconstrued from “here’s why *I* don’t want to play a Forsaken” to “here’s why you shouldn’t play one,” or “here’s why the Forsaken suck.” It’s not meant that way at all – it’s a post that I can point to when asked “why don’t you like the Forsaken?” – but getting one’s intentions across is sometimes very difficult.On a more personal note, this website is making me stretch my writing muscles without engaging my inner editor. That’s hard for me, really hard – I want to sit and polish and make things great before I show them to the world. But sometimes, it’s better to just get it out there. It’s a blog. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes I say things wrong, but I’m slowly learning that that’s ok.Okay, I’m going to have to take a break before tackling @rades’s comment. 🙂

  16. Cynwise of Stormwind

    @rades: Let me start off by saying thanks for continuing to champion the Forsaken as the most interesting race in Azeroth. I, quite seriously, would have written them off had it not been for your blog. I hope folks know that while Theresa was my personal catalyst for my opinion against the Forsaken, she’s also a rhetorical tool, much like one could use Gul’dan for the orcs or Proudmoore for the humans. While she’s an extreme example, there’s still a strong argument that the Forsaken are the political faction which openly enslaves and tortures sentient beings on a wide scale. (There are other races which do this, too – don’t the blood elves have leper gnomes?) The capacity for this kind of cruelty is evident in all races (well, maybe not the Tauren) but it’s only in Undercity that you find slavery so blatantly displayed.So I’m glad you brought up the “otherness” of the Forsaken. It’s valid, especially in character, to bring up that they may no longer be human, and that applying human standards to them is unfair. That they’re effectively an alien culture now, and that judgement of them needs to be viewed through their own cultural norms. I think that’s absolutely correct from a RP standpoint – get in their heads *first,* and then judge them. That’s really why I’m leveling one now – so that I can see if getting in their heads changes my opinion.I have two responses.I had the opportunity to see Tom Shippey speak on JRR Tolkien about 20 years ago, and one of the things he talked about (and which many people have noted about Tolkien’s work) is how essential the hobbits are to the narrative because they provide a conduit for the reader to experience the story – they provide a knowable frame of reference to interpret the fantastic elements of the story. The everyman isn’t a new concept, but it was new in fantasy (at the time), so that the reader always had SOMEONE to relate to during the story. (n.b. that Gimli provides this anchor when the hobbits are away.)The more alien a race becomes in fantasy or sci-fi, the harder it becomes to relate to it through our own experience.This is entirely a player-based argument, not in-game – the more removed from humanity a character goes, the more challenging it is relate to. This is why it’s actually really @!@# hard to play a Draenei or Night Elf – how do you play someone who’s thousands of years old? How can you explain things like: in 10,000 years, you never bothered to level? Forget leveling cooking – you never bothered to level? You never killed 10 boars? WTF were you doing all that time? As a player, I think you HAVE to play the Forsaken as traumatized. Like, holy shit, WTF happened to me? WHERE ARE MY KNEES? No, seriously, WHERE ARE MY KNEES? I think there’s a lot of meat in there for telling a lot of different stories. But you also then have to factor in that distance from “normal” thought, which becomes a barrier to relatability. If you want to play someone who’s crackers (from your worldview) but sane (from theirs), the Forsaken are a good choice. But it does limit their appeal. Second point is related.Moral relativism is a tricky thing to bring up. “You haven’t been through what we’ve been through, don’t judge us bro,” is a form of this; cultural relativism – “this is how we do things around here,” is another. The first one is using tragedy to evade personal responsibility. The Forsaken have been through more than any other race on Azeroth on a personal level, but does that excuse torture, slavery, and genocide? If the psyches of the Forsaken are damaged, does that excuse wanton murder and cannibalism?The birth of the Forsaken may have twisted them into unfeeling, tormented shadows of their former selves. It is a *reason* for their behavior – but it is not a moral defense of it. It says, in so many words, that their upbringing excuses their current behavior. At best, they are like a repeat criminal offender. At worst, they are like a rabid dog.You know what you do with rabid dogs? You put them down. You don’t let them run amok.You know what you do with repeat criminals? You try to rehabilitate them, or at least lock them away. Society doesn’t let them run amok.It’s not individual Forsaken’s fault that they got raised and twisted, any more than it’s the dog’s fault that they got rabies. It’s not fair. But to say, hey, they have rabies, it’s okay that they savaged that kid over there – well, that’s mixing up an explanation for an excuse. It’s NOT okay.If a political group came along and said “our goal is to wipe everyone off the face of the planet,” everyone else would be quite right in stopping them. That’s how society works. Tolerance is one thing, and an important part of any cosmopolitan society. You have to be able to say, okay, they do things a little differently, they worship a strange god, they eat different foods, maybe they look and smell different. But everyone still has to live by the same rules for tolerance to work. And the Forsaken have quite clearly shown that they don’t want to live by either the Alliance’s or the Horde’s rules.I maintain that, as a player, I can condemn them for their actions and say – I don’t want to play that race – without condemning players who choose to do so. I think that’s important to say. I don’t want any of this to be taken personally.It’s interesting that you brought up the Reavers, Rades. Very similar parallels between them and the Forsaken – both innocent humans who are turned into something different by a toxin. The Reavers are capable of brutality surpassing the Forsaken; but the Forsaken are more clinical, more detached, in possession of reason and – in theory – free will. Which is more terrible?In the end, I maintain that they’re both pretty bad, but at least you can have fun playing a Forsaken. :-)The “return to bondage” should be interpreted entirely in the context of the cult of Sylvanas, and the very concept of “Forsaken,” – basically, that the undead who follow her slavishly abdicate responsibility for their actions up to her. It’s not really all that different than someone who makes a blind commitment to Stormwind, or Ironforge, etc.. I personally find it offensive, but then again, I play a Brujah. :-)Thanks again for the comment. I’m sure this discussion isn’t over yet!

  17. Cynwise of Stormwind

    @donovich: Yeah, I’m really interested in how the Silverpine/Hillsbrad quests turn out, and if they change my mind. I’ll be sure to do a followup post on it!I have a feeling that I might just have to say, okay, my character is playing along with all of this until she can get away from these crazy people. Maybe the Argent Crusade will take her! :-)@nina: I haven’t seen the Hillsbrad quests yet, but from what little I know about them I’m pretty sure I’m going to be even more anti-Forsaken when I do them. But I will do them to be sure. @carina: All good points, though I tried to steer away from comparisons to other Azerothian races. I think it’s a given that humanity, as a whole and as a fantasy representation in WoW, has produced some horrific acts – while also providing amazing acts of goodness and kindness. My problem with the Forsaken as portrayed in game is that they don’t have the counterbalance you describe. This isn’t merely projecting humanity’s evils upon them, but rather watching the evils unfold through the storyline without any corresponding good. Well, I suppose I captured a murloc for a creepy old guy to play with. That … well, I don’t know if that counts as a good deed or not. It’s kinda icky, actually.If you use being called a monster as an excuse to behave like one, well, that doesn’t really excuse your acting a monster. I think you make a good point that the reactions of individual Forsaken vary WILDLY to their condition – some do, indeed, join organizations dedicated to overtly good causes, and reject the cause of the Sylvanas for a greater purpose. I think that’s where the interesting RP lies.But the Forsaken, as a political entity, permit and embrace a lot of evil in their actions. Individual Forsaken who follow the Dark Queen have different motiviations.@celticlibrarian: My best friend played a Gangrel, so I often would get into discussions about how hypocritical the Brujah were regarding freedom to the Gangrel’s viewpoint. “You’re slaves to convention,” she would say, to which I would only retort, “at least I stand for something.” :-)The Forsaken really are interesting. I don’t think I could have this deep of a conversation about any other race in the game.

  18. _Rades

    You know, I think things would be a lot different if the Alliance/Horde war weren’t going on. I think, were we in peacetime, we would see exactly what you described – the rest of the world attempting to lock away or “put down” the Forsaken. But war makes interesting bedfellows. The Horde needs the Forsaken to be on equal military ground with the Alliance (not just in terms of numbers – the Forsaken military/war machine has always been amazing in terms of discipline and effectiveness, which is why I loved the new Worgen / Silverpine quests, to see it in action) so it’s a funny little loop. The Alliance will never be able to wipe out the Forsaken as long as they’re allied with the Horde, but the Forsaken will always be allied with the Horde as long as the two sides are at war.And if/when there are cosmic or global threats – like Algalon the Observer, or something like the Emerald Nightmare – I have no doubt that even the Alliance would work alongside the Forsaken, at least temporarily.The cult of Sylvanas is a great topic, one worthy of discussion by itself. A Forsaken citizen’s loyalty and devotion to the Banshee Queen is very understandable – she is their liberator, their mother figure, their goddess, their champion, etc, after all. She is Thrall mixed with Lothar mixed with Malfurion and Tyrande, in terms of what she has done for their people. (More than those examples, really, but you get my drift.) But I think the cult idea extends even further than a Forsaken citizen’s fervent, blind reverence for Sylvanas – I think it is one of the integral guidelines for their very culture, the “us against the world” sentiment. I can imagine that when they had lost everything, one of the only things that kept them from killing themselves in anguish was the sense of kinship they now shared with their fellow Forsaken. We’re not talking a culture composed of friends or allies like other races – the Forsaken are essentially brothers & sisters who “grew up” in the same awful experience, and now band together and turn to each other for the only consolation or understanding they will ever find in this world. It’s like the world’s biggest, scariest group counseling session, or a hive mind swarm of army ants, or something. And I think this really defines them, their frightening sense of unity and direction. An angry, vengeful Forsaken doesn’t just want to avenge himself. She wants to avenge every other Forsaken in existence. (In fact, I could completely see Forsaken soldiers bravely sacrificing themselves to save their fellow undead. It’s an element of their faction I wish we saw more of. )This is actually one of the driving motivations behind my only RP character, my Human Paladin-turned-Forsaken Prot Warrior-turned Forsaken DK. When she “awoke” as a Forsaken, she was shocked that everyone she had loved and trusted before (who were still alive) shunned her, hated her, wanted nothing to do with her. The only ones who would welcome her now were the others who had undergone the same traumatic experience. And as a result, her previous personality traits – passionate feelings of honor, of love, of virtue – were washed away and replaced with the only things she could do now – protect her Forsaken kin. She is incredibly sad that her old life has been stolen away from her, and doesn’t even really have any real grudge against the living like many of her kin do. But when the Forsaken fight the Humans, when Sylvanas invades Gilneas for territory, she goes with them and she protects them and rescues them, because they’re her brothers and sisters, and she’s lost everything else so HELL YES she is going to do everything in her power to protect them. They’re all she has left.

  19. Carina

    It’s bad form, but about Rades last comment: THIS. I absolutly agree completly, especially with how the forsaken stick together.@CynwiseThat there’s evil there among the forsaken is actually what allows to project. Maybe project is a bad word. “Mirrored” would be better. The forsaken, in their own way, mirror the worst drives of humanity, everything humanity doesn’t want to face about itself. A convient demon and scapegoat, especially because the Forsaken ARE dangerous.Look at your own rethoric. You call the forsaken as whole evil and a threat, safe for a selected individuals that proved themselves. The rest needs to be “put down.”Just turn that around: The forsaken look at the living as whole untrustworthy and as a threat, safe for a few individuals that proved themselves. And suddenly the developement of the plague makes sense. And the ironic, tragically beautiful part of that story?Both sides are right and utterly wrong. The forsaken are absolutly right when they assume the living want to wipe them out. Well, the living do; and the Forsaken have the right to use any measure to ensue their own existence and those of their kin.But the living (and the humans of the alliance in particular) are absolutly right that the forsaken are cruel bastards with bastard filling. They are. The alliance has any right to protect themselves and their lands. They must!But on the other hand, you mustn’t do genocide. The alliance wiping out the forsaken would be just as guilty as the forsaken wiping out the living. You cannot demand that another person ceases to exist or to procreate, just because they’re inconvient or upsetting you, no matter if the other is living or undead.The Forsaken are on Azaroth to stay.

  20. _Rades

    You know, that’s a really good point. The plague and “Death to the living!” is undoubtedly horrible. But remember – the Humans started it first! If the Humans and Silver Hand/Scarlet Crusade hasn’t pushed so strongly to eradicate the Forsaken when the Forsaken had just freed themselves, I wonder how Sylvanas’ people would have turned out? I’m not saying the Humans’ reactions and fears weren’t understandable. They definitely were, at least to some degree. (Where I take issue with it is their refusal to realize that, hey, these aren’t the same mindless zombies we were fighting before, maybe we should adjust our goals? But that’s yet another topic.)I think most players think the Alliance wants to kill the Forsaken because the Forsaken want to kill all the living. But it’s interesting to think that the Forsaken only want to kill all the living because the living wanted to wipe them out first.

  21. Donovitch

    You are essentially “drafted” into a military of genocidal madmen (little else a new born Forsaken knows to do at that point, but to follow the instructions, given,they just killed you, they can again if they wish), reminds me of the plight of the average German soldier in WW II, you can stay with your countrymen and help further a cause you don’t believe in, or desert and try to join up with people that don’t like you, may imprison or kill you, and should the war end you are completely disassociated from your people for your desertion.You occasionally see undead working with the Argent Crusade, they saw the madness in Sylvanus and left, but are they truly accepted into any people group at all now? I wouldn’t be surprised to see many deserting Forsaken “mercifully” put down after all is said and done. You could try to remain as one of your brethren but still keep your morals, but in the Plaguelands Sylvanus makes a very vivid example of what happens to those that defy her will in the name of “ethics” or morals.

  22. Ross Johnson

    “Forsaken have none of those advantages, nor do they assume a different place in the food chain because of their condition. They are not zombies, driven to eat braaaaains. They don’t have to eat people or drink their blood to stay moving. (What do they eat, anyways?)”Note that they do have the racial ability to cannibalize remains, they do feed on dead humans. Other than humans, it is made known both from the mushroom vendor as well as the innkeeper in Undercity that their diet includes fungus. The last part of the (known) Forsaken diet would be sludge, although what thats made of (much less the nutritional value of it) is entirely questionable.I agree with alot of Rades’ posts, and have been a fan of the forsaken since day one of my wow career. Humans, as well as most other races, wish to be rid of the forsaken. If not for Thrall and his general acceptance of… basically everyone, it seems safe to assume the Forsaken would have been wiped out. This is an assumption most forsaken would view as undeniable fact, and as such they view many of the tactics they use as defensive measures. Had blizzard left the Wrathgate in the game, the horde version shows that Sylvanas was basically ousted for being too merciful in the eyes of Putress/Varimathras. there are many degrees of evil among the forsaken, but i believe that they are just generally morally gray. Very few good-aligned people could come from the ackground of Undeath. Most are spiteful, or envious of those who still live, and many are painfully bitter about their own deaths. One point i would like to mention, though, is the Forsakens affinity to power, vey similarly to the background befitting many Warlocks. Warlocks are innately power-hungry – they enslave demon minions to serve them. As you have posted about about how the forsaken feel the need to fully dominate other sentient beings, so to do Warlocks. Blizz has posted that the reason for not allowing ‘Locks to name their pets similarly to hunters is that their minion is not their companion, pt or friend, their Demon is their tool. I only bring this up because i find it somewhat strange that a player who role plays a Warlock would find many of the Forsaken’s methods to be so immoral and wrong. Essentially, the entire relationship of you and yoyur NPC companion is just that – they are your slave, as much as Theresa is to Gerald. Its somewhat hypocritical to hate the forsaken as much as you do based on that, although im sure there is probably far more to it.That’s really just my two cents on the matter, though. I did thoroughly enjoy the read, and ive definitely added you to my reader 😀

  23. PointlessEcho

    One of my largest issues in this entire thing is the sea change in the behavior and actions of Sylvanas since the defeat of the Lich King.Before, from release until recently, the Forsaken were an oppressed and united minority. Beholden to their queen for showing them the way to freedom and leading the “revolt” that made them independent. Joined to the old Horde by mankind’s desire to destroy ALL of the undead and – allies of convenience, rather than common cause. Friends to the newly joined Blood Elves due to a common hatred of the Scourge. I never saw them as evil, just bitter and hardened by the horrors of their past.The starter zones had them locked in a struggle with those who didn’t quite make the adjustment to the new reality – the mindless remnants of the Scourge and the angry and often fanatical leftovers of fallen human kingdoms on the borders of the former Lordaeron.Now, however, Sylvanas is farming an (initially) unallied source of humans in order to make sure that the ranks of the Forsaken don’t dwindle, and she is using the tools of the Lich King to do it. Creatures (Valkyr, et al.)who chose to serve, who willingly gave up their lives to serve him and enslave the Scourge’s mindless armies. What she is doing now is, frankly and clearly, evil.

  24. Cynwise of Stormwind

    @rades: “It’s like the world’s biggest, scariest group counseling session.”I admit, I laughed out loud. :-)I agree completely about the Forsaken being a band of brothers, of the biggest, scariest band of rotting brothers and sisters in Azeroth. And I applaud the RP potential therein.@carina: “You cannot demand that another person ceases to exist or to procreate, just because they’re inconvient or upsetting you, no matter if the other is living or undead.”So here’s where we differ, and I don’t know how to bridge this difference. I’ll try, but there’s a gap here. A big gap. Let’s see if we can find common ground.We’re talking in general about the Alliance and The Forsaken, though that’s not specifically correct. But they are at war, so let’s talk about them first. Leave out the dead/living distinction, and boil this down to two nations at war. One nation, Nation A, launched an attack against the other nation, Nation F. This was due to the involvement of Nation S – Nation A thought Nation F was still part of Nation S, which had been at war with Nation A.In this scenario, Nation A made a mistake. A stupid, tragic mistake, brought about by misunderstanding, fear, and a desire for revenge against Nation S. Is Nation F right to retaliate? Sure.Nation F then proceeds to capture members of Nation A and tortures them, experiments upon them, violating nearly every convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Even if such standards don’t exist in Azeroth, they do exist in our world, and they have a moral basis.Furthermore, Nation F captures noncombatants of Nation A and subjects them to the same treatment. Before we even get to the point where open war breaks out again, I can’t accept that these are morally equivalent scenarios. The first one contains all the tragic elements of a colossal misunderstanding in a time of war. The second scenario has neither such an excuse, nor is it the same action. A systematic campaign of torture, slavery, brutality, and crimes against humanity is NOT the same as going to war. Now we move forward in time a little bit. Nation F allies with Nation H against Nation A, but there is no open war. Nation H and A form a tentative alliance against Nation S. While Nation H and Nation A are fighting Nation S, a coup in Nation F accelerates their plans and launches an attack against both Nation A AND nation H, who (to date) has done nothing but support and provide protection to Nation A.Nation F has now committed an unprovoked attack against Nation A – perhaps excused by the previous hostility between them, perhaps not – but also against Nation H, their nominal allies. Nation H rushes to support the displaced government of Nation F, while Nation A rushes to attack their stronghold. In so doing, both Nations A and H learn that Nation F has been committing crimes against humanity – kidnapping, torture, slavery, medical experimentation upon prisoners. At this point, Nation H has a nominal victory; Nation F’s displaced government is restored, Nation A is prevented from gaining any territory. But Nation F’s crimes against humanity are now exposed, and cannot be passed off solely as the actions of the coup. Nation H says knock it off, Nation F, and they agree in public – but continue their activities in private. They continue not only to gear up for war against Nation A – they plan to go to war with Nation H, too. Eventually.What did each nation do wrong?Nation H allied with Nation F, and got attacked for it. Their only real mistake was in allying with Nation F, and excusing their war crimes.Nation A made the mistake of not realizing Nation F had come into existence and continued fighting them as if they were still part of Nation S.Nation F waged a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and crimes against humanity (against numerous sentient races, I’m using the modern term here). They launched unprovoked attacks against Nation A during a flag of truce. They launched attacks against Nation H while allied with them.”Both sides are right and utterly wrong. The forsaken are absolutly right when they assume the living want to wipe them out. Well, the living do; and the Forsaken have the right to use any measure to ensue their own existence and those of their kin.”Here’s the gap. Right here, in between what you wrote and I wrote. It’s the difference between “Nation A” and “The Living.”The Forsaken, as a political force, have said: because Nation A attacked us with intent to wipe us out, our response will be to wipe out every single living nation on the planet. Furthermore, as a tool to that end, the Forsaken have embarked on a spree of war crimes unlike any other nation on Azeroth.That’s what the Forsaken want to be treated like, right? An autonomous group, with sovereignty over their lands and people? Well, the other sovereign nations aren’t out enslaving citizens of other nations. They aren’t conducting medical experiments upon them.They aren’t plotting to wipe out every single other nation on Azeroth. They aren’t trying to find a way to end all life on the planet.The Forsaken ARE. The Forsaken lump everyone else into a single category – “the living” – and friend or foe, eventually, they will go after them.Being at war does not excuse war crimes. If you act in such a way that you ARE a threat to everyone around you, you shouldn’t be surprised when they treat you as such.Like I said, I don’t know how to bridge this gap. I wish I knew a way.

  25. Cynwise of Stormwind

    @donovitch: The parallels between the Forsaken and the totalitarian governments of the mid-twentieth century are strong ones. I’ve been trying to not talk about them too much (to avoid invoking Godwin’s law), but the similarities are definitely there.@ross: Please don’t use ad hominem arguments. They weaken your position and prevent civil discussion.How do you know that I am entirely comfortable RPing a warlock? Perhaps it’s the class that I found suited me the best, and it became my main because I enjoyed the playstyle and was really good at it, not because I was entirely comfortable with the class idea? Your charge is an interesting one, though. How can I reconcile condemning the Forsaken for stripping someone of free will, while playing someone who has done just that? (Aside from simple class mechanics.)I think there is a difference here. Demons are extra-dimensional creatures of pure evil that warlocks dominate and enslave. They are immortal (as far as we know), they are sentient, they can communicate, they have names. But, and this is really important, they are ALSO creatures of pure, ELEMENTAL evil. Not people who are capable of both good and evil – if there were Evil Elementals running around, Demons are it.The elementals we’ve seen in Azeroth are sentient, too. Isn’t that odd? The little ones aren’t very smart, but Elemental Lords wield great power and personality, and there’s even a quest in Twilight Highlands where you have to deal with a goblin shaman’s pissed off Fire Elemental who escapes his control. Is it wrong for Shaman to bind elements to do their bidding? Is it wrong for Frost Mages to have a permanent elemental, even if it has no name?You could argue both sides of this, but I come down on the side of the MLS comp – binding these primal, elemental forces to our will is okay, and not just because it’s part of our class. It’s okay because we’re dominating manifestations of a primal force, not people with the potential for good or evil. I can see the other side of it, though, and it’s one of the things that makes me uncomfortable about playing a Warlock. Interesting comment, thanks!@pointlessecho: The behavior of Sylvanas in Cataclysm is one of those things that I have to wonder where they’re going with her. @anexxia mentioned she thought they might be setting her up as a raid boss, which I find an intriguing idea. @rades thinks she’s being set up as leader of the Horde. Maybe it’s not this expansion, but the next one? It will be interesting to see if this is clumsy storytelling, or a carefully crafted plot to bring Sylvanas into a new position of power. (Or maybe, it’s both.)There’s really not a lot of difference between the Dark Queen and the Lich King. All that you can say is that she’s leaving people with free will – though that may not entirely be her choice.

  26. _Rades

    One minor comment – I don’t think the Warlock “Demon Enslavement” issue is really comparable with Mages or Shamans, as their relationships are actually quite different. Shamans don’t bind Elementals to their bidding, they very carefully work with them and ask permission to summon them in times of need. There’s a lot of novel evidence of that tentative balance. And Mages, I don’t think their Frost Elementals are true Elementals. I have no concrete proof of this, but I *thought* I read somewhere that these Elementals were more like magical constructs and weren’t truly sentient. I can’t prove this either way though.

  27. Sven

    Nice post.I think I’d distinguish between the Forsaken as a people and their current leadership. Nobody would conclude that all Humans are evil because of Varian’s personalty cult and abandonment of the poor – they conclude that Wrynn as an individual is wrong.Yes, the evidence does point towards Sylvanas being up to no good, but it may not be true of all her people.

  28. Tesh

    Great article, Cynwise! I’ve never liked the Forsaken, though they are indeed interesting. I find that it’s very possible to find skilled writing morally repugnant, and to be able to appreciate deft storytelling while still disliking the subject matter.Tangentially, I’m a fan of Tauren, and I still don’t understand why they stay with the Horde. Their conflict with the Forsaken runs deep, and it seems to me that the Tauren have more reason to fight the Forsaken than any of the silly Alliance races. I’ve argued more than once for a third faction comprised of Tauren, Wildhammer Dwarves and maybe some random elves and Worgen.

  29. Tesh

    Incidentally, here is an older article of mine on a Forsaken I tried to “role play”… and how the morass of contradictions between lore and game design made it an exercise in futility. There’s potential there, I think, but it just can’t be tapped.http://tishtoshtesh.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/dead-again/

  30. Oestrus

    It took me almost a week to come up with a response to this post and I tried taking it on from a number of angles. Like you, I used to play V:TM and I absorbed the lore like a sponge. I apologize for not reading the previous comments in advance, mostly because there were so many of them. Hopefully I’m not about to say anything that was already covered extensively before me.Part of the problem with a game like this, with such an expansive and potentially in depth story line is that not everyone is going to put the thought into it that they probably should. The majority of the player base are going to see things in very black and white terms. The Alliance races tend to more closely resemble humans, so therefore they must be good. The Horde tend to look more alien or more unlike humans, so they’re typically seen as bad. When I read about your theories on the Forsaken, I automatically think of the Borg from “Star Trek.” Assimilation is the Borg way of increasing their numbers, their understanding of the universe and to a certain extent, even procreating. Unfortunately, most people aren’t lining up at their doorsteps to be assimilated into a collective hive mind, so the Borg do it by force. To the average person on the street, this is bad. It’s wrong. But this is what the Borg have determined they need to do to survive. The same could be said for the Forsaken. Most forms of sentient life want to do whatever they have to in order to survive and continue their existences. It may not be in a way that we deem normal or humane, but it’s their only way to go about it. That doesn’t make it necessarily wrong or evil, just different. It’s the Cycle of Life. We eat chicken, cows, fish, etc. and if we were alone in the wilderness and a bear, coyote or something else wanted to eat us, that’s their right to do so. It doesn’t make the bear evil or nasty. The bear is doing what it has to in order to survive and that happens to run parallel to our own goals for survival. We can choose to put ourselves above it all and say how wrong it is or we can recognize our place in the Cycle of Life and fight for our survival. The same could be said for the Forsaken. Sylvanas found a means to increase her numbers, to continue the Forsaken line, if you will. No leader wants to see their people die out. The want to survive, the need to continue existing is a basic emotion or function. They’re already so far removed from the other races that they can’t be expected to go about this in a way that the others are doing. This is their answer. This is the only answer. What other options do they have? I mean, really. This it it. There’s two ways to guarantee your survival. You can find a means to propagate your species or you can simply be the last one standing. It’s what they’re doing to survive. Again, we can go on about how bad and wrong it is, or we can recognize that this is the challenge that’s been placed in front of us. Kill or be killed. If we have the same need to survive and we want to “beat the Cycle,” sort of speak, we have to fight for that. It does end up placing the Forsaken in a villain type role, but just like the Borg I don’t think it’s that clear cut or even deserved. Hopefully some of this made sense!

  31. Cynwise of Stormwind

    @rades: Interesting point about Water Elementals. My son keeps asking, why don’t Fire Mages get Fire Elementals? And Arcane Mages get… whatever kind of elementals they would get?Lore-wise, it’s a valid question. :-)@sven: Thanks! It’s often difficult to distinguish between the actions of a government, cultural unit (“people”), and individuals who comprise that people when their names are the same. Part of the problem is that many of these activities seem to take place out in the open in Forsaken society – it’s not an isolated case, nor are there a lot of counterexamples. It’s more that those counterexamples you do see (like Forsaken in the service of the Argent Crusade/Dawn) are deliberately placed outside Forsaken society. In other races, you get a wide moral spectrum. Perhaps this is actually an indication of *bad* writing for the Forsaken, since we don’t really see the other side of the coin.@tesh: Thanks, and an interesting article! You nailed it when you mentioned how you’d immediately broken RP by not being able to attack everything in sight once raised. I think the lack of a “freak out” option probably does the story a disservice.@oestrus: What, are you saying we’ve written too much? :-)In all seriousness, you should perhaps look at the exchange between me, @rades, and @carina. It does address many of your points, but I’ll adapt my argument to yours. Fortunately, I’m a big Star Trek fan, so this is a fine metaphor to use. :-)By assimilating other cultures into their own, the Borg Collective are the antithesis of an individualistic culture (which we have). Which means that they are a threat to the Federation, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Empire, most of the Delta Quadrant – because they represent the extermination of all of those cultures and people. Only the Borg will remain.Is this evil?The (xeno-)cultural relativist argument which you’re making gets applied all the time: outsiders to a culture/species don’t have the right to judge the actions of that culture or species. Assimilation is the Borg way of reproducing, we shouldn’t hate them for it. Raising by Val’kyr is the Forsaken way of reproduction, we shouldn’t hate them for it.I’m going to turn away from fiction to real life for why I think this argument holds little water. It’s about the Indian practice of suttee, or Sati – the burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyres.If you don’t have a lot of background in Indian history, the Wikipedia page has a good overview of it – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice) – but there was an entire cultural apparatus build up in parts of the Indian subcontinent glorifying the murder of women whose husband died. Sometimes it was suicide, sometimes it was murder.Elements within India tried to stamp it out with varying degrees of success, but the English used suppressing Suttee as a major justification for their eventual rule – and while I don’t agree with Imperialism, I do agree with General Napier’s quote:”This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”If you want to excuse the Forsaken for their actions because it is internally consistent within their society, that they are doing what they need to do to survive , then I need to counter with that we also need to look at them from all of the other Azerothian cultures, as those viewpoints are /equally/ valid.The races of the Alliance are right to see them as threat to their way of life – and by life I mean both living and dying – and that the forcible resurrection and potential enslavement of their citizens is not to be tolerated. The other races of the Horde have to take a good, hard look at the Forsaken, because they have allied with a nation who will both turn on them and involve them in wars which they could otherwise avoid. They are morally culpable not for the Forsaken’s actions, but for their own acceptance of them.If we are to say, this is the only option the Forsaken have to survive as a people and morality has nothing to do with it, then we ALSO have to say that the only option for everyone else’s survival is to wipe the Forsaken out. Eventually, the Forsaken will absorb the dead of the other races and overwhelm them all. Those who ally with them now for temporary advantage are acting against their own best interests in this matter.If we are to say, morality is relative but still applies, then the Forsaken will do what they will, and the other mortal races of Azeroth (and Earth) will judge them for it.Closing note: I think that while the Horde/Alliance dichotomy may at first be based upon looks, when you start really looking at it there are some real differences in cultural makeup. The Horde has the widest variety of cultures within it, ranging from probably the most virtuous of races (Tauren) to those struggling to overcome barbaric pasts (Orc, Troll), rampant capitalists (Goblin), somewhat totalitarian (Blood Elves), to inhumane or downright evil (Forsaken). The Alliance is a lot more boring – the worst race of them all is the Night Elves, who are really just self-centered dicks, and Humans, who are all over the place with good and evil.If the Forsaken were paragons of virtue, then faction arguments based solely on looks would have a lot more weight.Thanks for the comments, everyone!

  32. Analogue

    I don’t play Horde and have little meaningful to contribute – but you made me stop and *think* for fifteen minutes, so thank you for that. I think my thoughts are very similar to yours. Especially the comparison in your last comment to suttee, but I’d make it even simpler. The Forsaken may see spreading undeath as a way to protect themselves, or reproduce – but my characters are entirely justified in resisting them to the very bitter end. And if it comes to war, living against the dead, I know where my Night Elf and Gnomes stand.

  33. tiacha

    Off topic: But glad to see there are other V:TM larpers not in slavery to the Org! (OWBN, National Cam, etc). Keep rocking.-LuciaToreador Prince of ClevelandAnother Independent Chronicle. (Cleveland by Night)

  34. Rob Ruhland

    I’m sorry but your understanding of the Brujah clan is pretty simplistic, and laughable when you apply it to the Forsaken. The Brujah do not advocate freedom above all else, they advocate intellect and their own personal veiw of how the world should be. For every anarchist you’ve got an Ayn Randian, for every ancient Greek philosopher who influenced The Republic you’ve got some newly embraced Tea Party yahoo.The vampires didn’t just set themselves above the humans because what they were was now food, but also because they gained great power and their limitless age gave them perspective.Consider this, you’ve got a group of humans who now have greater power than they ever did and now they’re going to probably live forever. And now the only people who can give you perspective on an extraordinarily long life are at war with you (The Night Elves and the Draenai). They are an incredibly young race and are acting quite shortsightedly and selfishly for very good reasonIt’s also been said by the developers (at least in the recent C-Dev chat) that the forsaken are numb to pain and emotion. We’ve seen enough in our own society that when people can’t feel pain and are dead emotionally, they don’t act with the same sort of compassion that others do. I’m nto saying you’re wrong about the forsaken, but you didn’t really give them a chance to really see through their eternally glowing eyes. You went in as a human (or a Tauren) in a zombie suit..

  35. Leigh

    I personally wonder how much choice the Forsaken really have in what they do. Are the glands and synapses that control emotions even firing correctly? How much brain damage do they incur before they are risen? Is there some dark residue left in their minds that endures? I think these are all really interesting questions and great hooks for Forsaken roleplay. The fact that there are so very few ‘good’ Forsaken in game lore leads me to believe that the very process of being raised as a Forsaken strips away their ‘humanity’. They have a very hard time feeling any good feelings, the only pleasures they are left with are in Worshiping a cult figure (The Dark Lady) or in violence and cruelty. This makes sense when you think about the Scourge. When the Lich King was raising them he only wanted them to Worship him or to kill the living. Their attitudes were built into them from the very start. They may be ‘free’ of the Lich King’s will but they’re not free of what he made them. I feel sympathy for them because of this. They are barely more free now than they were when they were under the Lich King. They say they have free will but really what free will can there be when the only emotions you are capable of having are Anger, Paranoia and religious zealotry.

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