Racial Limitations on Class Choices
While looking through my list of unfinished drafts, I found this post that I had always intended to revisit after I began it back in November of last year. Unfortunately, the Twitter conversation I discuss may be long gone now, but the question is still an interesting one: Should WoW allow us to create a character of any class regardless of race?
There’s nothing like attempting to have long discussion about lore through a medium that only allows you 140 characters at a time. Despite its limitations, when this discussion happened back in November, Twitter ended up being a fantastic place to get several bloggers into a debate over whether all class choices should be available to all races. (The conversation began when I, once again, appealed to the Blizzard gods for access to gnome druids. Zaralynda understandingly questioned my sanity.)
Psynister then had this to say on the matter:
— Psynister (@psynister) November 16, 2011
His point (which I hope I can do justice here), was that there is nothing inherent to any of the Warcraft races that should prevent an individual from becoming whatever class she would like to become. Here is the rest of Psynister’s argument, pieced together from several tweets:
[Gnomes becoming druids is] only improbable because all the races have been pigeonholed into specific classes from the beginning. I don’t think you can say that races should continue to be restricted simply because it’s not normal. It’s refusing to evolve. You can draw racial restrictions into the real world to see why it should have no place for something so simple as “it’s not normal” or “it’s always been this way.” Time for lore to evolve.
It’s a really interesting line of argument, and one that I wasn’t considering at all when I initially disagreed with the notion that some races simply could not be certain classes. When Psynister later asked what race/class combinations broke my sense of immersion, I immediately answered that I could not conceive of a Forsaken paladin/shaman/druid, nor of a night elf warlock.
Of these, the warlock issue is easiest to debunk. Illidan is, essentially, a night elf warlock – and that is precisely why I have trouble believing that the night elves would allow someone of their race to go down the path that he did. The problem is that night elves (both NPCs and now player-created characters since Cataclysm) can become mages. A warlock is basically a fallen mage (warlocks who dislike this description may feel free to assume that mages are basically warlocks who haven’t realized their true potential yet), and so every other race who is capable of becoming a mage can also become a warlock. That makes sense, in lore.
Is a night elf capable of becoming a warlock? Absolutely. Would they have the same in-game experience that every other night elf in the game has? Not a chance.
This, for me, is the primary issue with unusual race/class combinations. For a night elf to choose to become a warlock, they would have an entirely different experience of the world than a night elf warrior or druid. They would be shunned by their community and turned away as an outcast – were they not outright killed. Within the restraints of WoW’s questing system, it’s just not possible for every single race/class option to have a unique starting experience. While I would absolutely love to see this level of personalization in the leveling system, realistically I know how much effort would go into writing and implementing quest lines for each possibility.
Where I have the most difficulty believing that a combination could work at all is with the more vocational classes. In the case of priests, paladins, druids, and shaman, it is not simply that their practitioners study hard and become masters. For those who call on the Light, Elune, or the elements, those entities must respond – they must answer the call. Would the elements respond to a Forsaken who wishes to be a shaman? We know that Forsaken priests are gifted in the use of Shadow, but those who wish to use the Light pay a terrible price to do so (an affliction best described in the short story “Fresh,” but also confirmed by Ghostcrawler’s comments on the subject). Using the Light is “self-destructive,” according to Ghostcrawler, because Forsaken who call upon it feel “as if their entire bodies are being consumed in righteous fire.” What could this mean for a Forsaken who wishes to use the elements and become a shaman? If the whole concept of the Forsaken is that they are unnatural (i.e. against nature), why would the elements or Elune ever grant them power, and what could that power possibly look like?
On the other hand, some race/class combinations seem to be so obviously possible that it’s difficult to understand why Blizzard wouldn’t want to allow them. I am always baffled by any race who can become both warriors and priests, but are unable to be paladins. This might make sense if the only paladins in the game were those originally trained by the Silver Hand, but we know this isn’t the case. If a gnome (or any other race you like, I just happen to be invested in the importance of gnomes), can be a fierce warrior and a champion of the Light, why isn’t becoming a paladin a logical step?
Would opening up all race/class combinations break Warcraft’s immersion for you? Or, does NOT being able to create exactly the character you want break your immersion? What race/class combos do you think should be added to the game? What combos do you think can’t work and why?
*Note: Both of the images used in this post were found using a Google image search, and I could not trace them back to specific owners or creators. If you happen to know where either of these images came from, please let me know so I can give proper credit!*