Ormus senses a strange Dichotomy..

I like Night elves. No, scratch that, I love the Night elven people. They have a particular dualism to them that makes them both a very deep-diving experience as well as a challenge to characterize. Unfortunately, it’s also a dualism I’ve gotten the impression most people really fail to even spot, not to mention implement.

The European World of Warcraft website had a link to a forum post proposed as Guide to roleplaying a Night Elf (that you can find here) that I – while acknowledging that it had a few decent pointers in places – felt was ultimately shallow. It makes observations how Night elves might be seen from the outside, but doesn’t really mention how they are at depth. And that I find is really common – I’ve seen plenty of these guides before and they all inevitably fail at that one central and utterly key thing to Night elves.


The World of Warcraft pen and paper RPG sourcebook’s section on Night elves all but open up with “The Kaldorei are practical but superstitious, and often paradox.”, and that very paradox is something I found really to be the heart of the people at large. Night elves are a passionate people, driven far more by heart, instinct and experience than pure intellect and reason. On the other hand, they live for virtually forever and has an ammount of time we can’t even begin to fathom to actually learn to anticipate and control their own responses to any situation they might come across.

And therein lies the heart of how to roleplay a Night elf well as far as I’m concerned – understanding the inner conflict between passionate instinct and tempered self-mastery, as well as understanding how they see and relate to the world. The Eternals they pay homage to – Elune especially, the events that’s formed them into what they are like now, the people who guided them along that path.. Night elves can’t look at the present just as it comes like humans can, Night elves have to see almost everything in retrospect and apply that to the present. Having lived for so long, Night elves have a longer perspective and pretty much have to consider the consequences of their every action since they will be living long enough to have to deal with them.

I’ve seen Night elves described as brutal and violent, this is not so. Yes, they can be that, but it’s all because they’re passionate – if they are called to conflict, they put their hearts into it and fight with all the rage of an enraged feral tiger. But when not, their passion can just as easilly be directed elsewhere. Since at the same time, they naturally seek solitude with the world around them with the same level of passion because that, too, is part of them.

A friend of mine described them as a Force of Nature when we spoke over this topic, and that’s very much spot on. Yes, Night elves can be highly feral and ferocious, but they can just as well be curious, or patient, or caring and gentle. They are a force of nature, and they pretty much have to spend their entire lives learning to master that lest it comes to rule them instead. I’m ever reminded of the concept of the Beast in Vampire: the Masquerade from Whitewolf – the notion that there’s an impulsive and instinctive part that can be put to use, but also has to be controlled. For me, Night elves always represented that dualism; the tempered self-mastery from millenia of experience in conflict with a passionate, highly instinctive heart.

Likewise, Night elven interactions are hard to figure for many, I think. I’ve seen many people just plain label Night elves as racist, which I find is a very narrow-minded and ultimately shallow way of putting it. Yes, Night elves can be very dismissive of the other races. Yes, Night elves can be very patronizing of the other races. Yes, Night elves can be downright disrespective of the other races. But tell me, is it considered racist if a 50-year-old were to tell a 10-year-old that he or she has no clue what life is about at that stage and has only experienced but a fraction of it and can’t really make any direct judgements whatsoever until he or she comes of age?

Night elven childhoods last longer than human lives do – I cannot emphasize this enough. It’s not about thinking that other races are worth less – it’s about thinking of them as children. To the shallow observer the difference may seem minute, but at the heart of character motivations, there’s a world of difference. Especially since some adults do come to understand that children have an insight and wisdom of their own that adults don’t, and that children inevitably need to repeat some mistakes of their elders to learn from them.

From that, a whole way of thinking and looking on other people comes through – not just saying other races are like children, but actually looking at them like they are. Yes, a 50-year-old can quite well be good friends with a 10-year-old, but inevitably the difference in age will colour their interaction and the way they think of eachother. And it scarcely helps that Night elves are both innately nocturnal and desire some level of solitude. Other peoples don’t trust them easilly, and the Night elves respond in kind.

Moving on, Night elven motivations are complex and can require a great deal of thought. Essentially, ever since the Sundering, the Night elves are almost a dying people. They had to revise their entire society following the cataclysm and more or less aligned under the clergy. Night elves have to be very practical in their approach of the world and situations at large. Though Elune is very much regarded as being peaceful and not wanting conflict, her Priestesses have no qualms riding off to war if it is necessary because conflict does happen. Judging outcome, consequences and everything to the betterment of themselves, their family and their people.

For Nhani Moonfall, many of her inner motivation to what she does have their roots in the Sundering and how it affected her. Her strong respect and all but fangirlish look to the High Priestess comes from how Tyrande helped lift up their society afterwards and how Nhani herself had lost her previous role model – her mother – and saw Tyrande as a replacement that wouldn’t randomly die on her. She still strives to live up to goals she set for herself almost then thousand years ago, and though her approach to those goals have changed, the intent does remain. She has a new family now and she is also dedicated to protecting it when fate allows her.

She can, in a split second, go from one of the warmest, friendliest and most motherly people in the world to an utterly lethal predator if situation demands it – like if she feels her cubs are threatened. She’ll often carefully weigh every word and sentence before she speaks her mind and consider far-reaching reasons and consequences as much as possible. As an extension of that, it’s very hard to tell if any emotional response she gives is actually genuine or just for show – an act to inspire or provoke a particular response in turn. Very few people – usually only those she considers closest to her – gets to see any glimpses of what she actually truly does feel.

Interestingly enough this is much of why she tends to make for a good diplomat, even if she very much dislikes all the hidden agendas and dishonest intentions.

On a closing note, I find it rather odd how people seem confined to the thought that nearly all night elves are either attached to the Sentinels or are Druids. Didn’t we learn anything from the Clans in BattleTech? A people cannot survive on military alone, and Night elves are evidently apt in all manner of trades and and whatnot. Just because the army is the most or only visible part in a Real Time Strategy game doesn’t mean that’s true for the society at large.

To end, I’d like to address one final point – I’ve been told some people having claimed “Lore!!” as the reason as to why Darnassus lacks an anvil. Considering there’s several Night elven Blacksmiths in World of Warcraft, many of them even with quests specifically to craft armour and weapons out of metal. Yeah..


4 Responses to “Ormus senses a strange Dichotomy..”

  1. 1 Frostsaben
    August 22, 2008 at 18:03

    I have read the guide on the forums, and I must say I don’t agree with it because of the fact that the person there contradicts her/himself because of what it is said (the druids are traditional, but they travel a lot to heal forests and nature and those night elves who travel a lot are adventurous… so this doesn’t fit. furthermore, she/he says that the druids that spend the longest time in the dream are the most traditional, but from what I know Malfurion didn’t act to the orcs and humans like he was superior when he met them in front of the prophet, he acted like they are equals, and there are many more examples of druids who act to the others like that).
    Anyway, this is her/his opinion on the topic, so I think everybody is intitled to have an opinion, mine is quite different though.

    I belive the night elves are a race that suffered a lot, they battled the trolls, they were
    betrayed from within by their very queen, and by Illidan, they battled in the War of The Shifting Sands, and recently when they thought things are going to get better they were attacked by orcs, many of them were killed, including their nation’s friend, Cenarius, and they lost their immortality after battling the Burning Legion and saw many of their forests descend into corruption (Felwood entirely, parts of Ashenvale, Darkshore and Teldrassil) etc.. Anyway, this is why I think that the night elves don’t trust the other races so much, but that doesn’t mean they are arrogant towards them unless unprovoked, they are only suspicious, like the ancients, they watch from the forests, and if the others don’t hurt nature, they leave them alone, if the try to destroy nature night elves attack them, and if the others care about nature, they reveal themselves and try to make contact with the other race. They try to teach the others what to do so that they don’t repeat the night elves’s mistakes, so that they don’t suffer as much as they did and sometimes the methods they choose to teach the others may seem aggresive, but it’s because the night elves really care about others.
    They try to protect their forests and the animals because they care about every living beeing. Furthermore, there are a lot of craftsmen in the night elves ranks, that’s why they have a craftsmen’s terrace and a tradesmen’s terrace in the capital, not all the people can be fighters, they need support from behind the lines that can help the sentinels and druids battle evil.

    Except for that, there a lot of things I could say, but I would write too much and bore people. When I’ll figure out for sure how Paypal works(in my country) and make on WoW account I’ll probably go to that topic and say something there too, till then I’m sorry if I spammed this topic with this.

    About the fan of knives, do you know which class of rogues (assassination, subtelty, combat) will give the best benefits for this ability?
    I only found this information about it: “Instantly throw both weapons at all targets within 8 yards, causing 100% weapon damage.”

  2. 2 Nhani
    August 22, 2008 at 18:22

    Starting with the earliest part – all we know about Fan of Knives is really that description of it, yet. I’m told build 8820 of the beta unlocked level 80, so we’ll hopefully be able to see/hear of it in action sometime soon.

    From what we know though, I’d guess it’s best used for whatever spec has the highest total weapon damage; the slower your main- and off-hand weapons, the higher the damage, theoretically. Non-dagger subtlety might have the biggest gain there. Otherwise combat, I’m guessing, as it’s a combat ability.

    As for Night elves.. they if anyone have seen the danger of rampant use of magic first-hand. Most other races rely on magic to some degree, so there’s a natural suspicion there, especially coupled with the night elven desire for solitude and.. well.. the fact that I think most other races find Night elves a tad odd with their nocturnal mannerisms. Plus, other races are, like I said, children :>

    I think if anything, they’d get along really well with the Draenei for much of the above reasons. Kinship both in experiences and age.

    And no worries, comments are available for a reason 😉

  3. 3 Frostsaben
    August 22, 2008 at 20:10

    Thank you for taking the time to read my comment and for the information, I belive this is a very interesting ability, now we’ll only have to wait and see it in action 🙂

  4. January 18, 2010 at 14:57

    Afraid I only noticed this post today and I have to say I agree with near every word.

    Your description of the Kaldorei race is near perfect, Blizzard should be hiring you to help them write the lore rather than that ‘creature’ Knaak.

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