Monday, June 27, 2011

Fandral Staghelm

I have always liked Fandral Staghelm.

To me, Fandral was the only character who treated your new character the way she should have been treated. All other friendly NPCs fawn over your character, giving them praise that they haven't really earned yet. Fandral, on the other hand, was all "Why is this level 10 noob bothering me? Here, go take a message to Darkshore."

The thing is that Fandral (as originally presented) wasn't a nice character, but he was a good character. That distinction is not often made. Far too often, nice is synonymous with good. Bad characters are mean to you, good characters are nice to you.

I also like that he wasn't a passive character, like Tyrande. He tried to fix things, even if the solutions were not perfect. He didn't get help from the Dragon Aspects (the majority of which had disappeared or gone rogue), but he kept on going anyways. He was arrogant and ambitious, but seemed genuinely concerned with his people.

In the Ahn'Quiraj patch, I really enjoyed the way Blizzard fleshed out Fandral's back story. The loss of his son at the moment of victory made him sympathetic, and understandable.

But with Cataclysm, Blizzard has made Fandral into a villain. Apparently the simplistic case is correct. If an NPC is mean, he is a bad guy.

Even the Morrowgrain storyline backs this up. Some no-name druid tells you Fandral is using Morrowgrain for evil purposes, and instead of telling you to stop collecting Morrowgrain, tells you to bring it to him instead. Yeah, that's not the least bit suspicious. But since Quentis Jonespyre was nice to you, and Fandral was mean, clearly Quentis is the good guy.

And all the challenges Fandral struggled with? Mary-Sue-Furion comes back, and then everyone else (like the Dragon Aspects) fall over themselves to help him resolve all the problems easily.

Fandral was intriguing friendly NPC. In my view, having him "go evil" was a waste of a unique character, and merely reinforces a cartoonish "mean equals bad" way of looking at the world.


  1. but... it turns out he was using the morrowgrain to poison Malfurion. And he was corrupting Teldrassil all along, even from the start.
    I guess I'm just a wee bit hazy on which part of that is 'good'.

  2. I kind of agree. I never liked Staghelm, but he was fun to hate if that makes sense. Anyone remember the Fandral Staghelm kill simulator?

    Then I go questing in Mount Hyjal and get sent on some side quest to deal with the imprisoned Staghelm, with no explanation whatsoever of what happened. "What, he's truly evil now? Oh." I felt disappointed because as you say, mean and evil characters are a dime a dozen. At least it was fun while it lasted.

  3. I don't have the insight of playing Alliance as I played Horde all along, but what bothers me is questgivers turning bad (the Alysra chain quest in Hyjal - Kel'thuzad phylactery in classic).

    This is such an overused plot device that usually my players in DnD will probably kill said "questgiver" or make contingencies plans against that.

    It is sad that nothing can be done from the player perspective.

  4. This is the reason why I like Lirastrasza. She looks on you as a potentially dangerous irritant, but she eventually grows to accept and then like you.

  5. We have nice-good and mean-bad covered. Nice-bad is less common, but can still be found in a few of the "hello, adventurer, help me with this huge problem, except I'm actually evil!", such as Drakuru. For mean-good, not a whole lot to find. Maybe Garrosh, and the "good" part is debatable.

  6. "but... it turns out he was using the morrowgrain to poison Malfurion. And he was corrupting Teldrassil all along, even from the start.
    I guess I'm just a wee bit hazy on which part of that is 'good'. "

    Just to reply on this, those plot points were not introduced until the book that was meant to go along with Cataclysm. Whether they had them stashed away since Vanilla is debatable, of course, but until Cata he was a fairly interesting character.

    Also, I'd argue the fawning doesn't happen until BC, when you actually have done something worth mentioning. Until then everyone is on good terms with you because you're the guy willing to go out and wrestle crocodiles and demons for them for nothing more than a few silver. Good deal on their part, of course they are happy.

  7. Ya the book Stormrage, if anyone hasn’t read it is the nail in the coffin. He didn’t have nice intentions from the get go. Fandral is a great/interesting character regardless of whether he's the iconic good or bad guy. Immediately following WC 3, and his promotion to Arch Druid he began poisoning Mal keeping him in his nightmare sleep… it was intended and deliberate. Though in his eyes he believed he was doing it for the right reasons… and what is it worth having all that power and responsibility if you aren’t going to shove your good intentions on the rest of the world regardless of whether everyone agrees it’s a terrible idea. He had seen (in his point of view) Mal’s inability to handle his own brother (who damn near cursed his entire race) and his annoying love life, so he takes drastic some steps. Very evil but in the grand scheme of things understandable (not saying forgivable… but you can see where events were heading). How many times in real life and in fantasy have we seen good people go bad even though they had good intentions? The key point blizz is really sticking to is the loss of his son and it drastic effect on his mental stability. I haven’t lost a child, but I have lost best friends, squad mates and soldiers under my direct command. It sucks....bad. You spend countless nights beating yourself up, wondering how you screwed up or how you could have done things different. Now add in that they are immortal and apparently cant forgive himself because his grown warrior son went out like a badass hero nuking the enemies of his people. No one knows how they would react to that kind of pressure unless they endure it... sadly for ole Fandral.... he goes crazy and develops a fire fetish. Ahh well… one more notch on my mace.

  8. Actually, I find the whole Fandral Staghelm story treatment in Stormrage unsatisfying. Yeah, he was rude to you as a player in Vanilla but it seems Blizzard decided to make him a "bad guy" mainly on the basis of player reactions to him. There was nothing in any of vanilla WoW that suggested Fandral was more than just a conflicted character given the loss of his son in the War of the Shifting Sands. Then to find out Blizzard decided to have his granddaughter killed in Cataclysm just seemed like adding insult to injury to what is really a tragic story. I know I'll have to take him down for poisoning Malfurion and Teldrassil but I'm not going to feel very good about it.

  9. Quite right. A lot of the moral ambiguity that used to be present in WoW has been removed for simplicity's sake. Consider the entire Van Cleef situation; he was essentially a union president trying to get his workers their rightful back pay. Now Vanessa is a poisoner and a revenge-seeker, far more "evil" methods and motivations.

    Sure, the issue of our trust in our leaders might be "grey," but it's not, really. We just have bad leaders. Cairne was "good," and Grom is "bad." I'd like to see Grom's jingoistic tactics against all odds bear some fruit in the next expansion, but Blizzard wouldn't do that; it'd send a mixed message.

    Good NPCs are nice and do only nice things. Bad NPCs are mean and do only mean things.

  10. I'll miss the old guy, too. It has been disappointing to watch some of the more potentially complex characters of the 'Warcraft' series turned into caricatures lately.

    Personally, I worked out this whole idea in my head while playing WoW over the years that had Fandral building a kind of druid biological weapon. The Silithid had a tough time getting into Un'Goro at the time. So Fandral was gathering Morrograin (grown in Un'Goro soil) to create a plant/weed/whatever that would destroy Silithids.

    Once the other druids found out what he was up to Fandral would be exiled for building such a cursed plant and threatening a genocide (even on a race like the Silithid).

    Still, leaders of the Horde and Alliance would look the other way as Staghelm returned to southern Kalimdor (and recruited anybody that would aid him) in his one elf war on the creatures that killed his son.

    ...,but 'He Was Evil The Whole Time!!! Mwhahahaha!' works too.

    Oh and before anybody can think it, yes, I know my idea wouldn't have worked post-Scholazar Basin. I just hadn't thought about it much between doing those quests in WotLK and the release of 'Stormrage'.