I always hate it when my fiction turns to time travel for plot devices because it’s so rarely done properly. Blizzard recently revealed its new World of Warcraft expansion called Warlords of Draenor. In a tinfoil hat edition of Know Your Lore, Matthew Rossi delves into what he believes the expansion means for the manipulation of time we’ve seen in WoW. I have a bit of a different take on what the new storyline means and how time travel within WoW works.
First, let’s talk about Nozdormu. The ability (in general) to manipulate time exists in WoW, so Nozdormu was given the power to see through time and tasked with ensuring that no one messed with it. There are no legitimate alternate timeways that occur due to time travel; there are only changes that occur due to someone or something traveling back in time and messing with it. In other words, we have what should happen if no one with the power to travel back in time did anything (the ideal or true timeline), and we have what did happen because the timeline has been messed with on numerous occasions (reality). Nozdormu was supposed to make reality as close as possible to the true timeline.
When discussing time, I subscribe to the idea of a linear timeline that can’t allow for paradoxes. You can’t go back in time and do something that would prevent your own birth because then you wouldn’t have been alive to go back in time in the first place. Some people believe an event like that would spawn an alternate timeline completely independent of one another. Rubbish I say! Any successful manipulation of time must ensure that the altered events don’t prevent those changes in the first place. For example: I could likely go back in time and rearrange the order of socks in my dresser, because doing so probably didn’t have any effect on my ability or desire to travel in time.
However, I couldn’t go to the future, grab the cure for cancer, and disseminate it around the world in the past. Why? Because whoever spent the time and energy researching that cure would never have done so if it already existed. Of course, you could theoretically keep the cure for cancer a secret and only give it to certain people (so that the person who invents still thinks it hasn’t been invented), but there are countless possible ways to make time travel like this plausible with small nuances.
Let’s take a look at what Blizzard has said about the new expansion:
- After the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar, Garrosh was taken away in chains.
- Garrosh will be put on trial and escape before a verdict. He is upset and hates the Horde, Alliance, and Thrall. He goes back in time, which alters the current timeline slightly.
- Garrosh’s goal is to stop the Orcs from drinking the blood of Mannoroth so they can live up to their full potential. He wants the Orcs to be proud conquerors, unencumbered by the other races of the Horde.
- After Garrosh stops them from drinking the blood, he builds the Iron Horde using technology from the present. His mission is then to build a Dark Portal, align it to our current timeline, and bring the Iron Horde through to enact his revenge on us.
Blizzard is already saying that Garrosh’s actions only slightly alter the current timeline. To me, that means when all is said and done, everything will be wrapped up in a pretty package like the end of an episode of The Simpsons. It means that despite Garrosh preventing the Orcs from drinking the blood of Mannoroth, they will eventually do it, and the delay caused by Garrosh’s actions won’t significantly change anything. In response to a question asked at the Warlords of Draenor Developer Q&A (at 15:27), it was said that Garrosh “spins off his own timeline” but it won’t change our history.
But what does that even mean? I think that Garrosh will definitively rewrite portions of history, but none of it will matter in the long run, much like the time travel we’ve already seen in WoW. There’s evidence in WoW to suggest going back in time has nothing to do with any kind of alternate reality. In Escape from Durnholde Keep, players are given a quest called Taretha’s Diversion. In the description it says:
“It was Taretha who created the original diversion at Durnholde, allowing Thrall to escape.
Now the Infinite have captured Taretha. The diversion will not happen without our involvement. You must use the incendiary devices that I give you and burn down the internment lodges.”
That means Escape from Durnholde Keep takes place in the current timeline and not some alternate timeway because the heroes are trying to make events happen as they should’ve happened were it not for the Infinite Dragonflight’s interference. When we finish the instance, Thrall and Taretha’s memories are manipulated so no memory of the altered events remain, presumably allowing them to take the same actions they would’ve otherwise taken, keeping the timeline mostly accurate.
In the Well of Eternity instance, Nozdormu says:
“I see you’ve arrived. This is the eve of the sundering, when the collapse of the Well of Eternity fractured the continents of the world. Here, we will snatch up the Dragon Soul before it is lost to the mists of time. But first, you must bring down the protective wards of Azshara’s Highborne lackeys. You will find them within the palace. I will scout on ahead. Good luck, heroes!”
Before the Dragon Soul is lost to the mists of time? I wonder what causes it to be…
Right. We did that by stealing it in the first place and using it against Deathwing. More evidence of a linear timeline.
The quest text for Documenting the Timeways says: “While you and Nozdormu don’t intend to overwrite this timestrand, as you did in the End Time….” Well of Eternity takes place in the past, meaning all events that occur are part of the existing timeline. In Rossi’s article, he makes distinctions between the Warcraft III manual and “our” version of history, but “our” version is the version now. The timeline’s been altered. The events of the Warcraft III manual, insofar as they contradict the altered timeline, have been effectively overwritten.
In End Time Nozdormu gives the quest Murozond which states:
“If we are to destroy Deathwing, we will need the power of the Dragon Soul. To obtain the Dragon Soul, I would have to take you back to the Sundering, ten thousand years in the past… but that time passage is blocked to me.
The creature that blocks us from accessing this time passage is named Murozond. He must be slain, here, in this twisted future, before we can continue our plot to unmake Deathwing.”
Before we travel to End Time, it is the future of Azeroth, in the same way that before we go back in time in Well of Eternity, the Warcraft III manual was the past. And let’s be honest here. The events of the Warcraft III manual were written before thoughts of WoW’s possible storylines were even in their infancy. It turns out the Draenei didn’t corrupt Sargeras after all, right? If things were redone, maybe the manual would reflect the altered past in the first place. This is one of those situations where the real world implications of everything being merely a video game have to get factored in.
I can’t agree with Rossi about the alternate parallel dimensions idea. Murozond was blocking Nozdormu’s ability to travel back in time because he was alive and well. After killing him, Murozond could no longer stop Nozdormu and once we kill Deathwing, we (presumably) prevent the future we see in End Time.
So let’s circle back around to Warlords of Draenor. The problem with altering the past is that we’d already see the changes (if any) in the present. So we already know that the events of the next expansion have no effect on anything significant because (1) Blizzard has already said so and (2) we don’t see any.
That means the Orcs will still end up drinking the blood of Mannoroth. And why wouldn’t they? The Iron Horde will be defeated and the Orcs will look to some other source of power. What better temptation than fel magic?
In the end though, I’ll be taking all of the “explanations” provided in the lore with a grain of salt. The setting for the expansion is just a means to an excellent adventure and I’ll hopefully prevent any inconsistencies from interfering with the fun.