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Last update: 27 November 2010: We've updated and expanded the guide in this new version, to incorporate suggestions from the community, the new lore from the novel "Stormrage", and of course the Shattering. Sections on Worgen and the Druids of the Scythe are coming soon. This new version is still under construction; please post suggestions below.
Brought to you by Celegil, Aldrannath, and Kestrel with input from the community, including suggestions and corrections from: Serinde, Inayrra, Imoenn, Dewsinger, Jeled, Silanoliel (Earthen Ring), Aremoth, Lukamuss and Trigore (Runetotem).
Night Elves, or Kaldorei, as they call themselves, are a difficult race to roleplay convincingly. Partly due to confusion with elves in other settings (Tolkien, D&D, etc.) and partly due to a slight lack of "official" information, there has been a lot of discussion about how they should be portrayed. They can seem, by turns, kind and peaceful, or racist and belligerent. Here, we have tried to distil our best ideas, to help you have more fun in playing this strange, mysterious, yet strangely compelling race.
Needless to add, this is our view, and our understanding of the lore. This guide is intended to help - if you want to do it differently, go ahead! It's your game too.
When creating your Kaldorei character, first, remember: she (or perhaps he) is not human. Gnomes and Dwarves can seem quite human-like in many ways, but Kaldorei are really different. This strangeness makes them difficult to play - difficult, but fascinating. Welcome to another world...
Chapter One: Outlook
Chapter Two: History, Culture, Society, Names
Chapter Three: Major groups and roles in society
Chapter Four: Outcasts and Exiles
Chapter Five: Background and maturity
Chapter Six: Attitude towards allied races
Chapter Seven: Timeline
Chapter Eight: Famous Kaldorei
Chapter Nine: Avoiding common mistakes
Traditional<<<Neutral / Identity Crisis>>>Adventurous
This may not seem the most obvious place to start, but with Kaldorei it's particularly important. Their society has faced enormous upheavals in the last decade; how your character has reacted and come to terms with this brave new world is fundamental to how she behaves. We can think of her outlook on a sliding scale from Traditional (1) to Adventurous (10). Your character may not fit perfectly anywhere on this scale, but it's a good place to start.
These Night Elves stay very close to their heritage. They live in Ashenvale Forest and other parts of northern Kalimdor, in close communion with nature. Although most have grown used to the other Alliance races and tolerate their presence, they are still wary about outsiders and will keep a close eye on them. However, some of the most conservative Kaldorei might still look down on other races.
We can think of a traditional Kaldorei as a Guardian of the Forest, who has devoted their life to defending "the Balance" - i.e., the iron law and supremacy of Nature as Kaldorei understand it. Most will not hesitate to use extreme violence to defend the Balance, but will take the will of their leaders (especially Tyrande and the Sisterhood) very seriously. They will spend most of their time in the forest: Druids will spend their time communing with nature, and perhaps healing Her wounds where they can; a Warrior, Rogue or Hunter will spend more time hunting, or creeping around on the lookout for intruders, such as Orcs. Priestesses will focus more on serving their people, and their goddess Elune. Many traditional characters had grave concerns about the new World Tree Teldrassil, but now that Teldrassil has been blessed by Alexstrasza and Ysera, almost all Night Elves accept it as a respectable home.
Traditional Kaldorei will typically show open and probably violent hostility to warlocks, Death Knights and Demon Hunters (see Outcasts and Exiles below). Mages may be tolerated, as long as they do not use their powers in Kaldorei lands, but are still regarded with intense suspicion. The technology and war machines of Dwarves and Gnomes has been generally accepted, but is still regarded with disdain or distaste by more traditional Kaldorei.
The vast majority of Kaldorei probably fall near this end of the spectrum. In the aftermath of the Third War, Kaldorei are having to come to terms with whole continents and races previously unknown to their culture; in the long term this will transform their society, but the majority may not yet have fully adapted to the implications of these very recent events. However, most players' characters will be at least a little adventurous. If you choose to play a relatively traditional (i.e. typical) Night Elf, you will have to figure out why she started travelling so widely, and how you intend to deal with the mages, warlocks and Death Knights you meet on the road. Choose carefully! Roleplaying with a total sourpuss isn't much fun, no matter how "in-character" the unfriendliness may be.
Neutral / Identity Crisis
These Night Elves were raised in the traditional and highly conservative Kaldorei culture, but have seen the new world (the Eastern Kingdoms), and have begun to call some aspects of their heritage into question. They are not entirely traditional, but hesitate to break away from their native culture entirely. Unfortunately, traditional Kaldorei will look down on them as syncretists, or even traitors, while their more adventurous kin may nonetheless find them uncomfortably traditional. Typical examples are the emissaries in Stormwind and Ironforge, and Kaldorei sent to the Eastern Kingdoms by their leadership in Darnassus.
Neutral Kaldorei are participant-observers, who try to learn more about the younger races while struggling to integrate within these alien societies. They are generally friendly but clumsy in cities like Stormwind and Ironforge, which they may find fascinating, but very strange and uncomfortable. They are undergoing a culture shock that might either cause them to flee back to Ashenvale, or break away from their heritage and embrace the younger races and their technology.
Neutral Kaldorei may not be sure enough of their prejudices to show open hostility to warlocks or Death Knights, but will probably feel very uncomfortable in their presence, at least at first. Imagine meeting your sister's mass-murderer boyfriend at a family dinner, or picture a young white person from a very racist family at a black church.
These Kaldorei have broken with their traditional heritage. These are free spirits who act upon their own judgement rather than following the rules set by their old culture. They respect the other races and share their knowledge with anyone willing to show them respect in turn. These Kaldorei are travellers who happily explore the new world, gaining fresh insights into the combined history of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Typical examples are Kaldorei that work for the Argent Crusade and former Sentinels who have gone to work as mercenaries.
As the saying goes, you can take the Elf out of the night, but you can't take the Night out of the Elf. However decisively they may have broken with their kin, Kaldorei are still Kaldorei. Some have accepted Human and Dwarven technology in their way of life, and even carry guns instead of bows. Most nonetheless still worship Elune, although they may not consider the religion of The Light to be significantly different from their own.
Adventurous Kaldorei offer broader possibilities for roleplaying, but should still be clearly distinguished from humans. Some may be very kind to other races, and strive for peace and harmony within the Alliance, or even beyond. Others, for whom the break with their traditional culture left a damaged or depraved psyche, may become bandits or even Twilight cultists, thirsty for gold and power within the new world they have embraced. Some adventurous Kaldorei have been integrated into Alliance forces, such as the 7th Legion.
Before shuddering in disgust at the Night Elf maiden dancing on the postbox in her underwear, think about this for a minute. Kaldorei culture is ancient, profound and extremely conservative; making a clean break from that background would be psychologically difficult even for the most headstrong and self-confident Night Elf. Some presumably adapt well, and become well-adjusted, non-traditional Night Elves. Others may lose their way, and fall victim to insanity, mental illness, drug addiction, or who-knows-what other Kaldorei depravities. Remember this, then shudder in disgust in-character, for the right reason.
The Kaldorei (lit. "Children of the stars) believe they were created (perhaps literally, perhaps simply taught) by their deity Elune, the Moon goddess, to defend the world from evil. They are one of the oldest surviving indigenous peoples of Azeroth (the others being the Trolls, and possibly Dwarves and Gnomes). They settled in prehistoric times near the Well of Eternity, at the heart of the supercontinent of Kalimdor. The Well transformed them, granting them immortality and magical powers. Over time, they developed an extensive, sophisticated and highly stratified civilisation, which expanded until they made contact with the Troll empires and, thanks to their superior magical powers, smashed them in war.
The upper caste of this civilisation was the Quel'dorei (lit. "Children of noble birth"), a magic-using aristocracy; in these times, "Kaldorei" came to mean the lower, non-magic-using caste. They ruled the society and controlled the military; the priesthood of Elune, at this time, played a respected but definitely secondary role. The rule of the hedonistic Quel'dorei was authoritarian and conservative; obedience and tradition were among the highest social values. However, some Kaldorei left their cities and went to explore the vast wildernesses of Kalimdor; a rare few were permitted to meet the demi-god Cenarius, and learn from him.
The last and best-loved Queen of the Kaldorei, Azshara, betrayed her people by misusing the powers of the Well of Eternity, having fallen prey to the addiction that has always plagued mortal users of Arcane power. She summoned the Burning Legion to Kalimdor, initiating the War of the Ancients, and attempted to open a portal to admit their leader, Sargeras. She was stopped at the last only by the destruction of the Well of Eternity, which sundered the landmass of Kalimdor into three pieces (Kalimdor, Northrend and the Eastern Kingdoms). This defining cataclysm devastated the Kaldorei, destroyed their civilisation and changed their society forever.
The Kaldorei under Tyrande
The Kaldorei reorganised into a far more nature-oriented, matriarchal society, under the leadership of Tyrande and the Sisterhood of Elune, with the advice and guidance of Malfurion and his disciples, the Druids. They settled the northern part of Kalimdor, around the feet of Mount Hyjal, at whose summit the traitor Illidan had created the new Well of Eternity, and the Dragons had planted the World Tree, Nordrassil, which sustained the Kaldorei in their immortality. The summit of Hyjal became a shrine, guarded by the Dragonflights, and the spiritual heart of Kaldorei society.
The Quel'dorei who had survived the war and the Sundering were permitted to remain among the Kaldorei, but forbidden from ever using their arcane powers on pain of death. The Kaldorei redefined themselves, believing that their mission as a race was to protect the Balance of nature, and to serve the Dragonflights that remained whole - most of all the Red and Green, but also the Bronze and Blue Dragonflights. They reorganised their economy around the traditional crafts of the Kaldorei, and abandoned agriculture, turning to hunting for meat, and gathering other resources from the wild forest with the aid of wisps, treants and their forest allies.
Three thousand years later, Dath'Remar led the Quel'dorei in a rebellion against Malfurion's prohibition of Arcane magic, unleashing a devastating magical storm on Ashenvale. Unwilling to order mass executions of the Quel'dorei, Malfurion pronounced their banishment; the Quel'dorei set sail for the Eastern Kingdoms, and had no contact with their Kaldorei kin for seven millennia. Some of the Quel'dorei, sickened by the treachery of Dath'Remar, remained in Kalimdor, turning away from their Quel'dorei heritage and integrating themselves among the Kaldorei. Since that time, the Kaldorei have had no nobles or aristocratic titles, and the use of arcane magic has remained a capital crime.
After this disaster, the Druids decided to enter the Emerald Dream, to aid Ysera in protecting and healing the Balance, and to re-establish the bond between Kaldorei and the natural world. The vast majority of Druids went to sleep in the Barrow Dens, emerging only from time to time over the next seven millennia, to tend to the needs of their physical bodies, or to fight in wars, such as the War of the Shifting Sands and the Battle of Mount Hyjal. In recent years, the Nightmare made it almost impossible for Druids to enter or leave the Emerald Dream; Malfurion and many others were trapped there, and those outside were unable to reach or aid them. The recent downfall of the traitor Fandral, and Malfurion's destruction of the Nightmare lord Xavius, freed these Druids from their Dream-prison, and restored Malfurion to his rightful place as leader of the Cenarion Circle.
The Shen'dralar were a sect of Highborne mages, with their own distinct culture and disciplines, and their own city in the south of ancient Kalimdor: Eldre’thalas. They also have a distinct history, as they were cut off from the rest of Kaldorei civilisation by the Sundering, and walled themselves inside their devastated city, thinking themselves the last surviving Elves in the world. The destruction of the old Well of Eternity, and their isolation from the new Well on Mount Hyjal, left them without a source of arcane power; they slowly began to weaken and fade, and realised that their days were numbered.
The Shen'dralar contrived to imprison the demon Immol'thar, siphoning off its magical energies in order to survive; they somehow sustained this for thousands of years without being corrupted by the Fel. Eventually, the demon's confinement began to weaken, and the energies drawn from it were no longer enough to sustain their population; in desperation, their leader Prince Tortheldrin first forbade the bearing of children, and later even sacrificed many of his people in order to keep the demon confined. After the discovery of other Kaldorei still living in the world, a few of the Shen'dralar escaped his tyrannical rule and went in search of their long-lost kin. Following the recent downfall of the Prince, and the destruction of Immol'thar, these last exiled remnants of the Shen'dralar petitioned Tyrande for permission to rejoin Kaldorei society.
The Kaldorei are still ruled by the High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind, who leads the Sisterhood of Elune and commands the army, the Sentinels, through her surrogate daughter, General Shandris Feathermoon. The Druids of the Cenarion Circle, led by Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage, concern themselves primarily with the Balance rather than with Kaldorei society, but they play an important advisory role. Recent tensions between Tyrande and the Archdruid Fandral Staghelm came to a head when Fandral was unmasked as a traitor; now that Malfurion has escaped his imprisonment in the Nightmare and married Tyrande at last, the Kaldorei "government" is united once again.
Kaldorei religion is polytheistic. Elune, also known as Mother Moon and the White Lady, is revered as their highest patron deity. Alongside her, Kaldorei also revere the Ancients, such as Malorne, Aessina and Aviana. They also honour Cenarius, son of Malorne and Elune, who is regarded as the patron, teacher and benefactor of the Kaldorei - most especially the Druids. The Dragon Aspects are also held in highest honour. Although Druidic practices and religious observance differ in some respects from those of the Sisterhood, they are in no sense a separate religious group. It might be more helpful to think of the Sisterhood as the "mainstream", and of the Druids as mystics, but all consider themselves children of Elune, and devotees of one single religion.
Elune is probably the most powerful being to have touched the face of Azeroth, and is described as the only true deity of the world. She never manifests to her followers: when she does assist them, she does so through moonlight or other indirect means, and more often calms battles than fights them. But though Elune is a caring and peace-loving goddess, she does not condemn violence when it is the last resort to win a lasting peace. The Kaldorei believe that as the Night Warrior, the goddess collects the souls of the righteous slain in battle, and sets them into the night sky as stars. Elune also grants gifts, including weapons, to her children, when they are in need of her power.
Almost every Kaldorei settlement has a Moonwell. These small pools contain water from the Well of Eternity on Mount Hyjal, with the blessings of the Dragon Aspects and, Kaldorei believe, of Elune herself. The waters of these wells have cleansing and healing properties; they are the focal point of Kaldorei religious ceremonies, and a source of power for Druids. Their magical energies are a source of fascination for mages, who are strictly forbidden from using their powers. A few Moonwells can be found in remote and inaccessible locations favoured by Kaldorei; it is possible that their powers bless the lands around them with peace and fertility.
The Temple of the Moon in Darnassus has a larger Moonwell, with a statue of Haidene, the first Priestess of Elune, at its centre. Haidene is portrayed holding up a bowl of water to the light of the Moon; we can imagine that the earliest Kaldorei were fascinated by the way the Moonlight shone on the still waters of the Well of Eternity, and interpreted the moonlight on the water as a symbol of the presence of the Goddess in their lives.
Kaldorei society is mostly led and run by females; male Night Elves most often become Druids, traders or artisans. However, there is no suggestion that these gender roles are rigid, or that Kaldorei perceive one sex as weaker or subject to the other. Male Kaldorei can become warriors, or even priests, although they rarely serve as Sentinels and cannot advance far within the hierarchy of the Sisterhood; females can become Druids. Normally, only female Kaldorei have tattoos on their faces; this seems to be associated with a rite of passage.
Kaldorei especially value the people around them, often presenting each other with gifts to honour their mutual friendship. Children are raised communally, and learn from an early age to think of all other Kaldorei as kin, brothers and sisters. When a sister or brother leaves their village, the entire community maintains contact with the wanderer, often sending letters and gifts to support their mission. Moreover, the Kaldorei are an embattled and dwindling race; there are probably fewer than 100,000 left in the world. Their lands are under constant threat from the aggressive, expansionist and far more numerous Orcs, and their culture is challenged by the might and wealth of the humans, whose civilisation now dwarfs that of the Kaldorei. As such, many Kaldorei are fiercely loyal to their people, and acutely aware that their continued existence as a race is in question.
Kaldorei typically mate for life - which can of course be a very long time. Some choose to marry and settle down with their partners, but many couples find themselves "living apart together", perhaps not seeing one another for years or centuries at a time. Kaldorei often form deep bonds with their closest friends, whom they may well have known and lived alongside for millennia; the possibility of such relationships becoming physical, while popular among players, is something no game rated PG-13 will ever definitely resolve. Meanwhile, Kaldorei culture places great value on self-control and restraint, and frowns on self-indulgence; the popular player notion of Kaldorei as free-loving hedonists has little or no basis in lore. Pregnancy is much rarer among Kaldorei than for the short-lived races, but has become more common since the Kaldorei lost their immortality.
Kaldorei usually refer to one another by their first names. In-game characters offer a wealth of ideas for suitable Darnassian first names; you can copy one, combine elements from different names, or if you think you have an ear for Darnassian, invent your own. Kaldorei surnames are usually (but not always) "translated" into English in lore, so that we have "Shandris Feathermoon", "Raene Wolfrunner" and "Malfurion Stormrage" - but also, "Faldreas Goeth'Shael". A few military characters are known by their rank and surname only, for example "Mariner Farseeker" and "Sentinel Winterdew"; many more seem not to use any surname at all, e.g. "Loganaar", "Malvor". Surnames are descriptive, perhaps evoking a Night Elf's work, personality or background; some are clearly inherited (from the mother, we assume) but others are probably chosen or given to the individual. Kaldorei generally emphasise the village or community rather than blood relationships, so their concept of "family" is much looser than for humans.
The Sisterhood of Elune
The Sisterhood of Elune serve as religious leaders, administrators, healers, and teachers, all rolled into one organisation of Priestesses devoted to serving the Kaldorei people and the will of Elune. They are granted seemingly miraculous healing powers, and trained to think before acting, so they are considered wise by many. Their traditional garment is a robe showing a symbol of the Moon. The Sisterhood is led by women, and is of course overwhelmingly female, but male Kaldorei can also be admitted.
While Elune herself is known as a peace-loving, non-violent deity, she does not condemn violence when it is the last resort to restore peace. The Sisters use violence when they deem it necessary; some have also received training as Sentinels, and many are skilled archers, as they are expected to be able to protect themselves and the wounded in battle. Priestesses are the natural leaders among Kaldorei, and occasionally command military forces, although this role is more often left to the "professionals", the Sentinels.
The Sentinels are essentially the Night Elf army, who defend Kaldorei lands and keep the peace. If your character is a female Rogue, Warrior or Hunter, she is likely to be a Sentinel, or to have served as a Sentinel at some point. They are a low-tech army in comparison with Humans and Dwarves, but nonetheless highly effective, relying on the cover of night and the forest to kill their enemies. They normally carry a bow and a close-combat weapon - traditionally, a Moonglaive. (These cannot be equipped in-game; scimitars and spears are good alternatives.) They could be imagined as the practical and action-oriented counterparts of their more philosophical Priestess sisters. Sentinels are quick to judge, quick to act, unfriendly to outsiders, and ruthlessly hostile to those who defile the forests they guard. They are grimly determined, strong and agile, trained to survive in the forest indefinitely, and can move unseen and unheard through the forest at great speed, often leaping from tree to tree without ever touching the ground. They use highly trained animals to support them in combat; huge Nightsabers serve as both mounts and heavy weapons, and birds - especially owls - are used to scout ahead and to carry messages to their sisters.
There are three types of Sentinel:
Outrunner: these Sentinels are trained to work independently, depending on stealth and knowledge of the terrain to avoid combat. They function mainly as scouts and couriers, and typically wear leather armour. Though they may be younger and less experienced than other Sentinels, they are very far from being rookies; all Outrunners will have had many decades of intensive training, and will already have perfected their weapon skills. They often perform dangerous solo missions in enemy territory; they may be considered relatively expendable, lacking the millennia of experience that makes Huntresses so valuable, while already being in their prime in terms of sheer skill.
Sentinel: the rank and file of the Sentinels. Most Sentinels never rise above this rank, so some may be ancient veterans with vast experience. Many, perhaps all, will have served as Outrunners; in addition to their sisters' skills in stealth they have learned to conduct guerilla warfare in small teams, moving swiftly and silently, striking suddenly with terrible violence, and blending back into the trees as if guided by a single mind. They may wear leather, mail, or for pitched battles, plate armour.
Huntress: the elite of the Sentinels, fighters of outstanding skill with long combat experience. Huntresses have the ingenuity and experience to sense the ebb and flow of a battle, and call the attack and the retreat with split-second timing. As such, the most experienced Huntresses often serve as officers, but they also guard their leaders in battle, and fight as an elite strike force.
There are officers among the Sentinels; though the rank system and chain of command is not entirely clear, the following ranks can be found in-game:
Lieutenant: A junior officer, who may be a Huntress, or perhaps a Sentinel with training and experience in command. In charge of a single base of operations, with perhaps twenty or thirty Sentinels.
Commander: A senior officer, doubtless with millennia of experience and an outstanding military record. Commanders are rare; there appears to be only one for each theatre of war.
General: Shandris Feathermoon. Lore does not categorically state that Shandris is the only General among the Sentinels, but there is no mention of any other.
All Sentinels are relatively independent; their long experience and training hone their awareness of battle to the point that they may know what their leaders intend without needing to be told. Depending on the circumstances, an experienced Huntress might be the leader of a fairly large force. In any group of Sentinels, of whatever size, presumably the most experienced would take command; they doubtless have a finely-tuned sense of seniority, perhaps wearing subtle signs that allow them to instantly identify who should take command in any situation. Note that some RP groups will consider the ranks of "Commander" and "General" as unsuitable for player characters. "Lieutenant" or "Huntress" are suggested ranks for the leaders of Sentinel RP guilds.
In lore and in World of Warcraft, Sentinels are almost always portrayed as female, but it is possible for male Kaldorei to serve as Sentinels too, especially in these desperate times.
The Cenarion Circle is a druidic order formed by the Kaldorei disciples of the demigod Cenarius, child of Elune, who introduced them to the Druidic path. From after the Battle of Mount Hyjal and until very recently they were led by the Archdruid Fandral Staghelm, but he has now been unmasked as a traitor, and Malfurion Stormrage, the first Kaldorei Druid and the greatest of the students of Cenarius, has returned to his rightful place as Archdruid and leader of the Circle. It was Fandral who led the Druids of the Circle in creating the new world tree, Teldrassil, as a refuge for the Kaldorei and a futile attempt to restore their immortality. However, the Dragon Aspects refused to bless their selfish act, and Teldrassil grew corrupt and crooked. After the return of Malfurion and the downfall of Fandral, Alexstrasza and Ysera consented to bless the great tree at last, and its corruption can now be purged once and for all.
All Druids are devoted to the Balance and the service of nature. The majority spend almost all their time asleep in the Emerald Dream during times of peace, but in these desperate times of war and destruction, many (though not all) have returned to the waking world. Druids are more a part of nature than the Sentinels, who simply defend it; they heal wounded lands with their powers, helping the forests to grow and the creatures that live in them to prosper, each according to their place. Some are kind and friendly to their kin and to other races, but all are taught to set the Balance of nature above all other lives, including their own. They mostly wear garments made of furs and skins.
Traditionally, most Druids have been male Kaldorei. Until the end of the Third War, all druids in the Cenarion Circle were male, and almost all were night elves. Female Druids and Tauren Druids in particular have existed for millennia, but until the war, they were relatively rare, and had no recognised role within the Cenarion Circle.
Mages among the Kaldorei
For the history of the Shen'dralar and their return to Kaldorei society, see Chapter Two.
Tyrande's reasons for granting the petition of the exiled Shen'dralar, allowing their return to Kaldorei society and lifting Malfurion's ten-thousand-year ban on the use of Arcane magic, have not been fully explained. Doubtless, Tyrande will have taken the advice of Alexstrasza and Ysera in the matter; Malfurion's own views are not known. Any of the following considerations may have been factors in Tyrande's decision:
In any case, these Highborne Mages and their adventurous young Kaldorei students are regarded with intense distrust and suspicion by their kin. History has taught the Kaldorei to be wary of the Arcane, and to hate those who abuse its power; for all that they bow to the will of Tyrande, none will be quick to trust those who dabble in matters that have long been forbidden to all Kaldorei.
Many Kaldorei of both genders, perhaps the majority, take other roles in their society; not all females are Sentinels or Priestesses, and most males are not Druids. Female Kaldorei are frequently seen as innkeepers; males are seen as home-makers, or caring for sick children; both genders can be found as traders and craftspeople. These are less obvious choices for player characters, but if your character is a Warrior, Hunter or Rogue, he or she may live as a craftsperson rather than serving as a Sentinel, and see their weapon skills as a last resort for emergencies rather than a chosen profession. This is a particularly natural choice for male Kaldorei of these classes. Priests and Druids of either gender need not be actively involved in the Sisterhood or the Circle, and may live relatively simple lives among ordinary Kaldorei.
More adventurous characters may not fit well into any of the categories mentioned above; they may have entirely departed from Kaldorei society, and be integrated among other races, or live freebooting lifestyles of their own devising. Nonetheless, they may have fulfilled one of these roles at some time in their lives, and their parents probably belonged to one or another of these groups.
Quel'dorei and Sin'dorei
The Quel'dorei who went into exile in the Eastern Kingdoms with Dath'Remar had no contact with Kaldorei from that time until very recently. The vast majority now call themselves Sin'dorei (lit. Blood Elves) following the devastation of their civilisation by the Scourge. Blood Elves tolerate or even embrace Fel magic, and make no attempt to wean themselves of their addiction to the Arcane; as such, they are hated enemies of the Kaldorei.
A few of the exiled Quel'dorei remain friendly to humans, who call them High Elves. There are mages among them, but no warlocks, and some of them have apparently freed themselves from their arcane addiction. As such, their aid as allies is grudgingly tolerated by the Kaldorei.
Warning: It is very difficult to portray a Kaldorei Death Knight in a way that other roleplayers will find acceptable. In addition to the lore on Kaldorei summarised here, there is a great deal of lore regarding Death Knights and Ebon Hold which is essential for creating a character that really "fits in" to the World of Warcraft. As such, inexperienced roleplayers are strongly advised to study the lore very thoroughly (or choose a different class) if they wish to be taken seriously.
For most Kaldorei (even the more adventurous types), a Death Knight is a crime against the Balance, an abomination that can only be redeemed through its destruction. A Night Elf Death Knight would not be regarded as a Kaldorei by his former kin, who may indeed feel duty-bound to destroy him at the first opportunity. Any Death Knight, but most especially the Kaldorei type, would be severely unwelcome in normal Kaldorei society - far more so than even in human settlements. As such, any "Night Elf" Death Knight needs a carefully-considered backstory explaining their decision not to simply destroy themselves, and should consider avoiding traditional Kaldorei and their settlements (Darnassus, Astranaar, Auberdine, Nighthaven, etc).
The handful of Kaldorei Death Knights who do not destroy themselves upon regaining their free will might fall into one of the following broad categories:
A "good" Kaldorei Death Knight might conceivably be committed to one last mission in the service of Elune before going to his or her final rest. His definition of the mission might also stretch if he is afraid of oblivion. It's conceivable that an adventurous Night Elf Death Knight of the Ebon Blade, for example, might become obsessed with destroying the Scourge to the point of forgetting or distorting the usual Kaldorei conception of the Balance, and so continuing her struggle as a Death Knight. This, of course, already borders on the second possibility:
A group of Kaldorei utterly fixated on immortality, perhaps feeling defiled at the thought of losing it, might embrace the Scourge as an opportunity to fulfil their "racial destiny", considering themselves to be the true Kaldorei, and their erstwhile kin to be the perversions of nature. Adventurous Kaldorei who already lost their sanity or moral compass in life might revel in the new opportunities for power that their Death Knight status might offer them. Kaldorei Death Knights might also choose to serve the Scourge in secret, and work to undermine the Alliance from within.
This is something of a cliche in roleplaying, but it can be made to work. Undeath in any case would wreak havoc with a person's memories and identity; it's quite possible to imagine a Kaldorei Death Knight simply not remembering who she is or where she comes from. Such a character might pick up the traits of other races more widely represented at Ebon Hold, and behave very much like a Human Death Knight, for example - she might also be shocked and baffled by the negative reactions of her erstwhile kin. If such a character were to regain her memories or her sense of self as a Kaldorei, she would presumably be devastated by her new-found perspective on undeath, and might very well be driven to self-destruction or insanity.
"Demon Hunter" is not really a playable class, but since characteristic Demon Hunter gear is available in-game, some players choose to RP a Kaldorei warrior as a Demon Hunter. Not all RP groups will accept this as suitable for a player character.
Demon Hunters are usually Kaldorei or Blood Elves (but can also be other races) who, inspired by the example of Illidan Stormrage, have devoted their lives to fighting the Burning Legion. They use Fel powers to make themselves exceptionally deadly in hand-to-hand combat, and as such, they are of course shunned and hated by almost all Kaldorei, who consider them little better than Demons themselves.
It is possible that some Kaldorei might reluctantly accept an individual Demon Hunter as an ally. However, Kaldorei who do so would themselves be subject to suspicion and mistrust, if such an alliance became known among their kin.
Age and mortality
Night Elves were once immortal, but became mortal again 7-9 years ago when Nordrassil was destroyed in the Battle of Mount Hyjal. No Kaldorei knows for sure how long they will now live, but presumably they can expect a "normal" Kaldorei lifespan. In lore, Blizzard's current official stance is that all elves are now mortal and live for "thousands of years". It is not yet known whether the recent blessing and cleansing of Teldrassil by Alexstrasza and Ysera will restore their immortality.
Most Kaldorei are therefore very old. Unless your character is under-age, she will be at least 110 years old, and may have lived for several thousand years. Roleplaying this is particularly difficult; the older she is, the less it will work to just pick a number. Trying to imagine how she has spent her life, what she has learned, and what joys or traumas she may have suffered, is essential to the process of discovering how she may think and behave. Above all, remember that a 110-year-old Kaldorei is not equivalent to an 18-year-old human, in any way whatsoever.
Youth and maturity
Kaldorei mature physically and mentally at more or less the same rate as humans, so that a 20-year-old is capable of having relationships, bringing children into the world, and leaving home to travel. However, Kaldorei define "adult" in a radically different way from humans; to them, anyone less than a century in age is a child. Kaldorei may not be fully accepted as responsible, adult members of their society until their age can be counted in centuries, rather than years.
The first few centuries of a Kaldorei life are presumably nothing like the first 18 years of a human life. We can imagine a typical young Kaldorei learning everything that is known about their history, reading practically all classical Kaldorei literature, and learning several ancient languages, just in the course of their "basic" education. On the practical side, every normal Kaldorei may have spent days watching a single plant, and weeks watching a single animal, just to understand them better; they may know every tree in their homeland from the feel of its bark, and be able to run blindfold from one edge of the forest to another without missing a step. The youngest Priestess has probably spent decades studying the wisdom of Elune, and may well know all the classical texts from memory; a Sentinel has perhaps spent three years perfecting the fourteen defences and twelve counter-attacks to the Leaf-Brushes-Stone occluded feint; a Druid could know every large mammal and many of the birds in Ashenvale forest individually, and have spent so many years listening to the trees that he has begun to understand their language. And here's the really strange part: for Kaldorei, anyone who has not yet learned these things is still a child. Such an education may seem almost mythical to mere humans, but Kaldorei take it for granted.
As for older Night Elves: it is impossible for us to truly imagine living for thousands of years. The older your character is, the more alien she will seem to humans like ourselves. Playing a millenia-old Kaldorei is a challenge for the truly brave (or the truly foolish) among roleplayers. For these characters, studying the lore and composing a believable personal history (even if you never explain it to anyone else) are essential.
Place of origin
Regarding origins, the classic newbie mistake is to say "I'm from Darnassus." This implies being no more than ten years old! The same applies for anywhere in the Eastern Kingdoms. The obvious choice of homeland for Kaldorei is Ashenvale or Moonglade; Astranaar and Nighthaven were the largest Kaldorei settlements until the creation of Teldrassil. Darkshore (probably Auberdine), Winterspring, Sardor Isle (off the coast of Feralas) and Stonetalon Peak are also possible birthplaces for relatively young Kaldorei. There are other options, especially for older characters, such as Silithus, Feralas, the Azuremyst isles, Azshara and Felwood, but for these it's best to study the lore thoroughly before creating a character.
Night Elves generally consider themselves superior to the other races; the most traditional characters may be downright racist. However, in recent years the "lesser" races have become more generally accepted. Neutral and adventurous Kaldorei may (or may not) actually respect the allied races, having seen that in some ways they may even have a thing or two to teach the Kaldorei.
Kaldorei consider humans to be a promising race, but are understandably cautious about this very youthful, impatient and increasingly powerful civilisation. Younger and more adventurous Kaldorei may be more at ease with humans; some may even feel more comfortable among humans than in their own culture. Traditional Kaldorei, on the other hand, may not take these human infants very seriously.
Kaldorei have a love-hate relationship with Dwarves. Dwarves can at least reach an age at which Kaldorei would consider them to be properly adult, and share with Kaldorei a fascination for ancient history. On the other hand, Kaldorei are likely to despise Dwarvish drink-till-you-drop tendencies - not for the drinking itself, but because passing out and hangovers the next day are proof of childish self-indulgence, or lack of self control. Traditional Kaldorei will rarely have any contact with Dwarves, since they are unlikely to travel to the Eastern Kingdoms; Dwarves visiting Kalimdor might be treated with an aloof tolerance, provided they aren't falling down drunk. More adventurous Kaldorei may respect and appreciate Dwarfish culture and technology.
However, Hemet Nesingwary and his ilk represent a strain of Dwarvish culture utterly repugnant to the majority of Kaldorei, even the more adventurous. Dwarves (or other races) who indiscriminately slaughter and plunder wildlife, disrupting the Balance, will swiftly earn the hostility of most Kaldorei.
Gnomes are liable to set most Kaldorei's teeth on edge. Their irrepressible enthusiasm for using technology to solve every problem is something many Kaldorei have learned to tolerate, but always grudgingly; only the most adventurous Kaldorei will honestly appreciate some of their technology. Others will generally find Gnomes flighty and excitable, and while they may find the equipment Gnomes construct to be useful, in some circumstances, most will nonetheless regard it as dangerous and unnatural.
Of all the races, Night Elves have the most in common with the Draenei. The Kaldorei appreciate the peaceful and positive aspects of Draenei culture, although they may not share the Draenei tendency to think the best of others. Both races were decimated by reckless use of magic calling demons onto them: the main difference is that the Draenei continue to embrace magic, and have the active protection of the Naaru in their exile, while the Kaldorei fought off the demons and renounced magic, and do not have direct personal contact with the powers that rescued them. Adventurous Night Elves are likely to find the common ground appealing. Traditionalists may respect the Draenei for the same reason, but may also disdain their failure to save themselves or their continuing use of magic, revile the Draenei for their physical similarity to the now-demonic Eredar, or simply mistrust them on principle because they are not Kaldorei.
Especially useful for older characters, this timeline can help straighten out what major events occurred at different stages in your character's life. Blizzard has revised the timeline of recent events repeatedly, so all events after WarCraft 3 are inconclusively timed. For some of the variations, check WoWwiki:
Blizzard's official 2004 timeline (at WoW launch):
Blizzard's official 2007 timeline (at TBC launch):
Over 15,000 years ago -- Origins. A humanoid species settled near the Well of Eternity and were transformed into Kaldorei. They expanded swiftly from a few scattered settlements along the shores of the lake, to a vast and highly-stratified civilisation.
Over 10,000 years ago -- Fall of the Troll Empires. The expanding civilisation of the Kaldorei encountered the Amani, Gurubashi and Drakkari Empires, finally smashing the already-declining Troll hegemony in Kalimdor.
10,000 years ago -- The War of the Ancients. Under the command of Queen Azshara and her consort Xavius, the Highborne of Zin-Azshari used the Well's magic with reckless abandon, drawing the attention of Sargeras and his demons. War erupted between the Quel'dorei, who in their arrogance believed the demons' promises of power, and the non-magic using Kaldorei.
10,000 years ago -- Deathwing. Neltharion the Earthwarder, the Black Dragon Aspect, was driven insane by the Old Gods; he renamed himself Deathwing, and tried to turn the world into a lava wasteland. He was eventually defeated by the other three Dragonflights and their Kaldorei allies -- but not before the Blue Flight were almost annihilated. Both Deathwing and Malygos (the Blue Dragon Aspect) vanished, to sleep off defeat or grief respectively.
10,000 years ago -- The Sundering. In a last, desperate attempt to prevent Sargeras from entering Kalimdor, Malfurion and his allies destroyed the Well of Eternity. This sundered the single landmass into three continents, leaving the Maelstrom where the Well of Eternity had once been. Azshara and her court were cast to the bottom of the sea, but did not die; instead they became Naga, and would remain hidden for thousands of years to come. This effectively ended the War of the Ancients.
10,000 years ago -- The New Well of Eternity. Malfurion's brother Illidan stole some of the waters of the Well of Eternity before it was destroyed, and fled to Mount Hyjal, in the north of the continent now known as Kalimdor. There, he poured some of the precious waters into a mountain lake, which was transformed into a new Well of Eternity. Malfurion could not undo his brother's treachery, but sentenced him to imprisonment until the end of time.
9000 years ago -- The Creation of Nordrassil. The remaining three Dragonflights planted the world tree over the Well of Eternity, to contain and transfigure its powers. The Kaldorei agreed to aid the Dragonflights in guarding the tree, and in return, the dragons' blessing on Nordrassil granted them agelessness, immortality, and immunity to disease.
7300 years ago -- Exile of the Highborne. The Highborne were banished from Kalimdor after refusing to give up their dangerous magics. Addicted as they were to the magical energies of the Well of Eternity on Mount Hyjal, they stole a vial of water from it and used it to create the Sunwell in their new kingdom Quel'thalas.
7000 years ago -- The Long Vigil. The druids, led by Malfurion Stormrage, went into hibernation to renew their link with Nature and help the Green Dragon Aspect, Ysera, protect the Emerald Dream. Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind, leader of the Sisterhood of Elune, reformed the remaining Kaldorei armies into the Sentinels, with the mission of protecting Night Elf lands and the Barrow Dens where the druids sleep.
1000 years ago -- War of the Shifting Sands. C'Thun and the Qiraji hordes attempted to take over Kalimdor, but were held back by Kaldorei armies under the command of the brilliant Druid Fandral Staghelm. The Qiraji captured and murdered Staghelm's son, and almost succeeded in breaking the Night Elves' resistance. However, as the Caverns of Time fell under threat, the Bronze Dragons called the Red and Green Dragonflights to join them in battle, and the Qiraji were driven back behind the Scarab Wall.
~8 - 10 years ago (WarCraft III) -- Rise of the Orcs. Orcs of the Warsong clan began harvesting lumber in Ashenvale, near the Druids' resting places. Hostilities escalated, leading to the death of the demigod Cenarius at the hands of orcs, which few Night Elves are ever likely to forgive.
~7-9 years ago (WarCraft III) -- Return of the Druids; Battle of Mount Hyjal. The Burning Legion attacked Night Elf lands, forcing them to reveal themselves to the younger races and join the Alliance. The Druids were called out of the Emerald Dream to fight in the final battle on Mount Hyjal, where the Night Elves sacrificed Nordrassil and their immortality to defeat the Burning Legion General Archimonde.
~7 years ago (Before World of Warcraft) -- Creation of Teldrassil. Shortly after the battle of Mount Hyjal, Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage went missing. In his absence Fandral Staghelm took over as Archdruid, and led the creation of a new World Tree, Teldrassil, where the city of Darnassus was soon built. Without the Dragons' blessing, however, Teldrassil grew crooked and corrupt, and did not restore immortality to the Night Elves, as Staghelm and his comrades had hoped.
~4-6 years ago (The Burning Crusade) -- Opening of the Dark Portal. The Dark portal was reopened, and old scores could at last be settled. The mightiest of the Kaldorei went to war in Outland with the Burning Legion and its lackeys, Kael'thas Sunstrider and Illidan the Betrayer.
~1-3 years ago (Wrath of the Lich King) -- Invasion of Northrend, War with the Blue Dragonflight. An invasion by Scourge forced the Alliance to take the war against the Lich King to his stronghold in Northrend. Meanwhile, the Blue Dragon Aspect Malygos, lord of all magic, woke from his long sleep in an insane rage, swearing to destroy all those who use magic. The other Dragonflights joined forces against him, in the first war among Dragons for ten thousand years; many Kaldorei felt honour-bound to help, as they had against Deathwing.
~6 months- 1 year ago (Stormrage novel) -- Downfall of Fandral Staghelm, Defeat of the Nightmare. Malfurion Stormrage escaped from his imprisonment in the Emerald Dream at the hands of the Nightmare Lord Xavius, and uncovered the treachery of Fandral Staghelm. Staghelm was removed from his position as Archdruid, the Nightmare was all but overthrown, and Ysera was able to wake at last from her long sleep. Ysera and Alexstrasza consented to bless Teldrassil, so that its corruption could be purged at last.
A number of Kaldorei have played formative roles in the history of Kalimdor and Azeroth. Here we list the most significant characters in lore. Note: many RP groups will not accept player characters who have any kind of relationship with these individuals; they may have met and spoken at some point, but should not be taken as blood relatives, friends or mentors.
Good Night Elves
Tyrande Whisperwind - The most revered of all living Kaldorei, wife to Malfurion Stormrage and surrogate mother to Shandris Feathermoon. She is the High Priestess of the Moon; chosen by the Goddess herself, she ‘hears the voice of Elune’ as she puts it. She is also formally the creator and leader of the Sentinel Army, though she leaves most of these duties in the hands of Shandris.
Malfurion Stormrage - Arch-Druid of the Cenarion Circle and husband to Tyrande Whisperwind. He witnessed the Sundering first-hand along with Tyrande, and was the founder of the Cenarion Circle along with the demi-god Cenarius, who chose him to be the first Druid of the Kaldorei. He slept for seven thousand years, from the start of the Long Vigil until the Third War. After the Third War he was lost in the Nightmare, but has recently returned to reclaim his place as Archdruid from the traitor Fandral Staghelm.
Shandris Feathermoon - General of the Sentinel Army. Shandris is a fiercely determined warrior and archer, who was taken into the care of Tyrande after her village was destroyed. She is one of Tyrande's most loyal followers.
Jarod Shadowsong - Leader of the Kaldorei resistance during the War of the Ancients, brother to Maiev. His skills in command were said to be so impressive that even the demi-gods placed themselves under his command. He and Shandris allegedly had a relationship, but later, Jarod went missing for thousands of years.
Maiev Shadowsong - Formerly the jailor of Illidan Stormrage, leader of the Wardens who kept him imprisoned and sister to Jarod. Maiev became embittered after most of her Wardens were slaughtered by Tyrande, who freed Illidan to help fight Archimonde. After the Third war, when Illidan roamed free and wreaked havoc, Maiev pursued him across the whole of Azeroth and even into Outland. There, her Wardens were overwhelmed by the demons of Illidan and she was presumed dead for many years. Recently, she assisted a group of heroes in defeating Illidan, but then vanished once more. Her whereabouts and fate are not known.
Queen Aszhara - the last Queen of the Kaldorei before the War of the Ancients. Deeply loved by her people, none foresaw the hubris that led to her betrayal and downfall. She conspired with the demon Sargeras, believing him alone to be a worthy partner for her. Her attempts to turn the Well of Eternity into a portal powerful enough to bring Sargeras himself to Kalimdor failed, and the Well exploded, sundering the continent and casting Azshara and her Quel'dorei followers to the bottom of the ocean. There, they became the Naga, and Azshara still rules as their Queen.
Xavius was an advisor to Queen Azshara before the Sundering; he encouraged her catastrophic flirtation with the Burning Legion, and during the War of the Ancients, he gave himself to them, becoming the first Satyr. At the end of the war, Malfurion transformed him into a tree and imprisoned him beneath the ocean, but once there he aligned himself with dark subterranean powers, and became one with the Nightmare. As the new Nightmare Lord (though in truth only a servant of his unnamed master) he overcame and corrupted several Green Dragons, imprisoned Malfurion and many other Druids in the Nightmare, and brought the Emerald Dream (and with it, the world) to the brink of chaos. He was recently defeated by Malfurion and Tyrande, and destroyed; with him gone, the Nightmare, although still dangerous, no longer dominates the Emerald Dream.
Illidan Stormrage - The Betrayer, who first used Fel powers to fight the Burning Legion, but later allied himself with the demon lords. He was embittered by Cenarius' choice of his brother Malfurion as his student, and Tyrande's choice of Malfurion as her mate. He poured the waters of the Well of Eternity into the lake atop Mount Hyjal, creating a new Well of Eternity; for this his brother imprisoned him for all eternity. After ten thousand years, he was released by Tyrande in the Third War, but quickly went rogue after helping to defeat Archimonde. He was finally slain in Outland by Maiev Shadowsong and her allies.
Fandral Staghelm - The brilliant General of the Kaldorei armies in the War of the Shifting Sands, Fandral was named Arch-Druid during Malfurion’s seven-year imprisonment in the Nightmare. An arrogant, selfish Kaldorei supremacist, he was later found to be secretly poisoning Malfurion, in league with the Nightmare Lord Xavius. He is now being held as a prisoner on Mount Hyjal by the new Watchers.
Lady Vashj - A former ruler of the city Vashj’ir, Vashj was the right-hand of Queen Aszhara during the War of the Ancients and continued to be so after the Sundering and their transformation into Naga. She aided Kael’Thas in leading an expedition into Outland, but her plans there were eventually thwarted, and she was slain.
Lady Naz’jar - Another Sea witch, leader of the Naga forces of Vashj'ir.