WoW: Types and Names

Azeroth is big. It’s not as big as space, but it’s still pretty big, and needs creatures of various sorts to populate it. There are something like thirty regions per continent, each with a couple dozen named sub-regions, and each of these sub-regions has at least three or four distinct types of native monster. And that’s not even getting into the dungeons.

But, of course, a lot of those monster types aren’t very distinct. Where an old 2D game would do a palette swap, WoW does a texture swap, and frequently a rescale as well, making the more powerful versions of a monster physically larger. (To some extent, it does this for PC races as well. Powerful NPC orc generals tower over the regular player orcs.) Sometimes the level is the only difference between two forms of a creature. Sometimes the different forms display tangibly different behavior, as when a humanoid monster race has members that cast spells. Either way, the game always tacks some sort of modifier onto the name to keep things clear. Thus, you have Quilboar Hunters and Quilboar Thornweavers, Plainstriders and Adult Plainstriders and Elder Plainstriders and Ornery Plainstriders, Swamp Crocolisks and Snapjaw Crocolisks and Frenzied Crocolisks. There doesn’t seem to be any general pattern to the choice of modifier.

There are also a great many types of equipment. A large proportion of the quests offer as a reward a special item that you can’t get any other way, or even a choice of two or three such items. These always have names that reflect the quest in some way: if you have a quest to find and kill a traitor, say, you might wind up with something like a Hammer of Treason, or Disloyal Greaves, or a Turn Coat. (Yes, they use these names as an opportunity for jokes.) Obviously there’s no pattern to these names either, but there do seem to be modifiers with consistent meaning among the items you find at random. For example, I’ve found several items named “Bard’s [something] of [something]”, like “Bard’s Gloves of the Monkey”. Apparently these are all leather items with a required character level somewhere between 11 and 15, providing a minor stat enhancement encoded by the “of” clause. It’s not surprising that Blizzard uses this sort of scheme, because the randomly-generated magic items in Diablo followed a similar pattern.

There’s a modifier “Fel” that I’ve seen a lot while playing as a warlock. I assume it’s a fantasy-world-spellingification of the English adjective “fell”, but it has a more specific meaning: it’s the WoW word for demonic energy. I suppose they didn’t want to actually use the word “demonic” lest it worry the parents, although I don’t really know why they’d bother, considering that this is a game that actually lets players summon imps and succubi. And, for that matter, “felguards” (demonic warriors available to warlocks specializing in demonology) and “felsteeds” (the coal-black demon horse with flaming hooves I mentioned once before). “Fel” is also used in the names of equipment I’m not powerful enough to use yet, as well as one region: the Felwood. It’s the one most wide-ranging made-up linguistic element I’ve noticed so far, although it’s possible that there are others.

In Mulgore, there’s a type of bird of prey called a Swoop. There are Wiry Swoops, Dread Swoops, and Defiant Swoops. I wonder if there are any swoops characterized by demonic energy? I suppose that if there is, I’d be unlikely to see it. There’s bound to be only one of them.

3 Comments so far

  1. Merus on 4 Feb 2011

    That is such an awful/esome pun I think it needs to be brought to Blizzard’s attention.

  2. paul on 4 Feb 2011

    This pun reminds me very much of a D&D choose your own adventure book I read: Piers Anthony wrote the introduction, and he hypothesized that Hit Points were stored in a Hit Shed, and to restrict access to the shed, you had to know the password, which was the reversal of the initial sounds of Hit Shed. So there you go. Your pun is Piers Anthony quality!

    I give this compliment a C-

  3. matt w on 6 Feb 2011


    I especially like how the post seems like one of your generally sober analyses until the very end.

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