Heroic vs Epic Fantasy

Kanda is halfway through level 21 now in World of Warcraft, on the roleplaying server Kirin Tor. A few runs in the Wailing Caverns instance netted me seven completed quests, and some blue shoulders I can use when I level to 22.

Being a roleplaying server, and also me being nearly entirely unaware of the mythos behind WoW (all I know comes from what Sylvanar told me of the Night Elves in Beta), I thought I would flesh out her backstory.

Foremost was, she’s a priestess, whom does she worship? Does she sacrifice to her god? From whence comes her power?

The “bad” trolls once worshiped a dark god named Hakkar, and I guess they still do, here and there. But it seems they were worshiping this dark spirit for their own ends, and were not created by this god, and could do fine without him.

Heroes and villains gain power by doing heroic deeds, with which they can command these greater spirits and their own people. WoW is a game of heroes.

Contrast this with EverQuest, which is an epic fantasy. The landscape has been marked by many civilizations. The Deserts of Ro were once green and fertile and home to a great civilization of elves. Angering the Burning Prince, Solusek Ro, made him defy the wishes of his father and turn some of the strength of the sun on that land. Most of the elves fled to Faydwer, pushed by that and by the coming of the Barbarians.

The barbarians later spawned the normal human race, who rose to great power as the Combine empire, able to colonize and rule not only all of Norrath, but also its moon Luclin, before falling into decadence and fading away (the Katta faction of the Combine empire was turned by the vampiric Coterie, while their enemies, the Seru, delved too deeply into the magics of the alien Akheva).

In EQ1, gods rule their peoples, and civilizations ebb and flow, and power comes from devotion. In WoW, power comes from heroic deeds. If you do great things, you can do more great things because your deeds have given you the attention of Fate and Destiny.

In EQ1, my cleric, Brita, is a high priestess of the god Bristlebane. He created the halfling race as a joke, and as his servant, Brita is a trickster and a jokester as well as a healer, and she tries to be not only a good cleric, but a proper halfling, and to bring humour and light to the world. The only thing better than a good meal is a good joke!

In WoW, my priestess, Kanda, is… is what? Her tribe, the Darkspear, is confined to one small village on the southeast coast of Kalimdor. Driven out of every home by enemies near and far, they are a dying people. Her power comes from devotion to her tribe, and if she sacrifices a kill, she would sacrifice it to the Darkspear.

Kanda is a hero in a heroic realm. Brita is a high-ranking member of her race, but draws her power from her god and her companions.

Perhaps that is one reason raiding seems such an ill-fit in the Warcraft world. Up to a certain point, your character is a hero, single-handedly shaking the world to its foundations, a force to be feared on the battlefield, well able to take on nearly any challenge single-handedly. Then suddenly, you become a numbered minion in someone’s army. An army not of heroes, but of companions.

In EQ, your place never changes; the power you gain is due to help from others at every stage. It flows into raiding very naturally, but you are constantly reminded that you are nothing alone.

This is perhaps the greatest difference between EQ and WoW, and is the difference between Epic fantasy – the story of a great but largely impersonal history – and Heroic fantasy – the story of great Heroes who change the world.

Published by


Web developer for a Connecticut-based insurance company that's over 200 years old! Also a bicycler, a blogger, a kayaker, and a hunter of bridges.