World of Warcraft (WoW)

Thinking about that one time in Azeroth’s history, where the Scarlet Crusade were NOT portrayed as just-evil lunatics (or: isn’t Scarlet Commander Marjhan pretty cool?)

The Naxxramas patch on Classic WoW has an interesting scripted dialog in Light's Hope Chapel, which I recalled from my early years in the game. In the first few years of WoW, where ingame cinematics weren't really a thing, and the storyteller used other means to convey the message and tell the story. Revisiting this content, I'm impressed by how much was said in these lines, and from the slice-of-life aspects of it.

But the cooler thing about it was how complex the Scarlet Crusade were. It's easiest to just portray them as crazed bigots, and Warcraft often falls in the trap of "good vs. evil, good guy wins". I reckon that the dialog in LHC tries to show us not all is black or white here.

Here are some evidence:

  1. The Scarlets are neutral NPCs. This is probably a game mechanic matter, as they also serve as questgivers for tier 3 armor pieces. But it's the first time we have a significant interaction with members of the Scarlet Crusade in the game, which is not about killing them. Each one has a tiny bit of dialog as well. Some are nicer than others.
  2. This friendly exchange between the Scarlet Commander wearing paladin tier 2, Marjhan, and the innkeeper serving them food:

Scarlet Commander Marjhan: "Thank you, Jessica."

Jessica Chambers: "Please let me know if you need anything else!"

Scarlet Commander Marjhan: "And I might add, that dress is lovely! You must tell me where you got it from."

(The dress was later added to the game as a Noblegarden holiday item, by the way).

I think this brief conversation goes to remind us that the Scarlets weren't monsters or demons – well, apart from Saidan Dathrohan, who was literally a demon in disguise. They were regular folks, part of the Lordaeron community, who knew the local innkeeper and could have a casual conversation with her. They had lives outside of their pursuit of twisted justice.

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It also serves as a reminder that bigots IRL can come across as normal people we work or interact with. Perhaps even our older family members might hold some regressive or outright racist views. It's subtle, and it adds authenticity to the scene.

  1. If anything, the Argent Dawn's more… radical group, Brotherhood of The Light, comes off as the less-peaceful party in this exchange. Commander Eligor Dawnbringer opens with hinting at Marjhan being a coward for coming to them, despite the fact that Marjhan actually did something rather courageous. She came to this summit, even though it was not sanctioned by the Grand Crusader as per her words. She wants the two organizations to cooperate, so they could defeat Kel'thuzad's Scourge armies. They have a common goal, after all, and her arguments make sense. But the Argent Dawn rejected her once she raises the topic of the Ashbringer.

Dawnbringer then threatens to have her killed:

Commander Eligor Dawnbringer: "Now be silent and note where you are, lest I inform Lord Fordring and his knights that you are no longer here on amicable terms. I am certain he would take great pleasure in seeing to your 'atonement.'"


There's probably more to unpack in that dialog. I know that some RP servers have Scarlet Crusader guilds where RL white supremacy is socially acceptable in out-of-character chat, which I found revolting. I don't support bigotry IRL, but Marjhan is an interesting and realistic character to me . Korfax later describes her as "cunning, shrewd, and willing to do anything to win a battle. Before all these things, however, she is loyal."

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Yes, she's openly racist:

Scarlet Commander Marjhan: "The heathens will be forced to react. Orcs, bull-men…"

Commander Eligor Dawnbringer: "Tauren."

Scarlet Commander Marjhan: "Whatever. The revolting, unkempt Horde filth…"

"Unkempt" also rings of classism to me, and I can't help wondering if her background was noble or at least upper class.

She's also a pessimist, and convinced that the battle is already lost. In a conversation with the player character, she predicts her own tragic fate – perhaps hopes for a heroic death:

"As for me? I'll die in battle… "

<Marjhan shrugs.>

This actually happened in Cataclysm, when they revamped Eastern Plaguelands and added a quest in which we're sent to kill Marjhan, as well as the other tier 3 questgivers – since the raid and tier 3 sets were no longer available anymore. Turns out she did fall in battle, and turned into undead, which is probably the worst possible outcome for someone like her.

I wish we'd get to revisit more of these side characters in Shadowlands. The only Scarlet Crusader to be found in Shadowlands IIRC is huntmaster Loksey from the Scarlet Monastery, and he's paying for his sins. Whitemane got to join the four horsemen in undeath, and I wish we got to see more of her post-Scarlet POV (even the new short story which included her perspective, "We Ride Forth", did not elaborate on it too much).

I reckon that Marjhan's soul was not beyond saving. She could have seen the errors of her ways and ended up as a Kyrian even, who knows.

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WoW is more interesting to me when it blurs the boundaries between good guys and bad guys. I think she was a good example.

I keep hoping they'd bring back the Scarlet Crusade, and 10 months ago there were even these very amusing, fake-news Scarlet propaganda pamphlets, added to the game (they're still in Brill). I suspect whatever content they were supposed to hype was axed since. Perhaps it's a next patch thing, or a someday thing.

EDIT: spelling, grammar, formatting and other incompetences.


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