Published on December 6th, 2016 | by Luke Turpeinen3
Playing Warcraft In D&D
Dungeons & Dragons with a World of Warcraft twist
The recent release of the Warcraft movie and the launch of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Legion, has inspired us to think on how we would run a D&D game set in the Warcraft universe. There are many different paths you could take in prepping to run D&D in the world of Warcraft, and I hope to provide a good baseline on how you could do this with several editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
WoW Lore 101
First, a baseline on the Warcraft world. The world’s name is Azeroth, and it used to be a Pangaea-like, one-continent world until the hubris of the world’s mages split the continent asunder. Now there are two main continents, with several other small continents/large islands.
The history of Azeroth spans hundreds of thousands of years, with successive species’ empires built upon the bones of their predecessors. There are many different sentient species, and at any given time more are asserting themselves and joining the wider world.
The wider world largely consists of two main political blocs: the Horde and the Alliance. The Horde is founded around a core of Orc military leadership, Troll advisers, as well as Tauren, Goblin, Forsaken and Blood Elf allies. The Alliance is centered around the long-standing partnership between the Human Alliance and the Dwarven, Gnome and Night Elf kingdoms, as well as more recently the Draenei.
Less populous or more recently sapient species are usually absorbed into the hierarchy of the client empire that claims to own their territory. Arguably this could be said to be the case of the Gnomes and Goblins, as well as the Darkspear trolls or Draenei, but also extends to furbolgs within Night Elf territory and such.
The Horde and the Alliance are either at war with each other over some perceived slight or banding together to save Azeroth from some world-ending catastrophe or another. Even at peace there is opportunity for Cold War style sabotage or espionage on/between both sides, and even while at war there are those who do not let their nationality dictate who their friends are. There is a lot of opportunity for stories of each type in the world of Azeroth.
Further Warcraft Reference
For general reference to the lore of the world, I recommend the WoW wiki on Wikia. There is a section for just the lore, and it’s a very helpful guide that includes information from the games as well as novels, comics and more. This is the single most comprehensive source you’ll find on the subject, hands down.
If instead you would like to listen to someone narrate the main points of Warcraft lore to you, with video capture of what it looks like within World of Warcraft you should watch Nobbel87’s WoW Lore YouTube channel. His accent may take a little to get used to, depending on your ear for that sort of thing, but Nobbel is fun to listen to and incredibly accurate in his depiction of the lore of Azeroth.
One of the references I like to keep handy at the table while running games are the Warcraft artbooks. There is one for the base game and each of the expansions, as well as another for the card game (a lot of whose art was used for the game Hearthstone). Being able to pull open a book and say, “you are here” or “this is who you are talking to” is incredibly useful.
Third Edition D&D / Pathfinder
If you happen to be running D&D 3.X or something built off of the same system, it’s worth it to take a look at the old Warcraft RPG books published by Sword & Sorcery (an imprint of White Wolf). They started with “the Warcraft RPG” which was based off of Warcraft 3 and it’s possible aftermath. Soon the MMO came out and with it came a new vision of the world, and thus a new RPG based on the latest game was made called “the World of Warcraft RPG“.
These produced a number of supplements, which you may or may not find useful depending on your base system of choice. I like using the monster manuals as a visual aide, much like the art books above. The other supplements have species/culture based paragon paths, which I thought was interesting, but most of the useful content in these books have been incorporated into the wiki, above.
D&D Fourth Edition
There has never really been a concerted effort to convert Warcraft into D&D 4th Edition. As with most other conversions to D&D 4e, this is usually because the “fill out the idea matrix” nature of 4e design encouraged a wide range of class design. Couple this with a general player philosophy among its fan base that encouraged “re-skinning” existing mechanics to new flavors and you get players that tend not to create conversion documents often.
Here is a quick guide to which D&D 4e classes I think fit best for each World of Warcraft player class:
Death knight- The Blackguard, as featured in the 4th Edition Essentials book “Heroes of Shadow”. This is a paladin variant that uses necrotic or evil energies to power their thirst for vengence.
Druid- The default 4th Edition druid is a perfectly good fit for a cat or a spellcaster druid. Though if you were looking for a bear druid I’d instead take a look at the Warden class. They are shapeshifting tanks, though you will have to reskin some of their base abilities. For a restoration druid, consider the Shaman class, which is a summoner and healer.
Hunter- The 4th Edition Ranger is a perfect fit here. There are even trap-based and spell-based Paragon Paths to choose from to make you more like a specific Warcraft build. You can choose either ranged or melee builds, or a mix. There is also the lesser-known Seeker class which is a more spell-based archer.
Mage- Wizards and Sorcerers work equally well for Mages as far as spell effects go, though their main casting stats imply that Mages are more like Wizards typically.
Monk- While there is a 4th edition monk class, and it is extremely fun to play, I would also consider using the Avenger class to represent certain kinds of monks.
Paladin- Both Warcraft and D&D 4e paladins are plate-wearing defenders that use holy magic to smite the unholy. Holy paladins might consider being the D&D cleric class instead, but otherwise being a Paladin is everything you’d want it to be.
Priest- The default D&D healer is the Cleric, who wears chainmail and weilds maces and is a melee fighter as well as a healer. That’s not really what Warcraft Priests are like. Fortunately there is a divine based, cloth wearing, control class called the Invoker that can fill a lot of the same roles, doubly so if you multi-class or hybrid into cleric to grab their healing.
Rogue- Dungeons & Dragons has a rogue class that is great at being a Warcraft rogue, but they also have a class called the assassin which should also be of interest. The rogue is a magic-less backstabber, while the assassin has been trained to use shadow magic in order to bring targets down quickly. It’s all down to which flavor you prefer.
Shaman- If you want to play something that feels like a WoW shaman, do not play as the D&D 4e shaman class. Instead, play as a cleric and re-theme your powers and abilities as needed. Clerics are healers that do radiant, fire and lightning damage while wearing chainmail and doing melee damage with maces and axes. It’s a perfect fit once you change the cultural trappings. For those Elemental types, you can also check out the D&D elemental sorcerer.
Warlock- There are three summoning classes in D&D 4e: druids, shaman and artificers. The druid and shaman don’t fit mechanically for a warlock, but the artificer might. It would be one focused on summoning for utility and spawning healthstone wells and such. The D&D warlock itself fits a Warcraft destruction warlock, and features teleportation heavily. As for flavor, D&D warlocks hit the right spot.
Warrior- Each of the three warrior specs is easily made in D&D. Protection warriors are fighters, plain and simple martial defenders. Fury warriors are easily represented by barbarians, which overlap in many ways (eg: temporary hit points, focus on charging, area of effects attacks). Arms warriors can be reflected as Warlords, battlefield leaders that inspire morale and help make everyone’s efforts better.
D&D 5th Edition
Originally I was planning on doing a conversion of the world to D&D 5th edition all by myself. Then a friend of mine pointed me to this amazing resource created by members of The Piazza D&D forums (I know nothing of their forums except that they have made this document). You can take a look at the 148 page D&D 5e conversion document here (on Google Docs).
It’s surprisingly in-depth and covers everything from races, to all-knew classes built from the ground up to be WoW classes, to rules for professions (both gathering and crafting), and new spells and feats too! Definitely a must-read, no matter which edition you intend to run or Warcraft game in.