This article attempts to speculate upon the content which will be featured in the third World of Warcraft expansion. I try herein to stick as close to likely details as possible, without embellishing too much in creating a story which has not been foreshadowed in the pre-existing war in some way or another. To generate these ideas, I took as much of the current information on the Great Seas area as I could and attempted to tie it all together with a reasonable plot. I also took care to try to keep the projected size of the expansion to a reasonable level. There are many more zones than normal - 12 in total - but most of these will be smaller than your average expansion zone. I quantify zone size in terms of the number of quests it is expected to have; for reference's sake, the average in WotLK was around 100.
I'm also not going to speculate about new races, classes, or mechanics here. I don't think the Maelstrom readily lends itself to any of these things. There will be new methods of underwater exploration/combat, but that's all I'll say for sure.
After the final defeat of The Lich King, a period of relative peace and tranquility flourished across Azeroth. Unfortunately, this stability was not fated to last. Just two years after the end of the Northrend campaign, a great uprising of the subjugated trolls of Kezan has begun to draw adventures to the South Seas. What appears at first to be a minor incident will gradually unfold into what will be called The Tempest War...
New Zones Edit
Levels 78-82, ~100 quests
Kezan will be the first destination in the Rising Tempest expansion where players will be expected to go. The center of Goblin civilization, Undermine is by far the largest friendly city in the South Seas. However, the island is currently in a state of chaos as the resident forest trolls of Voodress Village have risen against the goblins with their rediscovered loa powers, attacking the various goblin settlements and threatening Undermine itself. Where did the trolls gain these powers, and what do they seek to use them for?
Levels 80-82, ~75 quests
Long cut off from the rest of Azeroth behind the Greymane Wall, Gilneas has recently been forced open due to its losing struggle against the naga of Queen Azshara. Having occupied and driven out the trolls of Zul'Dare, the Naga now use the island as their base of operations, sending the Mur'gul against the human forces on the mainland. The now-senile Genn Greymane only altered his isolationist stance under the advice of Daval Prestor, who convinced the king to hire the services of the Venture Company in the defense of Gilneas. This has proven to be an incredibly successful move, and it's rumored that more than the Venture Company has come to the kingdom's aid, as evidenced by the odd magical residues on the bodies of the defeated Naga which are not associated with any known Goblin technology.
Levels 81-82, ~50 quests
Although the situation for the island nation of Kul'Tiras is not nearly as dire as that of Gilneas, both external and internal pressures threaten the peace. From overseas, the Bloodsail Buccaneers have targeted the city-state's navy and have even made landfall on its shores. The notion of pirates routing such a legendary navy would normally be unthinkable, but it is as if they were favored by the sea itself. Crestfall has also fallen to the naga, while the island prison of Tol Barad is said to be going through some sort of upheaval. Internally, the country's politics have become tangled due to the machinations of the Prestor family, leading to the threat of open insurrection against Tandred Proudmoore.
Levels 81-83, ~50 quests
A small jungle island, Hiji is the base of operations of the Bloodsail Buccaneers, under the command of Duke Falrevere at Bloodsail Hold. Along with their elemental allies, they are at odds with a group of Stormreaver forces. The Blackwater Raiders also maintain a presence around Hiji, in hopes of checking the influence of the pirates. A group of loa-empowered jungle trolls also lives in peace with the Bloodsail Buccaneers.
Levels 81-83, ~50 quests
A small island known for its harsh, rocky landscape, Tel'Abim is also a major base for the Venture Company, who are using their technology in order to make it into a suitable home for the Twilight Dragonflight, their true benefactors.
Scintal Reef Edit
Levels 82-84, ~50 quests
The first underwater zone which players will encounter, the beautiful Scintal Reef is the home of Makrura civilization. Centered in Mak'aru, the Makrura desperately fight against Azshara's naga. The remnants of the Darkspear Islands also lie within the Scintal Reef, and offer clues about the origins of the trolls' newfound powers.
Boiling Terrace Edit
Levels 83-85, ~50 quests
A location relatively devoid of civilizations, the Boiling Terrace is mostly a curiosity to subaqueous explorers, with its odd thermal activity and exotic fauna. At the edges of the Boiling Terrace also lay the Drowned Reaches, a haunted ships' graveyard which has recently attracted the attention of the Stormreaver Clan and its allies.
Caverns of Time: Zin-Azshari Edit
Levels 84-86, ~75 quests
The first full outdoor Caverns of Time zone, Zin-Azshari takes places back into the time of the War of the Ancients in order to relive the epic battles which took place. This time, the Infinite Dragonflight wishes to recreate history by completing the summoning of Sargeras and freeing the Old Gods. They must be stopped.
Levels 85-87, ~75 quests
The capital of troll civilization, the balance of power in Zandalar is being upset by the loa-empowered trolls under the command of Yeh'kinya, who from his base at Mount Mugamba seeks to take command of Zuldazar and resummon Hakkar the Soulflayer into Azeroth.
Gishan Caverns Edit
Levels 87-88, ~50 quests
Similar to the Burning Terrace in its remoteness and exotic fauna, the Gishan Caverns extend deep beneath the surface of Azeroth... so deep, in fact, it is said that Neptulon himself resides here within the legendary Frozen Core. The main evidence of these rumors springs from the abundance of water elementals in this region, as well as from sightings of the legendary Kraken, said to be the favored pet of Neptulon.
Broken Isles Edit
Levels 88-90, ~100 quests
The Broken Isles are at the heart of the Tempest War, with all of its major factions doing battle here in order to control its resources and ancient artifacts, which are plentiful in the ruins of Suramar and the Eternal Palace. This location is also the home of the Stormreaver Orcs and their demonic allies which serve Xavius within the Tomb of Sargeras in hopes of finding a way to revive their long-slumbering master.
The Rift Edit
Levels 89-90, ~100 quests
Located at the center of the Maelstrom, The Rift is the location of Nazjatar and the remnants of the former Well of Eternity. It is here that Azshara herself resides, under the command of an Old God but secretly planning to use the power of the artifacts she's gathering for her own ends. Suffice to say that vanquishing her will not end things - this Old God must be silenced as well and the Well of Eternity destroyed for all time. The culmination of events in the Tempest War will take place here.
Mount Kajaro: The Refinery Edit
The overly-aggressive Voodress trolls have overstepped their bounds and are threatening to cause Mount Kajaro to erupt, which would likely destroy Undermine. Players must fight both the forces of the Venture Company and the loa trolls (who are also fighting one another) in order to stop this from occurring, culminating in a 3-way boss fight between the leader of the Voodress trolls, a high-ranking Goblin Alchemist, and the players.
Mount Kajaro: Twilightwing Lair Edit
The culmination of the Venture Company story, this instance will bring back the nostalgia of Blackwing Lair. Twilight dragons and goblins will fight side-by-side, leading to the death of Mogul Razdunk and possibly a high-ranking twilight dragon.
Tol Barad: The Vault Edit
A jailbreak has occured within Tol Barad's prison thanks to an operative for the Stormreaver clan, who seeks to free some of his old companions to further his cause. The operative is eventually killed, along with some other prisoners, but some high-value individuals are released... and will be seen again.
Bloodsail Hold: Bloodsail Manor Edit
The culimination of the Hiji story. Kill lots of pirates, as well as the water elementals helping them. Ends with the defeat of a Frostlord working with Falrevere. The latter flees Bloodsail Hold on the Storm's Song.
Bloodsail Hold: Storm's Song Edit
This instance will take players through a battle between the Blackwater Raiders and the Storm's Song, the personal ship of Duke Falrevere. Water elementals and the Kraken will come to his aid, but he will eventually be defeated.
Zin-Azshari: The Fall of Xavius Edit
Recreates the story leading to Xavius' defeat at the hands of Malfurion Stormrage, a midway point through the War of the Ancients.
Mount Mugamba: Voodoo Lair Edit
The base on Zandalar of the loa trolls resides within Mount Mugamba. This will be yet another loa instance, culminating in the defeat of Yeh'kinya - but his will is carried on via his followers.
Zuldazar: The Great City Edit
Hakkar and other members of the sea loa have been revived on Azeroth and now spread chaos from within Zuldazar. They in turn have pledged loyalty to the Kraken and force the trolls to serve him. Players will now defeat these loa gods, ending with Hakkar.
The Frozen Core: Glacial Passage Edit
The home of the water elementals. Like the name says, it's the icy equivalent of the Molten Core. Full of elementals, servants of the elementals, and water creatures.
Suramar: Eternal Palace Edit
Once the seat of Azshara's power, the Eternal Palace is now controlled by the demonic forces lead by Xavius. Some unconverted Night Elves, leftover from the time before the Sundering, also remain here in peace, studying and researching arcane secrets under Xavius' care. A traitorous member of the Order of Tirisfal now commands this place.
The Tomb of Sargeras: The Cursed Halls Edit
Nazjatar: The Halls of Grace Edit
The Halls of Grace are the quarters of some of Nazjatar's most important figures. Tread with caution.
Zin-Azshari: The Great Sundering Edit
Tier 10 Raid
Recreates the final battle of the War of the Ancients against various famous demons, culminating in a battle against Azshara and her prophet from the Infinite Dragonflight.
The Froze Core: Neptulon's Lair Edit
Tier 10 One-shot raid
Houses both the Kraken and Neptulon. Enough said.
Grim Batol Edit
Tier 11 raid
Grim Batol won't receive its own outdoor zone, but it'll simply be a raid instance within the Wetlands. Naturally, it'll house many twilight dragons, black dragons, and chromatic dragons... as well as ultimately Deathwing himself. The remnants of the Venture Company are also present here, helping with Deathwing's experiments.
Nazjatar: Temple of the New Moon Edit
Tier 11 raid
After thousands of years of accumulating power, Azshara's plans to replace Elune as the goddess of creation must be put to an end. Unfortunately, having lost the initial battle, she manages to flee to the Well of Eternity to prepare for the final showdown.
The Tomb of Sargeras: Pandemonia Edit
Tier 12 raid
Greater demons reside in Pandemonia under the command of Xavius, who himself resides here in his twisted form. Xavius claims to channel the will of Sargeras himself - and this bond must be severed.
Well of Eternity Edit
Tier 12 raid
Whether Azshara or the third Old God should be the final boss of the expansion is debatable, but here is where the latter will reside after the Well of Eternity is empowered to bring him (her?) into Azeroth. They'll both be defeated for good in this raid.
Major Factions Edit
Xavian Army Edit
After being cursed by Malfurion Stormrage and cast to the bottom of the sea during the Great Sundering, the twisted tree which had grown from Xavius' body spread throughout the sea over the years throughout the Maelstrom. Only in the last few years has the tree managed to penetrate into the Tomb of Sargeras and communicate with the spirit of the evil titan. Sargeras empowered Xavius to lead the remaining demonic forces on the Broken Isles in order to find the artifacts necessary for his resurrection. These demons have managed to enlist the remnants of the Stormreaver clan in their service, as well as making a pact with the night elves remaining in Suramar. Satyrs have also journeyed to the Broken Isles in great quantities in order to pay tribute to Xavius.
(Okay, asserting Xavius as the leader of the demonic forces in the Maelstrom is a bit of a stretch, but it's either that or some random demon or possibly Drak'Thul. I think using Xavius here would fit in well with the current lore, however.)
The Twilight Dragonflight Edit
Beaten but undeterred, Deathwing seeks to gain power on Azeroth. Employing the strengths of the new Twilight Dragonflight from his secret lair underneath Grim Batol, the great dragon seeks to gather the powerful artifacts scattered across the Great Sea in order to create a new Dragon Soul for himself. The fledgling Twilights are not yet powerful enough to operate openly, so Deathwing and his agents have become involved in espionage and political trickery in nations such as Gilneas and Kul'Tiras to achieve his ends. When more muscle is necessary, Deathwing also employs the services of the Venture Company to achieve his ends without arousing suspicion. In particular he has hired them to build a suitable base of operations on the island of Tel'Abim. It's even rumored that he has some enterprising Ethereals in his employ...
Forces of Nazjatar Edit
The alliance between Azshara and the Old Gods is an old one, but also a strained one, as Azshara is not one to take orders. Suffice to say that together they have nigh-complete mastery of the seas themselves. Neptulon himself resides within the Gishan Deeps and commands his water elements at the behest of a commanding Old God. Azshara's naga control The Rift, including the old Well of Eternity, which both Neptulon and Azshara seek to empower... although for different ends. Azshara's naga also command the mur'gul and many other races which reside beneath the seas.
On land, the forces of Nazjatar have many hidden allies. The Bloodsail Buccaneers have agreed to serve Neptulon in return for glory on the seas. Azshara has also helped guide the renegade troll Yeh'kinya to employ the powers of the sea loa in order to create a civil war within Zandalar which would facilitate the naga's conquest of it.
Neutral Forces Edit
The Undermine Consortium Edit
Most goblins of the South Seas are affiliated with the Undermine Consortium in some way, shape, or form. Its influence extends far beyond the city that it's named for. Goblin bases are spread across the South Seas and will all contribute to this faction.
The Blackwater Raiders Edit
The Blackwater Raiders, lead by Baron Revilgaz, roam and protect the seas' trading routes. They are the sworn enemies of the Bloodsail Buccaneers, and are also monitoring the loa situation closely. They control many small ports and camps around the South Seas, most notably Edj on Kezan. The Blackwater Raiders will often be present where members of the less-adventurous Undermine Consortium would not be.
The Zandalari Edit
Lead by the wise King Rastakhan, the Zandalari are a peaceful group of trolls who strive to unify their scattered race. While most of the Zandalari live, of course, in Zandalar, their emissaries can be found all over Azeroth.
Mak'uru is the capital of makrura civilization located on the Scintal Reef. Under perpetual threat from the forces of Azshara, the normally-xenophobic citizens of Mak'uru reluctantly welcome whatever aid they can get in their fight. The Mak'uru seek to liberate all the intelligent races of the Great Sea and perhaps unify them into an organization similar to that of the Alliance or Horde.
Order of Tirisfal Edit
The Order of Tirisfal, an ancient group of mages meant to protect Azeroth from demonic influence, have established a secretive presence around the Broken Islands in order to monitor and contain the Xavian forces which have asserted themselves throughout the Maelstorm.
Rough Plot Progression Edit
Plot progression in this expansion will work similarly to the template laid down in WotLK. Progression through the South Seas is expected to be fairly linear (with the exception of Hiji and Tel'Abim being parallel to one another), and the plot will gradually unfold and characters will be developed along this path. A lot of these details would be pure guesswork on my part, but here's how I envisage things working in the most general sense:
Players are first sent here in order to deal with the rebellion at Voodress Village. They discover that the trolls are imbued with loa powers granted to them by a mysterious wandering troll. The Venture Company is also present here on unfriendly terms. It is discovered that the trolls have infiltrated Mount Kajaro's refinery in order to cause the mountain to erupt, which would destroy Undermine. Eventually the leader of the Voodress trolls is defeated here (as well as some Venture Company forces), and the village is resubjugated. The identity of the wandering troll goes unknown - it is said that he came from Zul'Dare, however, and players are sent there in order to find out more about him.
Depending on which faction players belong to, they will start off in a different area of Gilneas. It is discovered that the Naga have destroyed most of the settlements here and seek to conquer the nation. When players subsequently make their way to Gilneas' capital, they discover it defended by neutral Venture Company forces. Therein players meet with the senile Genn Greymane and his advisor, Jonas Prestor. Jonas enlists the players to help retake Gilneas and drive the Naga from their base at Zul'Dare. At Zul'Dare, which has scorched by suspicious magic, it is discovered from the few remaining trolls that the wanderer came from Zandalar, and that most of the native trolls of Zul'Dare fled there when the Naga came.
Eventually what the Naga seek is discovered - they possess the a key to the Greymane Tomb, which houses an ancient artifact of some sort. The key was stolen long ago by the trolls of Zul'Dare and thought to be forgotten. Eventually the Naga leader is defeated and Jonas claims the key, at which point he orders the Venture Company forces to eliminate the players. Now they must return and infiltrate the Gilneas capital and stop Jonas from acquiring the artifact. When they arrive, they find that Genn has been killed and the Venture Company have imposed martial law. Jonas is confronted too late - he has captured the artifact and taunts players before turning into a black dragon and flying off, warning that his sisters will soon come to possess another artifact in Kul'Tiras if they are not stopped.
Kul Tiras can be completed in parallel with Gilneas and its story doesn't strongly depend on completed the Gilneas one, but players are meant to go to Gilneas first.
Kul'Tiras is ruled by Tandred Proudmoore, with the two Prestor sisters serving as advisers. The secretive Order of Tirisfal also maintains a presence here. Players arrive in the city immediately and are commissioned with several tasks which can be completed in any order:
- The Bloodsail Buccaneers have laid claim to some of the waters and coasts of Kul'Tiras and must be beaten back. Eventually their leader, a Hydromancer, is defeated. These quests are assigned by Proudmoore and the officials of Kul'Tiras.
- The Naga have taken control of Crestfall, where another ancient artifact rests. These quests are assigned by the Prestor sisters, although members of the Order of Tirisfal eventually intercede and players end up turning the site of the artifact over to them, which infuriates the sisters.
- Some sort of uprising is taking place within the prison of Tol'Borad. The Order of Tirisfal has taken an acute interest in this. Garona Halforcen also assists with this process, and it is revealed that her son Med'an was kidnapped by the mage who is believed to be behind the infiltration, Relfthra. Relfthra betrayed the Order of Tirisfal along with several compatriots and abducted Med'an, and several of these compatriots were captured and imprisoned in Tol'Borad. Now Relfthra has returned and summoned demons around Tol'Borad in order to delay interference with his plans.
Once entry to Tol'Borad is attained, Garona rushes in alone. Ultimately players make their way through the prison and find that Relfthra has succeeded in freeing the Betrayers of Tirisfal. He leaves just as Garona attacks, saying that he'll be waiting in "his palace." Several members of the Betrayers are left behind to try to stop the players. They are killed.
Once these plots are complete, a rebellion against Proudmoore erupts, lead by a young nationalist general who has been influenced by the Prestor sisters. In reality, they seek to reclaim the artifact from the Order of Tirisfal.. but the players manage to quell the rebellion, killing the general and then the sisters. The Order of Tirisfal reveals that the artifacts were actually created by Elune and have great magical potential, and that it appears that many recent events have been motivated by various forces competing to control them.
The proximate cause for coming to Tel'Abim is that documents can be found in either Gilneas or Kul'Tiras indicating that the Prestor siblings have some connection with this place. Once this evidence is found, players are charged with the task of investigating the draconic presence there.
Tel'Abim's progression is pretty straightforward - here be dragons. The coastal area where progression starts is an industrial dystopia thanks to the Venture Company, but as players venture inwards in the island they Venture Company and Black Dragons are revealed to be working with one another. Eventually the leaders of the island - several Twilight Dragons - are defeated.
Players are directed to Hiji either because it is discovered that an artifact rests there from documents found at Tel'Abim, or from documents found on the Bloodsail Leader near Kul'Tiras.
The Blackwater Raiders are the main friendly force on Hiji. There are a few opposing forces that must be dealt with:
- A small group of loa trolls. Nothing amazing here, but once they're dealt with players are pointed once more towards Zandalar.
- A contingent of Stormreaver Orcs that have taken over a small island off the coast from some Mak'aru refugees. They are lead by one of the Betrayers of Tirisfal from Tol'Borad, who is controlled by a demonic familiar. Their origins from the Broken Isles are hinted at as well. Once the island is cleared, the Mak'aru tell players about the trouble in their capital in the Scintal Reef and direct players there.
- The Bloodsail Buccaneers make their home on Hiji, so the brunt of the quests here will deal with them. It is learned that they are working with the water elementals of Neptulon in order to harass various sites around the Eastern Kingdoms and South Seas. It is discovered that the alliance between the elementals and pirates is tenuous, as the former suspect that Duke Falrevere is hiding an artifact, and they've taken his wife in order to coerce his cooperation. Players eventually storm Bloodsail Hold and defeat the Frostlord there, but Duke Falrevere escapes to the Broken Isles on his ship, the Storm's Song.
The Scintal Reef houses a diverse array of aquatic life. It is the site of an ongoing struggle between the Naga and Mak'ura to control the seas. Azshara has sent her son, Nyalath, to oversee the destruction of their civilization, but he is defeated and driven back. It is revealed that the Mak'uru suspect that an artifact lies within the Boiling Terrace.
There are more Mak'ura which will help players here, as well as friendly Murlocs. It is also discovered that a group of Ethereals lead by Prince Exevus. have set up a subaqueous bubble within the Drowned Reaches in order to excavate an artifact - using their technology, they are able to hold off the Naga and water elementals. Throughout the Drowned Reaches run the bleeding roots of the tree Feldrassil, however, from which demons are emerging to combat the Ethereals.
It is discovered that the demonic summoning is being overseen by another member of the Betrayers of Tirisfal, commanded by a familiar. The Ethereals are under the employ of Jonas and Temeraire Prestor. By taking advantage of their conflict, the player manages to infiltrate the excavation site where the artifact lies, but the Betrayer manages to acquire it and have Feldrassil absorb it. The Betrayer is killed afterwards, and Temeraire also ends up dying in the conflict while Jonas flees. As the subaqueous bubble begins to destabilize, Feldrassil whispers to players that it can help them if they help "save" it. If they agree, a portal is opened to Zin-Azshari in the past.
Caverns of Time: Zin-Azshari
Zin-Azshari can be accessed normally through the Caverns of Time, but plotwise you're meant to come here after the Boiling Terrace. In this zone you relive the events of the War of the Ancients. The Infinite Dragonflight is trying to change history in order to complete the summoning of Sargeras (their members are advising Queen Azshara), and the players must help events play out as they're meant to. The CoT instance here takes players through the first defeat of Xavian, and up to the final battle at the Well of Eternity, which is saved for a raid later on. It is revealed that Azshara's ambition is motivated out of jealousy of Elune, the distant Goddess who is worshipped in her place.
Players should have been pointed to Zandalar multiple times by now, but to reinforce the point once level 75 is hit they are directed there from Undermine as all the troll races are meeting there and trouble may arise. And, of course, it will.
Initially there are reports of disturbances in the local wildlife which players are sent to investigate. Eventually it is discovered that remnants of the Gurubashi and Amani tribes have come to Zandalar to serve Yeh'Kinya. They are merely surrogates for the true enemy, however - the ice trolls of Mount Mugamba. It is there that players finally confront Yeh'Kinya, but discover that the sea loa he has gathered have already been sent to Zuldazar to revive Hakkar. Yeh'Kinya reveals that his powers were granted by Azshara, who allowed him to utilize the Kraken loa in order to attempt to defeat the players. Naturally, his attempts to do so fail.
Players are then directed to Zuldazar, which has become a scene of chaos due to the loa troll invasion. It is revealed that the bloodshed has allowed for the resummoning of Hakkar, who also has taken possession of the artifact under the protection of King Rastakhan. Before the players confront Hakkar, he passes the artifact to the Kraken, who takes it and departs. Once players dispatch of Hakkar once more, Zandalar is restored, and Rastakhan reveals that although the artifact is lost, he can sense where it was taken - the Gishan Deeps, which is where players are directed next.
Friendly Makura assist players in this zone, which is inhabited largely by water elementals and exotic sea creatures. Feldrassil's roots have also penetrated into this area, corrupting the local life and distorting reality itself. Nyalath oversees a small camp here where the Naga coordinate with the Water Elementals. A rogue Ethereal named Zasz also maintains a presence here and directs players against the Water Elementals and through the Frozen Core. Once the Frozen Core is navigated and the artifact which the Kraken had taken found, Zasz reveals himself as being in the employ of Azshara, not Deathwing, and summons Azshara into the Frozen Core, where she promptly casts a spell meant to banish within his lair. She claims the artifact for herself but allows the players to live, saying that they will be blamed for banishing Neptulon.
After level 77 is reached, players will be told in friendly cities that a major conflict has broken out in the Broken Isles over the artifacts suspected to rest there. On the southwestern isles the Black Dragonflight has established a presence, working openly with Ethereals and the Venture Company to fortify their positions. In the northwest, the forces of Azshara and the water elements have driven the Kaldorei out of parts of Suramar, forcing them to seek help from the Alliance. Uncorrupted members of the Stormreaver clan, lead by Drak'Thul, also seek Horde assistance. The forces of Xavius control most of the islands. The first location of note is the Eternal Palace, where the Betrayers of Tirisfal have settled and enslaved the local Kaldorei population. The second is Feldrassil, which has grown from the Tomb of Sargeras and has attracted Satyrs from all across Kalimdor to worship Xavius. The Stormreaver Clan resides within the Tomb, working at the behest of Ati'esh.
There are three different storylines for dealing with the three threats.