Dragon Isles Expansion Concept
It’s time for another of my fan expansion concepts. You may have noticed there’s been a lot of foreshadowing about Wrathion and the dragonflights in Battle for Azeroth. The most tantalizing piece is an island expedition quest (Unscarred Black Scale) that reveals Wrathion is searching for the Dragon Isles. For those unaware, the Dragon Isles were a scrapped zone north of Tirisfal Glades planned for vanilla WoW. They gained a level of infamy for their cool name and this really neat concept art. It may have been re-purposed into BfA’s own Shrine of the Storm:
Outside of the concept art and some other behind the scenes information (such as The World of Warcraft Diary by John Staats), the Dragon Isles have never been mentioned in lore and were assumed non-canon. BfA changed that. From the Unscarred Black Scale quest text, this official version of the Dragon Isles is actually related to the dragonflights. Whereas the old version was just a bunch of Old God temples based on sea creatures. Obviously the concept has changed and so for this expansion I started from scratch. Yes the nautilus temple is iconic, but at this point it really would just come off as Shrine of the Storms 2.0 and that wouldn’t work in the expansion immediately following it. Maybe it could show up in a patch.
I don’t have a name for the expansion this time. I wanted to call it World of Warcraft: Dragonsworn but that sounded too close to the Dragonborn expansion for Skyrim in my opinion. I’ve tried to follow the history of expansions sounding pretty out there story wise when first announced (no one tends to predict major side stories or in some cases even main stories for real expansions) so some of the story will be pretty out of left field. Mostly the return of a certain character. Read it after the jump.
Have you heard of the Dragon Isles? Few have, and fewer have been there.
We have not found others of the master’s kin… forthcoming in information.
Far from the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is an ancient land untouched by outsiders. It never knew the corruption of the Old Gods, the horrors of the undead, even the Burning Legion failed to locate it. A paradise where the five dragonflights ruled in peace. Until the Cataclysm. The sacrifice of the Aspect’s powers also removed the protection that kept the Dragon Isles safe from harm. While their remote location kept mortal races out, other forces seized their opportunity. Today the Dragon Isles are beset by threats that if not stopped will spill out into all of Azeroth. The Void has come with a new breed of “midnight” dragons. Spectral riders from the Shadowlands spare no living thing in their endless Wild Hunt. The present day birth of the infinite dragonflight has begun. Alexstrasza has called upon the dragonsworn, former mortals who were given the gift of wyrmskin, to lend their aid. It will not be enough.
Wrathion has found the Dragon Isles, and given this knowledge to the Alliance and Horde. Their armies set sail, but not all who come to the Dragon Isles wish to save them.
-New Continent: Dragon Isles
-New Race and Class: Dragonsworn (Imagine if only pandaren could be monks, and they couldn’t pick any other class)
-Level squish: All max level characters are brought down to 50. Level to 60 in the Dragon Isles
-Leveling spell distribution and talent tree revamp
-Path of the Aspects: A mixture of the scrapped Path of the Titans feature and artifact power (basically your artifact weapon talent tree without the weapon and more dragon themed abilities)
-Strongholds: Work together with others to construct bases around the Isles
-Lairs: Rogue-like mini dungeons that are never the same (I admit, this one is borrowed from several “fake leaks” I’ve seen but it sounds like a natural evolution of scenarios and island expeditions)
Occasionally, mortals who served the cause of a dragonflight would gain their notice. In return for their dedication they would be re-forged into dragonsworn: draconic beings wielding the power of the Aspects. Similar in appearance to drakonids and other dragonspawn (which are claimed by some to be their descendants), being a dragonsworn is a much a race as it is a class. When the Aspects gave up their powers, they lost the ability to create new dragonsworn, and their existing numbers are decimated from combating the many threats that have arisen in the Dragon Isles as of late. Wrathion has discovered another way. A new generation of dragonsworn arise to defend the world and uphold the charge of the dragonflights.
Dragonsworn wear mail armor, often made from their own shed scales. While dragonsworn once chose a single dragonflight to dedicate themselves to, Wrathion’s new recruits combine the five flights into three disciplines:
Earthwarder (Tank): Impenetrable bulwarks with scales hard as obsidian and the power of the earth beneath them. The black dragonflight’s complicated history also lends earthwarders shadow and void based abilities.
Timewalker (Ranged DPS): Drawing upon temporal and arcane magic, timewalkers slow their foes, speed up their own actions, and rewind unfortunate outcomes. Be wary of picking a fight with a timewalker, they already know how it ends.
Lifebinder (Healer): Cauterizing wounds with purifying dragonflame. Clearing a pain-wracked mind with good dreams. Lifebinders radiate growth and rejuvenation. Those under their protection are nearly invincible.
Notes: Dragonsworn are very, very loosely based on a class from the non-canon World of Warcraft RPG. Blizzard likes to re-work things from the RPG back into WoW when the opportunity presents (the most recent examples being Tandred Proudmoore and the Javelin of Suramar). So I imagine even if not in this form, we’ll see dragonsworn show up in some capacity in official lore one day. My original concept for them was much closer to RPG version, where they are just a regular class races can pick that gives you some dragon abilities. An example given in the RPG was black dragonsworn learning to use shadow flame magic. I thought about letting them turn into a drakonid as a transformation akin to demon hunter’s metamorphosis and realized, why not just have them be drakonids the whole time?
Blizzard has floated the idea of a dragon based player race more than once. In 2009, Tom Chilton said, when asked what races Blizzard considered adding in future expansions, “We always looked at (drakonids) and said, oh that would be a pretty cool player race – it would be cool to play as one of those guys.” Then at BlizzCon 2010 “dragonmen” were mentioned as having been considered for one of the new races in Cataclysm. Maloriak in Blackwing Descent was based on their concept art.
Speaking of demon hunters, I loved the amount of unique customization options they received. Illidari night and blood elves are practically an allied race. By tying the drakonid race to the dragonsworn class as one, that customization could be even deeper. Since they’d both be called dragonsworn and have a potentially different origin than drakonids, which also meant they could look different. Specifically my dragonsworn have wings so they can a flying version of worgen’s running wild. They teased the idea with demon hunters and this would be a chance to go all the way. By not needing other classes, dragonsworn the race would always have abilities tied to their heritage beyond simple racial abilities. The issue of there not being any way for a worgen player to just fight with their claws and fangs doesn’t apply here.
Rubyfield: While its rolling green hills and red trees are beautiful, it is the bare rock for which Rubyfield is named. Entire mountains and cliffs of solid ruby dominate the horizon. A perfect place for the red dragonflight to call their domain. The Alliance and Horde have arrived to find it beset by enemies on all sides. From the east, the Wild Hunt slaughters everything in their most dangerous game. From the west, the Ruby Sanctum (turns out the sanctums were isolated portions of the Dragon Isles the whole time) is under siege by the Dragonslayers: a group of mortals dedicated to the eradication all of all dragons. The human stronghold of Highfort and Orcish stronghold of Gorrash’ar all that stands between the imperiled inhabitants of Rubyfield and annihilation.
Notes: Rubyfield came from how much I love the design of areas like the Ruby Sanctum or Vermilion Redoubt coupled with how striking a visual I think red mountains, rocks, cliff-faces, etc. would be. Especially when contrasted against the colors of grass seen the aforementioned locations.
Azurethil: An abundance of ley lines saturate Azurethil with so much magical energy that even the plants have turned blue. That abundance of mana has drawn the Ethereum and midnight dragons. Together they’ve breached reality and the Void is spilling into the forest. Under the command of Stellagosa, the blue dragonflight struggle to hold the void back. A previous attempt resulted in catastrophe. Several ley lines were destroyed and shattered the western edge of the region. Arcanist Valtrois and the nightborne stronghold of Nightwatch, and Magister Umbric and void elves of Ren’dormir lend their expertise on arcane and void magic.
Notes: Azurewing Repose has blue grass and trees in the area immediately around Senegos’ pool. I feel that aesthetic is unique enough to base a larger zone around. Aside from being blue, Azurethil is a deciduous forest. I felt it more interesting than the obvious snowy or Netherstorm meets Azure Dragonshrine ideas I’d initially considered.
Horns of Neltharion: Towering over the landscape are twin volcanoes, a sea of lava held between them. To the surprise of many, the black dragonflight still dwells here. Though suspicions of their survival had been raised already. These black dragons claim to be free of the Old Gods’ corruption, but no one fully trusts them. Especially not the Dragonslayers, who have established their headquarters in a caldera halfway up the mountain. Vexiona, the first void dragon, broods an endless army of midnight dragons at the twin peaks. That hasn’t helped the black flight’s reputation either. The mag’har of Blackrock Basecamp and the dark iron dwarves at Angor Ascent plan to scale the mountains and deal with both threats.
Notes: We haven’t really had an ash and volcano style zone in a while. I’m curious to see what something like the Searing Gorge or Burning Steppes would like with the art teams’ current graphical capabilities. It would also be a very vertical zone where looking to the horizon would always give you the sense of how far up or far down you are on the horns.
The Emerald Dying: Volcanic soil from the Horns of Neltharion fertilized the lushest forest Azeroth has ever known: The Emerald Paradise. Then Ysera died. As soon as she fell in Val’sharah, the Emerald Paradise began to wither away. Now it is the Emerald Dying, for every day more of the forest crumbles to dust. Pachari and bunyips struggle for survival as the land dies around them, while local centaur clans hoard all the resources they can. At the strongholds Sylvangrove and the Last Oasis, night elves and tauren work tirelessly to save what portions of the forest remain. All of this death has drawn a new enemy from the Shadowlands: the Wild Hunt. This was their point of origin on the Dragon Isles. The hunt will not end until all the Dying is lifeless and Eye of Ysera, home of the green flight, has fallen.
Notes: We’ve had so many druidic forest type zones (Teldrassil, Ashenvale, Feralas, Moonglade, Felwood, Val’sharah) that I knew the green dragonflight’s zone would need a different take. Corrupted druidic forests are also a tried and true tactic (Felwood and Val’sharah again). So I thought, what about a forest that’s not corrupted, but already dead? Something like Desolace or End Time.
Chronarch Wastes: The sun scorches the sands without pause. Rising above the dunes is the Chronal Spire, a massive sundial whose shadow never moves. It is perpetually midday. Time is frozen in the Chronarch Wastes, but the effects on the temperature are the least of it. Between the dunes are chunks of land scattered from across time. Anduin Lothar and Orgrim Doomhammer endlessly repeat their battle in the Second War. Kang, fist of the First Dawn, leads the pandaren in a rebellion against the mogu that never ends. King Dazar founds the Zandalari Empire over and over. The infinite dragonflight meddle with it all. Annurmi, bronze overseer of the wastes, has called out for aid as more of her kin “become infinite.” At Gnomon’s Shadow, an architect by the name of Gnomon has decided the best place for a desert stronghold is in the endless shade. Boss Mida preferred an area closer to an… explosive moment from the past to establish the goblin stronghold of Blastezan.
Notes: This would be a fun zone. Instead of mostly being desert, you’d get dunes just high enough to separate a bunch of subzones each themed after a different moment in time. There would be famous ones like the examples above as the big setpieces for the main quest, but also plenty of smaller “flavor” areas. Maybe even some areas from potential futures.
Uldaz: Just as the Dragon Isles never fell prey to the threats facing the rest of Azeroth, Uldaz never suffered the fate of its sister facilities. It was not abandoned, corrupted, or allowed to fall into disrepair. To this day Uldaz operates at peak efficiency. Friendly mechagnomes and earthen maintain the city while its resident keepers coordinate with the dragonflights on how to best carry out their charges. Great bridges connect the city to each region of the Dragon Isles, making it the perfect spot for the Alliance and Horde to use as a home base. That ideal positioning and wealth of undisturbed titan technology draws other attention. Every malicious group on the Dragon Isles sees Uldaz as a priority target. The city’s defenses could fend off one group at time with ease, but if they were all to attack at once…
Notes: A titan city as the player city! It would be neat to see an Uld style facility that’s intact and running smoothly for a change. The entire zone would be the city, but the Alliance and Horde also have their own districts that function as strongholds.
Faction hubs in leveling zones tend to suffer from one of two problems. They’re either unimpressive collections of tents (see the outposts in BfA except Warfang Hold, which is the other problem, many Alliance bases in Cataclysm), or they’re massive fortresses that look to have taken far more time to build than the Horde and Alliance should have (See Warsong Hold and Valiance Keep, Stormshield and Warspear, and so on). Coupled with that, while garrisons were maligned for many valid reasons, I loved the building and upgrading aspects of them. Strongholds are a solution to the problems and a resurrection of the fun part of garrisons.
Each zone has a stronghold for your faction, and each stronghold is themed around a different race. This is your primary base in that zone and the base’s leader is integral to the zone’s story. When you arrive a new zone, the stronghold is little more than a campsite. You upgrade as you go through the main storyline and by the time you’ve completed the zone’s story the stronghold is upgraded to level two. It now looks like a proper if modest town for its race. Once you’ve done this on a single character, alts can just pay a fee to upgrade a zone’s stronghold to level two if you don’t want to redo that zone’s quest line.
At max level you can start upgrading your strongholds to level three. This is a server wide effort, requiring daily and world quests, material gathering and the completion of special world events to finish construction. Level three strongholds are huge fortresses that provide unique gameplay benefits and new quests. Level three doesn’t last forever though. Eventually your progress will draw the attention of powerful enemies who will attack the stronghold. Enough damage will send the base back to level two and construction begins again.
While the appearance of a stronghold can be phased, especially during leveling, you will always see the other players in the stronghold. There also aren’t any profession buildings or gathering plots, so no one would need to feel cooped up all alone in there like a garrison.
There are twelve strongholds in total.
Highfort (Human), led by Joanna Blueheart and Gorrash’ar (Orc), led by Nazgrel, in Rubyfield.
Nightwatch (Nightborne), led by Arcanist Valtrois and Ren’dormir (Void Elf), led by Magister Umbric, in Azurethil.
Angor Ascent (Dark Iron), led by Anvil-Thane Thurgaden and Blackrock Basecamp (Mag’har), led by Dal’rend and Maim Blackhand (Previously unseen AU!Draenor versions of them, who grew up normally instead of being artificially aged by warlocks, which is why we didn’t see them in WoD, they would have been kids at the time), in Horns of Neltharion.
The Last Oasis (Tauren), led by Hamuul Runetotem and Sylvangrove (Night Elf) lead by Ysiel Windsinger, in The Emerald Dying.
Gnomon’s Shadow (Gnome), led by Razak Ironsides (and an architect named Gnomon) and Blastezan (Goblin), led by Boss Mida, in Chronarch Wastes.
Uldaz has alliance and horde districts that also function as strongholds. They don’t come under attack or have leaders, and are built up entirely during the leveling process to act as a tutorial on the feature.
Fun Fact: Gnomon’s Shadow is a pun. A “gnomon” is the part of a sundial which creates a shadow. It also sounds like the name a gnome would have. Gnomon the architect is a gnome who scouted the location to build the stronghold and chose a spot in the shade created by the Chronal Spire, a nonfunctional giant sundial.
–The Wild Hunt: Every culture in Azeroth has a version of the legend of the Wild Hunt. Spectral riders who come from the Shadowlands, killing man and beast alike until entire regions are devoid of life. Their members come from all races. Some are ghostly reflections of themselves in life, others are mere skeletons, or even incorporeal shadows beneath their armor. What, if anything they gain from these hunts is unknown. While they are legend elsewhere, the Wild Hunt is very real in the Dragon Isles. They appeared only recently, but the damage done is extensive. Their sudden return seems linked to a new Lord of the Wild Hunt rising to power…
Notes: No, the Wild Hunt is not a creation of The Witcher and I’m kind of surprised Blizzard hasn’t made their own take on it yet (unless you maybe count the Dark Riders, but I don’t). It’s a European legend coming in many permutations. As to why they’re here? I wanted an enemy to represent the “forces of death” we’ve been getting subtle hints towards in BfA (especially in the Vol’jin questline) that would have a different style than the sort of undead factions we’ve seen before. It also seemed fun to have the enemies of dragons be literal hunters. A fun fact: in some British versions of the Wild Hunt legend, the Lord of the Wild Hunt is the ghost of King Arthur…
–Dragonslayers: Wrathion’s kin were not forthcoming on the Dragon Isles’ location for good reason. While most mortals have come to aid the dragonflights, others arrived with a different purpose. How the organization formed or even the structure of its leadership are kept from prying eyes, but their mission is clear: The Dragonslayers believe dragons are the cause of Azeroth’s ills and seek their extinction. Their ranks are growing, and while the footsoldiers are kept in the dark, the may have a hidden benefactor.
Notes: Again, I think it’s fun to have literal hunters and slayers as the bad guys in a dragon focused expansion. They would also serve as the “mortal race enemy group” most expansion tend to have (like the Shadow Council, the Cult of the Damned, the Twilight’s Hammer, etc.) without just using the Twilight’s Hammer again.
–Midnight Dragonflight: A clutch of twilight dragon eggs awakened in the depths of Grim Batol. Fed by void magic and empowered by stolen Azerite, they have become something new. These “midnight” dragons answer directly to the Void, and unlike their brethren, are not sterile. From a hatchery in the Horns of Neltharion, they plot to seize the Dragon Isles for their dark masters.
Notes: Based on Vexiona, the “void dragon” who appears in 8.2 and the “midnight drake” card in Hearthstone. While the twilight dragons are already kind of void-y, these would go full eldritch abomination rather than just being black dragons with purple highlights.
–Bunyip: Friendly wombat-people who live near the rivers and valleys of the Dragon Isles. Despite their calm nature and desire to befriend new arrivals to their home, bunyips are shunned by most. They have a fascinating biological talent: their dung takes the shape of perfectly square cubes. So naturally the bunyips harden this dung to construct their villages. If one could get over their… unique… taste in architecture they would find valuable allies. Especially as bunyips are the only race to successfully train kangaroos as mounts…
Notes: Wombats really do have cube shaped droppings, and I thought it would be hilarious if a civilization of wombats used them for bricks. As for calling them bunyips, one potential “explanation” given for the bunyip legend is that is was describing the extinct Diprotodon, a giant relative of the wombat. Also if you get exalted with them you get a kangaroo mount.
–Pachari: For most of the year, the elephantine Pachari define the term “gentle giant.” But during the summer, adult males enter into a state of uncontrolled aggression known as “musth.” Pachari priests and mages developed techniques to dull the effects and shorten its duration, to the point that musth is more of an embarrassing day for men to stay at home then a threat. That changed last year. A portion entered musth and never stopped. Known as the “musth-lost,” they wander the wilderness attacking anything that comes close. Desperate searching for a cure has come up empty handed, and this year’s musth is fast approaching.
Notes: Being so heavily themed around the Dragonflights makes it harder for the Dragon Isles to draw from one specific real world area and culture the way Pandaria or Zandalar or even Kul Tiras did. So there’s a little bit of everything. It’s got wombats and kangaroos because Australia is also a weird super-far from everything else continent. Its got the European Wild Hunt for reasons listed above. It’s got elephant-people because, well why hasn’t Blizzard done elephant people yet? Like the wombat cubes, musth is a real phenomenon that effects male elephants for a few days and makes them extremely aggressive. I wanted my NPC animal races to draw more on the biology of those animals than the official ones often do.
–Tatzelwyrm: The Dragon Isles are home varieties of dragonkin and dragon-like animals seen nowhere else on Azeroth. The tatzelwyrm may be the strangest. Lacking hind-legs and covered in fur, they barely resemble dragons. Scholars of the Explorer’s League argue they may in fact be closer to wind serpents. Whatever they are, tatzlewyrms are a frequent nuisance. Disturbing a nest risks certain death from their venomous bites. But to a brave enough hunter, they can make be a formidable pet.
Notes: Based off the tatzelwurm from Swiss folklore, which is described as furry snake with two arms, two wings, and the head of a cat. That is a really neat idea for a creature.
–Infinite Dragonflight: Kairozdormu died a traitor, but became a martyr. Bronze dragons who realized the depths of what accomplished with Draenor were horrified… and intrigued. For the first time, chronologically that is, bronze dragons question their charge to uphold the timeways. Recent events like the devastating war or Nozdormu’s sudden departure to the Chronal Spire haven’t helped. While they have already menaced Azeroth for years, the origin of the Infinite Dragonflight is about to begin.
Notes: The Infinite Dragonflight were originally planned to be a big part of Warlords of Draenor though they were cut early on. Between that and Kairoz’s dying assertion that he “will become Infinite,” I have a feeling the origin of the Infinite flight was the story Blizzard was planning. Dragon Isles would be the next best time to revisit it.
Leviathan Serpent: Resembling the cloud serpents of Pandaria, leviathan serpents traded the skies for the seas. They grow to gigantic proportions and rarely appear at the surface. Legends tell that an unimaginably massive one known as Ourobos wraps around the Dragon Isles, protecting them from the horrors of the deep.
Notes: Reference to sea serpents and the ouroboros symbol.
Dungeons and Raids
Ruined Sanctum: The Ruby Sanctum was attacked by the twilight dragonflight, destroyed by agents of Deathwing, restored only to be assaulted by the Ebon Blade, and now the Dragonslayers have come to burn what’s left.
Shadowgrasp Incursion: Where the Ethereum cut a hole in reality, the Void spilled through. Each day the incursion grows larger as more of Azurethil is devoured.
Wildehall: On the outskirts of the Eye of Ysera is a rift to the Shadowlands from which the Wild Hunt first emerged. Were anyone brave enough to pass through it, they would find the Wild Hunt’s “trophy” hall, and perhaps a way to seal the rift.
Vexiona’s Lair: Midnight dragons pour from the caverns at the top of the Horns of Neltharion. Their broodmother, Vexiona, must be slain.
Path of the Infinite: Annurmi has fallen to the infinite dragonflight. Chromie believes there may be a way to save her, but the heroes will have to chase down Annurmi as she flees across the timeways.
Defense of Uldaz: Uldaz is the most strategically important location in the Dragon Isles, so of course it has drawn the attention of every enemy faction around. A terrible alliance of convenience forms to claim the city. Its titan defense mechanism are formidable, but even they can’t withstand a combined assault by the Wild Hunt, infinite dragonflight, forces of the Void, and the Dragonslayers.
Hernir’s Hunt: Hernir, Herald of the Wild Hunt, has sounded his horn for his lord to descend on Rubyfield. To stop the coming slaughter and save a bunyip village in the path of destruction, a brave group of heroes plan to intercept Hernir and his riders before the Lord of the Wild Hunt can be summoned.
The Conflux: In a previous attempt to expel the void from Azurethil, a nexus of ley lines was destroyed. The explosion shattered the western edge of the forest and released arcane abominations that must be put down.
Maraudas: The “sister city” to Maraudon in Kalimdor. High Khan Ghengsi sends an endless procession of warbands to pillage the last resources in the Emerald Dying. But there is a darker presence at the bottom of these caverns.
Slavisar: Stronghold of the Dragonslayers, built at the center of a caldera in the Horns of Neltharion. Deep within the fortress the slayers have imprisoned scores of whelplings. They must be freed before the final generation of dragons is snuffed out.
Chronal Spire: An inverted counterpart to the Caverns of Time. Nozdormu disappeared within the spire some time ago only for it to fall under the control of the infinite dragonflight shortly after. Heroes of Azeroth infiltrate the spire with two plans in mind, either rescue Nozdormu, or banish Murozond to the End Time.
Eye of Ysera: Sanctuary of the green dragonflight, where the border between Azeroth and Emerald Dream is nonexistent. The Wild Hunt sees this bastion of life as their ultimate prize, and the Lord of the Wild Hunt himself leads the charge. But who is he? A spirit that fought his way out of the eternal damnation he so rightly deserved. His agony and tenacity drawing the attention of a greater power. There is nothing of the man Arthas Menethil once was in the Lord of the Wild Hunt, but least he rides atop Invincible once more.
So yeah, that is the big “out of nowhere” plot twist: Arthas is back. Sort of. This Arthas is a pale shadow of what we knew him as. An utterly broken spirit that managed to climb the ranks of the Shadowlands and end up in service of whatever all this death foreshadowing turns out to be for. I wanted to hide it until the end for twist’s sake, but something like that would be one of the first things you would need to reveal about the expansion. Also no redemption for him. He’s there for a nostalgia comeback like Illidan in Legion, but he’s not becoming a anti-hero also like Illidan. Though by the expansion’s end his spirit would be put to rest and be at enough peace to not be a threat anymore.
I haven’t designed any patch content. Mainly because I know any explanation for what the death foreshadowing is won’t hold up since all we know right now is that some mysterious antagonistic force is in the Shadowlands. The Ethereum in Azurethil would lead to either K’aresh as a .2 style patch or as seeding for an entire K’aresh expansion. I think I’ll do the latter as another expansion concept someday. I hope you all enjoyed this, it’s been literally months in the making. Now we just have to wait and see what Blizzard actually does. Until next time!