WARNING: The following page contains game secrets intended for campaign designers. We cannot stop anyone from reading it, but if you are a player you should consider hitting your back button now, as you will probably enjoy learning these things more if you do it through the hints dropped at various places in the mainline campaigns.
This is a work-in-progress presenting the current state of the Irdya Canon, the revised lore that will be in Wesnoth 1.16 onwards. Things on here might not be secret, but for a work-in-progress it's easier to write first and then decide whether it should be secret or not.
Summary sections are supposed to only cover the most important aspects. If you want to work with this lore, please read the respective sections in-depth.
- 1 Resources
- 2 Campaign projects
- 3 Undead lore
- 4 Orcish lore
- 5 Elvish lore
- 6 Human lore
- 7 Drake lore
- 8 Dwarven lore
- 9 Lore of the smaller races
- The main lore starts in the A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore thread.
- Non-developer users can discuss in the Single Player campaign overhaul discussion (non-Developers Forum version) thread.
Arc 1: The Rise of Wesnoth
Currently responsible: nemaara/Yumi and doofus-01 (for SoF)
Campaigns in this arc: TRoW, LoW, SoF, SotA (beetlenaut wants to get involved for changes)
Central story elements:
- Green isles background
- Lich Lords
- Orcs as slaves of the LL's
- Founding of Wesnoth
- Introduction of the Ruby of Fire and creation of the scepter
Arc 2: Heir to the Throne
Currently responsible: nemaara/Yumi
Campaigns in this arc in order: TSG, AA (Angel of Ashes), DM (Demon of Embers, builds on tidbits of Defaldors Memoirs), Liberty, HttT.
Central story elements:
- fall of king Garard II, rise of queen Asheviere
- story of Defaldor
- Asheviere as the first person to seek different relations to the orcs
- story of Konrad and Lisar
Arc 3: Northern Rebirth
Currently responsible: Whiskeyjack
Campaigns in this arc: NR, EI, DW, IoM (Isle of Mists).
Included in some way or another: THoT, SotBE
Central story elements:
- creation of the Northern Alliance
- (political) emancipation of the orcs
- Mal Ravanal's invasion(s)
Only loosely connected to the three arcs will be DiD, UtBS.
Under rework for standalone: AToTB, MP adaptation (responsible: EarthCake and LordLewis).
Campaigns not yet accounted for: AoI (removed).
- Black magic goes back to the Lich Lords, a group of powerful (non-human) necromancers among the Wesfolk who learned from a secret cache of knowledge.
- Later on, necromancers and liches are usually less advanced because they lack that knowledge.
- Black magic (of which necromancy is but a subset) is very difficult and dangerous. For that reason, necromancers (and especially liches) are rare.
- Necromancy also doesn't "corrupt the soul". This is a prejudice.
- However, with strong taboos on black magic, necromancers are usually outcasts and socially isolated beings.
- Undead as a faction are static, mostly unable to learn from their own mistakes and doomed to repeat those of their predecessors.
- Black magic is a form of magic that manipulates the three pieces of being, "body", "mind", and "soul".
- Races with the ability to use black magic (in theory): humans, ogres, naga, saurians (and merfolk, but with extreme effort).
- Races completely unable to use black magic: elves, woses, trolls, drakes, orcs, and dwarves (these races would "rot" from within, decaying body, mind, and soul rapidly, by simply attempting it).
The undead as we know them originated from the Wesfolks' Lich Lords, who were a group of powerful sorcerers of an ancient race that eventually became liches by an unknown method. Most of the Wesnoth peoples did not know much about the Lich Lords or their origins, though we may choose to reveal their backstory to the player at a later time. The Lich Lords were much stronger and more knowledgeable than ordinary liches (who themselves are already very powerful/mysterious beings), in part due to their access to a secret cache of knowledge pertaining to black magic. They thus are much more well-versed in the secrets of necromancy than most later necromancers and liches. The Lich Lords numbered very few, with a typical number given as eight. Lich Lord Jevyan was among them, noted as the most combat-oriented and war-like of them, but not necessarily the "most powerful". He notes specifically that he was unable to challenge two of the other ones, since they were more or less "invulnerable" in their own domains.
In the years following the Wesfolk and Haldric's peoples (TODO: come up with a name for them) flight to the Great Continent, the first few decades found some of the new magi beginning to experiment with necromancy. In this time frame, there were no other liches (besides the remaining Lich Lords) and very few bands of powerful undead (only some remnants of Jevyan's armies). As more and more people were drawn to the allure of black magic, eventually stronger undead began to emerge (e.g. Ardonna from SotA and Malin Keshar from DiD), though none were able to match the prowess of the Lich Lords of old.
As noted below, almost all races instinctively and innately abhor undead to a great degree. Some even have cultural reasons on top of this innate hatred (orcs), while the people of Wesnoth, not having the innate aversion to black magic, dislike necromancy in large part due to their persecution at the hands of Jevyan. In general, users of necromancy are not tolerated in any society and are doomed to a life of loneliness and misunderstanding.
One theme among the undead is that black magic itself does not really "corrupt the soul", as so many people are taught to believe, but that the shunning and misunderstanding of others is what drives many necromancers to madness (or to spurn society in retaliation). With most necromancers being primarily alone for most of their lives, they tend to have poor communication skills as well, which tends to prevent them from learning from each other, making necromancy a self-perpetuating cycle of more or less misery. In other cases, practitioners of necromancy (and black magic as well) were somewhat twisted/selfish individuals from the start (Darken Volk), suggesting that they were unable to find themselves fitting well into society to begin with. While some necromancers are like Malin, who seek power for a specific goal, others - already deviants or societal outcasts - are drawn to it by default. People who choose to fit into the mould of society rarely feel the need to challenge the taboo that is black magic (e.g. normal mages, Delfador). In brief, black magic does not have any effects on the soul or mind directly, but the culture around it certainly draws some of the more twisted or selfish individuals (or drives people to become so).
As a whole, then, undead (necromancers, mostly) are a faction that is incapable of learning from their own mistakes. They are explicitly static (as a faction) over time and very individual driven. Many individuals all have their own motives/reasons for being drawn to black magic and may have knowledge of previous necromancers and their stories. In almost every case, the necromancer fails to learn from their predecessors and meets the same end: alone, shunned by everyone else - and usually miserable. Examples of these are Ardonna (tries to teach other people necromancy, but this fails because society simply cannot accept it), Malin (tries to help his village with necromancy, but culture demands that they spurn him), Asheviere (her use of black magic is a large part of what turns many people against her). This is compounded by the fact that most other races (besides humans and saurians) inherently fear black magic.
Black magic and secrets of the undead
All races have an affinity for certain types of magic. This includes elves with nature magic or arcane fire, drakes with their internal flames, and dwarves with their runes. The same is true for black magic. Any user of black magic should come from a race with an innate affinity for it. Those that do not cannot use black magic without severe repercussions - usually, this manifests itself as "rotting" the being from within, decaying the body, mind, and soul rapidly over time. Eventually, the body is destroyed even if the user stops using black magic. Note that black magic does not strictly refer to necromancy. Necromancy is a subcategory of black magic, which has many other uses than merely raising undead.
Races with the ability to use black magic (at least in theory) are humans, ogres, naga, and saurians. Merfolk could as well, but it would be very difficult for them. Notable races that cannot use black magic are elves, woses, trolls, drakes, orcs, and dwarves. Any necromancers or liches of these races are automatically non-canon, even if they were in a 1.14 mainline campaign.
The above is also why these races hate black magic to a great degree, even if they might not understand the reason behind it. Black magic is inherently extremely dangerous to them and they are innately disinclined to it, nevermind the moral reasons they may argue against it. Humans, being a rather practical group, have societal reasons they would disallow black magic, but individuals among humans are probably the most inclined to attempt to master black magic. Saurians tend to be interested more in their own witchcraft (note that it is not black magic, though distantly related in some senses), but some individuals may also be inclined to study black magic. This is much less likely for ogres or nagas.
Black magic is a form of magic that manipulates the three pieces of being, "body", "mind", and "soul". Its most widespread use is that for necromancy, although other applications are certainly possible (e.g. the creation of living chimera, manipulation of the "body").
Specifically pertaining to undead, animation of things like skeletons and ghouls constitute manipulation of the "body", while ghosts are manifestations of the "soul". All undead have some form of manipulation of the "mind" in some way or another, since a necromancer does not typically directly manipulate their minions. In DiD, Darken Volk notes that novice necromancers may indeed control their skeletons directly with magic like puppets, but neither he nor Malin do this, since this would clearly become prohibitive with a larger army of undead. Instead, the manipulate the "mind", allowing their minions some degree of free will (such as being able to fight on their own) while still retaining sovereignty.
In general, because the "body" is tangible and the "soul" is not, manipulation of the body is simpler. Furthermore, the soul being a creature's essence makes it relatively more difficult to control, which becomes only more true for more powerful spirits, especially the more the "mind" is manipulated. Lesser necromancers rarely use powerful spirits (Spectres and Nightgaunts) because of this; maintaining control over them becomes a direct battle of willpower, which is extremely dangerous to the necromancer themself. Spectres and Nightgaunts tend to be relatively rare compared to other level 3 undead, and only strong necromancers like Malin or Ardonna would come to use them. Average necromancers (even Darken Volk) stick to using Wraiths/Shadows at most.
Another implication of the above is that more complex manipulation of either the "body", "soul", or "mind" requires correspondingly more skill from the necromancer. Ghouls, being a twisted form of flesh, are harder to create than skeletons. Imparting an undead minion with more "mind" (i.e. greater consciousness/free will) is also more difficult to accomplish to begin with, let alone to maintain. This also implies that becoming a lich is an extremely difficult task, since it involves complete (or near complete) preservation of the mind, fixation of the soul into a vessel, and resurrection of the body simultaneously. Since all three elements are involved at a high level, only the most talented (and lucky!) of magi actually can become liches. This means that liches are much rarer than in Classic Canon, and there wouldn't likely be very many at any given time. A lich enemy would be a serious threat, not typically a trivial chance encounter in a swamp or cave.
Finally, the manipulation of "will" inherent to all undead minions is essential for their functioning. Weak will imbuing results in the undeads destruction along with their master (note, that the current master is not necessarily the one that resurrected them; such lesser undead merely need someone to supplement them with will). However, imbuing a strong will as described above is a difficult task and increases the danger of the minion breaking free from their master (this is especially dangerous for higher order spirits and death knights). Another necromancer or a "free" undead can also try to wrest control of minions from another necromancer. This, again, becomes easier the weaker the will instilled in the minion.
- Orcs are a race created for enslavement and servitude by Lich Lord Jevyan.
- Over time they free themselves and create their own culture.
- Their theme is one of redemption, finding their way from single-minded raiders and murderers to a society equal to that of other races.
- Because of their history, orcs hold strong taboos on slavery and black magic.
- An important aspect of orcish culture is the partition of power between a tribes warlord and shaman council.
- Orcish shamans (all female) actually rank higher than the warlords, but leave many aspects of daily rule to them and almost never interfere with aspects of war.
- A warlord that either gains allegiance from other tribes and wins much power, or is appointed as such by a combined shaman council of multiple tribes in times of need can receive the title Sovereign.
- Warlords and shamans are usually held in check by their surrounding peers.
The orcs start out as a race created by Lich Lord Jevyan to be their slaves. Over time, they free themselves from that status and develop their own culture as well as learning more about themselves and their origins. For a long time, they are still seen by the other races as the savage, murderous hordes of destruction they were once created as. This is reinforced by a long tradition of raiding and feuds.
Initially, near their creation in the TRoW timeline, orcs tend to serve as the armies of undead masters, which is specifically what they were bred to do. This would put them at odds with most other races, especially elves, dwarves, and humans, whom Jevyan wages war on with his new armies.
By the time of the HttT timeline, several groups of orcs have broken free of the undead and formed their own clans (example, the prominent Whitefang clan in DiD). While out of habit, they may continue raids on human lands and/or attack other nearby races, some clans begin to grow more peaceful and are willing to coexist with humans in the same space. This is especially true when Asheviere chooses to ally herself with some of them and use them in her armies. Of course, most humans still harbor resentment against orcs due to previous wars/raids (see Malin Keshar), so there would be some infighting within Wesnoth's army itself, and is also why Asheviere is viewed very much as a dictator/evil by her contemporaries. The HttT arc is also where the first orcish shamans begin to appear.
By the time of the NR arc, we see orcs willingly ally themselves with humans and most clans will actively oppose those who violate the pillars of their culture. Many of them start to operate as hunter gatherers with some amount of farming and trading, as opposed to raiding other lands for supplies.
The orcish theme is a sort of "redemption" type of story, where one was "born for evil" but eventually "was shown the error of their ways and turned to good". In this case, it means more of that they were originally bred for war, but nevertheless developed their own culture and society. Asheviere may have played a role in facilitating this when she chose to bring some of them to live alongside humans. However, much of their progression was accomplished on their own. This "redemption" story would be an underlying theme throughout all 3 arcs.
Between the HttT and NR arcs, orcs progress out of their role as servants to powerful undead lords and form their own culture/traditions. In part due to their nature as a created race meant to be slaves, there are a few taboos that are frowned upon (to greater or lesser extents) once they have actually freed themselves from their origins.
1. Slavery. The greatest taboo among orcs by the time of NR is slavery. As slaves originally (but having freed themselves), slavery is not tolerated by most clans, and many would be actively willing to fight against other orcs who do practice slavery. This is present in NR.
2. Undead/black magic. Orcs are extremely averse to any type of undead and black magic. By the time of NR, it is culturally taboo to have any dealings with undead in any way shape or form, and orcs are very likely to try to destroy undead on sight.
- Note that orcs themselves are unable to use black magic.
- Saurian magic is not black magic (although it shares something distantly related in nature), so orcs do not have any issue with them.
3. Breeding/children. In Jevyan's time, orcs were encouraged to breed as much as possible to grow the strength of his armies and enable him to fight against large groups of humans/elves/dwarves. Through the HttT and NR timelines, orcs begin to realize that breeding as much as possible is impractical and actively choose to reduce the number of litters they have. Less of a hard taboo than slavery, it is still frowned upon for an orcish woman to have too many litters within her lifetime.
- TODO: currently a draft, need to finalize the details of orcish biology
- Jevyan originally crafted the orcs to have the ability to breed or swarm to an incredible degree. Orcish lifecycles and pregnancy times are very low, which enables having several litters in a year, as opposed to humans who are limited to one.
- Originally this put a lot of stress on orcish women, who had to spend most of their time breeding and carrying children, which is why they would be less present in the TRoW and early HttT arcs.
- While litter size is of course more or less fixed (due to their biology), orcs may choose to have fewer litters in a year (often one, or one every other year) to enable population control.
- With fewer orcish women having litters (and also having fewer litters), this enabled them to take a greater role in orcish society/culture.
4. Shamans. While orcish men tend to be physically stronger and more suited for battle, orcish women tend to have a greater connection to the orcs' innate nature (similar to elvish shamans). Because of this, we begin to see the rise of the orcish shaman caste later in HttT, which is traditionally held by orcish women. They serve the role of advisors and judiciaries in orcish culture, with each clan having a small group of shamans itself, while a larger group of clans is advised by a special group of shamans (similar to SotBE).
- Typically thought of as the leader of the clan (by other races), an orcish warlord or sovereign governs the day to day dealings of each clan and holds the greatest authority when it comes to the details of doing war (battle strategy).
- The above is not entirely true when it comes to orcish internal dealings. The Elder Shamans (age being an important quality to a short-lived and warlike species) in each clan hold more authority than a clan's warlord, although they do not typically deal with the details of battle strategy or actively participate on the battlefield. However, they may often advise or make a decision on whether or not to do battle, and may resolve disputes between high ranking members within the clan (including the warlord himself). Their word is typically final, and even the chieftain will not disobey a decision made by the lead shaman.
- This is not to say that the lead shamans govern the clan. They typically fulfill the role of advisors and will only make a ruling/decision in critical circumstances or if asked to by other important members of the clan. Most details and decisions are left to the warlord, who is the de facto leader of the clan.
- The shaman council that advises several groups of clans operates in a similar manner, where they may advise a sovereign or a group of warlords, but typically do not make final decisions. In the event that they do, their word is taken as final. Orcs typically do not disrespect the authority of the shamans, which would be treated as taboo.
- Part of the practical reason this is the case is that shamans hold the greatest knowledge of orcish lore and their origins. Even warlords (the strongest orc in a clan, usually) are quick to recognize the value of that wisdom and insight into their nature.
- Shamans usually operate in groups, such as like a council (where each shaman has equal standing, though deference to elders is usually given). In the event that a shaman tries to abuse her power, typically other shamans will step in and remove the offender.
- Likewise, a warlord (especially a mighty sovereign) may have enough force of arms to disobey the shamans. Typically, other orcs (high ranking clan members or other warlords) will step in to remove the offender in this case.
- In times of war or when a warlords earns allegiance of lesser tribes it can happen that an orc obtains the title of sovereign. In rare cases, such an orc was appointed by shaman councils without actually being his tribes warlords.
- Exceptions to this dynamic might make for an interesting campaign.
- TODO: create a native orcish term for "shaman", "Elder Shaman", and "shaman council".
- Goblins are the "bastard children" of the orcs like in classic canon. They usually outnumber true orcs, but live shorter lives as well, both naturally and due to being weaker in combat.
- Goblins are responsible for agriculture in orcish tribes. Orcs were originally hunter gatherers just following their conception, but eventually realized that such a lifestyle was not sustainable (beginning to realize this around HttT).
6. Differences in culture between various orcish tribes. - TODO: add details here. @Whiskeyjack
TODO: fill this in
Elven magic is often referred to as fey magic due to its connection to the different aspects of faerie. This power is split between two different paths, one focused on manipulation of the mundane or natural world, and one focused on divination into the arcane plane. Practitioners of the art typically choose one path to follow, more commonly the way of the corporeal plane, which has more tangible effects than its antithesis in the arcane. Those that follow the mystic path are still well-regarded by other elves, but their motives and abilities are often unclear; for elves, the arcane is associated with insight, but exactly what this means is lost upon those without any understanding of elven magic.
Most elven magi - especially those following the natural order - are staunchly pacifistic, exacerbated by the fact that neither path is particularly suited to direct combat. Elves are instead masters of subtlety, manipulating their surroundings in such a way to prevent conflict altogether, before it can even occur. If pressed to warfare, their skills in subduing enemies and healing allies are tremendously useful, if reluctantly given.
Those who travel far down either path of elven magic may begin to find their bodies transforming into faerie-like forms, sprouting butterfly wings and glowing with the characteristic faerie glamour. This transformation has some effect beyond just altering the physical form - a powerful elven mage tends to live much longer than most of their kin, and possesses a greater ability to affect on a fundamental level. For instance, Shydes are known to communicate intimately with Woses and are rumored to even have the ability to nurture new Woses from existing trees. On the other hand, Sylphs 'see' with a tremendous degree of insight, granting them the knowledge necessary to alter the very fabric of reality by manipulating fabled 'reflection pools'. Despite their similarities, however, elves are not and cannot become true faerie. No matter the strength of the mage, an elf is always bound by mortal rules and can only manipulate extrinsically existing energy, whereas much of a true faerie's power is drawn from within. This restriction represents the ultimate limit of elven magic, which can only be as powerful as the energy that it is drawn from.
TODO: fill this in
Currently responsible: ItsTom, RangerLOL, sigurdfdragon
Lore revisions: Drake lore and potential WoV rework (currently removed).
TODO: fill this in
Lore of the smaller races
In general, the lore arcs of the smaller races are less substantial than those of the "main" races and often revolve around eking out an existence in the face of the changes and turmoils brought about by the main races. Their stories are partially set into motion cascading from the events of TRoW (saurians) or pertain to their specific realms without being noticed on the playing field of the other races (merfolk).
The merfolk fight a desperate war against the true creatures of the deep (set off by their own explorations and expansions), over time relocating their palaces ever higher, until they start settling most of their people in safe land-based location in proximity to larger bodies of water (creating more pronounced conflicts with the naga, which are not their primary enemy as of TRoW).
Much of this happens off-screen and is only alluded to. The merfolk of TRoW still speak much more engaged of a "War in the Deeps" than the merfolk that appear in later campaigns, with the merfolk of DW clearly having settled in a coastal area.
The merfolk represent a race that actually can be called "noble" (HttT), valuing honor, honesty, and peace. However, they have a tendency to see light = good and darkness (the depths) = evil, and have, in their overconfidence, started an eternal war they cannot win (although their enemy almost never leaves the actual depths and is not shown to the player). Their arc is one of learning from defeats and facing the shortcomings of their own cosmology and worldview (they are not intended to be your run-of-the-mill rigid, narrow-minded, and zealous crusader kind of lawful, but something much more flowing and dynamic...).