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The No Honor No Pauldrons movement in World of Warcraft highlights what makes MMOs special

Even big orcs cry

Blizzard Entertainment
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

When “Old Soldier,” the cinematic featuring Saurfang from last week, arrived on the World of Warcraft scene, players immediately connected to the message. After the past several weeks of Horde players feelings of feeling disenfranchised, they’re ready to follow a Warchief that holds honor above all else. But some players are taking it a step further, displaying their support for a less violent Horde in-game.

The cinematic shows a saddened and beaten-down Varok Saurfang, one of the Horde’s oldest and most honorable soldiers. He takes his famous pauldrons — massive shoulder pads — off and leaves them on the ground. But as he marches toward the enemy, alone and hoping for his death, a young troll reminds him what it means to be a member of the Horde.

Since last week, Horde — and even some Alliance players — have hidden their shoulder armor in the menu or removed the pieces entirely. Since Warcraft is an MMO, this display of solidarity isn’t just for the player’s peace of mind, it can be seen and recognized by everyone in-game. Where players used to see World of Warcraft’s signature pauldrons, they now see sheepish, bare shoulders.

World of Warcraft has always been well known for its role-playing, even offering servers with very specific community rules on how to talk with other players or display their armor. But the No Honor No Pauldrons movement — a phrase the player base came up with almost instantly — captures the World of Warcraft community’s love for not only the story, but their own faction.

Battle for Azeroth is all about faction conflict, pitting Alliance against Horde. But these Horde players are setting the Blizzard-created conflict aside to show their support for a more civil, honorable Warchief and the Horde they believe in, not the one that currently exists. They’re saying that no victory is worth the dishonor that Sylvanas is dragging the Horde through, and they’re saying it in-game, rather than just a forum or the subreddit.

Small moments like this, where players are able to act-out their fantasies and show support for make-believe characters with in-game actions, separate MMOs from any other game genre out there. Anyone can sit on their couch and dress Kratos up in what they feel he should wear based on the story, but their role play serves to entertain just that player and whomever they choose to show it to. With No Honor No Pauldrons, players are able to instantly identify who stands for the true Horde, and who follows Sylvanas Windrunner to dishonor and death.

These community moments make World of Warcraft special, and it’s what’s helped keep the game around for 14 years. Wear your pauldrons proudly for Sylvanas, or hide them in shame for Saurfang; either way, players are making a statement of who they support just by wearing — or not wearing — their usual armor.

As always, players have taken to Twitter to support their arguments and display their transmogs for all to see. But this time, they have a message behind their fashion:

It’s unclear how this Horde situation will conclude in Battle for Azeroth. We could find out in a matter of weeks, or players may have to wait until early 2020, when the expansion’s story will presumably be concluded. But no matter what, Horde players certainly have a confusing expansion ahead of them.

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