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World of Warcraft role-players throw medieval tournament for a good cause

The Northeron Games raised funds for those affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake

An image of the Northeron Games, a fan-made tournament made using World of Warcraft assets on the Epsilon private server. Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Fence Macabre
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

The big tournament with high stakes is a critical trope in fantasy books, movies, and games. Grim, realistic medieval worlds and high-concept fantasy worlds with magic and dragons both tend to have tournaments with banners, jousting, and giant turkey legs. It’s a comforting staple of the fantasy genre, and it’s one that World of Warcraft players recreated in June to fundraise for those affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake in February.

Role-players created the Northeron Games in Epsilon, a creative server where players create their own scenes with existing World of Warcraft assets. These games gave role-players an opportunity to bring the Horde and Alliance closer after years of conflict and war — and allowed them to reach out to other players over platforms like Twitter and Discord to raise both awareness and more than $2,000 in funds for Doctors Without Borders to aid those affected by the earthquake and its aftermath.

Belethe and Gwetha are two members of the World of Warcraft role-play community. “Gwetha and I grew close to a community member of Epsilon who was affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and whose family had been affected by its destruction,” Belethe told Polygon. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in February and impacted more than 15 million people. In order to raise funds and honor a new friend, Belethe and Gwetha reached out to other players and began organizing the Northeron Games.

Players compete in a custom target shooting minigame prepared for Epsilon, a private World of Warcraft role-play client. Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Fence Macabre

The Northeron Games is a fan-created collaboration, run by the role-play guilds Fence Macabre and the Honeyhearth Clan. The idea was simple: What if World of Warcraft heroes skipped delving through dungeons and slaying bosses, and attended a three-day tournament in the vein of the Scottish Highlands Games? The event was inspired by Warcraft’s Wildhammer dwarves, who ride gryphons, wield elemental powers, and drink copious amounts of ale.

Veteran role-playing guild Fence Macabre represented the Horde, and got more people to the games. “We had a little of everything; there were the contest games themselves, where characters could win actual trophies that they could spawn in their homes,” says Gwetha. “We had vendors for market RP, and live performances.”

Some players, like an artist named Calria, ran live booths where they would draw character portraits for players who patiently waited in line. Another player, Beek, kept the pub staffed for the duration of the event so the ale kept flowing. “We had 35 people who helped, from being RP vendors, phase builders, game facilitators, volunteer moderators, RP facilitators and performers, and another 10 who were artists that contributed over 25 art commission slots that we auctioned off,” says Belethe.

Players gather to celebrate the Northeron Games. There are role-players from both the Horde and Alliance, cheering festively together next to a bed of flowers planted for the tournament. Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Fence Macabre

Epsilon’s moderation tools ensured that everything stayed on track, despite the moving parts. This came in handy when a group of visitors tried to grief the event. “Epsilon allows us to remove people from the phase and make it to where they can’t easily enter it again,” says Belethe. “If this was on the Wyrmrest Accord or any other live WoW server there is no real way for people like us to prevent griefing and trolling the way we can on Epsilon.”

Players can also add on to Epsilon with other mods, created by community members who want to expand on the base experience. Role-players used Arcanum, an Epsilon add-on made by Mindscape, at the Northeron Games to play unique and interesting games like obstacle courses, gryphon racing, and scavenger hunts. Mindscape is one of the mods created exclusively for Epsilon, allowing the private client to recreate the classic fantasy tournament atmosphere.

Ultimately, the Northeron Games served as another example that while the game might be called World of Warcraft, the community can often work together in inspiring acts of charity and sacrifice.

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