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Overhaul Concept: Divergent Courses

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Level 15
Apr 6, 2004
Here I am with yet another concept for overhauling a map. This time the focus is on the interlude called Divergent Courses. For those struggling to remember what this one is, it is set in the aftermath of the the Culling of Stratholme and features Jaina Proudmoore, Uther the Lightbringer and the Prophet as they discuss what Arthas has done. Once again the idea is to look at how an interlude map could be turned into something playable, thereby fleshing out the story and providing different types of maps.



Jaina Proudmoore
Duke Lionheart - First seen in the Night Elf Campaign


Uther the Lightbringer
The Prophet
Lord Garithos - First seen in the TFT Campaign

Story Themes

Something that is worth considering while structuring this mission is what themes it should have and represent. The Culling of Stratholme features one of the first instances of a Human player committinga war crime. The player has just torched a city and killed most of its population, so now they need to see the aftermath and what they've done. After some thought, these are what I've identified as things that feel appropriate to consider when making the map:

This event represents a confusing act for those using the Holy Light or who believe in it. A religion that is meant to be "good" has been used for evil. For some this would lead to a loss of faith, for others it'd lead into fanaticism or push them towards the Cult of the Damned as a viable alternative. As a paladin was responsible, it could shake the resolve of certain knights - for example, we know from the Deathlord in WC3:TFT that there were Paladins who followed Arthas' example and torched other towns and cities to slow the spread of the plague.

We know from the RPG books that there were people who deserted during or after the Culling and who struggled to live with their crimes. We have lore from WoW for The Unbidden (a ghost in the Stratholme instance) who in life was a heroine of Lordaeron, but who took part in the Culling of Stratholme, and who killed herself after going mad with grief at her crimes. Another case is from the RPG books for a character called James, who wanted to escape the madness and return home to his family, or Oni'jus, Arthas' half-elven spy who turned her back on him over his madness. There is a lot of potential here to show some kind of effect it had on his own troops.

We all know that terrible events lead to people who capitalise on it in different ways - in terms of Stratholme this could range from the Cult of the Damned seeking for new initiates to bandits & looters raiding the burning city. One person that feels apt to capitalise on the event here is Garithos, a man who would use any opportunity to increase his own political & military standing, but who hasn't got the decency to turn up himself. It wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility that he would send his own troops from his estates at Blackwood to "help" the people of Stratholme.

The name of the map "Divergent Courses" is apt for this moment in time. There is the "on-the-nose" interpretation that Arthas and Jaina are literally on diverging courses, but there is also the fact that they take completely different routes to an outcome. Jaina's compassion for people, and her leadership, can be fleshed out in this map, which will make her feel like a candidate for the Exodus that the Prophet would consider using.

Intro Cutscene

During the map loading screen, there is usually some flavour text to give you an idea of whats going on with the plot, e.g. armies moving somewhere new, days passing, entering a new land, etc. It's there to fill in the blanks while you're forced to watch a loading screen. In vanilla, the loading screen says:

"Three days later, amongst the ruins of Stratholme..."

Which is pretty short, and won't entirely be true with the new version of this map. Here is my proposed rewrite:

"Three days later, Jaina returns to the outskirts of Stratholme..."

It's quite a simple edit, but one that will help sell the map as the loading screen text will match the intro cutscene. The intro cutscene does not need to be long:

- - - - - - - - - -

[We follow the PROPHET in raven form as he flies across terrain. The terrain does not matter, it's for the purposes of setting the stage for what is to come. Eventually he settles upon a branch overlooking JAINA PROUDMOORE as she overlooks the ruins of Stratholme, her Water Elemental at her side. These can be presented as micro-buildings in the distance, to give the appearance that she's overlooking a large city rather than literally overlooking the gameplay terrain]

JAINA: I wish none of this had ever happened. I... I don't know what to do. (OrcX03a.w3x)
JAINA: ...why didn't you listen? (OrcX03b.w3x)

[A character walks up to JAINA, for now he'll have to be a no name CAPTAIN unless we find some WoW character that is appropriate to reuse. For the purposes of this script, I will label him as CAPTAIN]

CAPTAIN: My lady, forgive the intrusion, but our scouts have spotted a column of men approaching the city. Perhaps Lord Uther has returned?
JAINA: Lead me to these troops, Rexxar. I want to see them for myself. (OrcX02b.w3x?)

[The cutscene fades to black and when it returns we're in control of JAINA, the CAPTAIN and whatever units InsaneMonster decides to favour us with]
- - - - - - - - - -

Though the concept for the intro is short, I feel it does enough to set the focus of the mission so that Jaina has a reason to enter Stratholme, and teases some possibilities for us to flesh out. Who are these men? Why are they here?


The map would likely use the exact same layout as whatever is done to the Culling of Stratholme map, but with a focus on showing the city in a ruined, burning state. This means a lot of partially standing buildings, extensive use of VFX for flames, corpses littered around the place and other signs of conflict. It might be worth showing only a portion of the city, with some of the countryside visible to create a contrast between the beautiful surroundings and the destruction.

It's worth noting that there would need to be enough of an open sea area for a potential shot of the fleet of Lordaeron sailing north with Arthas at the helm. Areas reserved for cutscenes would be hidden away from the main area of the map.

Main Quest - To The Troops

The core reason for fleshing out this map is to show the player the aftermath of what they've done and to tease future content, while giving the player one last opportunity to play as Jaina Proudmoore for the next few campaigns. While the core plot will be simplistic, it should hopefully provide an enjoyable Hero-focused mission with a few minor side quests to add a little extra spice to the events. The player will have two Main Quests, but this is the first one.

"To The Troops" will take the player through the countryside outside Stratholme where citizens of the city fled during the attack and deserters from Arthas' forces are struggling with the butchery they took part in. Here and there the Scourge still exist, harrying the refugees and there are still Bandits willing to prey upon the living and dead for coin.

This quest is relatively short, with a battles against various creeps and some ambient interactions with the downtrodden. There is no need for anything grand in spectacle. Treat it a bit like Chapter 3 in the original game, where a lot of it is just wandering the wilderness beating up Creeps.

As expected, this Main Quest ends when you reach the troops, who control the entrance to the burning city. Hopefully it'll be a surprise when it turns out that these aren't tied to Uther, but instead these are being led by Lord Garithos and Duke Lionheart. The following scene would require Duke Lionheart to be recast by a fan:

- - - - - - - - - -

[GARITHOS and DUKE LIONHEART have distinct looking forces, GARITHOS' favour black (like his knights do in TFT), while DUKE LIONHEART favouring typical Lordaeron white. They are defending their position, while some peasants are carrying loot from nearby wrecked buildings to a caravan]

JAINA: The undead are attacking! (N07Jaina18.flac - edited)
GARITHOS: Hold the line, you dogs! Fight on! (L05Garithos50.flac)

[As GARITHOS, DUKE LIONHEART and their forces fight, JAINA and her entourage approach their camp. JAINA then uses her magic to destroy their enemy. While DUKE LIONHEART approaches JAINA, GARITHOS walks over to speak with a Rifleman but the player does not hear what they say]

DUKE LIONHEART: My lady, you certainly know how to make an entrance! Duke Lionheart at your service.
JAINA: And I am Jaina Proudmore. (N06Jaina34.flac - edited)

[GARITHOS finishes speaking with the Rifleman and walks over to the pair]

GARITHOS: Our scouts report that a second strike force may be heading this way from the east. (A01Garithos07.flac - edited)
GARITHOS: Those brainless dwarfs are almost more trouble than they’re worth. I’ll have to lead them myself. (L06Garithos18.flac - edited)
DUKE LIONHEART: Then we divide our forces, Garithos. We'll clean out the ruins while you find glory in the field.
GARITHOS: Suits my purposes. (GarithosYes3.flac)

[Without further ado, GARITHOS turns to leave with his men and his caravan of loot]

GARITHOS: Can’t you idiots follow simple orders? Get this column moving immediately! (L06Garithos19.flac - edited)

[GARITHOS' column moves out, exiting the mission and leaving behind JAINA and DUKE LIONHEART who turn and walk nearer to the city, looking at it]

DUKE LIONHEART: It's barbaric... When word reached us of this slaughter, men volunteered in their droves to help the victims. My companion's motives were far less charitable.
JAINA: What do you mean? (H04Jaina24.flac)
DUKE LIONHEART: Where one man sees disaster, another sees opportunity.
DUKE LIONHEART: But no matter, we have a job to do and I mean to do it. Can I count on your support, Jaina Proudmoore?
JAINA: Sounds good. (JainaYes1.flac)

[The cutscene ends, and immediately afterwards DUKE LIONHEART says a line ambiently]

DUKE LIONHEART: All right, you men. Shields up and swords out, we've got a city to reclaim!

- - - - - - - - - -

With the completion of this cutscene, we get the completion of the first Main Quest. This then opens up the next one.

Main Quest - The Broken City

The intention with this mission isn't to do anything like rebuild Stratholme or fix the damage that you wrought in "The Culling", the intention is to remove the threats that remain in the city. This can take a variety of forms, either just killing Undead, Bandits, Deserters and more, or it can involve things like using Jaina's magic to put out fires and allow people back in. The best bet is probably to use a mixture of both, with a mini-boss fight at the end.

The goal here is to provide an entertaining trek through the ruins of Stratholme so that it can be made safe enough for the refugees to try and reclaim it. Perhaps there can be survivors to find within the city to help you, but it should be made clear that this isn't an uplifting mission. You're still trekking through the site of a city-wide slaughter, and the design of the quest, map and music should reflect that truth.

Side Quests

I do not want to define exactly what side quests should be available, but I think there's a host of possibilities that can lead to side quests. Here are some of the concepts I'm rather fond of:

- Go into an area of the city that is still burning to put out the flames. Do this by slaying the fire elements that spawn from each burning building, before killing the Firelord that leads them

- Hunt down or recapture a rogue monster from the Stratholme Zoo (I hope the zoo gets restored for Re-Reforged!). Another possibility is that instead of it being alive, the monster is dead and so must be destroyed

- Kill Acolytes spreading the word of the Cult of the Damned to the downtrodden refugees

- Bandits are looting the city, stop them from getting their ill-gotten gains

- A knight of the Silver Hand is struggling with his faith in the aftermath of the battle, help him

- A paranoid, fanatical militia has taken over portions of the city and wants proof that you're not working for the Scourge. Find some way to prove yourself to them to gain their support

Whatever side quests are added, make sure that they provide some link to one of the themes of the mission and not provide a story that is too happy. This story needs to feel depressing, even if the gameplay elements are a lot of fun.

Outro Cutscene

The Outro cutscene would mostly consist of the vanilla interlude cutscene featuring Jaina and Uther's conversation about Arthas, before Jaina speaks with the mysterious Prophet. This has a minor change in that DUKE LIONHEART is included for a very brief part of the conversation, otherwise the changes that are required amount to camera and animation edits.

- - - - - - - - - -

[JAINA, her WATER ELEMENTAL and DUKE LIONHEART stand overlooking the port of Stratholme. Peasants and villagers nearby are heaping bodies and doing other sad things that show that a massacre happened here]

JAINA: So much death... I can't believe Arthas could've done this.
DUKE LIONHEART: There'll be a reckoning. Prince or not, there's a toll to be paid for foul deeds.

[JAINA looks away and DUKE LIONHEART gets the hint that its time to leave her with her thoughts]


[DUKE LIONHEART leaves and approaches his men who are doing something or other. Short afterward, UTHER arrives at the scene with the Knights of the Silver Hand. The Knights begin giving aid to the people, while UTHER goes over to JAINA]

UTHER: Jaina! Jaina Proudmoore!
JAINA: Lord Uther?
UTHER: Ah, Jaina. I thought I might find you here. Where has he gone, girl? Where has Arthas taken the fleet?
JAINA: He came to me before he left. I pleaded with him not to go. I told him it sounded like a trap!
UTHER: Where?
JAINA: Northrend. He's gone to Northrend to hunt Mal'Ganis.
UTHER: Damn that boy! I've got to inform King Terenas. Don't be too hard on yourself, girl. You had nothing to do with this... slaughter.

[UTHER leaves, but the Knights stay. JAINA steps away and onto the dock itself, standing beside the water. THE PROPHET flies towards JAINA and turns into his human form]

THE PROPHET: The dead in this land might lie still for the time being, but don't be fooled. Your young prince will find only death in the cold north.
JAINA: You! Arthas is only doing what he believes is right!
THE PROPHET: Commendable as that may be, his passions will be his undoing. It falls to you now, young sorceress. You must lead your people west to the ancient lands of Kalimdor. Only there can you combat the shadow and save this world from the flame.

- - - - - - - - - -

There is a possibility to add a cutscene showing Arthas at the head of the Lordaeron fleet as they head north for Northrend, whether it would work at the beginning or end of this cutscene is debatable, but it's something to consider. Otherwise, this marks the end of the map content, and leads into the next mission.
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Level 15
Apr 6, 2004
A little note for this mission concept:

In World of Warcraft's Stratholme dungeon, there was a mini-boss called The Unforgiven, who had this story in her dungeon journal:

"Lylia was a blade of righteousness among her people. After Arthas commanded his forces to purge the city, her sanity was ripped apart from seeing countless innocents die by her hand. She fell on her sword to escape the madness around her, and she now exists as a spectral being forever denied absolution for her heinous acts."

I feel that Lylia should appear during the pre-Duke Lionheart gameplay. My suggestion would be to show her as a random NPC swordsman who is muttering to herself over her guilt, or possibly even kills herself for her actions (this might be a touch melodramatic though). I think she is a perfect measure of the despair and desertion happening in some of those that took part in the slaughter.

Level 5
Feb 24, 2021
This is really great, I'd love to see this happen!

The Caverns of Time Culling music would fit great here as well.
Level 5
Feb 24, 2021
What music is that? I've ran the dungeon long, long ago but I always had the sound off :D
You turn you music off for WoW?

I feel personally offended! Music is the absolute best part of the game, and this particular one might be the very best of them all!

Sit back, relax and rejoice at hearing:
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