The question in the title is about lore and/or roleplay. (Contrary to popular belief, not everyone who cares about lore is a roleplayer.) If you don’t care about either…um… thanks for the pageview?
Why does your character heal? Azeroth has been busy with one war or another for quite some time now. If it’s not the Horde and Alliance trying to slaughter each other, it’s everybody fighting the Burning Legion. Or the Scourge. Or the Twilight’s Hammer Cult and Deathwing. But there have also been other wars. The high elves and trolls. Everybody and the murlocs. (Not a true war, perhaps, but I can’t quite put murlocs in the same category as beasts that qualify as “pests” when they overrun farmland.) Somebody is always at war with somebody else, or multiple somebody elses, on Azeroth. Healers play an important part in that, but sometimes I wonder why certain people become healers… or why they choose full-time healing. (“People” meaning “characters” here.)
I play on a roleplay server, and even if I’m not seeking out roleplay on a certain character I have a story in mind so that I can look at the experience through my character’s eyes and slip into character when I’m approached In-Character. Glorwynn’s backstory is that she was a priestess, and healing was what she did. Healing anyone who needed it. Her mother died when she was young and she took care of her father and brother. Her father died at Mt. Hyjal. Her brother died in Northrend. When the Cataclysm happened, Glorwynn was visiting friends of the family in Coldridge Valley and was trapped there. She was in Stormwind when her father and brother died. She was “home” when the Cataclysm happened. That made a difference, and she couldn’t be content to just go back to Stormwind and continue being the priestess she was before. It was time to fight back when she could, and to stop simply healing those who came seeking it. To get out there and heal on the front lines to keep folks in the fight! So she started training as a paladin.
There’s not just a reason for Glorwynn being a paladin, but specifically a HOLY paladin.
Why do other paladins devote themselves to healing? My husband plays a retribution paladin and he’s thrown out a little healing plenty of times, or healed himself. But that doesn’t make him a “healer”. Why do many priests never go through the training to be a paladin? Why be a healer who marches out there in a cloth robe when you could be better protected?
That also brings up questions about other types of paladins. They really aren’t all the same. Dwarves and Humans are, by and large, the same sort. It seems to be that dwarves are often more spiritual about the Light and humans are more religious, but they’re mostly on the same page. Something mentioned in guild chat the other night was the idea of dwarves using the Light more than worshipping it, and there was a reaction to that idea that was completely understandable… that “using” the Light sounds so much like Blood Elves. The conversation moved on before I could put my two copper in on that idea. If I were going to say dwarves “use” the Light as a tool, I would have to look at how dwarves use tools. Finely crafted tools are nearly sacred relics to dwarves. The history of Blood Elves “using” the Light is a history of manipulating and abusing it.
Silver Hand is not Hand of Argus. Neither of those are Blood Knights. None of those three are Sunwalkers. How does culture affect the reasons a paladin has for being a healer? And how does it affect priests? The lore on Uther the Lightbringer tells us paladins are priests. But does that only apply to the Silver Hand? Does it only apply to humans?
Why are some shaman devoted to healing? The elements are so chaotic by nature, and my understanding is that a shaman respects this. A shaman doesn’t force their view of order onto the elements, doesn’t really “command” them, but works with them to offer a path for them to follow that is acceptable to the elements and beneficial to mortals. (I also have royally failed at playing a shaman, so I’d really like some shaman players to chime in on this. Most of what I think I understand about shaman from a lore perspective has come from reading the books.) What motivates some shaman to choose what we in the Out-of-Character world call the Restoration speciality? On some level, isn’t any shaman living in harmony with the elements a type of healer?
I can see an easy reason for some druids to be devoted healers. Balance isn’t just about balance in one’s own life. It’s larger than that. For druids to preserve the balance, it would be important to have dedicated healers as well as those dedicated to combat. But I’m sure there are more personal reasons for some druids. Why is your druid a healer?
Forsaken priests. I love the existence of the Forsaken in the story! I used to see them as tragic heroes. I was uncomfortable about poisoning that mountaineer in Brill, but I had just started the game and gave my new autonomous zombie friends some time to prove themselves to me. Once I got far enough into things, I decided there was no way they weren’t evil. Maybe a little crazy, and understandably so (Sylvanas was still alive when Arthas pulled her soul from her and twisted it into a banshee. That’s not something you just get over. Time doesn’t heal all wounds.), but definitely evil.
I’m not so sure anymore. Sure, to the rest of Azeroth the things they do will seem evil. But Azeroth is a living world filled with living plants, animals, and people. The Forsaken are… not living. They just aren’t dead, either. Being “good” or “evil” requires being able to understand the consequences of your actions and make a choice based on that. I’m not so sure the Forsaken can do that in a way that is in harmony with a living world. On one hand, they may be amoral. On the other hand, they may truly be good for themselves but not for everyone else… in a “these things don’t fit together” way, not a selfish way. I’m still certain they are a threat to Azeroth. I just don’t think “threat” has to be synonymous with “evil”. (I’m allergic to wasp stings. That doesn’t mean I think wasps are evil murderous insects.)
There are undead characters that, by not being evil, made me think for a long time the rest of the Forsaken must be evil. Leonid Barthalomew the Revered. Trevor, the priest. There’s an alchemist now out in Plaguewood (I don’t think he was there before) who finally pushed me to start thinking about Forsaken morality a little more. What if these guys are the exception, rather than the rule? They leave me with the impression that there’s a difference between being free undead and being “one of the Forsaken”. Forsaken seems to be a cultural identity now, rather than a race. The Forsaken are Sylvanas’ people, but not all free undead are. Maybe it’s highly uncommon for a free undead to truly be able to think of their actions within the context of a world they really have no place in. Those that can seem to find somewhere else to live and someone else to work for.
But what about Forsaken discipline and holy priests? As far as I can tell, there’s really no reason they CAN’T channel the Light. It’ll just be about the most painful thing imaginable if they do, and might even kill them. Trevor said he would not serve the Shadow, even if he could no longer serve the Light. Is there room in the lore for a Forsaken discipline or holy priest who continues to channel the Light and serve as a healer?
It’s probably easier to explain why a player chooses to play a healer, but why does your CHARACTER heal?