Conquest of the Horde

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In the world of Warcraft, it seems that there's no doubt in anyone's mind that the Light is the force of good and the Shadow is the force of evil. With shadow priests wielding the darkness and pain and everything and light priests wielding the heals and the goodness and the... well, light, it seems pretty plain to see that Light makes right.

However, the world doesn't really work like that. The world of Warcraft is no different, in all actuality. The Shadow isn't necessarily a force of evil, and people that worship the Light can sometimes be really, really messed up.

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Yeah, I'm looking at you, Inquisitor Whitemane.

"But wait, Scout," you must all be saying right now, "are you trying to say that people who worship the Shadow are actually good guys?!" The answer is no, not necessarily. Instead, you should all cast out the notion in your mind that the Shadow and the Light are actually moral forces, and that either is good or evil at all. It might be hard to do, but hear me out on this one, because I have a Reason why.

Imagine, for a moment, a world where people don't judge based on arbitrary moral designations of Right and Wrong, or Good and Evil. (Yes, I know it's hard.) Also imagine that in this same world, the Light and the Shadow exist in the exact same way that they do in Warcraft. How would you classify them? The Light obviously can't be good, and the Shadow obviously can't be evil, because the notions of good and evil don't exist! But, regardless, they're still different, and they have to be divided up somehow.

Basically, the Light corresponds with the ethical doctrine of Altruism, and the Shadow corresponds with Egoism. In simple terms, the Light renounces the self in favor of benefiting others, whereas the Shadow favors self-interest and personal goals over the interests of the whole.

Now, I know what you must be thinking. "That sounds kind of like good and evil!" And to that I would have to say, yes, it kind of does. The difference, however, is in that the intentions of each individual may be different. We see Altruism as Good, because our society perceives it to be a virtue, and something to strive for. However, Egoism is not immoral because of this. Attempting to advance yourself before helping others doesn't turn you into a cold-hearted, callous machine, it's simply a difference in priorities. You can still help others in Egoism; your interests merely come first in most circumstances.

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Granted, it is hard to picture this as anything but pure evil.

It really can't be denied that each one attracts a certain type of person, but that's not what I'm addressing here. Intrinsically, Light and Shadow are not morally different, they're simply ethically different. This difference in ethics means that, when a priest of the Light encounters a priest of the Shadow, their first reaction is going to be "Your point of view is wrong! You must be evil!" However, it's good to note that the Shadow priest is also going to have that same reaction to the priest of the Light! Each side believes the other to be evil. Whether or not this is true... well, that depends on the individual.

A good example of this is that priests of the Light tend to gather together and form churches. A church, whether as a place of worship or as an organization, is a far-reaching institution that touches many people, and changes their lives significantly. Through the combined faith of every single member of the church, they are strong, and their will cannot be shaken. Basically, the Light is a hive mind.

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On the other hand, Shadow priests tend to be solitary, quiet, introspective, and everything else that basically screams "antisocial!" to most people. Churches don't appeal to Shadow priests, because they would rather figure out their problems on their own, and learn from their mistakes, building their faith and character bit by bit through trial and error. This isn't to say, however, that Shadow priests never come together. On the contrary, they come together on a fairly regular basis. First the Heretic Circus, then the Saints of Shadow and get the idea.

The thing about these Shadow organizations is that they aren't about the furthering of the group; they are about the furthering of each individual. Shadow priests come together to exchange knowledge and ideas, and occasionally to take on a challenge that's too much for any one of them by themselves. It's never about assisting others; it's all about the self. Shadow priests would love it if everyone would try to advance their sense of self, and they're kind of infuriated about how the Light brainwashes people into losing their individuality.

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Or maybe they're just jealous of this.

Keeping all this in mind, I challenge you to make a shadow priest that isn't pure evil and out to destroy everyone for the lulz. On the same note, I challenge you to make a priest of the Light that doesn't necessarily do the right thing, even if it helps someone else. There is so much to be explored with priests and spirituality in general, but the trend seems to be that everyone worships the Light and the Shadow in the same old boring vanilla ice cream fashions.

So, in short, just remember that the Light is not necessarily good, and the Shadow is not necessarily evil, and the world will be a more interesting place.

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This guy, though...
Don't look at Whitemane. She gets enough attention as is. Look at Paletress, that's one crazy SoaB.
Scout, I am honored that you mentioned my guild in your article. <3

I approve wholly of what is said here. /nod. However, I must argue that there are instances in which it is not possible to have that "I'm not out to kill you for the lulz" Shadow Priest. In some instances, it -does- come with the territory of the character. Take, for instance, since you mentioned the Saints of Shadow, Gorose. His views of the world as a whole hella lot more twisted than even the least sane (I say least sane inatead of most insane because Shadow priests in general are not insane) Shadow Priest of another race. It comes with the territory of being Forsaken. The Light doesn't just not appeal to him; it hates his very existance. How's that supposed to feel to a man whom, in life, was wholly devoted to it? Pretty s***ty, right? Yeah. Due to this, he's one twisted, "Burn it all," type guy. In most situations. -Most.- Toss in Forsaken, and he acts as though he knew what love was.

I digress. tl;dr Some characters can't avoid that stereotype. However, I have played the "I'm a good guy who does bad things while trying to do good" SPriest.
I'm not saying that wanton slaughter is a bad thing for shadow priests to do. I just want people to consider the ethics behind each faith.

Again, the views of the Shadow are very appealing to a certain type of characters (namely evil ones), where the views of the Light are very appealing to a different kind of characters (namely good ones).
Something I've said often (and by often I mean once, like a half hour ago):

Not all shadow priests are priests of the Cult, but all priests off the Cult are shadow priests. Forsaken do indeed have a different take on The Shadow, but some follow exactly what's said above, based on the Virtue of Death which states everything must be in balance. If you kill too much, you eventually meet something too powerful. If you don't kill enough you're viewed as weak and insubstantial, defeating the purpose of being a Shadow Priest! That Virtue isn't accepted by all branches of the Cult of the Forgotten Shadow however.
Oh, I know. I would say I don't believe "wanton slaughter" is even in the nature of most Shadow Priests. Extended use renders one extremely emotionless, so... They wouldn't be like, "I'm angry. Lemme kill you now." They'd usually just shrug it off. Then, that person may show up dead in some sick, twisted manner a week later. They also stand as much moar subtle than people make them on CotH, when in societies where they are frowned upon. In general, I reference Personal Power as a Forgotten Shadow moral for this: Make yourself stronger, even if at the cost of others, within your own personal ethical limits. That about sums it up, I think.

Edit: Belth speaks the truth.

Double edit: Not trying to start a debate here, sorry. Jus' givin my point of view. I shall say, I very much approve of this guide, am happy you mentioned the Saints, and believe there are many much more shades of grey than could ever be mentioned in this thread.
One should note that the goal of obtaining power is an egotistical goal, even if you assist others in order to do so. The Light doesn't see helping others as a means to power, it sees it as the goal.
Good guide.

It basically treats personal phylosophy: What these characters have as ways to relating to reality around them.

With advanced characters, things can get very nuanced:

An educated and intelligent Shadow believer can easily find that acting exactly like a light worshiper 99% of the time -is- what would best advance him. Playing this gambit, allowing his ethics to mesh with the light's may easily begin challenging precepts of Shadow in the process, and RPing lightie's and shadowie's temptation with the other side is one of the most delicious stuff to be had. By the same token, a lightie that has decided the best way to help people is to make himself the most powerful he can be is a wide open target for Shadow.

So what I'd humbly add is that the ideals the Light and Shadow tend to be very different even with regards to what society should be like, perhaps with a political nuance. Egoism, Individualism are often misportrayed as phylosophies that care not about society or community.

In fact, most characters of this perception may simply believe that most real evil spawns from good intentions. (Which can't be too hard to empathise with) They may simply believe that the best thing for society -is- that everyone pursues happiness, and nobody enforces 'the common good', because the 'common good' only really emerges if no individual pursuit of wellbeing is curved for the sake of others. They find it unfair for others to judge what is good happiness and what is evil happiness, just on account of their power/majority.

"So let balance occur naturally, without taking the moral highground of assuming -you- have the moral awnser.", a subtle Shadowy might tell you. Ironically, a druid or shaman might well agree.