Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

I feel for the poor guy, but…


With three weeks to go until Cataclysm drops, this is the time where people start looking back at the epic two-year ride that Blizzard’s given us with Wrath of the Lich King. And what a ride it was.  Blizzard, in my opinion, did an excellent job with Wrath. Sure, there were some clunkers (hello, Icecrown County Fair and Trial of the Big Round Room!), but in general, Wrath was great.  Even the quests were awesome.  Well, mostly…

The poor bastard in the picture above is Crusader Bridenbrad.  We first hear about Bridenbrad from Highlord Tirion Fordring of the Argent Crusade after we’ve helped the Crusade cleanse and secure Crusader’s Pinnacle in Icecrown.  Apparently, during the fierce battle on the Broken Front, Bridenbrad distinguished himself by dragging “more than a dozen” Argents to safety after their column was scattered.  Fordring wants you to go find Bridenbrad, up in the northeast of Icecrown, and bring him back so he can be honored for his bravery.

Thus begins one of the more interesting–and, for some of us, maddening–questlines in Wrath of the Lich King.  First you find Bridenbrad alone in a small cul-de-sac in northeast Icecrown (the subzone is called “Silent Vigil”).  Unfortunately, Bridenbrad was wounded by Scourge, and is dying of some sort of Scourge taint.  He sends you back to Tirion with his best Jewish-grandmother impersation, something like, “no, you just go, you kids go and have your fun, I’ll be fine.  Really.  I’ll be OK, just go.  I’ll stay here.  Alone.  In the snow.  Turning into a ghoul that you’ll never call or come visit.  But I’ll be fine, no, really, it’s OK, I’ll learn to like eating brains.”  Tirion, upon your return to Crusader’s Pinnacle, says “fuck that noise” (not in so many words) and sends you on a world-spanning fly-and-fetch questline to bring back something to save the noble Crusader.

Your first stop will be Moonglade, where Keeper Remulos will have you enter the Nightmare to gather some acorns.  He will then make the acorns into some sort of chicken soup that he thinks may be able to save Bridenbrad, although he doesn’t sound too optimistic.  You go back to Icecrown, Fordring sends you back out to Silent Vigil, and you give Bridenbrad the chicken soup.  It’s yummy, and it makes him feel a little better, but he’s still, unfortunately, on the express train to Ghoulville.

Fordring, upon your return to the Pinnacle, then decides to escalate the problem to higher management…that would be Alexstrasza, the Life-Binder, her own twelve-foot-tall bikini-clad self, who agrees to help you if you go to the Ruby Dragonshrine and pick up a Dahlia’s Tear for her.  She takes the Tear and creates the Breath of Alexstrasza (which, by the way, Blizz, would be a great name for seriously hot hot sauce–Mr. Morhaime, you can pay me for that idea later), sends you back to Fordring, and he sends you back to Bridenbrad.  He takes the hot sauce, which is so spicy that it actually melts the snow and makes flowers grow around him…but all the Scoville units in the world aren’t going to burn the Scourge taint out of him.  So far the score is Cooties 2, Major Lore Figures 0.

Tirion, however, won’t give up.  He pulls his trump card and sends you to speak to A’dal, the chief naaru in Shattrath.  The naaru, after all, are literally personifications of the Light…if anyone would know how to remove the plague of impending undeath from a man, it would be A’dal. So you head to Shattrath and speak with A’dal.  A’dal, being the somewhat annoying NPC that he is, says he knows why you’ve come (don’t they always?), and then says this:

I am pleased that you have come to me, Linedan. I know of Crusader Bridenbrad, and of your travels in hope of saving him. Bridenbrad’s valor has sparked remarkable selflessness in you, and this is a miracle unto itself.

The Light will take care of its own. I will extend my blessing to Bridenbrad and he shall not endure the corruption of undeath. I shall return you to Dalaran, and you shall return to him. Know that I remain with you.

This is great news.  Sounds like Fordring’s persistence has paid off, right?  You catch a portal back to Dalaran (empty-handed) and fly back out to Bridenbrad.  By that time, the poor Crusader is very close to death.  He thanks you for your Herculean efforts on his behalf, and then…

You have returned to me, warrior. I must admit… it is good to see you again… your face renews my hope that this land will be free of Arthas’s grasp one day soon. I’m proud to have met you…

Bridenbrad’s words trail off, a dim smile on his face. As life seems to slip from him, a gentle ringing fills your ears.

At that point, A’dal and his two sidekicks K’uri and M’ori appear floating over Bridenbrad’s dying body.  Instead of the Crusader being healed and standing up, Bridenbrad’s spirit floats out of his body and ascends in a pillar of light as A’dal speaks:

A’dal says: Fear not, young one, for this crusader shall not taste death.
A’dal says: In life, Bridenbrad was the bearer of great deeds. Now, in passing, he shall taste only paradise.
A’dal says: The light does not abandon its champions.

And that’s it.  The naaru wink out.  Bridenbrad’s dead body disappears.  You’re left standing in a snowy wasteland with a dying campfire and a box of possessions that you then take back to Tirion, and receive one of them as a reward.

The first time I did this quest, on Linedan, I just stood there blinking for a minute.  I was confused.  Apparently A’dal, the most powerful of the naaru, the slightly creepy Shattrath windchimes that basically are the material representation of the vaunted Light, couldn’t be arsed to de-Scourgify Bridenbrad?  Or perhaps the taint is so strong that not even A’dal could save him?  OK, that makes more sense then.  Can’t save the guy, A’dal figured, so why not just vacuum the spirit out of his body so he won’t have to experience being a mindless servant of Arthas?

That sound you heard was the top popping on a big ol’ fresh can of worms.

First of all, one of A’dal’s lines…“in passing, he shall taste only paradise.” I’ve been digging around all day when I could get time, and I can’t find anything on followers of the Light (be they mainline Church of the Holy Light or spin-offs like the Argents or Scarlets) holding a belief in an afterlife or paradise.  Shamans talk about the “spirit world,” where there are departed spirits of all kinds running around; troll priests have their Loas, and there are references here and there to ghosts and spirits and such, that’s all well-known.  But I can’t find a single thing talking about any sort of afterlife, especially a “paradise,” for Light-worshippers.  Maybe I missed it, I don’t know.  Maybe Bridenbrad is just so special that he gets into the VIP room in the back of Club Naaru, where the Dom Perignon flows like water and the playahs and ballahs chill with their groupies, while the garden-variety good people are waiting in line out front under the watchful eye of Aldor bouncers in black T-shirts.  Something about the whole thing just does not seem to fit into Light lore, at least in my fairly limited view of it.  I admit, my knowledge of Warcraftish lore is not all that great–I have access to the usual Internet sources, but don’t own any of the Warcraft d20 sourcebooks or anything like that.

But then, we get to the real kicker…when A’dal says, “The Light does not abandon its champions.”

Reeeealllly.

Then please explain to the court, Mr. A’dal, why there are a metric asston of former Argent paladins walking around Scourgeholme as skeletons, bouncing Hammers of Injustice off my dome willy-nilly.  Please explain what happened to the thousands of good, solid, Light-worshipping folk in Lordaeron and environs who did not get the Heavenly Elevator but instead got a few days’ rest in the clay of Tirisfal before rising back up as Arthas’ infantry.  Please explain why you can’t swing a dead gnome in north central Icecrown without hitting a Converted Hero, doomed to wander in anguish until somebody on a daily quest to get Valiants’ Seals comes along and puts them out of their misery.  Were they not “champions of the Light?”  No one’s doubting that Crusader Bridenbrad is an exceptional hero.  But haven’t a lot of heroes fallen before the Scourge and been doomed to serve it?  Why didn’t they get to “taste only paradise?”

And on top of the potential lore-bending, and the issues caused by the “why him and not them” question, there’s an even more ridiculous element to it.  When Bridenbrad was put into the game initially in Wrath, there was nothing up in his neck of the woods but Sindragosa’s Fall, meaning his nearest neighbors were vry’kul and creepy cultists.  But with the subsequent 3.1 and 3.2 patches, Blizzard gave us the Argent Tournament (or, as I like to call it, the Icecrown County Fair).  And they happened to put it right over the rise from Bridenbrad’s campfire.

So you can imagine…here’s this poor sod, dying out in the snow, leagues from nowhere…and now he sees this steady stream of gryphons and windriders flying north and south over him.  He hears on the wind the sounds of hammering, the shouts of workers, the clang of arms…and then the sounds of cheering from the Tournament proper.  Hey, maybe if there was an onshore northerly wind, he could even get a whiff of the concessions.  A three-minute stagger north of him, hundreds of Argents and adventurers are gathered in what became for a while the focal point of the assault on the Lich King.  And there was poor Bridenbrad, alone and forgotten (assuming you hadn’t already done the quests and phased him out).

Ridiculous?  Yeah, maybe I’m being ridiculous, or picky, or whatever.  But something about that questline has never completely sat right with me.  I’ve had trouble articulating it, which is why I haven’t ranted about it until now.  Maybe it weirds me out because of my own Christian beliefs, and I’m not comfortable with A’dal pretending to be God and Bridenbrad pretending to be Enoch.  The whole thing seemed to bend lore in directions that I didn’t think it should be bent.

But it wasn’t until this morning, when doing some research for this post, that the Wowpedia entry for Bridenbrad snapped this whole thing into focus for me:

Bridenbrad is named for Bradford C. Bridenbecker, the brother of Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s Vice President of Online Technologies. He was the city manager of La Habra, California, not far from Blizzard’s offices in Irvine, from 2002 until his death from cancer in 2007. He was also an avid player of World of Warcraft. In the Wrath of the Lich King manual, he is listed under “Special Thanks” as “Bradford C. Bridenbecker R.I.P. 6.18.2007″.

Robert Bridenbecker revealed in the World of Warcraft 5th anniversary interviews that shortly after his brother’s death, he sent an e-mail to Blizzard to request a character be created in his honor. Chris Metzen, who had attended Brad Bridenbecker’s funeral, heard of this and offered one of two ways: To add him as part of the main storyline for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, or to give him his own epic quest chain. Under the direction of Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi, the Bridenbrad quest chain was created in tribute to Brad Bridenbecker’s battle against his illness.

I never knew that.  Now it all makes sense.  This isn’t some silly thing that was casually thrown in…it’s a real tribute, to a real man, who fought a real battle against a real disease, and lost. Knowing that, all my worries about lore and continuity and such things seem rather petty.  I still have issues with the way the questline was put into the game, but honestly, they don’t really matter all that much now that I know the real story behind Crusader Bridenbrad.

I hope and pray that the real “Bridenbrad”–Bradford Bridenbecker–just like his fictional counterpart, was able, in the end, to “taste only paradise.”  After all, in my own beliefs, the Light doesn’t abandon its fallen champions, either.

28 responses

  1. The very last sentence made me smile. Thank you.

    November 17, 2010 at 14:49

  2. Lou Gagliardi

    My stepdad battled cancer. He survived, thank the god/goddess, but anything to do with cancer deals a blow to me in my heart and soul.

    After I did this quest, I read more about it and found out the real reason. I burst into tears then and I did today.

    Lore be damned, it’s this type of stuff that makes Blizzard a great company. They go out of their way to make people feel special, alive or dead.

    This was a classy move, one that’ll never be forgotten.

    Good post, makes people thinking, read and react.

    And it was a good topic too.

    November 17, 2010 at 14:59

  3. I’ve always felt the same way as you about this questline, but always feel bad disliking it because of its roots. I’m glad you wrote this – I’ve been contemplating dissecting it ever since first discovering it.

    First of all, the real-life symbolism and significance is awesome. The fact that Blizzard does this sort of thing to pay homage to loved ones is incredible, and is honestly one of my favorite things about the company. No dispute here.

    The ACTUAL questline though, is full of hypocrisy and flaws. To be fair, I didn’t view the “paradise” bit as about finding heaven so much as avoiding the terrible alternative – that for a crusader, ANYTHING would be paradise compared to becoming a member of the Scourge.

    But as for the Light abandoning their own…yeah. I’ve voiced my criticism about the Light many times in the past and this is no exception. In my opinion, the Light is indeed an incredible power capable of great things, BUT it’s too damn selfish and arrogant to save people on its own. Want some help from the Light? Well, better get on your knees and prostrate yourself and tell the Light how awesome it is, otherwise you aren’t getting SQUAT!

    In fact, the Light really doesn’t care how noble your cause is, just how much you worship it. Look at the Scarlet Crusade. They’re clearly not “good” people, yet they wield and embrace the Love wholeheartedly, and the Light showers them with favor and power in exchange.

    November 17, 2010 at 15:02

  4. That’s very interesting. I don’t know if it’s possible lore-wise, but it would be cool if he were to come back as a Naaru in Cataclysm.

    November 17, 2010 at 15:05

  5. That was awesome. Nice catch.

    My first thoughts until I got to the end was that often Blizz drops hints of things to come in seemingly incongruent ways. Referring to an afterlife that nobody had ever heard of before fits into that pattern fairly well, so I was thinking that there was possibly something we might see in Cata or even WoW 5.x that would settle things out.

    And while the real-life explanation does tie things up neatly, it’s still possible that that may bear fruit in the future.

    Again, very nice post.

    November 17, 2010 at 15:15

  6. Wulfy

    I always hated that quest for the many lore problems it brings up that you mentions, plus my own dislike/mistrust of the Naaru. However hearing the real story behind the design of the quest has mollified my scepticism. Its actually rather nice.

    November 17, 2010 at 15:21

  7. Rades:

    Startling hipocrisy, unmitigated contradiction, unmanageable moral absolutes and ceaseless death-worshipping idolatry?

    Forgive my cynicism, but it sounds like every major religion to me.

    November 17, 2010 at 17:02

    • Lou Gagliardi

      sounds more like just Christianity to me.

      Paganism doesn’t offer ‘unmanageable moral absolutes’ last i checked. Unless there’s a text I’ve not read.

      And who really cares what it sounds like?

      It’s the message, and the reason for the quest that should matter.

      November 17, 2010 at 20:03

      • I’m not super up on my modern paganism, but I don’t think “do no harm” is exactly easy or uncomplicated.

        November 17, 2010 at 20:37

      • Sorry about this, Linedan, I realized after I posted that making this about IRL religions probably isn’t the best idea I ever had.

        It’s a loaded subject, and I’m not surprised Blizzard raised some eyebrows by the way they handled it.

        November 17, 2010 at 20:41

      • Lou Gagliardi

        @Rhii

        I won’t comment on my former religion (christianity) except to say ‘harm ye none’ is easier to obtain than ‘don’t sin or risk eternal hellfire’

        Especially since Wicca accepts that humanity makes mistakes and we’re not perfect and never have been.

        November 17, 2010 at 21:00

  8. Well put. I’m with you all the way.

    November 17, 2010 at 17:42

  9. This quest angered me. I /rude at A’dal every time I go to Shattrath.

    The reason it angered – still angers – me, is that I completed it on my Tauren warrior. My good, kind, dutiful, and Earthmother-worshipping Tauren warrior.

    So A’dal says to her, “The Light shall take care of its own.” And, “The Light does not abandon its champions.” So… you’re telling my character, to her face, that you wouldn’t do the same for her. Even though you apparently have the power to spare people from the spiritual pain and eternal conscious agony and servitude of Scourgification, because my character doesn’t follow your religion, you wouldn’t raise a finger to spare her that torment.

    I’m getting worked up just thinking about it.

    Honestly, the fact that it’s a tribute to a real person who died just makes the implications more unfortunate by blurring the lines between the game and real life. In real life I’m not only not a Christian, I was raised a Christian and consciously rejected it later in life. When Blizzard makes such hateful statements about non-Light-worshippers in-game, while at the same time blurring the distinction between followers of the Light and Christians, it makes me very uneasy. I encounter enough people in real life who believe, and in a few occasions have told me to my face, that I deserve to go to hell simply because I’m not a Christian. I don’t need to hear it in game.

    November 17, 2010 at 18:48

  10. Rhii: Don’t sweat it! This post started off for me weeks ago as “why the Bridenbrad line is stupid”…after thinking about it, and then finding out the true reason that it’s in the game, the post evolved into a lot more than that. I reserve the right to moderate if I need to, of course, but conversation like this certainly doesn’t need to be. As long as nobody’s religion gets bashed IRL, we’re all good.

    This quest, I’ve come to realize, is actually very useful for RP character development. It hits issues that a well-rounded character would think about (death, undeath, etc.) and forces them to react. So Linedan, for example, being not a terribly intellectual cow, just sort of shrugged and went on about his business. But Beltar, my dwarf, someone who is basically an athiest anyway, took a serious dislike to the Naaru over it. Some friends who play blood elves have had their characters react poorly to it as well, to the effect of “see, Naaru are only good to enslave anyway.” (Pre-Kael’thas, of course.) And Button’s in-character reaction is similar to many I’ve heard when discussing this with friends on Feathermoon.

    November 17, 2010 at 20:48

  11. Well said. <3

    As a questline, in and of itself, yeah, it doesn't make sense. I don't think the afterlife is ever really addressed in WoW. But the lore inconsistencies, in this case, are not important, because it's not a standard quest. It's a tribute to a man who struggled against a terrible illness and lost, and it's there to honor this man's battle and his memory.

    (On an aside, I may or may not have shrieked with sadness and rage at my computer when I got to the end of this quest – yeah, I managed to get there without it getting spoiled, and yeah, I'm a sentimental sap who actually got emotionally invested in this poor man's fate and thus teared up when it ended the way it did.)

    "I hope and pray that the real “Bridenbrad”–Bradford Bridenbecker–just like his fictional counterpart, was able, in the end, to “taste only paradise.” After all, in my own beliefs, the Light doesn’t abandon its fallen champions, either."

    Quoting that for truth.

    November 17, 2010 at 20:55

  12. I confess, I always found this quest-line rather touching. I remember you saying you didn’t like it and so I knew today when I saw your post title that it would be about that! I didn’t anticipate the surprise ending, though. Thanks Linedan. I didn’t know about the quest’s origins.

    November 17, 2010 at 21:09

  13. There is a quest in Cataclysm where Valen says something similar to “The Light does not abandon its champions” but he continues to say that while it does not abandon them its presence can recede. So in cases like Arthus and those raised as scourge, the Light will still be there watching them but the darkness has consumed them so fully that the Light is basically only “observing” whats happening to its child.

    November 17, 2010 at 23:14

  14. Apologies for the side-track; it wasn’t intended. But I was talking about major religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. Monotheism and polytheism shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive in this regard.

    But suggesting that Paganism is a major religion is something of a stretch. Arguing the absence of moral absolutes within it is equally big.

    “An it harm none, do as ye will.”

    My point, I suppose, is that I originally chuckled at the Bridenbrad quest line because I thought Blizzard was making a tongue-in-cheek parody of real life religious values.

    May the family of the real subject be warmed by this gesture and remember only the greatest parts of their loved family member; it’s a classy gesture by Blizzard and an example of what makes the company awesome.

    November 18, 2010 at 04:10

  15. Amoro

    Now, I read about this a long time ago. And I personally think its a wonderfull thing for them to have done. There is at least one other instance im aware of. However I dont recall the full backround of it ( im sick and its 5am ) I know that there is somewhat of a monument in the barens dedicated to a person as well. A friend walked me there one time and showed it to me. No quest line, just a solitary shrine. If anybody has the backround id be very interested for it to be shared.

    November 18, 2010 at 08:03

  16. Ken

    Thanks for the article. Yes, I love heartwarming quests like this. The other real tear-jerker is (as I’m sure you already know) Ahab Wheathoof in Bloodhoof Village near Thunder Bluff. He’s the boy looking for his dog. I suppose if you do not have any Horde toons you may not have come across this. Here’s a good article:

    http://wow.joystiq.com/2007/05/22/blizzard-and-make-a-wish-bringing-wow-to-life/

    November 18, 2010 at 10:23

  17. Bear

    A’dal says: In life, Bridenbrad was the bearer of great deeds. Now, in passing, he shall taste only paradise.

    It’s possible to read this without assuming an afterlife. Now, in the moment of his death, he will experience paradise. After he dies, he ceases to exist but for that last moment, he won’t suffer.

    As for the light not abandoning its champions, well… just goes to show that there are a lot fewer “champions” than one might have expected. A’dal is copping to the fact that it’s a very hard rep grind.

    November 18, 2010 at 15:14

  18. Amoro

    I do believe heartwrenching is the word on this one. I will read that Make a wish article as soon as I have the chance. The brigenbrad questline struck a chord with me when I watched the video on it. You See, my 7 year old brother had cancer. I have much respect for Blizzard for this tribute.

    November 19, 2010 at 07:12

  19. Des

    When I did this quest chain on Dandill, it infuriated him. How could that – thing – say the Light didn’t abandon its champions when it did so the Sin’dorei in general once and him specifically twice, since he’s now a death knight, once a blood knight? The whole incident still makes him cranky, and he’s still rather unenthused about the whole A’dal thing.

    To know there is actual backstory as to why the quest is there is nice, and a fitting tribute…but I don’t think it’s going to mollify my poor Knight-Captain Boughstrider in the slightest.

    November 19, 2010 at 15:27

  20. Pingback: Monday Linking Love « Manalicious

  21. Great post. I, too, felt rather uncomfortable and unsatisfied with this quest line when I did it, for the inconsistencies you mentioned and the awkward religious overtones.

    But then I read why it was put there and… yeah.

    November 22, 2010 at 09:53

  22. Tam

    God, I feel guilty as hell right now. I’ve always loathed this quest, not least because when I did it I only had a immensely slow mount – and so it took me a very long time, flapping slowly back and forth across the length and breadth of Azeroth, thinking to myself “just die already, you bastard.”

    Yep. Guilty. As. Hell. Right. Now.

    November 23, 2010 at 10:19

  23. I don’t at all feel guilty for disliking that quest.

    Des mentioned before the absolute outrage it sparked for Dandill. Dorri felt much the same way. It has colored her view of the “light monsters” ever since. It has a lot to do with why she has trouble accepting Lady Liadrin’s acceptance of the authority of the Naru (sp?)

    Corspilla, my Forsake mage, was also incensed. Where were these guys when she and her mother were raised?

    No matter why the quest was made, it was still a blatant slap in the face to those who suffered so much at the hands of the Scourge. They are left to question what made that one lone human so much better than everyone else.

    November 24, 2010 at 18:12

  24. Adlib

    I’m just now getting to this as I’m catching up with my reader, but this is just an excellent post. I kinda wanted to stand up and cheer–just great! I always thought that questline was pretty random and odd in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. Thanks for letting us know…kinda teared up at the end there. :)

    December 1, 2010 at 16:50

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