The achievement "What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been" involves completing other achievements associated with the various holidays throughout the year. The less-inclined often scoff at those who dedicate themselves to completing it, questioning why a badass adventurer would take time off from saving the world to participate in petty festivities. When you do complete it, however, Alexstrasza the Dragonqueen sends you the following letter:
With the drums of war pounding in the distance, it is easy for the denizens of Azeroth to forget all that life has to offer.
You, on the other hand, have maintained the dignity of the good races of Azeroth with your ability to remember what we fight for. To not celebrate our victories is another form of defeat. Remember that well, reveler.
May others be inspired by your good cheer.
-Alexstrasza the Life-Binder
This piece of art◊ from Blizzcon '09 that Chris Metzen had to stop to deliberately point out as his favorite. "For all the epic weapons, that's who those guys are."
This quest, in memory of a player who died of leukemia. The poem is equal parts heartwarming and tear jerker.
Children's Week. You get your very own orphans, Human and Draenei for Alliance, and Orc and Blood Elf for Horde, and you take the orphans to various places in Azeroth, Outlands, and/or Northrend. At the end of the questline, you return the orphan to his/her matron, the orphan gives you his/her pet and sends you a letter telling you how much fun they had and that you're his/her new big brother/sister.
It's a minor one, but the baby Murlocs in Loch Modan. Especially when they're selected and do a baby version of the Murloc battle cry.
This thread about how one faction should kill another somehow ends with an actually rational argument, and even more shockingly, starts a trend of reasonable discussions on World of Warcraft from it's begining to the first day of Mists of pandaria. In other words, a bunch of people who don't know each other actually got over their hate of people different than them and beat GIFT.
A parent posts on the official forums looking for information about Blizzard's hiring practices on behalf of their eight year old son, who wants to get into the gaming industry when he grows up. Despite forumgoers predicting otherwise, Blizzard staff respond to the thread, culminating in a massive post chock full of advice and the qualifications that Blizzard looks for when hiring staff that was posted on Lead Systems Designer Ghostcrawler's behalf.
A poster on the Korean forums told a story of how he helped the local server outcast (helpfully translated to English) improve his game, and how it ended causing a massive shift in attitude amongst the Korean players.
Classic Old World
The Burning Crusade
Close to the end of a lengthy quest chain in Nagrand, which involves you running about the place and finding out what's up with the spirits of the Mag'har ancestors, sweet old granny-type orc Greatmother Geyah mentions that she is Durotan's mother. Immediately you inform her that Durotan's son, Thrall, is now the Warchief of the Horde, and you rush off to Orgrimmar to tell Thrall where his granny lives. Thrall comes to Nagrand and, after telling Garrosh Hellscream that Grom slew Mannoroth and redeemed himself and the orcs, spends the next few hours happily reminiscing with Geyah. It's made extra heartwarming by all the effort you made to bring them all together.
A (paraphrased) quote from that part of the quest: "Go to my grandson. Tell him that his blood is here, in this shattered world." So sad, and yet so heartwarming. This old lady thought she alone was the last surviving member of her family and finds out that she has a grandson on another planet, family at long last on the shattered world of Draenor.
Also, Thrall learning that his real name is Go'el after so many years of not even thinking his parents had even had a chance to name him. All the more heartwarming when he ends up casting off the slave name of Thrall and becoming Go'el for real and saving the world by HOLDING IT TOGETHER WITH ONE SPELL! In Lord of the Clans novel, Thrall taking up the Doomhammer after Orgrim's death and leading the Horde. Not a spoiler because You Should Know This Already if you've played the game at all.
The draenei quests on Bloodmyst Isle. After a long grind through multiple quest chains, you're congratulated by the head of the small settlement for all your hard work, and he informs you that because of you, your exiled people will forever have a home. Par for the course, but then you turn to leave the building... and everyone you helped on your quests, from the injured soldier you helped clear a safe path back for to the elekk stablemaster you ran errands for, is there, applauding you - complete with one of the leaders of the dranei, who's come all the way from the Exodar to thank you personally. Manly Tears.
Lorewise, the conversation that Lady Liandrin has with the Naaru in Shattrath City during the Burning Crusade. Her people were abandoned by the alliance, chose to follow a dark, demonic path and were turned evil by Kael'thas who vampircally corrupted a Naaru to regain their connection to the Light. It's the beginning of the redemption of the Blood Elf People. It's revealed after killing the final boss of the Sunwell Plateau raid that this was all part of a major Xanatos Gambit by said Naaru, and a shard from his remains are used to reignite the Sunwell, this freeing the Blood Elf people from the need to feed on fel magic.
Wrath of the Lich King
In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King we have the Alliance-side quest line centered around Brann Bronzebeard. Its conclusion definitely applies here. After escaping with Brann from the Engine of the Makers, he asks to be introduced to King Yorg Stormheart, king of the Frostborn Dwarves. He happens to be a Mountain Dwarf. Upon meeting him, Brann immediately recognizes Yorg as his dead brother Muradin. However, we find out earlier, in Dragonblight, that Muradin Bronzebeard is still alive—and word has already reached Magni. The resulting reunion of the brothers Bronzebeard is simply touching, especially for fans of Warcraft III and earlier. Just as soon, Muradin's memories return in flood, and he resolves to fix his mistakes... Namely Arthas. The brothers split once more. Thrall (and his Grandma), eat your hearts out.
After the defeat of Deathbringer Saurfang in Icecrown Citadel, as an Alliance player, you get to see a man who, until this point, has had nothing but bile and hatred for the Horde (and, if you know his complete backstory, completely justified in those feelings), perform one of the most heartwarming gestures ever. Keep in mind, Deathbringer Saurfang was originally a Horde warrior that fought alongside one of the most famous Alliance paladins but was struck down re-animated by the Lich King himself. He also was the son of High Overlord Saurfang, who is more or less the leader of the Horde forces just under Thrall.
High Overlord Saurfang says: Behind you lies the body of my only son. Nothing will keep me from him. Muradin Bronzebeard says: He... I can't do it. Get back on your ship and we'll spare your life. A mage portal from Stormwind appears between the two and Varian Wrynn and Jaina Proudmoore emerge King Varian Wrynn says: Stand down, Muradin. Let a grieving father pass.
The following quote is from Muradin when you hand in this item, a secret drop from the Lich King. It may jerk some tears.
"Oh lad, how I missed those endless days in Lordaeron, sharpening your skill with this dull blade. Forging you into a weapon meant to withstand the demands of a great destiny. Heh! You sure put them skills to use, didn't you lad? If only I'd been able to stop you that day, how different things migha' been. If only I'da never discovered that accursed blade. Farewell, Arthas, my brother."
Earlier on in the storyline, there's Thrall consoling High Overlord Saurfang after the Battle of Undercity. "I'm sorry about your boy."
The short questline Brothers In Death from the Death Knight starting area. Death Knights were created to be cold-hearted killing machines, encouraged to fight to the death to test their strength and weed out the weak, operating on a pure survival-of-the-fittest mentality. If one gets captured, it's because they were weak and deserved to die. And yet, Thassarian still cares about Koltira enough to risk the Lich King's retribution by sending you to rescue him. Koltira is touched by the gesture, and then plays a distraction so you can get back safely. If you stick around by Thassarian for a bit after accepting the quest, he has a short chat with Bloodbane, where he comments that he doesn't give a damn about the Lich King, the Alliance, and the Horde, Koltira is his friend and that's all that matters.
Continues a bit at the end of the Andorhal chain for Alliance players. Even though the battle ends badly (see the above entry), Thassarian ends it by deciding to go to Undercity and confront Sylvanas by himself over what happened to Koltira, showing that he still cares deeply about his friend even though earlier in the chain they both acknowledged that they couldn't call each other brother anymore and would probably have to fight to the death one day soon.
A Gorloc named Moodle in Sholazar Basin spends almost all of her (I think Moodle is female) time insulting her people and talking down to them because she is so much smarter than they are. Most Gorlocs have the minds of five-year old children. She talks normally. When she sees what happened to the Mosswalkers at the hands of the undead, she finally admits that she loves her people and wouldn't ever want anything to happen to them, even if she DOES talk bad about them. Tearjerker and Heartwarming all in one. Moodle eventually becomes a helper on the daily quests for Oracle reputation. She went from hating having to do things for people she didn't know to willingly helping her people with 'silly tasks' like collecting 'shinies' for some unseen deity.
This is more a Tearjerker, but if you have any kind of soul at all, the end of the Crusader Bridenbrad quest is also heartwarming. You went through all that trouble to stop him from becoming undead, and you succeed. Not only does he not become undead, he is personally taken to heaven by Azeroth's version of a powerful angel.
Theres a Questline in the eastern kingdoms, where you join two paladins (a dwarf and a blood elf) and a worgen shopkeeper on the journey to Light's hope chapel. In the middle of it there's the typical commentry in the carravan and such. However, soon, you find that Gildwin (the Dwarf) is captured and is about to become a death knight. Note that this is after the death knights of Ebon Hold betrayed the scourge, so he won't be coming back if he does. So the entire Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits comes in, this by itself is not alot, however if you realise that the team consists of two already dead people, a Retired Badass and a Goblin who barely wanted to join the first place. you have to realise how much they've bonded over the course of the trip.
If you do the Battle of Darrowshire make sure you stay for a bit after you complete the quest.
Since Cataclysm, the quest line that sends you around the Eastern Plaguelands lets you choose an item that grants a perk while you're in the zone. Once you've finished Darrowshire, you can take Pamela's Doll ("Is someone following you?"). You don't get a bonus to damage, or money earned, or anything. But every now and then little Pamela appears and follows you around, keeping you company while you fish or visit Light's Hope Chapel.
In Cataclysm, the entire Western Plaguelands seems like it will be be one of these, especially for everyone who played through the Western Plaguelands up until the expansion comes out. There's something about seeing the WPL 80% cleansed of Scourge taint very relieving.
In the latest Novel, Thrall meets an alternate version of his friend Taretha (in this timeline he still died as an infant). After proving his claims and asking her for help, he tells her what happened to her in the real timeline and how he blames himself for failing to save her. She tells him that it doesn't matter, because even though she died she ultimately made a difference for countless people.
From the same timeline, one of the bright spots is that Arthas does not fall from grace. Instead, fleeing from Blackmoore's regime in Lordaeron, Arthas escapes to Stormwind with his wife, Jaina Proudmoore, and their son, Uther Menethil.
In Northern Stranglethorn you end up having a baby Lashtail Raptor start following you around and thinking of you as it's parent. Naturally, there are quite a few quests with the hatchling. Cut to a few quests later, and the newly reborn Bloodlord Mandokir takes the baby away. After a failed quest to try and have it escape, Mandokir expresses that he will get the hatchling to forget all about you. Much later, inside Zul'Gurub, after slaying Mandokir, you see that the baby is still there, and still remembers you. The text says that while she is a little bigger and has a few scars, she is overjoyed that you actually came back for her. Upon rescuing her, you are allowed to keep her as a vanity pet, her title being <Playername>'aka.
"She recognizes you. Her father/mother has finally come back to save her."
Also, after rescuing Ohgan'aka, it is possible to see her traveling with you in Northern Stranlethorn as a npc, without the vanity pet tag.
Heartwarming and also Awesome, Mankrik will show up as one possible helper during a daily quest, helping the player kill some very tough bad guys. It's his way of working through his mourning:
Mankrik: My rage is not silenced... but it is quieter. For now.
Another quest new to cataclysm (and involving an old NPC) is a short quest line involving Azuregos. After being farmed for money and gear for years, his mind is beginning to fail him. After a lengthy chain started by Kalecgos, future Aspect of Magic players find the former resting in the spirit world with one of the countless and undoubtedly familiar Spirit healers that help adventurers resurrect when they die. He has discovered the name of this one and fallen in love with her. Azuregos proceeds to chew the player out, calling him/her out on the fact that the player in question probably doesn't even realise they HAVE names. The quest cropping up as a result of this is the player convincing the dragon that it can't last, and breaking both hearts. This eventually doubles as a heartbreaking moment when the player realises what he or she has done. While still a good action, a couple in love are still split up. This truly sinks in with the words of the Spirit healer as she resurrects you:
Thank you, *race*. Ultimately we both knew this wouldn't last... You should return to your world now, it is not yet your time. Don't worry, *race*, this one's on me.
The Elemental Bonds questline, in which Thrall's Love Interest Aggra, along with the player, go through the four elemental realms in what everyone else decreed a hopeless endeavor to make Thrall whole again. An orc motivated by the Power of Love is a sight to behold, in and of itself. The questline ends with Thrall & Aggra marrying.
There is a short questline in the Blasted Lands about a group of murlocs who were betrayed and attacked by the naga. While it starts off as a Tear Jerker , at the end you manage to rescue three baby murlocs and deliver them to the sea, where they swim to freedom.
Mists of Pandaria
Though it begins as a Tear Jerker, the Krasarang Wilds storyline where you helped Sunwalker Dezco repel the mogu ends with this. Looking after his newborn twins, if you ask him if he named them, he'll tell you that he named one of them Kor, the orc general who was Dezco's oldest friend who died at the end of the quest chain, and the other child he names after his savior, YOU. More like, your character's name.
In the equivalent Alliance quest, the Night Elf Lyalia is killed by the mogu. Her father, Lorekeeper Vaeldrin, realizes that he's been selfishly searching for immortality rather than spending time with his daughter. He tells you to relay a message to her - "I love you" - then uses water from the Pools of Youth to transfer his own life to Lyalia, killing him and resurrecting his daughter.
The ending to the Pandaren starting zone, as the balloon lifts off you see the ghost of Master Shang Xi bowing before you one last time as you head off into the World of Warcraft, set to some soaring, uplifting music.
In the Dread Wastes, a fishing ship has run aground on the southern coast. The crew decided to form a small village, and have lived there ever since. A few quests in the captain, Soggy, asks you to retrieve a charter which was supposed to show that the ship and crew was hired to do some fishing outside the Jade Forest, but Soggy decided to ignore the job and go exploring instead on the other side of the Great Wall which led to the crew's current predicament. Upon retrieving the charter and turning it in, however, it is revealed that the crew found out ages ago and replaced the charter with a letter where they thank him for bringing them along.
Soggy: Would you excuse me for a moment, <name>? I've, uh... I've got somethin' in both my eyes.
The NPC Lon'li Guju, who is a tribute to the last Pinta Island tortoise who died in June 2012. He follows your character around for a bit if you /wave or /love him.
Varian Wrynn reuniting with his son after Anduin had been missing in an unknown—to the Alliance— land without the protection of Alliance forces and an escalating Horde presence, for over two months.
Anduin: Father, you can't do this. All the hatred and anger our war brings here— it poisons this place. Varian: Easy, son. We're fighting a different war now. This isn't about hatred of the Horde. This is about a love of what's right. About doing what needs to be done.
Anduin: This land is— different than ours. It's a treasure. Varian: Then we'll protect it with our lives. Son, I need you with me on this. We in this together? Anduin: Together...
And also this:
Varian: Anduin, I can handle this. I need you to trust that I'm going to do the right thing here. Anduin: ... I trust you Father.
Which is all part of the dialogue where the Alliance finds out that the Horde have attempted to take over The Temple of the Red Crane. Anduin, knowing his father's history of hatred against the Horde, doesn't want his father to rush in and destroy the Temple just to get to the Horde, and King Wrynn agrees that that would be the wrong thing to do.
The very moment King Wrynn steps foot on Pandaria it's obvious that he's become a changed man. In addition to the above quotes, there is this, one of the first things he will say on the Shieldwall quest line:
Varian: Hm. I used to think leadership was all about strength. I see things more clearly now - it's a little bit of give, a little bit of take. It's about binding people together. A bundle of sticks is not easily broken.
The aftermath of the raid on the Thunder King's city and the defeat of his Dragon. Jaina and Lor'themar confront eachother with their respective forces, tensions quickly rising as Jaina accuses the Sunreavers of aiding Garrosh while Lor'themar adamantly defends their innocence. Just when it looks like a fight is going to break out, Taran Zhu rushes in and gives both sides a much needed reality check: That the whole Alliance-Horde conflict is due to a never ending cycle of aggression. Even after Jaina insists that the Horde is always the aggressor, Zhu manages to get through to both and Jaina and Lor'themar agree to stand down (despite Veressa's vehement protests). Maybe hope for peace isn't lost after all.
It isn't. The Alliance and the Horde make a joint effort to stop the tyrant Garrosh Hellscream from corrupting the Horde into an unstoppable, Always Chaotic Evil empire.
Jaina's Hope, a cutscene which plays early on in the Operation: Shieldwall questline. Jaina talks about Dalaran being a beacon of hope, as proof that Alliance and Horde can work together in peace, while uplifting music plays in the background. It's all rather inspiring, but unfortunately it's ruined just a few quests later when Garrosh, having infiltrated the Sunreavers with spies, manages to get the Horde into Darnassus. From Jaina's point of view, it looks like the Sunreavers were responsible, and that causes everything in Dalaran to go to pot instantly.
With Y'shaarj's second death (as a heart) and having his heart left as a smear on the floor in Siege of Orgrimmar The Sha are lifeless and dead (Sha corrupted locations are stillBlack with White glowing areas and edges) without the Heart of Y'shaarj to sustain them thus allowing the Vale of Eternal Blossoms to heal and regrow its life even on the White-edged Black Sha corrupted ground bringing a happy, or at least hopeful, ending to Mists of Pandaria.
In the Horde's ending cinematic for the Siege of Orgrimmar, Vol'jin tells Thrall that the Horde needs its true Warchief more than ever before. Thrall's response is to kneel before Vol'jin and nominate him to be the next Warchief. While Vol'jin is stunned by the very idea, Baine and Lor'themar bow, Gallywix tips his hat, and even Sylvannas acknowledges the choice. Vol'jin finally bows in his own acknowledgement.
Vol'jin: I... am not worthy. But I will give my all.. for the Horde.
The Alliance's is no less heartwarming. Jaina urges Varian to finish off the Horde in their weakened state, and he calls the guardsmen he brought with him to arms, strides forward with sword in hand to "do what a king must do"....which is to say, publicly recognize that Garrosh was not the entire Horde, and to bury the hatchet as far down as it can go. Took a Level in Kindness at it's best.
Considering the Shadow of Doubt is the resurrected Sha of Doubt, Immerseus likely is the resurrected Sha of Despair (it's called the Vale's Sorrow and the Fallen Protectors fought after Immerseus were corrupted by Despair) and since Immerseus retains sentience despite originally just being non-sentient Pools of Power it seems we just saved the only sympathetic Sha (due to it being in constant misery and Despair due to being the embodiment of misery and Despair) from it's unsympathetic brethren (Doubt, Violence, Hatred, Anger, Fear and Pride)'s fate and gave it happiness and redemption.
Throughout the expansion, players could complete quests with Lorewalker Cho which would unlock cutscenes where he describes important moments in Pandaria's history with names like "Tell me the story of the Warchief and the Darkness". Each patch (except 5.1) added new stories, though in the final patch, Cho was given only one last tale to unlock. What is it? "Tell my story".
The Wanderer's festival is a heartwarming festival during which the Song of Liu Lang is sung by Lorewalker Cho at the start while paper lanterns are placed in the water to float away from Pandaria's shore. The magical feel of the festival is compounded by it happening at night with a rain that doesn't cloud up the clear night sky or put out the fires set out. Of course the reason the rain dosen't put the fire out nor come from clouds that cover the night sky is because they are infact the tears of the Sha of Despair which makes the nature of it's rain adding to the magical feel without harming the fire nor obscuring the night sky ironically Hope bringing despite coming from the embodiment of Despair.
Warlords of Draenor
When Thrall travels to alternate Draenor, he saves alt Drek'Thar and meets up with Durotan. At first Durotan doesn't trust Thrall because the only other greenskinned orc he knows is Gul'dan, but Drek'Thar vouches for Thrall and the player saying they are heroes at heart, and they saved him and Durotan's brother.
A meta-example: the late, great Robin Williams was an avid player of WoW, and after his passing, fans petitioned to have an NPC based on him included in the game. The developers heeded the players' wishes and introduced a new NPC for the new expansion, a genie named "Robin the Entertainer".
Garrosh Saving his dad Grom in the cinematic from dying the exact same way as he would in the Prime timeline, despite the Iron Horde being the main antagonist in this expansion, this was a touching moment. Especially considering what an asshole Garrosh is, he really want to have this chance to bound and know his Father better, the Warsong way.
The new (old?) Shadowmoon Valley. Players of The Burning Crusade know the zone as a barren, destroyed, fel-corrupted wasteland infested with demons and where few forms of life exist. The Shadowmoon Valley of Warlords of Draenor is a gorgeous and vibrant zone full of many different lifeforms. It couldn't be more different than the Outland Shadowmoon Valley. Also doubles as a Fridge Tear Jerker when you go back to the Outland version and realize to the full extent how much the draenei and orcs lost and how badly their homes and societies were decimated by Gul'Dan, the Shadow Council, and the Burning Legion in the main timeline.
Heartwarming in an orcish sort of way is a conversation between Thall and Draka. Draka asks how Thrall has no mate yet, causing Thrall to stumble in surprise over his answer that his mate is caring for the little ones back home. Draka scolds Thrall, telling them that they're at war and that's when it's most important to have family at your side. Draka finds it amusing that Thrall never considered this before.
The fact that Dark Iron Dwarves are a quite well integrated part of the Alliance after years of being relagated to villains. Thaelin, Hansel and Hulda Shadowblade are amongst the supporting characters of the faction storylines.
Lieutenant Thorn, the patched eye, commander of operations that is also Gilnean (therefore most likely a Worgen) says this:
Lieutenant Thorn: Commander, I was just wondering. Has Baros mentioned me by any chance? What? Oh...no reason. *Thorn blushes*
And to make everything even more sweet, Baros says this privately:
Baros: Lieutenant Thorn is a shining example to us all. Never have I seen such a dedicated leader. I haven't worked up the courage to speak to her, but perhaps someday, she will know my name.