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Machinima / Tales of the Past

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Tales of the Past is a Machinima trilogy filmed using the World of Warcraft engine. The series is essentially high-quality World of Warcraft Fan Film, featuring many of the most popular characters in Warcraft canon, particularly in the third installment. The series was written, directed, and edited by Martin Falch, who became famous in the World of Warcraft machinima community after the release of the first sequel.


Tales of the Past follows the story of a gnome mage named Yimo who is blackmailed into helping start a new war between the Alliance and the Horde by including his guild, Eden Aurorae, in an invasion of Orc lands. Unfortunately, the summaries of sequels, as well as many of the tropes on the page, end up spoiling major plot points from the first two movies. You have been warned.

Following the events of the first movie, the Horde and the Alliance are at war, and Eden Aurorae has been forced into exile for their willingness to work with the Horde to investigate a possible corruption of some of the Alliance nobles. In Tales of the Past 2, Yimo teams up with Blazer, a human rogue, to infiltrate Stormwind and escape with a book that may be related to the corruption. Things don't go as planned, and the pair set out to discover just what the "diary" really is. Ultimately, the Lich King is revealed as the series Big Bad and the two mortal factions make an uneasy truce so that they can focus on fighting off the undead armies of the Scourge.


Tales of the Past 3 adds several characters from Warcraft canon join the main cast, as focus is split between three plots that eventually merge.

  • The non-canon Alliance heroes team up with Jaina Proudmoore to prevent Arthas from getting his hands on the MacGuffin from part 2.
  • Thrall prepares the Horde for the eventual battles with the Scourge.
  • Blazer leads an expedition to find Alexandros Mograine, a fallen paladin who now serves Arthas, and take his sword, the Ashbringer, which may be the only thing that can stop Arthas.

Some helpful notes those not familiar with World of Warcraft canon:

  • "The Ashbringer" can refer to the blade itself or the the rightful wielder.
  • The Lich King is the fusion of Fallen Hero Arthas and the spirit of Ner'zhul. For the purposes of villain-related trope descriptions, "The Lich King" and "Arthas" are somewhat interchangeable.

The quality improves dramatically with each sequel, to the point that it'd be nigh impossible to tell that 1 and 3 are part of the same series if it weren't for the titles and a few cameos.

As the series went on, the focus of the action shifted from large battles to increasingly impossible stunts performed by the major characters...who were also increasingly from canon. Despite this (and the outrage over Blazer saying, "God is pissed off at you!" in part 3), the final movie is still considered some of the best World of Warcraft machinima ever made.

Note that because the story is set in the Warcraft universe and is essentially an Alternate History for World of Warcraft and some of the Backstory, many of the tropes for that universe also apply.

  • A God Am I: The Lich King and Kil'Jaeden
  • Action Girl: Monori and Jaina, even if the latter focuses on magic
  • All There in the Manual: Martin Falch's first movie reveals that the sacred oath of Eden Aurorae is to kill Ragnaros.
  • Ancestral Weapon: The Ashbringer
  • Anti-Hero: Blazer after the events of part 2. Flashbacks indicate that he was even more of one in the Backstory.
  • As You Know: Almost every time Serphentos delivers exposition.
  • Attempted Rape: Apparently not all paladins are good people
  • BFS: The Ashbringer
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Ashbringer shows up in Naxxramas to give the heroes a fighting chance against Arthas.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The dwarf's tale ends this way. The ending to the Framing Device, not so much.
  • Blackmail: The only reason why Yimo and Eden Aurorae are involved in events in the first place is that the nobles of Stormwind would prevent them from fulfilling their oath if they didn't help invade Durotar.
  • Book-Ends: The beginning of the third movie has Mograine bring down a huge demon, then saluting it. Near the end of the movie, Ashbringer!Blazer salutes a defeated Arthas.
  • California Doubling: a weird virtual case—Outland doubled for Northrend and the Emerald Dream (neither of which were in the game at the time of filming), with some locales from the original game also subbing in for Northrend one or twice.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Lich King and Kil'Jaeden
  • Continuity Cameo: Several characters from Warcraft canon appear in the flashback opening of part 3, even though a few of them aren't relevant to the plot. The funeral at the end of part 3 also features a canon character who did not appear in the main plot, and there's the occasional mention of other canon characters.
  • Continuity Nod: Several characters drop the name of a person or place in Warcraft canon that has little to do with the main plot.
  • Contractual Immortality: mildly subverted. While characters from the main Warcraft canon do die, their survival rate is much higher than that of the original characters. This may be justified in that the original characters might as well be mooks considering the power of the canon characters.
  • Cool Sword: The Ashbringer, Frostmourne, and Boneslasher (in decreasing order of awesome)
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Thrall's and Saurfang's attempts to charge Arthas don't go well.
  • Dark Action Girl: Arthas gets his hands on one of the female cast members, with disastrous results.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: subverted by Thainor
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The events at the end of part 3 after the end of the old dwarf's tale.
  • Disposable Woman: Leanna, who pretty much shows up so that Mograine can kill someone Blazer cares about.
  • Eats Babies: As a joke on Blazer, Yimo claims that Thainor does this
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: A bigger deal in part 3 than it is in Warcraft canon.
  • Enemy Mine: The Alliance and the Horde only team up because the Lich King finally does something that could wipe out both factions. This is also the reason for the original alliance between Eden Aurorae (The Alliance) and The Ancient (The Horde)—both have a reason to prevent the nobles of Stormwind from starting a new war.
  • Evil Overlord: The Lich King
  • Evil Plan: The Lich King's plan—summon, fight, and kill Kil'Jaeden.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Lich King vs. Kil'Jaeden; in an interesting twist, the heroes are trying to prevent the two from fighting
  • Face–Heel Turn: Arthas in the Backstory, Mograine in a flashback, Monori, and Arthas a second time.
  • Fallen Hero: Arthas and Mograine
  • Fantastic Racism: Quite a few members of the Alliance don't think of the Horde races as people.
  • Framing Device: The story is being told by an old dwarf in a tavern.
  • Ghostly Goals: Mograine can't die for good until he is killed by someone worthy of the Ashbringer (both the sword and the title); he has some interest in making sure that the person who takes his place is up to the task.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Undeath: The Lich King, while wearing a helmet
  • Good Is Not Nice: Blazer again
  • Hard-Work Montage: Blazer in the Emerald Dream
  • Heroic BSoD: Blazer, after the defeat of his entire group in the fight against Mograine
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mograine, Arthas, and Monori
  • Heroic Sacrifice: More than once in part 2 to buy time for another character to escape with the diary; twice more in part 3, both involving the Ashbringer
  • Homage: A brief one to The Lord of the Rings in part 3, complete with a short snippet of the music from the movie series.
  • Honor Before Reason: Thrall's dialogue indicates that he's probably got a mild case of this, but he never does anything particularly stupid.
  • Humanity Ensues: notably Alexandros Mograine and Arthas Menethil but apparently not Monori Silverleaf; see Undeath Always Ends
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Ashbringer
  • Inspector Javert: Grimley doesn't appear to have selfish or evil motives in his hunt for Yimo and the rest of Eden Aurorae, but he never gets enough Character Development for the audience to be sure.
  • It's All My Fault: Blazer after the high-casualty fight with Mograine
  • Just Between You and Me: Arthas is fond of this. In part 2, he lectures Yimo on the entire plot of the first two movies. In part 3, tells Blazer just how the heroes could stop his master plan and save Yimo's soul, if only they were strong enough to defeat him.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Mograine, in the opening flashback of part 3; later, Blazer becomes one, as well.
  • MacGuffin: The diary that is so essential to the Lich King's plan
  • Meaningful Funeral: Both part 2 and part 3 end this way.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Yimo plays a trick on Blazer by implying that Thainor eats babies. Thainor later crosses the line for real (at least in the minds of the other characters) by leading the undead army attacking Ironforge.
  • Mr. Exposition: Arthas can't help explaining the plot every time he knows relevant information that his enemy doesn't; Gwaar and Jaina are more traditional versions.
  • Nominal Importance: subverted in part 1 and part 2, and to a much lesser extent in part 3. Most non-canon characters with lines are explicitly named, usually sharing a name with the in-game character "playing" the machinima character. About a third of these characters aren't particularly important to the plot.
  • Numbered Sequels
  • Odd Friendship: Serphentos, a Boisterous Bruiser dwarf captain, and Minori, an overly-reasonable nightelf officer.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The battle between Serphentos and Monori at the end of part 3 is never shown on screen; it was most likely unused because it would be underwhelming compared to Blazer's fight.
  • Opening Monologue: Both part 2 and part 3 open this way, but for different reasons. In part 2, the opening sequence is a higher-quality version of the text-only epilogue of part 1. The opening of part 3 is the five-minute flashback version of Mograine's Backstory from canon.
  • Opening Scroll: Used in part 1, minus the scroll, to give a brief Backstory for Eden Aurorae.
  • Our Souls Are Different
  • The Paladin: Morgraine, later Blazer. In a subversion of the popular fandom clichee of paladins as cowardly and useless, this work plays them, particularly the Ashbringers, up as quite the Memetic Badass type, with paladins displaying abilities like surrounding themselves in walls of fire, almost-flight, insane agility (while in heavy armor), and even punching through solid rock. This best shows in a scene later on, where Ashbringer!Blazer finally makes his apperance. As he walks by Thrall, Jaina and Saurfang, all heavily injured, he heals them. Not "stops to heal them" or even "talk to them". Their wounds just casually close as he walks past them. Paladins are just that awesome.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The final battle against Arthas requires the abilities of all four heroes present; though three actually make sense, a bunch of demons had to show up just to give Saurfang something to do.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Blazer fills this role throughout part 2, though this aspect of his character goes away following his character development in response to the death of a major character at the end of that movie. He starts making jokes again during his Training from Hell in part 3 before yet another death puts him back into serious mode. Finally, he ends up making a few jokes at the end of part 3 because he saved Yimo's soul and is now comfortable making his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner Arthas, God is pissed off at you, I'm here to make you pay!
    • A Forsaken rogue gets a good one as he sneaks up on a Scourge warlock: "Let me reacquaint you with death..."
  • Red Herring Shirt: Blazer has exactly one line in the first installment, but ends up graduating to Plucky Comic Relief in part 2 and primary hero in part 3. The Character Development may or may not have been planned out from the beginning. This is in sharp contrast to Caelis, who in part 1 is about as important as Blazer is, but who never has a greater part to play.
  • Revenge: Part of the Ner'zhul's motivation
  • Reverse Mole: Thainor is willing to help Eden Aurorae even after they have been exiled. He's actually The Mole for Arthas.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: Healing magic is the only way to hurt Undead!Mograine
  • Rule of Cool: A factor in part 2 before being taken to ridiculous extremes in part 3.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Leanna, who only serves to add to and comment on the angst of Blazer's subplot in part 3.
  • Saving the World: The second half of part 3
  • Screw Destiny: By both Thrall and Mograine, even though there is no indication that the world works this way.
  • Sequel Escalation: Part 3 turns the action Up to Eleven.
  • Sequel Hook: The end of part 2 quite blatantly is a setup for part 3.
  • Sidekick: Blazer to Yimo, in part 2.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Thainor shows up in the second non-flashback scene of part 3 and promptly gets killed. In fact, most of the audience probably won't recognize him until another character names him the moment before his death.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Ner'zhul is the more powerful and more evil half of the Lich King, and is behind the corruption of the Arthas side.
  • Supporting Leader: Pretty much the entire point of Serphentos, though Rexxar also fills this role once.
  • Sword Fight: Blazer vs. Mograine and Blazer vs. Arthas, both featuring many of the subtropes
  • Take Up My Sword: All three parts feature this to some extent in their second half—Swoog is on the receiving end in part 1, Blazer takes up another character's quest in part 2, and Blazer becomes another character's successor in part 3.
  • Talking to Himself: While the main characters and all of the female characters have unique Voice Actors, three Voice Actors play about half the cast of part 3.
  • The Atoner: Both Mograine and Blazer have aspects of this as a result of Character Development.
  • The Chessmaster—The Lich King
  • The Chosen One: Yimo is explicitly said to be The Chosen One. This is subverted when it's revealed that anyone who was a Messianic Archetype could take his place.
  • The Corruption: Undeath, particularly for those powerful enough to retain their personalities, such as Arthas and Mograine; Yimo also thinks that something like this is altering the behavior of the Stormwind nobles, despite no particularly compelling evidence that they're not just power-hungry Jerkasses. According to Arthas, Yimo is wrong.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: A side effect of the Lich King's plan
  • The Mole: One of the minor heroes is actually an agent of the Lich King.
  • The Reveal: Arthas was behind the events in the first half of part 2.
  • The Undead: Arthas and his minions. Mograine is of the death knight variety, while Arthas is something of a hybrid of a lich and a death knight. The Mooks are of various mindless varieties.
  • The Unpronounceable: A mild case with Xconzoa—the one time his name comes up, the voice actor noticeably pauses before saying it
  • Training from Hell: Blazer in the Emerald Dream
  • Took a Level in Badass: Blazer, during part 3.
  • Travel Montage: The journey to Feralas
  • Twist Ending: The ending of part 3 is supposed to be unexplained. It still works, but only because Word of God says that it's not a Sequel Hook.
  • Undeath Always Ends: Averted, played straight, and subverted (listed in order). Morbid and the other Forsaken are treated almost as a separate species, particularly in part 3 when they are on the side of the protagonists, so there isn't much expectation that the trope applies to them. Alexandros Mograine becomes a different kind of undead before getting killed for good. Monori Silverleaf appears to still be undead at the end of part 3 despite qualifying for this trope as a major character, and Arthas Menethil ceases to be undead after being defeated, but ends up as undead again by the end.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The story was in part inspired by the actions of players on the Dunemaul EU server. Some of the cast really was from Eden Aurorae and The Ancient. Killing Ragnaros was the roleplaying reason for the existence of EA back when the first videos were made. Morbid really did lead attacks like those mentioned at the end of part 1 and shown at the beginning of part 2—they were actually the inspiration for the series.
  • Villains Never Lie: Arthas claims that he never lies. There's no evidence that he ever does.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Swoog, Caelis, Morbid, and Grimley, usually through a subversion of Nominal Importance. In the context of part 1, Swoog was the second most important character still standing at the end, but he only gets a brief mention in part 2. As one of the six characters named in part 1, Caelis looks to be getting more screen time in part 2 (like Blazer), but he ends up being a relatively unimportant character in the series. As serving as a un-living plot device in part 2, Morbid finally gets decent lines at the beginning of part 3...then spends the rest of the movie as a background character. Given the hints about his backstory, Grimley seems like he could be a recurring minor antagonist, but then the plot gets epic and he never has a second appearance.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The Emerald Dream
  • You Are Too Late, type 1: The heroes are just too late to recover the book and stop the Lich King's plan, so they have to defeat him and stop the summoning instead...and it's more costly than they would like.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Mentioned by Thrall as something untrue, but never actually a factor in the story.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Thanks to various limitations, a number of canon characters look different from their established appearances. Thrall and Jaina have quite different outfits seemingly because no playable version of the items were obtainable. Arthas and Frostmourne had no official models at the time, so they are played by a normal human wearing the Warrior tier from Naxxramas and wielding The Hungering Cold.


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