If it bleeds, we can kill it. Charr in GW2:

“With the roar of engines and the thunder of guns, we rip each day from life’s teeth.” If the Engineer was the profession that most showed the passing of time between GW1 and GW2, the Charr are the race that have done so. In those 250 years the Charr have gone from being a mostly primitive race that worshiped false gods to one of the most industrial nations in the world. In fact, most of the armaments that they Engineer uses look distinctly Charr inspired in design.

CHARRGE! A history of conflict

The Charr have had tribal conflicts and been at war for longer than the Humans have even been on Tyria. Hailing from the north of the Ascalon area, the Charr were somewhat nomadic and grouped in small warbands for a long period. Eventually, they were united under the rule of one Charr, the Khan-Ur. Under his lead, the Charr moved into the southern areas of Tyria into what is now Ascalon, Kryta and Orr.

As was discussed in the Human post, eventually Humans and their Gods came into conflict with the native Charr. Through the support of their Gods, the Humans were able to drive the Charr back to the north and establish permanent civilizations throughout much of Tyria. With the loss of their lands, many internal conflicts broke out among the Charr and eventually the Khan-Ur was assassinated. With no clear heir to his position of power, the empire of the Charr was divided among his four children, thus beginning the four major legions of Charr as they exist today: Ash, Blood, Iron and Flame.

Having seen the power of the Human Gods, the Flame Legion felt that they would be best served by finding Gods of their own. The Flame Legion latched onto the power of the Titans and created burning effigies of them all around the Ascalon area. After learning dark magics, they used a powerful spell that was later known as The Searing in which giant crystalline fragments fell from the sky and decimated the Ascalonian walls. Moving south, they caused the fall of Orr and drove most of the humans into the shelters of Ascalon, Ebonhawke and Kryta.

Under the rule of the Flame Legion, other legions were essentially second-class. Female Charr, once part of the fighting force, were not allowed to learn combat and were basically servants. When the Human champions fulfilled the Flameseeker Prophesies and killed the Titans, the Flame Legion lost much of its influence. However, instead of learning their lesson, they felt that they simply needed new Gods, so they sought the Destroyers for worship. When the heroes vanquished the Great Destroyer, the Flame Legion took yet another blow to their leadership, and through a civil war eventually lost all power within the Charr due to the assistance of Kalla Scorchrazor and the subjugated females.

In the 250 years since the fall of the Flame Legion, the other three Legions are considered to be roughly equals while the Flame Legion is generally still regarded with disdain and mistrust. Virtually every Charr from the Iron, Ash and Blood Legions views reliance on magic and/or Gods to be a sign of ultimate weakness. Those sentiments are almost assuredly the reason for the rapid advancement of Charr technology. Fueled by a fiery hatred for magic they advanced very quickly in metallurgy, mass produced manufacturing, clockwork devices and explosives.

Warband of brothers

To the Charr of GW2, personal allegiance is of the utmost importance. The Warband that a Charr belongs to is the most important group they ever know. They are the true family of a Charr. Military service is required of all Charr, and it comes as no surprise that the home instance of a Charr PC is his/her barracks. The entire society is based upon a military chain of command and they have very strict discipline.

Such a structure is not only easy to understand given their past, it is also one of necessity. The Charr are beset on all sides with enemies. They must fight the ghosts of Ascalon, they still war with Ebonhawke, the Flame Legion is now generally at war with the other three, and to make matters worse, when Kralkatorrik awoke it flew across Charr lands leaving behind The Brand. An area of Charr territory was turned into a wake of crystal and in it dwells monstrous servants of the Elder Dragon. The Black Citadel, capital of the Charr, is located on top of the ruins of the Human city of Rin and is a city of iron, smoke and clockwork. It is truly a testament to the direction the Charr have moved in the past 250 years.

A few words about aesthetics

Charr are badasses. Fact. I have to really tip my hat to those who designed the Charr in both games, I know that both Katy Hargrove and Kristen Perry had large influences on their physical design. I just want to take a minute and say: Thank You. The Charr are a bestial race that don’t just look like humans with different heads. They have a myriad of interesting little details like the fact that they have horns, that they have 4 ears, and that the females don’t have boobs. That last one is the biggest one actually. The artists at ANet have managed to create a feline race that actually has characteristics that we see in nature. The males are bigger and broader, the females are more sleek and agile looking, and both of them look like they will f*#$ you up. They have done an amazing job at making a sexually dimorphic race that is not only believable but distinct. You can tell that a Charr is male or female by looking, and it isn’t because of something as blatant as “because it has boobs”. Kudos. Whether or not you are attracted to the idea of playing a bestial or large race is largely irrelevant in my eyes. I think everyone can appreciate the fact that at the very least, the Charr are visually interesting. As a side note, I love that when they run with weapons sheathed, they run on all fours. It just looks and feels right.

Speaking of visually interesting, I want to share something that I find to be quite humorous. Several years ago at PAX, there was a GW panel; I believe it was right when EotN came out. I don’t even remember how the question came up exactly, but Katy Hargrove made a comment that she had drawn a sort of joke concept art of a male Charr that had bright pink fur and I believe black stripes. I was extremely amused by this idea, and my friends and I all cheered at the time. Ever since that day, I have attempted to get a Pink Charr sketch whenever I see her at conventions and she has kindly obliged while also giving a laugh. Now, I know this is unlikely, but I’d still like to petition the option to have Bright Pink Fur. I’d even pay a microtransaction for it. Seriously, tearing an enemy limb from limb as a giant lion-tiger-demon with Bright Pink Fur would be the greatest. Speaking of those sketches, here is one of the several I have collected:

Look at that smug expression. Look at it.

Personal opinions

I love the Charr. A big part of that is probably because of GW1 and the fact that half the time they were the main opponents. I love the evolution of their race and their story and I think their aesthetic fits very well into the GW universe. I love that they don’t really look remotely human aside from the fact that they fight in a bipedal fashion, but even with that they run as quadrupeds. Their city has a really cool industrial feel too it and I like the fact that they are actually a clock-steam-coal technology rather than incorporating magic. I have always felt that magitech should be more sleek and cool looking than it often is in fantasy, where it normally is just gears and gaskets that are held together with magic. For example, the Asura have a magitech feel, and I think it is awesome as well; I love their style, it reminds me a lot of things like Stargate. Essentially, I love that they have two distinct styles of technology in this universe, they don’t sort of just mesh two styles that I don’t feel are complimentary.

I also find it really interesting that in the past 250 years the Charr have actually taken pretty good care of the lands surrounding their main cities. The land has grown back in green over the Searing damage. The water is no longer filled with tar and sludge, the trees are back, wild animals roam. GW2 will bring back the pre-Searing feeling to that area of the landscape, and I personally will love it. It will be really cool to go to pre-Sear in GW1, then compare it to Old Ascalon (post-Sear), then compare it to GW2 Ascalon areas and see the familiar landmarks but evolved.

The Charr are primal. They are powerful, they are fierce, and they are pretty original in the fantasy-MMO-space. If you asked me what one of the primary distinguishing features of Guild Wars was from a lore/aesthetic design point, Charr would be where I point. We’ll see next week whether Sylvari will be added to that statement, I have high hopes that they will.

One Response to If it bleeds, we can kill it. Charr in GW2:

  1. ArcherAvatar says:

    This is by far the best write up on the Charr I’ve seen, and I’m certain that is due in no small part to your enthusiasm for the race. Fantastic job.

    I was unaware (before reading this article) that much of the Charr held lands had “grown back” and were more pleasantly natural to look at… it definitely changes my attitude towards their starting area somewhat but, I’m not sure if it’s enough to actually roll a charr character. It’s great that those who do won’t have to look at an apocalyptic wasteland the entire time they are playing in their “home” area.

    In my opinion, the Charr Week still has by far the best quote of all of the race weeks we’ve seen to date;
    Female Voice – “That was a cheap kill…”
    Male Voice – “Those words make a sentence but, I don’t know what they mean…”
    http://www.arena.net/blog/scott-mcgough-on-writing-the-charr
    (2nd audio clip titled: Winning Ugly is Still Winning)

    I also share your hopes that the sylvari will join the charr as a distinctive race that aren’t just “different colored humans.” We’ll see soon enough… probably next week…

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