World of Warcraft’s mainline story has been dealing with some pretty heavy topics over the last few years. But despite this, there are always fans who are finding things to love about the game and its world, often using their own ingenuity to bring their ideas to life themselves. For instance, while Blizzard works on developing the next expansion, Dragonflight, hundreds of players took to the beaches of Stranglethorn to chase pigs, play volleyball, soak up some rays, and exchange fan art.
The Stranglethorn Bonfire Bash is a massive, annual community celebration for role-players. Adventurers spend most of the year rescuing innocents, slaying monsters, and navigating politics, and the summer Bash is an immediately appealing departure. This year’s Bash, which was held on July 22 and 23, brought over three hundred players to the beach’s sandy shores to unwind and celebrate.
“It’s a laid back beach party to roleplay in,” says Buttart, one of the event’s organizers, in a conversation with Polygon over Discord. “It encompasses mini-games and contests as well, usually done through creative toy usage or roll-based competitions, but at its heart is all about relaxing at the beach (in Stranglethorn Vale) and giving your characters a break from the heavier subject matter of WoW.”
The event has been running since 2016, but this is the first year that fans are using Epsilon, a private server that allows players to use World of Warcraft assets to create their own little scenes. This is ideal for the Bash, as fans can frolic along the shores of Stranglethorn Vale while enjoying all the customized and created assets like tents for vendors, fairgrounds, and a stage for performers. During the most recent event, fans did lighthearted activities like lounging in the sun, playing minigames, and throwing fish toys along a racetrack.
“It’s a place to put aside faction hatreds and let loose. But it creates some entertaining scenarios since summer is a big month for major content patches,” says Ragewane, the Bash’s co-founder. “In 2017 when Argus had just made its dramatic debut into the skyboxes of Azeroth, the vibe as we partied under it was definitely: ‘This Is Fine. We’re okay with the events which are currently unfolding.’”
“We’ve jokingly (but lovingly) referred to it as ‘giving your characters a beach episode’ as if WoW were an anime,” says Buttart. “Also, it’s a great excuse for visual artists (and commissioners) to dress their characters up in swimsuits!!”
“Everybody loves a good swimsuit,” agrees Ragewane. “It’s just science.”
The Bonfire Bash has grown in recent years as fans look for bright spots and social hubs during the pandemic. “[In 2020] people were so desperate for a speck of brightness and celebration/festivity in an otherwise incredibly lonesome and isolating time, and it was so amazing to be able to provide that for people,” says Ragewane. “I feel like I sound like I’m exaggerating, but we literally had people messaging us throughout the pre and post event to say, ‘Thank you for doing this, we needed this.’”
The Bash also added an Art Bash competition category to the festivities in 2019. Players created fan art of each other in their cute swimsuits, splashing their comrades and rivals in the surf. This fan art preserves the good times. Though the social occasion lasts through the weekend, people also walk away with lasting memories. The phase is still open until the end of July for exploration and any last-minute scenes between partygoers.
The Bonfire Bash is just one part of World of Warcraft’s vibrant role-playing community, which often creates the most lively parts of the game despite working with relatively limited tools. The Bash’s organizers cite the Tournament of Ages, a group behind a giant Medieval Times-style show joust, as a major reason why the Bash even exists. Now that tools like Epsilon exist that offer players access to the environments of World of Warcraft, fans can unleash their creativity to bring their characters to a whole new level.