The Memory of Vanilla WoW Dungeons

World of Warcraft (WoW) had been a pioneer of MMORPG since 2004. The game provides a lot of features to protect their players from the boredom, like professions, achievements, or dungeons and raids, which is the core feature of the game. Now we’re going to talk about the dungeons in vanilla WoW, or back before the first expansion “The Burning Crusade (TBC)” came out.

For a lot of veteran players who played WoW back around 14 years ago as this article is published, there should be a lot of memories of how they played the game, and how the community it was. One of the features that might be the most nostalgic is the dungeons. Compared to dungeons after TBC, players should find the significant difference about the design of the dungeons among the WoW versions.

Dungeon Complexity

In vanilla WoW, players cannot use the map function as guidance inside the dungeons, meaning that they should know the way to reach the endboss. For players who played WoW from TBC or later expansion, this should not be a problem, right, as most of the dungeons should be just straight ahead like most dungeons in TBC? Well, no. Dungeons in vanilla WoW is not that simple, because most of the typical vanilla WoW dungeons have some different design. While in TBC most of the path is just straight ahead, in vanilla WoW, the path is just like a maze, meaning that players might got lost or circling around some point without advancing an inch, in addition that players cannot access the map of the dungeon they are in. Moreover, back in that day, there are no sites like wikia/fandom, gamepedia, and icy veins, and also Blizzard haven’t implemented the dungeon journal feature yet, which is implemented after Cataclysm, so the only way to understand how they run some dungeon is by experience or asking for other experienced players. Take Wailing Caverns for example, where players need to go left or right first before engaging the last boss Mutanus the Devourer. There should be almost no problem advancing to the left, as the path is just straight ahead, but at the right path, the design will be more like a maze. Players might end up circling around between the point where faerie dragon boss and Lord Pythas are located, before advancing towards Lord Serpentis and Verdan the Everliving. A lot of players hated this dungeon because how easy they got lost while attempting this dungeon.


Figure 1. The Map of Wailing Caverns (Source :

Blackrock Depths (BRD) is also a perfect example of one of the mazing dungeons. The dungeon is extremely huge, inhabited by more than 13 bosses, and it’s very common for players who never attempted or clear this dungeon to get lost and don’t know what they should do. Not only the dungeon is confusing, but also very complex. Here’s how players need to do in order to clear this dungeon:

Players cannot advance without Shadowforge Key, or if none of them are capable of opening locks. The key is a reward of a quest, which starts at Franclorn Forgeweight located at the very middle of the pool of lava inside Blackrock Mountain. However, the NPC can only be seen while in ghost form, meaning that players will need to die first to get the quest. After picking the quest, players will need an item called Ironfel which is dropped by a boss named Fineous Darkvire located near at the middle of the city. The fastest way is to go to the Ring of Law, go to the upper side, and just follow the road until the circle. Then players should fall to the Black Anvil to kill required boss (Lord Incendius is optional) and then go back to Ring of Law while clearing the rest of the mobs, kill Pyromancer Loregrain, and return the quest to the statue near the boss to get the key. After this, players can actually advance to the main path by returning to East Garrison to open the path by the key that has just been obtained. When players reach Grim Guzzler, they also need to do something that not so obvious to open the door behind the golem Phalanx. The easiest thing is to buy 6 Dark Iron Ale Mug from Plugger Spazzring in the same room, and give them to Private Rocknot. Private Rocknot will then break five kegs, the door will open, and the golem will become hostile. The path then will be just straight ahead, but at The Lyceum, there will be a lot of mobs which are able to respawn, and players will need to find a flamekeeper, kill him, and loot his torch to light the brazier located at the other end of the room too open the next door. At the next room lies a boss Magmus, which is not quite hard but his room is engulfed by flames from the statues at the side of the chamber, so the safest way is to pull the boss to The Lyceum to engage him there. Then the next room will be where the last boss is located. Clear the mobs first and players can safely encounter the boss and clear the dungeon.

If one of the players already have Shadowforge Key or one of them has a capability of opening locks, players can skip Ring of Law, and immediately enter East Garrison from the door located at the north from the entrance, and the path will be just straight ahead.


Figure 2. The Map of Blackrock Depths – Prison and Upper City (Source :

To sum up, players need to go to different directions, depending of the capability of opening locks. This dungeon can be said as the longest time needed to finish. If none of the party member understand this dungeon, it might take around 5 hours to complete. Without any walkthrough available, this dungeon might more like a puzzle that players need to solve for hours, especially the Grim Guzzler part, because surely nobody wants to do Princess Nagmara’s quest at the same time, and the last option players might do is to kill Plugger Spazzring to loot the key, leading other Grim Patrons hostile. Some players consider BRD as the best dungeon because it’s more like adventure while attemting this dungeon, and some hate it as well, as it took a lot of time to clear just a single dungeon.

However, at the next two expansions, either TBC or Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK), players won’t meet these kinds of dungeons anymore. As TBC, dungeons were made less confusing, so players will no longer need to worry about paths. And in WotLK, dungeon maps are available, so players can not only know where they are, but also know where the other party members at.

Lacking of Random Dungeon Finder

As for 3.3.0, Blizzard introduced Random Dungeon Finder (RDF) feature that allows players to enter the dungeon without going to the entrance. It means that before 3.3.0, players will need to go to the entrance of the dungeon they want to go. However, not all players need to travel there, because there is something called “Meeting Stone” at the near of every dungeon, which is used to summon other party members which located far away from the dungeon. Using it requires at least two players where one player clicks the stone while targeting a player he/she wants to summon, and the other player clicks the portal that appeared after some amount of time after the first player starts summoning. As RDF introduced, this Meeting Stone becomes less useful, except for raids, and again less useful after Looking For Raid (LFR) is introduced in Cataclysm. Another impact of lacking of RDF is that players will need to interact to the others in order to run some dungeon, at least by promoting in Looking for Group (LFG) channel in chat. This is also a thing that veteran players remember about playing vanilla WoW, that is, the community, which makes the game livelier, where people talk each other in chat.


Figure 3. The Meeting Stone in Auchindoun

Dungeon Entrance

As mentioned earlier, in the absence of RDF, players need to actually go to the dungeon, and use meeting stone if necessary. In a condition where all the party members are present right after summoning, the party will need to go from the stone to the entrance. In TBC or later expansions, the path from the stone to the entrance is usually not very far each other. Take Auchindoun for instance in TBC, where the meeting stone is very close to the four dungeons in that place, and also has no mobs lying in the path, so basically parties can just summon and immediately enter the dungeon. However, in vanilla WoW, some of the dungeons have mazes before the entrance. This can be found especially at Wailing Caverns or Deadmines for Alliance counterpart. The meeting stone is simply at the outside of the cave, but after all party members are present, they will need to walk a long distance first, because the distance between the meeting stone and the entrance is not close each other. Not only that, the party also need to engage some mobs residing in the cave, because those mobs are exist there as well. This is a thing players won’t find in TBC or the later expansions.


Figure 4. The Map of Deadmines outside the instance. The millhouse is located at the top side of the map, and the Deadmines entrance at the left.

In conclusion, the design of typical vanilla WoW dungeons are quite unique compared to the later expansions. Confusing path makes the dungeons more like an adventure, where pathfinding is important. The lacking of RDF also requires players a bit of effort from the party creation to the venture to the actual dungeon entrance.