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#12508211 Jul 01, 2016 at 12:50 PM · Edited over 5 years ago
2 Posts
Subtitle: Understanding the Horror.

This information is not presented to be the definitive word on the subject of how to role play a Death Knight. It is based almost entirely on personal opinion and parallels between what we have seen of DK in the game world and what this player knows of PTSD and other such psychological maladies.

It IS, however, the final word in how this guild plays DK. This is the yard stick, it is the philosophers stone, and it is the foundation of our perception of the motivation and core of any free Death Knight.

Don't argue with us on this matter, you'll just be wasting your breath. If you do not agree with this perception I'm sure you can find other guilds that agree with you. So go join them. This is how we see it, this is how we measure what characters can join and what characters will stay in the guild, and that is the bottom line.

That said, let's get to the meat.

Now, out the gate, let me clearly stipulate that I fully endorse creating a DK for the purpose of quick role play situations. I'm the kind that adores dressing up my little digital dolls and playing with them through the method of my imagination, and lets face facts, there are a LOT of clothes (and weapons and other "dress up" items) that simply cannot be worn at anything under level 50. I don't want to have to level a toon up to a sufficient level so I can play dress up with them. That's such a damn drag that it takes all the fun out of the game. If I want to make some RP-themed character, like a quickie villain or somebodies mother, I'll probably make a DK because it is easy and quick way to plop down a toon that can appear in game as I would like, with minimal work for what amounts to a being an NPC. Because this is a creation for an RP situation alone I never feel obligated to play her/him as a DK. Invariable, someone will canon-chain me to the identity and thus I tend to use those toons sparingly, and only within groups of role players, as opposed to roll players, that I know can handle the concept of allowing a toon to present themselves in some fashion that defies what the digital skin would define them as. Now, IN THIS CONTEXT, I have no issue with anyone making a DK and playing them as they see fit. If you want to tell me your NElf DK is ACTUALLY a warlock, with the soul of some Titan that now inhabits the body of a Blood Elf and that has renounced the Sin'dorei linage to appeal to the Quel'dorei linage, I say to thee go for it! If the back story isn't fraught with hideous pitfalls, and the character is presented well enough, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and RP as if that were the order of things. If I don't like the toon I'm not obligated to RP opposite... and still, more power to ya! Do what ya like! Play what ya like.

However, and here is the rub, I have made DK characters with the intent of playing them as DK and in these cases I approach the characterizations from a very particular angle. Because the DK have a VERY particular origin. I can think outside that box a little bit, regarding the characters back story before they were turned, but that is actually fairly irrelevant.

WHY is that irrelevant?

That is the basis of this little dissertation.

Some basic facts about Death Knights:

1) Gul'dan and his original DK should all be dead, so honestly, making one of them is bordering on lore-breaking.

2) The Lich King/Arthas made the modern DK.

3) The Lich King ALONE had the power to produce a DK. It doesn't take as much energy to manifest some mindless ghoul or shambling animated corpse, and it doesn't even take that much energy to manifest a powerhouse like a banshee, but it takes a LOT to raise a Death Knight. Arthas had this power, now the current LK has this power, but is loathe to use it.

4) Arthas enslaved every DK he made to his will.

5) Roughly, and per our Guild's view, it has been somewhere around 20 years since this started happening. So regardless of how old a character was prior to this, a current Scourge-based DK has only been a DK for around 20 years at the maximum.

6) So for a maximum of 20 years a DK has been a vicious monster that delighted in murder and genocide and served the whim and will of a creature of immense magical and psychic power. They may NOT have had free will BUT they were willing agents of the oppressive direction of the Litch King.

8) To be risen as DK the original body/being had to have a strong will and significant power already, so one can assume that the LK really only tapped paragons in their field as his new agents of destruction. These would be, it is assumed, the champions that made the pilgrimage to Northrend as agents of the Alliance Vanguard or the Horde Expedition. Either that or high ranking members of the Scarlet Enclave. Ergo, across the board, all these DK can be considered his "special forces" and would be considered officers in the undead legion called The Scourge.

9) These special forces were tasked with spreading the whim of the LK across the world, as by the use of Necropolies he can stretch his hand to any part of Azeroth, so though the stories we know are the major actions it is not inconceivable that there were smaller engagements across the globe.

So, what is my point here?

Basically it is that I feel that in every DK that has escaped the will of Arthas, or survived the death of Arthas and the coming of the new LK/Ebone Blade, should have a singular universal character component that defines them all.


Now, before I continue, let me make it clear what I mean by that word.

Horror is a revulsion felt at something that has already been experienced. Terror is a fear of something that is anticipated but has not yet occurred.

According to Devendra Varma: "The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse."

Modern/free Death Knights should feel horror. Without failure and without a doubt in their minds as to the origin of that horror. Why? Because for somewhere between five and twenty years they have been the elite hand of the Lich King. Just because they had no free will DOES NOT MEAN they do not have clear recollection of all the horrible things they WILLINGLY did at that time. They know horror because they WERE the thing that creates horror.

Now, a particular DK may try to explain this off in a myriad of ways, such as "it was the LK that did it, I was not in control of my actions I was a mindless slave"... and that is fine. It is a lie, that is not the case and that DK would know this as a lie deep down, but that is also a rational defense/coping mechanism that any PTSD survivor might also employ. However, like a PTSD sufferer always realizes, this rationalization cannot change the gut-reaction to what was done. You KNOW you did unspeakable things, and you ENJOYED taking those actions, and no amount of "rational argumentation" (which, mind you, is anything but rational as it comes from an irrational source and only as a knee-jerk reaction to the horror of the truth) can ever change that.

Even if you, as a DK player, don't want to craft any kind of back story that thinks outside the box, or goes beyond the events detailed in EVERY Ebone Blade/DK starting story, then you STILL have to accept the fact that your character slaughtered innocents and perpetuated the ruthless extermination of the Scarlet Enclave.

Did your character feel any revulsion at the time? Highly unlikely! This would be borderline lore-breaking if you said your DK only took these actions with reservation. You don't get this luxury. You don't get to play a powerhouse character like this, that has a history mired in tragedy and violence and death, and dismiss it by saying you were a moral being that was nothing more than a mindless puppet dancing on the strings the Lich King was pulling. Cop out. You can't consider yourself even a competent role player and indulge this ultimately lazy archetype for your Death Knight. That is rookie, it is lazy, it is trite, and it wont fly with this guild.

Nope. Death Knights are not repulsed by their actions. They slaughtered and spread murder wherever they put their armored feet and they enjoyed it. They basked in bloodshed and they drank deep of the wellspring of evil. Not a one of them thought twice and not a one of them ever thought of doing anything else with their unlife.

So, no matter how ya slice it, these DK know horror. Even if they recall nothing of their life before being a thrall to the LK they still know exactly what they did as a DK. How they cope with that horror is what should define these characters. NOT their powers and not some adolescent angst of an anti-hero with a trouble past.

Bruce Wayne had a troubled past and turned it into the motivation for being a heroic vigilante with an aversion to killing and firearms.

Death Knights SLAUGHTERED THE INNOCENT AND DELIGHTED IN THE BLOODSHED AND CARNAGE! This isn't a bloody troubled past, it is a horror story and YOU were the psychotic serial killing monster! You didn't become a hero because mommy and daddy got murdered in front of you. You became the murderer and gleefully forced children to watch as you slaughtered their parents... before murdering those children as well. How bad were you? You killed children and you delighted in their agonized screams as they died. You were the stuff nightmares are made of.

The more "troubled anti-hero" DK I see the more I realize people have no clue what horror is all about. Sure, every DK should have a bit of angst. What I am talking about here, their history as a DK, would compel a certain amount of traditionally defined angst.

IE: "A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general."

But what I see most player DK exhibit is closer to the informal definition of angst: "A feeling of persistent worry about something trivial."

DK should feel some anxiety over the general condition of the "human condition", as they are examples of the darkest side of the human ID, specifically the ID of one Arthas Menethil, but to luxuriate in the raw power of being a DK and STILL carry this "tragic and misunderstood dark-hero" bullshit is just insulting the intelligence of every decent RPer in the WoW world.

To ignore the horror is to dismiss the fact that there are real people, IRL, in our real world, that deal with horror we cannot begin to fathom on a daily basis. People you may possibly know yourself. Soldiers that have gone to war and have killed or have been horribly wounded. Victims of domestic abuse also know such horror.

And then there are the REAL experts on horror; survivors of the genocide in Rwanda or the Serbian genocide, or children fleeing violent crime and murder in central America, and a host of others that somehow survived the depraved intentions of real life, human monsters.

Now, am I expecting everyone to take this into consideration and make their DK some kind of walking billboard for PTSD survivor rights?

Hells no! This is a bloody game and that would just be frelling depressing.

BUT I do think it misses the point, and misses an opportunity to really construct an interesting character, to just cook up a DK and then forget about what she/he has gone through to get where she/he is now.

Yes, the endeavor for a DK should be to come to terms with this horror.

Yes, it is a character element that is designed to eventually be overcome.

So, again, yes, the struggle with what they were before freedom from the mental manipulation of the Lich King is not supposed to sustain them forever.

Are there DK that are coming to terms with this horror? Probably. Many? Unlikely. Should that be virtually every DK I meet? Most certainly NOT! The sure sign of a roll player, someone more concerned with the mechanics of the game of WoW than with the elements of the story within an RPG, is this kind of blithe dismissal of their own personal horror in favor of their potential power level.

Whoop ti-do. Yer a level 100 DK. Brilliant. Congrats. You're a dime a dozen character with a dime-a-dozen power set and in game mechanical edge. Everybody that has played the game has one now. I'm not bloody impressed with your Death Knight.

What is your horror? Anyone that can answer that question, can give an exposition about what their horror is, is an actual role player in my book. They have a character that stands out from the crowd because they understand what it means to be a Knight of the Ebone Blade.

Mayet, my DK, is a bit of a hardcore answer to that glaring lack of horror-based DK in WoW. Her horror is that she knows what she did under the sway of the LK. She knows she enjoyed it. She murdered, more to point, she murdered the young and the old as well as all others. She tortured to extract information and she killed her victims slowly, methodically, painfully, and enjoyed each last horrible moment. She knows her mind was not her own, but she also knows that the dividing line between what she is now and what she was then is VERY VERY thin.

What she was before that she cannot remember. To her it wouldn't matter anyway. That being died. What she became after that transformation into a Death Knight is something else entirely. More to point, it is a thing of horror. She is a thing of horror. These are things, as she sees it, that cannot be forgiven and cannot be redeemed, and MUST NEVER be forgotten. She is cursed, forever more, until her unlife is ended, with the horrible knowledge of what she did as a thrall to the Lord of Northrend. Her unlife now is nothing more than an effort to prevent such horror from rising again out of the frozen north.


What is your horror as a Death Knight?

Answer that question for yourself and I think you will find the presentation of your DK a little more compelling, and a lot more literary, than the "dime-a-dozen" carbon copy DK-anti-heroes that glut the seams of the WoW universe like a wound choked with writhing maggots.

I paint a vivid picture, don't I?

Bottom line, if you don't understand your horror as a Death Knight, then you wont fit in with this guild.