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RP Spotlight: Impermanent death

Mystic Chicanery's Nibuca says she isn't really a roleplayer, but nonetheless has made an interesting observation with big implications for roleplayers. "If Azeroth were real," she asks, "what would be the cultural implications of an impermanent death?"

We all know that death is a one-way journey in reality: death's permanence affects everything we do in this world -- all our laws, customs, and moral values. Yet in Azeroth it is not so: the main consequence of dying is a tedious and expensive "corpse run" for your ghost to retrieve your body. If this sort of impermanent death were a reality on Earth as it is in Azeroth, then everything about our world would be changed. As Nibuca points out, people would take risks with their lives much more lightly, execution would no longer be the ultimate punishment, and doctors might sometimes find it easier to let their patients die and then resurrect them, rather than deal with the mess of curing their sicknesses.

Roleplayers have to be somewhat careful not to let impermanent death and other such necessities of computer gaming become realities from their characters' point of view. After all, if the rules of Azerothian reality were the same as the rules we have in the game -- where death never lasts and good gear is the ultimate goal -- then there is really nothing of importance at stake for any of the characters in the Warcraft stories, least of all yours. That kind of world would effectively be just a game, whether it was real for its inhabitants or not.

Can you imagine how real life would be different if death were impermanent like it is in the game? Would such game-world realities enhance our own real world, or reduce it to trivial meaninglessness?

Filed under: Virtual selves, Lore, RP

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