Death knights saw their introduction in Wrath of the Lich King, which was the only appropriate point for them to be introduced. Former servants of the Lich King, the death knight class as we see it in World of Warcraft has now broken free of his hold. The death knights that have broken free rejoined with their former comrades, either Alliance or Horde, but not without a struggle. As a class, the death knights are masters of undeath, using unholy, frost and blood powers against any who would stand against them.
But for roleplayers, the death knight offers a unique challenge. Here is a character who once had a life filled with hopes, dreams, aspirations and goals just like any other. But that character had his life taken from him abruptly and then found himself brutally ripped back to a mockery of his former self. It creates an interesting space in which one can play with the notion of what might have been, had you not been relegated to an unfortunate fate.
The playable death knights of WoW have their own organization, the Knights of the Ebon Blade. It was formed primarily to retaliate against the Lich King, which was taken care of in Wrath. So what are these knights up to today?
The Knights of the Ebon Blade
Originally servants of the Lich King, the Knights of the Ebon Blade were raised from death and trained in and around Acherus, the Ebon Hold. Roleplayers who wish to play an authentic death knight should pay close attention to the events in the starting areas, as they play out exactly how and why the Ebon Blade was formed. Though Archerus was primarily a training ground for new death knights, it was revealed over the course of the starting area that the Lich King was not raising a glorious army, as previously claimed.
Instead, the death knights were pretty much created to draw Tirion Fordring out of hiding at Light's Hope Chapel. They were nothing more than bait -- and that didn't sit well with Highlord Darion Mograine. Mograine handed over the Corrupted Ashbringer to Tirion, whose powers managed to purify the blade. Tirion attacked the Lich King, the Lich King fled, and Fordring vowed he would see the Lich King put down for good, calling for a union of the Argent Dawn and the Order of the Silver Hand into the Argent Crusade.
But Mograine and the remaining death knights had their free will back -- and they wanted their revenge against the Lich King as well. So Mograine pledged himself and his knights to the same cause as the Argent Crusade, calling his order the Knights of the Ebon Blade. Through the course of Wrath of the Lich King, Mograine and the rest of the death knights got their vengeance. But just because vengeance was met doesn't mean that the struggles of being a death knight are over -- far from it.
What happened The ultimate purpose of the Ebon Blade was to defeat the Lich King. This purpose was fulfilled, but the death knights are still around, and now they have to take a look at themselves and the rest of society and try to determine where they fit in -- or even if they fit in at all.
How this affects your character This is a really tricky situation that is rife with potential uncomfortable and dramatic moments, which makes for some really amazing roleplay. Your character had a presumably full and happy life before dying and coming back as a death knight. As a member of the Ebon Blade, he had a purpose and drive, something to dedicate himself to. Now that the Lich King has been defeated, he is left with nothing to do but to either rebuild or go back and try and rekindle some of what he lost upon his death.
What to consider What was your character's former life like? Did he have a family, children, loved ones? Do they know what happened to him? When the Lich King was defeated, was he happy that the purpose of the Ebon Blade had been fulfilled, or was he dreading the day in which he'd have to go back to "normal" life, whatever that meant? Does he think about the years before his death and resurrection, or does he prefer to keep those memories locked tight and away?
What happened There was an interesting tidbit in this year's Ask Creative Development Q&A.
This is, understandably, a really odd characteristic and one that wouldn't simply disappear upon the Lich King's death.
Q: Are blood elf death knights still afflicted by their racial addiction to magic?
A: No, though their new addiction, the one all Ebon Blade death knights possess, is arguably worse: the need to inflict pain. If death knights do not regularly inflict agony upon another creature, they begin to suffer wracking pains that could drive them into a mindless, blood-seeking hysteria -- a far worse fate than that of those who suffer from arcane withdrawal.
How this affects your character This is an addiction, just like the blood elves' addiction to magic. You can choose to play with it as little or as much as you like -- but a death knight in the throes of withdrawal for something so frowned upon by polite society is a character ripe with potential. The same goes for death knights that carry out this addiction heedless of the reactions of others.
What to consider How heavily is your character affected by this condition? Is it something he resists out of concern for others? Or is it something he embraces wholeheartedly as key to his nature? Does he seek out animals or other creatures to indulge this addiction on? Does he look for criminals? Or does he simply lash out at whoever or whatever happens to be handy? Is this something that deeply affects him on a profound emotional level or something that he simply does out of mechanical instinct?
What happened For the Alliance, the Knights of the Ebon Blade are simply returning to their homes or making new homes for themselves. But for the Horde, the story is a little different. Death knights fall under the category of undead, and the Banshee Queen Sylvanas seems to think all Horde death knights should fall under her jurisdiction -- to the point of controlling them in a manner that is eerily reminiscent of the Lich King.
How this affects your character As an Alliance death knight, your character may be keenly interested in the actions of the other side, particularly in regards to Sylvanas' movements in Andorhal, Silverpine and Hillsbrad. Though your character is Alliance, he did at one point stand side by side with the Horde members of the Ebon Blade as well. If you are Horde, the actions of Sylvanas are a deeper interest, particularly since she seems to think that death knights are her territory.
What to consider If your character is Alliance, what does he think of Sylvanas? Does he wonder what she's up to? Does he try to keep a close eye on her actions? Did your character have allies who were Horde, and what did he think of those allies? Does he worry about what's happening on the other side of the faction divide, or is he oblivious to it?
If your character is Horde, again, what does he think of Sylvanas and the Forsaken? Does he view them as equals, since they are undead and have broken free of the Lich King's will much in the same manner as the death knights? Or does he consider them somehow different? In what way? How does he handle having to deal with Sylvanas and the Forsaken as allies? Does he agree with Sylvanas' actions, or does he think perhaps he should be feeding this information to the Ebon Blade, regardless of his affiliation with the Horde?
Even though the Ebon Blade itself no longer has a defined purpose as it did in the days of Wrath, it doesn't mean the organization or its members have gone away. They're still present, lurking in the shadow or trying to retake their place in the sun. And though the Ebon Blade no longer has the limelight, it may still be working quietly on its own tasks -- tasks that you can define as a roleplayer and play around with. Just make sure that if you are giving the Ebon Blade a purpose and that the purpose isn't a game-breaking one, in order to avoid potential god-modding.
Death knights are honestly one of the more intriguing classes to roleplay. Keep in mind when you're playing a death knight that you've got years of living backstory to consider as well as the time they've spent undead. Much like the Forsaken, death knights have to struggle with reconciling their old lives to their new un-lives. Fortunately for death knights, they've already been partially accepted back into society, unlike the Forsaken of the Horde. Distrust, angst, grief, anger ... It's a gritty, grim pile of emotion to handle, but when done correctly, can make playing this class ultimately satisfying.
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