Most players seem to have some form of love-hate relationship with death knights. They adore the solid utility of the class, or they deplore its highly tuned versatility. They embrace launching a character from the relatively rarified atmosphere of level 55, or they scorn the ranks of players who are still trying out class mechanics and tactics in Burning Crusade and Wrath content. Most players seem to loosely string together all of these opinions, leaving death knights blinking like deer in the headlights when facing the wall of preconceptions in a pickup group.
You'll find no such equivocation in The Knights of Menethil. This all-DK guild on Moon Guard (US) roleplays its military aspect and origins in vengeance-soaked lore with an icy-fisted gauntlet of iron. The group has turned the story of death knights into what officer Eredis calls "as engaging a storytelling experience as any other class that people play" -- not only for itself but also for the rest of the realm.
The Knights of Menethil are what you might call approachable creeps. "[Approachability is] vital for any guild, but especially for one where the bosses appear to be grim, paranoid, morally ambiguous hard-noses when in character," says Valdiis, also a guild officer. We interviewed the leading triumvirate of the Knights of Menethil to trace what GM Celuur calls an evolution of its original story of vengeance against the Lich King and true service to the Alliance in the name of the last true king of Lordaeron,Terenas Menethil II, to the new goal that finds a place for every undead knight.
Main character Celuur, GM
Main character Eredis, officer
Main character Valdiis, officer
Guild Knights of Menethil
Realm Moon Guard (US-Alliance)
WoW Insider: When you say your guild is all-DK, let's define what we're talking about. Your members are 100% death knights? No alts or support characters at all?
Eredis: In a word, yes. We are all death knight, all the time. While we all have alts, they aren't in the guild. The stench of the living only graces our OOC channel and our daily interactions. (They'd just muck things up anyway.)
Valdiis: That's correct! We keep in touch when alting through a special chat channel. From time to time, discussions about opening the guild's membership come up, but so far, any argument in favor for guild achievements doesn't outweigh the dilution of our guild's focus. We roleplay as an arm of the Ebon Blade, and the Ebon Blade are death knights. The handful of "well, a mage might be a necromancer" types of arguments tend to hold a little more substance but still aren't enough to change what's worked well for us for three and a half years so far.
Celuur: I'll readily admit that when guild leveling and achievements came in, I despaired a bit for how the Knights of Menethil would progress. It's been very slow going, but it can still happen like Blizzard said it would with small or unusual guilds -- just really, really slow. Our RP is our purpose, though, and so the needs of the story absolutely trump Have Group, Will Travel.
So let's talk about your playstyle as a roleplaying guild. You're death knights, all members of the Alliance. Let's talk about your in-game allegiances.
Valdiis: Our first order of business is supporting the mission of the Ebon Blade, and our second aim is to further that mission by convincing the Alliance that death knights are useful to have around -- supporting the Alliance by any means necessary.
... That leaves a lot of room for ambiguous moral stances in our guild, and we have characters falling along the spectrum of morality from good to evil. Most are somewhere on the lawful side instead of chaotic because of our stance as a military unit; folks have to be able to at least pretend to follow orders! Additionally, any morally grey or downright evil characters among us have to be very subtle about such things because we are quite strict about presenting a good face to the Alliance.
Celuur: The biggest change for us has been thanks to Patch 3.3, with the Fall of Lich King. Before that, it was really easy to be members of the Alliance because we were all ultimately focused on Arthas. Now, the Alliance seems to have lost some of its direction and so too has the Ebon Blade. It's hard to fight against the Horde when the Alliance is also throwing rotten fruit at you on the way through Stormwind.
Eredis: Roleplaying a DK on Moon Guard has always been a nebulous sort of undertaking. What is a "proper" roleplaying style? Are they dead? Do they eat? Do they feel emotion? ... One of our unspoken goals is to make death knights a better understood part of the world by creating a world that makes sense for a death knight. We seek to give them personality and to flesh out the creatures that work with them.
For example, the Abomination. Known as ambulatory corpses that tend to explode and are patched together from pieces of several people, we wondered what would happen if all those parts could communicate. The result was that the Abomination in service of the Ebon Blade is one, big (debatably) happy family.
What about guild groups for PvE? Can you 5-man effectively in all-guild groups?
Eredis: Our preferred modus operandi do is to get a blood tank and three DPSers, then get a healer via Dungeon Finder or alt/victi -- I mean, friend of the guild. Frankly, we drop stuff so fast that healing is a breeze. Murozond rarely knows what hit him.
Five-mans are much more fun when there's a healer we don't know, though! We can hear the gnashing of teeth and cries of despair. When all is said and done, they drop group in amazement. Death knight groups aren't supposed to be efficient.
Valdiis: That said, we don't tend to do organized PvE or PvP things, so we rarely cap our guild runs for the week.
I guess raiding is pretty much out, right? Or do you have friends or allied guilds who fill in the roles you need? How far can you take previous tiers of content?
Valdiis: An all-DK group (or nine and a commandeered paladin) can handle all previous expac content, and we've seen the videos of those 10-DK Firelands runs. Some of us would like to try that, but we haven't all been coordinated at the same time with the desire to do it.
Many of our guild raid achievements come from storylines. One of the storytellers running a plot for the guild will see a guild achievement they want to chase and tailor a story so that a squadron must enter the halls of Karazhan to stop an evil warlock's ritual or delve into the remnants of Naxxramas for an archaic tome of necromancy. Of course, we're not killing the old bosses in old content, but we're pretty good at coming up with excuses and stories for why the place still has denizens.
Celuur: I'm going to attempt Icecrown in Mists! That would be a fun story point, taking down Icecrown completely with a whole host of DKs. We haven't really tested the envelope for how far we can take a DK-only group into raiding tiers. I would imagine it's more difficult for us, given that most of us aren't completely heroic geared up -- the vicious circle for rolling almost old content.
What about PvP?
Eredis: We have a bit more luck with this than raiding, but we decided to take a bit of a step back from PvP as a guild. We had more than our fill a few years ago, but RP-PvP on Moon Guard has a lot more political ramifications. That isn't to stay we don't get involved somehow, though! Until its hiatus last weekend, we operated the PvP Arena tournament at the Grinning Skull Market and offered prizes to the victors.
Celuur: There are still innumerable people on Moon Guard who remember the pretty epic sight of about 15 death knights charging directly at them with Army of the Dead all popped at once.
I'll bet the Raid Finder has made a huge impact on your ability to more fully round out your characters. Are most of your members Raid Finder regulars?
Valdiis: The Raid Finder has been the most amazing thing for many of our PvE-focused folks. Prior to its release, those who wanted to PvE attached themselves to friends who raided or joined non-guild coalitions. This was really hard on our blood DKs in particular, since tank slots are in such short supply! Now, we can at least see the content -- if not be bleeding edge -- and get our raid jollies. We still have some members with the drive to be on the edge who raid with coalitions on the server (hi, Insurmountable Odds!) and a few who are in regular groups with friends, but we are most definitely fans of the Raid Finder.
So let's skim through a typical week in the guild calendar.
Valdiis: Much of the guild's roleplay interaction comes from what folks term random RP -- unscheduled, free-form interaction with other players. We make a point of getting out of Stormwind (Moon Guard's central RP hub A-side) and into the world to enrich this giant canvas Blizzard has given us.
For that, our calendar typically contains one alert per week to notify the unit of garrison rotation or "where we're hanging out this week." We've been spotted airdropping on nefarious deeds in Westfall, patrolling Darkshire for rumors of dark magics, canvassing Surwich for rumors of cultists, and taking in a little sun in Booty Bay. On weekends, we hit the major cities for foot patrols which are done less with an air of "We are guards here!" and more with an air of "We're trying to ensure folks know us and tolerate us; anyone need help?"
Our calendar also includes a monthly muster, a guild meeting in which we inspect armor, practice formation drills, update the unit on happenings in the guild, get updates from those too nervous to speak up unless called upon, and occasionally spring surprise attack plots on unwary and bored troops.
When we have an organized plot line running (which is usually for a few weeks every other month or so), we put scheduled RP sessions to further the plot on the calendar, and we also participated in the Grinning Skull Market events on the server on a monthly basis by running the dueling tournament there.
Tell us about some of the plots and storylines on Moon Guard that your guild has been a part of.
Eredis: One of the most notable extended events we were a part of was a wide-ranging PVP coalition that existed during Wrath: AEGIS. Short for the Alliance Expeditionary Group, Intelligence & Support division, we formed a force to beat back Horde incursions on Alliance and neutral territory. It was built out of a need to coordinate Alliance players who wanted in on big RP-PvP events but never knew about them. We provided contact information, briefings, formed events for Alliance and Horde to bash each other and watched the interaction between guilds who never would have gotten together normally grow into some rather amazing things.
Alas, as with all things it came to an end. Both sides declared a completion to the missions they were formed for, and world PVP slept for a time until late into Cataclysm. Some folks still talk about the glory days, but most of the participants have since moved on.
Valdiis: Recently, we were lucky enough to be helpful in Moon Guard's server-wide "Broken Doll" storyline, which has also been profiled by WoW Insider, and we actually nabbed the Doll herself for interrogation. We asked her some questions for our own purposes and, much to the consternation of our allies, released her and kept our knowledge close to the chest until it could be as useful as possible. The Doll was cheesed off enough at us that one of our living allies ended up targeted by the Doll later on to try to draw us out, and we still get the occasional anonymous threat directed our way.
So will Mists of Pandaria bring significant changes to the focus or overall story arc of your guild?
Eredis: Pandaria, like the Cataclysm before it, seems to be light on DK lore and leaves us with the same open-ended query: Is there a place in the world for the reformed Scourge? There is no simple answer. Sylvanas maintains her dark dealings regarding Koltira Deathweaver, Thassarian remains incommunicado, Morgraine offers no new orders, and the Alliance treats us as any other sellsword en route to bloodier pastures.
However, the Knights of Menethil remain true to their mission, and as long as there is an enemy to fight, the dead will be the bulwark that turns the blades aside so that the Alliance may soldier forth and bring a brighter day for the blue and gold.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to email@example.com.