Death Knight, WoW

Single Abstract Death Knight

Yes, I finally did it – I’ve rolled a Death Knight.  I wanted to put in an appearance at the “bloggers’ guild<Single Abstract Noun> on Horde-Argent Dawn-EU and didn’t have any desire to level another alt (or to sit gormlessly reading guild chat on a level 1), especially not on a different server adrift of all my carefully constructed New Alternate Character Support Networks.  But as the last time I saw the much-praised Death Knight starter zone was fairly early in closed beta, I figured I could spend some time experiencing the content ‘n shizz.  Aight, peace out.

Uh anyway, moving on.

Well I should’ve blogged about this a week ago when it was still fresh, but I’m sort of getting into the groove of weekly updates here.  Suffice it to say that the DK starter area is a lot more polished than it was when I last played it and I have to say, a lot of fun.  I even enjoyed the quests that I didn’t enjoy on beta, and some of the quests that others have slated as being rubbish (such as the dragon-riding and LHC battle events).  And being on a roleplaying server has given me the chance to really let that side of my play come out, which suits the Death Knight starter storyline perfectly.

You may remember that my characters’ “stories” are a very important part of whether I end up liking and continuing with a character or not.  As it happens, despite having never had any interest in a DK before, I happened to hit a sort of story sweet-spot with Chaiah.  A perfect combination of race, gender, looks, name, class and backstory which meant that instead of just “experiencing” the start zone and moving on, I got hooked!  Like a fish!  On a fishing line!  Where, you see, the fishing line is my new Death Knight alt and the fish is me and the hook is my enjoyment of playing the character.

(I really need to work on my similes.)

I’m also finding the Death Knight resource system a lot of fun, especially for tanking.  It’s challenging but in a satisfying way – at least, for so long as I’m prepared to smile and endure the DPSers who patiently listen as I explain that I’m new, and that I need a few seconds for AoE aggro please, and that if I’m not pulling there’s always a reason… but then immediately launch into hyper-AoE button mashing before I’ve so much as reached the group of mobs (turns out DKs don’t get a short cooldown taunt until level 65, and DnD isn’t available until level 60 – harsh).  And there are some great combinations of moves available even as an unholy DPS spec.  In complete contrast to my tank druid, there are a satisfying number of buttons to push and many of them are very effective.  And in complete contrast to my tankadin, tanking isn’t a simple faceroll where my biggest concern is whether I’ll reach the next group of mobs before Divine Plea fades or not.

I can, however, imagine it being very, very frustrating tanking for overgeared trigger-happy DPS at level 80.  And the rune/RP/GCD requirements for emergency buttons seem like they would necessitate a certain amount of caution and planning when tanking hard-hitting bosses that’s entirely absent for my other tanks.


This wouldn’t be a proper blog entry without some whining, right?  Right.  OK.

Outland quest gear.


This is a problem that Blizzard realised was a problem and largely fixed with Wrath of the Lich King by making quest and instance rewards upon entering the new content generally inoffensively designed and pleasingly matching.  With the exception of a few very silly looking weapons and shoulderpads and whatnot, a character geared from Northrend quests will look pretty decent.  And of course, a character coming out of the Death Knight starter zone will look fantastic, in a full set of lookalike tier 7 with a dazzling Runeblade gifted to the player by Darion Mograine himself.

Exhibit A: an orc death knight who has finished the starter zone experience and is ready to move out into the wider world. Utterly festooned with awesome.

Look at how awesome that character looks, and she’s only level 58!  It’s pretty much the perfect set of Death Knight fashion accessories.  And playing the game looking like that is fun.  I cannot overstate how much enjoyment I get from just running around looking good.  Doing quests looking like that makes the quests five times more fun.  Doing dungeons looking like that makes the dungeons ten times more fun.  And boy is it easy to feel like a death knight of Acherus when you’re swinging that Runeblade in peoples’ faces.

The trouble is that your WotLK Death Knight has to pass through old TBC Outland before reaching WotLK Northrend.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, I gave tanking a try quite early on, and continued to do so as I realised I could manage it.  The problem was that there are some really good healers levelling up through Outlands, and some who are not so good.  I got such a run of the latter kind that I began to seriously worry about whether or not I should be clicking the “tank” button.  Was my starter gear really OK to tank with?  Was my DPS spec really giving me enough survival?  I got really paranoid about this because I really care about not imposing a hopelessly undergeared incompetent tank on poor random PUGers.

I was a bit concerned in Underbog when my healer was constantly OOM and my health kept scraping against the 10% mark, until I realised he was spending most of the time DPSing even on twin bog giant pulls.

I was really really worried by the time the LFD tool was dragging me repeatedly into Mana Tombs.  That place has always been harsh on tanks and healers, and I caused my first wipe here by pulling a two-ethereal patrol with a void spawn (I did it twice on two separate runs, which is galling for a perfectionist like me who goes out of his way to avoid stuff like that).  My health would see-saw like crazy, I’d have to use my ghoul to pull and offtank to maximise my survival, and I churned through a whole stack of super health potions in my several trips there.

The reason I felt so bad about this is because I looked, if you remember, awesome.  I was still tanking in my DK reward gear, partly for RP reasons and partly because it looks awesome (remember?).  I had, however, accumulated a set of “upgrades” from Outland questing and instances, which I could equip if there was truly a situation where I needed maximum survival.

My normal gear is on the left.  My emergency upgrade set is on the right.  See if you can detect my dilemma.

Exhibit A: Death Knight starter armor.

Exhibit B: the best upgrades Outland has to offer!

A huge amount of my enjoyment of the character came from how she looked, and from how that in turn fit in with her RP backstory and continuing character development.  To consider equipping that hideous collection of cardboard-and-poster-paint Renaissance Faire reject costumes just utterly broke me.

Mercifully, I ended up tanking Mana Tombs with a level 62 druid healer who’d had the game for less than a month, and who was so good at being a level 62 druid healer in Mana Tombs that my health never dropped below about 80% even in my precious starter armor.  We did the same place repeatedly with that healer and each time was just as safe and simple, to the point that my own confidence and thus enjoyment was fully and entirely restored, and the poster paint cardboard clownsuit remained unused.


And – I’ll keep this short because I’ve already rambled on for far too long – it’s things like that which I find affecting my character herself.  Remember, I’m playing on an RP realm with FlagRSP profile and everything.  And I have a very strong sense of who my character is, what drives her, what her fears are, what her goals are, and so forth.  Playing through Outland quests and instances, making those odd sort of in-game decisions which had very real repercussions for both my own enjoyment and the character’s psyche, actually ended up really developing the character in ways I had not intended.  Not in the sense of fleshing her out and adding detail, but in the sense that she changed and grew in my mind as various situations affected her: Chaiah felt the uncertainty and fear that her player felt as she struggled to protect her party through the Mana Tombs, and so she felt my exultation and relief as she realised she could in fact keep them safe.

And the other way in which she changed and developed I had almost anticipated, but definitely not planned.  Playing through the Hellfire, Zangarmarsh and Terokkar quests suited her character perfectly and allowed her to come to terms with who she had been, what had happened to her, and what her future could be.

I won’t bore anyone with the details of the story (I could fill entire posts with boring story details!!), so I hope that’s not too vague to make sense.

Now, all this is to an extent normal for my characters – they all have their little stories and quirks.  But because Chaiah is on an RP realm and has to fend for herself without heirlooms, BoE gear or a comfortable endgame waiting for her if she just levels fast enough, I’m finding that the RP aspect is seriously magnified.  Sure I’m enjoying the Death Knight itself, but if it was any other Death Knight I’d already be bored of it.  The character herself is what’s keeping me interested.



8 thoughts on “Single Abstract Death Knight

  1. (As usual I will go off on a tangent, I apologise.)

    So have you done or are you planning to actually do some RPing? I mean REAL RPing that reaches further than just feeling slightly more connected with the character.

    As I mentioned in a comment on your stories post, I generally don’t really think of a backstory for my characters in WoW as it feels a bit meaningless to me without meaningful choices built into the game or without using that background in real RP.

    But I used to play Neverwinter Nights on an RP server back in the day, and some of my fondest memories include just LIVING my character by acting out a role in this world with other people. I’m not sure to what extent RP servers in WoW lend themselves to that, or if there are even a lot of players who consistently RP (outside of maybe staying in character while doing an instance).

    It’s very satisfying having crafted a backstory for your character and actually just spending time doing nothing but creating stories with others, I recommend it if it’s at all possible on that server. It requires a high degree of effort and even.. I’m not really sure what to call it, craftsmanship? from all parties involved to make it work properly though. And I suppose it also requires some rather strict rules, which are possible on a 50-person NWN server but are slightly harder to enforce on a 10k-person WoW server.

    Posted by Razz | March 21, 2010, 8:19 pm
  2. I wouldn’t worry about boring anyone with the backstory. Some people love that stuff, others don’t. I used to take immense pleasure in having a backstory and my character having a life. My reroll draenei priest (who I started after the launch of TBC) definitely had that vibe going on, and still does.

    I think one of the biggest things in WoW RP is remembering that the point is not to be the best roleplayer, but to have fun. There is artistic accomplishment in roleplaying, but there is also ‘playing’, acting, interacting.

    Posted by pewter | March 22, 2010, 1:11 pm
  3. I have a DK alt as well, and it pains me to see upgrades that look ever-so retarded compared to how nice the DK starter set looks. Even though they are bright and shiny, I am able to stomach the heirloom plate pieces (old school Valor love, yo!). But that initial Outland stuff…ewww.

    Then again, when I leveled my second (and current 80) warrior some 3 years ago, I didn’t give a hoot what that gear looked like because every piece was a HUGE upgrade over the level 48-52 greens and blues that had gotten me there. 😛

    As for RP value…my DK doesn’t have much of it. Being the unoriginal bastard that I am, I made him a male blood elf and his name is that of my paladin, only it’s spelled backwards. I mean…DKs are dark, scary bastards while paladins are the shining beacons of holiness or whatever, right? It made sense to me at the time (although I had to fight the urge to not roll an Orc DK for min/max purposes).

    Also, bonus points for rolling a female orc toon (I don’t have any of my own).

    Posted by Kazgrel | March 22, 2010, 3:51 pm
  4. WHAT? No mention of Eyedrinker, your faithful companion!

    Posted by Tam | March 23, 2010, 2:22 pm
  5. @Razz: I’ve not done any serious extended RP with other players yet, and I’m not sure I want to – I imagine meaningful, quality RP is rare in WoW. I do, however, play my character as my character while she’s questing and engaging with the world, and sometimes even in instances. I usually do this to some extent with all my characters when they’re levelling, and not just in WoW – I absolutely love playing “in character” whenever the opportunity arises, especially in single player games that do a lot to try and create atmosphere and storyline progression).

    @pewter: partly it’s an excuse to stop writing because I’d run out of steam for the day 🙂 I’m considering putting up character profiles and maybe some RP fiction sometime in the future, if I can manage it.

    @Kaz: Every time you comment here it reminds me that I’ve still not commented on your own blog in recent months – at first I put it off because I tend to read posts when I’m doing other things, and then never got around to it. I’m so terrible 😦

    But on topic, I wouldn’t imagine that RP value is strictly necessary for character enjoyment even for me – but it definitely does add a whole other dimension to my game that I find it hard to do without, at least during the levelling stage. Even at the endgame that residual sense of who my character is, which was built up while levelling, remains a background lens which affects my perception of the game world and thus, to some degree, my enjoyment.

    (This is why I’ve never been able to follow naming conventions like Tran’s alts Tinytran, Teenytran, Drtran, Tranadin, etc.)

    Female orcs are great if you don’t mind doing the Fonzie every time you run 😀 Eyyyy! Very interesting character potential too.

    @Tam: the trouble with only blogging very rarely about stuff like this is that one tends to leave out most of the interesting details that were so good at the time. Plus I wrote this after doing a lot of theorycraft stuff for 3.3.3 which took the majority of my energy for the day, so my erstwhile slurper and other companions of merit were eschewed.

    Posted by Charles | March 23, 2010, 4:46 pm
    • Eh, no worries. My updates haven’t been anything notable recently. I’m doing the once a week blog posting at this point, thanks to the breakneck pace that RL work has taken lately.

      New patch today, though…get to try out new glyphs and such. 🙂

      Posted by Kazgrel | March 23, 2010, 6:21 pm
    • @Your response to Razz: You’d be surprised at the number of people who choose to play the game concentrating on RP, like other people concentrate on raiding or PvP. I play on Moon Guard US Horde, and I know many, many people who spend most of their time gathered with their friends and writing in-game together. Now, admittedly, throwing yourself into Silvermoon with the expectation of “quality” RP is probably grounds for insanity, but the overall drive for that sort of play isn’t quite as rare as you might think on a server dedicated to housing those sorts of players.

      Posted by Kestien | March 24, 2010, 7:50 pm


  1. Pingback: Quietly and without fanfare « Planet of the Hats - October 21, 2010

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