Posted by: Jess Riley | October 28, 2008

Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

After my recent post on things that make you go ‘arrrgh’, Sean commented on the similarity between this and the Unknown Armies concept of the noble stimulus, fear stimulus and rage stimulus.

This got me thinking about the fear thing, in particular. Then there was the zombie event, and that got me thinking even more. How terrifying must it be – assuming your Undead is capable of emotional responses like fear, which admittedly has been up for debate in the past – for an Undead to be faced with the prospect of everyone around them, themselves included, become mindless zombies again?

I figured this was cause for either another post on how to roleplay the zombie invasion or a post on the nature of fear in World of Warcraft and how that could be played. Given how the zombie thing is going, I think it’s a bit late for the former, so I decided to go with the latter.

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot of things to be afraid of in World of Warcraft. Even if you don’t have that memory of the plague, it can’t be fun to have zombies attacking your city. Heck, going off to battle elementals, or most other things for that matter, is pretty scary business. Even the more mundane looking enemies can kill you if they want to, so most people aren’t going to be walking around completely relaxed.

But, alright, maybe by now you’re used to it. You’ve spent a lot of time in battle, so even though you might still be somewhat afraid, it’s considerably less so than someone who has never seen battle in their life – or, at least, it manifests differently. A hardened veteran may be just as afraid of battle as a kid who has only just discovered the terror of war, but he will almost certainly react differently.

Either way, there’s going to be something that brings on genuine panicked fear in most characters. The more hardened and stoic, maybe not (they’ll still have the fear, but they won’t be jumping up and down in a blind panic), but there’s going to be at least one thing that everyone is just deathly afraid of.
This, really, begs two questions: what is it that your character fears, and how do they react to fear?

The former is the original point that I had in mind when I created this post, and I think it’s with reasonably good justification – we, in real life, all have our fears to greater or lesser extent, and we remember the fears of certain characters in popular culture, don’t we, because they’re so iconic. For a start, few among you, even without the trigger of the title of this post, would forget that one of Indiana Jones’s identifying traits is that despite how much of a Bad Ass he is, he’s terrified of snakes. Ron Weasley of Harry Potter fame is terrified of spiders – and after that experience in the Forbidden Forest, no one would blame him for it being even more acute. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne states his intention to become Batman on the basis of his own fear of bats.

Alright, so maybe you’re not the kind of person who remembers them – but fear is an important part of a character. So, what is your character afraid of – and how does this affect them in play? Consider a fear of spiders, for example. People in the real world are frequently scared of spiders no bigger than a coin, to the point where they shriek and scream and run away from them. Imagine one of these people met a Giant Darkfang Spider or a Greater Lava Spider. Heck, imagine that they came upon the spider critters. They wouldn’t be comfortable around the latter, and I imagine they’d be downright petrified around the former.

What about snakes? Apart from the pets, which would be scary enough in their own right to someone scared of snakes, consider the Amani Snake of Zul’Aman and similar. Let’s face it, there’s some scary looking beasts on Azeroth.

There are plenty of other potential fears to face on Azeroth, too. Heights? Thunder Bluff is in the air. Enclosed spaces? Certain instances would surely qualify. Germs? Undercity must be a nightmare, not to mention just coming into contact with other people. Fire? The Great Forge in Ironforge being melted iron, rather than fire, can’t come as much assurance.

This does all rather neatly move into the next question, which is how they react to facing a fear. People in real life show quite vastly different responses to fear – some people freeze up and find themselves unable to respond, some become startingly violent, some scream and run around, all sorts of things. Sure, I could go into some common factors like rising adrenalin levels and the like, but that would get boring and doesn’t have much to do with roleplay. The point is more how they react in ways that others can see – when faced with a giant spider, do they freeze up, or do they go into a fury and not rest until the creature is dead and can’t hurt them any more? Do they scream and run? Whimper? Compulsively shield themselves until the object of fear goes away? Clutch onto someone else?

There’s a wealth of roleplay opportunities related to fear. Why not explore a few?



  1. Damn this is a good topic. I can see my Warlock being afraid of slipping into darkness. Being drawn finally into the corruption that took the Orc Warlocks, and becoming an unwilling servant of a demon. The loss of control is what he fears most, which is juxtaposed against the fact that shadow magic is drawing him constantly closer to that fall.

  2. My neophyte tauren druid suffers from severe hydrophobia. It’s so bad that she can barely stand in water over four inches in depth. To date, she’s yet to ride a boat and has only been underwater when coerced by friends who obligingly liquored her up. She attempted to get her waterform, but failed miserably. I plan on returning when she hits 70 to make another attempt!

    My gnome rogue is a technophobe, which has always been a lot of fun when you consider how often gnomes are paired with technology. She fought in the First War in one of the gnomish divisions; she expected to be fighting, but ended up working with machines since all gnomes are obviously mechanical geniuses!

    Little things like this — which don’t even need to be core characteristics of a character — can add an immense amount of depth! Lovin’ this post! Mysophobia was a great idea. I should have a fastidious character who is afraid of being infected by germs one day. Man, how would a character like that fare during this past Scourge invasion?

  3. Fantastic post, totally agreed.

    My gnome rogue is scared of the unexpected. Given time to prepare, she believes she can handle any challenge that comes at her, but she’s terrified of the things she can’t prepare for.

    My undead warrior is scared that something is wrong with his perception of the world. His madness is beginning to crack, and the truth behind it is terrifying him.

  4. Actually, that was based on one of my characters; my Forsaken mage has a lot of collected nervous habits and problems, but the main one is that she’s afraid of germs and infection – quite reasonably, given that she’s slowly rotting away, and it all stems from her experiences in infection last time.

  5. I can confirm this from Jess. She was actually shielding every 50 seconds, keeping it constantly up, the entire time we were in an infected area. She’d even dismount to do so.

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