Posted by: Jess Riley | November 20, 2008

Domestic Considerations

One of the things that never really seems to come up in World of Warcraft is domestic life. And really, why should it? No one wants to play a housewife or a cook or a watchmaker when they could be playing an adventurer – that limits the kind of play you can get severely.

And I know this is something I bring up all the time, but that’s because I think it’s really important – what about their life before they became an adventurer? Sometimes it’s going to be a stark contrast to what it’s like now, particularly in the case of the Forsaken (most of whom probably wouldn’t have dreamed of picking up a sword and charging into battle during their lifetimes), but certainly for most other characters as well.

In the past, I’ve suggested that you may want to bring up what happened in their childhood, as well as feel free to share anecdotes of what their life was like in the past. Now, that’s all good and well, but a thought occurred to me: what kind of life were they leading?

Particularly for the humans, a lot of them will have been raised by one parent who was probably a homemaker, while their other parent was the breadwinner (particularly in the case of common and working-class families). They would have eaten food made from staple ingredients, and probably had quite large families (have you ever seen evidence of birth control in game?).

In recent years, a lot of these families will have been ravaged by war and plague, so there’ll be a lot more single-parent families and orphans. How did the family unit respond when the breadwinner was killed? When the homemaker was killed?

When it comes to other races apart from humans, there will be different social norms. A particular example would be the gnomes: most of the adults are working, particularly on inventions and masterpieces, and typically live in family groups of up to dozens of people. Reflect on this, and then consider that approximately 50% of gnomes died in Gnomeregan. That means that, having become accustomed to living with, say, twenty-four people, individual gnomes are having to cope with the loss of twelve of these people.

When we say ‘half the gnomes were killed’, don’t think of it as losing aunts and uncles you barely know, or acquaintances you see a few times a week. The people you live with have been lost.

Even looking before Gnomeregan, though, consider what life is like in a family group of, say, twenty people. There’s no such thing as a small, cozy dinner when there’s twenty people in the household. A gnome would probably not have much idea of what constitutes a small, intimate dinner – they’ve never experienced that kind of thing, there’s never any sense of intimacy or privacy as a gnome, there’s too many people running around shouting, “I’ve discovered something!” and “Give me a towel!” all the time.

I don’t intend to go into the details of what things are like for all the races, though I may consider doing a dedicated post on ‘typical family life’ for each race at a later date. At the present, I just wish to draw your attention to this notion of life ‘before adventure’. Everyone had one, whether their life before adventure was training daily with Dad or if it was ploughing the fields at the family farm. What was it like for your character?



  1. And beyond life ‘before adventure’, there is life during as well. Because truthfully, I am sure most adventurers would not be so 24/7 for the most part.

    Like a priest, might spend more of their time helping people get through terrible times. Using their abilities to not just fix their physical injuries but their mental ones as well. Or a mage/warlock, might spend much of their time studying up on new spells; honing and perfecting their craft. Or a shaman/druid might take much time in communing & connecting with nature. And really the list could go on..

    Because I think a lot of people don’t just forget as you said, the life they had before adventuring. But forget, that when one adventures, the thing they do the least is battle and explore under most circumstances. That there is always down time for a particularly class. And if you being [insert class] is just a side thing and your primary stick in life is being a farmer or a blacksmith or an engineer or whatever. Then there will be even less adventuring for you.

    I look forward to your entries on the typical family life for the races in the future!

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