Posted by: Jess Riley | November 28, 2008

Theme Week Undead: Emotions

When you have a view on something, and random people you talk to disagree with you, commenters on your blog are split on whether they agree or disagree with you and columnists at much bigger blogs disagree with you, a normal person might go, “Hmm, maybe I’m wrong.”

But, you see, I was reading WoW Insider (good stuff there, apart from the specific problems I’m going to mention), and something occurred to me; it seems that a lot of people (myself obviously not included) take for granted that the Forsaken are emotionally deadened by the process of going through death, or otherwise controlled by the amount of rot they have endured.

There’s a lot of evidence to support this, so of course I don’t begrudge those who disagree with me. When it comes to matters like the amount of rot… well, for one, I went into that in rather more detail than necessary on the comments of that post I linked, and two, there has been interest in a guest post on the subject (which I wonder is related to my detail on the matter; people want me to get as far away from that topic as possible).

However, I don’t think there’s evidence that all Forsaken are emotionally deadened, the way that David Bowers takes for granted in his post on roleplaying the Forsaken. Now, I will note here that it’s very possible that I am completely wrong in what I’m about to say – but when has that ever stopped me from running off at the mouth, especially about the Forsaken?

Why on Earth does everyone immediately leap to this conclusion? I don’t know what basis he uses for that, but his phraseology implies that it’s because of the issue mentioned above – the matter of rot and decomposition. Now, it’s no secret that I’m not such a fan of that view, so I’ll refrain from explaining why again. The fact is, though, that he doesn’t actually say why he feels that way – he simply states that this is the matter of the Forsaken, that they do not have the capacity to feel intense emotion.

My take on it, however, is that this isn’t the case at all. Many of the Forsaken have deadened emotions, of course. However, I don’t think that this is at all because of their state of decomposition and their lacking glands – we can come up with plenty of good lines about how that must feel, and it’s fun to talk about, but I don’t think that’s true. More likely, I think those Forsaken who are that way are suffering from excessive grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Are you surprised? I did say that the Forsaken are defined by this.

Well, alright, maybe I didn’t say it, but I’m saying it now. Whenever I talk about the Forsaken, I don’t take for granted that they’re emotionally deadened because of lack of glands, that they’re only able to think sorry and not feel sorry… no, I define them more by their acute sense of loss and their experiences than by the fact that they’re zombie people.

Maybe I’m wrong to do that – but let’s look at it my way, some more.

See, one of the things I didn’t really go into with my last post is the idea of individual reactions. I mentioned it, certainly, but I didn’t provide much in the way of examples to illustrate that point.

I’m still not going to, but this time I am going to talk about one specific example… that of the ‘sociopath’ undead that a lot of people like to talk about. The quintessential Forsaken, in fact.

A lot of people seem to think that the Forsaken are uniformly inclined towards sociopathy in some form or another because of their biology – I disagree. If nothing else, it’s much more interesting to think of them not as people who are now incapable of emotion, but who are frequently disinclined to show emotion as a result of everything that they’ve been through.

Think about people who have, in the past, experienced a lot of pain and so have opted to shut down their experience of emotion, so that they don’t have to feel that kind of pain again. Now, imagine that on a grander scale.

Think about people who have, in the past, experienced a lot of pain at the hands of another and so ruthlessly move towards a position of power so, if the past should ever repeat itself, they can’t be hurt. Now, imagine that on a grander scale.

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s so much more interesting to think about the Forsaken as people who have experienced trauma and grief and pain and so have twisted this way and that in response, than as people incapable of emotion.

Many will be quite emotionless, but that’s only because the situation they’re in has pushed them that way. If, in fact, the Forsaken now have free will because of the force of their will in the first place, they are (by definition) more likely to be the kind of people who harden under pressure rather than bend or snap right away – and the people who harden under pressure, when pressured enough, either start to break themselves or harden until there seems to be nothing left but shell.

Does this describe the Forsaken population to you? Because I can see it perfectly, myself.


  1. I’m not touching this, because the amount of experience I have roleplaying, or roleplaying WITH a Forsaken character is somewhere between “zero” and “none.”

    In fact, the only time I’ve done any Horde roleplaying at all was on a dare (that part’s important. I’m crazy, but not this crazy) to roll a blood elf and see how long it took someone in Silvermoon City to try to get into his pants.

    Hmm… I suppose that qualifies as trolling, come to think of it…

  2. I biggest problem with the undead, is that there are both physical and metaphysical implications with them due to their nature. And this is even more so with those made undead by the metmagical plague.

    Now, I have looked at a lot and I think I have a way of explaining how they are by using both physical and metaphysical explanations. So I do hope my entry on their biology is helpful in wrapping ones head around this important & very confusing issue.

    And I will say, I have rescinded the whole brain rot to decide memory thing. At the time, I think I was being a bit too “inside the box” and simple, opting to jump at the easy answer rather than delving deeper. And that is a bit unlike me, as I usually do the opposite.

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