Posted by: Jess Riley | December 19, 2008


To start with, I’d like to point to Sean’s recent post on roleplaying and being a good gamer. He cited David Bowers as his inspiration for this post.

For those who don’t remember, I’d like to point out that I did my own post on this subject three weeks ago, more recently than David Bowers but certainly before Sean. What do you have to say to that, Sean? Stealing posts from me? Where is your God now?


But I want to talk about something that was passingly mentioned in the comments on my recent Death Knights post – that of recognisability of Death Knights or, indeed, other classes.

We all know my opinion on Death Knights and how we should be a little more suspicious of them. Other people have drawn the comparisons to warlocks, and how most people will be very suspicious of them. Additionally, the Night Elves are very much against magic and so would probably feel much the same way about mages as warlocks.

But, alright. I know this is getting down to nitpicky details, but I have to say it.

How can you tell just by looking at someone, in game, what class they are?

Sure, Alex points out in the comments linked above that Death Knights have a hard time hiding, what with having oddly coloured skin and glowing eyes. Now, I’d like to point out that this doesn’t make an undead Death Knight look all that different from your average undead, but by and large, his point is correct.

When it comes to warlocks, being followed around by an imp or a voidwalker, or whatever minion of choice, is a pretty solid hint, but if they don’t have their minion out, and they’re just walking down the street, how do you distinguish a warlock from a mage, or a priest, or of… well, anyone else?

As a night elf, short of actually seeing someone perform magic, another big hint, how can you tell by looking at them if someone is a magic user?

The answer is, of course, that you can’t. The Death Knights give themselves away a little bit, and there are always gameplay signs (like the minions or the spells), but just by looking at a warlock, you can’t tell them from a mage.

So, what does this mean for gameplay? Are we to be suspicious of all cloth-wearers, just in case they are warlocks? Welcome them with open arms, until we find out that they are warlocks? (Please place whatever class you’d rather talk about here.)

Well, honestly, it’s another one of those terrible answers – it depends on the individual. As a rule, I would err on the side of caution – unless you can see some sign that they are the thing that you hate, assume that they aren’t, as you would in real life. (Well, I don’t know if there are any groups of people that you hate in real life, but you can see my point). Unless your character is particularly suspicious. That makes a bit of a difference, as well.

That does bring up another point, though. What are the things associated with ‘disliked’ classes, that you could notice?

Some of these things are obvious – the glowing eyes and pale skin of a Death Knight, the minions of a Warlock (or the fact that they’re dealing with soulstones, or you might recognise their spells in action), any sign of magic spell from a magic-user you don’t like. Then comes a few more thoughts.

Say your character doesn’t like magic users. You, as the player, know that warlocks and mages (the primary ‘magic users’) wear cloth, and the only cloth-wearing class that doesn’t is the priest. Does this mean that you’re going to assume that all cloth-wearers who don’t identify themselves as priests are magic users?

Well, probably not. A lot of roleplayers have cloth outfits for roleplay purposes that they don’t use in combat, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that peasants and so on would be wearing cloth rather than leather or mail/plate. This isn’t a good indicator.

Red robes are commonly associated with warlocks and are usually specced for magic users. Would a character see someone in a red robe and wonder if, perhaps, they are a warlock or a mage?

Although we know that this isn’t the case at all, I can see reason why a suspicious (and most likely, a superstitious) character might take note of that. At the same time, putting on scrappier clothes might make them go, ‘No, a powerful warlock would never dress like that!’, much like hiding your face may cause people to deny that you’re a Death Knight (or, conversely, that you must be a Death Knight, because you have something to hide).

It all depends on your characterisation how much you’re likely to suspect others of things, and how much you’re likely to hide. Just keep this in mind – characters don’t really run around with their classes stamped on their heads. Use visual cues rather than what the game tells you, to determine how you respond to other characters.



  1. The big two classes for anti-recognisability are the Warlock and the Rogue. Both have a very good reason to play down their recognisable status. This is why I always suggest rogues should have a cover story (or, in my gnome rogue’s case, a few ‘trade identities’ for when she’s on duty as an SI:7 spy) and warlocks should do their best to appear non-warlocky. Wear pants, street clothes, when you’re not out adventuring. Do NOT walk around with a demon out.

  2. Like everything else, I won’t have a chance to put it into practice until Patch 2.0.8 (and I decide on a server – how’s the Katafray Project coming along, by the way?) but my method would be to assume that warlocks and mages are more or less indistinguishable unless they do something which only a warlock would do – summoning demons, or casting pretty much any other class spell except maybe Incinerate or Rain of Fire.

    It works the other way around, too. For some characters, there’ll always be a niggling doubt in the back of their mind that that nice mage fighting alongside them is actually secretly a warlock.

    Some death knights, on the other hand, may be similarly difficult to distinguish from a warrior, depending on their race. Blood elven ones, for example, would probably look a lot like a high elf from a distance. Either way, once they speak, all bets are off. Their voice might as well be a flashing neon sign that says “THERE’S SOMETHING UNNATURAL ABOUT ME.”

  3. That’s what I thought too, about the voices, but the male undead warrior voice and the male undead death knight voice are virtually indistinguishable, at least to me. I think it depends on race, to a large extent.

  4. The Forsaken are probably an exception. As you mentioned, in general they look very similar to your garden variety undead. All the modulated voices I’ve heard first-hand – draenei female, night elf female, and human male – sound distinctive, though.

  5. Rereading that, I realize I may not have been clear with that second sentence; I meant to draw a parallel between their appearance and the sound of their voice.

  6. Draenei are another tricky one to discern. The voice (and subsequent ability use) would be most likely the only things that would give this away.

    Draenei already have glowing eyes because of their relationship with the Naaru and the Light, and given a person’s natural propensity to casually dismiss minor details, it’s unlikely that anyone would be able to tell a Draenei Death Knight at first glance.

    Except maybe other Draenei.

  7. When you fight in Battlegrounds as a Warlock, get yourself a normal mount – not the Dreadsteed. The Dreadsteed is a dead giveaway.

    Likewise for Pally and Death Knight.

  8. Pallies or Death Knight got nothing to fear. But as a warlock you practically scream out into the world: “I’m a clothie! GO GET ME!!!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: