Posted by: Sean | May 22, 2009

It is NEVER a good day to die, no matter what Crazy Horse says.

Dying sucks. We do it all the time in World of Warcraft, of course. One of my non-role playing goals is to reach level cap without a single death – Somehow I doubt I’ll ever do it. I’ve tried to reach level ten without dying and never managed it once. But how do you handle death in character?

We’ve touched a little bit on this before, but what I mean is more the emotional aftermath. Dying is, after all, the terminal event… or should be. To come back from it is miraculous. How do you handle that?

Four ways suggest themselves to me. I’m sure there are others.

  • Oh my god! I died! I could have been dead forever! The first plausible reaction I can see is fear, horror, and insecurity. Dude, you just carked it. You felt your spirit leave your body and, presumably, assumed it was all over right then and there. You knew you would never get to say goodbye to your loved ones. That so many of your dreams would never be. It was over. That scares anyone, and just because you miraculously came back doesn’t take away the fear. You’re huddled in a frightened mass, you become more nervous, and maybe even get a little more wary of getting back into combat. But then again;
  • Oh my god! I died… and I came back! IN YOUR FACE, DEATH! Some people go the other way. Dude, not even death can stop you, it seems. You’re officially badass. Far from being cuddled up in a huddled mass, you’re now enjoying life more than ever. I mean, hell, you could go at any moment, but so could anyone. You’ve had an epiphany on how important it is to enjoy life while you can, and now you do more than ever. Alternatively, you may get even more reckless. Why not, right?
  • Eh. You get used to it. The problem is, of course, that some people die a lot. My undead warrior dies all the time. Sooner or later, ennui has to set in. Death, well, yeah, it happens. What I don’t think some role-players do bring across, however, is how unnatural this attitude is. Does it have other consequences? Once you’ve stopped caring about dying, for god’s sake, how do you remain human? Does callousness set in quickly afterwards as anyone’s death stops meaning anything? This is, make no mistake, a realistic approach. And many thanks to Anna, whose description of this approach inspired this whole column. But I think you definitely need to think about what this approach means if you use it.
  • Actually, I never died. I got a concussion from a heavy blow and hallucinated, but I recovered alright. This is the other approach I use, with Fulthruttle. A devoted atheist, she refuses to believe in anything she can’t see personally, and life after death would be one of them. Sure, she’ll accept resurrections work. If she’s been resurrected by a priest or paladin, etc. then she’ll accept she died. But a spirit healer? Come on. What a silly superstition. Now, here’s the key to making this one work: SHE’S WRONG. I see so many people play this straight, with the idea being that they didn’t die… which would make more sense if it didn’t happen constantly. If you couldn’t come back at a graveyard.

People do die in World of Warcraft. The one thing you cannot do is deny this. (In my opinion, I know some disagree.) How you come back, however, can be different… and fun.

ps. Sorry for being away for a few days. I’ve had eye problems that have kept me away.



  1. Welcome back. Hope the eye is much better. Yup, coming back after dying can actually be fun. I have done that many times 😉

    • Thanks for the well wishes. Apologies, but we’ve removed your link — We’re cautious when it comes to any links to secondary Warcraft commercial enterprises.

  2. When Ormel dies, he was *wounded* and driven back, I think the day his heart stops beating it’l stay stopped!

    Nice article though, always good to read whats posted here, passes some time while I’m at work!

  3. Great article – I’m sorry that I can’t contribute anything to the discussion, but it was certainly interesting. Food for thought! :>

  4. I’d say my character is ‘used’ to dieing, and being ressed by the spirit healer, but she is still afraid of dying – what if a spirit healer refuses to bring you back ? What happens to your body while you look for a spirit healer in the realm between this one and the next ? And so on.

    Obviously, being ressed by a spirit healer ICly isn’t like OOC, where you jump back on your foot and dash towards the next mob – it takes a few days to recover.

  5. I always use the cheap Princess Bride mechanism to deal with death. Guildies are not all the way dead when the red bar runs out, only mostly dead. Think of it as a window before the spirit departs the body. If the priest can rez before the character reaches the light (Clear!!) he’ll come back to life.

    There’s also a quest for Blood Elf paladins in which the Blood Knight you duel is brought back to life. He acts like it’s not big deal, and goes to get some booze to cope with the headache. Maybe for a culture inundated with magic, such as the Blood Elves, death is just one more hurdle to be overcome through powerful magics.

  6. A friend of mine, whose level 57 paladin was “accidentally deleted’ when blizzard moved Feathermoon to new hardware, rerolled her paladin (Malka).

    Malka had been in Un’Goro, and gotten stomped by a Devilsaur. When she woke up, she remembered everything about being a paladin… but she couldn’t /do/ any of it. So she had to learn again – but this time she was VERY CAREFUL, so that she wouldn’t have to do it all over again a third time.

    So careful, in fact, she made it to level 60 without dying once (and possibly to 70, she and I lost track around level 62).

    • … I am staggeringly jealous of her. I can’t even make level 10 without dying.

      (And I still say that anyone who can level cap without dying once should screencap their stats screen, send it into WoW Insider, and get a Feat of Strength for it.)

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