The Death Knight - How to create and roleplay your own

I) Introduction

First of all, I thank you all for reading my first ever roleplay guide. In it you will find everything you need to know about how to roleplay a Death Knight, as well as the basis about the class itself.

Who is this type of guide for? Well, perhaps you are someone who has never tried DK RP and wishes to give it a shot, or a veteran returning to DK RP but you’re in need of the most recent information. Or are you an experienced roleplayer looking for a challenge? Then look no further - this is the guide for you!

You will also find different quotes from various Death Knight roleplayers of the Onslaught about their experience, such as their view on social RP, their newfound goal, backstory, the race that they use and how they see Death Knight RP in general!

II) What does it mean to RP a Death Knight?/Why should you RP a Death Knight

To Roleplay a Death Knight is to roleplay something very different. One of the first reasons is the reason that makes the Death Knight unique: undeath, something that changes everything. As an undead, your soul is ‘improperly’ attached to your body. It comes with many different disadvantages as your body rots. Undeath gives new views to your character; will they be able to embrace what they have become? Reject it and try to atone for their ‘sins’? Will they use this newfound power for the Alliance? The Horde? Become sellswords? Your imagination and the lore is the only thing that limits you!

Of course, as one may expect, you do not need to ‘create’ a new character to be a Death Knight. You could, for example, consider this a ‘new chance’ for an existing character. Is it one you wish to have brought back from the dead, a character who died a worthy death? Have you met your better or fallen in combat during one of the recent wars? Or were you brought back because of your skills? This new arc is something you have to consider. What will you become in a world that shuns undeath? Especially for some cultures, such as the Night Elves, Draenei, Troll or the Tauren.

Roleplaying a Death Knight, despite being difficult at times due to the restrictions it comes with, can offer new types of arcs. Perhaps you were an amnesiac and tried to remember who you were? Who or what killed you? What happened? What about your family? What about your former comrades? Or is it vengeance that drives you to kill the one that didn’t burn your body? Or perhaps you are trying to find a way to ‘accept’ this new position.

III) A bit of lore; who and what are Death Knights?
1. Gul’dan’s first generation

Originally, Death Knights were not what they are today - quite the opposite, in fact. After the First War (the first conflict between the Horde and the Human Kingdoms), the Horde began to gather the bodies of the Knights of Stormwind. Infused with the souls of the members of the Shadow Council, Terron Gorefiend being ‘The First’, these undead were made to inspire dread and terror amongst the human forces, crushing their morale. Unlike what we have today, those Death Knights were different. They were Necromancers and casters and had the name ‘Death Knight’ only because of the fact that they used the bodies of the Knights of Stormwind for it. In terms of gameplay, they were present in Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness.

It is to note that after the end of the Second War, those Death Knights were either defeated by the Alliance and its Paladins, or transformed into Liches by Kil’jaeden. The only case of a ‘first generation’ Death Knight that was not hunted down or transformed into a Lich is Terron Gorefiend since he died in Draenor (now known as Outland) and had his spirit trapped within an altar.

2. The “Fallen Paladins” and Arthas’ special case

After the Second War and with the creation of the Undead Scourge by Kil’Jaeden, the Lich King (Known as Ner’zhul at this time) began to lure some of those paladins in a quest to find out what the source of this unholy disease was. Driven mad by solitude and the cold winds of Northrend they ended up striking a dark bargain with the Lich King; in exchange for their servitude they would become Death Knights and ‘generals’ of the Scourge. Armed with deadly runeblades and unstoppable steeds, they served as a vanguard while becoming more and more powerful with the aid of their newfound weapons and powers.

A special case among those Death Knights is the well known Arthas for one very important reason. On one hand he is not an undead, as he never ‘died’. But, on the other hand, Arthas’ soul is no longer in his body, nor animating it. As Tichondrius said - his soul was the first that Frostmourne devoured. According to Christ Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi and the novel Rise of the Lich King, Arthas is “straddling the worlds”. But with his final transition as the Lich King and the removal of his heart, he can be considered an undead.

This ‘second generation’ is a bit trickier to roleplay. For someone that is inexperienced in Death Knight RP, it is not recommended to RP one. If you have a certain background, then you may want to give it a try.
Arthas was also described as a ‘black rider’ in the novel “Blood of the Highborne” due to his dark armour and undead-like appearance.

3. The Knights of Acherus

To begin with, since the ‘second’ generation, we are closer to the actual Knights of the present. Clad in heavy armour, most of the time iron alloyed with saronite and with their runeblades, the Death Knights of the Scourge were fallen heroes and soldiers of both the Horde and the Alliance. They were brought in to serve the Scourge in death, but not as mere ghouls or spare parts for an abomination, but as powerful knights of the Scourge. If the newly risen Death Knight is not ‘worthy’ (i.e. too weak, unable to fight) it will suffer dire consequences such as becoming parts of an abomination, risen as a mindless ghoul or offered to another initiate to ‘sate’ the hunger (See part IV-C for the Eternal/Endless Hunger). Even some that were worthy were executed due to certain reasons (a name that is against the “Scourge Policy” such as “Harmony”, sleeping next to their Deathcharger or attempting escape).

As the introduction to the Death Knight states:

“A hero… that’s what you once were. You stood boldly against the Shadow and purchased another dawn for the world… with your life. But the evil you fought is not so easily banished; the victory you claimed, not so easily held. For now, the specter of death looms over the world yet again and it has found new champions to bring about its final reign. Knights of darkness, wielding runes of death and destruction, bound by the will of the Lich King. This is the hour of their ascension! This is the hour of your dark rebirth…”

Most of the time, those that were great warriors, figures within their armies (such as people that were known because of their abilities to command, raise morale or such) were killed by the Scourge and brought back on the field. Akin to the first generation, those Knights were used to destroy the enemy’s will to fight and much like the second generation those ‘Knights’ were more alike to dark warriors. Found on the frontlines and defending important places (such as Naxxramas), most of them were trained in another necropolis called Acherus.

More of a shock trooper type than ‘generals’, they were sent in masses to slaughter the remaining Scarlet Crusade in the Eastern Plaguelands with a final push against Light’s Hope Chapel. This final battle will become the key to many Death Knights’ freedom and the creation of their own organization and ‘safe haven’, namely the Knights of the Ebon Blade. Led by Highlord Darion Mograine, they had one objective: The destruction of the Scourge and vengeance against the Lich King. After their campaign in Northrend, the Ebon Blade kept watch but did not involve itself with the faction war. Some Knights, such as Thassarian and Koltira Deathweaver, did individually join their respective factions (Thassarian with the Alliance, but most importantly the Humans, with the goal of re-taking Andorhal and Koltira pledging himself to Sylvanas, making him a Forsaken General with the same goal as his ‘brother’ Thassarian). Due to the lack of an ‘emergency’ that directly concerned the Ebon Blade, it is unknown if the Knights of the Ebon Blade started to reanimate as many bodies as the two next periods that’ll be discussed further below.

4. Post-Wrath of the Lich King "mass-reanimation" periods

During the third invasion of the Burning Legion and after a pact with the Lich King, the Deathlord, now leader of the Ebon Blade, started to ‘harvest’ the bodies of both Horde and Alliance heroes to reanimate new Knights. It is worth noting that these Knights were only those considered ‘worthy’. Just like the Scourge, only a few were handpicked to become Death Knights. Of course, since the method of reanimation did not change, they too belong to the third generation.

The last known period of ‘mass reanimation’ is the most recent one. With the defeat of N’Zoth, the Lich King (Bolvar Fordragon at the time) sensed an incoming shadow. Still the de facto ‘leader’ of the Ebon Blade after their pact, Bolvar began to reanimate new Death Knights to serve the Ebon Blade with new races, such as the Vulpera, Mechagnomes, Lightforged Draenei, Void Elves and Mag’har Orcs. It is important to note that the Nightborne, Pandaren, Kul Tiran, Dark Iron Dwarves and Highmountain Tauren may or may not have been reanimated during the assault on the Broken Shore.

The Zandalari are another different case, as they were not all secluded on Zandalar, some may have been fighting in Northrend in Zul’drak and fell to the Scourge, the same can be said for some Mag’har as not all come from the ‘alternate’ Draenor but from the settlers of Outland found in the Hellfire Peninsula and Nagrand (their presence is showcased by High Warlord Krommush or certain quests involving Garrosh’s appearance, like in Silverpine Forest or in the Stonetalon Mountains). The Pandaren is yet again a very special case, as many may have decided to travel away from Pandaria; we can see an example of such with Gravewalker Gie, a Pandaren Death Knight found in the Horde garrison on Draenor.

Something else to note is that the recent short story “We Ride Forth” gives us more details about this reanimation, as many fallen soldiers that fell throughout the “Blood War” were taken for reanimation, conserved in Icecrown and once brought back - sent back to their homelands without training. Simply given an armour, a weapon before leaving for their new duties.

Of course, just like the other one, those discussed above are still part of the third generation of Death Knights. Nothing changes in the process of reanimation, nor do their power or affiliation. However, the last batch is forced to pledge themselves to the Lich King as seen in the Allied Race (including Pandaren) Death Knight introduction sequence.

This third generation is what we will focus on as it is the most common type of Death Knights you will find in RP all around the world.

IV) The Death Knight’s arsenal
1. The Runeblade

One of the most important tools the Death Knight has at their disposal is obviously their Runeblade. As the name implies, a Runeblade is a weapon that has been taken to one of the Runeforges to be engraved with runes. Such weapons can take many forms; some will favour a polearm or a halberd, others will prefer an axe over a sword, some may opt for a mace. A two-handed weapon is the common choice amongst the brotherhood, but two one-handed or even a unique one-handed is also an option, all dependent on the Knight’s fighting style.

The Runeblade for a third generation Death Knight allows them to cast Runic Magic. Should they require it, they can discard it and pick up a new weapon. The only thing they need to do is return to Acherus (or any places with a Runeforge, such as the Shadow Vault in Icecrown) and runeforge their newly acquired weapon. Should they be disarmed in combat, unless they have other runes inscribed on their armour (or runic tattoos as seen with Koltira), they will not be able to use Runic magic against their opponent.

However, a second generation Death Knight is quite different in this matter. Should they lose their runeblade they are rendered powerless and must re-acquire it to be able to do anything. If the Runeblade is destroyed, they no longer hold any power. With Arthas, we see an example of this when Frostmourne is destroyed. A torrent of souls incapacitates him and delivers the killing blow as he has become powerless and defenceless.

2. Runic magic

Runic magic, as the name implies, is the use of inscribed runes to cast a certain spell. The Scourge and its Death Knight use a variant they learned from the Vrykuls of Northrend (NOTE, THIS PART IS POSSIBLY WRONG AND WILL BE CHANGED VERY SOON!). It allows the Death Knight to cast different types of magic by “expanding” those runes, generating “Runic Power” to unleash powerful spells. Knights specialized in Frost Magic can let loose icy winds, imbue their weapons and armour with ice itself, or reduce the temperature around them. The ice itself can be corrupted to become shadowfrost, or even plagued to convey terrible diseases through the shards that will lodge themselves in your enemies.

The Knights that favour blood magic may use flesh, bones and blood itself to mend their bodies or unleash gore-ish attacks at their opponents. You may as well use the blood of your enemies against them by trying to control its flow within their bodies. Additionally, should you use Frost magic with it, you can combine both to cast greater spells such as freezing blood itself to make it a temporary weapon.

The branch of unholy is more akin to plagues and control over death itself. Between controlling greater minions such as geists or having an easier time controlling multiple ghouls, you can also swarm your enemies and help your allies gain the upper hand through the power of sheer numbers. It is worth noting that the Unholy branch also includes plagues and diseases, to decimate the enemy ranks or gain a tactical advantage and shadow magic which is used to empower your undead allies, heal them or use shadowy coils against your foes to weaken them.

The Knights are also taught to use runic magic to their advantages, and the spell that’ll likely come to your mind is the Anti-Magic Shell, a spell they retain from the first ever Death Knights which was used to counter the sorcerers of the Alliance. There’s even the upgraded version, the Anti-Magic Zone, which is something that requires far more power to hold in place. We see Koltira Deathweaver use this spell in the core races’ Death Knight starting zone.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning Lady Blaumaux’s book: “This is my Runeblade…” which covers a Scourge Horseman’s thoughts on the Runeblade, something that is recommended to read.

3. Undeath

A Death Knight is, of course, an undead. This comes with many benefits but also with a lot of drawbacks. One of the first of many benefits of undeath is that they do not tire and thus they are not required to rest, sleep, eat or drink. They barely feel (if any) pain and should they lose one of their limbs they may reattach it just like we see in Before the Storm.

Yet, because of their numbness, positive emotions and the like are far more difficult for a Death Knight to feel, as they are more prone to negative ones (anger, hatred, rage, fury… you name it). Yet, it is possible for them to feel certain things, such as love as seen with Thassarian and his sister or with his sense of ‘brotherhood’ even during the Scourge period (Thassarian arguing with Orbaz that Koltira is to be saved as he is still his ‘brother’, no matter what).

Furthermore, thanks to the reanimation, these fallen warriors also have unholy energy coursing through their veins. This energy allows them to be stronger than their living counterpart. Not immensely so, but still worth mentioning. Plus, your status as an undead makes you an unstoppable war machine as you do not tire and barely feel pain. Yet, because of the unholy energies within you, you are vulnerable to the Holy Light. This holy power will sear you and make you feel yet again due to the fact that the Light will fully connect your body and soul once again during this short period, leaving marks on your carcass, and the pain you will feel when smitten by the Holy Light is as if you were burning alive.

Despite the fact that the Light stands as a threat to a Death Knight, it can still heal you. However, unlike a living person who will feel a comforting warmth and a positive influence as the Light touches them, an undead will, as described, feel excruciating pain during the healing process.
Additionally, although it is painful for Death Knights, it does not exclude them from using it. Should they attempt to call upon the Light they will require, like any Light user, the will to do so despite the searing suffering they will feel. A good example of it is Sir Zeliek, one of the Four Horsemen in Naxxramas; each time he was using it, he was injuring himself.

The Eternal Hunger (or Endless Hunger) is what can be considered a “side effect” of reanimation or even a “fail-safe” for the Death Knights of the Scourge. Should you not feed upon pain, destruction and suffering, you will begin to feel something gnawing at you from the inside. Should a Knight be unable to feed, the suffering will slowly increase more and more to a point of no return, turning them into mindless beasts that must be put down.

Other “side effects” of Undeath can be read in a book that you can find in the Death Knight starting zone containing mostly humorous details which are not very important (except the fact that you can’t get drunk. Really, you can’t.)

Lastly, one must remember that not every race, culture and character view undeath the same way. Some may see it as a form of power, others as a disgrace, etc…

‘’Balance be important! Besides, dat one got a nasty habit of keepin’. No, ya warchief be no friend of ol’ Bwomsandi.’’ -Bwonsamdi when confronted regarding Sylvanas.

4. Mounts and transportation

Just like any knight that respect themselves, a Death Knight is also in need of a mighty steed. This is why they must pass a test to ‘earn’ their own Deathcharger. The pre-Shadowlands canon had the Death Knight walk within the realm of Shadows to ‘kill’ a Dark Rider and take the Deathcharger for themselves. However, with Shadowlands incoming, I suggest you be careful with this as it may fall victim to a potential retcon (though in all likelihood, the realm visited to find the Deathcharger was likely just a lesser plane of the Shadowlands).

The Deathcharger is not the only option for a ground mount. Some may seek out their former mount like Arthas did, offering the beast a chance to serve their master once again in undeath. An orc may have an undead wolf, a tauren could have its own undead Kodo etc. Some may even use mounts typically used by the Forsaken, such as bats.

Regarding mounts capable of flight, used for scouting or when required to traverse long distances, the Knights of the Ebon Blade use their ‘winged steeds’ which are armoured skeletal gryphons.

Should they need to return to the Ebon Hold or another one of their bases of operation, the Death Knights of Acherus can use what is called a ‘Death Gate’. This is a spell that will spawn a portal that can also be seen used by other powerful undead beings such as Bwonsamdi (in his case he teleports the PC from Nazmir to the top of Icecrown and in the Broken Isles). However, there is little lore to be found about it.

My advice? Do not abuse it. Only use it to return to the Hold or have a place ‘anchored’ to it (for example, an Ebon encampment). While nothing says if the living can pass through a Death Gate, they are unwelcome in Acherus - so passing through a Death Gate is not advised for those not recognized by Acherus. (Credits to Innoma/Bay for pointing this out.)

5. Your armour… and Saronite!

Because of their unholy strength and being undead juggernauts, Death Knights use plate armour to make them even more durable. The lack of mobility they suffer will not concern them as much as a living person wearing the same type of protection. Something important to note is that the Knights of the Ebon Blade, ever since the ‘Scourge era’, use a mineral that comes from the Frozen Wastes itself: Saronite.

Saronite is an ore that can only be found in Northrend. It is the crystallised blood of the Old God Yogg-Saron which makes Saronite very dangerous. As we know, the influence of the Old Gods is like venom slowly spreading through the minds of mortals. Should a mortal attempt to mine Saronite, they will find themselves slowly beginning to hear the whispers of the Old Gods. Prolonged exposure may drive them mad. The Knights of the Ebon Blade stand in contrast to this as they are immune to the whispers. This is why, both presently and during the Scourge Era, Saronite was and is still used for their armours and weapons.

The Saronite ore has very interesting properties with many aspects, should you wish to deal with it in terms of RP. You have to remember that despite the ore being near indestructible, the metal is not. We learn at the Argent Stand that the ore itself was barely scratched by an arcanite reaper, almost immune to nature magic and “reacts” to Light magic by sending back a wave of Holy Power.

But, should you smelt the metal, it will turn brittle. As any type of ore, even if you temper it, it will remain the same: brittle. So how do you utilize Saronite? You alloy it with iron, to make very durable armour with some of its magic-resistant property still intact. Being slightly resistant to nature magic in general and in general very durable, it has but one weakness: Jormungar acid. It is the only acid that can get through the metal.

With all of this in mind, you have to remember that it remains plate armour with a chainmail underneath. This will make some movement a bit more difficult. The different joints also remain a weakness, make sure to remember that in combat!

In terms of design, the Death Knights typically share the same type of design; dark colours and grim ornaments such as skulls and the like, usually with the tabard of the Ebon Blade or the tabard of their unit. It is to note that you are NOT forced to wear it and will NOT be considered a ‘rogue’ for not wearing it.

It is also worth mentioning that not all Death Knights wear saronite. Some may prefer to wear the armour that belongs to their people out of respect for their former lives, or avoiding Saronite all together due to the property it has upon those who cannot fight the whispers.

Should you fight under the banner of the Ebon Blade, it is highly recommended to have armour that looks like something an Ebon Knight would wear. In case you are fighting for the Horde or the Alliance, you may wish to rethink what you are displaying for the sake of your allies and such.

No matter what, there are no restrictions to what you can and cannot wear as your armour, yet it would be wise to not wear something that an enemy of the Ebon Blade often wears, such as the Scarlet Crusade.

V) How do you make your very own Death Knight?
1. ”Fresh” or veteran?

As explained above, most of the time you will play a third generation Death Knight which means you’re either one of the ‘shock troopers’ sent to Light’s Hope and reanimated in-between the third invasion of the Burning Legion and the fall of the Lich King, or even part of the two new major batches: the Legion-born and the pre-Shadowlands raised.

If you are new to Death Knight RP in general, it is recommended that you take the latter. You will thus be a newly risen Death Knight as any potential race, minus worgen (which will be explained further in the next part). You will start as an initiate and learn through RP what it is to be a Knight of the Ebon Blade. This includes your abilities and your new condition as an undead. As a bonus, you can use one of your characters that died recently that is sent to the pile, or perhaps a worthy warrior and an existing Death Knight knows about your death and who considers you worthy to be part of the brotherhood.

On the other hand, playing a ‘Veteran’ Death Knight, which means to have been part of the Ebon Blade and a Death Knight for a certain amount of time, changes a few things. One of the first things to consider is that you should have a certain level of experience as a Knight of the Ebon Blade and on the field, like how to deal with the Eternal Hunger, using the different schools of magic, the runeforging of your weapon and so on.

By playing a Veteran, you ‘secure’ your place as an Ebon Knight. If you have a certain amount of experience in DK RP, or have a character in mind with a coherent backstory, there is nothing stopping you from doing such and it is recommended if you want to jump directly into action. 1. An overview of each potential race

Each race sees the curse of undeath a different manner, and treats the undead a different manner; something that may change how you may or may not RP your own DK. To accomplish this, I have ‘interviewed’ Death Knight roleplayers from the Onslaught and in other guilds about their views with three questions:

Interview questions

Why do you RP said race as a Death Knight.

The main difficulties you may have encountered while RP’ing said race.

Tips and recommendations to RP said race.

It is to note that each interview was shortened to a few lines to make it clear and compact.

Interviews
Humans

Humans:

From Galot Deathhold; Ravager of the Ebon Onslaught

Easier to adapt to the role; less lore to learn. A good amount of examples as to how humans react to Death Knights and how they handle the transition.

Timing, the background story and evolving said story. Making sure your character fits the lore of the world, and making it work with what you want.

I found it easier using a character I’ve played before, and transfer them into a Death Knight. That way I knew how he dealt with certain emotions and characters.

And from Minerva Thistle, which RPs a recently risen, but buried a long time ago

Lordaeron has always been the most interesting story location ingame for me, and I find it’s a great place for writing tragic stories.

A difficulty I found was justifying why they had not been raised beforehand… I managed to get around this by having her buried in an unmarked grave in a dense forest - It took until today for anybody to find her. Furthermore, people can often assume because you have the Undead Race tag, that you’re automatically RPing a Forsaken, regardless of the Death Knight status.

If you’re new or unsure about RPing a Death Knight a good bet is to play one who’s more quiet, stoic and out of the way - That way you can listen to how experienced DK RPers interact in-character.

Half-Elves

From Aleena Bloodhunger; Death Knight of the Ebon Onslaught

Character killed in a campaign, brought back due to former hostilities!

Do NOT fall in the clichee of making the half elf part being the personality trait; treat them like any other race and as ‘bastards’. They should not be very knowledgeable of both worlds.

Half elf, which means an easier time with magic in general. The human may bring the ‘ease’ of learning. The title of Death Knight being a mockery toward actual ‘knights’ you spit even further on the conventional morals.

Dwarves

From Braudi Grimstone; Knight of the Onslaught

Taking the negative personality qualities of a usually agreeable clan like the Bronzebeards and applying them to a Death Knight seemed like an interesting take.

If anything that stands out it would be others understanding Dwarven dialect that generally don’t RP characters with accented language.

Clan lore. The dwarven clans have a rich history and there are many places within the great wars they could’ve been killed. Such as a Wildhammer who may seek his gryphon in death.

Gnomes

From both Bixi, Necromancer of the Onslaught and Sidward, Knight of the Assemblage of Uld

From Bixi:

The challenge of making gnomes as classes that people generally don’t see working for the race, like a Death Knight.

Small and physically weak; they don’t fit the traditional ‘role’ of a Death Knight, focus more on engineering and runic magic.

On an OOC basis, people don’t take gnome DKs seriously. Gnomes are problem solvers, do not rely on brute force alone. Tricks, necromancy, alchemy, engineering or the likes are useful.

From Sidward:

Playing a gnome will usually give you the traits of being curious, crafty and rational. These are all good components for a death knight. Many possibilities playing them as bleak, solemn and deadpan.

You need to assert yourself. Grim personality and status are required to be taken ‘seriously.’

You are a gnome; you stand out already. Less stereotypes that set you before undeath.

Kaldorei

From Niallya Starfall, Officer of the Onslaught

Unique challenge amongst the ranks of the Ebon Blade. Affront to their culture, contend with the hatred of their former kin and denial of the sacred rest in Elune’s embrace.

A Kaldorei Death Knight may end their own undeath due to the nature of the curse; you need to find a reason why they keep going! They are also rejected by Elune and kin, the latter showing hostility.

The struggle is one of the most interesting points. Revenge? Duty? Or something else?

Draenei

GladD, lead officer of the Blood of Martyrs

Just like the Kaldorei, strong racial disapproval, can turn out even to open hostilities due to their Light worshipping. Engaging with living kin on a regular basis ,with reason, can be open to many possibilities.

Active engagement with members of the same race. Some may refuse you due to your nature. Cities are also a no-go for you.

Don’t be afraid to have your Knight ‘coping’. Undeath has changed you forever, denial can be interesting.

Worgen

Koiffen, officer of the Grim Gest, founding member of the Onslaught

Intrinsically more loyal to the Ebon Blade, having little else to connect with due to being former servants of Arugal; too many doing it wrong to some extent due to the lack of lore.

Little room for a character’s motivation due to its past as a servant of arugal.

Remember, Worgen can be reanimated ONLY by the Lich King as explained before. The ‘feral’ spirit is broken; it is an ‘human’ spirit in control of the body.

Ren'dorei

Lianastra Dreadcrown, Reaver of the Onslaught

The concept and aesthetic - using dangerous magic; a new style as ‘both’ concepts are combined as one.

How to combine both the aspects of a Void Elf and a Death Knight - the mix of three different types of magic, Runic, Necromantic and Void with the drawbacks that come with it; just like the physical and mental effects upon a Void Elf.

Definitely do a small bit of research before you dive into the concept Decide on the limits of your velf, how powerful they are, what they can and can’t do anymore, etc.

Orcs

By leudoberct, Serpent of the Grim Gest

Orc Death Knights are the antithesis to the entire cultural structure of the Orcs, and the focus of one’s spirit after death. This can allow for interesting roleplay between Orcs and ones risen in defiance of their beliefs.

Lack of other Orc Death Knights (Both in lore, being only two named Orcs.) at the time of this interview, making a prospecting RPer seem discouraged as they will not have a point of reference. Cast out by some orcs due to their society.

Death Knights are a brotherhood, meaning with your ortization from Orcs by and large, you can find a new proverbial home in your Brothers and Sisters in undeath.

Taurens

By Tenasa, Officer of the Onslaught

A Tauren has always been synonymous with a gentle giant who respects the Spirits and Nature. For one to be shoved into the role of a Death Knight, which is anathema to Tauren culture, it is a great source of conflicting story as well as character building.

Anything you know about role-playing a regular tauren is completely turned on its head, one can’t be as welcoming as most taurens are. Other taurens will despise you due to your nature.

A Tauren Death Knight can be extremely intimidating if roleplayed correctly. A juggernaut fueled with Unholy energies can be considered as scary and very resilient.

Zandalari Trolls (and trolls in general)

By Ne’mec, Knight of the Onslaught

Zandalari DK are, also like Troll DK, something like that goes mostly against all what they believe in. The only Trolls who don’t care much might be the Sandtrolls, because those raise their own people as zombies.

One difficult thing is as Zandalari/troll Dk is, you do not bargain anymore with the Loa, they are still gods, your DK might respect them but they will not bargain with you.

If you interact with living trolls, you have to ignore their curses; you still possess knowledge about the Loas but you may no longer bargain with them due to your fate. Do what a Troll would not do. delve in necromancy, blood magic and such, who will stop you now?

Sin'dorei

Orress, Knight of the Onslaught

Good aesthetic; the idea of being a former Blood Knight ending up a Death Knight makes a very good base for a backstory.

I think for me it’s finding a good balance of what happened in her life, and then exploring her afterlife now as a DK. Like, does she have any kind of “honour code” still, does she fight any different, things like that. Introspective stuff, her thoughts and (dulled) feelings, stuff that grounds her, etc…

Read up, immerse yourself in the bits that you find fun, build on that. Your passion and enthusiasm and MOST IMPORTANTLY fun when playing the character will shine through.

Goblins

GladD, lead officer of the Blood of Martyrs

Very important: lack of cultural barrier with undeath. Allows for a pretty unique take, where your character may even be glad they had been turned undead. What baron wouldn’t want a walking, restless murder machine on their payroll?

Some people may not take goblin and gnomes death knights seriously on IC or OOC level. It should be said that despite their diminutive size and general “comic relief” vibe, they are still dangerous. You are a trained knight made to be a killing machine first and foremost, so do not forget that.

I encourage letting them twist your goblin nature into something still energetic yet cruel and free from the bounds of morality, rather than being a permanently cheerful hyperactive ball of friendliness.

Shal'dorei

Erena, Guild Leader of the Eternal Sisterhood

The idea to explore, how to fit a Death Knight into a Shal’dorei-Elune worshipper guild. Traditional viewpoints of a Night Elf but less of a prejudice against some of the more “unholy” aspects of life such as Fel and Undeath due to their position in the Horde.

Limited Nightborne lore about their opinion on undeath. Plus, the lack of Arcane magic that Shal’dorei are the masters of might seem a bit odd, but in this case - a severed ‘link’ to Arcane magic does the trick!

There’s lots of avenues to go down as a Shal’dorei Death Knight. Work with the lore you have, remember you’re still both new to the world as a Shal’dorei and even more new to being undead.

Vulpera

Zomba, Knight of the Onslaught

Interesting race; small but not afraid to take their enemies head on. Survivalists, different view on life and survival - and very helpful. Quite the challenge to RP a Vulpera as a vile and bloodthirsty killer.

Size and appearance can be difficult to overcome for some players. You are a small creature proving itself and be just as powerful as a Death Knight. Overcome it with your survival skills and tricks you learned. They are also a nomadic people, never stay in one place.

Be patient, be open minded. You are the underdog compared to other races in both lore and time in the game. If you give it time, then you will be one of the team like anyone else

Pandaren

Champion Cryptclaw, Reaver of the Onslaught

As someone who died serving in the Shado-Pan, his resurrection saw him turn from a being purged of rage, to one fueled by it. I find this to be a very interesting dynamic to his character.

I think the amount of ‘living backgrounds’ a Pandaren Death Knight could have are somewhat limited. The Golden Lotus and, the closest thing you can get to living death knights and therefore probably quite coveted corpses: the Shado-Pan are your best options as they were some of the best fighters in the shrouded continent.

The “Ebon” Shado Pan is a difficult concept to put in practice. IC: Not something that should be flaunted due to the ‘knowledge’ about the Shado Pain. - OOC: Death Knight with a background in the Shado-Pan is basically stacking one OP background on top of another.

Note; RP’ing a former Shado-Pan or member of the Golden Lotus is not necessary to be considered a “worthy” candidate due to the fact that the Pandaren had many fighters outside these two orders.

Quel’dorei

My own thoughts!

Lots of possibilities for your backstories and possibilities, fighting for the Alliance and your people, joining the Horde and the Sin’dorei or remaining neutral!

Being a Quel’dorei will make you a target for the Sin’dorei; and for your fellow Thalassian elves as they despite Necromancy. How will you cope being something that you once hated, or something that is the very reason your people are now divided in two?

You have so many possibilities for your backstory. Don’t hesitate to EXPLORE these possibilities and the different time for the reanimation; and work on how you consider the Quel’dorei, Sin’dorei and even Ren’dorei for future interactions!

VI) Allegiance and loyalties
Introduction

As mentioned above, most of the Death Knights are now fallen combatants given a ‘second chance’ to fight for the Ebon Blade. Sworn to protect the world, their motto remains the same: “We do what the living cannot.” You must remember, you are an undead; a ‘Scourgeborne’. Most of the time, people will hate and despise you.

The Ebon Blade is still of course a ‘neutral’ faction. It does not involve itself in faction wars and makes interventions only when required (as seen with the third invasion of the Burning Legion). Its Knights do not hesitate to commit acts that are frowned upon (invasion of Light’s Hope Chapel in the attempt to recover the body of Tirion Fordring for themselves, slaughtering drakes and reanimating a brood mother for their own forces, grave robbing, etc.)

With Shadowlands, we know that the Knights of the Ebon Blade and their new Highlord Bolvar Fordragon, formerly the Lich King, will have a major presence in the Shadowlands due to their ability to have a foothold in both realms.

Interestingly enough, as we will see later on, some Knights of the Ebon Blade decide to choose another path thanks to their freedom and individuality.

1. The Horde, the Alliance and other factions

After the end of the Death Knight starting zone, the player character is sent to either Thrall in Orgrimmar or Varian in Stormwind as an ‘ambassador’ for the Ebon Blade, which by then was newly formed. From this, despite the hate and threats, the Death Knights are ‘accepted’. However, this time has passed!

Nowadays, the Knights of the Ebon Blade are in a very dangerous position because of what they had to do during the third invasion of the Burning Legion. After making a ‘pact’ with the Lich King, the Ebon Blade began searching for artifacts, bodies and horsemen. This means many new soldiers are being raised, thus people being denied their eternal rest and burial grounds being disturbed. The Ebon Blade even brought back Nazgrim, the General of the Horde forces under Garrosh rule and King Thoras Trollbane, former ruler of Stromgarde.

Because of this, the Ebon Blade’s relations with the Horde and the Alliance are uneasy at best. They are not enemies but they are not friendly either. A Knight may attempt to fight for their own faction, but it will not be without difficulties, especially in terms of acceptance and trust.

The Forsaken may still welcome Death Knights within their ranks due to sharing a trait: undeath and the curses it brings, which is likely to lend itself to a sense of ‘kinship’ amongst themselves. Other factions such as the Champions of Azeroth or mercenary bands can have some use for these powerful fighters. After all, who could refuse an unstoppable war machine to fulfil their own agenda?

2. ”Free time” and personal goals

From time to time, peace will reign and the Ebon Blade will have a lack of missions to offer to their Knights. They may instead offer assignments such as graverobbing, putting an end to a Necromancer trying to raise a force against Azeroth, anything, really. Sometimes, a Knight of the Ebon Blade may attempt to pursue their own personal goals outside of the Ebon Blade.

For example, because of undeath, many lose their memories. They no longer know who they once were, or what they were, thus they attempt within their journey to understand how it came to be. How did they die? Where? Why? When? Who did they know? Who did they leave? Who did they kill? Who were they? Or simply - vengeance. Vengeance against the one who killed you. Perhaps you even wish to repay a debt you had in life, or a bargain you struck in undeath.

As explained above, one may rejoin their faction or people, but to sate your hunger, why not join a mercenary band? Of course, wealth is not as required for you as it is for a living; note that it can be useful for information, bribes, paying someone to do something and such… but you do not require rest, eat or drink, making you save some of these coins for a later occasion! Or on the other hand - why not try working on your own and ‘selling’ your services to others? Maybe you want to help the neutral parties in the defense of Azeroth by ruthlessly killing anyone that would threaten the world.

But why would you save the world, when you can serve a greater power? Such Knights exist. Instead of serving the Ebon Blade, they may try to serve direct enemies of it. Some might be loyal to Sylvanas until the end, as some view her as their salvation. Others can swear fealty to the Void or be influenced by it, turning allies into foes.

VII) The do and don’t (Thanks to Worl’s guide!)
Introduction

Now that you have an idea of what to expect from the RP that awaits you, there are a few things that you should do and that you shouldn’t do. With the help of Worlviuz, we have created a little list of what you should and shouldn’t do, no matter what.

What you **should** do:

You are a war machine, you should act like it. Show no mercy, no pity, no remorse.

You are an undead - not a living, you no longer have a place in this world - fight for it, earn it, but do not expect them to welcome you with open arms.

The Ebon Blade is more than an order, it is a brotherhood. You were maybe enemies in life, perhaps friends. Now? Now you are brothers and sisters, which is how you refer to them most of the time (or by their title, such as Knight -name-) and instead of saying ‘goodbye’, you should say ‘suffer well’ or ‘ashes to ashes’.

Drinking, eating and such is useless. You are an undead, blood is no longer flowing within your veins, your organs are not working anymore. Why would you eat something? It’d end up in your stomach and rot in there.

What you **shouldn't** do:

You are not a city-dweller, if you are to remain in one - it is for a reason, not to hang around.

You’re an undead, most knights don’t care about their looks, and even if they do it’s still near impossible to come off as ‘beautiful’. You are a rotting corpse after all.

Frost Wyrms, dragons and such are powerful creatures, if you raise or use one, be sure whether this is appropriate to the power or authority you believe your character is meant to have.

If you are in a need to take over the skies, there are winged steeds, minions or some creatures such as bats like the Forsaken.

Remember to sate the Eternal Hunger, and when you do - try to make sure the living don’t have to assist it, for their sake. Ignoring it will turn you into a frenzied creature, sooner or later.

In terms of class for your RP add-ons, do not try to overcomplicate it. Death Knight is all you need to have. Not “Ebon Knight” neither “Blood Death Knight” or “Risen Warrior Trained In The Dark Arts”

You are strong, powerful, resistant - but you’re not invincible, your armour is not unbreakable, leave a fighting chance to your opponents - allow them to have some fun as well when fighting you!

If you have to use your abilities for whatever reason, or even use your steed - do not do it in the middle of a city. There are civilians, remember that.

For more examples, I heavily recommend reading the book in the Death Knight starting zone named “Guide to the Side Effects of Reanimation”, there are a few interesting points with a hint of humour.

VIII) Where to RP and how to find RP?

Most of the time, the Knights of Acherus are on a mission or on duty. But for the sake of casual RP they have one hub that is dedicated to them: Acherus, the Ebon Hold.

As you all know, the flying necropolis is a sanctuary with two versions: one that is accessible to everyone (this will be important later on) in the Eastern Plaguelands (EPL) and the Legion version above the Broken Isles.

For the EPL Acherus, the biggest pro is that everyone can access it, even non-DKs. Should you RP a Necromancer (A.K.A. potentially a Warlock, Priest or a Mage), a non-110 DK or perhaps a non DK (potentially an NPC!) it can be accessed to. Should you need to have quick access to it, the Stratholme Pet Battle has a direct TP to it once you clear it; note that even for those of you that do not like pet battles, it is relatively easy to do.

Plus, if you haven’t started Legion, your Death Gate will still send you here! Worst case, you can use the Stratholme summoning stone. There is yet another option as Minerva points out: You can also set your hearthstone to Light’s Hope - just remember to toggle OOC in your TRP before zoning in so any Argent RPers don’t get the wrong idea.

The only problem with this version is that it takes a bit more time to reach the Plaguelands for the Alliance unlike the Horde; the latter can get to Silvermoon or Undercity and a fly path directly there while the Alliance’s closest capital is still far away from it.

Another ‘problem’ is that Acherus is still canonically above the Broken Isles; as it was never said the Necropolis was moved anywhere else, not until Shadowlands that is. Also, if the Death Knight has started Legion, then their Death Gate will no longer lead them to the EPL version - but to the Broken Isles version!

The more recent version above the Broken Isles provides a new version of Acherus. A fresh and better look, the new runeforge, the stacks of saronite, the Knights training or reporting. If you have unlocked Legion, a simple Death Gate and there you are!

Yet, despite the ease of reaching it, the Broken Isles version has many defaults. The arena being one as it is crowded by Knights training and yelling. Better lower your sound! The number of OOCers is also greater than in the EPL version, it is not a major problem but it can be bothersome. All of this is a minor inconvenience to the biggest one: if you are not a Death Knight, you can’t have access to this version of Acherus. You’ll be dismounted and will fall in the sea.

What is recommended? Well, do you have DKs that did not and/or have non-DKs? Then use the EPL version, otherwise for the sake of convenience, I’d recommend using the Broken Shore version despite the potential lag and OOCers. It is still a better looking Acherus and an easier one to access!

Acherus is one of the many zones you can use for casual RP, but there are many others. For example, one may be in a city for an important reason. Perhaps you are looking for bounties? You are here to fight for your faction and get ready to receive your assignment? Just be sure to not dwell here for too long or act like a living and/or citizen.

What I would recommend is trying to participate in most of the server campaigns that allow you to sate your hunger. To thrive in battle, to be directly on the front and able to fight against whatever you can find is what you should seek. Fighting for your faction from time to time if there are no other options is a good idea; why wouldn’t you find a chance to feed upon those that would try and cross you?

Spoilers ahead!
With Shadowlands, it will be a good time to thrive; with the Scourge invasion and the threat of the Jailer - this is where the Ebon Blade will fight along the living to secure Azeroth once again. Remember; there is always a threat, always a worthy opponent that you can fight.

The last and easiest option is simple. Follow your guild! Wherever it brings you, it’ll bring you some fights, a way to feed and a way to ‘pass the time’. There are many guilds that will accept you - perhaps under some restrictions (do not use a certain type of magic, avoid saronite at all cost, forced to have a certain rank or duty or forbidden to others.)

IX) Credits & sources
Sources

https://wow.gamepedia.com/The_Endless_Hunger

https://wow.gamepedia.com/The_Endless_Hunger)https://wow.gamepedia.com/Ask_CDev#Ask_CDev_Answers_-_Round_2

https://wowwiki.fandom.com/wiki/Guide_to_the_Side_Effects_of_Reanimation

https://wow.gamepedia.com/A_Zombie%27s_Guide_to_Proper_Nutrition

https://wow.gamepedia.com/Ask_CDev#Ask_CDev_Answers_-_Round_2

https://wow.gamepedia.com/Runeforging:_Preparation_For_Battle -

https://wow.gamepedia.com/The_Emblazoned_Runeblade

https://wow.gamepedia.com/This_is_my_Runeblade

Special thanks to:

All of you people, that answered the mini-interview

Dorn, being the co-creator (spell checking, helping me through the entire process)

Dodger for allowing me to use his metal for the armour section!

Arano, for helping me to give the forum version a better look

The PCU, for helping me and the Onslaught being what it is today: a great place for DK RP.

The AAW mods to put the to-do list in the announcement

You, for reading this guide!

84 Likes

Very cool and nice, you did it at last!

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I found this guide super helpful, even if I already knew some stuff… It contains alot of smaller Infos about simple things. A guide from a longtime DK RPer is definitely the best. Thanks for that.

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A well put together guide that should be able to help people learn about death knights and how they work.
Death knights have a lot of lore and limits placed on them in roleplay thanks to the information we have.

But these limits are what make them fun to play and knowing HOW strong you can be really helps.

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Fantastic guide for newcomers and good for those that seek to further their knowledge on Death Knights!

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All of this I would take with a heaping handful of salt, as this is from an out of game lore blurb dating all the way back to Warcraft 3. With what we know of death knights at this point in time, Arthas is the only death knight to fit the bill of a paladin driven mad until he swore himself to the fealty of the Lich King. Beyond him, all death knights from this time period that we can name were all killed and raised as death knights.

No, this is a very common misconception based on what occurred to Arthas after his own defeat at the hands of Tirion. Barring Arthas, who is so uniquely bound to Frostmourne, all death knights rely on the same runes ((as far as we know)) to cast magic, but second generations are not rendered powerless should their runeblade be destroyed. They can simply replace it, as shown with Marduk Blackpool. An undead death knight from Classic whose runeblade was shattered, left in the dirt and became the Infectis Scar. He is fought and killed in old Scholomance, wielding another runeblade and casting magic; he even drops the hilt of his old weapon.
https://wow.gamepedia.com/Marduk_Blackpool

Marduk survived the Second* War, causing great death and suffering with his foul, rune-laden sword. Although Marduk still lives, his sword was lost in a battle near Corin’s Crossing. A dwarf captain shattered the sword on his enchanted shield, forcing Marduk to flee the field and winning the day for the Alliance. Marduk’s sword sank into the earth and corrupted it, eating a gorge into the land, now known as the Infectis Scar.

*presumably a typo in the book

This is just blatantly false, as not only did the Scourge use these runes long before they encountered the vrykul, but the runes used by the Scourge look very little like runes used by the vrykul. If anything, they are likely based on Frostmourne’s runes - an object taken from the Maw.

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yo… thats badass!!

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In this case - I will ask you to send me the sources and links so I might correct it, please!

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Very cool! I really hope this will help a lot of people to improve their DK roleplay.

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Was fun working on this! Hope it helps people going forward! (Yeah i am enigmatic + mysterious discord user dorn)

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You are correct in this assumption. Murduk did get his runeblade shattered or splittered. Still allow me to present something that may put a hole in that assumption. One of murduk’s loot from classic is in fact the broken half of his runeblade.


While I am too assuming as blizz is not always good to explain things. But I can use these to theories that even when his runeblade was broken and he replaced it with a different blade, he still had to carry his broken blade around, as I suspect like all second generation knights he was bound to it and his magic tied to it. Even if he didn’t use it, he still needed it.
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You forgot to mention the troll fisher DK!

I’m sure he sates his eternal hunger by over fishing the seas empty from any world he comes by.

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Will do!

Other than Arthas, there is one notable, named example of a death knight who in life was a paladin who swore allegiance to the Lich King - Lord Thorval, the blood trainer in Acherus.
https://wow.gamepedia.com/The_Memoirs_of_Lord_Thorval
But far from being corrupted over time via a runeblade; a fact we in and of itself don’t know how it occurs, as there’s no lore for it, he claims to have been reborn as a death knight in an event that purged him from all human sensations. Whereas the only source for paladins that swore themselves to the Lich King retained their humanity, which is from Warcraft 3. And it isn’t even from in the game.

During the Third War, again other than Arthas, all named death knights that we have seen so far were all killed and raised as death knights. Falric, Marwyn, Thassarian and Koltira. As I mentioned previously, Marduk Blackpool is quite clearly undead, as shown by his model.

The rest during Classic have either no real lore beyond “they became a death knight” or simply just appear; we do know that Baron Rivendare was at least undead, though. Which would be in line with the characters shown above. As is mentioned by the mount journal for his mount, and I’m well aware that that is flimsy at best.
https://wow.gamepedia.com/Deathcharger%27s_Reins
When Baron Rivendare became a champion of the Scourge, he condemned his favorite horse to join him in undeath.

As for the runes, well. There’s no real source on where they are from - what we do know, however, is that the Scourge only encountered the vrykul ((as far as we know)) around the time of WotLK, or at least around the time that they built up Icecrown into the citadel it is today. But at that point they already had these runes, and had had them for years.

While that is correct, yes, he did drop the hilt of his runeblade with what remained of his blade still attached to it. But unlike what is quoted in the guide, “If the Runeblade is destroyed, they no longer hold any power.”, he is still shown to function relatively fine. Still, even in Warcraft 3, there’s no lore stating death knights were bound to their runeblades in such a fashion - only Arthas is, who amongst all of the death knights stand unique in how he was turned. He alone had a runeblade that wasn’t of this world, which had such an affect on him that hasn’t been shown to occur to anyone since. Not even in the lore from Warcraft 3, which simply states the paladins that swore their loyalty to the Scourge were bestowed with black, vampiric runeblades. But it doesn’t say they were bound to them.

http://classic.battle.net/war3/undead/units/deathknight.shtml

Though the Paladins were immune to disease of any kind, they were persecuted by the general populace who believed that they had been infected by the foul plague. A small band of Paladins, embittered by society’s cruelty, traveled north to find the plague’s source. These renegade Paladins succumbed to bitter hatred over the course of their grueling quest. When they finally reached Ner’zhul’s icy fortress in Northrend they had become dark and brooding. The Lich King offered them untold power in exchange for their services and loyalty. The weary, vengeful warriors accepted his dark pact, and although they retained their humanity, their twisted souls were bound to his evil will for all time. Bestowed with black, vampiric Runeblades and shadowy steeds, Death Knights serve as the Scourge’s mightiest generals.

At this point we also know paladins aren’t immune to the Plague of Undeath.

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I thank you for your feedback and will take it into consideration.

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Great work on this boss. Glad we all provide our view on DK’s through this

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The madwoman finally did it.

Thank you Arin, very cool

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yo… that’s badass!!

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Arin’s been working so hard for this to be finished, so proud to finally see it here!! Our duchess is badass

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Isn’t it theoretically also possible for a DK to have broken free of the Lich King’s will directly after Arthas’ fall? Just curious what people think about this, considering the new details about the helm of domination and its influence on DKs.

Also, very good guide, must have taken a good amount of work.

A Kaldorei Death Knight may end their own undeath due to the nature of the curse; you need to find a reason why they keep going! They are also rejected by Elune and kin, the latter showing hostility.

Also want to briefly mention that fear of the afterlife can be a good motivator, especially for draenei and kaldorei DKs, knowing (or thinking) Elune/the Light rejects them.

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Possible! And very likely!

After Arthas’ fall, the Scourge were all of the sudden without any ‘influence’, nothing to control them. The Presence was gone, all of the sudden. A good opportunity for these Knights to be free themselves.

Also want to briefly mention that fear of the afterlife can be a good motivator, especially for draenei and kaldorei DKs, knowing Elune/the Light rejects them.

Indeed it is!

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