This is probably the most difficult part of roleplaying in a fixed world. Nothing we kill stays dead. Nothing we kill will stay dead. We may be merciless killers of all who stand before us, but due to the nature of the game itself, nothing that dies at our hands will die with any permanence, with extremely rare exceptions. The counterpart to our inability to kill anything is that nothing truly has the ability to kill us. We are Grim, and we endure. So how do we deal with this permanent environmental stasis in character? It definitely takes some creativity on the part of the player.
The easiest way to deal with repeatedly running up against the same enemies, whether Alliance or otherwise, is to consider a win or slaying as a defeat rather than a permanent death. One can walk away with pride in defeating the enemy, causing them setbacks and stripping them of their power, taking what they may have had for one’s own use, even when the knowledge that they have the capacity to recuperate remains. Even Nefarian’s death is attributed to Sinestra’s insistence that he has “fallen”, rather than any sort of implication of permanent nonexistence.
Viewing battles won as defeats for the enemy rather than permanent in-game deaths has several advantages in terms of roleplay. It allows a reasonable explanation for why a group might continually approach the same fights. While the enemy has already been “conquered” per se, the fact that they refuse to give up quite so easily means that they continue to present opportunities for training and acquisition of materials and weapons that will serve the Grim in their later encounters against ever more powerful enemies and the Alliance.
Defeats also allow for in character acknowledgment of the activities of other organizations and guilds outside of the Grim, without the need to say, “Oh well, it’s done. Why bother now?” Why bother? Because while some group of nobodies might have beaten the biggest, scariest thing out there to a bloody pulp, the Grim have yet to impose their superiority and control over those groups themselves. We continue to fight the fight, to improve ourselves in order to further our cause and the Mandate, and to lock down potential enemies and abuse them for everything we can get.
“But we chopped off Onyxia’s/Nefarian’s/Magtheridon’s head and hung it up in Orgrimmar/Thrallmar! How can you say she/he/it’s not really dead?” Again, this requires some creativity, but in a world of magic, it’s not so outrageously difficult a thing to consider. Onyxia was apparently killed by Varian with the introduction of Wrath, but she’s still holed up in her cave in Dustwallow? Alexstrasza definitely sees to arrangements for Malygos, but his agents still continue to act outside the Eye of Eternity, and next week he’s waiting for another group to take their best shot? The Dragonqueen does say a few conveniently interpretable things: “This day, one of the world’s mightiest has fallen,” and “Life… goes on.” Magic, illusions, minions, schemes, power struggles, healing, interference with timelines, any number of explanations can be employed for why such resurrections or continued existences might be the case. Ultimately, does it matter exactly why they are still around to be fought? Or does it matter that we as Grim can still find use for them? Perhaps even the wisest scholars have yet to answer the questions of why some things are the way they are. Alternately, you can go into an encounter completely OOC, but where’s the fun in that?
Actually acknowledging the stasis of the world is definitely accompanied by a sense of futility. Why bother doing anything if nothing ever changes? At that point, what to do with your character’s will to continue fighting is entirely up to the player, but Azeroth has been locked in wars for millennia. Some of the enemies have been reduced to mere trifles, some occasionally return with a vengeance, and new forces grow in strength that need to be fought, so while our actions seem to have little impact on the canon game world, there are always new challenges coming in patches and expansions for your character to pick up and run with in terms of roleplaying and reasons to continue to follow the Mandate.
Occasionally, things can change, but it’s rare in the fixed game world. Bolvar’s death and Wrynn’s return are serious world changing incidents in ways that killing Nefarion or Malygos are not. That cutscene, that battle, can only happen once. We can control our actions within the Grim, and changes can occur within any original roleplay within the guild or with other players, but ultimately, whether or not the external canon world changes is up to Blizzard. The Grim are more than capable of creatively rolling with the punches Blizzard may throw our way, but with the introduction of phasing, the idea that a character who has not yet experienced an incident still has more to learn about the reality of things is being stretched to a difficult limit. You can see Varimathras, but I can’t?
The main idea in continuing to create and play out stories within this type of world where many of the structures are laid out for us in ways that are often less than encouraging is to stay flexible, while always keeping the canon in mind and taking the spirit of the lore to heart. Blizzard is continually throwing wrenches by allowing things like our continued ability to attack Onyxia and display her head in Orgrimmar to exist in a canon where she was killed with apparent finality by Varian Wrynn in the comic, or the ability to interact with Sinestra regarding the Netherwing dragons in a canon where she was killed with apparent finality in a novel. The explanations of “defeat without death” are still viable for those situations, but it all does start to seem ridiculous when what exists in the game is never solidly explained. Just keep in mind flexibility and creativity at all times.
– Words From Qabian Amberlight
Former Keeper of The Grim