Role Play: Forsaken lore and character development
How do you get into the skull of someone who is not-so-recently deceased? Part of the struggle some players have with roleplay is getting into the head of their characters — understanding what it really means to be the race they’ve chosen, and incorporating that understanding into how they play that character. Forsaken lore is fairly recent from a timeline standpoint — the Forsaken only came into existence during the Third War — but there’s a lot to think about with Forsaken character development.
First and foremost…your character is dead. Sort of. And although Warcraft is full of all kinds of resurrection spells from a variety of classes, your character wasn’t lucky enough to get the clean and tidy return from the grave. Rather than looking at Forsaken history as a whole, we’re going to take a deep dive into the mind of a Forsaken, and what’s really going on in there.
The overwhelming majority of Forsaken on Azeroth were once citizens of Lordaeron. When the Lich King began to form the Scourge during the Third War, these unsuspecting farmers and townspeople were subjected to grain that had been hit with the Plague of Undeath. Upon consumption, the townsfolk had roughly three days of sickness before they simply dropped dead. But they didn’t stay dead. Instead, they rose as mindless zombies, easily controlled by the Lich King, and proceeded to carve a swath of death and destruction across their former homeland.
These Scourge didn’t know what they were doing. They weren’t in control of their actions. They were simply mindless tools of the Lich King, possessing no free will of their own. But during the Third War, something happened that caused the Lich King’s grasp over his armies to falter, and a contingent of the Scourge slipped free of his control.
They woke up to an utter nightmare in which they not only remembered their former lives…they also remembered every unspeakable horror they’d committed while under the influence of the Lich King. Every murder they’d committed. Every face they encountered, frozen in horror and fear the moment before they died.
…it’s no wonder the Forsaken are all a little mad, is it?
This is what is it to be a Forsaken — to have both the knowledge of whoever you once were and the knowledge of what you had become side-by-side in stark relief, forever burned in your memory. Some went completely mad at the memories, but those who didn’t were suddenly faced with another, more terrible realization — they could never, ever go home again. Home didn’t exist. They were human, once, but no more.
And it didn’t matter if they regretted their actions. It didn’t matter if they were a highly decorated officer, a hero in Lordaeron’s army. It didn’t matter if they had family alive, somewhere — in fact, it was almost worse if they did have family, because there was no way that family would ever accept them again. They weren’t human anymore, they were monsters, damned to a fate that they didn’t ask for, saved at the worst possible moment and forced to live with the consequences. And those consequences weren’t pretty.
This is why the Forsaken rallied around Sylvanas — because Sylvanas gave them something they were missing. A purpose, a home, a sense of belonging, even if that belonging was in the middle a throng of fellow nightmares. She was a beacon around which they could rally, she gave them a cause they could believe in and a reason to continue on in an existence they were doomed to carry out whether they wanted to or not.
A reason to be
A Forsaken isn’t just an undead monstrosity. They are the sum of their former life and their time as a mindless slave under the Scourge. They have vivid memories of their time before their death, and even the lowliest beggar would look back upon their time in the streets as a paradise they were forever locked out of. Humanity is something they at once long to return to, and loathe with every fiber of their being — because in their darkest hour, there was no helping hand extended in sympathy and compassion. There was only screams, fear, and disgust reflected in the eyes of their fellow man.
Forsaken are complicated. When you try to get into their heads, there are so many layers to look at. The person that they used to be could affect who they are today, or it could be a shameful secret they now hide away and never speak of. Where was your character when they died? Were they fighting in a battlefield? Were they on the run from the Scourge? Or were they just sitting down to what would unknowingly be the worst family dinner of their lives?
A Forsaken is going to be understandably bitter. A creature like that has a few different choices to make. They can rise above the destiny fate has seen fit to give them and try to forge some kind of new existence in the ashes of their old one — try to find some kind of pride, some reason for continuing on. Accept that they are the monster everyone presumes them to be, and fall into the role — after all, what has anyone ever done for them? Alternatively, they can go completely mad, and become an echo of the Scourge they once were.
Not every Forsaken was a former resident of Lordaeron — since the Lich King’s fall at the end of Wrath, Sylvanas has been creating her own Forsaken with the help of the Val’kyr. These Forsaken are offered a choice to serve Sylvanas. Some accept, albeit grudgingly, while others look at themselves in horror and flee. These new Forsaken are pulled from the ranks of the dead, but not necessarily old citizens of Lordaeron. Some may be former heroes that lost their lives in one of the many conflicts carried out during the course of World of Warcraft‘s story.
The new Forsaken are a different breed, because they don’t have those memories of the atrocities they carried out as mindless Scourge. They never were mindless Scourge — they were Forsaken the moment the Val’kyr raised them from the grave. They don’t have to grapple with the horror of what they had done,:they simply have to come to terms with what they now are. They serve Sylvanas because that’s what the Forsaken are supposed to do — but they don’t necessarily have as strong of an attachment to her as a result.
In fact, they might even resent her. After all, before her interference they were simply dead. Now they’re forced to deal with the consequences of being undead, and that’s not necessarily something to be grateful for. That kind of angle automatically creates opportunities for tension between Forsaken roleplayers — there’s a big shift between those who are utterly loyal to Sylvanas, and those who might say they’re loyal, but aren’t necessarily as blind as you’d think.
Forsaken characters are some of the most complicated to try and figure out, as far as what motivates them and how they approach the world around them. But it’s that multi-faceted aspect of their lives — and un-lives — that makes them really compelling to roleplay. If you’re roleplaying a Forsaken, take a moment to look at that character and really think about where they’ve been and where they’re going — because somewhere in the midst of that admittedly grim and sorrowful past are a multitude of potential stories just waiting to happen.
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