Role Play: When you don’t agree with class fantasy
Legion has been an expansion all about “class fantasy” – a deeper exploration into what it means to be a member of a particular class. We aren’t focusing on Alliance or Horde this expansion, we’re focusing on classes themselves, and the Armies of Legionfall represent the pinnacle of all of those classes uniting and standing together against the Burning Legion. But what happens if you aren’t really happy with that class fantasy as presented? This week’s email asks just how far you can go when you aren’t happy with class-based lore.
My issues with shamanism are really three fold. I don’t want to rely on elementals to grant me power. I don’t like the primitive, “savage” background of shamanism or its founding races, and I’m not wild about the tribalism and spiritualism behind the class.
What in the lore could support me redefining my shaman’s background? Can I spin him so that he isn’t just another cookie cutter Draenei shaman? In the RP community, is it acceptable to reimagine a class? Surely we can’t all be the same kind of Druid or mage or shaman…
I’m a big fan of roleplaying whatever you like – after all, RP is just a big game of let’s pretend. But when you’re concerned about the perceptions of the RP community, you’re dealing with a slightly different question. Things can be really, really tricky when you think you want to go against established lore. Some people are perfectly fine with the idea. Some people are definitely not.
The good news is that you don’t have to roleplay with the people that aren’t okay with your alternate interpretation of lore. The not-so-good news is that this may limit the number of people willing to roleplay with you. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide if you’re all right with the idea of limiting potential roleplay partners.
And there’s an additional warning to think about when you’re considering changing how those established lore rules apply to your character. Although it’d be nice if everyone would just live and let live, there are some people out there that will devote a significant amount of time that could be better used elsewhere trying to “correct” you.
Thankfully, there’s also an ignore button readily available for your use if needed.
Draenei and Shaman lore
In the case of the Draenei, Shaman lore is pretty well set in stone. There’s even an excellent short story called Unbroken that addresses exactly how they came to practice it — I highly recommend it. The Broken were Draenei who were affected by a red mist released on Shattrath City while trying to defend it. The affliction didn’t just change their form; it also cut them off from the Light. Nobundo tried his hardest to regain his mastery over the Light, to no avail – but eventually, the elements answered him instead.
It was through Nobundo that all other practicing Draenei Shaman came to learn what they know today. Obviously not all of these Draenei are Broken like Nobundo. So in this case, it’s actually not at all out of line to make your Shaman a former Mage that saw this alternate form of elemental mastery and wanted to explore it. Mages already have an inherent curiosity about magic in general; there’s no reason that curiosity wouldn’t extend to Shaman practices.
But the method in which Shaman magic works is a different animal. The elements are fickle on Azeroth. They choose who they want to speak to, and whether or not they want to help them. Summoning an elemental and simply forcing it to do your bidding is generally frowned upon. The dark shaman that Garrosh utilized in the Siege of Orgrimmar are examples of that – the Taunka are another, to a degree.
Weighing your options
Does this mean that your former mage is automatically a bad guy or a villain if they choose to practice the Shaman arts in this manner? No, of course it doesn’t. But there are some who might view it that way. This actually gives your character some interesting things to talk about, if asked – they can explain how they view the elements. But be aware that other Shaman characters may not agree, and may even get really angry or offended at your character over it.
This also means you probably just want to ignore or omit the idea of your character being heavily involved with or leading the Earthen Ring. The Ring was founded on the idea of studying and maintaining harmony with the elements. Forcing the elements to do your bidding doesn’t exactly mesh with that ideal. The Legion threat means that some Shaman may overlook that for now – after all, there are greater threats out there to contend with. But after that battle is said and done, opinions may change.
In the end, you aren’t really “re-imagining a class” in this situation. You’re re-imagining how the class applies to your character. Just be aware that there are those who probably won’t agree with how you’ve chosen to interpret the lore. If you’re okay with that idea, feel free to roleplay however you’d like – nobody’s going to stop you. If you’d rather play it safe, then maybe you should stick to roleplaying with the Mage. Keep the Shaman as an out-of-character character – the kind you play for fun when you don’t feel like roleplaying.
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