Now I’ve been playing MMORPGs since the ancient days, when dragons were tameable and halberds plus magic were a good idea. And nothing has changed since – death seems to be a major problem for roleplayers. Technically I can understand that – I mean, in most books once the hero dies, it’s over (except for some vampire stories, but let’s not go there, please?).
However, that’s not really what the game plays like, now is it? I did not suffer a grievous wound when the Lich King hit me for around a million damage. I died. Horribly. That’s why there are resurrections available to almost anyone from around level 10. Except for warriors, of course, but pffft... we are that good, we don’t need it anyway.
Where was I? Oh yes… complaining about roleplayers that did not notice when they died and instead insist they had suffered a brutal wound. When the game clearly kills them. As visible from the ghost shape and the spirit healer and the resurrection spell cast to bring them back. I won’t ramble on too long about it, but why do they feel the need to pretend not to die. Clearly no one can die – there are hordes of rampaging opposite faction players running every night into their capital cities just to bump off that hot banshee in leather. At least… we presume that’s what the screaming is all about.
Death is a little bit like a sick-note to my boss in that real life game, isn’t it? “Why weren’t you there on Monday for the telephone conference?” is the exact same question as “Why was your total damage so low in phase three on the Northrend beasts?” The slip saying I had pneumonia is the same thing as “I stood in the poison cloud and died horribly in phase 2”.
Which brings me to the real point. We need a proper religion for online games – one that accepts that death in inevitable and not to be feared. Basically the way I see it, most religions deal with providing a set of moral guidelines and explaining the unexplainable. This is required because when Torg, the biggest, baddest cavemen of them all, who can split a dire lion in twine with his stone axe decides he likes your wife – you can tell him that the gods will smite him with lightning if he doesn’t behave (this is the point about the moral code). If Torg then walks up a hill in a thunderstorm and finds a large steel sword stuck in the top of it, with the words “Stormbringer” etched into the metal hilt and pulls it out of the soft, wet grass and shouts “I defy you, stupid lord of thunder!” – he’ll get what he deserves as well.
If he had not lusted after someone else’s cave-wife he would probably have been promised a life in paradise – something that most religions do to offset the rather noticeable unfun effects of dying.
However – with dying not something to be afraid of (well… except for incurring your raid-leaders anger) that is probably not something our WoW-Religion needs to take into account. There is no afterlife, for all I care. There is just the next one.
There are perils more dangerous than death, though. And if you ever read the PvP boards, you’d know what they are. Even most raiders agree on those points: “Not being in control of your character” is counted as the worst. Dying in an encounter usually does not rate anywhere near that high on the annoyance factor. We can even spin a bit of lore around this: Falling permanently under the control of the Lich King is the worst fate that can happen to someone in the game at the moment. There is even a quest in the game that describes this… and the practically divine intervention required to pull off an escape. If you are practically immortal due to frequent resurrections, this is even worse: any moment spent serving another (like a priest with mindcontrol and a high cliff) will be horrible – an eternity spent serving someone else is the end of the world.
So … the most feared thing would not be death, but rather the loss of control. The promised reward for the faithful would be level appropriate loot. We shall call it
Join the Church of the Sheep!