Ah, the last major patch of the expansion. It's a winding-down point for roleplayers, especially if they've been tying their stories into the events of the expansion itself. While some may be roleplaying the struggle to defeat Deathwing, others may be roleplaying those that have nothing to do with the end of Cataclysm -- the shopkeeps, the elderly or those simply too young to participate.
But the same question resounds for roleplayers of any capacity when we're facing the end of an expansion. Whether you're a raider who roleplays or a casual player who's never set foot in a raid, who actually kills the final boss? When the time came to save the world, who was it that struck the killing blow? And when did that death occur?
Endgame death in roleplay
This is something that we've dealt with since the first day that Onyxia died. Back then, we didn't have any kind of lore confirmation for what happened. We had a quest to turn in Onyxia's head, and our character's name was announced as the dragonslayer for all to hear. But this announcement was made time after time, each with a different name. In The Burning Crusade, we were presented with our first major thematic villain. The Burning Crusade's trailer made it clear that Illidan was the final villain, and his death was supposed to signal the expansion's end. It didn't, in actuality, but Illidan's demise was still an important event, one that many roleplayers weren't sure exactly how to handle.
It wasn't difficult to just attribute the deaths to nameless heroes, because back in the days of vanilla and The Burning Crusade, it was rare to see a raiding roleplayer. For most roleplayers, the difficulty in trying to squeeze raiding into a schedule that was already prioritized for roleplay meant that they simply didn't raid. With Wrath, the Lich King's death was something that was heralded with a statue in the center of Dalaran. Roleplayers couldn't really ignore the statue, nor could they ignore its meaning. And raiding was becoming more accessible, something that even roleplayers could squeeze into their schedules if they wanted -- roleplayers who sometimes claimed that killing blow.
Deathwing's demise is also a touted event, something that is announced. What's a roleplayer to do? You have two realistic choices here. You can choose to try and ignore the events around you, or you can acknowledge that they occurred and work them into your roleplay. But don't get too excited just yet.
Who killed the boss?
Everyone wants to be the hero, the person that struck that killing blow. But in roleplay, taking that route is an exercise in frustration. If my character stated that she killed Deathwing and another player stated that he killed Deathwing, which character is right? For sanity's sake, the answer must be neither.
The easiest tactic to take in conversations regarding boss kills is one of vague impressions, rather than outright statements. When the Warcraft comics were released, the question of who exactly killed Onyxia was defined -- it was Varian Wrynn. However, Varian was also accompanied by a group of heroes that helped out, so it's easy enough for Alliance players to state that they were there. Taking credit for the killing blow, however, is breaking the standing lore.
The same goes for every other major boss in the expansions after. Maiev ultimately killed Illidan; it was Anveena's sacrifice that sent Kil'jaeden packing; and Tirion ultimately led to the Lich King's defeat. But in all of these circumstances, there was always a group of unnamed heroes that were along to help. That help allowed these NPCs to do what must be done and rid the world of the villains who plague it.
That's where a roleplayer can neatly fit in. Blizzard takes great care not to name those heroes, leaving a space open for your character to step into, if that's a direction you wish to take. These named NPCs might've struck the killing blow, but they couldn't have done it without your character's sweat and perseverance.
When do they die?
When do you acknowledge that a major villain has died? While this wasn't a major issue in the case of Illidan and Kil'Jaeden, other bosses drop items that lead to city-wide announcements, like Kael'thas in Tempest Keep or Onyxia. In these cases, a hero is sometimes named outright, yet days later, another hero is named. So when do these villains actually die, if they're being killed over and over? When was the Lich King defeated, if the statue in the middle of Dalaran popped up months before the expansion's end?
In this case, it's easiest to ignore the announcements -- it's a matter of game mechanics, not a matter of roleplay. As far as the issue of when the boss dies, it's easiest to simply place that death at the end of the expansion. Though players are already killing Deathwing, his death isn't something we roleplayers need to acknowledge until the end of the expansion. It's not a finality until then.
With Cataclysm, we've got an expansion that has a clearly defined time line. It's a very linear expansion, and both in-game events and short stories surrounding the game point to time's passing. With the launch of patch 4.2, it's clear that Cho'gall is dead; with patch 4.3, it's clear that Ragnaros is gone. Given this, we can pretty much assume as roleplayers that Deathwing isn't really dead until the release of the next patch.
Invariably, you're going to run into a roleplayer who insists that he is Deathwing's killer. I remember that back in The Burning Crusade, we had a roleplayer on our realm who kept the Head of Kael'thas. He brought the item to Silvermoon and started brandishing it at other roleplayers, insisting that he was the one that killed Kael'thas. He insisted everyone else had to acknowledge it as well, because he had the proof in his hands. When others pointed out that swinging around a decapitated head in public would surely bring about the attention of the city guards, he ignored them.
This sort of thing happens all the time. You will invariably run into a roleplayer or two in your span of roleplaying who insists they were responsible for various important events. You can try to gently correct them, but if that only succeeds in raising their ire, it would be best advised to simply ignore them as you would any other godmodder. If this seems harsh, it's not -- it's simply a reality of roleplay. Sometimes in running dungeons, you'll come across someone you no longer wish to group with, and you are by no means obligated to do so.
The same applies to roleplaying. As a roleplayer, you are by no means obligated to roleplay with everyone you meet. You can choose who to roleplay with and who to simply ignore. In the case of godmodding players, I always recommend trying to talk with them in whispers before placing them on ignore; sometimes they simply don't know any better, and correcting them can create another great roleplayer. But remember, if you're trying that tactic, don't be rude -- be kind, be gentle, be understanding. Don't try to force them to change; simply make a suggestion.
If they are unwilling to listen or are simply rude and unreasonable in return, you can feel free to ignore them at that point. Don't tell them you are going to ignore them; that will only fuel their irritation and it can lead to griefing. Just wish them well, and continue on your way.
When you're dealing with the end of an expansion, roleplay gets a little harder to handle. But if you've got a game plan in mind when it comes to dealing with the technical quibbles behind the events to come, it can make things a heck of a lot easier to handle. And remember -- if you're roleplaying with a guild or a group, check in with them too, and make sure you're all on the same page. Keep your chin up and remember: Just because you aren't the one who struck the killing blow, it doesn't make your character any less of a hero. In a way, it makes them more of a hero, because they continue to soldier on and help in any way they can, regardless of acknowledgment.
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