All the World's a Stage: So you want to be a Blacksmith

David Bowers
D. Bowers|05.11.09

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All the World's a Stage: So you want to be a Blacksmith

This installment of All the World's a Stage is the thirty-second in a series of roleplaying guides in which we find out all the background information you need to roleplay a particular race or class (or profession!) well, without embarrassing yourself.

Blacksmiths are known for being brawny folk -- hammering pieces of metal together is not easy work after all. But in World of Warcraft, even the smallest gnome or scrawniest elf can be a great blacksmith. Azeroth is a land where even the smallest people can wield the biggest of axes, so it would follow that they could craft them too, as well as any other sort of armor or weapon that they could imagine.

Typically, however, even in Azeroth, blacksmiths are, by and large, members of a class that can use plate mail and heavy weapons, such as a warrior, a death knight, or a paladin, just as tailors are usually spellcasters of some kind. So even if a blacksmith appears scrawny on the outside, he or she is very likely still quite brawny on the inside. Underneath that elf's pretty skin are muscles of steel!

Being a blacksmith implies a state of mind as much as it does a state of body, however. Working with metals is not something for the light hearted. The weight, the heat, and all the soot are not for people who like to keep their clothes clean at all times, for instance. It's also not a very socially-oriented profession, requiring long hours spent hammering away at something until it reaches perfection, often using lots of material in the learning process before you finally get one right. Blacksmiths of lore tend to be patient and hardy people, tempered and perfected by their work, like good, hard steel.

A craft of the soul

Throughout time blacksmiths have played an essential role in human history, and often have significant roles in myths, folklore and modern fantasy fiction. Countless magical weapons have been forged by one or another legendary blacksmith who had dedicated his whole life to his work just to produce that one masterpiece of a weapon, or occasionally, a piece of armor.

More often than not, however, the blacksmith is that background character who produces a key item for the true hero of the story, not the hero himself. Sometimes this is possible for World of Warcraft characters, but more often than not, if there is an amazing blacksmith-crafted weapon to be made, then the rules of the game bind it to the blacksmith who created it, so that only he or she can use it. Perhaps as roleplayers, we might say that the very best weapons have a bit of the blacksmith's soul in them, so that he or she would never be willing to part with it. Or else we might suggest that blacksmithing is a competitive art, and various smiths don't easily share their secrets with one another. Or, on the other hand, perhaps blacksmithing with Azerothian metals is just easier than working with earth metals, and consequently it doesn't take up quite so much time and practice as it does on earth, thus leaving Azerothian blacksmiths with enough time to get as good at using the weapons as they are at making them.

All three of these possibilities are probably true in different measures with different heroes, usually resulting in the item-maker and item-user being one and the same. When you make your own items as a blacksmith, your character would have every right to be extremely proud of them, and to hold them dear to his or her soul.

Loot vs. Fashion

The problem with this rule is that these days it's not very common that a person will actually craft their own amazing weapons and armor at the highest levels -- the very best of these instead coming from dead villains or PvP honor salesmen. A blacksmith may find himself using found items much more often than items he made himself. What good is it to be extremely proud of your work if you don't have any work to display?

Tailors have an advantage in this area, since as roleplayers, they can craft all sorts of beautiful clothes for themselves and wear them about town as a sort of fashion whenever they aren't actually able to wear their robes into battle. It makes less sense for a blacksmith to craft pretty armor just for fun, then go around the city clinking and clacking as he wonders, "does this skull pattern on my breastplate complement the flowery lines on my thigh plates?" Typically, if a blacksmith isn't wearing his or her armor into battle, then it seems as though he ought not to wear it at all.

An exception to this rule would be when a blacksmith can add special sockets to his armor, to later be filled with gems from a jewelcrafter. This is not only a handy ability for playing the game itself, but you can use it to make your own little stamp on your armor. You may not have crafted your own belt, for instance, but you did put that socket and gem inside it. In this way, blacksmithing can become more like modding is in the modern world, where instead of making things from scratch, people take pieces here and pieces there and put them together in order to make an otherwise common item unique. Often modders can be just as proud of their work as crafters, if not more so.

Of course, another option is to make special armor for some sort of purpose involved in a roleplaying story. If the blacksmith or a friend wants to go on a special quest, then perhaps using their normal weapons or armor would not be sufficient. A special looking piece of weaponry or armor could be a nice prop in an RP storyline, or even just a nice sentimental item for a blacksmith to carry around with himself.

All the World's a Stage continues this series on roleplaying within the lore with this week's look at being a blacksmith. Be sure to check out previous articles on roleplaying enchanting, skinning, herbalism, mining, tailoring, and alchemy, and think about how to roleplay a plate-wearing class, such as a paladin, warrior, or death knight.
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