Saturday, March 22, 2008

Entry 11: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Well fellow players, with Patch 2.4 imminent we can happily cross off another milestone between TBC and Wrath of the Lich King. I have no idea when the expansion is coming out, but as always, expectations are running high. While the prospects of assailing Northrend and battling Arthas' minions is certainly intriguing (alas, my inability to fit into any kind of raid schedule all but guarantees that I will be merely a foot soldier in the campaign against the Scourge), I know that many people are much more curious about WoW's first Hero Class, the Death Knight.

Rather than waste my breath championing or denouncing the new class, I'm going to go into full RP-geek mode. What follows, my friends, is my personal list of favorite, Death Knight-inspiring characters from fiction! I don't know about you all, but when I go to create a character, I usually have an image in my head of what his/her personality is going to be, and how I'd RP if ever given the opportunity. Frequently, I'll draw on some favorite character from popular culture and hope that the Blizzard name system doesn't smack me with the infringement stick.

Since I'm probably not going to get away with the more recognizable Death Knight references (good luck, for instance, getting very far named Nazghul), I decided to go really far into left field.

Let's see the name police catch these!

Cadet 1: Guts (or GATSU, for you kanji maniacs)

The lead character from Berserk is practically the poster boy for the Death Knight class. First of all, he walks around carrying a seven foot long, demon-slaying sword, goes by the ominous title of "Black Swordsman", and wears a cursed set of armor that shoves metal spines into him to force broken bones back together and ignore pain.

He is, how do you say, badass?

At the risk of spoiling the excellent series for those of my readers who haven't seen it, Guts didn't start out this way. Once upon a time, he was just a highly talented swordsman fighting alongside his ambitious and charismatic friend Griffith, in love with a strong woman, and happily kicking ass. But when said buddy decided that personal ambition superseded everything else and sacrificed his entire battalion (Guts and girl included) to ascend to demon-god status, he and Guts had a 'falling out'.

Oh, and he raped Guts' girl. Right in front of him. While Guts' arm was being chewed on by some outer-worldly demon thing. That, my friends, makes it personal.

At the end of it all, Guts' girl is comatose, he's lost a hand and an eye, they've both been branded for life in a way that makes them living targets for every spirit or demon in the vicinity, AND the bastard Griffith got away. Them's what you call 'life changing events'.

Now he's the Black Swordsman, all he wants is revenge, and heaven help anyone/anything that gets in his way. Did I mention the cursed armor?


Cadet 2: Wodan Ymir

The self-proclaimed Sword of Magus, Wodan is the alternate-universe version of Super Robot Taisen protagonist Zengar Zombolt, and gets the nod over his alter-ego by virtue of his blacker persona. Wodan is the guardian of the Earth Cradle, the sword of Magus, and will cleave whoever or whatever challenges the safety of the Cradle. Created from the reconstituted corpse of Zengar by the Shadow-Mirror, Wodan is a killing machine with little regard for anyone or any thing. When he is confronted by his double in a conflict at the Earth Cradle, Wodan declares that he, and only he, will be the one to defeat Zengar, and the two engage in a bitter rivalry till the very end.

Wodan's tale bears similarities to the fate of many who fall to the Scourge. Their ruined bodies are reanimated and instilled with sinister new purpose, often pitting them against their former friends and loved ones. Those that break free join the Forsaken, but are still plagued by the memories of their former lives and the horrors they may have wrought while under the control of the Lich King.

Imagine for a moment that you, one of the Forsaken, are suddenly confronted by your former, living self. Suddenly, the shroud of death you have grown accustomed to is ripped away, and in comparison to the vibrant figure of your alternate you are nothing but a rotting, dessicated husk. You are hollow, while he pulses with life. Every moment you are in his presence brings back countless memories of your former life, each cutting with the sting of glass shards and salt. He is a testament to all you have lost. You are a mockery, a caricature, a shadow, a blight on nature.

Compared to him you will never be more than a corpse.

You know what? I'd probably want to kill him too.


Cadet 3: Battousai (aka Kenshin Himura, when he's not slaughtering things)

This I'm afraid falls under the "what if a belf became a DK?" category. Or a gnome with red hair. Kenshin might look a little (*cough*) effeminate, but we're not so much interested in his looks than his personality. Specifically, Battousai's personality.

You see, Kenshin was a poor orphaned child who was
traveling with some total strangers who had taken pity on him. Their party was ambushed by bandits, and poor Kenshin (then called Shinta) had to watch as all his new friends were slaughtered right in front of him. Before he himself could be introduced to the working end of a katana, Hiko Seijuro shows up and turns the bandits into a Meiji-era version of a Jackson Pollock painting.

Hiko tells the young boy that he should be grateful to be alive, swigs some sake, and moves on. That would have been the end of the story, had Hiko not happened back through the area the next morning.

To his shock, Shinta had dragged and buried every one of the bodies, including those of the bandits. The three girls who had taken care of him he found headstones for; old rocks, decorated with handfuls of wild flowers.

Hiko was touched by the boy's resolve and compassion and decided to take him as his successor, to school him in the ancient sword art of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. Finding his name 'Shinta' too soft, he renamed him 'Kenshin'.

Years passed. Kenshin grew up, learned the art of sword fighting from the master, and was set to become Hiko's true successor when civil war broke out. The Meiji restoration was at hand, and Kenshin felt the need to help. Hiko disapproved, saying that the sword was purely a killing weapon no matter how it was used. When Kenshin insisted, Hiko disowned his pupil, and Kenshin left to help the revolution.

Kenshin's skill was unmatched, and with his help the revolution was successful. The endless fighting and killing extracted a heavy toll on the young Kenshin, and he became cold, heartless, and merciless in his efficiency. He became a legend, the feared Battousai, and the bodies he piled up numbered in the hundreds.

If there's any way of illustrating how good intentions can lead to damnation, Kenshin's story is as good as any. His youth and naiveté quickly gave way to the harsh reality of war. His master was right; the sword always would be a weapon for killing. If a Death Knight is to represent the moral degradation of a hero, Kenshin is a great fit. What's more, the DK aspect of redemption is here as well, because after the turmoil ended, Kenshin vowed to pay penance for his sins. Taking up a reverse-edged sword, he set out to wander the country and do as much good as he could -- swearing never again to take a human life.

And yet, in his darker moments, in those moments of desperation, the Battousai would rear his head. The blade would reverse, people would again be put at risk because of his sword, and Kenshin would be left struggling in the aftermath. What must it be like to know that there's a bloodthirsty monster lurking inside you? Kenshin certainly does, and for that reason he'd make an excellent Death Knight.


Cadet 4: Kenshiro

YOU wa SHOCK! Kenshiro is a master of Hokuto Shin Ken (God Fist of the North Star), that iconic assassination technique from Hokuto no Ken (translation: Fist of the North Star). It involves striking an opponent's pressure points in such a way as to cause lethal damage, usually involving exploding body parts. One particularly large individual was in fact struck such that his entire upper half exploded in a geyser of blood. Ah the 80s.

Ok. This one, I will admit, is just a bit of a stretch, for two reasons:

The concept of the Death Knight seems to revolve around damnation and redemption; it's about the climb after the fall. Kenshiro doesn't so much fall as simply gets defeated. He loses his girl to Shin, an erstwhile friend who is also in love with Yuria, and for his troubles gets seven scars drilled into his chest care of the same a-hole. So Kenshiro picks himself up, having survived the attack, and decides he's going to find Shin and make his head explode, in true Hokuto Shin Ken fashion. I suppose you could call this a 'fall', but there was no real moral degredation here. Ken just lost, and now he's after revenge. Unlike Guts whose entire outlook began revolving around killing Griffith, Kenshiro retains his sense of honor, and even shows his enemies mercy.

That is, if you define mercy as killing someone in a such a way that they experience no pain.

Second, Kenshiro doesn't use a sword. Who needs a freakin' sword when you can punch someone and make them explode? I'm banking on the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Death Knights will be able to use some kind of fist weapon. As I said, it's a stretch.

So why did I pick Kenshiro? I'll admit, here I'm leaning on sheer badass factor. I'd name my Death Knight Kenshiro just to be able to taunt, 'You're already dead,', right before a duel. There's something about his total disregard for his opponents that makes it clear he's a master of an ASSASSINATION technique, not some pretty self-defense nonsense. If you fight Kenshiro, you'd better be ready to die, because he's not letting you off. At all. That's kind of how I imagine Death Knights entering into combat.

If you don't like it, say so in the comments. And be ready to eat Hyakkuretsu Ken.


And there you have it. Just a handful of Death Knight concepts to play around with. I'm sure my readers can think of many more, so lets here them! I may do a continuation of this series at some point in the future, as we get closer to Wrath. Get those runeblades ready!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yo, brother here. Well, you've managed to get me off my lazy gaming ass to comment. >_< This'd be so much easier if calling worked just as well...

Anyway! You seem to have neglected a few potential Death Knights, and, personally, I'm quite bewildered as to how Kenshin managed to get up there before mister 'Omae ja nai,' but oh well.

People you've forgotten, off the top of my head:

Ken-whateverhislastnameis (The one from Godannar)

Pizza, damnit, -PIZZA-. Soldat J's Hyde needs some love too!

Toguro. I can't believe you forgot this one. T_T

Kurain Sandman: A stretch, but he -DID- do some pretty crazy shit. More of a deity, really...

Char: 'Nuff said.

Charclones: Damn near all of them too! Except maybe the dudes from Seed, but then, I'm biased.

Kageyama, Gatekeepers: The guy has the Gate of Darkness, that should be enough to merit Deathknight-hood.

Akito- Nadesico, the Prince of Darkness: I think think that's pretty self-explanatory too.

Pesmerga and Yuber: I think they're already pretty much Death Knights, but I had to mention -SOMEBODY- from Suikoden.

Lord Genome: Heh.

Vader, and not the Hayden Christiansen one.

Urza in his later years, Khamal, Jeska.

Leon (Tales of Destiny): Judas is EPIC masked-man. He rocks.

-MAGUS.- Batshit crazy, sibling-obsessed elfboy would make a pretty nasty Knight with that scythe of his.

That's all from the top of my head! Analyze 'em up quickly now. =D