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Shared Topic: What’s Your Headcannon?

September 4, 2012

Last week’s (I am so behind, thanks patch) Blog Azeroth Shared Topic was submitted by Akabeko of Red Cow Rise.  Aka asks:

Canon refers to the actual events and characters that exist in a fictional world. Headcanon refers to any situations or characters that are imagined by fans of said fictional world. Sometimes they are silly, like the fact that Garrosh’s favorite treat is lemon squares. Sometimes they are serious, like positing that tauren store grief in the lungs. For my writing, I’ve come up with a lot of headcanon. Got a theory about a torrid romance between your favorite auctioneer and the patrolling guard? Given any thought to where mounts and pets go when they aren’t summoned? Do you know how your characters do their laundry, or what Baine Bloodhoof does in his free time? What are your headcanons, and where did you get the idea?

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that most of my headcannon revolves around druids and, specifically, druid shapeshifting.  I ran into quite a few druid roleplayers when I was still regularly RPing on my server, and one thing many of them had in common was that they would RP while in a non-human form.  This, because of my own headcannon regarding druids and what it means to them to shapeshift, was something I never did with my own druid, nor could I particularly understand the reasoning when I saw others do it.

In my mind and for my druid, the act of shapeshifting is a deeply personal and sacred act.  It is the ultimate acceptance of one’s self by nature, and the ultimate giving of one’s self to nature.  It is something that is done alone, or with other druids who have experienced this acceptance, or during battle when it is necessary.  It is not a parlor trick.

I imagine that when a druid achieves the ability to assume another shape, this isn’t a process that is taken lightly.  For my character, shapeshifting is as joyful as it is dangerous – dangerous because when she shapeshifts she doesn’t merely take on the shape of an animal, she takes on much of the way it thinks as well.  Druid training, then, must require initiates to learn to maintain their sense of identity and humanity, even when the instinct of the animal form they assume tempts them to just let go.

My druid, who I imagine has spent decades at a time as a storm crow, is not as skilled at maintaining that identity as she probably should be.  As such, she sometimes finds herself confused about her own timeline, about who she is, and about whether she can remember her friends or family.  The pull of natural instinct is strong – much stronger than the will of someone untrained in druidic ways, and likely stronger than the will of most novice druids.  It seems likely that, over the thousands of years that night elves have been training people in Druidism, more than a few have chosen to surrender to instinct and live out their lives as bears, cats, crows, or any other number of animals in the wilds of Kalimdor.

So given the volatility inherent to a shapeshifted druid, I have a hard time believing that any well-trained druid would put roomful of people at risk by turning into a bear or panther or giant bird of prey in front of them.  For me, this wouldn’t be all that different from having a wild bear or cat in the room with you, and that bear or cat wouldn’t be curled up in a ball by the fireside asking for you to pet her.  She would be wild, only minimally controlled because of her extensive training, and incredibly distressed by being indoors in the middle of a city.

Then there’s the issue of communication.  Many of the druids I RPed with had their characters speak Common (or Orcish) while they were in an animal form.  As you can imagine from what I described above, this didn’t fit into my headcannon either.  When a druid shapeshifts, they become an animal – not some conveniently altered version of that species.  So the idea that a bear or cat is even physically capable of making the sounds necessary to contruct speech doesn’t make any sense to me.  I assume that communication while shapeshifted would occur the same way it does between real animals – through body language cues and other non-speech noises.  I also believed that druids would be able to communicate with other real animals – both imperfectly when they were in their humanoid forms, and on a deeper, purer level when they were shapeshifted.

So that’s my druid headcannon, and the reason why Tzufit is never in anything but her night elf form when she is visiting Stormwind or around any non-druids.  For her, it’s all about safety (you really wouldn’t want your friends bringing a wild bear into your house during a party, would you?) and courtesy to the other races (she can’t communicate with non-druids while shapeshifted, so being in an animal form around them would just be rude).

There are several fascinating posts from other bloggers on the Blog Azeroth forum post about this topic.  If you’re interested, you can always write your own post – even if it is a few days late, like mine.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2012 5:23 pm

    Really happy about this — one of my biggest contentions with druid RPers is how they seem to make it about being giant housecats. It bugs me to no end. In that way, I think my headcanon is similar to yours.

    • September 4, 2012 6:40 pm

      I hear you. It’s a big pet peeve for me, but one I hate to point out because I don’t really like the idea of saying to someone, “You can’t RP that.” 😦

      If you meet Tzufit in-character, she’ll always be an elf. I’m happy to play around as a housecat, dancing bear, dancing tree, or rockin’ moonkin during raids, dungeons, and pretty much anything else I consider out-of-character.

  2. Matty permalink
    September 5, 2012 10:20 am

    I have been rolling this around since I read this post yesterday…all I want to do is stay home and write but alas… To work!

  3. September 5, 2012 8:17 pm

    I agree with the idea that a druid’s training is not so much getting into the form as it is controlling the form once in it. The idea that druids could go feral and become permanently shifted, even losing their humanity, seems very likely. Do you think it’s similar in moonkin and treant forms? Since they are humanoid they always struck me as more capable of communicating and easier for the druid to maintain their sense of self.

    • September 6, 2012 11:25 pm

      Great question – I have no idea what the answer is! 😛 Treant and moonkin druids really aren’t something we see in established lore. I agree that they would probably be more capable of communicating / less likely to lose themselves than their feral cousins, but I wonder whether that might mean they also have less of a desire to be in their forms all the time? Of course, this is particularly interesting now that it is not actually required for either Balance druids or Resto druids to be in a form in order to do their jobs.

  4. Epistaxis permalink
    September 5, 2012 10:04 pm

    Amen! Things like this are the exact reason why I don’t RP. I wanted to, made a valiant effort to, but my headcanon just wouldn’t let me! I simply can’t get past walking by a voidwalker in the canal district, or a hunter chilling with his core hound in the valley of honor.
    The druid example even has current world lore to back it up, Wailing Caverns anyone? The issue is especially troubling to me now that we have Worgen druids… don’t they understand that druids going feral is the reason they have their curse in the first place? The fact that a Worgen druid would shape shift at all is questionable to me!

    • September 6, 2012 11:28 pm

      Thanks, I hadn’t considered the Wailing Caverns as a good in-game example of this!

      I think there is a fine line when it comes to RP with knowing what you consider to be in-character and out-of-character, and also knowing when someone else is IC or OOC. The vast majority of RPers I’ve encountered over the years aren’t in-character 100% of the time, and of course that’s Ok. It’s also Ok if someone chooses to RP differently than I do – as long as we can find some common ground to work out a story together and respect the decisions the other person has made for her character.

  5. September 7, 2012 9:23 am

    Okay, whew: Got it down! Thanks for the inspiration!

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