Hey there! Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Des? Headcanon?! Really? That’s trash.” There’s stigma against headcanon in the World of Warcraft roleplay community. That is usually because there’s no basis in lore, and a lot of what’s created makes no sense. This blog post, however, is what I personally have implemented for lore of my characters in the game, and why I made these decisions. I use logic based in both biology and lore. Without further ado, here we go!
I want to start off by saying that a lot of what I see a San’layn, I look to Death Knights. After all, the San’layn were top tier, elite forces of the scourge. They were the greatest followers of Kael’thas, and they were soldiers. Powerful elves that fought for Silvermoon City. I don’t see the San’layn as lazy nobles, and I will never play mine as such. They are brutal, tactical forces with a primary trait of being cunning and manipulative. That’s why they were so effective. Just look at the story of Prince Valanar and how he led trickery for a long while before being caught and slain.
Now, from that article on Death Knights, I want to pull a few quotes as basis for the headcanon I will be discussing here:
“Despite their evil natures and even during their service to the Scourge, some death knights remained true to a code of honor — or, at least, to a semblance of order and discipline. For example, the human Thassarian and the blood elf Koltira Deathweaver shared a close friendship that other death knights such as Orbaz Bloodbane looked down upon. The fallen paladin Sir Zeliek was unique in the fact that, while his body was forced to obey the Scourge’s commands, he had managed to retain his sanity and morals despite his corruption.”
“Despite all the psychological conditioning and trauma they went through, some knights are able to act mostly like they were before their death. This includes Thassarian, who served among the Alliance and saved his own sister even as a death knight.”
It is canon that the undead in lore can retain various aspects of their personality and feel emotion. It really all depends on the person. However, negative emotions are enhanced when you are undead, which is something to keep in mind and hold for your monster character. I believe that in every case, somehow, your undead will be prone to going berserk under certain conditions. Which holds true for San’layn. This isn’t anything new.
Here is a quote regarding biology of Death Knights:
Direct quote: “I understand your kind do not require sleep on a biological level. However, sleep offers secondary benefits to cognitive functions and memory consolidation in others, so I assume it would for you as well.”
In the game itself, that is emphasized by a very intelligent race, the mechagnome. So that aspect is canon–the Death Knight, and other undead, are entirely capable of sleep, even if they do not need it biologically. This is extremely relevant to what I’ve built for headcanon, and I will reference this later.
I will now look into Forsaken lore, another type of undead that is extremely important. Here is a key quote from that linked article:
“Free will is one of the cornerstones of Forsaken culture, with the great capacity for both good and evil that it entails. However, some undead, especially those who die in combat or under extreme stress and are raised soon after, enter into a violent, frenzied state. Undead in this state are easily manipulated and their rage is often directed at the foes of those who raised them.”
Like Death Knights, Forsaken have their free will, and it again depends on the undead as to how they act. A theme is there with the undead, very clearly. (A) It depends on the person, and (B) Rage is a key emotion held regardless of the person, which is heavily enhanced in undead beings. After what they’ve been through, this makes sense. This also most definitely applies to San’layn. We know that San’layn have free will and need a home. They tried to join the Horde in Battle for Azeroth, after all:
The final point here I’d like to make is that the undead simply are not all “damned”. Here is an extremely important quote from a recent (as of 2020/2021) interview:
“8. The undead are supposed to be damned for eternity (since Warcraft I,II,III). However, we see some Forsakens in Bastion. Does that mean that this damnation has no impact on the place of arrival of the soul in Shadowlands ? Wouldn’t they arrive in Torghast, tower of the Damned instead?
Being raised as an undead may be seen by the living (or even by the person raised) as a “damned” existence, but such an act does not mean their soul will automatically be consigned to the Maw or any other dark afterlife. The Arbiter, when she was still carrying out her duty, judged the soul on the entirety of its existence, regardless of whether the body was animated by Life or by the necromantic power of Death.
We have seen many examples of Forsaken and other undead who led noble, heroic existences after being raised. The manner in which they were brought back does not determine their fate.”
Again, and I can’t drive this into the ground enough–it all depends on the person themselves in regard to free will. This means that characters will have variation, that’s how life(and undeath!) works.
Biology of undead:
This applies to Forsaken, but this quote (and clarified from a writer at Blizzard themselves) is important: “However, if a Forsaken’s body is kept intact, they could potentially avoid this altogether and live forever.” I will be referencing this later.
Now, we get to flesh restoration and consumption. The move in the Forsaken toolkit, “Cannibalize”, restores health and mana–and in lore, their bodies. This is of utmost importance, and like I keep saying–I will be referencing this later. But ‘healing’ means restoring flesh and healing wounds.
Back to the San’layn. We know the vampyr curse is both ancient and afflicted the Vrykul as well. We know from Legion that humans can be afflicted by the curse, and it’s the same curse as that upon the San’layn. But here’s something interesting. The vampyr curse can be translated via either bite (literally says you’re a vampire in the achievement) or cursed mist. These humans are most definitely vampyr. After all… look at their typing. The mist turned them undead!
Finally, we know that the vampyr curse afflicts people in different ways. The human vampyr didn’t exhibit much of the mutagen, but they were freshly turned–they just had red eyes. We’ve seen in some canon art pieces (some Hearthstone) that San’layn have fangs. They aren’t prominent on the Lana’thel model, but that one is outdated. The Blood Princes wear fang masks, so it is safe to assume they have them too. The Blood Princes have bat-like ears and claws–Lana’thel has wings. There could be varying degrees of how the blood curse afflicts San’layn, which is relevant.
Now that we’ve laid out the lore of Death Knights, Forsaken, and San’layn, it’s time to delve into San’layn and my decisions for my stories/characters. I want to emphasize that this is content I came up with based on the lore above and biology. By no means is it the ‘rule of thumb’. I wanted to get this out there, though, in case others enjoyed these ideas and wanted to use it in their own roleplay.
The first area I’d like to cover when it comes to San’layn (and vampyr in general!) is their biology. Living entities in general require sustenance to function and not fall apart. If you don’t eat, you will die. Your body will grow sick and fail. This same concept applies to the undead in general–if you don’t take care of yourself, you will rot. The thing with undead is, they don’t technically need to eat at all.
San’layn are different. They are blood-crazed, they are vampyr, and they need to consume. This pushes them toward being nearly-alive by default. They must consume. What does the blood they devour translate into? Well, it allows their bodies to function normally. A being that inputs energy into their body in the form of food will allow their organs to function because that’s the purpose of feeding entirely. Therefore, a San’layn does not rot at all, and is barely undead if they do in fact consume blood. This is why the forsaken “Cannibalize” is so important. Forsaken don’t have to do that–they do, however, to heal. And thus, they reduce or completely prevent rot entirely. How many corpses do you think both Sylvanas and Nathanos eat to refrain from rotting?
Now, there can be different factors in this. A San’layn that feeds on a regular basis would have a high metabolism. They’d need to feed as frequently as a living person eats in order to function as a ‘living person’. Why on Azeroth would a San’layn seek to do that, though? Doesn’t it give them a disadvantage?
Yes and no. The benefit of being closer to alive than dead is that your brain functions more similarly to that of a living person. This means that if you’d like to embrace your personality when you’re alive, you’re going to come close with this method. Like any undead, you are prone to bouts of rage and depression, especially with what you went through in order to be turned. Chances are, though, you’re less likely to have your will taken from you since you’re more functional as you. You also have the possibility to take your life back in some form. Now, as a solider? Which would be better, sheer undead or close-to-living? That’s the question. Either you’re closer to an emotionless tool of war, or you’re more prone to being wounded/pain/needing to consume.
I’m going to transition into sleep. Again, the undead don’t biologically need sleep like the living do. But if you’re taking the ‘close-to-living’ route, your San’layn will likely need sleep in order to rest the brain. As the mechagnome said above, sleep is a mechanism to rest the mind. If you want your San’layn to be more controlled around people, less mindless, and to be actually tactical? You’re going to need sleep. It was banned from the scourge so you’d be more complacent. If you want to secure your free will for yourself, you’re going to need sleep.
What do you ‘unlock’ with this playstyle? Well, again, your San’layn will have more of their past personality, no matter how morphed it is. They will also have more empathy… or perhaps more hunger. This can go either way, honestly. Your San’layn will bleed regularly, as the consumption will allow organs to work, since you are in fact consuming and burning energy. You’re functional by a mixture of magical and biological means, at this point. Free will is the goal with this playstyle, and flexibility. Your San’layn can be more variant rather than a mindless machine. This can apply to forsaken as well, and Death Knights. You figure that if they consume corpses, they don’t rot, and they become more life-like.
The major con here, though, are that you’re more prone to getting wounded, yet can heal from that much faster too. Imagine you get a gigantic cut across your chest. If you’re a rotting undead, you’re not going to heal that. Your rot will probably go faster. If you’ve got an active metabolism, and this includes San’layn, you’ll heal that cut far more quickly, because you have biological energy to burn too, hand-in-hand with magical. It’s another pool of energy. But your nerves are probably woken up by this, so you can feel pain more acutely. This same concept is applicable to how the light afflicts undead–your nerves wake up, and you feel like you’re burning even though you’re healing.
Even beyond that, though, is your tendency to frenzy. If you forgo the “I’m going to frequently feed” route and lean more toward undead, you’re likely going to adapt to not drinking as much blood. This will reduce your power, no doubt, but it also reduces your reliance upon the substance (even though you will still need it). But if you go the “nearly living” route, your metabolism is extremely high, and you will need blood all the time. If you don’t get it, you’re going to frenzy and go blood-crazed. This is very detrimental if you don’t have a constant flow (hah) of blood. How exactly are you going to secure that? Do you care about the lives of mortals, and will that hinder you, or would you like it to rain blood? Do you have willing donors, or do you only feed upon enemies? If the latter, are there even enough enemies in your area to feed upon? What prevents you from turning on allies? These are all questions to seriously consider with this playstyle.
To summarize: “Nearly-living” vampyr can feel the world more acutely, their senses are far more alive, and they heal faster than “More undead” vampyr. They can likely blend in with the citizens of Azeroth more easily as well. However, they are more prone to feeling pain, blood frenzy, and extreme emotional outbursts.
This is a great lead-in to the psychology of my vampyr. The undead that are considered tools/unfeeling aren’t very flexible when it comes to psychology. You’ve got an automaton of a warrior, you’re not going to have very much variation. A mindless killing machine, with maybe a spark of emotion here and there. This would be the opposite-extreme of how I play my vampyr.
These would require far less blood, possibly hold less power because they consume less (and we know vampyr consume to gain power), but be far less prone to the “cons” of “nearly living” vampyr, especially the emotional outbursts. They are far less likely to get attached to other people, meaning loss isn’t that big of a deal. Sacrifices can be made in battle, and this toolkit is effective for pure slaughter.
However, in the case of “nearly-living” vampyr, we have creatures that have functional systems and therefore nearly all of the plethora of emotion the living have to offer. Functional nerve endings, functional taste buds, functional senses of touch other than pain can all contribute to the experiences of something that has all of that operational again due to a metabolism that’s intact, which would be the case because of rapid consumption.
Your need to consume more will allow a lot of ethical concerns to rise up, and if your character cared about such matters in life, they might in death. However, a character that doesn’t care in general, and would rather seize the power that this other energy pool has to offer will actually benefit from blood craze/addiction and be a formidable villain. There’s many ways you can build this. Either you have an antihero that consumes from willing/evil entities, or a villain vampyr that doesn’t care and devours all they come across.
The mutagen in the vampyr curse afflicts the Blood Princes, something I applied to my vampyr. My Princes will have bat-like ears, unlike my regular San’layn with less power (though, I think regular vampyr can have bat-like ears; it’s up to the character and how the curse afflicts them). Something I applied to them, as well, are dark sclera. It’s an eerie trait, and completely blackened eyes indicate blood frenzy. In other words, RUN AWAY.
Advancing in power will gain your vampyr wings. Lana’thel holds a huge amount of power, and bestowed upon her by Arthas. Your vampyr will likely need to obtain it somehow, either by a long while of consumption, blood magic research, necromancy research, or what have you. It’s a power struggle, and it’s your decision as to how you want the story to click in terms of how your vampyr gains said power. Eventually, they will ‘earn their wings’, which I play out by it ripping from their backs (rather dramatically might I add). Like Demon Hunters, they can hide their wings (folded across their backs, for example), or use them to glide/hover (wish Demon Hunters could do this in game.)
All San’layn have claws & fangs. Regular San’layn have their canine teeth for fangs, but those with more power, like Princes, have jaws of just fangs. This is because the vampyr are a predatory species–like cats and snakes. They have no need of dull teeth, and so their teeth are that purely of a carnivore.
Unique Powers & Turning
The Blood Princes have shown to have powers rather unique to them, so I applied this concept to my own Blood Princes. For example, Ares, the character I shared above, can summon blood chains and root people in place. In game, he is a Beast Mastery hunter, and can also call upon bugs to devour enemies to the bone. Creepy stuff like that. Another example is Apollo, one of my bards. His voice is like a siren, that being he can stun with a certain radius as long as he’s singing. It’s something to play around with, and what’s been seen in WoW lore before several times anyway, especially with boss fights.
If you give your San’layn unique powers, I suggest using a spiced-up class power (like I did with the Beast Mastery concept), and/or powers having to do with necromancy/blood magic.
Vampyr can be created by a higher-powered vampyr (Blood Prince, Princess, or Queen) using a cursed bite. Not every bite, by any means, will turn another being–we see that in the dungeon mechanics versus Prince Taladram. Your bite, specifically, must be cursed. You might have a connection to who you’ve turned, a ‘bond’ of sorts, that allows you to call upon them or even temporarily control them. That is up to how you want to play it out. I assume this can vary.
They can also be turned by cursed objects/mist, as seen in the Vampirates questline, Legion. Either way, you’re prone to frenzy upon being turned, and need to have guidance. Otherwise, you risk being killed for frenzying.
Since humans can be turned, I’m going to apply the ‘death knight’ concept to vampyr and assume that all races except for worgen can be ‘cursed’ as a vampyr. I exclude worgen because if the vampyr curse leans more toward “forsaken”, then your worgen curse cancels out the vampyr curse. Which would make the most sense. However, if, like Death Knights, this can be overriden by a powerful being, we’d have worgen vampyr via a “Blood King” or “Blood Queen” turning a worgen. This is EXTREME greyline lore, I suggest caution if you go with this, because we don’t truly know the origin of the curse beyond speculation.
Well, there you have it! On my end, it’s getting incredibly late, so I’ll end my ramblings here. I might return to this post and add to it. But yes, this is how I play my vampyr, relating to the “nearly living” due to the whole consumption-metabolism thing. I made connections to lore & biology from real life to craft this.
If you like this headcanon, please feel free to use it for your characters, but try to source this! I would greatly appreciate that. Also, don’t forget to mention it isn’t established in lore entirely, as it is greyline.
Enjoy your roleplaying experience as a vampyr!
There might be typos in this, and at the moment I’m very tired. I will return to this to correct that and my grammar soon. It currently is 5 AM here, though, and I wanted to get my thoughts out there.