It’s official, Hardcore realms are coming to World of Warcraft. Players will have the opportunity to show if they have the edge, the grit, the very will— to engage with Azeroth, its denizens, and their fellow players… to survive.
But there are rules of engagement, as there always are. Here are the rules for WoW Classic Hardcore realms and a little bit of the behind-the-scenes thoughts on the choices that have been made.
Hardcore Ruleset Overview
Death on Hardcore realms is permanent on that realm.
This means that if you die, you won’t be able to run back to your corpse and resurrect, nor can you be resurrected by any other spell or ability. This means that even if you have abilities as a part of your class, such as the Shaman Reincarnation, or Warlock Soulstone, they won’t be of any use to you.
You will continue to exist in the game world as a ghost to facilitate communication with in-game friends and resolve logistical matters such as handing over guild leadership if you are a Guild Master who has died an unfortunate death at the hands of a Defias Bandit or some other deadly creature.
Your character is not necessarily lost if you die, however. After dying on a Hardcore realm, players will be able to choose to utilize the Free Character Move service and move their dead character to a non-Hardcore Classic Era realm. Once the move is complete to the non-hardcore realm, that character may resurrect as normal, but the way back to a Hardcore realm will be closed to them.
PvP Flagging and You
Players will no longer be automatically flagged for PvP upon attacking another player. To flag yourself for PvP, you must type the command /pvp. You won’t be able to take hostile actions against a flagged enemy player unless you flag yourself deliberately.
We’ve added this failsafe to prevent situations in which a player could unintentionally take aggressive action against another player who is flagged for PvP, and unwittingly flag themselves. By requiring players to type /pvp before engaging in any PvP content, this maintains fairness and keeps PvP as a consensual part of the game. It will also reduce the likelihood someone will be “tricked” into becoming flagged unintentionally. It’s important to note that attacking an enemy faction NPC will still flag you even if you haven’t typed /pvp, so steer clear of settlements of the opposing faction!
PvP Battlegrounds and Warfare
PvP battlegrounds are completely disabled, as are all PvP Battlemasters. You may still enter premade Wargames, but you may not gain honor or PvP reputations from Wargames.
While PvP is a fun part of World of Warcraft, by allowing players to enter battlegrounds on one-life characters, there is a concern that this would lead to overly defensive play, often to the point of non-participation, especially when you consider how powerful some rewards are from factions such as Stormpike Guard and the Frostwolf Clan. PvP is not the focus of the Hardcore game mode, so we’ve decided to disable normal PvP queuing entirely. If you wish to test yourself in pre-arranged Wargames, however, that’s an available option. Wargames confer no honor or other rewards. Beware—if you engage in Wargames, death is still permanent.
PvP and Quest Updates
Various quests and objectives that cause players to become PvP flagged, such as the quest, “The Attack” and, “The Missing Diplomat,” no longer cause players to become flagged for PvP.
These quests were never strictly “meant” to flag you for PvP, but this was a result of how the creatures were set up at the time and was likely the result of an early technical limitation. We no longer have this limitation, and to prevent unintended consequences or “gotchas” after accepting an innocuous-looking quest, we’ve decided to no longer cause these quests to flag you for PvP combat.
Various quests and objectives that require the player to die to complete or initiate the quest or objective may now be completed without the player’s demise.
While these quests are iconic and flavorful, the requirements of the character to be in a state of death is obviously problematic on a Hardcore realm. As a result, we’ve designed new ways to complete these quests without requiring your character to die or be dead to complete them.
Many quests that require escorting NPC targets have been adjusted in such a way that most escort-related NPCs may no longer be attacked by players of the opposing faction.
Many quest-related NPCs, particularly at low level, are very easily killed, and there’s very little counterplay to a higher-level player of the opposing faction running up, killing your escort NPC, and running away. This is a vector for gameplay disruption that we don’t feel has a place in the game, nor does it add anything meaningful to normal PvP combat.
Most creatures will leash and reset when leaving the area or zone they were engaged in.
As much as we enjoyed frequent visits from Teremus the Devourer in Stormwind or wandering Devilsaurs in Thousand Needles, being able to drag or “kite” high-level monsters to lower-level areas is a large vector for gameplay disruption and something that doesn’t have a place in WoW Classic Hardcore. The total range that monsters can be pulled is currently fairly large but can easily be adjusted. We’ll be watching for feedback on this implementation from those participating in the PTR. The goal is to prevent high-level players from kiting dangerous monsters across entire zones, but we don’t want to interfere with legitimate gameplay, such as Hunters kiting elite monsters to solo difficult quests and similar expressions of skill.
Dungeons on the Clock
All dungeons have at least a 24-hour lockout timer for players below level 60.
One of the most important aspects of the WoW Classic Hardcore realms is engaging in adventures in the outside world with other players. Creating random and serendipitous interactions is a core aspect of the original release of World of Warcraft, and spending most of your leveling time in dungeons is counter in spirit to what Hardcore is about. We do recognize that there may be a desire to run a dungeon while leveling multiple times, such as to finish a quest or get an important piece of loot. As a result, we’ve added a 24-hour timer to almost all dungeons for players until they hit level 60. By extension, this also means that level 60 players may never enter lower-level dungeons with players below level 60 for any reason.
Additionally, we’ve carried over the group experience restrictions from Season of Mastery—meaning that players that are significantly higher level than the creatures in a given dungeon will cause those creatures to grant trivial experience to the other members of the group. Higher-level characters “power-leveling” lower-level characters are not something that we feel is appropriate for WoW Classic Hardcore.
To Buff or Debuff
The 16 debuff limit and 32 buff limits have been removed on Hardcore realms.
Debuff and buff limits were originally a technical limitation in the earliest versions of World of Warcraft and was not a conscious design choice at that time. This aspect of the original release was maintained for the release of WoW Classic in 2019 for authenticity, but this has always been a contentious part of WoW and places significant constraints on build and class diversity. As a result, we will be removing this limitation in Hardcore realms and effectively uncapping buffs and debuffs.
Bubble Hearth No More
Paladins will not be able to use their Hearthstone while under the effects of Blessing of Protection, Divine Protection, or Divine Shield on Hardcore realms.
Being able to “Bubble Hearth” is a fairly iconic, if not exactly heroic, feature of the Paladin Class. However, the Reincarnation ability is also an iconic feature of the Shaman class. While Paladins have enormous tools to prevent death, a Shaman’s core tool to recover from death is wholly incompatible with Hardcore. As a result, we are removing the ability for Paladins to use their various immunity abilities to safely cast Hearthstone and escape danger.
A Duel to the Death
A new feature has been added to Hardcore realms: Duel to the Death.
To issue a Duel to the Death, you will need to right-click the target’s portrait and request a Duel to the Death from the context menu. A Duel to the Death can also be triggered by selecting the target and typing /makgora in your chat window. Before commencing combat, both parties must read and acknowledge a warning message and type “I Agree” to begin.
As one may expect, death in a Duel to the Death is permanent, just like any other death on Hardcore realms. We feel that this is going to be an extremely exciting addition to Hardcore realms for those who like to play at the highest possible stakes, and those who wish to spectate such contests of honor.
Since bragging rights are important, we will be tracking the number of kills you receive in Duels to the Death with a special cosmetic buff on your character called “String of Ears”. Each time you win a Duel to the Death, you will receive a “trophy,” and the stack count on this buff will increase by 1. Anyone who clicks on your character will be able to see what a frightful combatant you are by the number of Ears you’ve collected. There are some limitations to this, however, as you cannot earn the String of Ears buff before level 10, and you cannot earn the buff if you and your opponent are too many levels apart.
All Content Phases Available from the “Go”
Hardcore realms will have all the original WoW Content phases unlocked and available right at launch.
One of the things we love about the Hardcore mode of play is that endgame is not the focus, and most of the gameplay revolves around the journey, not the destination. This also makes Hardcore gameplay “evergreen,” meaning that it’s always a good time to pop in and experience it, regardless of what else is happening in other versions of World of Warcraft.
When considering whether to do progressive phase unlocks on these hardcore realms or not, one of the things that concerned the WoW Classic Team was what psychological impact that following the 2019 Classic or Season of Mastery version of progressive content unlocks might have on players. We see players often ask, “Is it too late to start playing?” shortly after a new version of WoW Classic or content phase is released. While the answer is always “no”, there is still undeniable social pressure to “keep up” with the current content phase, even if the content being released is beyond your level of progression.
By removing content unlocks from the equation and having everything open and available from the start, it removes that pressure for the average player to hurry up and hit max level for the next unlock, especially when most content phase unlocks revolve entirely around endgame content. We are highly sensitive to this in a world where leveling itself is a huge challenge, and players may want to enjoy that journey at their own pace.
On the other side of this, we also feel that for the most dedicated players who want to test themselves in this environment, it could be very exciting to watch how efficiently such a group of players can reach level 60, progress through raid dungeons such as Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Ahn’Qiraj, and Naxxramas while starting from nothing within the closed ecosystem that is a new server. As anyone who has done a raid in Hardcore can tell you, just because you *can* access something like Ahn’Qiraj or Naxxramas, doesn’t mean *you should* and doing so unprepared is likely to end in disaster.
Play Nice, Play Fair
Gameplay that involves Zone Disruption and malicious player killing outside of consensual PvP will not be tolerated on Hardcore realms.
By this, we mean deliberate action to hamper or significantly impede the ability of other players to enjoy the game, such as (but not limited to) repeatedly killing quest NPCs or kiting important quest mobs far away from their spawn location to prevent them from being killed.
Most importantly, this also includes taking actions to deliberately cause the death of another player, such as (but not limited to) kiting higher level or elite mobs onto or near other players with the intent that they take damage and die, or deliberately causing a wipe in a raid or dungeon group. This is not a PvP realm, and the normal PvP realm rules do not in any way apply to this realm. Outside of a normal Duel to the Death, consensual PvP flagging, or Wargames killing other players isn’t the core goal of Hardcore gameplay. If players are found to make it their goal to take part in this kind of disruptive style of play, we reserve the right to take immediate and decisive action against anyone found to be deliberately causing this disruption to other players on these realms, including permanent account closure.
On the flip side to this, “report bombing” or intentionally using the ruleset against players to attempt to get their account actioned will also be met with equally harsh penalties. Deaths can and will happen in normal gameplay, and retaliation or resorting to bullying, abuse, or malicious reporting for normal gameplay deaths are not appropriate. For example, if you are in a dungeon group and the tank ends up taking too much damage and dies despite the efforts of the healer in the group, it’s not appropriate for someone to report the healer. While that death is unfortunate, it is legitimate gameplay, and the best thing to do is remain understanding and empathetic, learn what lessons you can from the situation, and try, try again.
Ultimately, it’s critical to the health of these realms that players play nice and play fair with one another, and we will take any hostile or abusive actions that occur between players very seriously. Upon character creation, you will be prompted to agree to both the hazards of hardcore realms and that death is permanent and irrevocable, as well as the rules around behavior between players.
As with any new development, we’ll be keeping a close eye on player behavior during the test phase and adjust as needed. We want WoW Classic Hardcore to be a fun and challenging experience for anyone who wants to jump into the action.
Do you have what it takes to go Hardcore? You will be able to check out Classic Hardcore on the Public Test Realms.