If you die in WoW Classic's official hardcore servers, you'll be cursed to live as a ghost forever

Night elf Hunter running
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

When you die in World of Warcraft Classic's official hardcore servers, your character is permanently dead, but you get to live on forever as a ghost. Starting tomorrow, you'll be able to experience this on the WoW Classic PTR (public test realm) servers, which Blizzard is using to test its version of the surprisingly popular hardcore community ruleset. Then, later this summer, the official hardcore servers will be permanently added to each region.

Hardcore servers will take place on modified versions of the original MMO with every raid available from the start. That means The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions won't be available—although Blizzard said in a group interview with PC Gamer that it's open to expanding the ruleset to those in the future.

Like hardcore modes in other games, you get one life. And in the event that you do die, any dead character can be transferred to a normal WoW Classic server for free.

To keep things fair, Blizzard has made a number of small changes to how the game normally works. Here's some of the ones it clarified during our interview:

  • Every hardcore server is PvE (PvP will be opt-in) 
  • Clicking to attack PvP players won't flag you as PvP 
  • Quests that require you to enter PvP or die have been changed 
  • Dungeons have a 24-hour lockout for anyone under level 60 
  • Level 60 characters can't group up with lower-level characters 
  • PvP battlegrounds are disabled (Gurubashi Arena is still available) 
  • Resurrection spells or items won't work 
  • Creatures have limits on how far you can drag them away from their spawn location 
  • Quest NPCs can't be attacked by players on the opposing faction 
  • Item trading and auction houses are enabled 
  • Paladins won't be able to use their Hearthstone during their Divine Shield or Blessing of Protection (aka "bubble hearthing") 
  • Disconnects will kick your character out of the world faster 
  • Servers will globally announce when someone hits level 60 

You'll also have the ability to duel other players to the death and then collect their ears—a reference to a similar feature in the original Diablo. Before you fight, you'll both be issued a warning and will have to type "I agree" to begin. Whoever wins will get to collect their enemy's ear and show it off on their character.

Blizzard expects players to host duel to the death tournaments as well as race to the endgame to see if they can defeat the toughest raid bosses without dying. Blizzard also seems open to adapting the rules over time based on player feedback.

I asked if the developers had any heartbreaking deaths and as senior game producer Josh Greenfield told us his answer, his interview partner, lead software engineer Nora Valletta started laughing.

"My most recent character that I had die was a level 31 Paladin and it was—she's laughing—I don't know if this will be read later, but Nora is cracking up because she's seen it," Greenfield said.

Greenfield decided to take a shortcut by jumping off a cliff near the Wetlands, knowing the invulnerability from Divine Shield would let him survive the fall. But some earlier testing reset his keybinds, which meant when he pressed Q, nothing remotely divine happened. "Yeah, I didn't have my thing keybound. And it's one of those things that's almost one of my favorite things about hardcore, which is that I was crushed for about 30 seconds and then I'm like, you know what, I'm gonna [Nvidia] ShadowPlay this and I'm going to make a really funny video out of it."

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.