Each Everquest account made before the eleventh of November last year gets one (why that date? I have no idea) but even if you somehow never got around to filling out the application form in nearly fifteen years, don't despair, it's still not too late.
You can make an account this very day. Grab yourself a brand-new character that's just fifteen levels shy of the cap. Go on! You know you want one! For fresh accounts that's a one-per-household offer (confirmed by IP check) by the way, so no multi-boxing for you, but you get a Mercenary and fifteen thousand plat to pay his fees and there's an awful lot of those (weirdly specific) "over 1557" zones you can molo happily together.
Just don't leave it too much longer. Offer ends March 26th. After that it'll cost you 3500 SC.
I logged in my main account, the one that used to be Mrs Bhagpuss's until, through some confused process I can no longer recall with any clarity, the two changed places, leaving a handful of characters stranded on the wrong side like siblings separated by the sudden appearance of the Berlin Wall, and checked each server in turn to see who'd get the benefit.
I found a level 35 druid I had no idea existed on a server where I have no memory of playing and a whole host of more familiar faces, including several who other people once would have called my "mains", although it's a term I'd never use, but in the end it was my mage on Luclin-Stromm who got the nod.
She demanded it, truth be told. She was my first character on Stromm, made on the day that magnificent server began, and she's always had a will like iron. Back when it launched (sometime in 2003) Stromm was the first non-transfer server there'd been for a while, a chance for a completely fresh start with no twinks or high-levels to spoil the fun. I decided a mage, with the powerful pet and the ability to summon half-decent armor and weapons, would have a few advantages over the dirt-scrabbling hordes and so it proved.
She set out with the goal of being the first person on Stromm to ride a horse, this being back in the days when there was neither SC Store nor Legends of Norrath to turn to and the only way to get a mount was to save up an ungodly amount of platinum, go to the stables and buy one. I have no way of knowing whether she really was the first mounted gnome on Stromm but all I can say is that I was playing every day and I never saw anyone else up on a pony before her. Plus she got tells out the wazoo asking how she got it for a few days before horses and drogs began popping up like Feerrott mushrooms. Ah, fickle fame...
She's not riding that pony now. When she arrived in the Guild Lobby to the sound of an ear-splitting "Ding!" and a cascade of pop-up claim windows one of the many, many gifts she received was a Jungle Raptor mount. She sits astride it about as elegantly as a dog riding a motorcycle but I'm guessing it has some advantage over her staid old brown pony that aren't apparent in its looks.
Certainly everything else was a massive upgrade. It took me well over two hours to go through the cornucopia of armor, jewellery, weapons and spells, reading the multiplicity of passive focus effects and activated buffs, scouring the spell-book to prepare sets for buffing and for fighting.
It's not even as though she'd rocketed to 85th from the lowly twenties or thirties. She was level 69 before I clicked the upgrade button. But Everquest uses a progression model I adore - you don't only get upgrades (although boy, do you get upgrades...) you get entirely new things. At 85 she's still learning new tricks and so am I.
Nicely set up, gleaming from an MGB session in the Guild Lobby, smug behind her 30K hit points and her wall of stats, I took her out for a spin. Fortunately the last few times I've played EQ it's been to grind a few more points on my 84th Beastlord so I had a benchmark. I ran her through Plane of Time over to Oceangreen Hills and started pulling. The same mobs my Beastlord can handle with care and a Merc, the mage burned down in about a quarter of the time, just her and the air pet. Even when adds rolled up she handled them well enough, although she was at half health before Gasekn got them corralled.
With this gift of geared 85s possibilities sweep in like an Everfrost blizzard. I made a new 85th necro and enchanter on two of the Silver accounts. I'm going to make a shaman on one of the others when I finish writing this. Everquest runs smoothly in multiple iterations on my set-up and auto-follow works well in EQ. All I need to do is set up camp with three characters, three mercs and a gaggle of pets and the only limit should be how fast I can pull.
It's a theory. In practice we'll almost certainly all end up dead in a ditch but that's Everquest for you. And anyway, for all the fun of molo and multi (and they both are a lot of fun) a real group with actual people, that's the thing. With luck Mrs Bhagpuss will be lured back for a while. She's already picking out candidates for the upgrade. There's a lot of Norrath we've yet to see, after all. I bet we haven't even visited half of those fifteen hundred zones.
So, Happy Birthday Norrath and thanks for the presents. Here's to the next fifteen years.