Thursday, October 5, 2023

A Bard's Tale - Laurion's Song Is The 30th EverQuest Expansion

Following yesterday's post about the upcoming EverQuest II expansion, Ballads of Zimara, I thought I might take a quick look at what's happening over on the other side of Norrath. It's a long time since I last played the elder game but EverQuest has been trucking along just fine without me and now the team over there is about to give us the thirtieth expansion for the game, Laurion's Song.

Where to begin? Let's start with that name.

For the longest time, the overwhelming majority of expansions for both EverQuest titles have used a highly predictable naming convention that follows the format: Noun of Proper Noun or Noun of Abstract Noun. Of the thirty EQ expansions, twenty-three go by a variant of either "Something of Something" or "Something of Somewhere". Of the remaining seven, all except this year's are named after a place.

Laurion's Song breaks with convention in the most dramatic way, choosing not only to forego all association with both place and practice but to lean heavily into a bardic tradition that, while very much a part of the game's history, has always seemed to stand somewhat apart from it. The EQII expansion also calls on the same musical heritage and imagery but sticks firmly with the expected format so as not to frighten the easily-startled EQII regulars. EverQuest players, made of sterner stuff, are evidently trusted to handle change with elan.

Whether anyone but me is reading anything into this I very much doubt. Still, it's fun to imagine it indicates some kind of cultural re-alignment. That said, I've never been able to play a bard with any success in either game. 

I've played with some absolutely amazing bards in EverQuest, where the role was once perceived by many as fiendishly difficult but also, in some ill-defined manner, suspect. I never really bought into the suspicion but boy, was it a hard class to play well. Back in the day, when you saw it played to perfection it was akin to watching magic happen for real.

The set-up for Laurion's Song is also very atypical for an EverQuest expansion. Usually we either go with the gold rush to exploit some newly-discovered land or tag along with some crew trying to avert an impending crisis. Often both at once. 

This time things seem much more mysterious. I'll quote the full introduction from Jenn Chan's Producer's Letter:

"A door appears, and the heroes of Norrath walk through to find a warm and cozy-looking building. Light from the windows illuminates a clearing in a forest. Music and voices, as well as the tantalizing smell of cooking meat and mead, drift in the air. The inn’s presence invites adventurers to rest and revel after exhausting and dangerous exploits.

Welcome to the Realm of Heroes, the place where the greatest heroes go when their adventures are over. Nobody remembers the last time anyone entered or left this place. Can you discover what the mystery is that lies under the façade of comfort and revelry?"

That reads more like the prolog to a tabletop D&D campaign than an outline for an EQ expansion. Whether it'll feel that way in play I very much doubt but once again, it's a pretty conceit.

Laurion's Song doesn't go on Pre-order for another few days (10 October to be precise.) so we don't yet have either the full press release or the breakdown of the tiers. For now, we'll just have to make do with what's in that letter. (I'm not going to cover the two Producer's Letters in detail, by the way. It's late in the year and they mostly just confirm Darkpaw did, in fact, do all the things they said they were going to do nine months ago. Which is impressive but hardly worth a post of its own.)

As you'd expect, there are the inevitable "new zones to explore, new raids, quests, and missions" as well as the equally inevitable but considerably less informative "much, much more". The only substantive detail as to what the "more" might be comes with the news that the expansion will introduce something called "Alternate Personas".

These, we're told, will allow us to "swap between different classes quicker while retaining your current inventory, crafting skills, and flags". I wasn't aware you could swap between classes in EverQuest, other than by rolling a new character and starting over, but I wouldn't remotely claim to be up to date with the modern game. Maybe you can or maybe what it means is that you'll still need to re-roll but you'll be able to take a whole bunch of your stuff with you when you do. Sounds interesting, anyway.

Finally, there's the most important part of any EverQuest expansion from my perspective - a level cap increase. These always come in five-level increments these days but five levels in EQ is often enough to turn you into a demigod in content that previously kicked your ass.

The last time I played EQ semi-seriously I got my Mage all the way to the level cap by the slow but entirely painless process of sitting in the Guild Lobby doing my Overseer quests every day for most of the year. Okay, I did go out and do some hunting as well but the xp I got from that was miniscule compared to what I was getting from just sending out my fictional agents to do their imaginary missions.

The main reason I stopped playing was because, having reached the cap, I didn't have much more to do. EQ has always been mainly about the levels for me. I said I'd probably go back and carry on when the level cap went up and now it has so I might just do that.

Actually, without logging in and checking, I'm not entirely sure I haven't already missed one increase. The new cap will be 125. I had a feeling I stopped at 115. Perhaps I ought to go check... Yep! My highest character, a Magician, is Level 115.

A subjectively fresh ten levels makes it more than likely I will decide to buy Laurion's Song. I'll have to see the pricing but I imagine it will be much the same as the range announced for the EQII expansion yesterday. I'll definitely only need the basic pack for EQ so it's a relatively trivial indulgence. 

Also, it's quite likely to be money well-spent. Last time I went back to EQ I played quite actively for a few months and carried on the daily log-ins for Overseer for much longer than that. As I wind down from Noah's Heart (Still logging in but only once a week now, not every day.), EQ's Overseer missions might make a good replacement.

Of course, not to bore everyone yet again with the convoluted nature of my EverQuest history, but I will have to make up my mind which account to buy the expansion for. My "main" character is on the one I'm not currently subbing. It is weird to buy an expansion on an account that doesn't have Membership but I did it the last couple of times and it worked well enough so I'll probably just do the same again. I can always just buy a monthly sub for as long as I need it, I guess, but so far I've managed pretty well without.

Until the pre-order brings more details, that's about all I have to say about Larion's Song, but while I'm on the subject of EverQuest I might as well mention the Oakwynd server. It launched back in May but I completely missed it. I generally count on either The EverQuest Show or, more reliably, TAGN to feed me EQ news but neither of them seem to have mentioned it.

So I will. Oakwynd is an "Evolving Ruleset Progression Server", (Did no-one point out what the acronym would be in any of the meetings?) which means it gets a new feature or bonus with every expansion that opens. For example, the server began with two new features - Legacy Characters and Encounter Locking - neither of which I feel remotely competent to describe, far less explain.

It acquired a 25% bonus to loot drops with the first expansion, Ruins of Kunark and the currently-active expansion, Scars of Velious, added a 25% bonus to faction. The bonuses are cumulative and seem to ramp up substantially in later expansions, which might do something to stem the usual haemmorhaging of players late in the life of a TLE server.

Last and certainly least in this EQ news round-up, speaking of TLE and other special rule servers, Coirnav merged into Vox back in July. I have a vague idea I might have had a character on Coirnav. If so, I have no idea who it was. So many characters, so little consequence.

Probably shouldn't go start one on Oakwynd, then.


  1. I'm astonished (and happy) that these games keep getting updates after all these years (decades?). And its so cool people keep playing them . It's a testament to the staying power - at the time - is there a new audience there or will the game stop having players once they (we) all die out?

    1. They'll have to stop sometime, I guess. They've already lasted far longer than anyone ever imagined they would and many probably have a decade or two more left in them, but yes, eventually all the old players will have gone and there surely won't be enough new ones to make up for their loss. Still, I'm pretty confident EQ will see me out, although I'd say it's less certain that EQII will hang on as long.


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