Monday, April 9, 2018

Already Home : EverQuest

To no-one's surprise more than my own, my leveling adventure on EverQuest's Vox server continues apace. I've logged in every day since I fortuitously rediscovered my then-Level 6 Necromancer three weeks ago. He's now Level 34.

Given that my average session lasts about an hour that's astonishingly fast progress by the traditional pace of EQ. When I finally settled on a Druid as my focus character sometime around January or February of the year 2000, I think it would have been May or June of that year before she reached the mid-30s - and I played her for maybe twenty hours every week.

The Druid is a good solo class but the Necromancer is supreme so it seems odd that I never really stuck with playing one. It would seem on paper to be a perfect fit for me, plus I played with several truly amazing necros, who showed me the incredible versatility of the class. Mrs Bhagpuss also played a necro with great skill and success for some time but even that didn't prompt me to give it a fair run.
It may have something to do with the way my necromantic career was brutally cut short by the infamous Test Server Wipe in June 2000. I've alluded to this extreme low point in SOE's checkered history before so I won't go over it again. Suffice to say it cost SOE three-quarters of their active testing community and it was years before anything like trust was re-established.

I was one of the 75% who took SOE up on their abashed and apologetic offer of a free transfer from Test to Live but my Necro, transplanted, never really flourished. Over the years I've dabbled in the necromantic arts many times. I even played a Necro as my main for five years on EQ2's Test server - a nervous return that worked out well - but in the elder game I settled for the Necro's boorish cousin, the Shadowknight.

This time things may just be different. The necromantic moons may finally be in alignment. It's not so much that I'm planning to level this one all the way. It's more that I already have a boosted Level 85 necro sitting unplayed on my All Access account and the main reason he's unplayed is that I don't know how to play him.

I'm figuring that by the time my Vox necro gets to, say, Crypt of Decay or even Dragonscale Hills I should have the class down well enough to jump ten or even twenty levels and carry on. I could even dual-box the Necro with my 92 Magician (For those keeping score, she hasn't suffered a horrible de-leveling accident. You can't do that any more. I was wishfully exaggerating last time, when I claimed she was 94).

Meanwhile, it's been truly fascinating to observe the culture - especially the leveling culture - on Vox. I've been mixing things up between nostalgia (Qeynos Hills, Blackburrow, Lake Rathetear, South Karana), hot zones featuring Teek's Tasks (Paludal Caverns, Nedaria's Landing, Dalnir) and my need to make some quick Platinum.

Having a Mercenary makes leveling up both easy and relaxing. I absolutely wouldn't be without one. I think they are the single best addition to EQ in the game's 19 year history. They do begin to get expensive around the mid-20s, though, if you don't take care where you hunt.

What with my Merc charging me several plat an hour and spells starting to edge towards double figures, hunting mobs that give great xp but no coin or valuable vendor drops became a luxury I couldn't really afford. I've been making liberal use of my discovery that you can /barter from anywhere and it is indeed as game-changing as I thought it would be, but low-level drops that people want to buy are fairly rare so I can't yet live off that alone.

For one brief moment there was someone buying High Quality Bear Pelts for 150pp each. I rushed to the bear caves in Nedaria's Landing, a spot I know of old to be the best at lowish levels for farming HQ bear. It was there that I came to appreciate just how very powerful a solo class the Necro is - especially when backed by a Cleric who never complains about bad pulls.

The bears turned out to be deep red cons. I tried to single pull one with the pet but two came and then two more added. Four red cons in a confined space - certain death, xp loss and a long run back if I was foolish enough to want to try again.

Only...I won. It was very close and involved a lot of swearing and bears being feared in all directions but in the end they died and I didn't. A couple more chaotic scenes on respawn and eventually I got a pattern worked out, found a way to single pull to the tunnel and kept the spawn broken and the room cleared until I had plenty of pelts to sell.

By which time, naturally, the guy who was buying them wasn't buying any more and hasn't been since, so I have a load of HQ bear pelts clogging up my packs. Much more valuably, I had the glimmering of an understanding just how powerful my character was becoming.

From there I went on to hunt deeper red cons further in Nedaria's Landing. I got in over my head with a horde of sleek panthers and timber griffawns, which gave me good practice in how to make distance from spawn before feigning death. I also discovered that, left alone, a Cleric merc will chain heal herself for what seems like hours while taking no offensive action whatsoever, which means it's a very bad idea to FD at 2% health and zero mana because it's along wait before you can reset the encounter.

All good learning experience. As were my first and second attempts to break a room in Dalnir. It's a very long run to Dalnir from pretty much anywhere so I didn't want to Gate when things went south, which they did remarkably quickly as red con roamers started to pile on. Fortunately I was the only one in the dungeon so my frantic sprint to the zone line didn't require me to fat finger the traditional /yell of "Trsain to Zojne!"

In a relatively short while I had a room nicely broken in Dalnir. XP was good but loot wasn't. It was at that point that I decided to swallow my pride and go hunt Sand Giants. At 30 I thought I might be a tad low but I seemed to be consistently underestimating what I could kill and there's only one way to know for sure.

I headed to South Ro, where, in the revamped version, there's a handy spawn of Sand Giant Elites up in a quiet corner. I have camped them before on other characters and other servers when I've needed some quick cash and I've always had the place to myself. Not on Vox.

First time there was a 38 Druid camping them. He'd killed most of them and he was medding up when I scampered in on my Worg. I debated whether to be super-polite and cede the camp immediately but I really wanted to know if the SGs were doable for me at 30 or not. So I pulled the one still standing.

And killed it. Quite easily, although giants do have a lot of hit points. The druid was probably preparing his /petition to customer service over abuse of the Play Nice Policy but he never had to send it because I looted my giant and moved on. I had to stop anyway and I knew what I needed to know.

Next evening I came back and the giants were camped again - by a level 84 Shaman. Outrageous! Not like I've ever done it... So I moved to Rathe Mountains, where the Hill Giants live. It's further to travel and not so convenient because the HGs roam whereas the SGs stand still but this time I had the place to myself.

I stayed there until I'd made 500 plat or so. I spawned the Tainted Hill Giant, a named mob for some Epic weapon quest or other. I killed him and the Corrupted Hill Giant immediately spawned in his place. I'd just read the tainted up on Allakhazam, though, so I was standing well back.

When I dinged I gated to Plane of Knowledge, went to buy my new spells, and promptly made more money in two minutes re-buying crafting mats off the spell vendor and selling them on /barter than I'd made on giants in an hour. So it goes.

Lat night at Level 33 I took Franklin Teek's task for Level 35s. It sent me to Stone Hive, where, for the very first time since Level 6, I finally died. Not because the bixies were too tough. Oh no, they were just fine, even the red cons and even when I overpulled.

What got me was the mob that spawned when I killed a drone. I'd made the mistake, while passing through Plane of Knowledge, of taking a random quest: Skal's Waking Nightmare. I should have remembered this opt-in death sentence from the last time I did it but that was so long ago...

Suffice it to say that when a red con Enchanter mob spawns instantly on top of you after a long fight that's left you low on mana, then proceeds to chain-stun you with a stun that lasts 48 seconds, things do not go well, even if you have a Mercenary to chain heal. If you then decide to accept your Merc's offer of an in-combat 50% rez on the spurious grounds that you'll be able to sprint a few yards then FD, well more fool you.

Even then, it might have worked, had another player not arrived to help just as I stood up. Before I could do anything the Walking Nightmare charmed me and set me on the new player. As I said to him, while I watched my necro (fortunately flat out of mana and therefore completely harmless) flailing away "I haven't had this happen to me since about 2002".

In fact, I thought they'd put a stop to mobs charming players long ago but apparently not. After a long fight in which I took no part other than observer and during which the Nightmare also charmed the other player and both our Mercs, although not all at once, my new acquaintance finally got the better of the situation. We congratulated ourselves on surviving and I retired to a quiet corner to finish my level. I must remember to delete that quest.

The reason there was another player there in the first place is that Stone Hive, like all the zones in The Serpent's Spine expansion, now forms part of the Golden Path, a preferred leveling plan that, at least on Vox, is well-attended.

There were a dozen people in Blightfire Moors, the previous zone and ten in Stone Hive. Most were an appropriate level although there were some high levels there on buffbot duties. People were even grouping.

Whereas old lags like myself, Wilhelm and Keen mostly bang on about the very old days and suggest hunting in places like The Karanas, Crushbone, Blackburrow or Unrest, the real meat of the low-mid level game these days is in the Serpent's Spine. If you want to start playing EQ and have an experience that's recognizable as something from the post-WoW world, that's where you should go.

Luckily for me, I was playing EQ when TSS launched. Or, to be more accurate, Mrs Bhagpuss and I made one of our periodic returns to EQ specifically because SOE decided to sell an expansion with a new race, new starting area and new set of leveling zones. We made new characters on a fresh server and levelled up in TSS all the way to the 60s or 70s, which means I can go there now and get a moderate nostalgia hit as well as great xp and decent loot. Try doing that in Unrest and see how far it gets you!

Every session I play I remember something, learn something and realize how very much there is I still don't know about EQ, both past and present. Right now I feel like I want to play EverQuest more than I want to play any other MMO and I have more ideas for things I'd like to do than I can come up with for any other game.

We'll see if that lasts. At the moment I can knock off a level in an hour like shelling peas. When that goes to a bubble an hour - 20% of a level - as it will all too soon, we'll see if the whole process still seems so satisfying. Should have another good twenty or even thirty levels before that happens, though.

However long my interest and enthusiasm lasts this go round, it's astonishing to see how much life there is in the old game yet. Long may it continue.


  1. "the main reason he's unplayed is that I don't know how to play him"

    This, always this. And this seems to go especially for EQ2, where the number of skills you end up with is so large. WoW is on to something with the spec system where they tell you, "Oh, by the way, these are your four key skills/attacks/spells and this is why." I still have to go to Icy Veins for more detail eventually, but it gets you started.

    I recall EQ2 trying to guide you a bit with a level boost, limited you to a few skills, but after short bit it says, "Good luck storming the castle" and leaves you to your own devices.

    And EQ... that spell book interface was a bit awkward when we only had 50 levels.

    I remember when TSS came out... mostly because I was blogging by then. I ran some of that back in the day and then again when the Vox server launched. That is clearly the "I'm serious about this" path. The Karanas are all about nostalgia. Wipe out some bandits, kite a few mobs, visit Aviak village, then move on to business.

    1. I was going to agree that the Spell Book is cumbersome and comment that it's odd they never revamped it when it occured to me that in fact they replaced it years ago. It still exists, of course, as a visual representation of your known spells and very pretty it looks but I doubt anyone has actually used it to find and mem spells for a decade or so.

      All that happens via a menu system accessed by right-clicking the spell gems themselves. From there you can set and save spell sets (ten I think, from memory) and reload them as required. I'm so used to using it now I actually forgot we used to do it the other way!

      I imagine you knew that but it's just one of a thousand things that a newcomer to EQ would have to find for themselves. It might get covered in the Glooming deep Tutorial but I doubt it. It even helps - to a degree - with letting you know what your spells do, since the system slots them into descriptive categories like "HP Buffs" and "Damage Over Time" but there's still an insane amount to learn. Not, I agree, as much as there is in EQ2, though. Spells/Abilities/AAs there are really something else!

    2. In retrospect, I did know that and use that to populate my spell gems. That is certainly a better view but I imagine that if you boost to a high level you may still be left looking at that tree and wondering what the hell you should do. And then there are things that are skills, not spells. I think a reason I like the retro servers some times is that starting at level 1 your choices are pretty clear cut.

      Also, someday I am going to have to do a post and track/compare how spell systems went from D&D 2.0 to TorilMUD to EverQuest to WoW. That limit on spells is straight from the old mem restrictions of its ancestors, as was the whole "you only get new spells every five levels" spell tiers aspect of it.

      Do you still have to go buy your spells every time you get a new one on EQ live servers? Or is that another relic of the past now?

    3. Yes, you still have to buy them, thankfully. Getting them auto-delivered was the thing I hated most about DAOC. You can buy a lot of them in one place in PoK, which is convenient, but there are still quite a few that are sold only in specific places or have to be crafted etc. I only remembered today that there's a whole set from Legacy of Ykesha that I think you need to go there to get. Maybe they sell them somewhere else - I have to look all this stuff up every time!

  2. Thanks for the articvle - long time reader - i dont often post. I'm an old mmorpg player (started with daoc when it launced), but never did play any EQ. Would I start with EQ2, or go back to EQ if I was to play.

    1. I think that's quite a tough choice. EQ2 is much more modern, of course, but still very much a palimpsest of new written over old. EQ is even older, even more huge and sprawling, but for someone who played DAOC at launch it should have some fundemental familiarity. Depending on how well you remember DAOC!

      Both games have a staggering amount of detail and complexity but they also both offer a reasonably linear, guided introduction and passge through the levels to the end game. If you follow that on a first run through you will miss out on most of the world but you will at least learn the important systems. You can go exploring when you feel confident and comfortable with the controls.

      Almar's Guides ( is a great resource to get started in EQ, as of course is the invaluable Allakhazam. EQ2 has a really excellent wiki ( Also, if you decide to try EQ2, it's worth joining the Test channel even if you aren't playing on Test - they love answering questions there. The wiki can explain how to join custom chat channels.

      I think if I was going to pick one I'd go for EQ2 and start in Frostfang Sea, which is probably the most linear, self-explanatory lead-in but really it's going to be about as challenging either way. Good luck if you go for either of them. If you get past the initial, steep learning curve there's years of entertainment waiting in both versions of Norrath.


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