Monday, March 27, 2023

Fool Me Once...

April Fool's Day is far from being a favorite of mine but EverQuest II's take on the "holiday" has always been entertaining. Practical jokes sit a lot better in video games than in real life, I find.

They're very gentle jokes, too. I spent an entertaining hour or so this morning, completing the Tin Metal Protection questline, in which Norrath's Lord of Misrule, Fizzlethorpe Bristlebane, amuses himself mightily by sending you on a wild drakota chase (No actual drakota involved.)

It's a parody of a cliche with a meta-joke bundled in. It reminds me of those children's tales, where some hapless innocent tries to do someone a favor and ends up doing chores for everyone in town. Basically, every fetch quest, ever. 

The reward, the Tin Metal Helm of Protection, actually an inverted cooking pot, can't even be worn as a an appearance item. All you can do is place it in your house, where it looks like what it is - an upturned stewpot gone rusty. 

Until you activate its protective field, that is. Then it looks like this!

Did you leave the gas on again?

Given that I've done this quest at least three times before, you might think I'd have better things to do with my time but no, apparently, I do not. I put it down to the unwarranted enthusiasm that overtakes some of us when we either create a new character or, in this case, transfer an old one to a new server because, yes, it was little Mitsu who was making - and doing - all the running.

I already knew that all the NPCs who were sending me on scavenger hunts through Freeport were the god Bristlebane in disguise, so the reveal didn't come as a surprise. I had, however, forgotten that it leads on to a second quest, this time in a dungeon with proper fights and everything.

The follow-on quest is called Rescuing the Princess and I'm assuming I must have done it before, only I can't for the life of me remember when or with what character. As I was slaughtering Iksar cultists deep in a dungeon in the Emerald Jungle, with my own Iksar Shadowknight mercenary tanking them for me, I was trying recall when I might have done all of this before. Nothing came back to me at all.

The princess turns out to be none other than (Spoiler!) Firiona Vie, although at the very end (Double Spoiler!!), the elf-maiden is revealed to be one of Bristlebane's goblin flunkies in disguise. 

I told you to lay off the Elven wine, Fi.

Firiona Vie, as the Public Face of the EverQuest Franchise, turns up all over the place, of course. I've met her many times on many characters over the years. Even so, It's not something that happens so often I don't notice when it does, or fail to remember. I can be a bit of a Firiona fangirl at times so it surprises me I can't recall this particular excursion, all of which makes me wonder whether maybe I haven't done this quest before, after all.

That's one of the things about EQII and other aged mmorpgs that you either find endearing or infuriating; there's so much damn content now, it's near-impossible even to remember what you have and haven't done. Better that way than than the reverse, in my opinion, though I know not everyone agrees.

Whether I'd rescued the princess before or not, I had a good time doing it today. It gave me a chance to try out my new mercenary, Lord Valkiss Ssi`sh, the Shadowknight Freeport-aligned characters get for their ten-year Veteran award. Qeynosians and other goodie-goodies get the services of Lady Liae Croae, a Paladin, instead. I'd rather have had a pally for the buffs and healing but not so much I was going to try and sneak into Qeynos at Level 26 to claim her.

Mitsu isn't Level 26 any more, though; not after her adventures in mischief today. She's Level 30 now. Levels in EQII pass very quickly up to about the eighties or nineties. I wasn't even running any xp buffs. I'm in no hurry to level her up so I might need to think about toning the xp down a bit, not ancouraging it to flood in even faster.

Stand back, Valkiss! I think he's going to explode!

Fortunately that's something you can do very easily. You can divert some or all of your xp to AAs, which has the satisfying effect of making you more and more powerful while you stay at the same level, or you can switch xp off altogether. 

You can also mentor back down to enjoy any content you accidentally outlevelled, if you're one of those people who can't enjoy quests when they've gone grey. I'm never sure what difference it makes, really, although I do experience a spurious sense of satisfaction while one-shotting nominally at-level mobs under the influence of the auto-mentoring superhero effect. 

I'd probably enjoy most mmorpgs more if my character could one-shot everything, if I'm brutally honest. I know people say it gets boring but that's rarely been my experience. It's far more often been the long, attritional fights that have bored the chainmail pants off me. 

That might be why I've been so keen on the Overseer function ever since it was added to the game a few years ago. It offers all the interesting parts of questing (Storyline, travel, characters, rewards) without all that tedious combat. 

I like the holiday Overseer quests for another reason, too: they're very quick. Each step takes just half an hour. Sometimes the final stage might be bit longer. The whole thing can easily be done in a session or two. I'm in the middle of the Bristlebane Day Overseer questline as I put this post together and it's already updated twice as I write.

Collections are another combat-free way to progress your character in EQII. There's a new one for the Bristlebane holiday this year but it's packaged in an unusual way. 

If you're out foraging up holiday crafting mats from the Jester's Gardens, bushes that only spawn during the event, you'll pretty quickly find a discarded piece of equine equipment - or should that be bovine? If you inspect it, you'll receive the quest Saddle Up, which turns out to be not so much a quest as a collection.

The reward is a Bovoch plushie for your house. Or rather your garden. Who keeps a cow in the house?

What I have to decide now is whether I want to carry on with Mitsu or swap over to my regular characters on Skyfire. Low-mid level play is very addicting because the progress is so immediate and the rewards so frequent but having a new home to decorate is also a big attraction. I'd like Mitsu to start building a library of holiday crafting books but I need to remember to keep my archives up to date with everyone else. too.

I'm not intending to swap focus. I imagine Mitsu is set for a carefree life, pottering around her private island, doing the odd spot of decorating, popping out every so often for holidays and special events like this one. It's not practical to maintain a slew of max-level characters on multiple servers (Unless you're willing to dedicate yourself to the game like the much-missed Cloudrat) but it's eminently possible to keep multiple characters in play with a few hours here and there, now and then, so long as you set your goals appropriately.

Most importantly, it needs to be fun. And if you can't have fun on Bristlebane Day, when can you?

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