This past Tuesday, Sony Online Entertainment launched EverQuest's nineteenth expansion, The Rain of Fear. I haven't played in many years, but the day of a new expansion was always exciting. That got me to thinking about some of the launch days that I was present for. Taking that rickety gnome ship to Velious for the first time was simply wondrous. Teleporting to the moon of Luclin and seeing how all your friends looked with new character models was interesting to say the least. But, the first one that came to mind for me was the launch of The Planes of Power. Ironically, the reason I remember it has nothing to do with the content in that expansion at all.
At the time, October 2002, the guild/alliance I was in (Dol Amroth & Echoes in Eternity) was probably the third most powerful guild on the Rodcet Nife server. The days leading up to the release of The Planes of Power were spent trying to finish up the end-game encounters of The Shadows of Luclin expansion. We already knew that the level cap was increasing from 60 to 65 in PoP, so we wanted to complete this high-end content in Luclin before then to prove that we could do it without anyone being over level 60. With only a few days left, there was only one target left…Emperor Ssraeshza.
History of the Shissar
The Shissar are a race of highly intelligent, snake-like people. As a creation of Cazic-Thule, the god of fear, they are a ruthless race of people who rely on fear in their dominance over others. The Shissar were once the dominant race on the continent of Kunark, rivaled only by the dragons of the Ring of Scale.
The Shissar had established several cities, most notably their capital, Chelsith. They spread fear and dread throughout the continent and enslaved the Iksar, a race of lizard people also created by The Faceless. Their quick rise to power drew the attention and interest of the dragons. The Shissar smartly learned everything they could from the ancient wurms, and used it to their advantage. Combining the newly discovered magic from the dragons with their own aptitude for necromancy, the Shissar created the world's first liches and blood golems. With their increased might, they struck fear in the dragons, driving them back to a solitary corner of the continent. After establishing their dominance of Kunark, the Shissar Empire sailed north in search of new lands to conquer.
When Emperor Ssraeshza and his army reached southern Tunaria (Antonica), they were met by the Rallosian Empire led by the legendary ogre known as Murdunk. Surprisingly, Murdunk and Ssraeshza formed a truce. Rather than go to war with each other, they decided to attempt the impossible. With all of the known world already conquered by the two empires, they set their eyes on the planes of the gods. The Shissar laid waste to many of the lesser planes, which were inhabited by now forgotten demigods. The Rallosian army went straight to the top, the elemental planes, specifically the Plane of Earth. Their assault on The Rathe was eventually unsuccessful, even with the help of Rallos Zek himself. As a result, Zek's creations (ogres, giants, orcs, etc.) were stricken with a curse of unintelligence. The Shissar were punished by their own creator, Cazic-Thule, for he was angered by their arrogance. The Faceless granted the Iksar an ultimate weapon to rise up and defeat their masters. Known as Greenmist, the airborne plague disintegrated any Shissar who inhaled it and trapped their souls in the Plane of Fear where they would be tormented for eternity. Emperor Ssraeshza and the other high ranking Shissar escaped, as their great pyramid was summoned into the sky, presumably never to be heard from again.
The truth was the Shissar had escaped to the hidden moon of Luclin by the will of the Mistress of Shadow herself. The pyramid landed in a region known as the Scarlet Desert, but it was soon altered by the frightened Shissar. They successfully created a vacuum within the desert which they called The Grey, thus killing all wildlife in the region, and therefore protecting them from invasion of any native creatures or from the Greenmist if the Iksar should ever discover a means of finding them. Soon after their arrival on the moon, an uprising occured. It was the belief of Vzyh'dra and her followers that Ssraeshza should be held accountable for their fates. She was a powerful wizard who proved herself to be an excellent general in the empire's army, thus many followed her in rebellion. Ssraeshza acted swiftly by slaughtering the rebels, then reanimated them in undeath to patrol the sands of The Grey for eternity. As for Vzyh'dra, he sealed her in an unknown plane of existence through a portal he created in the basement of the pyramid. Ssraeshza successfully convinced the rest of the Shissar that their survival and escape was made possible only by his leadership.
Your God Has Found You Lacking
Emperor Ssraeshza is/was the most difficult raid boss in the entire Shadows of Luclin expansion outside of Vex Thal. As if fighting your way through the labyrinth of their pyramid wasn't enough, normal weapons don't even hurt the Emperor. All melee players are basically required to spend hours in the mines beneath pyramid farming items in order to create bane weapons. On top of that, the Emperor has an ability called Rage of Ssraeshza that lowers the attack speed of his target by 90% (among other debuffs). This makes managing aggro quite difficult. We had attempted this encounter at least twice already and failed one way or another. So, the night before the new expansion, we were determined to end it. We made the trek to the top of the pyramid, about 50-strong ready to slay this guy. We had our strategy down to a T. Everyone was in the right place. And we totally…failed. Our main tank fell really early, and we never recovered. It was devastating. But, it was late and we had to give up.
Here's some images of our failed attempts. Check out the "Melee" feed on my UI. That's a lot of people dying...
The good news was that with a server reset in the morning, due to the new expansion launching, we knew he would be up again whether or not anyone came in behind us in the night to kill him. Normally, he would only spawn once a week. So, we made plans to skip playing around in the new expansion and get the job done. By the time we had enough people online to attempt it, a few of us had already leveled up to 61. This time, we slaughtered that fool. Everything went flawlessly for the most part. Now, would we have beat him without a handful of people being 61? We'll never know. But, that didn't really bother us. A few months of hard work getting everyone equipped with bane weapons and unlocking the path to the top of the pyramid had finally paid off. Forty of us that attended now had the last piece required for a key to Vex Thal. Old school EQ players likely know what that means, but that's the subject of another story.
And here's a look at the dead mother fucker in the corner. Plus a shameless loot screenshot.
What really cemented the memory of Ssraeshza being slain for me was that I got our guild's first piece of loot off of him. We had just recently started using a DKP system, and somehow I was at the top of the heap when the guild officially started using the points we had accrued. So, I took a Torque of the Wyrmlord from his corpse with great excitement. At the time, the torque was one of the best items in the game. It had amazing stats, a self buff spell built in, and it could be equipped in multiple slots. I wore that thing in one spot or another until the last day I played. Little did I know that that would be the only one we would ever see him drop after numerous kills.
It's funny how particular raids from over a decade ago still evoke such vivid memories. It's part of EverQuest that I both love and hate. I love the times I had in that game and the people I came to know. There's a handful that I still keep in touch with. But, I hate the fact that I'll never be able to capture that lightning in a bottle ever again. EverQuest is the most fun I've ever had playing a game, and likely, for better or worse, always will be.