Today is the Winter Solstice, which reminds me of a tale from the Summer Solstice of 2002. Trade skills were always important in EverQuest, but never more so than they were for about a month that Summer. A quest was introduced that required the highest skilled craftsmen of every kind to complete. It was called the Earring of the Solstice and it was part of a quest known as Protection of the Cabbage. Players coveted this earring primarily because it had an effect called Flowing Thought that increased mana regeneration, but even melee classes tried to get one simply for the stats on it, which were fairly good at the time.
Back then, a player could only specialize in one specific trade skill. Whichever skill a player leveled up to 201 first, could then go up to 250 while all other skills were then capped at 200. This quest required the crafting of nine different items, most of which required skill of over 200. Crafting, like almost everything else in EverQuest, is very time consuming. Many players ignored it completely while those who had the patience often made a decent amount of platinum from it.
For me, I never got into crafting for the money. I had invested a decent amount of time in the rogue-only skill of Poisoncraft, which led me to learning Pottery so that I could craft my own vials required for higher level poisons. I got sort of carried away with it and pottery led me to Jewelry, which I needed in order to lacquer gems for high-level, encrusted pottery items. It was entirely a waste of time and platinum. Until the Summer of 2002.
Items Required to Obtain an Earring of the Solstice
Here's the list along with what type of trade skill was required to make each item. The number indicates the level at which crafting the item becomes trivial, meaning that you would not fail when attempting it. Since the cap was 250, you can see that some of these items were never trivial (until later expansions increased the cap).
- Blessed Fishing Rod - Fishing (202)
- Ceremonial Solstice Robe - Tailoring (252)
- Demi-Sec Champagne - Brewing (250)
- Golden Idol of Tunare - Pottery (242)
- Lotus Pie - Baking (236)
- Lucky Cabbage - Baking (182)
- Mistletoe Cutting Sickle - Smithing (250)
- Misty Thicket Picnic - Baking (335)
- Star Ruby Encrusted Stein - Pottery (335)
As you can see above, two of the items required for the quest called for high level potters. Now, as you may expect, pottery was pretty far down the list of popular trade skills. Turns out, I was one of three people on the entire server that had the ability to make these things when the quest was first discovered. And one of those three people was Korean, so she wasn't online most of the time that I was. Even so, and with limited communication ability, the three of us realized this quite quickly and came up with set prices on these items and agreed not to undercut each other. OH, COLLUSION! We weren't price gouging really. It was simply a textbook case of supply and demand, so we charged what we could and probably could've charged more. We were each making tens of thousands of platinum per day.
On top of the whole Solstice thing, other trade skill quests were discovered during that time. The most important to me and potters were faithstones. Faithstones were ceramic idols of gods that had the ability to teleport its holder to the church in their starting city. There was a specific idol that could be crafted for every race/class combination of clerics and shaman. Since neither clerics nor shaman had the ability to teleport, faithstones became a highly coveted item. Clerics especially would often get stuck in the middle of nowhere since they would often bind themselves close to their grind/raid spot in case things went poorly.
Between faithstones and steins, I had my own little factory set up in Shadow Haven. I had a level 8 high elfenchanter that I made simply to enchant clay. I had my level 20 wood elfranger running all over the globe foraging and fishing for the items that were the variable in the recipe that determined which god the faithstone was for. For example, to create a faithstone for a dark elf cleric, I had to forage a rare item in Nektulos Forest, which entailed sitting there and hitting my "forage" key every 30 seconds or so hoping I would get it instead of some roots, water, or grubs. And I'm sure the sight of a big, dumb, barbarian rogue crafting jewelry was a rare sight. I couldn't create them fast enough though. Word got out, and soon I was getting requests/orders from players from rival guilds that would otherwise have never spoke to me. In the course of a few weeks, I had brewed, lacquered, jeweled, foraged, fished, molded, enchanted, and fired my way to over half a million platinum.
I, along with the other two master potters on the Rodcet Nife server, were rich beyond our wildest dreams. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot to spend that kind of money on for max level players. Any new loot you would want was no-drop. So, I spent it on toys. Well, one toy to be specific. A Mask of Tinkering. This was one of the rarest items in the game and still is to this very day. That's because it was a loot item from one of the four warders in Sleeper's Tomb before Kerafyrm was released. There were only five or six of them on the server before Avatars of Discord awoke the Sleeper and, even in 2002, a couple of them were gone forever having been on players who quit the game. But, I found a guy with one and gave him 250,000 platinum for it. Why did I want it? Well, there were (at that point) about seven masks that rogues and bards could use to temporarily disguise themselves as a different race. The Mask of Tinkering was more commonly referred to as "the gnome mask."
So, whenever I hear any mention of the Solstice, I will always think of gnomes.