Tales from Norrath: Death of an Emperor

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.

The Shadows of Luclin

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

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.

Cazic-Thule the Faceless

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 Grey

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

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.

Torque of the Wyrmlord

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.

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20 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by Karkarov

I remember watching a guy I knew who played a dwarf cleric give this guy a run with his raid. It seemed terribly boring since his job was standing still and spamming spells over and over but I could tell the melee were having fun. I think they wiped while I watched cause one of the tanks or dps had some sort of kick interrupt they needed to do but missed it and then a healer got aggro somehow and died. It sort of went to pooty from there but my dirty whore dwarf friend ran his bearded ass out of there early and escaped with no repairs ;p.

Posted by SirOptimusPrime

I never got very far in EQ, mostly because I played on my dad's account around the Planes era and I was really young (10). I didn't go back to ever do anything like high-level raiding, but the stories I'd hear from my dad and watching him made this a huge nostalgia trip. I fucking loved that game, even from only watching it.

And, the lore. For some reason, just reading names like Nife and Cazic-Thule put a goofy grin on my face. I would read the manual that came with the EQ: Evolution and Shadows boxes for hours... I still have the regular ass one with the journal entries from the adventurers. All of the stuff about the Tribunal, etc was super engrossing, at least then. I might have to revisit that manual for nostalgia...

Posted by Marino

@Karkarov: The life of a cleric could definitely be quite boring during that period. It's part of the reason I changed from playing cleric to rogue. The clerics had to organize a cycle of "chain healing" in an attempt to keep the main tank alive. Clerics had a "Complete Heal" spell that did about 10k HP, but it took ten seconds to cast. At that point, no one had anywhere near 10k HP, so it was definitely as advertised. The concept of chain healing was that you would have multiple clerics casting it in 2-3 second intervals, therefore the tank was getting 10k HP every few seconds. So long as the mob couldn't do more damage than that, the tank couldn't die.

But...shit happens.

As for your friend, if he was fighting the Emperor, he had to have been part of a strong guild, so I doubt he would simply run out (or cast Gate out). It's more likely that he was in some sort of pick-up group or raid against one of the many, many other boss shissar that could be found in the temple.

Staff
Posted by Satsugai

I remember the couple of Ssra raids I went on being boring as sin, but I was also the loser bard relegated to mana song and resist buffs.

Posted by Marino

@SirOptimusPrime said:

I never got very far in EQ, mostly because I played on my dad's account around the Planes era and I was really young (10). I didn't go back to ever do anything like high-level raiding, but the stories I'd hear from my dad and watching him made this a huge nostalgia trip. I fucking loved that game, even from only watching it.

And, the lore. For some reason, just reading names like Nife and Cazic-Thule put a goofy grin on my face. I would read the manual that came with the EQ: Evolution and Shadows boxes for hours... I still have the regular ass one with the journal entries from the adventurers. All of the stuff about the Tribunal, etc was super engrossing, at least then. I might have to revisit that manual for nostalgia...

I haven't played in many years, but I still love the lore as well. I poured over that Prima guide for Kunark for so many hours. I've tried to fill the wiki here with as much of it as I can. I think that adventurer's journal you mentioned is the one that originally came with Velious. I still remember reading through that while installing the expansion.

Staff
Posted by ZombiePie

In 120 words can you provide a summary of what this blog is about?

I knows nothing about EverQuest, but still thanks for taking the time to share this.

Moderator
Posted by Marino

@ZombiePie said:

In 120 words can you provide a summary of what this blog is about?

I knows nothing about EverQuest, but still thanks for taking the time to share this.

Just for you. In exactly 120 words (according to MS Word)...

EverQuest has nineteen expansions now. Expansion launch days are fun. On launch day for the Planes of Power, we killed a major boss from Shadows of Luclin. His name is Emperor Ssraeshza and he is a Shissar. Shissar are snake people. Snake people are evil and have actually killed gods in the past. Their own god punished them for this with a poison gas. They now live in a pyramid in a airless region of desert on the moon where the gas can’t reach them. Emperor Ssraeshza is very hard to kill even with proper planning. We failed to kill him. Later we won. I got a sweet piece of loot that no one else ever got. I like EverQuest.

Staff
Edited by TheHT

The moon you say? *scrolls up to read full blog*

Goddamn, that was fantastic. I love a good mortal vs god story (Berserk is essentially the best thing ever for me). I've never had anything quite like that happen to me in any MMO. In Lineage 2 and WoW, it was mostly the people around me that got deep into the endgame stuff, and I just stuck around and hit the big monster. The joy for me was levelling all the way up and seeing all the different lands.

Posted by Karkarov

@Marino said:

@Karkarov: The life of a cleric could definitely be quite boring during that period. It's part of the reason I changed from playing cleric to rogue. The clerics had to organize a cycle of "chain healing" in an attempt to keep the main tank alive. Clerics had a "Complete Heal" spell that did about 10k HP, but it took ten seconds to cast. At that point, no one had anywhere near 10k HP, so it was definitely as advertised. The concept of chain healing was that you would have multiple clerics casting it in 2-3 second intervals, therefore the tank was getting 10k HP every few seconds. So long as the mob couldn't do more damage than that, the tank couldn't die.

But...shit happens.

As for your friend, if he was fighting the Emperor, he had to have been part of a strong guild, so I doubt he would simply run out (or cast Gate out). It's more likely that he was in some sort of pick-up group or raid against one of the many, many other boss shissar that could be found in the temple.

Oh no, he was in a strong guild. You just don't know my friend very well. We are talking about a dude who I once lent a custom made warhammer greater demon model I probably spent 80-100 dollars on and over 12 hours assembling and painting only to find out after he had it for a week he tried to sell it to someone for 150 bucks. Which is why I should say friends in the past tense really...

Posted by Marino

@TheHT said:

The moon you say? *scrolls up to read full blog*

Goddamn, that was fantastic. I love a good mortal vs god story (Berserk is essentially the best thing ever for me). I've never had anything quite like that happen to me in any MMO. In Lineage 2 and WoW, it was mostly the people around me that got deep into the endgame stuff, and I just stuck around and hit the big monster. The joy for me was levelling all the way up and seeing all the different lands.

Thanks. If you like god slaying stories, you may like one of my previous entries about the Plane of Fear or, while not a god, my entry about The Sleeper (an unkillable* dragon). They're listed at the bottom of the current blog entry.

Staff
Posted by ConfusedOwl

@Marino: I've read all of all your Everquest related blogs and I have to say, it's extremely fascinating to me. I've been playing MMORPGS for years and I have never encountered one that seems to conjure up so many amazing experiences. It seems to me all of the older MMOS did this and none of the newer ones seem to have that epic feel to them. It's sad but I don't think any online game of today could ever replicate the cool events and sense of community that Everquest had.

So I really appreciate these blog posts and will continue to read them in the future.

Posted by Marino

@Ezakael: Thanks for reading them. Not sure if you caught the one I did about eight months ago, but I talked about some the things you mentioned here. You're right. It'll never be the same.

Staff
Posted by ConfusedOwl

@Marino: I missed that actually. I'm curious, do you think Everquest 1 would still be worth playing now as someone who has never played it before? I know it's glory days are long past but it would be cool to see the world first hand for myself.

Posted by EXTomar

For me, Kunark was a lot of fun but Planes of Power felt to me like the "prime" of EQ. The craziness you needed to do to prepare just to attempt the Emperor....they don't do that any more for very good reasons. :)

Posted by Marino

@Ezakael said:

@Marino: I missed that actually. I'm curious, do you think Everquest 1 would still be worth playing now as someone who has never played it before? I know it's glory days are long past but it would be cool to see the world first hand for myself.

It's hard to say. The game is so different now. Not just in terms of the mechanics and upgrades they've made over the years, but many of the "old world" zones got completely revamped too. So much of the world doesn't even look the same as it once did. Also, most of the content that I've focused on in these blogs is so old that literally no one is in those zones. Luckily, I have a rogue that has a sneak ability that makes him invisibile to just about everything in those early expansions. So, I can play nostalgia tourist whenever I want.

@EXTomar said:

For me, Kunark was a lot of fun but Planes of Power felt to me like the "prime" of EQ. The craziness you needed to do to prepare just to attempt the Emperor....they don't do that any more for very good reasons. :)

I think you mean Luclin instead of PoP if you're referring to Emperor Ssra. PoP was the beginning of the end for me. It was fun to raid gods of course, but all the flagging nonsense was crazy. Personally, my favorite was Velious.

Staff
Posted by ConfusedOwl

@Marino: That's a real shame but not unexpected. I may still give it a try someday but for now I'm content just reading about it. I did give Everquest 2 a try and I thought that was good. I can't play it in-depth right now because my computer can't handle it but once I finally upgrade I'll make an effort to get into it.

Edited by Dunchad

Ah shit, I don't know why I keep reading these. I always become sad and I hate knowing I can never have those experiences again. What I wouldn't give just for a chance to kill gnolls above Paw for the first time again and enjoy that ridiculous whip sound. Or help my cleric friend get Testament of Vanear. Or just see that loading screen, hear that grandiose theme music and not know what awaits me as I giggle at "Teaching snakes to kick.".

Posted by Marino

@Dunchad said:

Ah shit, I don't know why I keep reading these. I always become sad and I hate knowing I can never have those experiences again. What I wouldn't give just for a chance to kill gnolls above Paw for the first time again and enjoy that ridiculous whip sound. Or help my cleric friend get Testament of Vanear. Or just see that loading screen, hear that grandiose theme music and not know what awaits me as I giggle at "Teaching snakes to kick.".

Oh, shit. The Testament of Vanear quest. I could write a story about that as well. Dyllin Starsine was my first introduction to the concept of camping.

As for kicking snakes, I paid tribute to that with this.

Staff
Posted by EXTomar

@Marino said:

@EXTomar said:

For me, Kunark was a lot of fun but Planes of Power felt to me like the "prime" of EQ. The craziness you needed to do to prepare just to attempt the Emperor....they don't do that any more for very good reasons. :)

I think you mean Luclin instead of PoP if you're referring to Emperor Ssra. PoP was the beginning of the end for me. It was fun to raid gods of course, but all the flagging nonsense was crazy. Personally, my favorite was Velious.

Sorry, that...I kind of ran three thoughts together. Each of those three expansions where cases where I thought EQ couldn't do better and each one topped it going crazier and bigger. But for some reason I didn't like Velious as much as Kunark, Luclin and PoP....and I can't quite remember why.

Posted by sarge1445

I know how you feel about the lightning in a bottle thing. Warcraft from 2008-mid 2011 when I ran a guild some of the most fun I have had playing a game