For the first couple of years of Everquest, one common player complaint was that your actions didn’t really have any impact on the world. You could kill the Big Danged Dragon terrorizing Ye Auld Frigid Northern Plains, but she’d respawn in a week – and if you tried and failed, it wasn’t like she went and wiped out the nearest town out of revenge or anything like that.
So, when the second expansion pack (“Scars of Velious”) came out, the developers put in a couple of events where your actions decidedly DID impact the world and had a real effect on other players.
One of these was a quest for a dwarven ring.
Not THAT ring, this isn’t Lord Of The Rings Online, but still a pretty neat ring. It was the end result of a weeks-or-months-long quest where every step of the quest gave you a ring that was just a little bit better than the one before and where the last ring was a seriously powerful magical item. As you might guess, every step got just a little harder, as well – you could pretty easily get the first ring or two by yourself or with a friend, but once you got up into the 7th, 8th, 9th rings you needed to have quite a few friends who didn’t mind spending an hour or two to help you get an upgrade.
The 10th ring was something special, though. Doing the quest for the 10th ring involved actually putting yourself (and twenty or thirty of your closest friends) directly in the middle of an all-out war between a city full of dwarves and their frost giant enemies, with the ideal outcome being that you won the day for the dwarves and they gave you the 10th ring out of gratitude.
For the duration of the war (at least two hours, often more), an entire game zone was given over completely to the war. Nothing that you could normally do in the zone was available as long as the war was going on, so normal hunting and questing was completely out of bounds. Furthermore, if you LOST the war, the dwarven town got wiped out and stayed wiped out for a few hours – so, no bank, no merchants, no quest NPCs, nothing except dead dwarves.
Having a Ring War start in the middle of the day was something that seriously inconvenienced a lot of people for the duration of the war and had a strong potential to make things even worse for more people for MUCH longer if the dwarves lost, so it was generally a good idea to bring an overwhelming force for the war, and pretty common for people who just happened to be in the zone to help out even if they were generally unhappy that any other plans they might have had had been derailed for one schmuck who wanted a new piece of jewelry.
The quest NPC to start the whole thing only spawned once every 24 hours, too, so there was occasional competition just to be able to start the war, and occasionally the quest NPC would get killed because another person wanted to get some questing done and didn’t want to be interrupted by an all out Dwarfs/Giants war or because they didn’t like people in the guild that were setting up to do the war or blah blah blah drama.
This came up a few days ago because I realized that one of my character had the 9th ring, had gotten it ages and ages ago, and was actually high enough level to easily do the entire Ring War by himself. The ring itself is pathetically outdated now, so the only REAL reason to do this was for a sense of closure and for a nostalgia fix, but nostalgia is pretty powerful.
Anyway, I started the Ring War, set myself in front of the main gate of Dwarf Town, and set about killing the giants who kept storming the gates. After about an hour and a half of this (and, honestly, well after the point I really should have been in bed), my wife came in to see what I was doing.
I of course gave her the whole story, full of all sorts of historical context about why this was Such A Big Deal Back In The Day and how it used to cause So Much Drama when a guild would attempt it during peak hours for the server and so on and so forth.
Anyway, I wind up with “and I’m standing here because if I stand here it means that giants can’t get past me and get into the city”
So she asks me how I’ll know when I’ve won, which is a valid question, and exactly what I need to do TO win, which was an even more valid question.
And I explain that, well, if you ignore all the other trappings of the war, the only thing you REALLY need to do to win is to keep a single dwarf alive, and he’s BEHIND ME so he’s perfectly safe. I may have been a little smug about this, if I’m honest.
And then I turned around to see two rows of giants standing in an honor guard formation on both sides of the city gates, because at some point or another during the evening at least one giant actually managed to sneak past and kill that particular dwarf.
Not exactly my finest hour.