Click image for full size version.
On Bended Knee
posted on 03-Nov-2004
An explosion of energy shook Reeshan from his slumber. His eyes popped open as the purple glow of the tunnel illuminated the chamber where he had been resting for these last few months. He had been gathering his strength, waiting for the time when his chief Jerrugar, Mgrauleshk, would complete his task. So much time had passed that Reeshan had thought Mgrauleshk a failure in that task; but now, staring into the dark violet swirl of the tunnel that had opened, he smiled a grim smile. He knew that his Jerrugar had succeeded.
He shifted his massive weight from his sleeping position and spoke directly into the minds of his brother Kings.
Brothers, the way is open and I have begun my preparations. All shall fall before the might of our magic. None shall live. The reckoning is at hand. At long last, we shall destroy the beings who sought to slaughter our race in its infancy.
Their response was as expected, a mixture of thanks and well wishes, as well as reminders to enact the rite that would bring the rest of the Kings through once he successfully established a bastion against the false gods. Reeshan responded positively in turn, allaying the fears that were raised; then he turned to the gateway and the small contingent that he had brought with him.
As he approached the swirling gateway, across the vast divide, his mind wandered to the conclave only three cycles before.
The soul of the Ruuk dissipated until there was nothing left but a thin trail of magical dust. Mgrauleshk ripped an arm off the corpse of the Ruuk as he claimed it from the altar, and then, in a savage display, he tore the flesh from the bone with his teeth. Browerk croaked and closed his eyes; the other Kings followed suit as he spoke directly into his brothers' minds.
Tkoruk Guruul is open, as are other small outposts. Ruuk have taken our place in history. Morgluuk and Torgluuk have crossed the vast divide and we are left to rot. T'Kuruul Reeshan shall be the place where our march into history begins. Here we shall empower this new Jerrugar, Mgrauleshk. He will be given the knowledge of the mucor, and he will know how to coax the locations of the world's veins through sight alone. We shall send him to Tkoruk Guruul where he will pass through the tunnel and hunt down Morgluuk and Torgluuk, and then he will ride the vein of the usurpers world to the place where the gate to T'Kuruul Reeshan is found. He will open the way.
There was a murmur gently rumbling between the Kings as Mgrauleshk looked up from the carcass of the Ruuk. Before him the Kings of his kind slowly swayed from side to side, making small noises, allowing small trickles of magic to escape their porous flesh. He stripped a bone free of flesh and thought for a second of standing and approaching them, but the allure of the meat was too strong.
Reeshan shall walk through the tunnel first, to meet his Jerrugar. If Mgrauleshk fails Reeshan shall accept defeat and yield his life. This is how it shall be. We will return now and arm our forces. Our vengeance comes after the lifetimes of your fathers' fathers have long left this world. I recall the pale ones. I recall their twisting influence. I recall the swamp dweller that came with them. I recall it sinking into the depths and taking root at this world's heart. Now we are to tear the heart out from their world!
A sudden eruption of sound jarred Mgrauleshk. As one, the Kings pounded their massive staves onto the stone of T'Kuruul Reeshan. As one again, they turned toward him with purpose in their eyes. He met the gaze of his King, Reeshan, and for a brief moment he saw fear there – then it was gone. Mgrauleshk's hands and face were stained with the blood of the Ruuk carcass that lay empty and picked clean at his feet. His head throbbed, a sharp pain struck him between the eyes and he fell to one knee. Browerk slid his massive girth toward Mgrauleshk. As Browerk approached, Mgrauleshk saw the King of all Bur pluck a mucor spawn from his hide.
"Lift your head, Jerrugar Mgrauleshk. You are to be given the greatest honor ever bestowed upon a Guruk." Mgrauleshk obeyed Browerk and lifted his head. The King held forth the mucor spawn with one small arm. "Eat."
Mgrauleshk ate and his world folded open in a fever of color, sound and emotion. The world swam by him in years, seconds; he felt the sound of death and the taste of defeat. There was an odd hum that filled his head and nearly shook his eyes to jelly. He was jarred awake by the mucor spawn and filled with the truth of the pale ones who had tried to kill his race. He was reborn in an instant of fire, pain and illusion so real that his mind was devoured and rebuilt with a new purpose.
Browerk issued commands and Mgrauleshk nodded, accepting the duty that would redeem his race and enact vengeance against a race of beings that had meant to exterminate their kind...
Reeshan hefted his girth through the tunnel and was gone from Bur.
posted on 04-Nov-2004
Olcris wiped a closed fist across his bloodied lip and leveled his gaze at his assailant. The smaller creature looked ravaged by some feral desire, yet it spoke clearly and demanded nothing more than a gem to the school at Knorr. Olcris' eyes darted to the sickle strapped to the thing's waist and saw that it was caked with dried Lugian and Tumerok blood. He reached into the pouch at his side.
"Here, take it. There's nothing there for you, though, little one." Olcris sputtered the words through splintered teeth then tossed a portal gem to the feet of the little fiend.
"I will find the pale one and rip out his innards," the little fiend responded as it reached down to the gem. Olcris grimaced as he shifted his weight, and he realized that the savage blows from the little cretin were far worse than he suspected. "The false gods will be punished."
Olcris smiled at the thought. This little creature was looking for Asheron; it had to be. There were none on Auberean that came close to the power of the gods. Nuhmudira was powerful, he knew that; she was his teacher. But even she knew she was no god. Asheron, however, he was arrogant and demanding and treated all the transplanted races on Auberean as lesser beings. He lived as though he were a god. He should be punished. Olcris watched as the little thing before him activated the gem. The Lugian smiled and said, "Good journey, little one."
Torgluuk arrived on an arid island reeking of death. The air coaxed moisture from his flesh and he felt weak. A burst of spores exploded from his flesh but quickly died in the air to a host of other spores that floated like bloated maggots in a tepid pool of water. Before him stood a gate and a giant construct of shimmering ice. He approached and withdrew his blade. The construct bade him stop, but the blood within Torgluuk's body pumped hard as he grew ever closer to his goal. Though his body was dying so far removed from the swamp, his resolve was strong and he launched an assault at the glittering device.
His sickle slid off the side of the glittering man. The creature slammed a massive hand into the Burun's stomach, doubling him over in breathless agony. Then a voice called to him, in his own language.
"A moth ate a word. To me it seemed a piteous thing when I learned the wonder a moth had swallowed, in darkness stolen..."
A riddle, a riddle thought Torgluuk. "A book, it is a book the moth ate," Torgluuk called in his language. He felt his body washed in magic and transported to another courtyard. The same dry air hung above him and he felt weaker still.
Before him there stood another shimmering man of ice. He approached and listened to the crystal being. He answered the riddle and repeated the transportation once more, and then once again, arriving in a hall washed in a glowing violet light. Above his head energy crackled free of some device that had once served as some sort of container. Several benches lined the area and another being, crafted of the same crystal, stood before him.
"Greetings entity Torgluuk, categorized as Burun Ruuk. Your arrival has been foreseen by Lord Asheron. I am to assist in restoring your health and then I am to bring you to Lord Asheron so he may discuss why you are here," Arikas stated as it approached Torgluuk.
Torgluuk croaked and reached for his sickle but his body, crippled by this new dry air so far from the swamp, forsook him. He collapsed in a heap in the courtyard of the Academy at Knorr.
A single point of light grew behind the figure. At first, the figure was nothing more than a black line; then, as consciousness returned and his vision began to clear, Torgluuk saw the deep blue eyes and wizened, bearded face of Asheron Realaidain.
Asheron's hair was tied back with a simple leather strap. His long slender fingers rubbed a soft wet cloth over Torgluuk's brow. "Thought we'd lost you there, little Torgluuk," Asheron spoke in Roulean. "I'm sorry, I've tried to master your tongue but it is beyond my capacity to enact many of the syllables that you are able to create. I'm afraid that my physical form limits my linguistics more than yours does." He smiled genuinely as Torgluuk stared up at him.
"I see only light about you," Torgluuk croaked in Roulean.
Asheron nodded, "I have been told that more oft than I have wished, Torgluuk. There are some who once called me Lightbringer. There are those that gave their lives to curse me with this... nearly endless life. A blessing and a curse that you and I share I think, yes Torgluuk?"
It was true. Torgluuk and his brother Morgluuk were long-lived. They should have been dead generations prior to their arrival on this world. Torgluuk remembered that he was here to kill this man. He was a pale one, one of the beings that had come to his world so long ago. But he had no hate for this man. Torgluuk saw only the blessing of the eye within him. After the moment of reflection, Torgluuk nodded once.
Asheron helped Torgluuk to a sitting position. As he sat up, Torgluuk realized that he was partially submerged in a tepid pool of swamp water. Nearby, a gilded iron cage held a fully grown bomutur wasp. Torgluuk realized he was hungry.
"How do you feel?" Asheron asked.
"Weak, the air here..." Torgluuk replied. Asheron walked to the cage and waved his hand. A small well of mana appeared in the center of his palm and the wasp fell to the bottom of the cage, sleeping.
"The air is dry like this over the majority of my world. You'll learn more about it in time." Asheron reached into the cage and took the wasp out, offering it to Torgluuk.
Torgluuk devoured the wasp quickly, feeling much better once the food filled his belly. Three days had passed since he had left Niarltah and Muldaveus bloody, battered and dying in their citadel. His anger had been so great that he left to find this pale one, a man whom he now saw and whom he did not recognize as a pale one. There were similarities; they shared the long fingers and sharply pointed ears. He carried himself much in the same way, but he was different in temperament, different in the way the he moved about the room and in the way he treated Torgluuk. Torgluuk looked beside the tub of filth in which he rested and saw that his sickle had been cleaned and placed on a low table beside him. Torgluuk looked at the man who was walking to a high table and chair across the room.
On the table, a setting of fruits and meats sat unmolested; beside them a single candle illuminated a stack of books. Asheron looked at Torgluuk and spoke again.
"You are here to kill me. I do not blame you for your ire, Torgluuk, nor can I make excuses for those that walked these lands before me. I am alone in this world, more alone than any may ever realize. But, I see that you have come from another world, like all those that now dwell on Ireth Lassel. All drawn through portals of my creation, all save you and your kind." Asheron paused and Torgluuk, feeling strength return, began to climb from the tub. "We are outside the realm of prophecy, and prophecy is all I have had to live by for all my years on this world. I –"
"Prophecy?" Torgluuk interrupted. "Yes, I am familiar with prophecy. Intimate with prophecy, I knew I was to come to this world. I knew that I would walk here. I knew that this would transpire, as I have been told about all of this... but is it prophecy?" Torgluuk shook his head. "Three races, three races shall I walk amongst... and one figure alone..."
Asheron chuckled. "I am a man, long-lived, unique, and alone. Torgluuk, I wish to listen to your stories and share my own with you. Is that acceptable?"
Torgluuk nodded. He had found the light for all worlds. He had been blinded by the quest for vengeance. He had forgotten Tkowerk's words. Now, in this place he recalled them clearly.
I have seen one other, whose image is unclear. But its purpose is very clear: to be the Eye for all worlds. The Eye of the Sleeping One, the sun, the Light.
posted on 05-Nov-2004
"...nothing. We've been able to enhance some qualities, but the slayer aspect is not within our magical abilities." Ciandra bowed her head resignedly, "I am sorry, Elysa."
Elysa smiled genuinely and spoke. "Ciandra, why are you sorry? You've discovered much. We're just missing this one piece, and we know that there is someone that can help us with that aspect." She paused and looked around the table. All the members of the council were present as well as a few additions, most notably Jenavere and Hendac. "There is nothing to be sorry for. The Arcanum has done very well and other weapons will still hurt these creatures."
Antius bowed his head. He had been hoping that this would not come to pass. But as more Burun crossed into Dereth from their world, the unrest amongst the other creatures increased. The Renegades, having lost the majority of their allies, seized the opportunity to stage quick and successful raids along the borders of Isparian lands. Many outposts had come under siege, but brave souls rallied to their defense and drove off the insurgents at every turn. At least some of the populace still recognizes threats, he thought.
In the previous cycle of the moons, a particularly violent Guruk had gathered troops to smash their way through a sealed door in the depths of one of the Falatacot temples. There, a small organized group of Isparians defeated the Guruk only to finish the Guruk's work for him. It was unclear why Isparian turned against Isparian, but the meager force that tried to protect the door was overwhelmed and another threat entered the world: Reeshan.
Jenavere and Hendac had examined the creature from afar, trying to avoid its notice. They failed. They described the appearance of the creature as a bloated mass of flesh that bore some resemblance to other Burun that they had faced. Then they described their deaths, deaths more intense than any they had experienced: they were debilitated, all of their equipment was destroyed and their bodies reformed outside Holtburg.
Elysa unrolled a map and pointed to a ridge outside of Uziz. "This is the last location where our guards have seen Nuhmudira. We know that she built a small hovel here and has been living in exile since. However, our best scouts have been unable to find that domicile. We believe that she has discovered a way to veil her home..." There was a low murmur in the room. "Antius has already agreed to take an offer to the people on my behalf. He will take up position in Arwic for a few days and implore the people for assistance in finding Nuhmudira." Antius felt his heart skip a beat. "I'll offer what I can in recompense. Ciandra?"
"Yes?" Ciandra replied.
"In addition to supplying scrolls to the scriveners can you teach the spells that enhance salvaging efforts?" Elysa asked.
"Good, can you instruct a few of my guards to do the same?"
"I am certain that I can do this, why?"
Elysa smiled, "I think that it will be a fitting reward."
"Hogwash!" Celdiseth said sharply. "No, not the gifting of these spells. I could care less about what you give people. I just can't believe you're turning to that monster for help! It's bad enough that she's likely not even human any longer." Celdiseth spat on the floor, an old custom to ward off evil, "But there's not a one of us here that doesn't think she tried to kill you, Elysa. Turning to her is –"
"Weak?" Elysa snapped as she stood up. "Let me tell you of weakness, old man. Weakness is doing nothing. It is allowing these incursions to continue. It is watching your people turn against one another and standing idly by. Weakness is sequestering yourself in a remote area of the world and shunning those that would seek your council!" Her eyes burned with a deep passion and her words were laced with anger and bitterness. Antius wondered how much of this was aimed at herself and how much was directed toward Asheron, wherever he was. Celdiseth was taken aback; the old man sat stunned as she continued. "What would you have me do? Watch as our homes are torn apart by ravaging hordes because I bear a grudge without benefit of proof? Would you have me let our people suffer because of my wounded pride?" She paused and looked around the table. Her gaze fell on Antius and he looked her in the eyes; they shared a brief moment, then she continued. "I still live. I did not die to an assassin's blade. I will not see our people trampled beneath the feet of raging hordes. If by showing Nuhmudira compassion and forgiving something that may or may not have even happened, I can save lives and lessen the suffering of the people who revere me as Queen, so be it. I will see that happen before I let pride stand in the way of wisdom."
The room was silent. Celdiseth calmly stood and walked toward the door. "Is it pride that keeps you from seeing that not all the people revere you as Queen?" He opened the door and left.
Elysa broke the silence. "This is the course of action that I am resolved to; see it done." She rose and made her way from the chamber. A sullen mood hung in the chamber and none spoke. In turn, each stood and left the table until Antius was left alone.
posted on 08-Nov-2004
A well of gray-violet light and a piercing wail gave way to a dark room reeking of the swamp. Mgrauleshk stood in the center of the room while a host of Ruuk and Guruk battled smaller figures in the hallway beyond.
"Juruuka Jerrugar Mgrauleshk!" Reeshan clucked as he welcomed his general. "Your duty is done and you shall forever be a hero to your people."
Mgrauleshk bowed before his king and spoke low. "We have much to discuss of this world, King Reeshan."
Without thought Reeshan expunged another small thing from his new chambers. It walked upright and bore a metal carapace; it carried a sharp metal stick and had traces of magic outlining its form. It was not a Pale One. It looked nothing like the Pale Ones but appeared to be a threatening little beast nonetheless. He washed the creature in magic and smiled as it disappeared. "Speak, Jerrugar."
"This world is bereft of the Pale Ones. They have not been found, not yet." He paused and looked up at his lord. "We have found ashes, bones and blood. We have found dead that walk and spirits that live on. We have found a race that look to be the Fiazhat and we have fought the Moar." He paused again. Reeshan seemed uninterested; he was too busy happily disintegrating the little things that threatened to enter his new chambers. "The Moar here are much weaker."
A long moment passed before Reeshan responded, "What of the other temples?"
"My gift has given me insight into the locations of each temple. I have dispatched hosts to each location to begin tearing through the walls. Your brothers will join you soon, King Reeshan." Mgrauleshk bowed his head again.
"You have served your purpose beyond expectations, Jerrugar Mgrauleshk. I will see that your name is honored more highly than any other." Reeshan chortled as another of the little beasts with metal carapaces disappeared. "Are all beings so weak here?" Mgrauleshk nodded. "Then we shall find the Pale Ones quickly. Rise, Jerrugar, and tell me, what news of Morgluuk and Torgluuk?"
"Morgluuk has been killed, my King. Torgluuk has once again been exiled. We do not know where. We know that he fled." Mgrauleshk stood and watched as a quizzical look crossed Reeshan's face. "My King?"
"I killed that thing. I killed it and yet it returns." His eyes were fixed on a little creature with a metal carapace, wielding a sharp metal stick with traces of magic around its form.
"Yes. My King... the dead... the dead do not die on this world." Mgrauleshk bowed his head.
Reeshan slumped back on his tail and croaked loudly. "Curious." He drew the mana from within him and disintegrated the little beast again. "Tell me all that you have learned of this world, Jerrugar Mgrauleshk."
"Yes, my King."
Letter to the Players
posted on 28-Oct-2004
Welcome to the November Letter to the Players!
Last month in Dereth, Isparians discovered yet another ancient Falatacot temple. Initially, the temple appeared to be secure... but then a Burun Guruk named Mgrauleshk led a raid into the temple depths.
When the rally cry went out across Dereth, Isparians had difficult choices to make. The barrier could not be reached without forfeiting Asheron's protection. Some felt that Asheron's protection was more important than pursuing the Burun. Some chose to hang back, waiting to see what would happen next. Others dove ahead, attacking both Mgrauleshk and the barrier. Some chose to defend the barrier from Mgrauleshk and their fellow Isparians. A few decided to use this as an opportunity to settle old grudges and cause mayhem.
The barrier fell, and an enormous and mighty threat emerged. King Reeshan. One of the mighty Burun Kukurr. None could stand before him.
Now let's take a look at some of the changes coming in the November event and beyond.
But before we look at the future, let's talk about a recent development that we're fairly proud of.
On Thursday, October 14, Turbine's new billing and authentication system launched. Since then we've had many new sign-ups on our system, and these players are using Turbine's new launcher to log into Asheron's Call.
We're very excited about this, and we hope you are too. This is a major milestone for Asheron's Call, and for Turbine as a company! In addition, we are one step closer to migrating all of our existing players onto our new billing and authentication system. Keep watching the Asheron's Call website for more info on the migration!
(These are items that we plan to implement in the November event. Many of these items were mentioned in prior articles. These changes are in addition to the new quests, dungeons, and items that we'll be introducing in the November event.)
Asheron's Call's 5th Anniversary
As you may know, November marks five years of Asheron's Call. As the game started ten years after the defeat of the Olthoi Queen, this marks 15 years of Isparian freedom on Dereth.
In celebration of this anniversary, the Council of Sages will be providing all players with a small gift in the November event.
Please make sure that you leave one slot open in your main pack before logging off for the last time prior to the November event. Also make sure that your character is not at 300% burden. If you are at 300% burden or have no available slots in your main pack at first login after the event, you will not receive your gift.
For scheduling purposes, the November event is tentatively planned for Wednesday November 10.
Rapid-Fire Bow Bug Fix
Since the early days of Asheron's Call, there has been a bug with the projectile attack system and the animation system that could allow a character to fire arrows or bolts very rapidly. Recently there's been a surge in the number of players using this bug, particularly on Darktide.
For the November event, we are implementing a fix to this bug. It will not be possible to fire any missile weapon faster than its fastest speed, under any circumstances.
Unfortunately it is not possible to directly apply this fix to other animation-breaking bugs that we are continuing to work on.
Last month we introduced the new skill of Salvaging, but not the Creature Magic spells to allow you to enhance this skill. In November, you will be able to acquire spells to increase the Salvaging skill. You'll be able to purchase the level 1 through 6 versions from vendors, and there may be other ways to acquire them as well.
PvP Weapon Changes
In June of this year, we made a number of changes to the Weeping, Hollow and Phantom weapons. After watching the feedback on these changes and more internal testing, we determined that the tools and data we had used to justify the changes were flawed. For November we will be making additional changes in order to meet our goals.
The goal is to make all three PvP weapon suites effective in combat, depending on the situation. A Weeping Weapon used against a target that has been both Imperil'd and Vuln'd should be the most effective. Next should be a Phantom Weapon against a target that has been Vuln'd. Third should be the Hollow Weapons, as they ignore all Life and Item Magic protection.
Within each suite, the most powerful weapons should be those that cost the most skill points. However the cheapest weapons should not be useless in PvP combat. In addition, there should be some flavor among the weapons. For example, Mace and Axe cost the same amount in terms of skill credits. Traditionally, Axes have higher maximum damage and thus higher critical hits, while Maces have a tighter variance and thus better damage over time. This was not true of the Weeping Axe and Weeping Mace – the weapons were identical. In November, the weapons will be changed to better match their traditional flavor.
In general, the damage on all Melee weapons is being increased by some amount. Some of the Weeping Weapons will have a lower damage statistic in November, but the Human Slayer quality is being increased. The Weeping Sword, at the top of the stack, will not have the critical hit damage that it had prior to the June changes, but its damage over time will go up thanks to an improved variance.
The Atlatls and Crossbows are also having their damage increased. Unfortunately it was necessary to tweak the Bows down very slightly in order to meet our goals. Bows will do smaller critical hits than Swords in the same class, but have a higher average damage over time.
The Phantom Katar is a special case. As most players know, Unarmed Combat weapons receive a damage bonus based on the Unarmed Combat skill of the wielder. These weapons receive a smaller damage bonus from Strength than other weapons, but at high levels the total damage bonus is still quite considerable.
This causes the Phantom Katar, even with a base damage of 0, do to extremely high amounts of damage at very high levels of skill. When the Phantom Katar was first introduced in August 2002, a special exception was made for the Katar's skill damage bonus. The skill damage bonus for the Phantom Katar is currently one-half the bonus of any other Unarmed Combat weapon.
However, in our analysis this still leaves the Phantom Katar overpowered. Its critical hits at high levels are more powerful than any other PvP weapon at the same character level. Thus we have decided to change the multiplier to the skill damage bonus on the Katar from one-half to one-third. This brings it in line with the other Phantom Weapons.
(These are the game changes that we are working on for the December event. None of these items are guaranteed to be added for December as scheduling and priorities can change. These changes are in addition to the new quests, dungeons, and items that we'll be introducing in the December event. Your feedback on these topics is particularly valuable.)
Masks and Guises
As has already been noticed, the mask and guises quests, traditionally scheduled for October, were delayed this year due to resource and priority issues. They have not been canceled; they will be available – along with some new ones – in December.
As we mentioned in the September Letter to the Players, as part of our plans to improve player traffic through towns, we will be making a number of improvements to the towns of Holtburg, Shoushi and Yaraq. Some of these improvements are currently scheduled for December. These changes include adjustments to the town portals in and around these towns, moving the three casinos closer to these towns, and some new content to make these towns more attractive to players at all level ranges. Some of these changes include revisions to the newbie quests based out of these towns.
(These are the game changes that we are thinking about for January and beyond. We cannot guarantee when – or even if – any of these changes will be added to the game, as scheduling and priorities can change. These changes are in addition to the new quests, dungeons, and items that we'll be introducing in each monthly event. Your feedback on these topics is particularly valuable.
If not mentioned elsewhere in this Letter, topics listed as In Concept in prior articles have not changed status.)
Creature War Magic
In September we increased War Magic Bolt and Arc damage at levels 1-6, and Streaks at levels 1-7, for the purposes of increasing War Magic damage at lower levels. This also made a number of creatures significantly more dangerous, as their War spells also did more damage.
We've received a lot of negative feedback regarding this "side-effect", but also a lot of positive feedback. Many players are upset that they cannot survive in their old hunting grounds; many players are excited by the increased challenge.
What we would like to do is to examine war-casting creatures on a case-by-case basis to determine if their risk is still acceptable compared to their reward, and if not, whether the risk or the reward should be changed. Unfortunately our schedule will not permit us to do this for some time.
We currently expect to begin adjusting creatures in groups starting in the next few months, be sure to watch future Letters to the Players for future updates. We're committed to making sure that creature risk is worth the reward, but we also do not want to rob players of an enjoyable challenge.
There you have it, our current plans for November and beyond. See you in Dereth!