Thursday, January 13, 2022

History of the Erudite Race I: Everquest Online Adventures

The Erudites are a humanoid race in the Everquest series of games.  It's actually one of the more original races in the game, with no direct analogues in fantasy fiction I am aware of, though they did borrow somewhat from Tolkien's Dunedain. By traveling through Everquest Online Adventures, Everquest, and Everquest II it once was possible to witness their evolution first hand, as they gradually evolved from regal but normal looking humans to a hairless and somewhat alien looking race. EQOA is no longer with us, but I took a bunch of screenshots of it the last few days it was up.*  And so I present the first post in a planned series on the history of Erudites across three games.

Erudites in the time of Everquest Online Adventures: the High Men

EQOA was set 500 years before the original EQ.  Several things were noticeably different.  For example the wood elves and high elves had not yet diverged into separate races, and many bits of geography mentioned only in lore in EQ were still around to be visited. Perhaps the most noticeable difference was the erudites. 

Male and Female Erudites from the character creation screen of EQOA. While they have prominent foreheads, they also still appear quite human
  
Originally the Erudites of all professions lived together in one city, Highbourne, on the same continent as the other human cities, south of Quenyos on the coast.  They also referred to themselves as "High Men."  Though taller, thinner and darker skinned than most humans, they didn't really appear to be a distinct race from human at this time (at least not the the same degree as barbarians and humans, for example). If you looked around  Highbourne, you could stumble across this mysterious figure in a shrine: 

Duke Morthalis, a mysterious NPC in a part of the city of Highbourne that only Necromancers and Shadowknights were likely to go to.

I assume he granted class quests to erudite necromancers at higher levels than I ever made it to.  However, the presence of this somewhat secret NPC hinted at the rift that was to divide the erudite race in the future.  When EQOA first came out, high men were confined to the mainland.  However, if you went to the shore you could find boatbuilders talking about preparations for founding a new colony in lands to the west, over the sea. 

This stone greeted you when you first traveled to the new colony of Erudites, founded on the island of Odus.

The new landmass, the Island of Odus, was added with the first and only EQOA expansion: Frontiers. Erud was the leader of the high men in the time of EQOA.  The stretch of sea in between the mainland and Odus is referred to as Erud's Crossing in some later maps. Erud founded a colony on the island,  which he named Arcadin.  However, some time after his death the name of the city that sprung up from it was changed to Erudin in his honor.  Erud had such a profound impact on the cultural development of high men that members of the race were generally known as Erudites in later years, regardless of whether they lived in Erudin proper or other parts of Norrath. 

Erud, for whom the Erudites (i.e., followers of Erud) are named.

In the time of EQOA, you could talk to Erud by travelling to Arcadin.  If you had played the original Everquest, it was kind of that fantasy equivalent of getting to chat with George Washington.  When you talked to him, Erud gave the following speech:**

Behold you bear witness to the founding of Arcadin!

[Response: " What is Arcadin exactly?]

Now it is but a humble beginning, stone and wood slowly being fitted together to reveal the shadow of what is to come.  I have envisioned a great metropolis, one that will span for miles across the land and stretch upwards to the heavens.  It is here that we will give birth to the epicenter of enlightenment,  arcane mastery and discipline, and prosperity in peace. 

Enlightenment, prosperity, and peace. The are the elements upon which Arcadin is founded and destined to uphold.  And not just the people of Highbourne shall bask in the glory of this place. Nay, for this is our gift to the world. All beings who share a thirst for enlightenment and bear within their souls the pursuit of peace and mortal righteousness . . . it is them who are welcome as friend and citizen. She will hold them dear, for it is they who are her lifeblood and her pulse. 

This is my vision, this is our intent and it will be done for no being stands above the cause . . .And none who strive in parallel of her goal . . be them high man, elf, dwarf or man . . are beyond her reach.

As NPC speeches went in EQOA it was a heck of a long one.  For any kind of Everquest lore grognard, the whole encounter was also a guaranteed nerdgasm.  

High men had the highest starting Intelligence of any race in the EQOA. Intelligence determined the size your mana pool, and I believe also affected the chances that mobs would resist your spells.  Oddly, dexterity determined how much damage spells did.  Regardless, the high starting Int. made high men a good choice for wizards, magicians, necromancers and enchanters. They were also an interesting choice for a Shadowknight, the racial option that yielded the strongest possible spellcasting ability for the class.  

Magic was central to the culture of high men, an association so intimate that it eventually began to affect their physical evolution. High men were very much a neutral race in the time of EQOA, fully embracing all forms of magic. Practitioners of elemental magic, enchantments and illusions, as well as both holy and death magic, all lived together in several communities in western Norrath.  However, what started as different areas of intellectual interest soon became philosophical differences, and later led to real conflicts.  Eventually followers of the necromantic arts were banished from Erudin entirely.  
 
My next planned post is on Erudites, as the high men came to be known,  in the time of Everquest.  Though given my current spare time quota, I can't put a timetable on it!

*Apologies for the quality of these "screenshots", they are actually photos of my old CRT television.

**Yes, I did sit in front of my TV and transcribe the speech word for word.   


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