Friday, January 21, 2022

History of the Erudites Part II: Everquest

At one time it was possible to follow the cultural and physical evolution of the races of Everquest across three games, EQOA set 500 years before EQ, EQ and EQ II which is set 500 years after EQ.  For most races there weren't particularly interesting changes from one game to the next, most of the changes relating to the quality of the character models available.  However in the erudites we can witness a profound set of physical changes as the race is slowly altered by their close association with magic.  There are also dramatic shifts the Erudite society during the 1000 years the games cover.  You can find Part I of this series here.

Erudites in the time of Everquest: civil war and the first cataclysm 

In the time of Everquest, we see the first clear signs that magical experiments are beginning to alter erudites on a genetic level.  While they still have hair, they gained noticeably larger foreheads than even the most naturally "five headed" of normal humans.  Presumably this reflects their brains beginning to expand, as their high starting intelligence (compared to most races in Everquest) begins to be due not only differences in cultural traditions and educational systems, but also differences in physical characteristics.   Always a tall and thin race of men, they are now starting to look not just regal but also a bit alien with their bulging craniums.

Erudites from the character selection screen in EQ.  Tall humans that are slender and dark skinned.  In this time period they are still fairly normal looking humans, save for their greatly expanded craniums.

In EQOA, high men started in the city of Highbourne, a city along the coast of Tunaria south of Quenyos.  The city seems to have been completely abandoned by the time of EQ.  It may have been somewhere in the modern Southern Plains of Karana, or it may have been swallowed when the much smaller lake Rathe, that appears on maps of EQOA , expanded into modern Lake Rathetear. However, the most interesting change since the time of EQOA is that there is now been a rift between the erudites that study most forms of magic and those that study necromancy.  

The part of their brains that seems to have expanded to most is the cerebrum, associated with higher brain functions such as reasoning, language and learning.  The 500 year gap that separates EQOA and EQ is not nearly long enough to have wrought such dramatic changes via organic evolution, representing perhaps 30 or 35 generations.  We can only assume that this rapid evolution represents the influence of magic, something that will become even more clear 500 years hence when we revisit erudites in the time of EQ II.

In the time of EQOA, players that studied all forms of magic lived in the same settlements.  The fact that one of the main NPCs that necromancers interact with in Highbourne at higher levels was a little hidden away hints that this may have been a somewhat uneasy alliance.  Nonetheless, High Men of all faiths and professions were still working towards common goals, and were part of the great crossing when the race began its migration to Odus from the mainland of Tunaria.   The settlement they founded on Odus, originally Arcadin, was renamed Erudin some time after the great leader Erud died.  During the time period of EQ this elegant city is where most erudites can be found, and where players of erudite Wizards, Enchanters, Magicians, Paladins and Clerics of most gods start.

Erudin, where erudites of most classes used to start.  An elegant city reflecting an enlightened people. Of course now mebers of all races and classes start in the neutral city of Crescent Reach by default.

However, players that choose to play a Necromancer, a Shadowknight, or a Cleric that worships Cazic-Thule are no longer welcome in Erudin with their brethren.  Instead they start in the city of Paineel or in the neutral city of Crescent Reach.  In fact, players from Paineel are so despised by other erudites that they are kill-on-sight to guards in Erudin.  This is also where the erudite lore starts to get really interesting.  According to multiple sources, the founding of Paineel was related to a civil war caused by erudites that recklessly pursued necromantic magic. 

The ruins of old Paineel.  Paineel is the city where erudite necromancers and shadowkights used to start.  I assume these are the ruins of an older settlement beneath the city.  I ended up here after trying to jump down to the city proper from the edge of the Hole.  Since the character I was taking screenshots with is not friendly enough with the local guards, none of them were willing to give him a copy of the key to the secret elevator leading there from Toxxulia Forest.  Getting around in EQ is often the opposite of convenient. Everquest is a game that still flies its oldschool MUD roots proudly, which I actually find delightful when I'm in the right mood for it.

The story (which you  read more of here) goes that an Erudite named Miragul was obsessed with dark magic and personal power.  Followers of Miragul visited the Dark Elf city of Neriak, and returned with knowledge of both necromancy and the god Cazic-Thule (the god of fear).  Miragul's followers concluded that Cazic-Thule was the strongest god, and the best way to serve him was through necromancy. When the high council of Erudin  discovered what they had been up to, it led to a civil war.  The followers of the high council  eventually won the war to all intents and purposes with a blast of magical power focused on the largest concentration of forces in Miragul's army.  So great was the power of this blast that it ejected part of Odus into space.*  Miragul's followers were presumed killed by the victorious inhabitants of Erudin.  However a few survived and founded a new hidden city, Paineel, deep within the crater created by the blast.  There they can be found to this day, in a city populated by more animated skeletal servants and guards than by live erudites.

 I find this story really fascinating, because I know that it isn't true. . . or is at least extremely misleading.  I have been to the past (EQOA), during the time of the great crossing.  At the time erudites already had a long history of necromancy, and necromancers worked alongside practitioners of every magical tradition.  Erud himself embraced followers studying all forms of magic, including necromancy, and worshipping any gods.  In the screenshot of him for my previous post, if I remember correctly I was even talking to him while playing a Shadowknight!  So what really happened? 

The famed library of Erud.  According to several sources, it is the largest and most famous library in all of Norrath, It's filled with merchants selling spells, and I presume in the launch era used to have one of the better selections available anywhere.  In the modern game, this function has been supplanted by the Plane of Knowledge.

I suspect that it was not the followers of Miragul that caused the rift, but an intolerant high council of Erudin that tried to outlaw necromancy, holding that only elemental, arcane and holy magic was fit for civilized society.  When erudite Shadowknights and Necromancers tried to protest these changes, their calls fell on deaf ears.  The eventual result was a civil war and a cataclysm.  

The cataclysm itself was probably the nearly inevitable result of a war between arcane and necromantic spellcasters.  Presumably in any prolonged conflict with necromancers, things soon start to go quite badly for the opposition.  Anyone that falls and leaves a body in either army during the fighting is raised from the dead and added to the ranks of the necromancers.  Perhaps desperate to end the battle in a way that wouldn't leave even more fodder for undead soldiers, the followers of the high council of Erudin resorted to a concentrated blast of pure magic.  However, they seem to have underestimated the power they harnessed, nearly cracking the planet asunder.  The explosion left an enormous crater, and the dust thrown up probably caused a period of global cooling (similar to volcanic winters) and famine from failed crops across Norrath.  Ironically, it was the practitioners of arcane magic that nearly destroyed all life on Norrath during the conflict, not the "evil" necromancers.

From the entrance of the crater leading to Paineel, you can see this intriguing structure separated from you across a chasm.  I am not sure whether it's part of Paineel or something else.  The crater formed by destructive magic during the erudite civil war is referred to as the Hole, though this chasm is only part of it (most of it, the Hole proper, is a zone connected to this one).

The story of Miragul's followers sneaking off to learn about necromancy from the sadistic Dark Elves is probably just propaganda written by the victors after the war.  But clearly there was a change in policy towards necromancy at some point.  So why the sudden change after hundreds of years of coexistence between all schools of magic in Highborn, Arcadin and later Erudin? Perhaps the followers of  Quellious, the goddess of peace, decided that they could no longer coexist beside followers of Cazic Thule.  Or perhaps the association between necromancy and sadistic and brutish races such as dark elves, ogres and trolls became an embarrassment to some faction that sought a closer relationship with students of arcane magic among the High Elves.  Or perhaps the followers of Miragul truly did do something abhorrent that triggered the war.  We will likely never know what really happened, since history is written by the victors and in this case they seem to be lying. 

A brand new level 2 Erudite Mage in the tutorial area, with his pet and a free mercenary (the later makes the modern game a lot easier solo experience than it was a decade ago). Erudites were always one of my favorite races for Magicians. They have high Int, so a deep mana pool, and they learn magical skills extremely quickly.  Of course in the modern game starting stats make little difference, because even a Troll or an Ogre is going to have capped Int. by the ripe old age of level 19 or so if they focus on it. However, at least in places like Project 1999 I would imagine it's still a consideration.

Regardless, by the time of EQ, the story of the evil Miragul and his followers causing the great war has become broadly accepted as truth.  Even the erudites that live in Paineel seem to believe it, and to revel in the fact that despite the best efforts of powerful foes they survived the cataclysm and have prospered in their own way.  However the test of erudite resilience is far from over.  Though the cataclysm was dramatic, even that planet shaking event will pale before the next disaster that erudites will contribute to.  

My next and final post in this series will be about erudites in the time of EQ II, 500 years in the future.  I originally was going to cover EQ and EQ II in this one.  However after I got done typing up the absolute bare minimum I wanted to say about erudites in the time of EQ, I had a full blog post. 

*This chunk of Odus it landed on Luclin carrying some Kerrans, a race of feline humanoids that lived on Odus before the high men arrived.  The descendants of these Kerrans later evolved into the Vah Shir.  Of course this is a vast oversimplification.  To read about what really happened to the Kerrans and the history of Erudite colonialism, see the first comment below from Bhagpuss.


  1. This is a fascinating read. I wonder about that final footnote, though. Let me just check something... yep, thought so!

    That link to the EQ wiki is about as "written by the victors" as history gets. Here's how it actually happened...

    "The kerra are a matriarchal society and female kerra are generally larger than males. Kerra trace their ancestry back to their first great leader, Kejaan. He traveled the continent of Odus, uniting the various tribes into one kingdom and ushering in an era of peace and prosperity. When Erud and his High Men arrived to settle the continent, they took over much kerra land, and brought with them diseases that the kerra had never experienced. The Erudites considered the kerra little more than animals and treated them as such. When a great plague decimated the kerra, they blamed the Heretics and their study of necromancy. Kejaan succumbed to the plague, leaving his son Vah Kerrath as leader. He vowed to make the Erudites pay.

    The kerra suffered greatly under the Erudites and more so from the magical fall out during the Erudian civil war. During the epic battle in that war, a huge explosion of mystical forces blew a large chunk of Odus containing an entire kerra village to the dark side of the moon of Luclin. Vah Kerrath survived this journey and regrouped the survitors of his lost tribe, naming them the Vah Shir. Leaderless, the kerra on Norrath scattered; settling Kerra Isle in the west, and a tiny island east of Odus in Erud's Crossing, and yet others fled deep into the Stonebrunt Mountains. Much later in the history of Norrath, a path to Luclin was opened and some of the Vah Shir returned to Kerra Isle, breeding a new, stronger people.

    The kerra being isolated from most of Norrath's trials and tribulations are indifferent to the various races except for the Erudites who they hate with a passion. "

    This is why I always detested the Erudites, although their terrible starting area and the fact they're human didn't make it likely I was ever going to play one anyway. I also thought they had the blandest, most boring of all the starting cities. Paineel was even worse.

    1. Wow, that is very cool. I only researched things from the Erudite perspective. I'll add a note telling readers to peak down here, thanks for adding that.