(Everquest I era) (part #1)
Everquest was released in 1999. It was one of the first modern Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) .
Despite being an early effort aimed at a hardcore public, it was remarkably successful and invented many MMORPG genre conventions. It paved the way for another landmark game, World of Warcraft. Which drew liberally from Everquest, but made it more accessible.
The feeling of immersion and the community around the game remained remarkable for several years. This led to derision about how obsessed with the game its enthusiasts were.
I played it heavily from 2000 to 2004, and retain fond memories of it.
For more context, you can read one of the better articles published for the 20th birthday of Everquest .
Here she comes, here she comes
Gitane is a sample Player CharacterRPG characters played by a player, rather than the gamemaster or the computer. in that universe. She was my main character, so let’s have her be a window into that world.
For more about how we write about video game worlds and characters, and the “original sample” approach, see our FAQ about video games.
This profile uses two vintage screenshots (by Tass Burrfoot, Xegony server). They’re from an Imgur archive located by video games historian Felipe Pepe .
(The name is pronounced as a flat Gee-Tahnn. That’s not the case in the voicebot reading of the article, as I forgot to set these spans of the text to a French pronunciation).
Since this profile ended up discussing many different things, it is now presented as a two-parter.
- Real Name: Princess Ezmirella of the Karanas.
- Known Relatives: Karanas Gypsies’ Queen (mother), unrevealed father. Reportedly two children (names unrevealed) and a husband (name unrevealed) during the Age of Cataclysms. Several alleged descendants (including Carmen Bayle aka Gitane II) during the Age of Destiny.
- Group Affiliation: The Silent Minority ; Karana Gypsies.
- Base Of Operations: Norrath and Luclin during the Age of Turmoil.
- Height: 5’5” (1.65m). Weight: 115 lbs. (52 Kg.).
- Eyes: Preternatural green. Hair: Raven black.
Here’s a short 1080p sequence.
It is a very simple thing that :
- Begins in Surefall Glade (Gitane’s starting town).
- Engages a running speed buffA way to make somebody more powerful – often a magic spell for brevity’s sake.
- Crosses Qeynos Hills (with a detour to the Blackburrow entrance and a special guest appearance by Holly Windstalker).
- Enters North Qeynos.
- Stops at the club house of the Silent Fist Clan (where I used to sell off my pitiable low-level loot).
The video is of interest for two kinds of people, I reckon :
- Ex-EQ players with nostalgia aplenty.
- Curious people who’d like to see how Everquest looked like.
The footage was taken using the Free-to-Play version of the game in 2016, with some GeDoSaTo enhancements.
The environment is mostly faithful to what existed in 1999, but most character models are the Luclin overhauls (released in 2001). A handful of briefly-visible models (I’m thinkin’ bats) are a later generation, I think.
I could do a “pure 1999” (well, Velious era) version, but I doubt the interest exists. 😺
And yes, this was considered highly immersive back in those days. The graphics were slightly behind the curve for 1999, but knowing that the other players all shared the same space more than made up for that.
The Combine and the Gypsies of Norrath
The Combine Empire was the first empire of humanity.
It was founded a surprisingly short time after the divine siblings Mithaniel Marr and Erollisi Marr created mankind.
Everything’s not lost
It fell within mere generations, leaving very few records and confused memories.
Since this era is a bit of a blank space for historians, it is called the Lost Age in the chronology of the Ages of Norrath.
The Combine Empire was reportedly as advanced as any power of the present day. It is also said to have allowed all sapientCapable of intelligent reasoning beings to live together without prejudice.
This is what indirectly caused its downfall. A dispute arose between the Emperor (one Tsaph Katta) and a powerful inquisitor (or general, depending upon accounts) named Seru.
Seru was opposed to accepting certain races (and in particular the dark elves) within the population of the Combine. He ended up murdering the Emperor over this.
There were *apparently* two stages in the disintegration of the Combine Empire.
Much of the population fled when it became obvious that a civil war was about to erupt between Seru partisans and the loyalists, led by the immortal bard Lcea Katta. It would seem that many realms of the Age of Turmoil, and in particular Qeynos and Freeport, stem from these fleeing Combine populations.
The second stage took place during the civil war. The various factions (Katta loyalists, Seru partisans and the non-aligned population who had not fled) left for the moon of Luclin using the so-called Combine Spires.
These teleportation-facilitating structures still can be found throughout Norrath. But despite the name they are actually Shissar artefacts restored and modified by Combine wizards.
On Luclin the non-aligned citizens would create the trading burg of Shadowhaven. The bright side of the moon would see the establishment of the gleaming town of Sanctu Seru. And the dark side saw the founding of the Katta Castellum.
This departure was sudden. Then the Spires ceased to function correctly due to the lack of Combine-trained wizards. As a result, it was assumed on Norrath that the remaining Combine population at the time of the civil war had been destroyed.
The gypsies of Norrath are reminiscent of the romanticised, Victorian version of the European Romani of Earth.
Thus, they dress in colourful and dashing clothing, live in brightly painted wooden chariots that are essentially mobile homes, are fine musicians and dancers, are tribalistic and wary of outsiders, etc..
They also have a well-deserved reputation for dealing in subtle magics such as charms and scrying. Complete with crystal balls.
How they make a living is unclear. It would seem that they are chiefly travelling merchants, arbitragingMaking a benefit from price differences between markets between distant markets on their annual travelling circuit.
They are also purveyors of certain secrets. A trade with fewer deals, but much higher margins.
Gypsy bands are small. Thus, the overall population of gypsies might be in the low four figures.
They seem to constitute separate political entities. For instance the Karanas Gypsies acknowledge kinship with the gypsies in the Desert of Ro, but are completely independent from them.
They let themselves be named by the area they frequent. Thus, the Karanas Gypsies spend most of the year in the Karanas, also known as the Plains of Karana.
They presumably have names of their own for their clans, but Gitane never mentioned anything akin to a clan name or family name.
Many people are wary of Gypsies. One reason for this is that several Gypsy tribes living in Faydwer have become dominated by the mysterious vampire lord Mayong Mistmoore (the Norrathian equivalent of Dracula). These now act as his agents in Faydwer and overseas.
Gypsies are secretly the inheritors on Norrath of the fallen Combine Empire. This has been deduced by a handful of adventurers. These put two and two together when pondering the provenance of those newly-forged Combine-style longswords , of a light and strong steel, which the gypsies occasionally sell for a small fortune.
The discovery of Combine cities on Luclin also led to the realisation that the Gypsy languages were actually patois of the Combine trade language. It is possible that most Gypsy clans actually map to noble families of the Combine Empire who did not end up in Shadowhaven.
How much the Gypsies know about the Lost Age is unclear.
But when it became possible to reach Luclin and the city of Sanctu Seru was discovered, Gitane started a one-woman guerilla war against Seru troops. Obviously the Karanas Gypsies still nurse centuries-old grudges about the Fall of the Combine.
How accurate their knowledge is is another question. Part of the difficulties about learning about the Lost Age is that the various parties have different versions of the facts. And most of them aren’t talking anyway.
A note about the term “Gypsy”
On Norrath, “Gypsy” is the accepted term for certain cultures in the Karanas, Ro, Faydwer, etc..
In the real world, it’s a slang term given to a number of cultures, often with dismissive and xenophobic overtones. It’s best avoided – just use the proper name for that culture, eh ? Romani, Sinti, Traveller, Yenish…
(And yes, EQ1 went *heavily* into terrible ethnic clichés about romanticised Romani. Even back then it was jarring from a European point of view. But less so, I suspect, from an American point of view).
Powers and Abilities
Gitane was one of the most brilliant rangers of her generation at Surefall Glade. She was trained in all the skills of these famous fighters and woodrunners.
Like many rangers, she has been trained in basic druidic magic, which she supplements with her native Gypsy tricks of the trade.
Gitane is quick and lithe, and impossibly strong for her size. She can draw war bows that would present difficulties for some Barbarians.
Her core skills are archery, survival and pathfinding. But she is a particularly well-rounded and deadly adventurer and explorer.
Using magic, stealth and subterfuge she can reach unlikely places. Like most natural mystics she can call upon the spirit of the wolf to run swiftly and without fatigue.
Gitane has crisscrossed Antonica, Faydwer, Odus, Velious, Kunark, etc. innumerable times. This shows in :
- Her encyclopaedic knowledge of Norrath and Luclin.
- The numerous allies and friends she cultivates in the most unlikely corners.
- The impressive range of languages she can communicate in.
Woman of many edges
Gitane is highly adept with an arsenal of melee weapons. It ranges from the humble dirk to wielding paired broadswords using the Kithicor style.
She further developed her own style of fighting with the unusual bladed staff she acquired in the extraplanar Bastion of Thunder.
Her druidic and Gypsy magic allows her to :
- Run on the air (especially to swiftly cross badlands or bodies of water).
- Ignore cold and heat.
- Hurl bolts of flame or ice.
- Animate the vegetation to hold and restrain opponents (in DC Heroes RPG terms, Glue).
- Heal using magic (Regeneration).
- Somehow have an unending supply of arrows (Projectile weapons).
Other, rarer tricks (in game terms, Rituals) include spells to suspend her breathing to adventure underwater or in areas with nearly no atmosphere.
Gitane also knows how to magically turn into a large wolf, though in DC Heroes terms this is just a special effect (Insta-change).
Though she never mentioned it, Jaggedpine Treefolks scrolls list Gitane as a member of an elite task force of Surefall Rangers. These fought and quested to reforge the legendary swords Swiftwind and Earthcaller during the Age of Turmoil. These documents attest that she was one of the Rangers allowed to wield this unique pair of weapons in honour and service.
One of her descendants also stated that Gitane was the one who took these swords to safety when Surefall was destroyed during the Sundering.
Gitane ages very slowly – more slowly than most half-elves. Her lifespan covered several centuries. One of her descendants alleged that she had House of Thex blood on her father’s side, but this sounds like bulshit.
It is faintly possible that Gitane is still alive in the Age of Destiny . Though she would be ancient.
Other Ayr’dal traits — to use the pseudo-elvish word for half-elves — include infravision and a high strength-to-weight ratio, plus some general talents for the arts. Gitane chiefly applies the latter to her maps-drawing.
She also seems to have a gift for picking up languages, though she maintains that it’s a lot of work in any case.
The restless daughter of the Queen of the Karanas Gypsies and an unrevealed elf, Gitane was sent in her youth to Surefall Glade to study the ways of the rangers.
Her mother said that it was to follow a remarkably vague bloodline prophecy. But Gitane always assumed that it was get some rest away from her mischievous, hyperactive daughter.
The youth was also aware that having a fey offspring was considered a bad omen against their Queen by the Gypsies. Shoving her daughter out of the sight of her people would facilitate the Queen’s rule.
It was in Surefall that the gypsy girl was nicknamed “Gitane”.
This local term for a Karanas Gypsy woman essentially became her actual name. She seldom had to answer to “Ezmirella” during her decades-long adventuring life.
Though not a major city (or even a burg, really), Surefall was a change of pace for Gitane. The Gypsy communities in the Karanas, though steeped in history, are very small, quite closed and live in the middle of a flat, boring, remote area.
Most of her contacts with the outside world had been with fools coming to the Karanas to hunt the griffons. Or short contacts with travellers buying food and water from the Gypsies as they made the long trek across central Antonica.
The trainers of Surefall Glade found an exceptionally receptive and methodical pupil in Gitane.
As with most young rangers, she did her duty in patrolling against the gnolls of Blackburrow and the poachers threatening the sacred wildlife of Surefall. She even caught numerous glimpses of Mammoth , the nearly mythical giant bear of Surefall who was the Moby Dick of many poachers.
Though many saw her as an undisciplined airhead, she actually worked harder than any member of her cohort. Gitane trained and worked out at all hours.
Soon she was running alone in the Qeynos hills and farmlands, doing solo patrols like the famous ranger Holly Windstalker . Over the following years she travelled far and wide, almost always alone.
Often did she cross the entire breadth of Antonica to go to Freeport. She often went as far north as Halas, and as far south as the great swamps. She visited the Odus isles numerous times, as well as the realms of Faydwer.
Because levelling was hard
When the Firiona Vie elven outpost was restored on the lost continent of Kunark , she joined the great exploration effort, charting and fighting in these savage lands.
When the Combine Spires were reactivated, she became a veteran Luclin hand – and a bitter enemy of the Sanctu Seru militia.
She spent years in Velious , tracking her prey across ice and blizzards.
Eventually, she would venture across the planes and into the Elemental planes themselves.
Along with her close friend Silencieuse, she ran a months-long campaign of terror against the goblins of Nurga. The pair derailed further conquest from the powerful goblin clan occupying the mines.
Although she operated alone for the first few years of her fantastic career, she eventually joined a guild of stout yet light-hearted adventurers, the Silent Minority . Outcasts all, they found solace and joy in each other.
The unlikely rag-tag band became one of the most fearsome adventuring companies in the land, poised to break the gates to the Plane of Time itself.
This profile continues in its second half.
Source of Character: Years of playing Everquest I.
Helper(s): Rgorman, Darci, Woodrow Hill. Maps from Everquest: The maps of Myrist.