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Troll beastlord in Everquest 1, with crocodile warder

Sauryan


Context

Everquest , released in 1999, was one of the first modern Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) . Though 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, leading to some derision about how obsessed with the game its enthusiasts were. This writer played it heavily from 2000 to 2004, and retains fond memories  of it.

Sauryan is a sample Player Character in that universe. As usual when we present sample video game characters, the profile segues into explaining some interesting aspects of the game world closely linked to the character’s background.



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Background

  • Real Name: Unclear, but sounds a bit like “saurian”. Listed as Sauryan Furyous in the The Silent Minority registry and the Khati Sha scrolls.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: The Silent Minority ; the Khati Sha of Shar Vahl.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 8’4” (but never stands straight) Weight: 564 lbs.
  • Eyes: Dark green Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

Sauryan is a troll . Meaning a large, tough swamp humanoid with a minor healing factor, an history of losing fights with the ugly stick, and little intellectual sophistication. He’s strong even by troll standards, easily able to wrestle crocodiles head-on. And he is very good at brawling and wrestling.

Like most trolls, he’s incredibly robust and very hard to kill.

Totem and taboo

He’s also one of the rare trolls with an affinity for the totem animal of the trolls, the Innothule Swamp Crocodile. Though totem animals mean nothing for most trolls — even shamans — Sauryan can communicate with his totem beasts. They even taught him some shamanistic magic and special fighting techniques.

These spells and techniques include many abilities shared by nature-oriented spellcasters (protection against the elements, healing…), plus some more specifically shamanic spells. Among these are :

  • Spells slowing and weakening opponents.
  • Spells reinforcing the skin and muscles.
  • Ways to imbue weapons or warders with elemental energies for a short while.
  • Etc..

Sauryan wields a pair of distinctive, magical close combat blades forged by the Khati Sha. The left one has a dweomer  that slows and weakens opponents it cuts. The right one has an opposite enchantment, making the wielder faster and more vital. Seeing a bulky, martially adept troll move with supernatural speed is an odd experience and can disconcert some opponents.

Crocodile rock

Sauryan’s pet crocodile doesn’t quite have a name beyond “da croc”, “hey”, or “damnit Sauryan get that monster out of the way before somebody steps on it !”.


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It is about 10‘ long, and is not quite a normal crocodile. It can easily survive in dry, cold conditions without major discomfort. It has longer, stronger, clawed legs that allow it to run at surprising speeds, and so on. Essentially, it has none of the limitations of a normal crocodile.

This type of augmented animal, called a “warder” , is possessed by the animal spirits of the corresponding species. Warders have some small degree of sapience . They and their humanoid associate can communicate telepathically (which is covered by the usual Pet rules in DC Heroes). They are powerful, magical fighters and coordinate very well with their humanoid associate.


History, part 1

Sauryan is from one of the not-really-named tribes of primitive, filthy trolls. These roamed close to the troll “city” of Grobb. Like most troll boys, Sauryan spent his childhood fishing, foraging, bullying smaller trolls, bragging that he would become a Basher (the cadre of brutal enforcers keeping the peace in Grobb), and the like.

Plus, of course, viciously brawling with other children. And the occasional swamp kobold or presapient froglok tad.

You’re the voice that I understand

After he claimed that crocodiles could talk in his head, Sauryan was copiously laughed at and kicked out of the tribe. Though he was initially furious, he soon discovered that it really didn’t change anything in his day-to-day life. The crocodiles were more reliable friends than the trolls, some being even willing to share food.

The crocodiles of Innothule Swamp  taught Sauryan more than enough to survive in the marsh, including some nature magic. One of them (cleverly named “da croc”) became Sauryan’s warder.

Sauryan and the croc briefly moved back to Grobb to convene with the Throne of Might (the shamans’s club) and exchange tips. But Sauryan wanted to have money to buy things that were not broken. Thus, he was advised to become a mercenary.

Under the bridge

After preparing a backpack full of pickled moccasin sandwiches, Sauryan and the croc headed in the general direction of Freeport . They travelled toward the banks of the Lifire river to eventually cross the vast desert of Ro. The travel was scheduled to last months in harsh conditions, and to be fraught with deadly danger.

As it turned out it barely had time to start. The crocodile spirits advised Sauryan to go West instead. The dutiful troll unhesitatingly obeyed.

The crocodile spirits took Sauryan to a number of very specific, often remote and ill-known locations. There he was to execute on a number of jobs – generally involving killing things and eating them as is the troll way.

On a mission of… errr… something

Most of these weeks-long missions were the result of bartering or obscure vendettas among the spirit world. But the crocodile spirits were also keeping an eye on building up Sauryan’s martial and mystical skills. They had but few humanoid servants – and most of them were ill-disciplined and self-centred trolls.

Doing the spirits’s bidding involved a war against a strange clan of giant beetles in the Rathe Mountains . Sauryan then terrorised barbarian fishermen in Lake Rathe by ambushing them from the water.

During this latter “mission” (presumably to punish the village for some arcane spiritual transgression) he became a friend of Turga  from the village of ogre fishermen. She took in stolen fishing spears in exchange for food.

Then a months-long mission to cull the Overthere  and help secure the outpost there. The not-really-a-fort was nominally commanded by dark elves but largely staffed by trolls and ogres. It was followed by a more focused order to wage war against the Kromdul giants – who had apparently broken some forgotten taboo.

The Silent Minority

In Warsliks wood, Sauryan met Gitane. She had been hired through intermediaries to assassinate a Cleaving Tooth goblin clan leader negotiating an alliance with the Kromdul. The two adventurers became allies. Gitane introduced the troll to the adventuring guild The Silent Minority .

The troll fit in surprisingly well, mostly by virtue of not talking much and being generally helpful in order to get money. Father Crocodile also told Sauryan to stick with these people and be as accommodating as possible, seeing the value to cultivating them as indirect allies.

Since he could make more money, have friends and please the spirits as part of this rag-tag but remarkably successful fighting force, Sauryan resolutely did so.

Into the cold and snow

Gitane told Sauryan he could make a lot of money by working as a sword-for-hire for the Coldain dwarves of the Froststone clan. Coldain holdings in the Crystal Caverns were in dire straits. Thus, Sauryan went to Velious .

Though the besieged Coldains were surprised to see a troll and a crocodile come to the rescue, they quickly agreed to let him operate in the caverns. They let him keep whatever he wanted from his kills. They also bought gems from him – particularly those obtained by killing the hapless local geonids.

Arcane crusades

Sauryan was called back into service after several months. Some sort of vendetta was brewing up between underbulk spirits and crocodile spirits. After Gitane showed him how to reach Echo Caverns (one of the breeding grounds for the lunar underbulks), Sauryan hunted the large beasts until crocodile honour was satisfied.

Knowing that The Silent Minority had developed a relationship as contractors for the Claws of Veeshan , Sauryan inquired about getting some dragon-enchanted items too. He considered dragons to be big crocodiles and thus presumably sacred.

The guild’s negotiators had the dragons’s fixer agree to the standard deal. Soon Sauryan was ambushing Kromrif giants in the snows and blizzards of the Eastern Wastes of Velious. He took fingers and scalps off his kills to prove himself a useful merc for the Claws – whose war with the giants had been going on for millennia.

Take me back to the moon

During this work to prove himself to the dragons of the Claws, Sauryan was told by Father Crocodile to go to Shar Vahl and meet with the Khati Sha. These were Vah Shir cat people who used much the same magics as he did, albeit their warders were tigers.

Though the Vah Shir of the Khati Sha were initially surprised, they soon deduced why the troll was here. A rogue animist had discovered means to bind elder animal spirits. In turn, those mobilised their servants to strike back and destroy the spirits-binder.

Father Crocodile had far fewer servants than Mother Tiger, though, and Sauryan was one of the very few reliable ones. He thus was the one who got sent to liaise with the allies of the tiger spirits.

(I think that referring to elder spirits as “Father Crocodile”, “Mother Tiger”, etc. was something that spontaneously popped up while role-playing. Though it might be based on some quest text I’ve long since forgotten.)

Draz Nurakk

Sauryan and “da croc” were one of the hunting parties sent to find and kill the rogue animist, Draz Nurakk. After two attempts at killing Nurakk failed, the mission switched to finding ways to defeat Nurakk’s seemingly impregnable mystical wards.

The agents of the threatened spirits determined that Nurakk previously was an Iksar agent of the Scaled Wolf Spirit. He had returned from death with dark secrets. The now-undead animist toiled to create a new Iksar empire. Nurakk’s empire would be served by very powerful warders using bound elder spirits – making him a menace for all of Norrath.


Interlude – the Khati Sha

The Vah Shir are humanoid felines – cat people, essentially. They resemble various cat species (tigers, panthers, etc.) in head shape and fur patterns. They are originally a species from Norrath. However, their main population centre was caught in the civil war on Erudin, pitting the Heretics studying necromancy against the mainstream magic schools.

A sizeable chunk of the island ended up accidentally teleported to the very moon of Luclin. This left behind a huge crater simply known as “the hole”. The Vah Shir population in and around Erudin fled in disarray. They came to live in small villages, mostly as fishermen.

These survivors are called Kerrans. This is because their main villages were on Kerra Island off Erudin, in the Abysmal Sea.

Meanwhile, those Vah Shir stranded on Luclin strove to survive in a harsh, alien environment. They founded the city of Shar Vahl. One of their key resources became the enchanted, glowing mineral acrylia. They mined acrylia for crafting, architecture and trading for essential resources such as food.

Survivors in an alien land

Regimented guilds were set up. Each provided a fighting force but also responsible for producing certain key goods to ensure Shar Vahl’s continued existence.

Preparing food, making shoes or recording new zological knowledge was as important as fighting off sonic wolves or vampyres. Furthermore, these often required military efforts to procure the necessary resources. Thus, they were handled in a military fashion by the guilds.

One of the great heroes of the Vah Shir was among those teleported to the moon. Khati Sha was the greatest explorer, and a powerful animist assisted by a mighty tiger warder. He knew all the languages of animals and nature. His far-ranging trips brought much knowledge to the Vah Shir.

On Luclin, he was the one who explored and mapped vast regions. He started with Hollowshade Moor and the Shadeweaver’s Thicket and extended outward, both on the light and dark side of the moon. When the guilds were founded in Shar Vahl by royal order, the one training young Vah Shir capable of bonding with tiger warders was named the Khati Sha in his honour.

The tiger spirits

The Khati Sha are :

  • Spiritists communing with animal spirits.
  • Martial artists with a meditative discipline.
  • Beastkeepers caring for their spirits-infused magical tigers.
  • Warrior monks serving Shar Vahl.
  • Shoemakers and clothiers ensuring that their fellow Vah Shir are always clothed to survive.
  • Zoologists and explorers.

As to the great Khati Sha, he left one day to explore the hostile, airless area known as the Grey and never came back. The Vah Shir honour him as a great hero. They do not know that he was captured by the Shissar and turned into something evil, broken and twisted.

The former Khati Sha renamed himself Master Tashakhi. As a thing of xenophobia and violence he was the architect of one of the direst catastrophes that struck Shar Vahl. Taskakhi was behind the Grimling rebellion that cut much of the access to the acrylia mines. It resulted in both the loss of what became the Grimling Forest, and constant war in Hollowshade.

The Khati Sha have some professional links with animists of other races who have bonded with warders of their totem animals. This chiefly means Northfolks and the white wolves of Everfrost. During the conflict against Draz Nurakk found themselves with a handful of unlikely allies. These included Iksars with a bond to the scaled wolves spirits, a few ogres bonded to the swamp bear spirits… and Sauryan.


History, part 2

The destruction of the mighty Nurakk was difficult even with his wards neutralised. Whenever destroyed his soul would shatter like glass, each shard having the potential to rebuilt itself to become the new Nurakk. In the end, the Khati Sha won and put an end to Draz Nurakk’s neo-imperial dreams.

For this service, the Vah Shir rewarded Sauryan with potent spirit weapons. By osmosis with the Vah Shir and their tiger warders, Sauryan and his monstrous pet reptile also became more civilised, to the relief of his companions in The Silent Minority.

The fate of Sauryan remains unknown. It would seem that he was killed during one of the troll attempts to retake Grobb after it was captured by divinely-empowered Froglok forces.


Description

Sauryan is surprisingly clean. Much like crocodiles let bird pick their teeth, Sauryan summons weird, small bird/insect spirits to feed on the dirt, organic debris, etc. over his body. This is part of some pact between whatever those spirits are and crocodile spirits.

Trolls are big — usually around 8’ tall — and Sauryan is taller and much more muscular than the average. But they always stand stooped, crouch, squat, etc. so they don’t look as tall as might be expected.

Sauryan being both a mystic and a martial artist, he’s quite muscled. He sports a very good muscle definition with little fat – especially by troll standards. As trolls go, he’s Bruce Lee !


Personality

Like nearly all trolls, Sauryan is a vicious, cruel bully. He’s inclined to treat everybody, trolls included, as vermin and means to his ends. Enemies are to be destroyed and crushed by any means, including torture. Then eaten after using some crude, disgusting troll recipes.

However, this is far less pronounced with Sauryan than with most members of his species. Though he was a normal troll boy, Sauryan was raised by crocodile spirits during adolescence.

Whilst crocodile spirits are certainly not nice by any mean, they know the value of patience, strategy, alliances and the like.They tend to view all humanoids equally. These spirits feel indifference and fatalism where troll feel hatred and envy.

Being a mystic, Sauryan has grown more concerned with making Father Crocodile proud than with the petty, brutal, bullying pursuits of most trolls. He’s not very smart, but he’s good at executing on what he’s been told to do. This makes him a reliable ally once the crocodile spirits have told him to cooperate with certain parties. And crocodile spirits almost never change their minds.

Sauryan is greedy. Though he’s terrible at managing his money he always wants more. He is easily persuaded to take odd jobs (sometimes very odd jobs) for money. Beside he has a large crocodile to feed and it’s not always possible to just go hunting for fresh meat.


Quotes

“Uuuuhhh… yeah.”

“Errrrrrrr… nopes.”

“Can we eats dem now ?”

“I am a gator spirit inishut, which means I am a big important troll in da swamp. I knows da magical croc wisdom too !”


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Sauryan

Dex: 05 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 05 Wil: 02 Min: 04 Occupation: Adventurer
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 015 HP: 020

Powers:
Growth: 01, Regeneration: 03, Sealed system: 02, Thermal vision: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:
Sealed System has the Free Diving Only Limitation.

Powers (spells):
Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 02, Ice production: 04, Lightning: 04, Numb: 06, Regeneration: 05, Running: 05, Skin armour: 01, Speak with animals: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers in this listing are Mystic-Linked.
  • Growth is Always On and Already Factored In.
  • Ice production is limited to cold attacks, and has a range of but 03.
  • Lightning has No Range, but can be Combined with melee attacks or with the warder’s melee attacks.
  • Regeneration consumes all Actions for the entire Phase.
  • Regeneration has a Range of 01 (but can still be used on the caster).
  • Speak with animals is limited to crocodilians and warders.

Skills:
Animal handling (Reptiles): 06, Martial artist*: 05, Military science (Camouflage, survival, tracking): 04, Occultist (Occult knowledge, Ritual magic): 03, Thief (Stealth): 04, Weaponry (Melee): 06

Advantages:
Familiarity (Fishing), Language (Troll), Pet, Stabilisation.

Connections:
Silent Minority (Low), Trolls of Grobb (Low), the Khati Sha (Low).

Drawbacks:
Distinct Appearance (Troll), Minor Rage.

Equipment:
Claws of the Savage Spirit [BODY 15, EV 04 (06 w/STR), Enchantment: 01, Slow (EQ) (No Range): 08, Limitation: Enchantment can only increase the melee AV of the wielder]. This represents a pair of claws.


Sauryan’s warder crocodile

Dex: 03 Str: 07 Bod: 06 Motivation: Uphold the Crocodile Spirit
Int: 02 Wil: 01 Min: 03 Occupation: Warder
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: N/A
Init: 010

Powers:
Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 02, Density Increase: 01, Extended Hearing: 02, Growth: 01, Sealed Systems: 11, Skin Armor: 01, Swimming: 04, Ultra Vision: 03

Skills:
Martial Artist: 06, Thief (Stealth): 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Density Increase adds to Str and Body and is Always On and already figured.
  • Growth also is Always On and already Factored In.
  • Sealed Systems allows gators to submerge for several hours; it does not protect against gas, radiation, poison, etc..
  • Thief (Stealth) only works in water.

Design notes

See the FAQ for further discussion of scale for game stats in MMORPG. The Weltanschauung  – perhaps even the Vision™  – informing the power levels is that of a very early Everquest level – back when soloing was extremely hard, PC power levels low, the game pretty punishing, reaching level 50 was remarkable, etc.

Which means in turn that most adventurers have very reasonable stats – this also helps explain why taking on major mob requires the assistance of 71 of your closest friends, which in DCH game terms means that an old-school full EQ raiding party is essentially a military unit, somewhere between a platoon and a company, and uses the rules in World at War.

Sauryan is not as powerful as Gitane. He was my alt, and the narration for the epic weapon quest assume that it was a much more collective effort than the ranger epic. Therefore, lower stats.


Technical notes

As with Gitane, this is a very simplified version version of the character concept compared to the complexities of the actual EQ1 character.

Amusingly, while writing this entry I re-discovered that I had written a Beastlord guide , which was reposted a few times over the years on Beastlord forums. Since this article included a recap of Sauryan’s levelling path for inspiration, the biography in this entry covers his actual in-game trajectory, even though I had completely forgotten about it.

Of course, this levelling strategy is completely obsolete now, unless you’re playing on a server with a tight expansions roster. And the English is a bit broken. Oh, well.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Years of playing Everquest I.

Helper(s): Darci, Ethan Roe.

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