The Story of the Unkillable Dragon in EverQuest – Transcript
Okay, alright you can put me down now. It’s time for another story. This has everything. Dragons. Betrayal. Bad faith corporate malarkey.
A long time ago, in 1999 Sony Entertainment Online published an MMORPG called EverQuest. As one of the older MMOs that helped shape the future of the genre, it has many of the features common in today’s MMOs like questing, looting, and dungeon raiding, but it also has what is still considered to be one of the most legendary raid bosses of all time.
Kerafyrm was the product of a forbidden love between two dragons of opposite elemental forces, and so was born as the first and only dragon of pure energy. Some saw Kerafyrm as an abomination while others believed this godly creature would bring about a new age for dragon kind. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before the unfathomable power and taboo nature of his conception overwhelmed Kerafyrm with a tremendous madness. Dragons cried out for his execution, but the laws forbid dragons to kill dragons under any circumstances. Kerafyrm violated these laws as well, killing his detractors. Eventually, he was subdued into a great sleep and sealed away in the Sleeper’s Tomb. Four dragons guard the entrance for all eternity. If the four were to fall, Kerafyrm would be free to wreak havoc over the entire world once more.
From a technical standpoint, the developers intended for Kerafyrm to be unkillable. During a time when the most powerful raid bosses had around 2 million health points, Kerafyrm’s health points were rumored to be somewhere within the range of 100 million to 400 million. He had multiple abilities that killed even the mightiest of characters in one touch and was immune to almost every kind of spell and crowd control. Even if one were foolish enough to attempt to awaken Kerafyrm they would have to first embark on a quest to find the appropriate keys and kill the four dragons guarding his tomb. Each one was a formidable raid boss in their own right and required guilds with highly organized and leveled players coming together to put all four guards down at the same time to begin the summoning. Once awakened, Kerafyrm would set off on a server-wide rampage to destroy everyone and everything in his path before disappearing forever.
His unstoppable rampage was a natural part of the story of EverQuest, and players were incentivized to set Kerafyrm off to attain better loot. But once the prismatic dragon’s rampage was over there would be no way to farm the items from the four dragons that guarded his tomb. As different EverQuest servers awakened Kerafyrm, the dragon guard loot was becoming rarer and even more valuable–keep in mind that this was during a time when MMOs had adjacent economies based on real world money.
Rallos Zek was one of the last servers remaining with an undisturbed tomb. In normal servers it was possible for any group of players with strong enough characters to slay the four dragon guards and awaken the slumbering giant. But Rallos Zek was a hardcore player-vs-player server where players could kill other players to take their loot and reduce their levels. It was difficult to make any form of meaningful end game progress in older MMOs like EverQuest, so being on a guild’s good side was vital. But the three strongest guilds of Rallos Zek did not wish to awaken Kerafyrm since doing so would make the old dragon guard loot impossible to attain. Ascending Dawn, Wudan, and Magus Imperialis Magicus guarded the tomb and made sure no one could set the end times in motion. Few guilds had the power and information available to open the Sleeper Tomb within Rallos Zek. If one did manage the members of the offending guild were to be hunted down on sight by the remaining guilds until they left the server. This was enough to keep players at bay, until a monk named Stynkfyst defected from Ascending Dawn.
The monk joined a guild of outlaws intent on setting the Sleeper’s Tomb event in motion in order to make it so no future guilds could acquire the old loot ever again. They had the power to kill the guards but lacked the information needed to find the keys, information that Stynkfyst’s time in Ascending Dawn would provide. Word traveled a lot slower in those days. There were always rumors of people wanting to awaken Kerafyrm. So it took a while for the top guilds to take notice of the defector’s plot and even longer to realize he was being serious. The three guilds set out to stop Kerafyrm’s awakening. While the monk never did manage to open the tomb, he had renewed the server’s interest in the beast of legend. The attitude of the time was changing. The guilds understood, in one way or another, Kerafyrm was inevitable, so they acquiesced to the request. In November 2003, battleplans were drawn up and the three hundred strongest players in Rallos Zek made their way to the tomb. The keys were collected. The dragon guards were slain. Kerafyrm was awakened.
The best tank player in all of Rallos Zek stepped forward to draw the beast’s attention. Kerafyrm’s first swipe took 95% of his health, and the follow up attack took the remaining sliver. In two hits, the strongest warrior in the server lay dead. The next tank sprang forward to fulfill the duties of his fallen comrade, but was snuffed out in a single attack. Kerafyrm’s rampage was building up as he unleashed attacks in an area of effect that wiped out dozens of players at a time. Through sheer discipline, the tank players continued to draw most of the dragon’s aggression. One at a time, each tank stepped forth in the chain of command and met the same fate as their senior officer, dying to a single hit from the great Prismatic dragon. Once the last tank fell, the rest of the players in the tomb would follow and the server soon after.
The clerics watched in shock as Kerafyrm made quick work of the strongest tanks of Rallos Zek, unable to contribute. Since it was impossible to heal the troops dying to one attack, the clerics were left to drag the corpses of their tanks out of harm’s reach. Once at a safe distance, the clerics used spells to resurrect the tanks. The tanks returned to the front of the battle where they continued holding Kerafyrm’s attention. Curiously enough, the dragon’s immense power forced the players into a better position than anyone else who had ever attempted to take on the god-being. Because the clerics were unable to use their heals, the legendary raid boss never targeted them directly. Out of sight and out of mind, the clerics could continue to resurrect enough tanks to replenish the frontlines faster than Kerafyrm could eliminate them. The most daring of Rallos Zek had found a way to stall out the inevitable.
Melee combat was out of the question, so the mages desperately looked for a ranged counteroffensive. Kerafyrm was virtually immune to all attacks. Only a few spells affected him causing meager amounts of damage. Pets were summoned and sent in to scratch away at the dragon before being stomped out alongside the tanks. Eventually the mages settled on the damage shield spell. With this spell, a shield was placed around the pets that inflicted damage back on the attacker. The pets died, but they were resummoned and sent in again with another damage shield. For 15 minutes the tanks held the line, the clerics resurrected the tanks, and the mages sent in their kamikaze pets. Kerafyrm’s health bar dropped ever so slightly from 100% to 99%. The immortal dragon was made to bleed.
No one went into the tomb expecting anything short of their own annihilation. Somehow, the 300 had found a potential win condition. The other servers tuned into the chat rooms to discuss what was happening. A presumed suicide run had turned into a battle of attrition, and all eyes were on Rallos Zek. With renewed inspiration the raiders continued to throw themselves at Kerafyrm until another sliver of health disappeared from his health bar. And another and another. The improvised plan was working. An hour passed. Then another and another. Tick by tick the declining health bar kept the 300 motivated. By the 4th hour the tanks had lost tremendous amounts of experience from their accumulating deaths. They were considerably weaker than when the raid had been initiated, but they stayed their course. These players were no strangers to high stress situations. They were the best Rallos Zek had to offer, but this raid was unlike any other raid, designed to be impossible. Yet somehow the unkillable god-creature was undoubtedly dying. The light at the end of the tunnel was growing ever brighter until suddenly it vanished. With a quarter of his health remaining, the legendary raid boss had been despawned by the administrator of the server. The players were outraged and demanded to know why they had been robbed of their eventual victory. The administrator could give only one detail. He was told to pull the plug by Sony Entertainment themselves.
Official notice was given. Sony Entertainment accused the players of cheating, and then rescinded their accusation. Sony Entertainment then said Kerafyrm had been bugged during the encounter. Allegedly, the dragon was focused on a random non-playable character in the tomb, or his rate of health regeneration was broken at the time of the raid. The players knew neither scenario had occurred. If the dragon’s focus was elsewhere then the players would not have died in the thousands. They suspected Sony didn’t want their pet dragon to be put down. After all, Kerafyrm was intended to be unkillable. He was meant to destroy the world and continue the story of EverQuest. There was no fall back plan because he was not meant to die in the tomb at the hands of overzealous players making a tank resurrecting conga line and bombarding the realm’s most powerful villain with their bodies.
Sony gave in to the outcries. The server was rolled back, and the 300 made preparations to finish what they had started. The tanks ran in with renewed gusto, the clerics resurrected them as they had before, and the mages sent in their pets with damage shields. 3 hours later, the strongest players of Rallos Zek had done what no other server had ever done. The great dragon was vanquished. Sony congratulated the players and gave them enough experience points to make up for the levels they lost while fighting Kerafyrm. It’s the least they could do since the most legendary raid boss in all of MMORPG history didn’t drop any loot.