How the heck, you might ask, is a solo Arasai assassin in her 60s, no mercenary, no mentor, hitting dozens of at-level mobs while tanking thousands of points of damage and being continually self-healed?
Welcome to the wonderful world of “DM Powerleveling”, an EverQuest 2 mechanism where someone creates a new character, levels it to 20 through normal ways, and then ends up, in a few hours, with a maxed out character.
EQ2 has always had a thriving ecosystem of powerlevelers who would, for a fee, take your character to a dungeon and kill everything while your character reaped the benefits. This got a bit of a boost when SOE removed the grouping penalty, so that the powerleveled character got the full XP for all kills, even though grouped.
That was Part 1 of the puzzle. Part 2 is Dungeon Maker. A couple years ago, SOE released the Age of Destiny expansion, which brought both mercenaries and player-created dungeons. These Dungeon Maker (DM) dungeons were meant, apparently, to allow players to try their hands at level design, with all the tools necessary to dress up dungeons, plan encounters, add bosses, and make fun little short adventures for people. There would even be loot at the end in items bought with Dungeon Maker Marks.
I’ve played through a couple of those. But since you can get experience in these dungeons, most DM dungeons are meant to provide the most XP for the least time possible.
The powerlevelers started leaving behind their open dungeons, moved right into DM dungeons.
The third part to the puzzle came with the Chains of Eternity expansion. CoE introduced “Tradeskill Prestige” abilities, which allow max level crafters to enjoy a variety of new abilities, such as an innate “salvage” to recover rare crafting components from no-trade gear, mass production to craft up to 20 items at once, and “experimentation”, to add stats and procs to crafted armor, jewelry and weapons.
The procs you can add are Augmented Blessing — which procs a heal when you are hit or hit someone else — and Augmented Smite — which procs a short damage-over-time on your attacker when you are hit or hit someone else. With mastercrafted items, you can place both these procs on every piece of gear a character might use.
With a full set of experimental gear, it is nearly impossible to be killed doing non-heroic content. DM PLers are max level — which makes you very tough to kill when mentored down anyway — and equipped in full sets of experimental gear. They form a group of low levels, everyone mentors to the lowest level, then they run DM dungeons tuned for maximum XP gain. The party leader tanks a hundred mobs at a time, and the stacking procs take care of the killing and the healing.
My main, Scatter, had gone down the resource tracking, goblin summoning, salvage tradeskill prestige line. During the recent double XP weekend, I leveled Tipa to max tailor. For her tradeskill prestige, I chose experimentation. Dera (Arda), my armorer, made a set of armor for Brightknife. Dora (Ardiana), my jeweler, made a set of jewelry. Tipa made the cloak and charms and added Augmented Smite and Augmented Blessing to everything through experimentation.
Then I sent Brightknife into some DM dungeons… alone. I’d been leveling her fairly legit through normal dungeons, soloing with a merc. I did the revamped Kaladim through her thirties, dabbled in the Obelisk of Fear and Klak’anon for a few levels, got to near fifty. Then this last weekend, I gained twenty levels in a couple hours, taking breaks to do quests I wanted to do. Then I went back in to get a lot of AA levels, with adventure level locked at 70.
In the new EQ2, people start playing their characters at 90 — or even PL straight to 95 and start their career there. As fast as I did solo DMs, in a group, led by a maxed out character, levels come even faster.
Just include this picture to show that there are people still doing regular groups. Dera is my armorer; I was making armor for Brightknife when I read someone trying to put together an Unrest group. Though Dera is 80, I mentored down and healed for the group and had a lot of fun. Even dinged 81, totally legit. Dera has never been PL’d, but probably will be soon.
SOE has, with recent expansion, almost entirely removed the leveling game. With so many people offering powerleveling, the prices have plummeted and you can now expect to gain a near max level character for just a couple hundred plat, or less if you look for people offering PL spots for free to fill out a group.
The pre-DM PL game still exists, but had been dealt a huge blow with the addition of mercenaries already. When any character can self-PL at a steady pace (powerleveling gear is easily available on the broker if you don’t have crafters), or be PL’d by others at dizzying speed, there’s little reason to do things legit except to dabble in favorite zones or quests. The gear resets at 90 in Withered Lands and again at 92 in Chains of Eternity mean you can just stop at those places and get decent gear.
Experimental armor is pretty awesome for regular adventuring, too. Brightknife doesn’t even need an experience-draining mercenary as she sets out doing quests in Kunark while I level Dera and Dora up enough to make her next set of armor and jewelry.
EQ2 has become a very different game. There’s no reason now not to just allow you to start a new alt at level 90 with 280 AA if you have a max level character. They’ve essentially already done it.
How do I feel about PLing? Well, as a participant, I guess I can live with it. I leveled all my characters (until now) totally legit. I just leveled Scatter to 95/320 through normal questing, grouping and raiding. I did every quest, dotted every ‘i’, crossed every ‘t’.
When it came to leveling my next character, I really didn’t want to go through it all again, so soon. I did the cloud mount and crafted leaper mount quests because I wanted to do them. I ignored all the other quests because I didn’t need them. I’m in Kunark now because I choose to pause there and gain some more AA while I level up the crafters necessary for the next leap.
Either SOE will nerf experimental armor and DM dungeons, or kiss the pre-90 game goodbye. Can’t have both.