The Game Archaeologist: When EverQuest players killed the unkillable Sleeper


In many CRPGs and MMORPGs, there are bosses designed to be so crazy tough that, for most people, these enemies are straight-out unkillable. Developers often put them in, such as Final Fantasy’s Ultima Weapons, to give a crazy obscene goal to players that enjoy the greatest of all challenges.

For the original EverQuest, this was Kerafyrm the Sleeper. Not only was this dragon stocked with millions upon millions of hit points, but even goading it into a fight was near-impossible. For the longest time, Kerafyrm slumbered in the Sleeper’s Tomb, unmolested by the playerbase which could only whisper in awe of this snoring terror.

That is, until one day… the unkillable was killed.

What is important to understand is that Kerafyrm didn’t exist as a normal MMO world boss — that is, to stick around until someone killed it for prestige, loot, and achievement points. Rather, the dragon was designed to be a story moment wherein it would wake up, go on an apocalyptic slaughtering spree, and then move on for good, never to be seen again. After Kerafyrm did its things, the game’s loot tables would change for good.

Again, the dragon’s very purpose was to create a specific memory for players in which they were crushed by this monstrosity. That, and no other.

Except MMOs being what they are, players from the very earliest days of EverQuest started to talk and conspire about how to actually kill Kerafyrm the Sleeper. Yet players saw this as impossible: “Everyone had long ago accepted the idea that The Sleeper was an unkillable killing machine and there was no point even seriously fighting him. No other server had made any progress in denting him.”

While this was just talk among most players, for the citizens of the Rallos Zek PvP server, far more serious plans were put into place. The shard was known for its ruthless guilds and cutthroat player killing, but the prospect of actually accomplishing what Sony never intended was the common enemy that bound everytone together.

Most servers had already triggered the Kerafyrm rampage, but weirdly enough, not Rallos Zek. Everyone there was too busy killing each other and tacitly agreed to leave Kerafyrm alone. And besides, everyone there seemed to love the old pre-rampage loot tables.

This status quo between characters and unkillable dragon changed in November 2003 when one small guild announced that it was going to go rogue and wake up the Sleeper. The top guilds stopped their mutual killing to agree that this would not stand.

Both the rogue guild and the other guilds converged on the Sleeper’s Tomb to either stop the deaths of the four warders keeping Kerafyrm asleep — or take down the dragon if he indeed woke up. The warders went down, and the giant crystal dragon roused according to the game’s script for an imminent massacre. Yet things, for once, did not proceed as normal.

Guilds converged on Kerafyrm, and the fight of all fights was on. For over three hours, a throng of adventurers whittled away at Kerafyrm’s enormous hit point pool while also resurrecting and healing as fast as they could. Keep in mind that Kerafyrm had the ability to insta-kill large swaths of players in one go, so medics were just as busy as the damage dealers. Also keep in mind that for every death, affected players were losing experience and sometimes levels, which was a big deal for EverQuest.

One player shared how fiendishly difficult this fight was: “The sleeper hit for maximum of 6999, quadded, and PROC’d a 20k Deathtouch. In addition he had a 20k Targetted death touch, refresh time unknown, no known range limit (he got people numerous times who were sitting down somewhere). He resisted all spell attempts except Manaburn, and Harmtouch. The fight was pure Range/Melee/Pets, and the Manaburn/Harmtouches when they recycled.”

Sony Online Entertainment employees watched from their vantage point, also curious how the actual fight would go. There were fears that Kerafyrm’s death might crash the server or worse, as it wasn’t intended to ever be eliminated. Allegedly, for fears of the game breaking or players using exploits, SOE de-activated the Sleeper at 26% of its hit points.

Participants and spectators alike were outraged that the victory had been snatched away. People protested for days afterward, stirring up sentiment against SOE for what they saw as an underhanded move done to spite players not doing what SOE wanted them to. A lot of players felt that this was a direct assault on the freedom of virtual worlds and a jerk move by the studio.

SOE eventually relented on its “Don’t kill Kerafyrm” stance, apologized, and respawned the dragon for a second go on November 17th. That time, it took. With more than 200 players working for four hours and 1,000 resurrections taking place, the beast was taken down to zero. A wizard named Trylun got the lucky final point of damage and the official kill. Alas, there was no loot or trophies to be shared.

Even so, this became a moment for the MMO history books. This was a clear victory for the players of Rallos Zek, who were congratulated by SOE and given official confirmation of a game-first accomplishment. The Sleeper would be killed many times after this, but never quite as memorably.

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to 2004! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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