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Absolutely Your Grandfathers MMO: Let's Play Classic EverQuest!

Cyrael

...we're shy.
(he/him)
Today we will be taking a look at the first little bit of Percii’s life after starting in her new zone and powering through our first level. I’ve recorded a steam of me playing, and have pulled screenshots and details from that to make this post - which will be much more comprehensive than the video!


What's a Zone?

In EverQuest a ‘Zone’ is how the vast world of Norrath is broken up into chunks that players share. In this early day of MMO’s that means that there is NO instanced content - each zone is shared with other players on the server. This can be great in some ways, but challenging in others. No instancing means you effectively compete with every other player for key encounters, monster respawn locations, and quest turn ins. In practice this means that certain zones will always be busy, but others will be completely empty due to nothing interesting for the player base to engage with. Ak’Anon and the neighboring Steamfont Mountains tend to be under-populated as compared to other starting zones. For a Mage this isn’t the worst since we can effectively solo - but for more group oriented characters it means a long walk through dangerous areas until they get to a more populous zone.

A few other things that make zones in EverQuest different - there is no running away from enemies you have engaged with until you hit a ‘Zone Line’ and move into another area. When you have the attention of the enemy it will literally follow you until you zone out or it dies, and if it is on the same faction of other enemies in the zone they will join in. When this happens, it causes one of the most iconic of EQ scenes to unfold: The Train. It’s not out of the ordinary to hear in crowded dungeon zones a character /shout-ing “Train to ZL!” meaning they will be dropping anywhere between one and a dozen or more monsters on unsuspecting players. Additionally communication is generally only per zone (no global chat channels) - and I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve zoned into somewhere like Crushbone or Upper Guk and immediately died upon entry because a train of monsters had been left there that hadn’t naturally dispersed yet.

There will be more to be said about zones, but let’s take a look at the first one we will encounter as Percii:

Ak’Anon​

The Great City of Gnomes

Zone details​

As one of the starting cities of EverQuest, Ak’Anon has a collection of class guildhouses, shops, a bank and various city buildings such as the Palace of King Ak’Anon. Deep underground and powered by gnomish machinery, Ak’Anon is almost entirely populated by gnomes and their automatons. This is the only fully separate single zone city on Faydwer.

Adjacent Zones​

Steamfont Mountains, a large outdoor zone where we will spend the majority of our first few levels. It can support adventuring up through level 20, although we will likely go out of there before then.

Dangers​

Generally safe, unless you go to the Mines of Malfunction where aggressive broken automatons as well as general vermin (think snakes and rats) make up the majority of dangers for low level characters.

Interests​

For our purposes, the most interesting location will be the LIbrary Mechanamagica where our guild leader and spell vendors are located. However, locations like the Palace and the Pillar of Commerce will be worth visiting.

Getting Around​

EverQuest has no minimaps, and for many players the only way they could even get a feel for where things were at (at least in cities) was with the printed instruction book that came with the game. Each starting city had a great illustration with the major landmarks called out:


Rulebook Map of Ak’Anon​



On this map we are just southeast of location C - Ak’Anon Palace. In order to turn in our first quest we will be going to location F - Library Mechanamagica. It looks like a straight shot, so let’s head there, and maybe see a few other sights on the way.

Aside: EQ Atlas​

The instruction booklet only came with maps of the cities with any detail (and many parts of that omitted). During the beta and early eras of the game the most important website I could use was EQ Atlas. Hand drawn maps with key locations were created by someone I only ever knew of as Muse. Posted to EQ Atlas alongside commentary on important or dangerous parts of each zone their maps were incredibly valuable. Coupled with the built in /loc command (which gave you x/y/z coordinates of your current location) you could generally get around. The original site is long gone (Muse stopped playing and updating around the Planes of Power expansion), but it has been recreated and made available here. I’ll be using these Maps to give you a base lay of the land as we go, and I will be using them in my own travels! ()


Muse’s map of Ak’Anon​



Definitely more detailed than the one in the instruction book, both in amount of content and representation in the world. I spent MONTHS at school secretly printing these maps and descriptions out in the library and compiling an entire binder full of the world, with my own notes and thoughts.

Ak’Anon Highlights​

Let’s take a quick tour of Ak’Anon!


Palace
At the center of the great underground lake we can see the Palace of King Ak’Anon. Should we go visit the King and introduce ourselves?


Receptionist
Inside there is a clockwork receptionist to greet us, as well as a few flesh-and-bone mechanics.



Hail To The King!
According to the lore in the game, the original King Ak’Anon was a great mind who helped the Gnomes as they settled into the Steamfont Mountains after they were granted the land by the High Elves following their liberation from slavery of the Dark Elves. King Ak’Anon’s final invention was a mechanical construct that would rule the gnomes in his absence. Some believe he transferred his own essence into this automaton, but there is no evidence to support such claims.


Library
The Library Mechanimagica sits high above this cavern, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the merchants square.


Guide
Various Guide Automatons are positioned throughout Ak’Anon, ostensibly to tell you where key features or buildings are… but sadly they have never responded to my requests.


Shopping District
All Gnomish buildings seem to be steam powered with extra gears added on for who knows what reason. This storefront is no exception.


Lyra
In the merchant square we get a view of the only non-gnome inhabitant of Ak’Anon: Lyra Lyrestringer of the League of Antonican Bards. She offers a quest to take mail to her counterpart in Kaladim, the Dwarven Capital. Despite Wood Elves being a ‘short’ race, she towers above the Gnomes.


The Great Wall

And finally, the great wall that separates the Steamfont Mountains from Ak’Anon. This is close to the zone line that will take us out into the wider world.​

Library Mechanamagica​



Wuggan

From the helpful maps - and after those brief detours - Percii arrives at the library and encounters our guild leader. Handing over our note is as simple as picking it up with our cursor, and then clicking on the NPC we want to give it to. All quests in EQ end this way - by giving the NPC in question items that they have requested. When successful you have a great fanfare, a small amount of experience, and generally an item and some money. In this case we got a Dusty Old Robe, a starting chest item to equip Percii. It’s not amazing, but better than nothing!


Quest Turn In


Dusty Gold Robe

We can also train up skills with our guild leader, but at this point we should hold onto our points to give us a head start on skills that are harder to manually train - most notably our Spell Research skill we will unlock. We get 5 skill points at each level, and our first ‘point’ invested in a skill will take us to a minimum of whatever level we are. So if we wait till level 10 for instance to learn a new skill, it will start at 10 instead of 1.

Next to him are mechanical vendors who have our spells, as well as general stocks of items they come generated with, and the items that players have sold. By poking around a bit we can see that we have the remaining 1st level spells we can purchase, all for about 1 gold each.


Spells

Remaining Spells​

  • Flare
    • Summons a small burst of light to briefly illuminate the area.
  • Reclaim Energy
    • Returns a portion of the mana used to summon one of your Elementals back to your pool. We will talk more about how this is useful later.
  • Summon Dagger
    • Summons a NO RENT (meaning it disappears on logout) weapon for Percii to use or to give to an elemental. These are ‘MAGIC’ tagged weapons, meaning they can hit certain enemies with natural weapon resistance.
  • Summon Drink
    • Summons a single NO RENT drink item
  • Summon Food
    • As Summon drink, but for food. Self sufficiency is in our grasp!
  • True North
    • As mentioned before there is no in game map or compass. This will turn your character to face north upon casting. Generally useless but I appreciate the utility, especially as it will take time to get our Sense Heading skill up and running.
We will end up buying all of these, regardless of how useful they are… because why not? However I want to prioritize Reclaim Energy and the Summon spells. Our next set of spells becomes available at 4th level, including our first Elemental summoning spells, so it will also be important to start saving up for them.

But how can we get the funds to afford this? What coins are there and how can I earn them?

Currency​

EverQuest currency is broken up like a pretty normal D&D game: Copper -> Silver -> Gold -> Platinum (1 Platinum is worth 10 gold, 100 silver, and 1000 copper). Coins do have weight - meaning an overabundance of copper can cause you to slow down or be unable to move at all. Exchanging currency up to the next level requires you to go to a banker in the city.

In general the player economy revolves around Platinum - many valuable items are tradeable and a huge player run market has sprung up on Antonica near Freeport. At this stage of the game we can really only earn money through selling items from monsters we kill.

With that, I think it is time to head into the adjacent mountains and see what we can fight and loot!

Steamfont Mountains​

Zone details​

The Steamfont Mountains are the areas just outside of Ak’Anon and are generally considered to be the ‘Newbie Zone’ for Gnomes. Low level, generally unaggressive monsters prowl around the entrance to the city, with higher level and more aggressive creatures further out.

Adjacent Zones​

Lesser Faydark - a dark forest patrolled by various fae creatures, orcs, aggressive wildlife and the occasional bandit. I’m not joking that this is one of the scariest zones in the entire game to me - we will find out why when we try and leave Steamfont for the wood elf city of Kelethin.

Dangers​

Near Ak’Anon there are plenty of guards who will come to your aid if you are being attacked. The further out you go however there are nasty kobolds, rogue automatons from Ak’Anon, undead, and worst of all: Minotaurs.

Interests​

The entrance of Ak’Anon has several shops that will allow us to sell our loot and build up our wealth in order to purchase our spells. The Druid Ring just west of the city is generally safe and where we will spend our first few levels. Deeper into the mountains are large windmills where we will spend some time as well.


Steamfont Map



AkAnon picture

Percii takes a short tour of some of the interesting sights, including the entrance to Ak’Anon. In 1999 this was a breathtaking vista!

Now, our next order of business is to find a safe area to hunt monsters. There is a Druid Ring that has a neutral NPC who sells a variety of high level spells (for druids naturally) where we might run into a few high level players to help us out if things get really dicey. Looking at the trusty EQ Atlas maps, I take the road out and a hard left till I find it.

Druid Ring

Luckily at night the Druid Ring puts off it’s own glow, making it easy to find. Surrounding here are a variety of low level monsters that we can fight. How do we know how difficult a specific monster will be? EverQuest makes this information available using a chat command called ‘consider’ or ‘con’. Targeting an enemy and either right-clicking, or by typing /con will give you some basic information: how powerful the enemy is in relation to your level, and what their attitude is.

Consider values go from green (easiest, almost a guaranteed win, but awarding no EXP) to red (‘What would you like your tombstone to say?’)

The attitude is primarily driven around the target's Faction. Every NPC has one faction that they belong to, and many of them can be manipulated up and down through killing specific NPC’s or completing quests. Most animals have a neutral faction that cannot be adjusted, but it is entirely possible to make yourself hated by killing a specific monster over and over. Most of the things we will fight right now will be ‘indifferent’ or ‘dubious’ - meaning they won’t engage us automatically.

Combat​

Looking around I see a few likely candidates that /con white - meaning they are equal to our level. At first level we will not see anything blue or green - but plenty of yellows and reds!

I engage with our first few enemies with a combination of Auto Attack with our starting dagger, and Burst of Flame. I can usually time the spells to cast in between enemy swings, and get about 6 or so full casts before the mana bar is fully empty.

Until we get our Elementals at level 4, this is the extent of our combat. It’s a race to zero HP between Percii and the automaton, skeleton, giant rat, and whatever else she can find.

In between combat it is necessary to have your character sit down in order to naturally regain HP and MP. It WILL regain if you are standing and moving but at a much reduced rate. The absolute biggest downtime you will experience in EverQuest is related to HP and MP regeneration. We can mitigate some of the MP gain at level 4, but it will come with it’s own host of challenges. Oh, and don’t forget: regen stops if you run out of food and drink.

Percii focuses on anything nearby but pays special attention to decaying gnome skeletons. These enemies drop Cloth Armor pieces that we can immediately equip to give us a much needed AC boost. After a few tries we end up with some gloves, pants, a veil, shoes, and a belt. Sad to say this is going to be some of the best armor we will get for a long time. Skeletons also drop weapons and bone chips which we can sell to vendors. The bone chips we can save to sell to other players (Necromancers need them to raise their skeleton pets) or to use for quests. However, the closest quest for them is in Kaladim, and there aren’t any necromancers around, so off to the vendor they go.


Skeleton

Primary Attack Mode!


Various Loot

Death and Dying​

While fighting skeleton after skeleton we accidentally get too close to a young coyote! At first level this monster absolutely destroys us. It /con’s at yellow - and we are at low health. It takes just a few bites before we are knocked unconscious (a neat mechanic that doesn’t matter after maybe level 3) and watch it take a few swings at us before eventually landing the killing blow.

The Great Destroyer

RIP Percii!


What does death mean to Percii? First of all, we awaken outside of Ak’Anon. This is our Bind Point, something all characters have. Non-caster characters can only be bound in a few very specific zones, and require a spell to be cast on them. Percii will get this spell (Bind Affinity) at level 12, which will allow her to bind herself ANYWHERE. We will also be able to utilize the Gate spell to return to our bind point.

However, Percii has respawned with all of her equipment still left on her body where she perished. Additionally, as a caster, all of her memorized spells are forgotten and must be reset. In order to recover our goods we must return to where our body was. For a low level character this is usually a pretty simple process: retrace your steps, locate your body, and loot it like you would any other NPC. In a newbie zone like Steamfont there usually isn’t much danger.

At higher levels though, dying can be an incredible challenge to overcome. After level 5 you will lose some accumulated experience on each death - even to the point where it is possible to lose a level, and by extension access to level-dependent spells and abilities. Also, when dying at higher levels you are much more likely to be in a dangerous spot - either surrounded by lots of powerful aggressive enemies, or deep in a dungeon. You may need to have invisibility cast on you, or other help to get to your corpse (since again you respawn with no gear). One option is to give a friendly player the ability to drag your corpse to you using the /consent and /corpse commands. In the worst case scenario a high level Necromancer can summon your corpse as long as it is in the same zone as them. Just come prepared to spend 300 or more platinum on the one-time-use reagent to cast the spell!

If you do not loot your corpse within a specified time frame (about 7 real world days) the corpse itself will decay, irreversibly taking away all of your items you had equipped at the time of death as well as anything you had in your pockets. This can be absolutely devastating, so a corpse run is always someone's first priority.

Percii makes the easy trek back to her body, recovers her goods, and promises to be more vigilant in the future.

Aside: My worst deaths - part 1​

I have two incredibly memorable deaths in classic EQ. One was technically easy to remedy, but expensive and time consuming.

One of the key travel mechanisms is via boat. A boat that runs in real time - meaning, you sit on it for about 30 minutes as it travels from Kaladim to Freeport. I unfortunately went link dead mid boat ride while playing my Bard, and upon logging back in I found myself swimming in the middle of the Ocean of Tears between Faydwer and Antonica. I tried Sense Heading to go in the direction I thought a safe island might be, but had neglected training it up and could never get a bearing. I eventually ran out of stamina while not finding any notable landmarks. At this point a pair of sharks came and killed me, leaving my body at the bottom of the sea with about 100 platinum and some really nice gear I had accumulated in Castle Mistmoore. I had NO IDEA where my body was, and since /corpse only works in a relatively small radius I couldn’t even spam it out and hope my waterlogged body would surface. I spent the next two whole days looking for a necromancer who would meet me halfway on the cost of the spell to summon it to a safe space. Luckily I found someone who would be willing to, but then THEY went link dead on the boat as well, stranding them in the middle of the ocean. They were able to gate to safety, but still ended up taking up another 2 hours before they were able to get to me again to summon my corpse.

Because of that, I now ALWAYS train up sense heading and never travel on boats with anything other than my key gear.

Leveling Up​



Skeleton Attack!


Kobolds


Rogue Clockworks

It takes about a dozen or more kills before we hear the best sound in the game: “DING!” We’ve leveled up! The journey from first to second level is the shortest in the game, but is still a big power boost. We now have more Mana, more HP, our spells have scaled up (burst of flame can now do 4 damage instead of 3), and our skill ceiling has increased. It’s not unusual to see someone /shout ‘Ding!’ in the zone chat and then be congratulated by everyone else in the zone. Leveling in EQ is a big deal - and some levels (called ‘Hell Levels’) have additional penalties put on them that makes it take even longer to raise.


DING!

Percii decides that between the full pockets and new level, it is time to go back to the Library and see about getting more spells.

Selling Loot & Buying Spells​

The mechanical vendors near our guild leader have most of the spells we get at first level, and will buy anything we have. Some of the extra gear we got from skeletons is able to sell for almost 3 gold each! Between all of that we are able to afford every spell on our list except True North - which isn’t sold by this vendor - and still have some left over for our upcoming spells. Spell costs will be the biggest money sink for Percii. Level one spells are 1 gold each, but Level four are 5 gold… and it just scales from there.

Undeterred, and empowered, Percii scribes and memorizes her new spells and takes a few for a spin.


Unlimited food and drink? Yes please!


Dagger

The summon dagger seems to give us a better weapon than our starting one, and flare (while useless) looks pretty amazing while being cast.


RAW POWER OF FLARE!

CURRENT STATUS:​

Level: 2
Location: Ak’Anon
Goals: Get to Level 4, don’t die.



All Equipped and Ready

What's next for Percii? Well, to be honest… the loop we just went through will be the same until 4th level. This is a slow paced game, and we will be spending a decent amount of time just grinding against low level monsters till we can get to our next major milestone. We will try and get some of the spells we need and maybe a bag or two to expand our pockets! Feel free to follow me on Twitch as I stream out the next couple of levels!
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
If that buff af dogboi is a kobold "runt", oh my I fear to see what a kobold badass must look like!

Monster trains must be one of those "let's do this better than EverQuest" design progressions. I recall that in WoW, a monster that deaggroed after chasing someone would turn around and sprint back to its usual patrol zone, only latching on to another player if they snagged it with an attack or other provocation. Then in FFXIV, a mob in the same pattern actually turns invulnerable, making it nearly impossible to kite monsters onto other people over any kind of distance.
 

Cyrael

...we're shy.
(he/him)
Also there's something quaint about all monster names beginning with a preposition.
In fact - that is really the best way to figure out if a monster is going to have unique loot! It's rare that any a <monster> will have anything special or unique, but someone like 'Ambassador D'vinn' you know will have cool stuff.

If that buff af dogboi is a kobold "runt", oh my I fear to see what a kobold badass must look like!
Yeah, they really took some liberties with Kobold on this one - not draconic at all. The funny thing is that most enemie groups share a single model, but scaled up or down based off of their difficulty. I believe that the 'runt' models (pawns if they are orc, whelps for goblins, pups for gnolls) are about 0.6 scaled. They just up that scale the more powerful the monster is. This even happens with our Elementals we will get!

Monster trains must be one of those "let's do this better than EverQuest" design progressions.
100%

The way that aggro works in EverQuest is pretty basic. Each NPC has a 'hate table' that you are added to as soon as it chooses to engage with you. This can happen via attacking, or due to bad faction and just getting a bit too close. That hate table can be manipulated, and the monster will focus on the character at the top of the list in almost every circumstances. Warriors can use Taunt to get higher on the list, and other classes have their own aggro management tools. You do have to be careful, as high bursts of damage will put you high on the hate table - meaning a Wizard who just goes in and dumps all their spells on a monster will find that their party won't be able to out-damage them enough to get higher on the list. We will be trying our best to manage these tables by allowing our Elementals to build up enough on the hate table before we directly engage.

A few classes do have some skills to totally remove themselves from the hate table. Monks have an ability called 'Feign Death', that when successful will entirely remove them. Necromancers and Shadowknights have a spell by the same name. These are used often to 'pull' enemies to safe zones, then let the actual tank engage, then feign death.

Enchanters have a series of Memory Blur spells that will cause an enemy to 'forget' it's hate list. This is one of the reasons, along with stuns and charms, as to why Enchanters are so highly valued in groups. Crowd control is their bread and butter.

I'll be streaming a bit more tonight as I push through 2nd level and inch closer to our next big milestone!
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Yeah, they really took some liberties with Kobold on this one - not draconic at all.
Bit of a tangent, but I looked into this a while back, and kobolds were described as "dog-like" in early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. It was around the third edition, presaged by some magazine articles, that they became scaly dragony frens. 3.0 came out in 2000, so our 1999 EverQuest was still working from older descriptions!
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Yeah, that's where D&D picked them up from! The dog thing was itself an aesthetic change from the folklore.
 

Destil

Red Mage
(he/him)
Staff member
Well look at you and your fancy particle effects set to high. My PC could never handle that.

Flare should fire out a bolt to your target to light it up and provide light along along its path, wonder if it's running into the ground in front of you?
 

Destil

Red Mage
(he/him)
Staff member
Also the boats were absurdly brokenly janky. Boats had to zone in and out just like players, and since loading a new zone could take minutes they needed to hang around in the loading area for a while before moving across the ocean (or the players on the boat would just fall into the sea once they loaded in after it left).

It was very common for me to wait 20 minutes for a boat, get onto it and fail to load the new zone in time. Then you have to swim back to the port and try again. Or swim to one of the islands in the sea with a dock, if your swimming was decent that could be faster since you'd avoid having to zone out with it again (and it's not like you don't have 20 minutes until the next boat reaches the dock, anyway).
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
Bit of a tangent, but I looked into this a while back, and kobolds were described as "dog-like" in early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. It was around the third edition, presaged by some magazine articles, that they became scaly dragony frens. 3.0 came out in 2000, so our 1999 EverQuest was still working from older descriptions!
That also explains why Ryoko Kui's Delicious in Dungeon includes a kobold that looks like a Shiba Inu.

 

nataeryn

Discovered Construction
(he/him)
it looks like many elements of starting as a caster in EQ and starting as a BLM in FFXI were very similar, however death was an XP loss, but there were no corpse runs in XI. It sound really punishing.
 

Cyrael

...we're shy.
(he/him)
I really wasn’t planning on posting much of anything prior to level 4, but some interesting things happened in my session last night that I thought would be worth talking about.

Percii at level 2 has a basic buff (Minor Shielding) that raises her HP and AC allowing her to absorb a handful of more hits from enemies that /con white or blue right now. I was prepared to buckle down and just grind out for an hour or two to try and get to level 3. Fought a few skeletons and some wandering rats when suddenly my chat window displays one of the best messages you can get as a caster:

A cool breeze enters your mind

I turn around and see that my plan of hanging around the Druid Rings has paid off!


Heroes

A pair of higher level characters (likely in their mid 40’s or so) have come to meet up at this Druid Ring and were waiting for additional group members. To fill their time they decided to pump Percii up with buffs - and this totally breaks the tedium of our 2nd level.

Buffs in EverQuest can be cast on almost anyone regardless of level. When you group with level-appropriate characters your buffs will give you an edge, but won’t make you unstoppable.


Percii with Minor Shielding

But when a high level character buffs someone significantly lower?


Percii with LIMITLESS POWER

The spells they cast are typically among the most requested you will find:



  • Spirit of the Wolf - You feel the spirit of wolf enter you.
    • Increases your movement speed by a significant amount. It now takes us less time to travel around finding enemies, and returning to a vendor to empty our pockets. If we were heading to another zone it would cut minutes off of our travel time.
  • Clarity - A cool breeze enters your mind
    • Incredible Mana regeneration. At our level it effectively means we now have unlimited casting with no downtime. I can blast spells non stop.
  • Resolution - You Feel Resolute
    • HP Buff. We now have the HP of a 8th level character, meaning that we can live through combat encounters that would normally be way out of our depth.
  • Augmentation - Your Body Pulses with Energy
    • Combat Haste spell. Haste reduces the cooldown of our auto attack by around 25%. More swings means more damage - and while for a casters past a certain level this isn’t that useful (since you may not even have a weapon equipped), it is allowing us to just slice and dice through our enemies.
  • Holy Armor - You Feel The Favor of the Gods
    • AC Buff. This lets us mitigate a lot of hits we would normally take. Coupled with the increased HP from Resolution we can continue even when our HP bar looks like it is below 30%

With this newfound power Percii moves over towards a series of Kobold Camps and locates a series of Scouts - enemies that she normally couldn’t have engaged till level 4 or so, and even then not in rapid succession.


Yellow? Not scary anymore!

Unloading unlimited fire!

These buffs will last anywhere from half an hour to two hours. Making the best of it we can, Percii barely stops to catch her breath in between encounters. I am able to go from barely into Level 2 to halfway through Level 3 in my hour or so play session, and even get revenge on a few of the coyotes that are still wandering around. Also, based on being able to quickly pick up and sell items from the mass of enemies means we had enough money to pre-purchase a lot of the spells we will need at 4th level.

I can’t count on this level of community help most of the time, but I am very thankful for the boost it gave me through these relatively boring first levels.

CURRENT STATUS:​

Level: 3
Location: Steamfont Mountains
Goals: Get to Level 4!
 
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