EverQuest players break sacred MMO code by waking up 20-year-old dragon

EverQuest Scars of Velious art
(Image credit: Daybreak Games, Keith Parkinson)

A few weeks ago, more than 100 players delved to the bottom of Sleeper's Tomb, the final dungeon of EverQuest's 22-year-old Scars of Velious expansion. It's a brutal, challenging area gated behind a key that requires players to defeat an endgame dragon. It seems like a serious moment, demanding coordination and focus. But this raid was not serious. It was a party at the end of the world as they knew it.

It was the kind of party that saw retired members returning, GMs turning people into illusory dragons, and a beloved community streamer narrating along on Twitch. Soundboards with in-jokes from two years of raiding together threw folks into gales of laughter. The server's strongest guild, Seal Team, had broken into this tomb to wake the Sleeper.

And that meant everyone else on the server was pissed.


Everquest art

(Image credit: Daybreak)

For more on the history of EverQuest, check out our deep dive into how it was made.

🔮 Breaking the internet: The story of EverQuest, the MMO that changed everything

Let's back up a minute. On three-year-old fan server Project 1999 Green, people play EverQuest as it existed back then, locked to just the first two expansions (there are now 28 EverQuest expansions, with the latest releasing in December 2021). On Project 1999 Green, nothing is easy. There are no XP potions to buy with microtransactions, no auction house, no instances. If you and I both want a mob, whoever gets there first wins. Raid bosses are on timers a week long, and guilds have specialized teams waiting hours for them to spawn, ready to engage them in seconds. It's intense.

So why would the server's most dominant guild want to wake the Sleeper? There is no more dramatic decision in EverQuest: it's a server-changing onetime event that unleashes the legendary dragon Kerafyrm on a murderous rampage across the server and removes his Warders—and, critically, their incredible loot—forever? Waking the Sleeper is the most historic moment in all of EverQuest, one of the most historic in any MMO, and anyone not already keyed was losing their chance forever to get these items.

According to Seal Team's detractors, it's a simple matter of the guild selfishly taking its ball and going home. For months, Seal Team had had the Tomb all to themselves by monopolizing the keyholder dragons. But in recent weeks challenger guild Kingdom and their allies in Safe Space had finally begun to accumulate some keys by getting kills on dragons like Yelinak and Zlandicar. Rather than let them have a chance at getting Warder loot, the selfish and miserable members of Seal Team were going to wake the Sleeper, ruin everyone's fun, and become that kid in the Disney movie with the black jersey that punches our plucky hero right in the schnoz. The p99 forum was filled with hundreds of posts like "Your decision to wake the Sleeper will not only tarnish your legacy and be a reason people look back at your guild with distaste, but it will inevitably lead to your collapse. Mark my words."

So, yeah. Hardcore EverQuest players are still really intense about EverQuest.

But that's just the story according to Seal Team's critics. The real story may be a bit more complicated. There had been extensive argument in the guild on when to wake the Sleeper, with heated words on both sides. Some wanted it done immediately to free the guild from having to focus solely on keys at the expense of good loot. Some wanted it left asleep forever, not seeing the point in taking away content. Accusations of officer corruption, tired players sick of tracking keyholder dragons, and a particularly loud German calling everyone pixel poopers made for a volatile stew.

Two decades ago, this same moment was the first time in a massively multiplayer video game that players decided their own fate

Finally some Seal Team players had had enough. Taking matters into their own hands, a splinter faction of keyed players created a Discord channel called Kerafyrm's Dream in the middle of the night and started making moves toward the Tomb. Discontented Seals alongside members of other guilds were going to wake the Sleeper, consensus be damned. Only some mad scrambling by guild leadership—mobilizing to the Tomb, changing passwords on shared accounts, talking members off ledges—prevented disaster. The clock was ticking: Someone on Project 1999 Green was going to wake the Sleeper. The only question that remained was who was going to do it.

Seal Team's guild leadership was facing the biggest dilemma any EverQuest guild has ever or will ever have to face: Do they wake the Sleeper and risk alienating members who have worked tirelessly to level, raid, and compete for keys but who may not have yet gotten the items they want from the Tomb? Or do they leave it asleep and risk having another guild or a splinter faction wake it for them, ruining the chance for their members to experience the event?

For many who play on Project 1999 Green, this one incredibly rare moment is the culmination of 20 years of nostalgia. Two decades ago, this same moment was the first time in a massively multiplayer video game that players decided their own fate—really, the fate of their entire online world. It was one of the first big, scripted events in an MMO ever, with repercussions almost unthinkably dramatic in a game today. Imagine players in WoW or Final Fantasy 14 being able to permanently kill a boss, making their loot forever unobtainable for the rest of their server.

So on Project 1999 Green, polls were taken. Guild members' feathers were de-ruffled. And in the end, Seal Team made its decision: the guild would wake the Sleeper, no matter what anyone else on the server thought.

When the last Warder died, the whole server shook. Kerafyrm woke up and started rampaging through Sleeper's Tomb, killing everything in his path. Seal Team had posted on the forums that anyone who wanted could come to Skyshrine, the home of Lord Yelinak and Kerafyrm's final target, and face the Sleeper in an epic last stand to try to kill the invincible dragon, something that had only been done once before and was itself a legendary piece of MMO history.

Hundreds of players from other guilds, furious at Seal Team's actions, killed Yelinak before the battle could begin in earnest. Then Kerafyrm killed everyone and disappeared forever.

Project 1999 Green is now living in the aftermath. Historically, guilds that wake the Sleeper—even dominant ones—tend to fade into obscurity afterward. Something about releasing all that pressure, perhaps. Or feeling like the long journey is finally done. Seal Team's fate has yet to be determined, but one thing is clear. There is no going back.