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The Tattered Notebook: Experimentation in EverQuest II

MJ Guthrie

It's time to talk experimentation in EverQuest II. No, I don't mean sniffing, snorting, smoking, or otherwise illicitly subjecting yourself to the various flora in Norrath; I'm referring to one of the three new crafting prestige lines introduced with Chains of Eternity. As I'm an armorer, gear augmentation definitely seemed the most relevant to my trade. (Besides, can you just see me cranking out 100 breastplates at a time?!) So as I leveled through the 90s, I started plopping those prestige points into that middle line and looked forward to the day I could beef up my armor.

But let's face it -- I don't always choose things on the basis of logic; a Vulcan, I am not. What actually drew me to the experimentation prestige line, even before I had any clue what it would do, was a remark from the devs during the panel and my interview at SOE Live: that failure was an option! Experimentation became the choice because it would bring back some of the feel of EQII's original crafting. You vets out there will know what I am talking about -- when there was some real risk involved in crafting and your skill meant something. I may still not have the chance to die at the forge anymore (booo!), but failure with experimentation comes with much more of a bite.

Sound intriguing? Take a walk on the wild side and let's explore experimentation.

EverQuest II screenshot
Double your prestige pleasure

Before delving in any further into experimentation, I must first note that you do not actually have to commit yourself to only one crafting prestige line! Although point-wise, crafters have enough to complete only one full line, they can actually have two separate prestige configurations by utilizing the mirror of reflected achievements, just as adventurers do for their Alternate Advancement (AA) builds. By storing one build in the mirror, crafters can swap between the two as needed without incurring any repec costs. So even if you've already committed to a different prestige line, you can still experiment with experimentation.

If, on the other hand, you choose experimentation as your main and only prestige line, you can do the same thing I did: spend the points in the refining line to get the gathering goblin for your alternate spec. No matter which prestige line you choose, and even if you only ever want to have one, it would behoove you to create a second build just for the goblin. Why turn down a chance at free rares every two hours? Not to mention that rares may really come in handy for experimenters if they happen to blow their craft and lose whatever they were working on.

EverQuest II screenshotThe experiment

Wait, did I say lose? Yes, yes I did. The part about experimentation that enticed me was the fact that if you fail the craft, you actually lose the entire item. Kaboom! Personally, I really like having some real consequence for my actions; I enjoy having a reason to take pride in my workmanship. Since crafting was overhauled a while back and made so much easier, that feeling had been missing, which actually made me less inclined to even craft. Now, with experimentation, I am right back to stoking the forge and beating away metals for armor, back to cajoling, begging, and screaming at my screen while simultaneously praying to the crafting gods that the progress bar will hit complete before the durability bar disappears.

What is experimentation exactly? It is a crafting process by which folks can add additional effects and/or decorations as well as augment stats to unattuned player-made gear. Say you have a pair of boots with stamina, agility, and multi-attack chance; besides selecting to add either a healing or attack augmentation, the experimenter can choose to increase a given stat. The process can be repeated up to five times but with diminishing returns when boosting a stat multiple times. For example, if you increase the agility, the first time it will increase by 10%, the next 5%, and the next 2.5%. To be honest, I do not know how much lower it actually goes, as I tend to spread the experimentation out among two or three stats. Decorations can also be added to certain items, such as essences of fire, ice, etc.

The process itself is similar to regular crafting but has a unique twist. Unlike regular crafting, experimentation has six distinct tradeskill arts used to counter events. Also, instead of four levels of progress, there is only one bar for each progress and durability. Another difference, at least during all of my experience, is that you can't really build up your progress or durability in between events. True, specific countermeasures (but not all) will let you reclaim some durability or advance progress further, but you cannot count on getting the right event to counter when you need it!

There are five levels of experimentation, and each successful level will change the name of the item by adding a prefix. The first is experimented. The second through fifth are, respectively, prototypical, innovative, ingenious, and visionary. This way, anyone who looks at the armor will know exactly how many times it has been experimented upon -- a really helpful feature when you're searching the broker.

Of course, here comes the kicker: Each successive time you experiment on an item, it becomes more difficult and the chance of failure increases. By the time you are trying to experiment on an item for the fifth time, you can actually successfully counter everything thrown at you while crafting and still fail! Trust me, I proved this myself on more than one occasion.

EverQuest II screenshot

Since experimentation is usable only on gear with stats (oh, how I wish I could experiment and make strong boxes with more slots!), it's useful only to the classes that make gear then, right? Wrong. Actually, you do not have to craft the initial piece of gear at all -- you just need to have it unattuned and in your inventory to be able to take advantage of this crafting process. I did not initially know this and was pleasantly surprised to find that all the gear I obtained for myself could be experimented on, from capes to belts to jewelry. This also allows folks who are good at experimenting to ply that trade independent of their other crafting field.

Now you can see why folks charge a good chunk for such services. It isn't like regular crafting where you get some of your items (like the rare) back when you fail. When you fail experimentation, you blow the entire item to smithereens -- it no longer exists. So for every successfully experimented-on piece out there, you know that there were others that didn't make it.

EverQuest II screnshotThe secrets of my success

Like many things in the gaming world, there are some superstitions about what will make success more likely when experimenting. Since food and drink buffs and clothing bonuses won't affect the experimentation process, some folks have sought out their own sure-fire fixes. Some folks assert that using certain counters in a specific order in-between problems will lead to a higher success rate; others swear by crafting only after 10 p.m. while humming EQII's theme music. I admit, I'd totally be up for improving my odds. I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience losing not one, not two, but three level 90+ rare pieces on the fifth experimentation attempt. Unfortunately, I have experimented (pardon the pun) with those methods and found them lacking, if not totally non-existent. Of course, I am still willing to try any, so if you have a favorite hint, be sure to share it in the comments below.

What hints I have discovered, however, I will share with you. One, do not, I repeat do not imbue an item after it has been experimented on -- doing so will nullify all experimentation. Two, you can experiment on a reforge item if you first reverse the reforging; feel free to reforge the item using the new altered stats after.

Also, and I cannot stress this one enough, make sure you wont have any distractions once you settle in to experiment. Ignore tells and let your guild know you are occupied because taking just a moment to reply to someone could mean the difference between a visionary item or no item at all. While it is possible to miss one or two in the earliest experimental stages, a single skip is certain death later on.

Another thing I found very useful is to use the number pad. Acclimate yourself to having a finger on each of the numbers one, two, and three. From this position, moving your fingers up to four, five, and six to use those arts is extremely easy. Then, as events transpire, you can quickly use the assigned finger to hit that specific countermeasure without even thinking. I also count to three after an event before using any art in-between to reduce the chance of striking an art right when a different event surfaces, thereby failing.

EverQuest II screenshot
There you have it -- the ins and outs of experimentation. If you make gear, want to buy cheaper gear to upgrade for yourself, or just want a way make some extra funds, give experimentation a try. Although the powerleveling market for experimental gear has dried up, there are still plenty of folks who want to improve their gear. Good luck in your experimental adventures! And be sure let me know how it goes.

EverQuest II is so big that it takes two authors to make sense of it all! Join Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie as they explore Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!

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