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The Tattered Notebook: Attacked by AAs in EQII

MJ Guthrie

When EverQuest II first went free-to-play in December 2011, a number of long-lost players poked their noses back into the game. But even before that, and certainly since then, veteran players have found cause to return to Norrath after a (sometimes very) prolonged absence. And why not? There are plenty of great things to lose yourself in within EQII... as well as plenty of ways to feel lost! Invariably, those who have been gone for any length of time are confronted with a doozy of a headache-inducer upon their return: alternate advancements.

Back in the dark recesses of time, The Tattered Notebook brought you a newbie guide to these AA points. But much has changed in the ensuing two years, including the AAs. So it behooves us to take another look and update our information. The following is my personal journey with that at times intimidating system, sprinkled with tips, tricks, and tales of woe I've picked up along the way.

EQII screenshot
Once upon a time...

It all began for me quite a few years ago, actually. My first break from the game was shortly after the third expansion, Echoes of Faydwer. So you'd think I was familiar with the AA system since it was introduced in the Kingdom of Sky before that, right? Well, yes and no.

You see, I rolled with the punches that system brought at its inception and bumped my Swashbuckler up to the new max level in both crafting and adventuring. By this time, however, my closest friends had wandered away from the game, so I was mainly crafting, visiting with folks, and taking care of my guild. I didn't go out and adventure much. I honestly don't even remember much about this early incarnation of AAs; I earned somewhere around 28 (maybe?) and doled them out, using the skills until my adventuring tapered off. Then I was very unhappy with the crafting revamp that came mid-2006 and let my time in-game dwindle to practically nothing as I continued my pursuits in Star Wars Galaxies and the game of real life.

Because I actually kept my Station Pass active, I could pop back into EQII whenever I had the urge. But when I logged in, I focused on crafting, gabbing, or checking out the new races like the Fae and Arasai. Oh, and shiny-collecting, of course! When I finally did decide to jump back on the adventuring horse, I found half of my Swashy's hotbars blank! Skills I was so used to using were gone, and I felt totally lost. It turns out the system had changed and my points were refunded. My attempts at adventuring without the AAs didn't turn out too well, and one look at the AA page and the huge number of points I needed to reclaim my abilities turned me off, so I dismounted and hung up my spurs again.

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Back in the saddle again

Like many Norrathians-at-heart, I found there was no leaving EverQuest II for good; returning was just a matter of time. But I knew the moment I did, those empty AA trees would still be there mocking me, making my highest-level character feel weak as a newborn calf. So I devised a strategy: Instead of that long, rough road of AA grind, I moved to my low-level alt. And I am I glad I did!

By switching to a low-level character or making a new one, returning players can keep their alternate advancement points in a more level-appropriate range. I was able to avoid the pitfall of being seriously underpowered for my level and learn what the skills were as I went. As a bonus, I fell madly in love with my Fury! Of course, I didn't want to abandon my faithful Swashy forever, so I would dust her off and take advantage of double XP weekends and such to help build her AAs up. I'd recommend this route for anyone who has a huge deficit in AAs.

One thing I must caution players to avoid is powering up to maximum level without any thought of AAs. The AA grind feels much more painful than the level grind, especially at the highest levels.

EQII screenshotBeen there, done that

So, you've got your AAs all sorted, with each point spent just so. You think you are in the clear, right? Wrong! Every time a change happens with alternate advancements -- and there have been some pretty hefty ones -- you'll find all your hard work totally undone. That's because with each major change, everyone gets a free (if unwelcome) AA respec. Most recently, when Chains of Eternity introduced the prestige crafting trees, there was plenty of weeping and wailing from folks who had to go back and face those AA trees again.

While it may not seem like a big deal to some players, for those who have either been away for an extended period of time or have a small army of characters, the exercise of redistributing points becomes a huge headache. Who's going to remember the exact configuration of every one, especially if a lot of time has passed? Sure, you can remember it fairly well if it is your current main, but what about the one you spent all your time on months ago? And what about poor Beastlords? They have to redistribute skills on every pet!

It took me forever to decide on what I wanted in all of my various AA trees to start with, so I was numbered among the really sad folks when the slate was wiped clean again. I spent so long debating different builds that I couldn't remember which I had decided on. And I was not one of the lucky ones to have my AA specs saved externally at EQ2U. That meant reconfiguring everything from scratch and hoping I had it right. Thank heavens for the AA calculator that lets you distribute your AAs before you actually spend them!

However, after this latest experience, I have ensured that I won't ever have to spend an inordinate amount of time re-selecting my AAs again. I've taken screenshots of everything! Yes folks, if you plan on taking any breaks from the game -- heck, even if you're not -- I suggest snapping a few shots of your current builds so that the next wipe will be less painful. And trust me, there will be more wipes.

EQII screenshot
Got a little change in my pocket...

Since that spell-spewing Ratonga shared the last AA guide, there have been three major additions to the AA system. Beyond the class, subclass, and shadows trees mentioned previously, there is a heroics tree and two kinds of prestige trees: adventuring and crafting. These new trees were introduced over time as the level cap increased, giving players even more options as their characters progressed.

Each of these new(er) trees has something valuable to offer to players, so instead of just glossing over them here and doing them a disservice, we'll delve into the nitty-gritty of each one next time. Until then, I hope to see you in Norrath.

EverQuest II is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all. Join her as she explores Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every other 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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