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The History of the Safehouse

There comes a time in many a Norrathian rogue's career when they desire to learn about the Elden Days of Norrath and how their forefathers lived, operated, and died in such a dark and unforgiving age. Perhaps this desire to learn of the past is borne out of simple curiousity, an interesting peek into a bygone era. Or perhaps it's borne of more nefarious motives, to glean a tidbit or two of long-forgotten secrets of the ancients....

Regardless of why, many rogues do eventually seek out an old timer and probe the far recesses of their mind for all its worth, on an adventure filled with lost knowledge and discovery. For you, it seems, that time is now...

You have no trouble finding Remmi, Grandfather of the Safehouse, Thwapper of Idjits, Legendary Scowler (and legend in his own mind!). As suspected, the ornery old dwarf is sitting at the bar, flagon of ale in one stubby-fingered hand and the other resting lightly over the infamous Idjit Thwapping Stick(tm). Staying to the shadows you watch him for a moment, trying to determine if this would be a good time to approach and inquire about the history of the place, a topic that's been nagging at you lately.

After several minutes of witnessing the old rogue scowling and bickering-with himself, you note with a chuckle-you decide now is as good a time as any as you slip away from the shadows and take a few steps towards the bar.

"Hail, grandfather," you call out before getting too close, mindful of the ancient rogue's cantankerous disposition and tendency to swing out first and ask questions later when annoyed or suprised.

Without turning around the old dwarf grumbles, "Aye, lad, what's the bother? The place burnin' down? Ale runnin' low? C'mon, lad, speak up!"

So far so good, you think--at least I got him talking. "Sorry to be bothering you, grandfather," you say, carefully creeping closer and choosing your words wisely. "I can tell you're incredibly busy at the moment but lately I've been wondering--"

"HAR!" Suddenly the old dwarf burst out with a hearty laugh, sending your heart to your throat! Spinning quickly in his stool to face you he says with a grin, "So ye wants ta learn 'bout the Safehouse, do ye?! Ahhh, me favorite subject," he pauses and scratches his chin. "Well, next to a sack full o' somebody else's gems, that is..."

"Erm...um...uh," you stammer, still trying to recover from the ancient rogue's unexpected outburst.

"Well don't ye just stand there with yer thumb in yer ear, ye idjit!" Remmi said, frowning. Then, gesturing to a nearby stool he added, "Pull up a stool an' order me some ale, youngin', an' I'll gladly tell ye the history o' the Safehouse." He scowled suddenly then and warned, "Just don't interrupt me er else I'll thwap ye so hard ye'll wish ye wish ye was a baker instead of thief!! Now sit!"

Suprised but elated at the dwarf's willingness to relate the story you quickly hop up onto the nearest stool and order two new drafts. A moment later the barkeep places the frosty mugs on the bar and with trembling hands you toss him a few silver. You reach out for one of the cold brews but realize the old dwarf has already claimed them both.

"Ain't ye gonna get one fer yerself, laddie?" Remmi said with a wide grin. "Tis a long story ye know."

"Um, I'm good, thanks," you say with a resigned sigh.

"Suit yerself!" said the dwarf wryly, and then he began his tale. "It all started back when I were just a wee lad, not much younger than yerself..."

Here's how The Safehouse came to be, presented chronologically, as stored in my memory and/or based on files on my 'puter.

A Little Lost Rogue in Freeport

Although my EQ career started in March 1999, late in the last beta phase, I rolled my first Rogue character after commercial release in April, on Cazic-Thule. He was a Half Elf (yup, I admit it okay! I was a durn elf! BAH!) by the name of Pintaldi. Pintaldi started in Freeport and since it was my first time in that city I didn't have a clue where to find the Rogue's Guild. I ended up doing some digging on my own (as is my wont) and finally discovered the general area of where it existed but yet I still couldn't find its precise whereabouts (idjit humans with their illusionary walls!).

Welp, my search went on for a while and I finally broke down and /ooc'ed for help, saying something to this effect: "Any rogues in Freeport want to tell me where the guild is please?" And I waited for a response.

And waited...and waited...and waited...

And got zero responses. Zero, zilch, nada, none. So I did a /who rogue in each of the Freeport zones and if I recall correctly there was something like six rogues total! So I /tell'ed em until someone finally answered my question. Later I asked my brethren for some Roguely advice and it was like pulling freakin' teeth! "Blech!" I thought. Only a handful of rogues and none of them very willing to help one of their own brothers. I was disturbed. I don't remember exactly but I'll wager I scowled a doozie.

So I logged out and loaded up my web browser and surfed for anything related strictly to EQ Rogues.

And surfed...and surfed...and surfed...

Nothing. Zero, zilch, nada, none.

Need Plants a Seed

And that's when I made up my mind to create a place for other Rogues, lost and confused like myself, to go and discuss and share topics of a roguely nature. An all-Rogue community. Nay, a friendly and helpful all-Rogue community. One where faithful Rogue players can feel secure and comfortable in the company of other Rogues, a place of their own, a safe haven of Rogues, a Rogue home.

What's in a Name?

And so I chose the name Safehouse. It was a natural fit. After all, a safe house is, by definition: "A house or an apartment used as a hiding place or secure refuge by the members of an organization." So we have "safe" and "house" and those two simple little words conveyed precisely the tone and atmosphere I was looking for in my new community:

- "safe" conveys comfort and security. And a place that offers such things is a "comfort zone". People naturally gravitate to their comfort zones as they are places where people feel the most relaxed, safe, and secure (and thus, comfortable! duh), most "at home". I figured that was a good thing because more than anything I wanted people to be comfortable (unlike the nasty and mean-spirited atmosphere of the public forums that the "big" fansites hosted!).

- "house" conveys comfort and safety as well but more importantly it adds solidity and structure. It gives a mental picture of a solid, physical, structure to the comfort zone. People think of walls and doors and locks and these things amplify the feeling of safety and security which leads to more relaxed comfort. And it also conveys the feeling of "ownership", as in "this is my house!" and ownership (usually) leads to pride and care. So that was good.

- and then there's the definitive interpretation of a secure and utterly secret hideaway, with hidden rooms, ill-gotten treasures, hushed tones, secret deals, dark contracts, intrigue, etc.. And these things are huge attractors to roguely types!

Pouring the Foundation

Anyhoo, so now I had a name for my Rogue community and it was good. Then I searched for a suitable host and I chose ezBoard based on my experience with the Druid's Grove (aye, I admit it, I had a Wood Elf Druid during beta! GAH!). I liked the system and so that's where I started pouring the foundation for the Safehouse.

I spent about an hour working out the forum names on paper. I thought about the specific needs and wants of Rogues and what types of subjects might be discussed and broke them down into separate forums for better organization and ease of use.

Most importantly I wanted to create the atmosphere of what a real safehouse might be like inside but I also wanted the names to be fun and stylish but easily interpreted so newcomers could make a guess as to what exactly was being discussed within.

With the final draft in hand, I logged into ezBoard's control panel and spent some time putting the place together, setting up the forums, configuring the colors and other options, etc.. Back then ezBoard was a fledgling little company and the board system was rather basic.

Status: Operational

Finally, on April 20th, 1999, The Safehouse went "operational". I posted the following announcement (exactly as you see it) on EQVault and EQStratics to let everyone know:

Calling all Rogues!

Psst! The Safehouse is now in operation. Come in and discuss everything and anything related to Norrath's most lovable scoundrels: the Rogues. Here's a look at the available forums:

Main Lounge - General "roguish" Discussion
Bulletin Board - News, events, contracts, player-run quests, etc.
Training Studio - Q&A for newbie rogues
Rant Hall - Gripes and wishes for petitioning Verant
Fence's Booth - Buy and sell stolen property
The Backroom - Quest spoilers and secrets of the trade
More forums can be added if needed.

So skulk on over to The Safehouse, fellow rogue, and put yourself at ease and speak your mind freely. For you are now among thieves--er, friends!--and quite safe from the long arm of the law (just keep a hand on your purse and your back to the wall...).

Note: The Safehouse message board allows you to set up a user profile if you wish, however, it's completely optional. If you do decide to set up a profile you will reap the following benefits:

Profile features:

* Name reservation - Nobody can ever use your name to post. Ever.
* Personal icon - Personalize yourself with a small image that appears with your posts (optional).
* Posting signature - You can have a signature automatically appended to your posts (optional).
* Reply forwarding - Replies to your messages can be forwarded to your email address (optional).
* Forum Options - Two toggles: 'View new threads only' and 'Mark everything as read'. These make
finding new messages quick and easy.

Welp, that's it for now! Hope to see you at The Safehouse soon!


If You Build It, They Will Come (in freakin' droves!)

In mere hours The Safehouse was filled with Rogues of all size, shape, and color, chatting away like best friends that hadn't seen each other in years. I was ecstatic! The forums filled up with threads faster than an ogre's plate of spaghetti at Papa Gino's on "All You Can Eat Pasta Buffet" night!

Common Bonds and Kinship Forged

Common ground was established easily and quickly and Rogues were helping other Rogues; questions were answered, tips were given, tales were told, secrets were shared. But it was much more than just Rogues helping Rogues, it was brothers and sisters sharing a new home and helping each other succeed in a world well-known to be harsh to "our kind"--very harsh, indeed. It was a family of players coming together for the common good of the Rogue class and the players that played rogue characters.

It was major league coolness and it was something no other class-specific board could touch (with the exception of the Druid's Grove!) with a hill giant's quarterstaff. Do hill giants carry staves? *shrugs*

Setting The Tone by Example

From the very start I tried to set a good example by fostering and cultivating a comfortable, friendly, and helpful tone and atmosphere and to squash immediately any threads or posts that threatened these ideals.

At first it wasn't hard because the majority of the people were absolutely great and, indeed, they wanted the same thing I wanted: peace, comfort, friendliness. If something or someone created waves, it was put down by me and/or the community before it could ever get out of hand. It was instinctive and swift. The family protected their home and they did so with vigor but also with fairness.

A Dwarf is Born (with a scowl on his face and Thwapping Stick™ in his hand!)

But even with myself (as Pintaldi, the Half Elf Rogue Admin) and the leaders of the community leading by good example, there were those that weren't so easily agreeable and they took advantage of our "nice" nature of running things. And so a peacekeeper was born--an ornery dwarven rogue by the name of Remmi.

Remmi was actually my new dwarven Rogue character on Cazic-Thule. He was a member of Clan Axepeak, an all-dwarf guild of dedicated and superb role-players hailing back to the old Neverwinter Nights game. I RP'ed Remmi as an ornery, scowling fella with a no-nonsense attitude. And I figured he'd be perfect for the job at the Safehouse.

Pintaldi suddenly and conveniently disappeared (his whereabouts are yet unknown and still under investigation) and Remmi moved in and took his place, bringing his patented scowl and Thwapping Stick with him. And from then on the ne'er-do-wells were stopped in their tracks with a scowl and a thwap and sent on their way rubbing their arse.

Laying Down the Smack in-character to Soften the Blow

The beauty of Remmi the Ornery Admin was that he could lay down the law and the smack when necessary and he was actually heeded without any of the usual and automatic "backlash" that some people feel the need to return when a virtual authority figure exerts power, even when they know it's perfectly reasonable and they deserved it.

The role-played orneryness of Remmi gave a fun and light-hearted side to the usually misunderstood job of moderating-- telling people what they can and cannot do, tactfully, is no easy task! But the in-character role-play worked like a charm. The normal "backlash" one might expect from such an encounter turned into a friendly jest match, and many times it was even role-played by the k3wlest of the d00ds.

With in-character Remmi I could belittle, insult, emote a thwap, and otherwise tell people quite bluntly to stop acting like an ass and keep their nose clean--in so many words, heh. It was, of course, all done in-character and with taste and never (not once) was it ever mistaken (nor intended) as a personal attack, although I must admit in some rare cases, with the unruliest of punks, I truly meant it, but the role-play made everything allright in their eyes. Dummies.

An example exchange in a thread-gone-bad might have gone like this:

Remmi: Gads, lad, are ye an idjit?!! Ye must be some durn fool elf got thonked on the head too many times, eh?!? Awright then I'll forgive ye this time but ye best keep it clean er else ye'll get the Stick... *Remmi scowls and points to his Thwapping Stick(tm)*

Unruly Safehouser: hehe, okay. sorry bout that you stumpy old fart.... *runs off before getting the stick*

If I had a nickel for every post where I put out the flames by calling someone an "idjit" or "durn fool" I'd be having tea right now with Bill Gates...well, maybe not Bill Gates.

This Useful Thread will Self-Destruct in 5...4...3...2...1...POOF!

In just a couple weeks the Safehouse was filled with people tossing around some incredibly useful Rogue information and back then ezBoard forums maxed out at 50 threads a piece (yes, 50!) and when that happened, the oldest thread went "bye bye" when a new one got added--and new threads were being added at an alarming pace.

In light of this I started saving the really useful posts, of which there were many, so the information within wouldn't disappear. Basically I just copied and pasted the text into Notepad and saved it to my hard drive (in fact, I still have these files and man are they nostalgic!). So I decided to create a new forum called The Library where I would compile this information periodically into special "read-only" threads and thus other Safehousers could access the archives anytime without worrying about it getting "pushed off" the forum into "ezBoard Thread Heaven".

So I made The Library and dubbed the special threads with a role-playing flavor such as "Book of Knowledge" and "Tome of Mastery". Books of Knowledge were planned to cover all sorts of generic things helpful to rogues such as Zone Guides, Combat Tactics, etc. while the Tomes were to cover very Rogue-specific items like Skills; for instance, "Tome of Mastery: Picking Pockets".

Librarian Wanted--Apply Within--Remmi is an Equal Opportunity Employer but Dwarvish blood is highly recommended (oh, and elves, gnomes, humans, and barbarians need not apply!)

And so I copied and pasted messages like a kindergartner buffed with Haste and SoW but yet I still couldn't cover enough ground. There were too many posts and I was spending a few hours a day sifting through them. So I put up a Help Wanted post on the News Bulletin and Zato, my ultimate successor, answered the call.

Zato was already a familiar and well-respected face and super contributor at The Safehouse and I gave him the job on the spot. I still have our original email correspondance dated May 03, 1999, just 2 weeks after the Safehouse opened. Here's what he wrote in reply to my plea for assistance. (Hope you don't mind, Zato! Don't worry lad, it's nothing incriminating--just a piece of history!):

"I have loads of spare time at work and would be more than happy to keep up the library.  Just let me know how I can help.

Zato the Dwarven Rogue"

So I gave Zato the scoop on the Library and he took off running like a champ. He came up with the most amazing tables of weapons, armor, and the like and I was flabbergasted. They were incredible. ezBoard tech support said they couldn't be done as can be evidenced by this note to me from Zato: "EZBoard is really funky with tables. I sent an email to the support asking for help, but they said tables werent supported" .

But the crafty little dwarf went to work and figured it out despite the ignorance on mine and ezBoard's part! HAR! Anyway, he also started compiling more Tomes of Knowledge, Books of Mastery, and other FAQ's and guides as well.

An Elf Joins the Ranks (BAH!)

Things went pretty smoothly then for a while but the Safehouse continued to grow steadily and so I expanded Zato's duties from Librarian to full Moderator but yet we still couldn't handle the load. So up went the Help Wanted sign once again and this time it was a dark elf that answered the call. He called himself Kezzek and although he was just an elf I figured I'd give him a shot-bah, I must have been going soft! *Remmi scowls*

Despite my skepticism in hirin' an elfie to do a dwarf's job, Kezzek managed to do exceptionally well. But sooner or later the truth came out and a scandal was revealed--Kezzek had dwarven blood in him! Of course, there could be no other explanation! And although he may still try to deny it to this day, I've seen proof on the Test Server! *grin*

The forging of the Ring (no, not that Ring!)

I got the idea to form an unofficial "guild" of Rogues across all servers sometime in early June '99. So I posted a message with my ideas for this "rogue network" and listed a bunch of possible names (of which the Ring was my preferred choice) and requested feedback and other possible names. After a few days of discussion and a ton of great ideas and names we finally settled on a set of rules and goals and we stuck with the Ring (a few scowls and thwaps may have influenced this decision...har!).

A few days later I wrote up the first Ring FAQ and here's how it started off:

Q: Who/what is the Ring?

A: We are an unofficial ultra-secretive inter-server rogue association.

We are NOT an official EQ guild. Our members do NOT have guild tags and we are NOT registered/sanctioned in any way by EQ GM's. We operate "under the table" so to speak and that's just the way we like it. Our membership is to remain anonymous but we will have some type of "in-game" identification so members can recognize Ring brothers and sisters if they know what to look for.

Q: What is the Ring's main goal?

A: In a nutshell, our main focus is to provide a far-reaching, self-sufficient inter-server support network for our members, by our members. IOW, our primary goal is to HELP one another have successful roguely careers!

You can read the entire original Ring FAQ, dated 6/16/1999! The original draft was actually written on 6/8/1999 but this one is the revised and formatted copy (I included paragraph indents! hehe).

Also, you can check out the very first Ring roster here, created on 6/14/1999! Average roster per server is roughly TEN members or so... And look at those levels: Remmi 13, Vaslin 16, Zato 17, Kezzek 16... What a bunch of n00bs! *grin*

"The Rogue is amazingly powerful" - Brad McQuaid

For the first couple months or so everything at the Safehouse went rather smoothly but sometime around mid-June (after the forming of the Ring) we rogues started getting increasingly restless. The Rant Hall became a hotbed of activity and filled with angry and frustrated rogues frothing at the mouth. In practically every thread you could find words describing our class like "broken" and "incomplete" and before long we had a frenzy on our hands.

It was a well-known fact that the Rogue needed some attention and we'd scour the patch messages with each new release for something related to the Rogue but it never came. What we found in those messages were usually things like "Enchanters have new spells..." and "Magicians now have better...." and "Druids get enhanced.." etc etc etc.. It literally went like this for at least two months after EQ's release--most every class was getting tweaked but not the Rogue...

The main problem was that Rogues were few and far between and we were too easily dismissed by Verant because of our low popularity among the playerbase. When we griped, we were told such things like "Rogues rock! They are balanced! They get backstab! They get an XP bonus!" ... But my favorites were "You're playing your Rogue wrong!" and "If you don't like it, play a different class!" and "The first character to 50 was a rogue, dude--they must rock!"... *sigh*

Huh? Rogues were decent in combat and that was about it. We were mini-tanks! We could dish out some decent damage but we couldn't take it very well and rogues could aggro a MOB easily with a backstab or two. But we really didn't care too much about that, it was the incomplete and/or unsupported skills that we wanted. We wanted more traps to find and disarm, more locks to pick, we wanted to be able to move while hidden, we wanted our poisons added to the game! We just wanted to be useful. We wanted to see "Dungeon party looking for Rogue specialist!" on the shout channel.

Make no mistake, the Rogue was the last class added to the game and they were quite incomplete upon release and for some time thereafter. So, we had our case, now we just needed to get Verant's attention.

A Sleeping Giant is Awakened...

In the early days of EQ Rogue players were a rare breed. The Rogue was incomplete and everyone knew it so the class was avoided by most new players whom opted instead for one of the "uber" classes like Druid and Necromancer.

However, those that did play Rogues were also rare breeds. These folks were dedicated, die-hard Rogue players that more often than not had a deep love of their "thiefly" characters for the most part stemming from prior experience with favorite characters in other games such as D&D and MUDS, etc.. On a personal level my very first D&D Basic Set character was a Thief, back in the late 70's, and my dedication to the loveable scoundrels only grew over the next 20+ years with more D&D exposure as well as thieves in literature. Anyway, I'll save my history for another article!

So we didn't play rogues for power or prestige, or to be "uber", or show off our l33t skillz and gear. No, we played rogues because we loved our characters. We loved the role-playing potential. We played rogues because that's who we were, they defined us, and thus we were not content to "go lightly into the night" as Verant would have liked.

Instead, we prepared for battle...

Preparing for War

The Safehouse was our ace in the hole, our strongest asset in the coming war. With it we could prove to Verant that we had strength, we had the numbers. It was the Safehouse that finally got Verant's attention although we tried (in vain) to spread the word in "Rogue" forums at the big fansites like Stratics, Vault, etc. to join our crusade but it proved to be an uphill battle.

The most discouraging and hurtful thing in our cause to better the class was the propoganda that was spewed from a handful of fan-boys at one particular fansite's "Rogue" forum. The Forum Admin there played a Rogue but I'll withhold his name to save him some embarrasment. He preached to his sheep that rogues rocked and that the "whiney" Safehousers didn't know how to play the class properly. He talked the talk a good bit and he did it well because he had many a Rogue player believing him and when we occasionally stopped in to that forum to discuss things or requested support in our quest for enhancements we were pretty much labeled as "whiney upstarts". Well, in the end this False Prophet couldn't walk the walk because when things really started to look grim for the Rogue, Mr. Fan-Boy #1 quit his admin position in the forum and rolled up a Necromancer. He was not worthy--good riddance!

And so we spread the word as best we could, both in-game and out, that rogues in general were unhappy with the state of the class and that we wanted some attention in the upcoming patches.

More to come...

Sheesh, this history is huge! I need a break but it's almost done. Next up:

- The Reasonable Rogue Petition (I still have the original forms and list of petitioners!)

- "We win!" Brad admits rogues are broken/incomplete! Rogues get enhanced!

- Remmi's retirement from EQ and Safehouse Admin, Zato's promotion to Admin

- Present day Safehouse and a look at the future - "This community by the way, is the largest ezboard in our network!" - Vanchau Nguyen, president/CEO of ezBoard

- Credits credits credits!!


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