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Asheron's Call is a Cult Classic fantasy MMORPG by the small but respected development house Turbine, who is also responsible for The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online.

It revolves on an island in an alternate universe called Auberean, after the world is destroyed. The titular Asheron, while researching dimensional portal magic, accidentally let loose the Olthoi, a race of insect monsters that very, very quickly took over his world. The entire game of Asheron's Call takes place on a small island called by the original people, Ireth Lassel, and is the site where Asheron's research took place. Before the start of the game, the portal experiment, which had ran wild after opening the portal to the Olthoi homeworld, opened random portals to a world with 3 (later 4) human races, Ispar. The Isparians come through and are quickly enslaved or killed by the Olthoi, but a later rebellion allows them to overthrow the Olthoi and, in killing the Olthoi Hive Queen, free the land, which they rename Dereth, for colonization.

A noteworthy feature of Asheron's Call is its relative lack of Expansion Packs -- in over a decade, only 2 have been released. Instead, as part of the standard monthly fee, Turbine adds Monthly content patches to the game -- over 100 to date. In addition to adding new dungeons, quests, enemies, and so forth, each patch also advances the game's ongoing storyline, which plays out in a series of year-long Story Arcs (barring some occasional Schedule Slip). Recent years have seen major overhauls of the game mechanics, including new races, new methods of character advancement, and most recently (2012) a complete revamp of the combat system.

The player, when created, is considered to be a new arrival to Dereth from one of the random portals to Ispar. Character customization does not use the typical class system that most MMORPGs use, instead allowing a character to pick a number of skills using a points based system, and allows the player to buy more skills as he or she levels up. Experience does double duty: XP levels up characters, earning points to buy new skills, but is also is put into a pool where it is spent to improve stats and skills directly. Character builds, called Templates, are often discussed in and named by the community, for example, a "3 school melee" (a melee character with 3 magic skills), a "Og Mage" (named after a particularly successful PVPer), or a "Pure Archer" (Bow or Crossbow, Melee Defense, and no magic).

It spawned the first MMORPG sequel in history, Asheron's Call 2, which after years of mis-management by Microsoft, was also one of the first major name MMORPGs to end.

The original game is sometimes considered a Franchise Zombie -- while monthly content updates continue, the active Asheron's Call player base has been shrinking for years. Many theories abound to why this is -- most people agree that at least one of the 100+ monthly updates fall under They Changed It, Now It Sucks -- but the answer may be more marketing than anything else. Whereas EverQuest released its expansion packs as new titles (thus keeping it eternally inside game stores) Asheron's Call instead chose to release its expansion packs as free downloads. As such, the game propagates mainly by word-of-mouth, and not much by that since a lot of things are showing their age nowadays.

Regardless, Asheron's Call remains one of the most unique MMORPG experiences in the genre. There are rumors that they are planning on porting the game to consoles and/or launching "AC 1.5", a re-envisioned version of the original game with updated graphics in the upcoming year(s).

Tropes used in Asheron's Call include:
  • Absurdly High Level Cap: The original MMORPG example -- experience capped out at 4 billion, or around level 126, with requirements going up logarithmically. Players could continue to gain experience to max out every skill, with a similar cap of 4 billion, without actually increasing in level. A later update changed this, creating 275 levels in the game. Add in alternate forms of advancement such as Augmentations and Luminance, and it quickly moves Beyond the Impossible.
  • Acronym Confusion: In this game, UST is a punny acronym for Universal Salvaging Tool, and also means "That which reduces" in Empyrean. It was introduced in-game like this:

Town Crier tells you: Do you have an UST already?

  • After the End: Kind of. The game takes place after the entire planet of Auberean was ravaged by a horde of giant sentient bugs, but also after the bugs had been killed off and civilization had been re-established.
  • Alternate Calendar: The exiled Isparians abandoned their calendars and adopted P.Y. (Portal Year) as their new calendar. 0 P.Y. marks the death of the Olthoi Queen.
  • An Adventurer Is You: The peculiar mechanics of fighting means that the roles are limited mostly to nuker, healer, debuffer and D.P.S.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Filinuvekta (Winds From Darkness), an undead aristocracy that ruled their empire through pawns.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: Every big crisis is followed by yet another big crisis.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: A long quest line rewards you with a... simple fedora that does nothing special. Also, the traditional Halloween mask festival.
  • Another Dimension: There are at least five major worlds in the cosmology (Ispar, Bur, Tuu, Ezheret-Hazahtu, and the unnamed Olthoi home), besides the elemental planes and several eldritch places. All except Bur, the Burun (frogmen) homeworld, are inaccesible from Auberean.
  • Anti-Magic: Chorizite is a metal that ignores magical energies. It was first introduced as the Kryptonite Factor of magic users in PVP.
  • Arrows on Fire: And frozen, and electrifying...
  • Ascended Fanboy: Magaritte de Jacquette and Ned The Clever are N.P.Cs stand-ins for notable players Maggie The Jackcat and Ned Cleversun. Maggie The Jackcat ran for many years a famous reference site for the game. Ned Cleversun was her vassal (an Asheron Call unique game mechanic, basically a guild member who generates experience points for another guild member), and he passed away in late 2008. (Maggie retired from the game after Ned's passing.)
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: TREMENDOUS monougas.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Elysa Strathelair won her crown by slaying the Olthoi queen. Also, pretty much every ruler of every faction.
  • A Wizard Did It: Basic mechanics like lifestones, the PK switch, and even the burst of light that accompanies a level up are explained as being "Asheron's Magic"
  • Bad Future: Asheron's Call 2
  • Badass Bookworm: Elysa Strathelair, future queen of Dereth, was a scribe's daughter. She managed to translate Empyrean, eventually leading to finding Asheron's retreat. She later dealt the killing blow to the Derethian Olthoi Queen.
  • Big Fancy Castle: In-game player housing includes these. Usually it takes a guild to pay the rent, though.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Olthoi, and later Grievvers.
  • Blob Monster: Knathteads.
  • Blood Magic: Falatacot magic relied mostly in human sacrifice.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Virindi find disorder unwholesome and individuality is a sin for them.
  • Bug War: The ongoing, never-ending war against the Olthoi.
  • The Caligula: One of the later villains turns out to be the rich son of the former king, who intentionally screwed up Asheron's portal experiments in an attempt to get him killed. This resulted in the deaths of 95% of the population, the only ones surviving being the ones Asheron managed to trap in stasis between dimensions. He's not amused that Asheron managed to survive and that the majority of "his" subjects are trapped in stasis.
  • Canon Discontinuity: By Word of God, some or all of lore and future history told in Asheron's Call 2 might not be canon anymore.
  • Cast from Hit Points: A Life Magic spell lets you turn your hit points into mana. The other routes are also available -- Mana to Health, Stamina to Health, et cetera. This is a primary reason for taking Life Magic, as it allows a mage to cast magic effectively nonstop.
  • Character Level: Interestingly, it's almost entirely cosmetic, due to the Point Buy System. Level only affects the ability to enter certain areas, use certain items, and turn in certain quests.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ulgrim the Unpleasant. Notorious drunken sage, self-proclaimed best mage of Dereth and maybe every bit as good as he says. At one time he managed to split himself into ten different selves by miscasting with an splintered wand.
    • Virindi are so removed from reality that they think their chosen material form of a floating cloak with a harlequin mask and scythe-like hands actually fool humans into believing they are humans, too. And for some reason, they like using French names: Claude, Jean, Luc...
  • Combat Tentacles: Slithis are the main offender/s, but not the only ones.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: After being defeated, Gaerlan was trapped in a phylactery within his fortress, doomed to be repeatedly killed by adventurers for his crimes.
  • Cosmetic Award: Titles, plushies and house furniture.
  • Creepy Child: Shadow Children.
  • Crystal Prison: The one that held Bael'Zharon, for starters.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A strong will can bend it to any use. Falter, and it will bend you instead.
  • Deal with the Devil: Bael'Zharon is a product of one of these. Virindi are a major source of these, too.
  • Death Course: Gaerlan's Fortress. It includes a Corridor Cubbyhole Run and a Solve the Soup Cans room.
  • Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: At the time it had one of the kindest death penalties in MMORPGs: a penalty to skills and attributes ("vitae") that went away by gaining experience, and leaving on your corpse a number of the player's most valuable items (defined by their vendor value). This lead to the unusual practice of D.I.s (Death Items), expensive but useless equipment carried around solely for the purpose of dropping it on death instead of the day-to-day working tools.
  • Designated Victim: Until 2002 (when it was finally found and fixed), players with the dreaded "Wi Flag" gained aggro instantly. The game used an ID number randomly assigned at players during creation to select aggro when no other considerations were in effect, meaning that monsters drew a bee line towards Wi-flagged (an unusually low ID) players as soon as they entered a new room or there was a respawn.
  • The Dragon: Isin Dule to Bael'Zharon, at first. Despite their Villainous Friendship, he eventually became a Dragon Their Feet when he realized Bael'Zharon was Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Drunken Master: Memetic Badass Ulgrim.
    • Eventually, players gained the ability to brew beers. These beers are capable of buffing stats to levels higher than those attainable by magic, leading to a playstyle known as "chugging".
  • Dungeon Bypass: Every door that can be unlocked (including ones that require a unique key) can be unlocked from one side by simply using it. Due to the way physics works in game it's possible for two players to work together to glitch through a door. Also, the Jump skill can sometimes help jump over walls in outdoor structures you are supposed to require a key to get in.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Several. The Kemeroi; the Virindi Singularity; although the singular Bael'Zharon, the Hopeslayer was possibly the closest to the trope.
    • The Falatacot worshipped some really disturbing...things. Things like the Great One T'Thuun, the Blighted Dreamer.
  • Elemental Powers: Elemental powers and abilities play heavily in the game's engine. Weapons, for example, can be Slashing, Piercing or Bludgeoning damage... but also Fire, Ice, Thunder, or Acid charged. Golems and Elementals can be any element, with particularly powerful ones being dual elemental.
  • Emote Command: "@atoyot" and Asheron's Call 2 "@gokart" being the most unusual.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Virindi, of all people, had one.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Tuskers. Big, stupid... save for Oolutanga.
  • Everything Is Better With Penguins: Just penguins.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Levitating, spell-casting Nautiloids, to be precise. They're called Nifflis.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Undeads love cold. It is good for their rotting bodies.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Bad guys have conflicting interests. Some want to destroy everything, some to lord over it.
  • Expansion Pack: Over 100. Or 2, depending on if you require the expansion be in a box instead of a download.
  • Exposition Fairy: Town criers.
  • Expy: Virindi are pretty much Vorlons. And of course, there are Shadows, too.
  • The Fair Folk: Zephyr. Nasty pests.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Aluvian are late Middle Ages European of Saxon/Germanic flavour, Gharundim are Arabian and Sho Japanese/Chinese. Viamontese are imperialistic Norman/Spaniard/Italians.
  • Fetch Quest: And even with portals, the place is huge. Good thing there is a Run skill.
  • Fighting a Shadow: Literally. Virindi also cheat. And Slithis only show their tentacles.
  • Fish People: Moarsmen.
  • "Friend or Idol?" Decision: Gaerlan tried to shake off Martine by offering him a way to return to Ispar and his family. Martine didn't take the bait.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: To an almost absurd degree. Seemingly every change the developers make acquires a justification in the lore. Sometimes things are handwaved by Asheron messing around, but other times they get creative:
    • When Gertarh's Dagger had to be retired from the game, someone paid an assassin to "retire" Gertarh.
    • The nerfing of Shadowhunter Armor was explained by an assassin killing the armorsmiths. In this case, lifestones saved them, but the death penalty meant the quality of their work went down.
    • Arwic's dramatic destruction (blown sky high by a Big Bad with a magical WMD), was the result of players complaining about how crowded it was. The rebuilt town was spread around the rim of the resulting crater, alleviating the problem greatly.
    • The most hilarious is probably the explanation for the entrance to the underground town of Xarabyden changing from a level-restricted portal to a long tunnel: Ulgrim the Unpleasant, too high-level to take the portal, had dug through fifty feet of solid rock to procure a sample of the barkeep's famous brew.
  • Gargle Blaster: Tusker Pus. It will hit you so hard the lifestone will flinch.
  • General Ripper: Nuhmudira, one of the foremost human mages and counselor of the Queen, got obssessed with the potential danger Empyreans might present and eventually defected, now siding with anyone who wants Empyreans dead.
  • Golem: Empyreans used them for pretty much everything, and built them of pretty much any material. While many are fairly smart, to this date only one is truly sentient.
  • Heel Face Turn: Many major antagonist factions have eventually aligned with the Isparian kingdom wholly or in part. Turns of note included Martine's, which allowed the defeat of the megalomaniac Empyrean mage Gaerlan, and Isin Dule's, which prevented Bael'Zharon's victory during the Fourth Sending of Darkness.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Empyrean Mage Council that defeated the Third Sending of Darkness.
    • Also Camdeth Martine.
  • Hit Points
  • Hive Mind: Olthoi are ant-like, and Virindi are manifestations of a single, extradimensional mind. Shadows risk losing themselves to the hateful sentient energy that powers them.
  • Hub Level: The Abandoned Mine, a dungeon near Arwic, became known as "the Subway" ("the Hub" in some servers) for its huge room with portals to many other towns. Later, there were other additions, like the "Super Subway", which has portals nearly everywhere. Nowadays, new players are sent into one as a part of the tutorial.
  • Hugh Mann: Simulacra look like humans, but they surely don't act or talk like one.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Why are so many funky shaped chests lying around in the wilds?
  • Kill It with Fire: Or Kill It with Ice, or with whatever element it is vulnerable to.
  • Killer Rabbit: The "White Rabbit" monster which is level 666, has the most powerful piercing damage attack in the game, has one of the more powerful electrical attacks in the game and can cast the "Bunny Smite" spell which kills the target instantly no matter where the target is. To top it all off she'll attack you if you even look at her funny. (More specifically, you can identify creatures to see their stats without them noticing you. However, identifying the white rabbit will cause it to murder you; This is unique to the white rabbit.)
  • Large Ham: Gaerlan and pretty much every Empyrean. And ursuins (an strange bear-like huge bunny/cat) are apparently aiming for an Oscar in their death animation...

Asheron: Stand back, citizens!

  • Ley Line: The Olthoi have an intuitive understanding of mana flows and dam them to prevent the use of magic. Also, leylines have been shaped on a planetary scale to ward off... something.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: At low levels, mages are a boring, tedious, pain-in-the-ass to play whereas warriors are (at least in comparison) a breeze. But once the mages reach high levels...
  • Living Shadow: One of the main bad guy factions is mainly armies of these, but they're not necessarily evil, as Isin Dule followers proved when they joined the Isparian kingdom.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: The game started with only humans available as player characters. Asheron's Call 2 then added the Tumerok beast men, giants of dwarven disposition called Lugians and the goblin-like Drudges. After a decade of expansion, Asheron's Call lets you play humans, blue-skinned humans, Tumeroks, Lugians, Empyreans, former enemies Shadows and Undead, and sentient, mechanical armor suits called Gear Knights.
  • Mad Scientist: Aerbax.
  • Magic Knight: The Point Buy System supports it. In fact, buffing is such a critical part of AC that any melee character is using buffs. This game does not support a Badass Normal.
  • Magic Missile: Being Painfully Slow Projectiles, they can be dodged by simply moving aside. Fortunately, the AI isn't that smart.
  • Mass Monster Slaughter Sidequest: A major component of the higher level gameplay.
  • Minmaxer's Delight: Item Magic school. Don't leave home without it.
  • Money Spider
  • Muggles Do It Better: Somehow a bunch of enslaved humans managed to overthrow and kill an Olthoi Queen, something an entire species of powerful mages was incapable of. Lots of story background was added as Authors Saving Throws to justify this.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Martial Arts. You can use them empty-handed, but it isn't a very good idea.
  • Number of the Beast: Bael'Zharon is level 666, as the Killer Rabbit. Ulgrim the Unpleasant's lucky number, too.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: Shadow Spires, Gaerlan's Fortress. All were shot down.
  • One Man Party: Magic-using melee fighters, for a long time.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Virindi and Shadows.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They were called Gromnatrosses. It is implied that they left Auberean for parts unknown because of a curse that made their offspring dumb animals (what players know as gromnies).
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Lugians fit the traditional dwarf niche... but they are 9-feet tall hairless marsupials (although the marsupial part might be Canon Discontinuity now).
  • Our Monsters Are Different: And how! There are no typical monsters in Dereth. 3 eyed ogres, giant cat... bunny... things... hordes of rabid guinea pigs... Giant monkeys with 1' long feet and 12' long arms... 2' tall flightless dragons... three-legged land sharks... The only thing that is remotely normal is the Undead.
    • Averted with a very small number of individual monsters. The elementals are fantasy stock (except the ones that mix 2 elements together). Most of the mice, chickens, cows and rabbits could pass for normal in real life.
  • Perpetually Static: While the developers often come with plausible explanations for this, N.P.C.s have moved, died and even whole cities have dissappeared. Then there was the incident during the first year's arc (the Fourth Sending of Darkness) where the players were charged with defending the last Crystal Prison keeping the Big Bad in check. On the other hand, great rewards were offered to those who destroyed the crystal and set him free (players were required to go PVP to participate). In most servers a half-hearted defense was mounted and the crystal was quickly destroyed, but in one, Thistledown, they were able to mount a round-the-clock vigilant defense. Unfortunately the developers had expected the crystal to be destroyed for plot purposes, and thus were forced to intervene (in game, with overpowered GMPC characters) to keep all of the servers on the same page. Read the whole story here and here.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: Candeth Martine was altered by the Virindi. They regretted it.
  • Point Buy System: The first major MMORPG to use this style of system. There are no classes, merely you are given a set number of skill points to take your skills from untrained to trained to specialized, and then must allocate experience points directly to them.
  • Portal Network: The main mode of transportation.
  • The Power of the Void: The Shadows' power source.
  • Randomly Drops: Some enemies are known for specific drops, however -- Golems, for example, randomly drop specific types of spell components, the 2 foot tall dragons drop caster items, undead typically drop jewelry, etc etc.
  • Rat Stomp: The rats have a breath weapon, just for variety.
  • La Résistance: Thorsten Cragstone's original band of escaped slaves that managed to kill the Derethian Olthoi queen.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning
  • Respawn Point: Lifestones. This is actually Lampshaded, as one of the things that causes the Shadow's Heel Face Turn is discovering how to use them.
  • Respawning Enemies: Areas have "encounter points" which will spawn a suitably large number of a monster that is appropriate to that area, on that spot. These typically turn active as you walk towards them.
  • Scary Scarecrows: Hollow Minions, Virindi watchdogs and bodyguards.
  • Screwed by the Network: Multiple times. Initially, they couldn't find a publisher as Sony was pulling in favors to ensure that their MMORPG wouldn't have competition. Microsoft stepped in to publish it in exchange for effectively owning the rights to everything involved... and then proceeded to run the game into the ground over several years.
    • Asheron's Call had a (not undeserved) reputation for being full of botters, people using 3rd party programs to play the game. When asked why, it turned out that Turbine had wanted to ban botting for years and had fixes ready to go, but Microsoft vetoed them every single time, due to some of the botters running 10-15 accounts at the same time.
    • Asheron's Call 2 had the in game discussion system break down. Turbine had a fix within hours... but Microsoft refused to allow them to push it for months. The fact that Microsoft was starting to push Mythica, what amounted to Asheron's Call 2's replacement, at the same time, did not go unnoticed by anyone. Turbine was eventually allowed to fix the chat system, almost a full year later, but the damage was done and AC2 closed shortly afterwards.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Someone in Turbine really likes this trope. See the Shout-Out entry.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Bael'Zharon, for a long time.
  • Sentient Phlebotinum: The Shadows are powered by this. And it hates everything.
  • Shonen Upgrade: Augmentation gems and Luminance.
  • Shout-Out: The Killer Bunny.
  • The Singularity: The Virindi reached one, long ago, and then stayed there.
  • Shmuck Bait: Portals. You're in your homeworld, doing your business, and then a glowing, swirling hole in reality opens. Would it hurt to peek into it a little? The answer is: no, as long as you don't want to go home ever again.
  • Snake People: Sclavus.
  • So Last Season: Many, many, examples, due to bigger and badder monsters requiring bigger and badder firepower. For example: the Silfi Of Crimson Stars was originally an endgame weapon for Axe-wielders. Today, it's just a step above a newbie weapon.
    • Its big brother, the Sword of Lost Light, has been upgraded at least four times and is still an Infinity-1 Sword.
    • Explorer gear, a low-level set of weapons and armor that requires a rather convoluted quest, isn't worth the trouble now that everyone gets Pathwarden Armor right at the start.
  • Splat: Being a class-less system, group role is defined by whatever specialized skills the character has picked up.
  • Starfish Aliens: Virindi have a hard time understanding material entities.
  • Super Soldier: Viamontese Knights.
  • Take That: The players' habit of obtaining spoilers by looking directly into patch data and continuous demands for mounts and capes lead to an infamous case where a certain patch included icons for items like winged horses, capes, bikinis and rayguns.
    • Cloaks, by the way, were finally added... ten years later.
  • Temple of Doom: Plenty of those around, but the Falatacot ones are the oldest.
  • They Look Like Us Now: Simulacra, a Virindi attempt to make better human infiltrators. They talk funny.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Alchemical grenades, used for debuffing monsters. Expensive but reliable.
  • Time Abyss: The average Empyrean lives up to 1000 years. Asheron is far older. And some Undead and Shadows are even older. And let's not speak about Great Ones and the Virindi Singularity.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Book of Eibhil.
  • Touched By A Virindi: The Virindi just love to tinker with other species. Their biggest success and terrible mistake? An Isparian called Camdeth Martine.
  • Trapped in Another World: Only the Empyreans, Undead and older Shadows are native to Auberean. Every other species and most monsters simply stumbled upon a portal and ended stuck there.
  • Twenty Bear Asses
  • The Undead: Sentient undeads are the norm in Auberean, not the exception. Skeletons, mummies, and your regular walking corpse are typical examples; you can come across typical ghosts, too.
  • Underground Monkeys: In the literal sense, and the trope sense too. (Tusker Island is filled to the brim with monkeys in caves; most monsters are part of monster "families" that consist of pallet swaps, size changes, and slight cosmetic modifications.)
  • Video Game Tutorial: Optional. Not recommended to skip.
  • Volcano Lair: Aerlinthe Island.

On far Aerlinthe Island, an intrepid band has found the lair of the Dark Lady Aerfalle, at whose whim the earth itself does shake. But the bold An Adventurer Is You has driven her back into her hidden crypts, and the ground stills... until she next awakens.