chanceIntroducing Meranthe
We're at the point where I feel comfortable enough to make this public, so I'd like to introduce you all to the setting where the update will take place: Meranthe. You can read a rough draft on the wiki! 

If you're wondering when this will all be ready and a release date will be announced, well, I'm not too sure yet, but I wanted to at least make it official and public so that players aren't suddenly blindsided and have several months to make the most of their stay on Esshar in the meantime. This is something we've been working on for over a half a year now and I'm very proud of what it accomplishes, as almost every aspect of the game will be improved in some way. There's a lot to unpack and much detail left out that will be discovered in-game at the appointed time, but enjoy a small teaser of what's to come. 

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Some highlights of the setting include (detailed further on the wiki page):
➤ A pantheon of the oldest gods and their descendants, including the founders of the spirit world. Ideologies will likely clash as the Faith class is not restricted to a lone belief system, and we'll be working with players to design their own.

➤ Aether Magic, that comes natural to the demigods, the Nephilem. To gain the affinity, a person can become a Nephilem's Champion or take their Aspect forcibly by killing them in battle.

➤ The Tower of Aetius, built upon the ruins of Mount Pavonis, its seemingly endless floors host otherworldly realms and landscapes. The first few floors will be accessible in-game.

Some highlights of the new features and content include (also touched on in the roadmap): 

Characters can progress through the Faith, Necromancy, or Black Magic. Each has a unique means of progression and various abilities and perks to unlock. These are performed entirely in-game.

FAITH: Choose from a number of religions (or design your own) that's made sacred by an unbreakable vow. Accrue faith by praying, blessing, healing, and hosting weddings. 
: Harvest the mana rich corpses of magi to accrue Necromantic Mana. Summon undead to do your bidding and enhance them. 
: Sign away your soul in a special Book of Shadows item to form a Helbound contract. Amass essence with your coven to master the forbidden arts as a witch or warlock.

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Players can build and decorate their own settlements in-game for a high coin investment. Be wary of doing so without the protection of one of the world powers as what's built can just as easily be razed.
SETTLEMENTS: An established region that the linked guild can build within. Size varies depending on coin investment, may be limited depending on availability / number of settlements at the time. Mappers / staff have quality control permissions. Outside of settlements it's possible to build things like cottages and treehouses, as well as watchtowers for outposts.
CUSTOM PROPS: You no longer need to ticket for props while decorating your home or settlement, and can use the very robust prop database. You can even mark your prop as public for other players to use and categorize it (though staff, once again, have quality control permissions)

With twenty four new resources added to the game (not including food ingredients) there's also a dungeon system. You can access a dungeon entrance in a party of 3 or higher, and you need a specific key item to do so that's consumed on entry. You'll find the rarest resources within dungeon maps and may vacate the area either by being defeated or taking out the boss. Explore the Tower of Aetius's first floors or build a boat with your group to explore the outer isles for treasure.
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Meranthe introduces a number of ways to progress in-game through meaningful interaction. You don't have to use the forum to write a journal or item application. At most, you'll fill out a form if you have a unique request (which will take 5-10 minutes), so you can focus your time on playing the game. 
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ADDITIONAL MASTERY POINT: At level 210 & having engaged in ten or more dangerous battles, players unlock a secondary mastery point. Most 'hidden' magic (now 'mastery magic') will be added to the magic trees, meaning a player could unlock Arc of Devastation and Storm Aura through natural progression if they're invested in the Lightning Tree, for example.
MENTORING: Characters with the mentor ability can teach Holy, Occult, and Medic, if they have it and the target meets the requirements, as well as any signature mentorable techniques.
SPECIAL RESOURCES: Dungeon masters can reward special resources that allows an artificer to craft and turn the resulting item into a unique. This lets players craft unique in-game (although you can make an item app if you have specific requests)

On top of things like a potion that grants a full respec (if you're level 200 or under), the class system, certain supporting racials and mechanics, and Aether Magic, this will mean a lot more player agency, less stress, and better plot development. With enhancements to the life skills, such as far more content, more desirability and specialization, non-combat influence will also be at a historic peak. 

All in all, I'm very excited about this and hope you are too. There will be a full patch notes released when we have a date in mind. If you want to assist in any way, do get in touch!
Just for added clarification, there's no set or expected date right now. It definitely isn't this or next month. Once I can confidently put a date on it I will do so!
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