| The New Shock System:|
In the current shock system, an Empath who has any shock at all is immediately shut out of all empathy related skills and abilities. An Empath who manages to max out his shock must wait over two years logged into the game before he will able to use any of their empathy related stuff again, effectively destroying that character.
Under the new model, shock will no longer be a binary system -- on or off, working or not working. It will now be a continuum, much the same way as other guilds' bonuses work.
An empath who harms a life essence will therefore no longer suffer complete loss of his abilities. His abilities will simply be adversely affected. If he continues to do things that cause him to suffer more shock, his abilities will suffer more and more, until he can no longer use any of his abilities that rely on empathy.
When an empath achieves that total loss of abilities, he will be in a state much the same as an empath who is shocked under the current model. His empathy-based abilities will not work, he won't be able to cast spells that require empathy to work, etc. Unlike the current model, though, he will never be able to regain his empathy simply through waiting. At the perma-shock level, the empath will have to go on a quest to get his empathy to start 'regenerating' again.
This reflects the empathy lore. According to the lore, all beings in Elanthia are born with empathy. This empathy is fairly scanty and is gradually crushed out of existence as the being matures, until he or she achieves the permashock state. So "empath" is the beginning state for all Elanthian beings, and permashock is the default state for almost all of them. Thus, a permashocked empath is just an empath who has violently crushed his empathy out of existence and turned himself into a normal person.
Therefore, a permashocked empath is no longer (in the updated system) subject to the detriments of empathy, so he or she can attack things or people without being stunned, falling down, etc., just as anyone else can. Empaths who are not permashocked who attack and harm something will be stunned and shocked, though the stun is very much shorter than it was in the past.
It takes a lot to permashock yourself, but if you stop short of doing that, it will also take a long time for your empathy to return to normal levels (about three weeks logged in). In this way, it's much like the Thief reputation system.
The New Shock Quest:
A permashocked empath must do something extraordinary to jumpstart his empathy again, hence the shock quest. Upon completion of this quest, the empath will still only be a shadow of what he once was, and will have to repeat the quest multiple times, or wait a long time (over two weeks in game) for his abilities to completely recover. An empath who is not permashocked can undertake the quest to speed the process along, but an empath who is permashocked MUST complete the quest if he ever wants his empathy to come back, or to use his empathy-related abilities again. If an empath who is undertaking the quest does anything shocking, he will auto-fail and have to start the quest from the beginning.
What is affected by shock?
Anything that contests the empathy skill is adversely affected. So an empath with some shock can still use his empathy-based skills and abilities, but if he only has 80% of his empathy remaining, his abilities will reflect that lack. This means that a 150th empath who is 99% shocked will heal pretty much as badly as a first/second circle empath.
Examples: Manipulate, shift, link, healing others, perceive health, Fountain of Creation, Regenerate, Gift of Life, Heart Link, Innocence, Compel and Guardian Spirit when it is completed.
Some spells, while signature spells, are only adversely affected by a lack of empathy, but will still work in a penalized state. These are the bread-and-butter healing spells, Heal Wounds, Heal Scars, Heal, Vitality Healing, Flush Poisons and Cure Disease.
The rest of the empath spellbook does not require empathy to use in any form.
Since this has yet to be released and is still needing to be tested as part of the general X3 testing stuff, most of it is still subject to adjustment so what I have outlined here may differ slightly from what gets released in the end.