"Ouch! Damn! Sorry, I was joking!"
I cradle my bitten hand as I scowl at the ferret.
"Rip, okay? Your name is Rip."
It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a ferret grin.
"Let's move on. I need to find some supplies before I starve to death. Do you know where to find drinkable water?"
He nods sharply, and runs out of the tomb.
"Djeez, what have I gotten myself into this time..."
I follow him out into daylight. The plains are actually quite nice when I'm not running at breakneck speed through them. Rip runs around me a few times, then shoots towards some trees on the other side of the clearing, away from the Atrani. I make a quiet vow to the universe
"If I ever come back here, it'll be with a sack and fire. I'll teach you to torment new players."
I run after Rip.
Right outside the clearing is a copse of trees. They seem to grow alongside a briskly flowing rivulet. Small enough that I could easily cross it. Rip runs to the waterside and starts drinking, using his front paws. The water looks clear and inviting.
"So the water is okay for you? I guess it's okay for me too then."
Rip turns towards me and nods, and I follow his example, drinking the water and washing my face in it. The sensation is amazing. I've never been one for cold showers. Warm, indulgent showers are more my thing. But after the frantic run and the crawl under the boulder, the icy water hitting my face was one of the most amazing things I've ever felt.
Exhaustion status cleared
"Huh... Seems this counts as a nice rest. Thanks Rip"
The ferret spins around in place a few times, then heads off along the river.
"I guess we're going that way then..."
You have been logged in for 2 real world hours. At this level of synchronization, you are required to log out and rest for 24 hours. As your synchronisation reaches 100%, you will be able to take full advantage of the game at your own agency. For this occurrence, your avatar will be placed in a temporary sanctuary until you return.
"Hey Rip, I need to log out for a while now. Will you be okay here?"
Rip looks at me funnily, nodding slowly slowly. I imagine his little ferret voice going
"I don't know what logging out means, but I'm sure I'll be more okay than you'd ever be here without me."
"Fair enough. See you soon!"
And with that, I log out properly, if involuntarily, for the first time. There was a fade to green and blue as the colours around me all blended together, and then to black, with a sensation of floating upwards. I then came to myself in my bed. A long five minutes pass as I readjust to the world above.
"I guess I'll do some chores..."
After a good meal and a nap, I felt reinvigorated. Coming back to my real body made me realise how unusual it was to play a dead creature. The lack of heartbeat was one thing, but not breathing, not perspiring, not even saliva. Why did I need water then? Why could I imbibe it? Did I need food? Warmth? I had a comfort score. Hm. I log onto the website with the headgear, and go to the wiki section. It was well maintained, with AI crawlers to keep the layout correct, and apparently thousands of active editors adding information. I can only imagine the edit wars taking place over something as contentious as an alternate life game. Not to mention the bans for people revealing the wrong kind of information. I look up racial descriptors and find the Undead.
The undead race is a race of Aberrance, Darkness and Fantasy.
Undead are brought into this world as a result of Aberrant effects, with or without intent, on the dead remains of a sentient race. Thus an Undead can be templated from many races. Most Undead are created by accidental accumulation of the necessary effects, and the resulting creature may not be aware of who they were.
The Undead race should not be confused with the more common types of undead creatures (see Zombies, Skeletons, Necromantic pets), or the more uncommon types (see Vampires, Liches, Necromantivores)
Fair enough, that clears it up a little bit... But what does it mean it's a race of ... aberrants?
Affinities of the Elements.
Each Element has 4 Affinities (not to be confused with elements and affinities, note case).
The Element of Physical has the following Affinities:
- Dark, Darkness
The Element of Magical has the following Affinities:
- Aberrant, Aberrance
The Element of Essential has the following Affinities:
- Fantastic, Fantasy
Each Affinity is further categorized in Esoteric or Familiar. These indicate how an affinity can interact with the Prime plane.
That did not help as much as I'd hoped. Let's try again...
Any entity in the world Below is composed of a certain set of Affinities. The current reigning Element is Physical, so all creatures on the Prime plane are of the Physical Element. A normal Human is an entity between Law and Chaos, between Good and Evil, Of Light, Natural and Mundane. A common Orc is an entity of Chaos, Evil, Darkness and Mundane.
Note that these traits apply to the race in general. Individuals of any race may lean towards other affinities. Sentient creatures can apply themselves towards changing their Affinities with great difficulties. To change one's Element takes actions of fanatical dedication and self sacrifice, and is very rarely undertaken.
Awesome. All noise and no substance. Ah well, I'm sure I'll understand it better with some hands on experience. I pass the remaining time until my next login by having a nap.
Coming back to the world below was the same discombobulating experience it always is. As I open my eyes into the new world, the first thing I notice is the rain. Just a light drizzle, but the sensations are amazing against my skin! There hasn't been unplanned rain for 10 years in the world above, and every time I've been asleep or in school. The experience was breathtaking. I look around for my little companion, but he's nowhere to be seen.
My shouts are met with no response.
Before I'm even finished with the call, there’s the sound of branches breaking to my right as a small tree falls over. A huge beast is lumbering out of the brushwood, a terror of broken fur and mangled teeth, with a single shining gem in the middle of it's forehead. I promptly fall on my ass as it lunges towards me. As it passes through me I feel a lump landing on my chest, scrabbling to get purchase on my clothes. I frantically try to brush it away, and get a bite for my efforts
You have lost 1% health 20 seconds after logging in. Well done.
"Rip, what the hell!"
I sit up and hold him in my outstretched hands. He hangs there like a long, skinny cat, scowling at me with open malice.
"Fine, I'm sorry I called you..."
He snarls pointedly.
"... That name..."
I put him down carefully.
"You could have responded, I called you twice..."
He looks indignant, then climbs onto me, hiding under the hood, around my neck. He pulls my hair, one lock in each hand, and kicks my neck.
"Are you serious?"
I get a nibble on my neck, and start walking.
"I did not sign up to be a pony for an uppity weasel..."
Another bite. I begrudgingly pick up the pace. As I run, I receive examples of the humour the developers put in while creating this game. System messages pop up, one after the other, informing me of stat and skill enhancements.
Skill increased: Endurance
Skill increased: Running
Skill increased: xxx
Skill Discovered: Galloping
Hunger for sugar cubes increased
Achievement unlocked: Ferret Mount
I roll my eyes and keep going. We have to take periodic breaks, but my stamina has increased a lot in just the last day. I'm sure I'll plateau soon, but it's nice to have such rapid progression. When my exhaustion meter begins to blink, I insist we take a break, and I use the opportunity to have a quick look at my character sheet. Opening in a separate window, I see a 3d representation of my character. You'd never think she was as tired as I feel. She's dressed in the same hood as before, with the club at her side. My stats page is a sad state, with very few primary stats displayed, and very little in the way of skills
Data Name Shae Path Jack of all trades Title Doom-Flinger Race Undead(Pristine) Attributes Agility 1 Curiosity 1 Endurance 3 Focus 1 Luck 1 Strength 1 Acrobatics 0 Aim 1 Athletics 0 Body Control 2 Climbing 1 Galloping 1 Improvised throwing weapons 1 Perception 1 Forest 1 Running 2 Sneak attack 1
Hm. Maybe I should try to focus on increasing some of these skills a bit. I mean, six stats at minimal level aren’t going to get me to.. Wherever I’m going. As I contemplate this, thinking of logging out and checking the wiki for some more answers, I'm startled by the sound of someone crashing through the nearby brush. I grab my club and ready myself for combat, feeling the adrenaline working its way into my system.
"Agh! Damn branches everywhere!"
A surprisingly high pitched voice emanates from the thicket, followed soon after by a tall man in a dress. The stranger keeps swearing for a few seconds until Rip hisses at him.
I decide to do the classy thing and ignore the faux pas, avoiding the wrath of Rip. Actually, my response is more like a loud guffaw.
Followed by laughter. Rip turns around and looks at me with the promise a future filled with bites and scratches. As the man notices me, he waves his hand in a 'Come over here' manner
"Hey you, come over here, quick, maybe we can scare it off together."
The guy actually looks scared. Which is fair, after calling Rip a gerbil.
"The thing, the creature. It doesn't seem to have noticed you yet. Maybe you can kick it and we can run away from it."
Wow... My first meeting with another player, and he's the hero reborn. Wait... How do I know it's a player? I decide this pantomime has gone on long enough.
"Just turn around and move on, I'm not interested in joining you, and I'm not interested in killing my friend here. Just leave us alone. Now"
My little speech seems to pull him out of panic mode and into a more general confusion thing.
"What... Are you a ranger? A beast tamer? I'm sorry, I've just never seen something like it before. What is it?"
He carefully moves closer to Rip, who is still snarling a little bit, but who also seems to have a new plan.
"It's like a weasel maybe? Or a mole? But eight legs... Eight is a sacred number you know, the number of paths between any two elements. And"
At this point, he's close enough for Rip to jump him.
It takes five minutes of coaxing, grappling, shouting and pleading to get Rip out of the guys robes. I don't think there was any damage done, at least nothing visible. The guys dignity was severely bruised though.
"Now just sit there, and don't speak to him. His name is Rip and he's an OctoFerret"
I place Rip down as I speak.
"I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to offend, I get a little bit ahead of myself when I discover something new and"
I hold my hand up to interrupt.
"I understand, and no offence taken, but we really do have to get on our way now."
Rip climbs up on my shoulders as I pick up my few possessions. The man stands and tries to grab for me.
"Wait, please, I haven't seen any other players for days. Can't we at least talk a little? I could really use some company out here. I'm looking for herbs to train my potion making skills and"
I stare daggers at him the entire time his hand is on my arm. At the end of his sentence he does a double take, gets the message and removes his hand. He awkwardly looks down and mumbles
"Don't be sorry. Listen. Pay attention to body language."
I raise my voice.
"And don't fucking grab me unless I make it abundantly clear that I want you to, or you're ready to get your ass handed to you! Rip here only went easy on you because I really don't need the aggro right now, but shit like this is not okay. How did you know I was a player, anyway?"
I feel myself growing angry. People assuming they can control me, control my body or my actions, without as much as a please.. Pisses me off.
"I... I... Look, I'm sorry, I overstepped. Please consider joining me. I can teach you herbology in return... I'll even give you some potions, if we find the right herbs."
"No. Thank you for the offer, but I'm not interested."
"Oh... Okay then. Oh, and you always know if the other person is a player or not, unless the other player has some sort of psychic protection skill. Uhm... Bye!"
He calls after me as I walk away feeling the rage bubble under the surface. I blow off some of the steam by running.
"What an ass. That's why I don't like hanging out with other people. Shit like that always happens. Either that or they start making fun of me. I .. I get angry. Like, really angry, fast. ... A bit of an anger management thing really, but that shouldn't be reason enough for people to make fun of me like this, should it? Agh... I'm talking to a ferret."
Rip gently steers me away from the river, onto the plains.
"I'm curious about this herb thing, however... Do you think there are a lot of edible herbs around here? I wonder how you get that skill... I mean, it's not like climbing a tree or... Huh?"
Rip pulls my hair in a 'Stop' motion and I do.
Skill Discovered: Dressage
Skill increased: Dressage
My, aren't you well trained.
Rip runs down my body and onto the ground. Short emerald grass covers the ground. The little guy is grunting as I walk up to him.Right in front of us there are stalks growing out of the ground. Green, foot long, evenly spaced straight leaves. Rip points to one of them, digs around it with his little paws, and carefully extracts a brown bulb, like a gnarly potato. He bites into it which makes an unexpectedly squishy sound. Green juice flows down his paws as he hands it to me.
"Uh... I'm not sure I should eat this after it's been in your mouth."
I turn it in my hands as he folds his upper four arms, glaring at me, tapping one of his rear paws in expectation.
"Oh well, I guess."
I take a careful bite on the side that he hasn't chewed on. The taste is like the smell of freshly cut grass, with sweet undertones. It's soft and juicy, and somehow it makes my toes tingle just a little bit as I swallow it. My eyes are wide as I give it back to him.
"What is this?"
He points to me and the to one of the other plants.
"Oh, you want me to extract one as well?"
He nods, and I get on my knees. The dirt here is surprisingly tough. The grass all around us has some really strong roots. I have to tear up a large section of it before I can get to the root underneath. As I near my goal, I accidentally bump the stalk too hard, and it breaks with an audible crack, followed by a geyser of brown, foul smelling fluid coming up from the ground.
Skill Discovered: Herbology
Critical failure: Skill Herbology
You have been doused with the defensive effluent of the Letrin plant, giving you the status ailments 'Ew, Sticky', 'What's that smell' and 'Dangerously Flammable'. Each of the effects can be removed by washing in water
I stand there, with my hands out, palms down, fingers stretched out. Slowly, I turn to Rip, who's scrunching up his nose, and waving his paw in front of his face.
"You knew this could happen, didn't you"
"You knew it probably would, didn't you?"
My voice rising, he nods more vigorously than before. My voice reaches a crescendo.
"You damn well hoped and prayed for this to happen, didn't you, you little bag of shit!"
He falls over, holding his belly and making snuffling sounds that must have been laughing. Incensed with fury, I pick him up while he's still incapacitated by mirth. Before he realises what I'm doing, I hold him over one of the stalks and kick it.
I say, sitting in the middle of the river, back to back with Rip.
"What have we learnt?"
He's splashing water on my back. I'm currently in my underclothes, kindly supplied by the game for modesty's sake.
"That's right, we've learnt that playing practical jokes on each other is only okay if we're okay with retaliation. And if it's a messy joke, we damn well help each other clean up afterwards. Sound good?"
I turn around, and he stands there, looking at me. After 10 seconds time, he nods, and holds out his paw. I take it and we shake on it.
Your companion 'Rip the OctoFerret’s attitude towards you has improved from Neutral/'I'm with stupid' to Positive/'This kid's alright'. He will now be more open to your suggestions, and bring you into his decision making progress more than before
"Oh, so you're gonna share some more information with me from now on?"
I say in a deadpan voice. He waves at me to follow. Grabbing my clothes, I dash after him. We go back to the plants from before, and he shows me again how to retrieve one. My previous experience allows me to I notice some new details this time that weren't there before. Obvious, really.
Ability increased: Focus
I carefully repeat the steps he showed me, and this time I'm rewarded with a bulbous growth. Inspecting it, I gain more information.
The fleshy pulp-sack of the Letrin stalk.
An uncommon plant which grows on well drained plains near rivers.
Known usages: Sates hunger, thirst.
"Huh, okay. I guess I'll get more information when I learn more, right?"
I feel a prod, and look at Rip. He's sitting there with 4 more bulbs. Pushing them towards me gently.
"You want me to eat them all? That's a lot of ... pulp."
He nods vigorously, and I submit with a sigh
"Escaping one weirdo with personal space issues, just to run away with another weirdo with a feeding fetish. Ain't I a lucky, lucky gal."
I pick them up and eat them, one by one.
You are really full now.
The tingling feeling in my toes is creeping up towards my knees. After the third one, it's reached my hips.
Dude, there's no more room. They're not that tasty, lay off them
Fourth one was really hard to get down. My stomach was essentially full, I had to mush it in there and force myself to swallow.
"Is this really necessary."
My voice is muffled by the green juices flowing down my dead flesh. He nods and prods the last bulb. The tingly sensation is at my chest now, but the fruit is in my throat. I guess it's a race. I dig in to the last one. Each bite is a struggle. I imagine an audience sitting at home, watching me eat the impossible, pushing beyond any limits, and almost choking several times. The audience holds its breath when there's only one bite left. I grin at the cameras, push down a convulsion, jam the last bit into my mouth, chew and swallow, giving the cameras two thumbs up, smiling with my hamster cheeks bulging. I wait, desperately focusing on nothing, to hold it down. Just a little bit longer, until the judge says I'm safe, just a few more seconds and…
You have discovered a new trait of the Letrin Bulb. Excessive consumption has uncovered the 'Commune with animal' effect. You have discovered a new trait of sugary fruits in general: Excessive consumption leads to diarrhoea. Enjoy!
I say, sitting in the middle of the river, back to back with Rip.
"What have we learnt?"
His voice feels like it's coming from inside my soul, and I doubt I'll ever get used to it. I sigh before replying.
"I wouldn't call it new info, but you've once again proven yourself a little shit."
He giggles happily.
"Didn't actually mean for you to suffer like this, can't be helped, let's move on! Effect will only last for so long, suspect you won't do it again. Can be made into potion with right skills."
I get up, once more thankful for the magical undergarments supplied by the game. I’m surprised at how realistic that experience was. I sigh and get back to shore, putting on my clothes and pick up Rip.
"Thank you stinky."
"Oi, watch it you. You're only Rip on grace for now. Show more respect, or I'll leave you in the river to float your way back to where you came from!"
He accepts the rebuke with a pull of my hair, and we continue our travels.
"So Rip, tell me, how do you know all this stuff?"
"Mother left me with many thoughts, didn't know she was gone until I saw light, hard to articulate some concepts however."
"Are there any other skills you can teach me?"
"Not at the moment, need the opportunity, hard to remember otherwise"
We enter a really large deciduous forest. I stop abruptly.
"Please don't tell me this is a Stronghold for those squirrels. If I enter one, I'll be hunted by every one of them"
I look around nervously.
"Don't worry, Atrani far away, no squirrel danger"
His voice is getting fainter, his sentences shorter. I need to find more of those bulbs. And to learn how to make potions, 'cause I'm not going through that again. Even when thinking those thoughts I knew they were false. The system would let it happen again and again. The system found it funny.
"Okay then, let's continue"
I keep jogging. My endurance had risen another 2 points, and I could keep going for quite a while without stopping now. I'm left wondering how the game deals with runaway stat development. Probably some kind of diminishing returns. The effect vanished without fanfare a few minutes later, leaving me to consider how useful it had really been. Learning a little more about the system and a new skill was neat, and getting to know a bit about potions as well, but the experience was not at all pleasant. Maybe I'm being squeamish. I'll have to check the forums later to find out whether anyone else has encountered those bulbs.
- Stranger in a strange land
Software developer by trade. Games developer by uni course. Shopkeeper in a previous life.. don't ask.
I took a look at my life recently, and realised I read too much. I watch too much tv. I play too many games. I consume too much. It was time for me to create instead, improve the balance of things. So I wrote, and I wrote, and I managed to finish a first draft. Then I went back to the beginning and started rewriting it, while working on the sequel.
If you like my work, or are a fan of litRPG/Gamelit, please check out https://greatlitrpg.com
You'll find my book there, and a bunch of other authors worth your time. Vote for what you like, and help make it a definitive collection of unbiased reviews.