A note from Balr0g

The first dungeon dive continues!

Chapter 22

First Encounter (Part 2)


Tristen looked at the message one last time before exiting the prompt. He pulled up his character sheet and thought about assigning the five points right then, but hesitated.

"I'm not sure where I should put my new stats..." Tristen though he'd muttered it under his breath, but realized he must've said it aloud as Tyler responded, "you need to decide if you want to go pure magic or a combo of magic and physical damage."

"I think it'll be a combo until I get to level 10. Once we're able to pick a specialization, then I'll think about how I should build out my stats."

"That's my plan too." Aaron joined the conversation. "I'll assign the stats evenly for now. I've already got a massive amount of Strength from the bonuses and trial so I'll alternate adding stats into that category every other level."

"That makes sense..." Tristen thought about the skills and spells he had and how each stat provided a boost to them. He definitely wanted to assign them now so the fights ahead would get easier. The more they leveled inside the dungeon, the easier it would be. Well, at least I think so...

"Hey guys, does anyone know how the dungeon level works? Like, does it lock the levels when you first enter it or does it scale up as we level?"

Natalia joined the conversation and said, "The level locks the moment we enter a dungeon."

"Hm, we should try to exploit that while we can. If we can save more difficult dungeons until we are close to leveling, we can burn through them faster."

Tyler chimed in, "I think it works for some low-level stuff, but I'd imagine that one or two levels as we move away from the starter stuff won't provide a huge advantage."

"We'll never know unless we give it a shot, though." Tristen turned back to his character sheet. He assigned one point each into Intellect and Charism to keep building his two primary stats. Then, he added one point into Strength, Vitality, and Dexterity to help him with survival and physical attack abilities. His stats in these areas looked a little better, but he had a lot of work left to do. Maybe I need to increase my strength more... Without the bonus that Aaron brought to the table, his strength was dismal, and he'd barely hurt anything with his physical attacks. I'll add a couple points to strength next time, Tristen thought as he pulled up the changed stats:

Charisma - 17 (+2)

Intellect - 17 (+2)

Dexterity - 7 (+2)

Vitality - 4 (+3)

Strength - 3 (+10)

"All right, I'm all set. I spread the stat points out, but added one each to my two primary stats as a magic user. Let's finish mopping up these flying snakes and keep moving."

Just a short three pulls later, both Natalia and Tyler leveled up and they once again took a break to regenerate and assign stat points.

"There's only two of these things left." Tyler motioned to the edge of the cliff. We should just pull them both and keep moving. We've already been in here for a while and we must log out and take a break soon."

"Good idea, I'll tank one of them and Aaron can pick up the last." The two snakes died quickly, and they finished looting all the creatures they'd killed. They'd fulfilled two of the Monster Hunt quest requirements by collecting 24/20 Claws and 12/10 Poison Sacks.

"We've got the first part of this quest knocked out! We even have a little extra so maybe we can sell them or keep them for our own professions. Both the claws and the poison sacks look like ingredients for alchemical concoctions of some sort. Let's transfer the loot to one bag so we aren't taking up extra slots. I don't mind holding them."

Two transactions windows popped up in front of Tristen as Tyler and Aaron both offered to trade him the loot drops. Natalia wasn't carrying any on account of Aaron's chivalrous actions. Tristen accepted the trade. "Awesome, they all stack into one inventory space. I wasn't sure what the limit was for each one."

"That's awesome! If I had one complaint about the game so far, it would be the minuscule size of our starter bags."

"I get that Tyler, but it's much more realistic, and this game has been all about realism so far."

Tyler grumbled, but agreed with Natalia.

"We're wasting time here, let's move out! We've got all weekend to play this game and I want to get as far as possible."

Tyler took up point to continue scouting ahead, and they all moved down into the pit where the snakes lived.

"Let's take a quick look around for anything of value." Tristen moved to the side of the area and scanned the walls. "If there's any loot, plants, or ore we need to collect it. We should also inspect all the items to keep working on our skills."

Tristen was halfway around the room when he ran into an area where the wall that was slightly discolored. He triggered [Inspect] and looked at the wall.

You have found basic copper vein.

"Hey guys, I found a copper ore vein over here!"

His friends came over and inspected the ore node. "I originally thought Aaron should mine the ore with his strength, but I'm thinking Tyler is the best choice. Your luck skill is higher and if ore nodes are like any of the other games I've played, there's a chance to drop gemstones."

"That's a good idea," Tyler said as he reached for the pickaxe. "Stand back, I've never done this before and I don't know if I can get hurt or hurt you." Tyler aimed for the section of wall and swung. Except, nothing happened. Well, he went through the motions, but he failed to hit the wall.

"Um, Tyler... you're supposed to hit the wall with the pickaxe."

Tyler turned around and glared at Aaron. "You don't think I know that? The combat log said I missed, probably because I don't have the skill."

Tristen chuckled at the exchanged. "Keep going, you won't unlock the skill unless you keep at it."

Tyler tried half a dozen more times before he finally landed a hit which bounced off the wall with no visible results. "This'll take a while," Tyler complained.

"It's worth the time and effort. Aaron wants to take up Blacksmithing and if we get gems, the coins we'll get form selling will help us get better equipped. We have almost nothing and those snakes dropped nothing."

"Fine..." Grumbling, Tyler swung sharply at the wall and the pick dug into the wall, breaking off chunks of rock and ore. "Yes!" Tyler pumped his pickaxe in the air and stooped to inspect the items.

Copper Ore x 2

Copper Ore is a soft metal used in the crafting of components and basic items.

Flint x 1

Flint, used to start fires by striking it against another rock or metal object.

"Sweet! We've got flint now." Tristen picked up the flint and tested it with his sword. A shower of sparks cascaded from the rock unto the floor. "So much easier..." Tristen glanced at his finger where Tyler's dagger cut him outside the cave.

Glancing at the wall, Tristen noted the discoloration disappeared and the wall now blended together with the rest of the area. "I think you depleted the node."

"I got the mining skill! It shows I have a 40% success rate for mining now."

Tristen congratulated Tyler and suggested they keep moving. "It looks like we have to choose which path to take." Tristen motioned at the two tunnels on either side of the room. They looked identical and after double-checking his map, the quest gave no indications which way they should go.

"Let me scout ahead and I'll see where they lead." Tyler came back from the left tunnel after a few minutes and explained that he saw no signs of life, but it kept going and he'd doubled back.

Tyler headed for the tunnel on the right, and only a few minutes later they heard "Go down the right tunnel." in the party chat.

Tristen led the trio forward, but then thought better. "Aaron, can you take point please? I want no more nasty surprises in case Tyler missed something." Aaron took up position, and they moved to the tunnel. Before long, they saw Tyler crouching in front of something and hunched forward.

"What's going on Tyler?"

Without glancing back at Tristen, Tyler responded, "There's s trap here. I almost walked right over it, but noticed the discoloration at the last second." As he talked, Tyler fiddled with some mechanism just to the side of the path.

A few seconds later, he whispered excitedly, "Got it! Oh wow! I got ten points to my [Disarm Trap] skill for just this one. It looks like it goes up much faster than some of our combat skills."

"Did you get the [Detect Trap] skill yet?"

"Sadly, no. I only stumbled on this one because of my ability to see in the dark and noticed the different colors on the floor."

"Well, maybe you'll get it next time," Natalia said cheerfully.

"Maybe...," muttered Tyler and stepped forward to continue scouting.


"What was that-" Tristen jumped in surprise as Tyler's body dropped to the ground and his character frame grayed out.

"What the heck was that? Natalia, can you resurrect him?"

Natalia stepped forward and wove an intricate spell pattern. At the end of the spell, she reached down and placed her hand on Tyler's body. His party frame lit up with ten percent of his health filled.

"That sucked balls!" Tyler sat up and an arrow protruded from his head. The arrow disappeared after his health bar stabilized.

"I thought you disarmed the trap?" Aaron motioned at the section of floor Tyler crouched next to.

"I did, but there must've been a secondary trap and I can't detect them-" Tyler paused and made a few motions with his hands, presumably checking notifications. "I got the skill! The game gods thought an arrow to the head deserved a reward."

Aaron laughed, and the sound echoed down the tunnel. It earned him a sharp glare from Tristen, "Shh! We don't know what made this trap. They might be close by and we don't want to alert them until we've scouted. Tyler, do you want to keep scouting or would you rather Aaron took point? I think none of us will fault you for wanting to hang back. Natalia won't be able to resurrect you again and if you do, you'll lose the level you gained."

"What happened to that Last Stand ability?" Tyler messaged his head that only moments ago sported a wooden shaft and turned to Tristen.

"I think it only works in a fight and causes the monsters to lose aggro. It'd be lame if a trap couldn't kill anyone. What's the point of having [Trap Detect] and [Disarm Trap] if that were the case?"

"Good point, that just sucked balls man. Even with the pain dialed down, it was so unexpected and it hurt."

Aaron moved to take point, but Tyler held up a hand. "I got it. It might've sucked, but I've got the skill to detect the traps now. It's a level one dungeon, the skill should allow us to avoid any additional traps."

"You sure bro?" Aaron looked concerned for his friend.

"Yea, I'm sure. We aren't so far along that a reset would ruin me, plus I need to work on my skill for future dungeons."

"Okay, then. Let's move. We've barely gone anywhere in this dungeon and who knows how long it'll take to finish." Tristen wanted to see what the next challenge was and urged the group to get moving.

They continued down the tunnel at a crawl with Tyler taking the lead and stopping every so often. Tristen assumed that he was using his skill and looking for traps. Visibly, it looked like he paused with his hand in front of him for a second and then moved on.

Looking past Tyler a short distance, Tristen observed the end of the tunnel opening into another large room. Just before reaching the opening, Tyler stopped and knelt next to the ground.

"Another trap...," Tyler said in the party chat.

Tristen had to admit this party chat was an awesome addition, but it also required him to think specifically about talking in the channel and that was sometimes difficult in the heat of battle. I wonder if there's a default setting for it. Pulling up his menu, Tristen looked through the list of options until he found the chat settings.

There were options to mute certain channels, add chat transcripts to a little window at the corner of his display, and even add a virtual keyboard. Why anyone would want to do that was beyond Tristen's comprehension. The nature of the immersion technology allowed anyone to speak with thoughts and voice, even if they could not do so in real life, or as Tyler often said, IRL.

Reaching the bottom of the options, Tristen found a toggle option. He checked the box and though about switching channels to the party only chat. He noticed the chat preview in the options menu switch over to party-only chat. Perfect!

"Hey, I found an option in the chat menu that allows you to toggle back and forth between chat modes so you don't have to think about which channel to talk in. It's at the bottom of the options."

"That's much better." Aaron gave Tristen a thumbs up as Tyler stood up.

"Trap disarmed. I'll scout that cavern quick. Wait here."

It didn't take Tyler long before he came back with a report of some humanoid lizard creatures in the cavern ahead. He hadn't gotten close enough to inspect any of them yet.

"Do you want to keep going in stealth mode and try to take out small groups of these things? The battle with the flying snakes showed that noise doesn't always attract other creatures so long as they are out of the aggro range. Then again, these things look semi-intelligent so I'm not sure how they'll react."

Tristen thought it through and then asked the group. "I think we should keep to stealth. I'd rather not lose the progress I've made by a wipe."

"Agreed, Tristen can use his [Fury] spell and try to cause chaos. We can watch how they react and make a better assessment then."

"Good idea, Natalia. I'll go scout with Tyler and see if I can cast on one. Just be ready in case it fails. Aaron, can you refresh the group buffs?" Tristen also handed out more rations to the group to renew their well-fed status.

"All right, let's go Tyler. Show me where they are." Tyler guided Tristen to the last spot he'd seen the creatures, and he got a good look at them. They were short, fierce looking lizards and stood on two feet. They wore partial clothes and armor and also carried crudely designed weapons.

Sneaking closer, Tristen inspected the creature.

Okegi Sentry - Level 1

The Okegi are a tribe of subterranean lizard folk. They are semi-intelligent, live in small tribes, and often war for dominance between tribes. The Okegi use primitive weapons and are not gifted with any magical abilities.

Tristen sent the description to the party. "I don't think we'll have any problems with these guys. From my position, I don't see many, but they could be inside these little huts that dot the area. I'll cast [Fury] on one sentry and see what happens. If that doesn't work, we'll have incoming and they may alert the rest of the tribe."

Tristen crept closer to get within range of his spell and cast. As before, the spell form took on a life of its own and he weaved the spell pattern. This time he had party chat toggled so any whispered words, sounded to the party and not those around his physical area.

The spell pattern settled over the creatures head and immediately took hold. Tristen breathed a sigh of relief as the Okegi sentry turned toward his companion and ran his spear through the other. Shock, disbelief, pain, and outrage warred across the other sentry's face. Tristen felt a little bad seeing just how intelligent these creatures were. The snakes they'd battled didn't react to the pain or show any outward emotion, other than hissing periodically.

This reaction threw him off and made him hesitate. Should we have gone the violent route immediately? Maybe we could've reasoned with them?

Tristen waited a moment longer and realized the fight was over in seconds and the enraged creature turned toward them. It paused, took a step forward, paused again and shook its head. Its slitted eyes blinked rapidly as the rage dissipated. It turned back around to see its spear embedded in the other sentry. Without a second thought, it pulled the spear out and walked away.

Tristen couldn't see the face of the creature after it found its kin dead by his own hand, but the creature seemed nonplussed about it and it eased Tristen's mind at the immediate violence they'd inflicted.

He couldn't allow this thing to walk away and alert others to the incident so he cast distract to grab the creatures attention.

"Natalia, we need you up here quickly. These things must have a higher intelligence. The enraged state wore off too fast, and we lost aggro. I'm distracting the thing now, but we need Natalia to shoot it and grab the aggro again before it reaches the huts. Tyler, get ready to stealth and attack the thing if it runs. It is a sentry so it might default to alert its companions."

Natalia hurried to their position and pulled an arrow back. Lining up the shot, she loosed. The arrow hit the Okegi squarely in the back. Tristen inspected it again to assess its HP

Okegi Sentry - 275/300 HP

"These sentries have 300 HP, but they also have a shield and weapons. We also don't know how many there are. Let's be careful and scout ahead slowly after we kill this one."

After Natalia grabbed aggro, she stepped behind Aaron, who'd joined the group. He prepared his two-handed attack and swung at the creature. Dazing it, the rest of the party set upon it and easily dispatched it. They paused in tense silence after the fight, but it looked like they hadn't attracted attention yet.

"Let's keep going like this. I'd prefer smaller fights if it means staying alive. These were just sentries and I'm willing to bet there are some stronger ones later."

Tristen stooped down to collect the loot from the bodies and got his first solid look at the creature. It looked like a kobold he'd seen in other games, but less intelligent and smaller than he imagined. Maybe it's because they're sentries...

Okegi Sentry - Level 1

Okegi Eye

Crude Wood Spear

Tattered Cloth Shirt

Crude Wooden Buckler

Loot All? Yes/No

Tristen opted to leave the equipment as they didn't need it and just looted the Okegi eye. After looting, he checked the quest prompt and sure enough it showed 1 of 10. Although disgusting, it was much less so than the poison sacks they'd looted from the Skaled Serpents and he had no qualms about looting the other sentry. Besides the gear and eye, he also found several copper coins.

"Hey, these things drop copper coins. You're welcome to loot the gear, but it looks like garbage and I don't want to take up an inventory slot." The group opted to leave the gear behind and continue forward.

Once again, Tyler took the lead and scouted ahead. He looked in several of the huts and found most the tribe asleep. "I can kill them in their sleep, but I don't think we'll all fit into these huts, especially not Aaron."

"Give it a shot, but if you run into any that look stronger than the ones we faced already, hold off."

Tyler acknowledged Tristen's instructions and stole off into the darkness. Tristen watched the combat log as Tyler engaged in his first battle. He also wanted to see if they'd all get the experience or just Tyler. It didn't take long for Tyler to dispatch one creature and his health barely dipped from the battle.

It looked like he'd used a couple [Backstab]'s and only took one hit from the creature. Looking at the experience bar, it appeared they all received the same distribution of Exp. These creatures provided 22.5 Exp to himself and Aaron and 15 Exp for Natalia and Tyler. They needed 200 Exp for level 3.

"We should be able to level up again soon. We really need to figure out a way for Natalia and Tyler to earn more Exp than us, or we'll out-level them pretty quickly."

Nearly thirty minutes later Tyler came back and showed how far into the cavern he'd cleared. Five huts, plus the two sentries. Tristen glanced at his Exp bar and realized he was one or two kills from leveling.

"Did you run into stronger creatures or just need a break to regenerate?"

"I need to take a break to regenerate my Stamina, but I also haven't found anymore huts with just one Okegi. I also came across some Okegi Warriors. They are nearly twice the size of the sentries and have a bunch of weapons inside the hut."

"Are the huts big enough for us to crowd in?"

"We can probably all fit, but I don't think Natalia will have room for her bow. I'm not even sure Aaron can swing that massive hammer around in there."

"I can still activate [Bash] even if I can't swing the hammer around. It should be enough to gain aggro and daze the warrior. Tristen can pick up the other Okegi and you'll focus on taking that one down first."

"Actually, it might be better if I try to cast [Fury] first. If it doesn't work, we can go with your strategy Aaron."

Everyone agreed to the plan, and they proceeded to the hut Tyler marked. Creeping inside, Tristen saw the Okegi Warrior and inspected it.

A note from Balr0g

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About the author


Bio: This is the section where I'm supposed to write how I have always dreamed of writing books and that there are dozens of five star books out there with my name on them. Reality? I am brand new to writing, and worse, I'm not a creative writer. Most of the stuff that I have written is technical, cyber-related stuff. So, how in the world did I start down this path? The best way to sum it up is D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. These two Russian authors created books in a new genre called LitRPG, which falls under a more broad category called Gamelit. I devoured any and every book created by these two authors and quickly realized they were not alone in their endeavor. The series they created were translated from Russian to English, but it wasn't long before American authors started pushing their own series. Since starting with the Play to Live series (D.Rus), I've read hundreds of books and dozens of stories on Royal Road. I started posing questions and conversations about plots and book directions in various groups and forums. Eventually, I got the idea to start keeping track of my ideas and instead of giving them away, write my own story. Herein, is born a writer (or at least a wannabe writer)... not a writer to grab a paycheck, and not even for the sake of a job. I am putting this first story together purely for my enjoyment and it has been a fun ride so far.

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