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Emily’s POV

“Thanks for meeting with me about this guys.” I said as Frank and Mike took seats in the conference room.

“No problem.” Mike said. “So, what has our favorite group of dungeon denizens uncovered today?”

“Not them, or at least they haven’t complained about it, but I’m afraid we might have to retool our leveling system.”

“You don’t go small with the issues, do ya Emily?” Larry asked chuckling. “Ok, convince me.”

“Here goes.” I said, taking a sigh to center myself. “Right now, monster evolutions are going to break the game. Though he’s an extreme example, I’m still going to use Marty to make my point. He gained 30 levels in the dungeon, which isn’t the issue. Since he became a demigod ranked monster, he just boosted himself 150 stat points in every single attribute.”

“Yes, that is how the monster rankings are supposed to work.” Larry pointed out as I hesitated for a second.

“I’m aware, but have you thought it out? That many stat points is equivalent to a regular player gaining 180 levels. So we now have a monster player that can take out top tier players, which I know we wanted as a bonus to draw players to that side. However, he also has the stats of a level 80 monster even before he gained these, plus whatever he gained from his class. Right now, you are looking at a level 40 second tier monster that has higher stats than any level capped player.”

“Hmmmm.” Larry said, thinking about the implications. “I assume you are worried about what happens when he evolves yet again?”

“Yes.” I replied with a sigh, mentally thanking god that he got the implications right away.

“Ok, what’s your fix?”

“Well, there are two main ones. The first is to keep the level after evolution, but I think this is not the way we should go. The other one, is to not give class attribute points after each level until they reach a higher level than what they evolved at.”

“And the bonus for the demigod ranking?”

“That’s harder. Would it be possible to code it so that they get the points if they have increased their monster rank? Marty achieved demigod rank at evolution, so he would get his bonus points every level. But say that there was a monster player that achieved elite rank at level 8 and evolved at level twenty. Could we give them the bonus points for levels 1 through 8, then say they have already earned them for levels 9 through 20, and start giving them again at level 21?”

“Could be tricky to code, but I think we could do it with enough if then statements. I assume if they rank up to heroic at level 10, then they would earn all the bonus points that the champion rank would earn?”

“Yes. It seems like a good reward for that.”

“You’ve made a good argument. I can see it, but there are some sticklers that are always wanting more. Is there anything you can say so that I have something to shut ‘em up with?”

“Power ataxia.”

“We had one of those?” His eyes widened as he sat forward in his chair.

“Yep. Marty. He was pretty freaked out about it too, sent me an emergency email. I calmed him down and convinced him to take a few days to get it under control, but if we are going to do it, we should do this before more people get enough boosted stats that it becomes a major issue.”

“Alright. I’ll get some people started on the coding, hopefully we can just hot patch it in and send a warning on the update to all monster players. While we are at it, I’ll see if we can get a popup for any player that gains over ten levels in one go to warn them about power ataxia.”

“Thanks Larry.”

“No problem. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, and for having a solution.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Marty’s POV

“Hey Derrick, just you tonight?” I asked as I sat down in the café. It was odd to not have Jon’s jovial greetings.

“Yep. It’s an anniversary for Jon and Phoebe.”

“Oh, I’ll have to congratulate them.”

“No. It’s not a happy anniversary.”

“Ohhhh.” I said, drawing out the word. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”

“Not your fault, but don’t be surprised if they are a little glum for a week or so. Losing a little girl is rough.”

We both sat in silence after that, slightly uncomfortable in the somber mood. Several times each of us started to speak, only to stop with a sigh and go back to staring at our drinks.

“How’s things in the game with you?” I finally managed to ask.

“Eh. Not too bad. Getting close to maxing out my level, I think a few more days outta do it.”

“That’s good. You found any evolution materials yet?”

“Not a one. Hell, I don’t even know what a troll would use to evolve. I suppose I could try eating an absolutely disgusting amount in the hopes that I become a giant, but that’s all I’ve really got.”

“That, could work.” I said hesitantly. “I wonder though. Do you think the game has a way to boost our chances of finding evolution materials when we start getting close to the level cap?”

“I’m. I dunno. It would seem crazy, but I think you might be on to something. You found that dungeon when you were a level out, Jon got his quest when he maxed out, and Phoebe said that the saber cat she killed would have worked as an evolution material as well.”

“Once lucky, twice is coincidence, three is a conspiracy?” I asked, getting a slight chuckle out of Derrick.

“Heh, yep. Of course, it isn’t paranoia if they really are after you.”

“True, true.” I nodded sagely. “You got a favorite conspiracy theory?”

Mussing his hair a bit and holding his hands apart, he simply replied with one word. “Aliens.” “PPFFFFFTTTHAHAHA *COUGH, COUGH*.” I spluttered my drink at his impersonation. “Oh god, don’t do that when I’m drinking.”

“Hah, I didn’t think you would have gotten the reference. What about you? Favorite conspiracy theory?”

“These full immersion tanks are taking advantage of our brains. Everyone who is connected and in the game is having stock market simulations run through using their brains as computing power. The company execs are using that to predict market trends, and are making a killing off of it.”

“Really? You’d think the government would step in and stop that.”

“Bah, they get paid to look the other way. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were buried in the Terms we all signed in order to play the game.”

“Yeah, you could probably sell your soul with those and nobody would catch it. I still miss those companies that would play the joke timer on you.”

“Joke timer?”

“Yeah. They would have the popup to see if you would agree to the terms, along with the terms themselves. Then there would be some snarky comment about how impressed they were that you read the terms of service in 0.85 seconds or something like that.”

“Ha! Yeah, that would be pretty funny if they did that again.”

“So, seriously though. Do you really think they are using us as computing power?”

“No. It just seemed like the most logical one. Heh, a logical conspiracy theory, sounds like a contradiction in terms, no?”

“Yep. Like a laid back soccer fan.”

“Exactly! Anyway. Think about how hard it would be to run a program on the human brain. Half of us gamers are going to ignore what they ask anyway because we like to be contrary.”

“Alright, I’ll give you that one. Good theory. Have you heard the one about how Australia is a lie?”

“Get out!” I practically shouted. “How in the world do you get enough people to go along with something like making up an entire continent?”

“Dunno man. It’s a global conspiracy involving actors, pilots and governments.”

“Wow. Just, wow.” I shook my head. “The best I can come up with is the faked moon landing.”

“Yeah, heard that one before. Did you ever get a good reasoning behind it?”

“Actually, yeah. I did once. Guy swore up and down that it had to have been faked, not because we didn’t have the tech to send ‘em there and back, but because he didn’t think we could build a suit that would keep them safe from all the radiation in space.”

“Damn. I never thought I would have heard something that could be probable.” He replied, shaking his head. We both relaxed after that, having tapped out the depth of the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories we were familiar with.

“Alright, I’m off to bed I think. See ya tomorrow Marty.”

“G’night.” With nothing else to do, I headed off to sleep myself.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bleary eyed, I stumbled down the stairs at the inn. Morning was not my friend on the best of days, and today was far from the best. I slumped down at the counter, ready to get whatever Alnoss could fix in a hurry when I heard a chipper voice come from the room behind me.

“It’s about time ya got up ya lazybones!”

“Alnoss, there appears to be an invasion of surly dwarves in your inn!” I feigned outrage. “Quick, let’s pacify him with an ale!”

‘Bah, how did ye know my weakness? I’ll have ta have words with your alchemy teacher.” He said, plopping into a chair next to me where Alnoss slid him a drink.

“Not that I’m not glad to see you, but how are you in the city here?” I asked Master Faraldo.

“Young pups over there be needin’ someone ta supervise their quest.” He said, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder. I might have scowled a bit when I saw it was a bunch of players, mostly made of dwarves but with a few humans thrown into the mix. “They be alright for adventurers, at least that Grimlet fellow.” He said, seeing my face.

“I didn’t think we were allowing adventurers in?”

“Aye, but they got special dispensation from the dwarven council of elders. Grimlet has a quest related to those bones ya found, I guess they are gonna put ‘em to rest here by the city.”

“How did that all turn about? I thought dwarves were big on being interred with their families.”

“Aye, but it was right shameful how me old clan treated ya. So I went and cut ties with them, baring their shame for everyone on the council to know.”

“Wait, you threw away your clan? Why would you do that over someone like me?” I asked, appalled at his actions.

“Ye went in there, open and honest boyo. Not only that, but ye had ‘em by the short and curlies and didn’t try and leverage near what you could have. In return, they tried ta charm ya and steal from ya, then were gonna further defile me ancestor. Tis a sad day, when one of the so called ‘monster’ races acts more like a dwarf than me own kin. Don’t worry, I joined up with the Duergar clan, so I be a gray dwarf now.”

“Wow. I, thanks. I had no idea all that happened.” I said, stunned by his admission.

“It was worth it. The clan didn’t value me anyway, and me new clan is a delight. Anyways, somehow during the hullabaloo Grimlet there got a quest to lay me ancestor’s bones to rest, in a place away from me former clan. I was gonna ask ya about how ya wanted to go about it, but runnin’ into ya at the guild wasn’t reliable enough. So we went through the Church of Thanatos, and got their approval.”

“Sorry about all the trouble, but I’m glad that Grumblespark’s bones are finally getting the rest they deserve. Is there anything I can do to help out?”

“Nah, this be a quest for their guild. It’s up ta them ta pass or fail it.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but are you going to go hunting again today Angus?” Alnoss asked.

“That was the plan, what’s up?”

“Khaliss wanted me to pass on a warning that they have had several light races stalking our hunters, and that you should take care out there.”

“Thanks, I appreciate the heads up.”

“They givin’ ya troubles?” Faraldo asked.

“Not yet, according to Khaliss. But he doesn’t think someone hunts others without a reason, they just weren’t sure of their victory.”

“I be likin’ this Khaliss. If ya always expect the worst out of others, the worst that can happen is getting’ pleasantly surprised.”

System update for monster players!

 

Arctic Storm wants to remind players that we are constantly trying to better our game, and sometimes this requires major issues to be addressed. Currently, the system of leveling monster players is out of balance, and to prevent breaking of the game we have altered the attributes earned. New class attributes will not be given for leveling up until a higher level than was needed for evolution is reached. In addition, bonus attributes from monster ranks have also been changed. Each level will give the full bonus for the highest monster rank obtained at that level up. Any previous bonuses will be halved.

 

Example: A player is a heroic goblin level 20 that evolves into a demigod hobgoblin. The hobgoblin won’t gain any regular attribute points until they reach 21. However, each level will give them 5 bonus points to each attribute per level for being a demigod rank. For levels where they were previously a heroic goblin and received 2 points per attribute, they would lose 1 point per attribute (half of the previous rank) and still gain 5 attribute points for being a demigod rank. So in total they would gain 6 attribute points per level for anything coinciding instead of 7.

 

“Ya ok there lad? You spaced out for a while there.”

“Huh?” I asked, shaking my head a bit. “Sorry Master Faraldo, I was reading a notification about some changes they made.”

“Nothing bad I hope?”

“Eh, nothing we can do about it so no need to worry, right?” I asked with a smile. “So, how long are you planning on staying in town here? I have some things I want to make that I’m sure you would enjoy.”

“Oh? Would it happen to be a potion?”

“Food actually. Ever had bacon made from a tier 2 beast?”

“Can’t say that I have, but you had me interested at bacon. How long will ya be needin’ on this bacon o’ yers?”

“Roundabouts of a week I think. A few days to cure it, a day to smoke it.”

“Perfect! I’ll head to me home and grab some o’ the best dwarven ale I got.” When he mentioned ale, I couldn’t suppress a shiver. The joviality dropped from his voice, and in a serious tone he asked, “What’s the matter boyo? I’ve not seen someone shudder at the mere mention of ale before.”

“Just some inner demons.” I said, then steeled myself and explained. For all he went through on my behalf, he deserved the truth. “A while ago, a group of friends and I went drinking. The best way I can explain it is that we were inadvertently poisoned, and one sip instantly made us as drunk as if we had drank an entire keg of dwarven stout. That incident left its mark on us, and I don’t think any of us has had a drink since.”

“Ah, that be a terrible story lad. Don’t worry, I’ll leave the ale be then and find us something suitable to drink. One that won’t be alcoholic.”

“Thanks.” I said, blinking rapidly a bit. “Sorry, but I think I’m going to have to be going. Khaliss wants me to go out and check some of the ranges of the nearby game.”

“Tis fine. Good hunting my friend.” He said, slapping me on the back and giving me a gentle push towards the door.

On my way out, I caught Alnoss and whispered to her, “I’ll handle the dwarf’s tab, just let me know.” At her nod, I headed outside and made my way to the gate. Yesterday I had gone south, so today I was going north. There was a large meadow I had to pass through before I came to a pass between the mountains that surrounded most of the city. On the other side, I had a choice. Straight north would skirt the edge of a pine forest. West would lead to the foothills and eventual plains, or I could head east and deeper into mountainous terrain. Taking a deep breath, I smiled at the smell of the pines. I always enjoyed it, so due north it was.

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About the author

Mighty Moushie

Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.

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