"I was hoping you might be able to help us find a forge somewhere," I said.
“A forge?” Trelor asked, his face screwing up in obvious confusion. "There's one in the town circle. Why would you need a forge?"
"Because every time we try to use the forge in town Horizon Dawn closes ranks around the damned thing so we can't use it.”
"I see," Trelor said, scratching his chin. “I told those assholes we needed more than one crafting hub in these towns, but did they listen to me?”
He turned back to me and spoke loud enough for the whole room to hear, though his muttering had been loud enough too. “That is quite the conundrum you have there.”
"There was a forge in one of those goblin mines around the big raid dungeon,” I said. "But there are Horizon patrols running through the whole area. Not to mention I couldn't work on goblinsteel even if I wanted to. I need to level up some lower level stuff so I have the skill to do the good stuff, but I can’t get to the good stuff if I don’t have a forge to skill up!”
“Hold the phone there," Trelor said. "Why wouldn't you be able to work goblinsteel if you have all the materials? The hardest thing to find when you’re looking to work with goblinsteel is the goblinsteel.”
“It was greyed out when I tried to make something in the dungeon forge,” I said.
"Well yeah," Trelor said. "But did you have all the materials you needed for whatever you were trying to make? If you have the stuff you need then it works the same as everything else. You might lose some goblinsteel at first, but you’ll get skill points while you’re losing it. You’ll probably skill up a hell of a lot faster than normal, too.”
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "The stuff was clearly too high a skill level for me. There's no way I was going to be able to do anything with that stuff. That's why it was greyed out."
"Please just humor me for a moment," Trelor said, holding up a hand. "Do you have any more goblinsteel? And by the way, that was really ballsy of you to go out there with the way Horizon Dawn is keeping a lockdown on things around that raid instance. Or so I've heard."
The last bit about hearing what Horizon Dawn was doing out there seemed tacked on quickly. Like maybe he went for walks out there around the raid instance himself to get a feel for what they’re up to. Which had me wondering what kind of mischief a person working for Lotus could get into out there if they ran into a Horizon Dawn patrol.
The patrol would probably get the bad end of that confrontation if what I’d just seen with the three stooges was anything to go on. Then again it’s not like there were rumors of people being catapulted into the sky around the raid instance and doing some skydiving without a parachute. That seemed like the sort of story that would quickly make the rounds.
I didn’t even need to check my inventory to know the status. “I don't have any. All of it’s back in my vault."
Trelor waved a hand. “Doesn’t matter. You should be able to pull up the recipe if you bring up your Smithing skill tree. Tell me what you see.”
I didn’t know why we were even bothering with this. I’d seen the recipes back at the goblin forge and they’d been greyed out. I figured when a Lotus dev asked me to access Smithing recipes I should do it, though, and so I searched the skill tree.
Sure enough there was a menu option near the bottom that allowed me to pull up recipes. There were all sorts of things I could craft, starting at iron and going up to more exotic metals like goblinsteel. There were even more evocative names that promised some pretty kickass stuff for the person willing to go out and craft it. Like dragon armor. Wyvern skin.
Sure that was a debate as old as time as to whether or not dragons and wyverns were different or the same, but in this case the game was making a distinction so whatever. A chill ran through me as I realized that the presence of those items on my crafting menu also more than hinted at the presence of those creatures in the game.
Where were they lurking?
“Got the menu up?” Trelor asked.
“Yup,” I said.
"Go down to goblinsteel, please," Trelor said. "Stupid fucking name if you ask me. Steel is something that’s produced by a manufacturing process, not something you dig up out of the fucking ground.”
"Right?" I said. "I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that was ridiculous."
“Now take a look at the goblinsteel items,” he said. “Do you see anything you maybe didn’t notice the last time you were messing with it?”
“To be fair the last time I was messing with these recipes I was deep in enemy territory and just a touch distracted,” I muttered as I looked at the items and…
Noticed an arrow next to the greyed out items. I thought of highlighting that arrow next to a goblinsteel sword and, sure enough, a list popped up showing the ingredients I needed for a goblinsteel sword. Which included goblinsteel, sure, but I also needed some iron ingots, wood, twine, and a few other items that obviously would’ve gone into making a sword in the real world that Lotus was trying so hard to replicate.
Not being able to create the damn thing had absolutely nothing to do with not having the skill level and everything to do with not having all the materials.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I asked.
"I can assure you I totally am not," Trelor said. "The problem you had was you didn't have all the ingredients you needed. Not that you didn't have the skill level. Skills in this game don't work like that. You have the ability to do anything you want to in the game if you try it out. Sure it’s going to be unlikely you succeed at some things if it’s your first time trying it, just like real life, but you can still get skill points for it. Just like real life. And the time it takes to master an ability is a hell of a lot shorter in this game than it takes to master something in real life.”
“Well shit,” I said, shaking my head and laughing.
“You said it yourself,” Keia said. “We were distracted while we were in those mines.”
“And to be fair we’ve been getting lots of feedback that the ingredients list isn’t intuitively obvious,” Trelor said with a shrug. “All that feedback has been pissing off the GMs.”
“Why would it piss off the GMs?” Keia asked.
“Because it’s a UI issue and not technically a bug,” Trelor said. “Which also means it isn’t going to get fixed any time soon with all the other fires they’re putting out. That’s how I was able to figure out your problem so fast. It’s not my first time at this tech support rodeo.”
"Holy shit," I said, looking the recipes over. "I can actually do something with that goblinsteel ore!”
"You can totally do something with that goblinsteel ore,” Trelor said. "It's just a matter of finding a forge you can use."
I looked around Trelor’s Oddments half expecting a forge to magically appear. If this was some book or movie this would be the point where the wise old gamer watching over the new guy conjured something like that up to make life easier on the heroes, but unfortunately there was nothing like that in evidence. There was a small Spellcraft table with a few gems lying about, but no forge.
"I don't suppose you could do something to maybe help me out at the forge?" I asked, knowing the answer before I even asked the question.
Trelor frowned and shook his head. That was the answer I’d been expecting.
"I'm afraid not dude,” he said. "I can help you out a little bit here and there around the edges. Push you in the right direction when it comes to finding out how to navigate the crafting system, but I can't interfere directly. Honestly I’m skirting the line revealing myself at all.”
“But you did,” I said.
“I did, because I fucking hate Horizon more than I hate the idea of getting fired and writing my own ticket with all the tech companies that want to hire anyone who worked on Lotus hardware,” he said. “Doesn’t mean I’m going to give you direct assistance though. Think of me more as an interested cheerleader.”
"What about transporting those guys into the air and dropping them on the street?" Kristoph asked. "That doesn't sound like not getting involved to me."
Trelor’s frown turned to a slight smile. Very slight. He shook his head and chuckled.
"Those guys threatened me directly. You're not allowed to threaten Lotus representatives. Whether or not you know a person is a Lotus representative."
"Well shit," I said. “The way I see it we have two choices here, and both of them potentially involve getting into a hell of a lot of trouble."
“And those are?" Keia asked.
"We have a shit load of goblinsteel ore. You said it yourself, weapons made out of that stuff are really valuable."
"You bet your ass that stuff is valuable," Keia said. "They use it for all the Horizon stuff they sell from this region."
“Wait, you’re telling me they have to mine the ore before they can make weapons out of it?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I just know Torian was obsessive about making sure no one but Horizon Dawn gets the goblinsteel ore. That’s part of the reason why they’ve so heavily militarized the area around the raid dungeon.”
I turned to Trelor. “Is this an area where you can provide some insight?”
“It’s not like this is gonna change how you play the game. The whole system for how they use raw materials was an internal design decision. Horizon wanted to be able to create stuff out of thin air when they were strong arming us with access to their tubes, and the old man nixed that. Said if they wanted to create stuff in the game they had to at least go to the trouble of getting the material, though I know they’re not crafting that stuff traditionally. I think the higher ups thought that restriction would keep them from getting a foothold.”
Trelor frowned. His look was miles away for a moment. As though he was seeing something unpleasant.
“Turns out they really outsmarted us on that one,” he said. “No one expected them to pull a Sixer move and turn the rules against us like they did.”
“Bastards,” I said. Then the question that was the whole reason for us coming here hit me. “Speaking of internal design decisions. Do you know anything about why a bunch of my potions have stayed the same without a level limit while a bunch of other potions suddenly got hit with one?”
Trelor smiled a thin smile.
"If someone were to think about it then it might be entirely possible that there was an internal debate where devs were surprised by a potion that gave players a ridiculous advantage, and naturally if said potion was a potion made from a flower called Nhewb’s Blessing then clearly it was designed to give people an edge when they were new to the game. Not at any level.”
"That's what I figured," I said. “I was surprised it worked the way it did too.”
“You’re not the only one,” Trelor said. “Hypothetically speaking. And maybe there was a hypothetical righteous freak out once certain teams realized there wasn't a level requirement, and maybe somebody, say someone who is very familiar with the crafting system that was used to create that potion, pointed out that it wouldn't be very fair to punish the person who discovered that potion even if it would be fair to make all the potions moving forward work as intended."
Trelor spread his hands and shrugged with a huge grin splitting his face.
"At least if I was a betting man then that's how I’d assume it went down. I'm not really all that versed in internal office politics, after all, being but a humble wizard running a simple magic shop on the edge of the magic district in a small out of the way goblin town."
"So now I'm sitting on a fortune because some designer screwed up with a level restriction at some point?” I asked.
This was interesting on a couple of levels. Sure there was the part where I was sitting on a fortune thanks to a suggestion from Trelor, but there was also something more interesting going on here.
Kristoph falling from a great height when he arrived in the game for the first time. The ingredients list not being intuitively obvious on the crafting screen to the point that they were getting lots of complaints. The Nhewb’s Blessing potions not having the appropriate restriction. All that talk about the GMs getting annoyed by UI issues because there were so many real fires to be put out.
What Trelor was telling me, without coming out and saying it, was there were bugs galore waiting to be found. So far I’d profited from one, and I wondered what else was waiting out there for me to find. The bugs were out there, just like the dragons, waiting to be found.
"Anyone who had a bunch of those first potions that give a bonus to anyone at any level?” Trelor said with a shrug and another wink. “Sure. They’d be sitting on a fortune. Especially if they were smart enough to ration those potions out and make it seem like there was a limited supply rather than, say, the hundreds of them I know for a fact were created in my shop yesterday."
A wave of dizziness washed over me. I’d already made a shitload of money just from selling a few potions and one spell infused weapon. I couldn't imagine what that fortune was going to look like by the time I’d sold through all the potions, let alone when I got to a forge and could start cranking out real weapons.
I turned to Kristoph, who held up his hands as though he was expecting an attack. Or, more likely, he was expecting the mother of all smartass remarks.
"Don't you say a fucking word," Kristoph said.
Like hell I wasn’t going to say a word.
"All that time you bitched at me!" I said, riding right over my friend. "All those times you told me it was useless to pick those flowers, and now what's going on? We're rich!"
"I mean I wouldn't say you’re rich quite yet," Trelor said. "The exchange rate is pretty nice, though. And if you were to take your money and reinvest, then…"
I felt even more lightheaded. The exchange rate. Of course. I’d been so busy playing the game that I hadn’t thought about a money transfer. The game was new enough that most money exchanges were going from the real world to the game world rather than in the other direction, but…
My head swam as the implications sank in. I quickly pulled up a window that connected me to the wider Internet. I nearly fainted when I looked at the exchange rate between the game and the real world.
The dollar wasn't exactly in the greatest shape these days, a consequence of America basically abdicating its position as a world leader in the early 21st and suffering the financial consequences that came with creating a power vacuum that other countries were more than happy to fill, but that simply meant that the exchange rate was even more in my favor. Odd that virtual gold in a videogame would be worth more than the once almighty dollar, but that was the case.
And that case left me with more money than I’d ever had in my life. I’m pretty sure it was more money than my parents ever had, for that matter.
"Holy shit," I said. “I’m rich!”
Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!
I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!
I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!
Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.
I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!