“This place is amazing,” I breathed.
“Looks like you found your forge,” Keia said from behind me.
I turned and grinned at her. She grinned right back at me. Meanwhile Kristoph stood there leaning against one of the massive pillars trying his best not to look all that impressed as the glow from the hundreds of forges before us lit him.
Goblins moved back and forth throughout the forge room. It was the only word I could use to describe the place. It looked like something out of a set designer’s fever dream on the old Lord of the Rings movies when they were tasked with visualizing Khazad-dum.
“I trust these facilities are to your liking?” the regent asked.
There was something about his tone that spoke of the pride he felt for this place as well as an undercurrent of the notion that these facilities better be to my liking if I knew what was good for me. I looked down at the guy and ruffled what little hair he had on his head.
Which earned me an annoyed look, but whatever. It’s not like he could do anything to me. Not with his trapped king giving me the run of this place. For the moment.
The problem with making a deal like the one I’d just made with the goblin king was it was a deal that would require me to deliver on some pretty hefty promises. Then again I figured I was probably dead either way if I couldn’t deliver on those promises.
The only problem being if I didn’t deliver on them now then there’d be a hell of a lot of goblins who’d be dying a lot sooner than they would’ve otherwise. It was a lot to think about.
“So if you look here we have the forges where we make all the weapons that eventually go to the soldiers who make their way to the ring mines,” the regent said, droning on.
I stared down at the forges. More particularly at how they were all heated up and ready to go, but it looked like there wasn’t actually a party for them to attend.
“All dressed up with nowhere to go,” I said.
“What do you mean?” the regent said.
“He means we don’t have anything to actually forge,” Rezzik said.
That earned him an irritated glare from the goblin regent, but he didn’t shy away from that glare. No, he stood a little taller and took a step closer to me.
It was an almost amusing echo of what he’d done that first day we met him in the forest outside Nilbog. It would appear that Rezzik was coming to rely on me as his protector. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but if he was willing to speak truth to the regent then I was more than willing to let him help out.
“He’s got a point,” Kristoph said. “Those goblins down there aren’t doing jack shit.”
“Well we have been having a supply problem,” the regent finally growled. “You know we haven’t been able to get anything back from the mine in some time. The ring mines are patrolled and the main mine is under constant guard to keep the king in.”
I held my peace as he said that. I got a strong feeling that the real reason the king was being held in that mine had more to do with game design than it did with anything to do with Horizon Dawn actually keeping the goblin king trapped down there.
It stood to reason that a raid boss with minions at his disposal that Horizon Dawn hadn’t been able to defeat so far was also the kind of raid boss that could use those minions to break out if he had half a mind to cause some trouble. The only problem with that being he couldn’t break out and cause some trouble, because whatever programming had enslaved his mind was keeping him from doing the obvious thing and leaving his dungeon to kick some ass.
It was a hell of a way to design the game, and something I was really going to have to talk to Trelor about. It was like a strange combination of lazy design layered on top of the amazing thinking creatures Lotus had created, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“Right, so we need to get these guys some supplies is what I’m imagining,” I said.
“Well yes,” the regent said. “But how would that even work?”
I paused for a moment and looked at some of the skill branches that were available to me under Armorcrafting and Weaponcrafting. I didn’t have any skill in either of those since I hadn’t been able to actually make any armor or weapons, but there were tantalizing skill branches that had to do with mass production that I couldn’t stop thinking of.
Also? I couldn’t stop thinking about the one truth that’d been a constant ever since I came into this game: a player could do anything they wanted regardless of their skill level.
Which hopefully meant that I could do what I was about to do even though I hadn’t even unlocked the skill trees yet. I guess we were about to test that particular bit of design philosophy.
“Hold onto your butts,” I said.
“Seriously?” Kristoph asked, turning and looking behind him like he was expecting one of those tentacle monsters we’d been worrying about while we were making our way through the depths to sneak up behind him and give him the business.
“It’s a quote,” I said. “And it’s time to see if this is going to work as well as I think it is.”
“If what is going to work as well as you think it is?” Keia asked.
“This,” I said, holding my hands out and thinking about my inventory.
Goblinsteel ingots fell out of my inventory with a loud clang. They slammed against the wide slowly sloping stairs leading down to the forge room, and they immediately got the attention of every goblin in the place. Their ears twitched and they turned to look at the unholy racket I was making.
Oh yeah, I definitely had their attention now!
“What are you…”
The goblinsteel kept coming. Entire stacks of the stuff that’d been sitting in my inventory, inventory that I’d given a hell of a leg up by buying some bags with extra slots on the Auction House, fell down into the place and went rolling out among the forges.
The goblins down there had been looking on in curiosity, but now their eyes were going wide. Oh yeah, they couldn’t believe what I was providing them, and yet still the goblinsteel continued flowing out like manna from the heavens.
“How do you have this much?” the regent breathed.
“Me and Keia made a little trip out to one of the ring mines a little while back,” I said. “Killed a shitload of Horizon Dawn people to make our escape, but I figure it’s totally worth it to have this little moment here. What do you think?”
Finally the goblinsteel rain started to slow to a trickle, and then the last one popped out of my inventory and that was that. I shook my hand a couple of times to make sure there wasn’t anything else in there, but it would seem that was that.
“Well there’s quite a bit in there, but…”
“Keia, Kristoph, would you do the honors?”
They both held their hands out, and a moment later more goblinsteel came flying out of their hands. I hadn’t been lying when I said we’d loaded ourselves down with the stuff. If I didn’t miss my guess, I’d say those ring mines were probably meant to service a bunch of high level players going through the area and clearing them out, and yet I’d been able to go through all on my own and take care of business.
Which meant I had a hell of a lot of goblinsteel sitting around.
And the goblins stared in disbelief. Their mouths hung open, and then they started talking. The talking quickly turned to cheers of joy. Cheers of joy soon turned to capering back and forth as they realized that they were back in business.
When the last of the goblinsteel ore we’d collected landed it’d created a pile the size of a small mountain at the bottom of the massive sloping stairs. It said something about the sheer amount of goblinsteel we’d brought with us that it was able to look large considering the even larger surroundings.
“I’m going to need access to one of those forges, and some wood, iron ingots, and string,” I said to no one in particular.
Rezzik didn’t miss a beat. He started bellowing out orders to the shocked goblins down below, and that was enough to get all of them to hop to it.
I grinned again. Oh yeah. I was starting to think that Rezzik was going to be one hell of an ally as we put our plans into motion.
I turned and gave the regent a little grin. His mouth was hanging wide open as well, which was a damn sight better than the annoyed frowns he’d been hitting me with for most of my time down here. Maybe he was starting to finally realize that I wasn’t simply boasting about what we were going to do here.
Maybe, but that wasn’t going to stop me from keeping an eye on the short bastard.
Soon enough I stood in front of a forge with the materials I needed out in front of me.
“So do you have any idea how this works?” Keia asked.
“No idea at all,” I said. “But this game is all about taking the abstraction that’s been part of game UIs since people first started making games and unabstracting it.”
“Is that even a word?” Kristoph asked.
“No idea, but it’s the perfect explanation for what they’re doing in this game, and we’re going to see if I can do it here. First I need to get some of this ore together and figure out this recipe though.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier for you to have our people do it?” the regent asked, sounding supremely annoyed at this dog and pony show we were putting on.
“Fine,” I said. “I was going to make a goblinsteel dagger. Could you please have one of your craftsgoblins make that for me?”
I stood to the side and gestured to the thing. The regent stared at the reagents and his mouth worked, but nothing came out. He seemed surprised that I’d concede the point to him so easily.
“Please tell me you’re doing something clever,” Keia muttered.
“I really hope I’m doing something clever here,” I muttered back. “Only one way to know for sure.”
The regent snapped at a couple of the goblin craftsmen who’d been standing around the forges looking like they were desperately in need of something to do. One of them walked up and took one of the goblinsteel ingots, and then placed other supplies down in front of it on the forge.
Then it stood there, staring down at all those supplies, but not actually doing anything.
“Um, is the goblin broken?” Keia asked.
“Not broken,” I said. “At least not in the way you usually think of a game being broken.”
“Then what’s going on?” she asked.
“Go ahead,” I said. “You have everything you need to make a dagger right there in front of you. So make the dagger.”
The goblin craftsman shot me an irritated look that said he thought I was mocking him. Then he looked to the regent, and finally back to the supplies laid out in front of him. His mouth worked like he was chewing on something he didn’t particularly like.
He reached out hesitantly, trying to figure it out, then let out a sigh of frustration.
“I can’t,” it grumbled.
The regent’s eyes went wide. “What do you mean you can’t?”
“I mean I can’t do it!” the goblin hissed again. “What’s so hard to understand about that? I can’t do it.”
“You won’t do it,” the regent said. “Get someone else in here. Take him away.”
“Now hold up just a minute,” I said, holding a hand up. “Let the guy stick around for a little bit. I have a feeling you’re going to get the same reaction from everyone you bring up here.”
The regent grumbled something I couldn’t quite catch as it was low enough so as to not be heard, then curtly gestured for more goblins to come up and make attempts. Every one of them went through the same set of steps. They’d look at the reagents in front of them, try to reach for them, then get confused and stop.
“What’s going on here?” Kristoph asked. “Are they all suffering from amnesia or something?”
“Not amnesia,” I said. “We’re just running up against one of those spots where the needs of game mechanics outweigh the needs to craft a fully immersive world.”
“Which means?” Keia prompted. “I know you think you’re being fabulously clever here and I’ll almost concede that to you, but maybe explain the clever thing you’re doing?”
“It’s pretty simple,” I said, switching to party chat so I didn’t give any of the goblins around us an existential crisis with my explanation. “The goblins have memories of this world that go back to before it actually came into existence. Like to them their world has always existed, but we know that world only actually came into existence a month ago when the early access started.”
“Following you so far,” Kristoph said.
“So to them they’ve been using this forge room for time immemorial. The regent and all the other goblins have memories of using this room to forge weapons for mighty armies that they used to do whatever it was mighty goblin armies did within the ancient lore of this world,” I said.
“Makes sense,” Keia said.
“The only problem is this whole area is set up to be a faction that a player could maybe take over with a little poking and prodding in the right places. So while the goblins have memories of being this powerful force in the game and being able to make weapons, for the purpose of game mechanics they can’t actually do any of that stuff until a player character comes along and shows them how to do it, or tells them to do it,” I continued.
“Wow,” Keia said. “Seems like a sloppy bit of design for a game that’s supposed to be so great otherwise.”
“Yeah, but that’s the thing,” I said. “There are cracks all around the thing, just waiting for someone to come along and, hold on a second.”
The regent was still glaring at me. I’d been so distracted by the conversation in party chat that I hadn’t noticed the line of goblins who’d come and failed and then stood off to the side hanging their heads in shame.
“Sorry about that,” I said, switching out of party chat. “So are you ready to do things my way, or are we going to keep this up?”
“What is your way?” the regent asked.
I grinned, knowing I’d won another small victory. For all that the regent looked like he’d enjoy nothing more than to grab one of the weapons his people hadn’t been able to craft and use it to relieve me of my head.
“I thought you’d never ask. Watch and learn.”
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!