James walked along the polished stone floor of the town hall. Rather than being a single main corridor with small rooms off to the side, the hall had tripled in size and been divided accordingly. The offices –temporarily converted to housing— of Samouel, Andrew, Anne and himself flanked the sides of the first main corridor. Jim peeked into Andrew’s room and the elder snored on a small mattress in the corner of the room and his desk held no plans or blueprints. Jim carefully and quietly backed out of the room; he wouldn’t wake Andrew for no reason. Surely the planning table had just been moved.
Jim walked to the end of the corridor and expected to find a much smaller area than what he found. The middle of the town hall opened up dramatically into an open plan dining area, with a small kitchen on the north side. Furs and hides cushioned the floors in place of rugs and surprisingly grand seats and tables had been grouped around various, larger hides. Jim slowed as he entered this room and became unsure of where to go. Even though he’d seen the much larger exterior of the building, the enormous and grand interior had been hard to reconcile with his expectations.
The last time Jim had been tasked with managing the village’s construction, he’d had to go to the back-left corner of the building into Andrew’s study. Now, Andrew’s study had been moved to the front of the village hall and the interior of the building had been transformed by many, busy hands. Without any better ideas, he continued to the back of the dining hall where two looming timber doors separated the main area from the third section of the town hall.
The small study and planning table that had once been secreted away had been entirely replaced with the upgrade to a town hall. Instead, a large, circular table that would have comfortably sat twelve diners prominently dominated the centre of the back room in the hall. Bookshelves laden with maps, parchment, and inkwells lined both walls all around the room. The shelving rose to waist height, then stopped and acted as the windowsills to the room. Lacking glass, the town hall had been crafted with shutters and louvres so that the town’s leadership could look out into the western section of the town, where Jim had planned to place most of the key buildings. Jim opened one of the shutters by pulling down the shoulder-height lever. The moonlit space in the western quarter was empty of people.
He pushed the lever back into the closed position and walked to the central table.
“All right… let’s see what’s here.”
Jim approached a gap between two seats of the table and leaned out over the wooden tabletop. When he rested his hands upon the desk, an interface appeared, creating a scaled-down, 3D representation of Jamestown. Jim quickly learned that he could manipulate the map when he leaned back, and his hands carved furrows into the ground that they’d rested on.
Removes 22m3 of earth and soil from the eastern zone of Jamestown.
0/220 build points.
Jim read the prompt, then hurriedly cancelled the construction. He worried that, if he left the construction there for more than a few seconds, any players still in town would immediately begin digging the ditches to earn experience and reputation with the town.
When it comes to quests, any player would happily ignore common sense and dig a giant ditch in the middle of town for no other reason than the game told them to. That being said, there’s no reason I couldn’t dig ditches outside of town…
This last thought came to Jim as he looked around at other aspects of the town planning interface. In the corner of the map, a floating scroll held the information that Jim most wanted to find: If upgrading from village to town had such great benefits to the town’s wealth –and therefore Jim’s eventual wealth and continued existence– then what benefits would upgrading from a town to a borough have?
Zone Quest received: Upgrade to Borough.
Organise the expansion of all buildings, services, and districts required for the town ‘Jamestown’ to become a Borough.
0/1 Jamestown Border planned.
Rewards: Jamestown will upgrade to a Borough, and receive corresponding upgrades to taxation, migration, tourism and other development indexes. 1,000,000 experience points and 500,000 reputation with Jamestown will be divided among contributors.
The very first item on the list was what spurred Jim’s thoughts about the ditch-digging powers of the player base. Initially, Jim thought that his best plan for establishing a border would be to have the town dig a ditch from the north, where the river and jagged mountains jutted to the east, then claim area out to the crossroad. The only problem was that going south from the crossroad, the area of land they’d have to fortify to the west was a huge open plain and would take tens of thousands of man-hours to fortify.
When he stood on a chair to look down at the map of The Grand Plateau from above, Jim got a much clearer picture. After reviewing the entire zone, Jim made note of several important locations in a compass-rose around Jamestown.
- In the north, the river near Jamestown left the zone through a quickly declining valley.
- In the north-east, after the westward jut of the mountains that rose up further into a mountain range, a light forest grew. A dense fog covered the entire area on the eastern side of the river and nothing Jim did could move it.
- In the east, the river hugged the mountain ranges that rose above the plateau.
- In the south-east, where he’d been attacked by the mostly-sentient Avian people, a huge forest overgrew the area. The river also flowed through this area and if Jim followed it uphill to its source through a narrow passage, he’d exited the zone via a winding mountain path.
- In the south, the steep incline up to the plateau protected that entire area. However, just like the light forest in the north-east, a section of the southern decline had also been covered in a fog that he couldn’t brush away.
- In the west, Jim saw the narrow hills and paths that the mercenaries had followed to bring him and the refugees into the zone.
- Finally, in the north-west, was Andrew’s ancestral town.
Looking at the lay of the land, Jim mapped out with his hands where he wanted the border to go. First, he followed his initial plan, to build from the westward jut to the southern side of the plateau. He used the various shaping tools the interface offered him to carve a one-metre deep, half-metre wide ditch that stretched 12 kilometres north to south. He then arranged the earth that would be dug to form a half-metre high, one-metre wide earthwork.
The proposed border caused a prompt to appear in front of Jim.
Construction: Western Earthen Border Wall
Relocates 6,000m3 of earth and soil to create a short earthen berm.
0/120,000 build points.
Jim already knew that this solution didn’t make the best use of the natural lay of the land to fortify the area, but he wanted to have a point of comparison. He cancelled the plan and began laying out a far more ambitious project.
The entire The Grand Plateau zone could only be accessed by a series of mountainous chokepoints. The biggest threat to a lizardman town here would undoubtedly be the tyrannical human kingdom to the west and Jim also knew that the only access from the west was a half-kilometre wide, treacherous and winding pass that Jonathon’s Mercenary company had brought their group along weeks ago.
Jim again used the landscaping tools to propose an earthen fortification. This time, he relied on the natural fortification of the plateau’s cliffs and dug a 2-metre deep and 2-metre wide ditch along the half-kilometre stretch. Then, he placed the displaced dirt in an equally tall and wide berm. He finished this proposed fortification with a stone wall, 6 metres wide and 9 metres high, that they’d build at a later date.
Construction: Western Pass Earthen Border Wall
Relocates 2,000m3 of earth and soil to create a strong earthen berm.
0/40,000 build points.
Construction: Western Pass Border Fort
Constructs a 6m by 9m wall, gatehouse and fort across the Western Pass.
0/200,000 build points.
Jim did not cancel this proposed building. The area between Jamestown and the Western Pass had been safe when they’d travelled here two-weeks ago. Builders should be able to safely fortify the western portion of The Grand Plateau without worrying about attacks… he hoped. The requirements to build the fort portion of the border wall surprised Jim, though. He didn’t know how many players would waste levels on getting a builder talent. He knew that he wanted to start a profession, but he couldn’t justify wasting those points. How many other players think the same as I do? He left the proposed building in place, anyway. If nothing else, someone would build it eventually for the contribution experience and reputation.
With the Western entrance to The Grand Plateau sorted, Jim turned his attention to the only other two entrances to the zone. The northern Entrance looked to be 5 kilometres wide. Placing the border here would be the narrowest point, but Jim felt concerned about the foggy area on the other side of the river. He experimented with two options.
His first option was to ignore the foggy area, and build a short earthen berm, just to claim the land. This 0.5m by 1m ditch and 1m by 0.5m berm would cost 50,000 build points and was Jim’s preferred option as it claimed more land. The second option was to fortify from the jut that he’d initially planned to build the Western wall on and stretch that to the smaller cliffs that separated the southern half of The Grand Plateau map from the northern, lower plateau. Building a similar berm would cost 80,000 build points but would probably be built quicker than the more-northern option, since the western side of the fortification would end beside the Haunted Iron Mine dungeon, where many players gathered.
Jim couldn’t easily decide which of the walls to build and ultimately reached what, at first, seemed like the worst compromise possible. He left both walls available for construction. However, his reasoning was that all of the work would be done by players looking to earn experience and, since no materials were required for construction, he’d be able to use the Central Earthen Border Wall as a fall-back position without compromising other buildings.
Jim faced the same problem with the eastern border. He could barricade the narrow pass that led uphill and out of the zone for only 20,000 build points, or he could barricade just at the line to the forest and use the stone residences to help fortify that area for 120,000 build points. Again, he chose to put both border walls into the town’s planning interface and let the players do the leg work in exchange for experience and reputation.
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My name's Tim and I'm writing Forgotten Man Online, a game-literature light novel web-series that I plan to release here, on Royal Road, and eventually hopefully through Amazon's Kindle platform.
I studied writing at university for three years and then became a high-school English teacher in Australia (6 years in). Hopefully, that means you will find my content to be of a high standard and that you will enjoy it, provided you can stand the British spelling of words :).