(Y6, July 14th)
“So, how was your day?”
“Good. The Polish guy knows how to use his bow. And the other American loves to crush things. That flail he picked from the armory suits him. I lost some skins twice because he tore it before the beast died.”
“Good XP then?”
“Good. We also met a guy on the way back. Another Canuck. And Dadanlong has his first inn visitors, there’s a couple – at least I think they’re a couple now – that arrived mid-afternoon.”
“We had them come to ‘register’. They were pretty surprised to get a welcome money bag after picking their home. Haven’t seen your new guy yet.”
There was a knock before Vantegaard could say anything more.
“Hiya. I am Redcap. Oh, hi Quandocor.”
“Welcome to Fanduk. The guy there, that’s our current mayor I told you about. At least until you raise the pitchforks and riot for new elections.”
“Hi. I’ve picked a home. He said to come and check with you once I’d hung the sign next to the door.”
“Ring… two, I think.”
He handed a small wooden block with “2D” on it. Quandocor had made those quickly yesterday, and Vantegaard and Birkathane placed them while investigating the houses.
“Ok, Redcap, 2D. Just a sec’…”
Vantegaard went into the smaller side room and came back holding a canvas bag.
“That’s yours. It’s the ‘volatile’ contents of the home you picked.”
Redcap peeked into the bag.
“Whoa? Welcome gift?”
“Some cash to start. Seeing as everyone here is a newb, and no one probably has pieces-of-8, I thought it was better if we all had an initial coinage. Of course, the services and goods are a bit lacking for now, but there are lots of people coming, and I think it’s going to kick off pretty soon.”
“Thanks a lot, man! I’ve got two skills with masonry and furniture, but I need to find a manual on how to use them. Because I’ve tried to move stones and board, and it doesn’t do anything. Hunting seems easier.”
“I have Sculpting. It’s still zero, nothing seems to count as using it.”
Quandocor remarked “Fanduk. Population 11 and counting. The place is going to become crowded soon.”
“There are times like today when you’re reminded it’s still the frontier. Everything’s new, everything’s strange.”
Birkathane added, “Speaking of the frontier, the Respawn has lit up 30mn ago.”
“Oh. So you can recess in Vikingland at any time?”
“Yes. I’d like to check with my friends, but they’re probably not back yet. I mean, they expected me to pop somewhere, and spend a week or two getting around. So they should all be in Northworld, except for the last two without a Silvergate yet.”
“Do you want it?”
“Nope. Keep it for your friend. If he has one, I’ll get it out of your hands, but otherwise, I’m fine.”
She added “I think we will all check back on Earth first before we start running this town properly. So I’ll wait until you guys have their own respawn ready, and we’ll keep synchronized.”
Quandocor asked, “so, what’s the plan?”
Vantegaard and Birkathane looked at each other, hesitantly. Quandocor noticed the shared looks and frowned.
“No. I used my magic sense to figure out the magic door. That’s why I couldn’t kick it. Mid-level magic. But if you have the right skill, it’s trivial to solve.”
“Great! Anything good like the armory?”
“You could say that.”
Vantegaard brought out the jewelry box.
“The next part had these. We got ours, but there’s plenty for you as well.”
“Whoa. Nice. Thanks, everyone.”
Quandocor started rummaging through the rings and wristbands.
“That’s not the only loot.”
“Hm? There’s more?”
Birkathane brought her backpack and opened it, putting a first Skill Stone on the table.
“I sometimes forget you’re the biggest newbie around. That’s a Skill Stone.”
“A Skill. Stone. This does what?”
“It lets you learn the skill that’s inscribed on the stone. For free. Mostly; you still increase the cost of your next skill. But that’s a free skill, and you can choose if you want it or not.”
“That seems useful.”
“It is. That’s mainly how people try to complete their builds. After a while, you start getting skills that are not good or won’t fit. It’s a lottery, and you don’t always have a winning streak, usually. So people seek out some useful Stones, and they sell the ones they don’t want.”
Vantegaard expanded on his explanations.
“There are essentially three ways of getting a new skill in Northworld. The first is that you grind specific skills, and then run the lottery hoping to get a related one. It’s a lot better when you get an ambiguous skill, but that’s not too common.”
He raised a second finger.
“Two, you buy – or loot, if you’re lucky – a skill stone that you want. It’s a free lottery ticket, and you can cash in anytime you like. Usually, you start to get them after picking already lots of skills, so you have a good idea about what you want.”
He raised a third finger.
“Three, you buy – and usually for a lot – a skill scroll.”
“What’s a skill scroll?”
“Essentially, it’s like a skill stone, but it’s made by a Gater.”
“We can do that?”
“Yes, but not many do. It costs. A lot.”
“But if it’s player made…”
“It’s not free. To learn and make. If you want to learn a skill scroll, you need to spend some skill points. 1 point per tier.”
“So you need to spend 5 points for a tier 1? It’s a bargain.”
“For the buyer, yes. For the maker… you need to pay 1 point from the skill itself to make a scroll, and then it doubles every tier.”
Quandocor counted in his head.
“So… you need to pay 16 or is it 32 skill points to make a scroll?”
“16. And that’s 16 skill points from the skill, not unallocated ones. If you want to make a tier 1 skill scroll, you first need to raise the skill by 16, gaining experience. You can’t spend the points you get from the stats, you can’t spend the points you get from raising it by hand. You need skill points that you’ve gained.”
“So… if I wanted to sell a scroll for my Unseen Meditation, I’m only halfway thru?”
“Correct. 8 points out of 16. And once you’ve made the scroll, you permanently lose those 16 points. Getting your first point back will cost you as much effort as getting the 17th would normally, but with 16 less on the skill to work with. And you lose 16 levels as well and the 8 points stat bonus, so it’s triple points penalty.”
“It’s better worth it.”
“Yea. There are a few people who have cashed in on rare skills, but almost all Gaters will hold on their tier 2 and 1. They’re too useful to waste 8-16 points of progression. When you’re a veteran and your skill takes half a week to raise by 1, that’s horrid.”
“Three months ago, there was a huge auction on Earth. Some people get skills that are so awesome, they can make a living from it.”
Mandate of Heaven
Tier 1 Presence
The weight and purpose of the divine lay on your shoulders. There is no enterprise that cannot succeed when it has the Mandate of Heaven.
Grant anyone in good standing a percentage of any one of your stats at random. Gain a lesser percentage of any one of their other stats at random; only the highest gain among all those possible is retained.
Standing can be revoked at any time.
Maximum persons in good standing: skill
Maximum stat granted: 1 per 100 skill, rounded up
Maximum stat gain: (skill)% of a stat total.
Maximum stat gained: (skill/2)% of a stat total.
“That skill sounds… enormous.”
“It’s a game-changer for a guild. And the user. If you can raise it high, you can change a group of people into a powerhouse. And there are hints that the boons carry over when you’re on Earth, even.”
Vantegaard concluded “It fetched over two million $. The last bidding round was between Russians and Chinese, and some people think the Chinese threatened to have the Russians all killed if they kept bidding.”
“So, we have a skill stone, and you… what? Wanted to roll? I mean, I wasn’t there…”
Quandocor watched as Birkathane removed more and more skill stones from her overfull pack. The table quickly filled with the smooth marbles squares.
“That looks like… a lot.”
“It is. They’re not too rare. You find them like Silvergates, maybe a bit more frequently. Of course, you usually find tier 5 skills. About one in 5 is a tier 4, then 1 in 5 is a tier 3, and so on. So you get a tier 1 about 0.1% of the time.”
Quandocor looked at the stone haul inquiringly.
Vantegaard added “Yes. It’s not normal to find lots of stones, and it’s not the normal distribution of stones either.”
“Lots of tier 1?”
“It’s more or less the same number of each tier. They were sorted in boxes at the top of the tower.”
“I can’t believe it. Was there a boss? I mean, we nearly got killed to get just a Silvergate and a bunch of crafting components. There should be an army guarding that if it’s so rare.”
“There was a boss, but broken. He wasn’t attacking or anything. Just moving around, and ignoring us.”
“So. What do you want to do?”
“Birka and I, we talked about it. I mean, it’s not Mandate of Heaven, but there’s still lots of all kinds. It’s a possible fortune, but it’s also a massive power jump.”
Birkathane added “I’ve thought about it. One of the things is that we all have a tier 1 meditation skill. It’s rare, and it’s wasted if you’re a single mage build.”
“Van is dual now.”
Vantegaard corrected “I’m barely a new Aether mage. But yes, I’ve got a second possible build coming, while you all only have a single type of magic. But we can change that.”
Quandocor eyed the stones.
“Yes. There are all kinds of skills in that batch. So we have three choices.”
“Let me guess. Sell them on Earth, use the ones for our builds, or use all of them and get more builds running. Correct?”
“Not all of them. There’s a bunch that isn’t useful or multiply the number of weapons you’d use. But most of them,” said Birkathane.
Vantegaard added “and forget selling them through Earth. Scrolls completely vanish when you respawn, and skill stones become plain stones within hours.”
Quandocor thought about it. His mission wasn’t – yet – a bust. He was out in the boonies, with only a handful of possible arrests if he managed to get enough information to identify them. He wasn’t supposed to play the Northworld game, just to worm himself into confidence and blow the thing.
But if he was stuck and had to play along… he needed to play along well. So what was the correct reaction for a Gater?
Obviously… get as much power you could seize. Greed took many forms but always won out in the end.
“Then I’d say, whatever makes us stronger.”
The smiles told him he’d said the right thing.
They ended up playing the “drafting game”. Each of them would pick one skill stone they wanted, then they’d move to the next. Until they skipped because none seemed to be ever used.
The tier 1 ones vanished quickly. They ended up with varied builds.
Health: 759/759 (recovers 161/day)
Stamina: 809/809 (recovers 2.3/s)
Power: 1472/1472 (650+822 recovers 1.8/s)
Aether: 149/1490 (base 149, drift 4.6/mn)
Psi: 29/732 (recovers 2.4/s)
Reasoning: 29 (24%)
Dexterity: 26 (89%)
Resilience: 25 (22%)
Fortitude: 24 (11%)
Strength: 23 (52%)
Reflexes: 20 (0%)
Perception: 18 (48%)
Intuition: 15 (31%)
Presence: 14 (18%)
Absolute Meditation 32 (9%)
Mind over Matter 29 [*]
Sense the Leylines 21 (62%)
Door Knocker 14 (7%)
Sprinting 13 (35%)
Aetheric Sense 13 (20%)
Blocking Strike 13
Sure Strike 11 (48%)
Bladed Parry 10 (31%)
Jab 9 (20%)
Drain Living Aether 8
Rock Dart 7 (78%)
Evaluate Minerals 7 (48%)
Aether Drive 7 [*]
Immutable Mind 7 (35%)
Jewelcraft 6 [*]
Armored Earth 6 [*]
Psychic Reading 6 [*]
Structure of the Aether 6 [*]
Juggling 5 (85%)
Focused Sight 5 (75%)
Impose Load 5 (75%)
Night Sense 5 (59%)
Aether Balance 4 [*]
Body’s Balance 3 [*]
Level: 46 – 24%
Unused points: 8
Copper Unadorned Ring (lvl 18), +1 to the three highest skills
Incised Copper Ring (lvl 15), +1 Strength
Bronze Double Clasp (lvl 18), +11 health/day
Tempered Long Dagger (lvl 16), +1% hit
[*] Skill stones
Vantegaard had hesitated a bit before picking the Jewelcraft skill stone. It was free, but it was also raising the cost of the next skill by 1. It combined with his Evaluate Minerals, and that would be some free gear in the future.
The next interference on earth skills was also receding. He still had two skills to get from the floating stones, and they would cost him a lot. The next was already at 18 points, and the one after would be 19.
In essence, none of them were newbies anymore. Once your lottery started running in the 15+, it was time to strengthen your build. Except that, in his case, he needed to keep points to pick from the leylines. But he was sure there might be people in their thousands with fewer skills than he had now.
Health: 754/754 (recovers 138/day)
Stamina: 807/807 (recovers 1.8/s)
Power: 19/1416 (645+771; recovers 1.6/s)
Lifeforce: 1025/1025 (recover 0.2/s)
Arcane: 32/808 (0 in use; recovers 4.6/s)
Dexterity: 28 (4%)
Reasoning: 28 (0%)
Fortitude: 24 (84%)
Reflexes: 23 (97%)
Resilience: 23 (14%)
Presence: 19 (49%)
Intuition: 18 (62%)
Strength: 18 (59%)
Perception: 16 (60%)
Meditative Cultivation 32 (68%)
Arcane Precision 28 [*]
Shore Weakness 19 [*]
Draw on the World 14 (56%)
Infuse Vitality 13 (69%)
Rooted Existence 12 (81%)
Pierce Defense 12 (65%)
Pacify 12 [*]
Absolute Compass 11 (96%)
Arcane Weakness 11 [*]
Deflect Strike 10 (85%)
Stand Guard 9
Immutable Flesh 8 (32%)
Brew Potion 8 (3%)
Arcane Speed 7 [*]
Night Sense 6 (74%)
Interrupt 6 (66%)
Steadfast 6 (34%)
Immutable Mind 6 [*]
Infuse Stamina 6 [*]
Surface Climb 5 (80%)
Carry the Load 5 (79%)
Weak Points 5 (72%)
Evaluate Flora 5 (40%)
Arcane Entanglement 5 [*]
Effortless 4 (80%)
Rock Dart 3 [*]
Purify Tincture 3
Extended Bestiary 3 [*]
Level: 48 – 26%
Unused points: 10
Oak Ring (lvl 13), +75 to Lifeforce
Polished Copper Ring (lvl 15), +1 Reflexes
Iron Elaborate Necklace (lvl 16), +2 Presence
[*] Skill stones
Birkathane had been surprised when Vantegaard had skipped on Earth-type stones. He explained that he got already a bunch of skills, and wanted to focus on getting a real archmagi wide build. Even if there wasn’t a tier 1 geomantic in the cache, it was still nice stuff.
She looked forward to trying Arcane puzzle solving.
Health: 711/711 (recovers 156/day)
Stamina: 774/774 (recovers 2.1/s)
Death: 891/891 (recovers 0.008/s)
Mana: 28/818 (recover 1.3/s)
Ritual: 59/642 (recover 0.7/s)
Fortitude: 31 (41%)
Resilience: 26 (57%)
Reasoning: 25 (0%)
Reflexes: 22 (21%)
Strength: 21 (8%)
Dexterity: 20 (61%)
Intuition: 16 (42%)
Perception: 16 (38%)
Presence: 13 (48%)
Unseen Meditation 40 (82%)
Auspicious Omens 31 [*]
Fatal Distraction 19 [*]
Lay of the Land 17 (85%)
Endurance of Death 15 (72%)
Cold Grasp 13 (6%)
Draw From Life 13 [*]
The Dawn of Light 13 [*]
Sense Life and Death 12 (74%)
Area Slow 11 (33%)
Steady Grip 10 [*]
Wizard Breach 10 [*]
Deflect Strike 9 (97%)
Consume Dead 9 (79%)
Dodge Blow 9 (58%)
Drain Life 7 (22%)
Deadly Punch 7 (0%)
Balance Life 7 [*]
Pull Mastery 6 (74%)
Decay Strength 6 (70%)
Associative Memory 6
Work Leather 6 [*]
Skinning 5 (29%)
Disrupt Action 5 [*]
Foe Threat 4 (80%)
Preparation 4 [*]
Level: 36 – 46%
Unused points: 7
Silver-shod Staff (lvl ?), expert-crafted item (?)
Basic Copper Ring (lvl 13), +1 Reflexes
Basic Iron Ring (lvl 16), +1 Dexterity
[*] Skill stones
Quandocor had no idea how useful the various skills he’d picked would be. He chiefly took whatever the other two hadn’t picked. Vantegaard had explained that Mana's magic was simple. Rituals were very variable in power, but once you had Meditation, you could be sloppy.
“Now, I want you to keep this secret. If we advertise that we’ve got 25 skills already and are Archmages, people are going to become very suspicious and think we’re cheating.”
“Which we are.”
“Yes, but if people find out that not only did we eat ten skill stones, but we’ve got jewelry and the like, there’s going to be hell to pay. I mean, you don’t gain skills fighting other people, but you can seriously kill them if you want to.”
Vincent Archer wrote his first story around age 11. On a mechanical typewriter, with carbon paper for a mimeograph to distribute in class. His teacher knew enough to make vague encouraging noises rather than really tell him what she thought. He wrote more stories afterward, but Time has thankfully managed to erase every trace of them.
Now that his career has settled in a mix of routine and insanity and that he's figured out that herding cats would probably be easier, he's finally started to write stories again on a media rather than inside his brain. Some of those are even potentially good enough to show to other people.
Silvergates is his first attempt to finish one rather than admit defeat against the usual writer's block.