"Jackal, how long until I'm allowed back in?"
You will be able to enter Abidden in 3 hours and 7 minutes.
"Perfect, thank you."
James answered as he continued to study the assortment of documents he had placed on the screens in his apartment. After finally understanding what Don and the other Paragons were doing to level up so quickly, James wanted to find his own path, which would allow him to catch up to them. All the screens he had created to track the Paragons and the Heroes, he discarded. They were only distractions for him now. Their performance didn't matter while he was weak. If he really wanted to be a contender in this game, he needed to focus on his own personal development and making the Dread Pirate Sylvian the best he could be. He first started with opening the Loremaster's guide, which was a compendium of everything in the game, including the new quests, factions, functions and areas of the map that had previously not existed within Abidden. It only took James a few moments of reading to realise that he had severely overestimated his knowledge of this game. Whatever he had previously witnessed in the Raid Nights and the few snippets of promotional footage, they were nothing compared to the depth that these articles were offering.
"Son of a bitch..."
James muttered as he continued reading the guide for starting a villain campaign in Rayth.
What have you discovered?
"It looks like..."
James started as he pointed at one block of text and glanced over at another segment of a separate article on a different window.
"... I wasted a lot of time in that Goblin Forest."
He cross-referenced the different articles again until a humourless smile tugged at his lips.
"Yeah. I wasted a lot of time. The Loremasters suggest I work with the Slavers at the shore, which acts as an introduction to all the different factions within Rayth. I would sell the women to Camila in the Veil, which gets me on friendly terms with the Viska Network. I'd take the kids to the Alldark Orphanage, which is the Faction I'm most suited to aligning with. Someone called Lucius would then give me a mission to meet with the Galar Faction... and all of them would give me missions to defeat the Vigo Syndicate."
James sighed as he selected each Faction Boss.
"By aligning or defeating them, I get equipment that I desperately need."
Clicking on the equipment caused it to pop up with more information.
Reward for Defeating: Pedro the Butcher - Escravo Cartel Faction Boss
Reward for Defeating: Camila the Veil - Viska Network Faction Boss
Reward for Defeating: Yerstis Beag - Galar Faction Boss
Reward for Defeating: Lucius Alldark - Alldark Orphanage Boss
Reward for Defeating: Fibber - Vigo Syndicate Boss
James looked at the reward for beating Fibber for a few moments. If he took down the Vigo Syndicate, the penalty he had incurred from Calista would disappear. It seemed a little convenient that the game was pointing him toward defeating the Intelligence Faction last. A few moments of clicking through the different options and appraising all the equipment that he stood to gain, James looked a bit more at the Dread Pirate as a class. Even though he had seen everything that appeared for him in-game, he wanted to know if the Loremasters had additional information that would give him a competitive advantage.
"Jackal, can you find any information on the Dread Pirate Class within the Loremaster files? Is there an overview?"
James asked as he dismissed several screens. He had lost count of how many times he had forgotten to utilise the artificial intelligence. He needed to give commands, otherwise he would stare at the screens for hours on end.
This is the description of the class from Aliyah Dreyfus, Character Designer for Vendetta Enterprises.
The Dread Pirate is a Unique Class. It has versatility in that it can compete in both long ranged and close-quarter combat scenarios. The character will be Dexterity dominant, which will make them incredibly agile but weak to attacks that hit. The Dread Pirate's principal source of power comes from their Ship and Crew. Suitable candidates for the Dread Pirate Class will be both strategic and combat ready, with extensive experience in Virtual Reality gaming. This class is not suitable for beginners or new players in Abidden. The tutorial for the Dread Pirate will take place in the town of Rayth, which is at the centre of the Dread Lake. The Dread Pirate will need to make alliances or defeat a series of powerful opponents to attain their starting gear and get their ship. Upon Breaking the Wall, the Dread Pirate and their chosen crew will start their adventure in Abidden.
"Principal source of power comes from their ship and crew..."
James repeated the words as he dismissed the screens that held all the equipment from the Faction Bosses. The equipment he could get was only going to distract him. He needed to focus on what would bring his rank up as fast as possible.
"What do you think it means, Jackal? My power comes will come from the ship and crew?"
Frederick Hargreaves commanded a force of over twenty soldiers when he was the General of Light. His overall strength increased by having them as his subordinates, and they allowed him to take on much tougher missions. The Dread Pirate may be like this and is more powerful by having a crew. If your ship had armaments, it would increase your firepower.
James didn't answer the artificial intelligence as he brought up a familiar window of information. It was the very same one that Don had shown him in the Neophyte Bar that contained a list of ships that surrounded Rayth.
"Jackal, can you calculate the time it would take for me to build the Dread Ship in Rayth?"
There are currently too many variables to consider, such as wealth, mission success and the recruitment of availability of artisans in Rayth.
Thinking back to when he was in front of the map, James phrased the question differently.
"Assuming that we had the artisans, and we had the money to fund the construction, how long would it take?"
If the Dread Faction had an 80% success rate on their assigned missions, the Shipyard would be complete in five days. This is assuming that you have the required artisans and gold for construction. The Ship would require additional funds and construction time, which I would estimate as at least the same time again, if not more.
"Building a ship will take a minimum of ten days, even if we have everything we need... which we do not."
James sighed as he bit his lip and looked closer at the screen in front of him. It was good to have a point of reference, but it meant little when it was by itself. He needed something on the other end of the scale, which would start him off with his strategy.
"Okay Jackal, what if I wanted the biggest and baddest ship that was available to build? Look through the catalogue that the Loremaster's provided, apply the same parameters. How many days would it take to build?"
The largest and most fearsome ship that is available to build is the 'Man o' War'. It would require three Shipyard upgrades, including the clearing of a district in Rayth and cutting down the entire Goblin Forest. Besides this, gathering all the materials would take a minimum of twenty-five days. I estimate construction to take a similar amount of time. Hypothetically, it would take over two months to complete a Man o' War. Was this information helpful?
"Yes it was, thank you Jackal."
James laughed as he added in the other end of the scale. He now had two points of reference. If he created a Shipyard and had all the resources he needed, it would still take him between two weeks and two months to create his ship.
"Looks like it's more realistic to use Don's option... Jackal, can you compile a list of all the known ships that are currently resting at the bottom of the Dread Lake?"
According to the Loremaster Guide, there are twelve Ships that are in the Dread Lake.
James opened his mouth to ask his follow up question when he paused. Don had told him where the ships were, but he didn't exactly specify how he was going to get them out of the Lake.
"Jackal, can you find any information about how I could take one of those ships as my own?"
If you challenge the Ship's Guardian and defeat it, you can claim ownership of the crew and their ship. Each of the twelve ships has a different Guardian and level of difficulty associated with it. Would you like me to list them all?
Glancing back at his scale of extremes, James shook his head as he decided.
"Give me the weakest ship and strongest ship and their requirements. I just want to know what we're dealing with first and we can calibrate and adjust after we find what we're looking for."
What is it you're looking for?
Jackal's tone held curiosity as two new windows opened up automatically in front of James. On one screen was a small ship with a single sail. Beside that ship was a familiar-looking creature.
It took James a moment to remember, but red scales were impossible to forget.
Find the Dread Ship!
The Windshear, trapped in the depths of the Dread Lake, is an agile craft previously helmed by the daring Captain Swift. Maris the Siren sang her song and ensnared the Captain for all eternity. Both he and the Windshear are now captives to her endless song of torment.
"Well, that's incredibly depressing!"
James exhaled loudly as he looked at the small ship. His eyes found Maris, only to widen in sudden realisation.
"Jackal, if I contracted Maris as my demonic partner... would I have gotten the Windshear as my Dread Ship?"
That is correct. As Maris is the Guardian of the Windshear, you would have gained it by proxy.
All he could do was shake his head in surprise. As nice as it would have been to skip a segment of his class quest and just gain a ship instantly, James was happy to have selected Otto as his demon. He knew he wouldn't trade in the little void demon for any other creature.
The next image completely blew the first one out of the water. Where the first one was a modest vessel that looked more akin to a boat, this was a gargantuan ship of epic proportions.
"What is that?"
James asked in surprise as his eyes fell upon its description.
Find the Dread Ship!
Captain Wolfsbane spent his life hunting the Legendary Kraken. When he found it, he was unprepared for the magical mutation that had turned the beast into a much more formidable foe. It became a Void Kraken. Legends say Wolfsbane is still fighting the beast at the bottom of the Dread Lake.
That is The Tempest. It is the most powerful Ship, guarded by the strongest creature in the Dread Lake.
"No, not the ship... the Guardian. It's a Void Kraken?"
The Void Kraken is the undisputed ruler of the Dread Lake.
"Good to know."
Would you like me to populate all the other ships that are in the Dread Lake?
James continued to stare at the pictures for a few more moments as several thoughts ran through his head. All the anxiety that had been building up inside of him was dissipating. It was like a door had opened up and freed him from the darkness. The meeting that he had been dreading with Nox was going to happen no matter what he did. What he could control was his performance before that meeting. If he performed well today, she wouldn't be able to be angry with him. His sponsorship would be safe and he wouldn't need to return to the slums. James knew that his fear of returning to the slums was irrational... especially since the Paragons were back in contact with them. He knew they would step in if things got too tough for him. Don had made so many reassurances to him he'd be safe financially, even if the gaming thing didn't work out. Helena had wanted to buy him an apartment too.
He knew he could rely on The Paragons...
James looked at the pictures again.
He didn't want to rely on the Paragons. He didn't have them during the hardest parts of his life. He didn't previously have a safety net, and yet he survived the harshest that society threw at him. Had meeting the Paragons made him complacent? Was losing the Rig, the apartment, the game access that scary? Why was he suddenly scared of an S-Class Sponsor being pissed with him? Why did he freak out that professional gamers, veterans of Abidden... were outperforming him? Why did he care about Jørgen Baw, when he didn't even know that name a week ago?
James tried to pinpoint the moment that he had become such an irrational mess. Everyone was pushing him in a different direction, but none of them were his choice.
"No Jackal, there's no need to populate the others. I've found my Ship."
To clarify, are you referring to The Tempest?
"Yes, Jackal. How long before I can log into the game?"
He wanted that legendary ship. That the odds were so stacked against him made him want it even more.
You will be able to enter in 2 hours and 54 minutes.
James grinned as he placed his hands on the picture and stretched it wider. His time estimates for building the Shipyard caught his eye.
"What are my chances of defeating Captain Wolfsbane and the Void Kraken?"
Without a strategy, at your current level and rank, and being generous with your combat capabilities... I can only predict a 5% chance of success.
"Then I guess we should start working on that strategy. What if I had Pedro with me?"
12% chance of success.
"So a Faction Boss is worth 7%... Which means if I had all the Faction Bosses, we would be at 40%?"
The Dread Pirate Sylvian has a 2% chance of success. Otto adds 3% to your score. Pedro adds 7%. Resulting in a 12% chance of survival. The other Faction Bosses aren't combat oriented and would only bring your score up to 26%.
"Okay, what if I had none of the Faction Bosses, but I have all the equipment they offer?"
James continued to counter argue all of Jackal's predictions.
The Dread Pirate Sylvian would increase to 10% chance of success, bringing your total with Otto to 13%.
As time went on, James continued to throw situations at Jackal to see what her calculations would be. He covered attack patterns, evasion maneuvers and skill uses... varying his approach again and again, hoping the numbers would go up. They mapped out the ship and created scenarios for the crew to attack. James learned about the different crew members and what basic skills and equipment they had.
Some of them had unknown values or were randomly generated just before the encounter. There were certain groups of the crew that were undetermined too, which made it harder for James to predict a strategy around them. He experimented with a few different compositions and eventually forecasted a way to beat most of them. After his first hour, James had identified a way to defeat even the worst composition of fighters. When the second hour passed, it focused him on his battle with the Captain. The biggest issue in his hypothetical scenario was the Void Kraken that would attack during set phases.
"Okay, after the Void Kraken attacks the deck... in the simulation, I have only a fraction of my health left? I use Swift Dodge and Cleave in unison. Does it take care of the tentacle?"
James ventured as he paced around the kitchen, his feet mimicking his ideal movements in the fight. In his hand was a kitchen utensil, which he waved dramatically at the air in front of him.
It would likely be successful in deflecting the attack of the tentacle, but would not be strong enough to sever it.
"Perfect! Can you run the simulation until that point with the latest idea, please?"
Once again, I need to clarify that this is a hypothetical simulation that we have created on the limited information that is available in the guide. There is no guarantee that the Void Kraken's behaviour will be in line with these projections.
James nodded and waved his hand through the disclaimer. Jackal added this sentence every time he asked her to run the simulation, as though she had to inform him he was strategising against a concept.
"I know, I know... it will not happen this way, the Captain and the Kraken will be unpredictable when I fight them... But can you do the calculation?"
Your assumed chance of success would be 61%
James practically threw the utensil across the room as he let out an excited yelp.
"Did I just hear... what I think I just heard?"
I believe you just heard a simulation result above 60% for the first time.
"That's what I thought! How long before I can get in?"
You've another 6 minutes. I think you have enough time to get the prediction up another percentage point or two.
"As much as I'd love to hear that 62%, I really need to get ready. I'm still wearing the bar clothes from earlier. Has anything of note happened in Abidden while we were brainstorming?"
Instead of the usual immediate answer, Jackal went quiet for a moment.
James walked towards his room when her voice filled the room.
Kincsö has defeated Ethan.
Helena has just logged in.
She's currently hunting down Jørgen Baw.
Excitement filled the E-Classer as he grabbed his uniform for the Rig.
Any remnants of fear or anxiety were long gone.
All that remained was anticipation for the fight to come.