Wildcards: Book One - The Dread Pirate

by James Northman

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Profanity

At the District One Invitational, a rookie eSports team defied all odds and reached the finals. Their underdog story and humble beginnings elevated them to worldwide acclaim. Media corporations dubbed them, The Paragons. With their main competition eliminated from the tournament during the semifinals, the rookie team sailed through the live finals and won by a landslide. Their prize was to become the first ever players in the most exclusive VR game yet, Abidden

The Paragons never celebrated that semi-final victory. They lost a friend in that match, who never appeared online again. Ten years later, the gaming landscape has changed and Abidden with it. Helena is the last remaining Paragon. Her team now consists of celebrities, influencers and musicians. Abidden has been reduced to a shadow of its former glory, but is the most streamed and viewed game in the world, despite having only a handful of players.

None of this matters to James Sylvester. Finally out of hospital, things aren't good for James. He's found himself crippled with medical debt, his gaming licence has been revoked and he's permanently lost his place in society. He now spends his days competing in illegal slum arcades to manage the repayments. When a high-profile job comes along, James gets temporary backdoor access to his blacklisted gaming account. After reactivating it for the first time in ten years, James receives an invitation that could change his life forever.



Disclaimer: This story is in no way or form associated with the works of George R. R. Martin and has no link to the popularised series, Wild Cards. This is a LitRPG story of my own creation that shares that name.   

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James Northman

James Northman

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Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
Chapter 1: Every Credit Counts (Revised Version) ago
Chapter 2: State of Play ago
Chapter 3: Enter the Villain ago
Chapter 4: Always Pay Your Debts ago
Chapter 5: A Platinum Opportunity ago
Chapter 6: The Truth of Travesty ago
Chapter 7: Reunion ago
Chapter 8: Building A Team ago
Chapter 9: Fall From C-Class ago
Chapter 10: Fire Meadows ago
Chapter 11: New Digs ago
Chapter 12: Evictor ago
Chapter 13: The Briefing ago
Chapter 14: The Rig ago
Chapter 15: The Jackal ago
Chapter 16: The Chessmaster ago
Chapter 17: Meet The Sponsors (Part 1) ago
Chapter 17: Meet The Sponsors (Part 2) ago
Chapter 17: Meet The Sponsors (Part 3) ago
Chapter 18: Entering Abidden - Character Creation ago
Chapter 19: The Dread Pirate ago
Chapter 20: Demonic Partner ago
Chapter 21: Villainous ago
Chapter 22: The Follower ago
Chapter 23: The Trial ago
Chapter 24: Raid Night ago
Chapter 25: Prime Evil ago
Chapter 26: First Reveal ago
Chapter 27: Press Conference ago
Chapter 28: Realisation ago
Chapter 29: Blessing of the Vampire God ago
Chapter 30: Welcome to Rayth ago
Chapter 31: The Butcher ago
Chapter 32: Establish the Lair ago
Chapter 33: A Moment of Clarity ago
Chapter 34: Industry in Motion ago
Chapter 35: Paragons in Action ago
Chapter 36: Relativity ago
Schedule Update - Christmas Break ago
Chapter 37: That's My Ship ago
Chapter 38: New Direction ago
Chapter 39: End Scene! ago
Chapter 40: Dread Faction Advances ago
Chapter 41: You have Chosen... Legendary! ago
Chapter 42: A Kraken Plan ago
Chapter 43: Discovery ago
Chapter 44: Remember Me? Part 1 ago
Chapter 45: A Night to Remember ago
Chapter 46: Remember Me? - Part 2 ago
Chapter 47: Remember Me? - Part 3 ago
Chapter 48: There Can Be Only One! ago

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Sky3Fall
Overall

 First off, the title is because the way James is introduced reminds me of John Wick's introduction in the first movie. 

John Wick is at an all time low. His wife died, he was just beat up in a house invasion, the invading mobsters killed his dog, which was the last thing Helen left him, and he's left half head in his shattered world. James Sylvester is at an all time low. He has a mountain of debt to somehow pay off, his social Class is literally at the bottom of the totem pole, and he's barely getting by through participating in illegal tournaments. 

Iosef goes home and his father tells him that the nobody he just beat up was John Wick, legend of legends, reaper among reapers, Fenrir among wolves. "They call him Baba Yaga." Iosef just awakened an unstoppable force of nature that had a hand in building the very world they live on. Quentin and Locke put into motion a plan that will regain Quentin control over Abidden and bring all the Paragons back into the game. The Paragons reveals that the only reason they are the Paragons they are today is because Travesty took a risk and stayed in the game long enough for it to kill him in order to single-handedly eliminate the entire opposing team. It was by Travesty's hand that the Paragons rose. 

Both John Wick and James Sylvester are former legends that have just returned to the scene. For different reasons, and in different methods, but in similar spirit. They're back. And this time, nothing is going to stop them from getting what they want. 

I also want to talk about Abidden's introduction. Up until the Pantheon scene, I thought the game was just a generic MMO with classes and levels and bosses. And then the Pantheon scene came, and I was proven wrong. The thing that impressed me was not the Hero v Villian system, nor the realistic economics and politics surrounding the game (though that was impressive), the thing that made me go: I like this story was the scene where the goddess Calista tries and fails to trick James. It's through this one scene that I realise that the NPC's of Abidden are not just simple generic NPCs, but those with their own agendas, powers, and most importantly, right and ability to refuse service to players. 

Why is that so important? It adds depth to Abidden's world. When a game revolves around the players, it creates a limitation on the storytelling. There are simply things you cannot say happened in a game that has non-sentient NPCs and only players driving the game. But with the sentience of NPCs in Abidden, that limit is removed. The players not only have to worry about each other, but also the NPCs. It's part of the reason I enjoyed Jaded Gamer so much at first. The players aren't everything. They are simply the newest cog in the machine that is Abidden, and that brings realism and weight to what happens in the game. Sure, you can say things like "losing this fight will cost us a million dollars" to try and add tension, but it won't ever compare to that intelligent NPC with a pet cat and a knack for exploding trees that we come to grow attatched to over the course of the story being at risk of dying forever. 

I like it. 

Keep it up. 

Cogcro
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Where do I start with this story? The style and grammar, I guess. The author has great sense of English language with no outstanding grammatical errors which makes following the flow of the story that much more enjoyable. James'  ability to write multiple character P.O.V well is an ability that is rare on this site and as such is a breath of fresh air.

Continuing with the story, we see the main character's, also named James, backstory unfold over the first arc in the real life which fully fleshed out the world in which the story takes place. In doing this the author has managed to not only create enemies, allies and acquaintances (each with their own feelings and motivations, even if some like the Doctor seem a little cliche)  but a motivation for the main character to use to grow and develop.

As an avid reader as many of us on this site are I can see this fiction becoming one of my favourites fast. However, I do have reservations about how the author will handle the ever-challenging balance of maintaining a realistic game world without letting the fictional world fall apart. As one of the two worlds so often do in VRMMO stories.  

Not to end on the a poor note, I have high hopes for this story and hope that the author is able to continue with the quality and character of his story!

 

Jimmy Blacksmith
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

While I can't say I'm in love with the story, I wouldn't say its bad, I feel it could be useless if they now focus on the Pirate in the stead of James, but in my opinion, but I'm not sure just where it's going. Now the Characters, on the other hand, I love, they're just fun, and the grammar is tighter than (insert sex joke here).

Blind Snot Dragon
Overall

This story seems to pay off best in getting the reader to (dis)like a character and then giving that character what they deserve. It's simple and very wonderful. The author cares about the story and listens to his readers.

not the best thing I ever read but Very enjoyable and Very much so worth the handful of hours I spent binging it.

Critique: 

  • The chapters seem to stand-alone. When read all together it affects the flow and makes things feel choppy or jumpy.
  • The story requires the reader to fill in a lot of the details on their own, what is the year, the location, and the context of the story. Seems slightly dystopian but a chapter or well placed paragraphs to help flush that out would be ideal.
  • The story is very fresh but I only know/care about three of the paragons, is that intentional?
  • Thank you for writing this, I hope my feedback is helpful in some way. I look forward to seeing you succeed. 
Stephen Carroll
Overall

Takes plenty of space to build the outside world before exploring the VR world. 

 Personally am really excited to see more, Theres a fair sized cast that I look forward to learning more about.

Can't wait for our hero to stick it to corporations and tear it all down in a fun revenge power fantasy.

Silent night
Overall

After reading up to chapter 16, all I can say is wow

Vlekkie
Overall

More gripping than a VRMMO has any right to be.

Reviewed at: Chapter 46: Remember Me? - Part 2

This is the type of story where, if the author disappears for a time, their inbox is filled with hate mail. It is a simple fact with a story so gripping. I tend to avoid VRMMO's as the environment of a game, vs real life removes most of the suspense for me. James Northman has not only succeeded in resolving that issue, without a completely unreal background but has ensured inside and outside the game, the same rollercoaster is waiting for you emotions and attention. His world building, backstory and character descriptions are complete enough to make it immersive, but not so much that you find yourself skipping paragraphs, in order to get to the story. A week without a wildcards chapter is the poorer for it.

 

Take note this review was right on a massive cliff at the end of a gripping chapter.

Advanced Idea Machine
Overall

Like the comment I left in one of the chapters, it seemed to me that the author knows what they are talking about. The world and the characters their troubles and their motivations feels real. 

I also like that it is a not a life or death struggle, the stakes are there and potentially severe but but not do bad the author can't let them happen wich is so thing I like in a story. 

And it it worth repeating that the people seem like adult and nature people, good most of them and even those who aren't all that pleasant aren't do terrible as to become a caricature. 

I would wish very much that those who wrote all those are writing all those horrible light novel animes would learn from this story.  

KOPSi
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Oookkkaaaaayyyyyyy.

How do I say this, this story is absolutely ├╝ber amazing. 

The story looks like unholy mix of: Acts of Caine books mixed with litrpg elements and and Drizzt do Urden ,Pirate King book elements following more or more of "less" standard weak to strong progression tag.

I'm here since ages ago, when weed was just starting and I did read tons of stories here.

So believe me when I say that THIS one is easy top 10 if not top 5.

The way the writer is building characters and the suspense that he is creating is amazing and annoying at same time simply because it's killing me to know what is going to happen in next chapter.

Only thing that I find bad is that few chapters lack certain aspects, you can't describe It, you just know that it's there like anoying mosquito.

I would still recommend this story as it's great read to kill time.

Keep up the good work Mr. James wish you all the best!

Annddddd there goes my first advanced review that I ever wrote, this story just deserves it.

Ps: the stuff I am writing here is just random bs because the site is not letting me post advanced review unless I write 200 or more words... 

If you are still here thank you for reading my review of this story.

Sooooo as Dumbles says enjoy your feast:

"Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"

Ryal Random
Overall

Solid introductory chapters and a taste of the epic action sequences to look forward to instantly hooked me on this novel. With every new chapter release, making me feel like a dog being asked to fetch his favourite ball. 

Every chapter starts with a great introduction that instantly captivates your attention and ends with a crippling depression and a storm of wailing at the injustice of being unable to push the next chapter button.

The author has a consistent release schedule though for many of us with to long a gap between releases. He is receptive to criticism and suggested reader edits while taking the time to explain his decisions. Mr. Northman is one of the few if not only author who I noticed replying to almost every single comment.

A great and satisfying read, consistent update schedule as well as being written by a empathetic and receptive author makes this one of the top novels found on this site in my opinion. I mean what more can a reader ask for? Definitely recommended for anyone looking for a new novel to try out.