Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 3: Mr. Familiar Makes Friends and Fails to Influence People

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There it was…the fabled interface. Of course, it wasn't my interface, but whatever! Baby steps! I was pretty sure I could make the right gesture even without fingers; I'd even tried it a couple times in my excitement, but my owner stopped me because evidently getting bopped in the breast by a tiny, fluffy wing is ticklish.

The more you know.

In any case, I'd decided to practice later when I wasn't literally trapped in my owner's cleavage, and for now was giving the interface a thorough examination.

The first window to pop up was basically just a list of standard menu options: Skills, Equipment, Messages, Help, and Log Out. What interested me about it, though—aside from Help, which I briefly strained to reach in a clear act of futility—was that at the very top it said, "Welcome to Born Again Online, LucyLips!"

So my owner's name was LucyLips.

Lucy. Lips.

What. The. Hinterlands.

Okay, I was seriously going to have to come up with some of my own alternate swears, because this profanity filter was scribble. Arrgh! Seriously, you're killing me game!

But anyway; LucyLips. I was struck by a sinking feeling. I mean, the unambiguously male-appealing body type. The overly-bubbly baby talk, like she was trying really hard to act ditzy. The vaguely demeaning screen name.

My owner was actually a guy, wasn't she? I mean, sure, I don't have a whole lot of experience with the fairer sex, but self-respecting women don't act like this, right?

Not that it ultimately mattered, I supposed. I was stuck—excuse me, reborn—here in this cream-snazz body so ultimately whatever my owner looked and acted like was reality as far as I…"cream-snazz"? Really?

I went to the bathroom and took a cream. Then I wiped my snazz.

Flick me sideways. That was worse than the original curse words, in a way.

Anyway. "She" might be comfortable calling herself LucyLips, but I was not going to use that moniker. Even if she was as much as an idiot as she appeared, that just wasn't right. Well, "Lucy" it is. I thought briefly about going with "Luce", but the unintended homophone made me a tad bit uncomfortable. I'd hold off on that until I got to know her better, or if it was a shortening of her name that she personally liked.

While I was debating how to think about Lucy, she tapped the Messages option, swiped through a bunch of archived communiques at record speed until she had verified that she was supposed to be meeting at this location with some dude with the screen name "RayBanz", and shot him a message asking where the heck he was. Was that the snazz-hole-ish looking Nix-born I saw with Lucy the other day? I'll bet he calls her Luce, whether she likes it or not.

What was interesting was that she didn't type the message out. I thought I heard her murmuring a little, so maybe the game picks up on subvocalized words instead of providing a virtual keyboard? That was pretty cool, actually.

And it would be a lot cooler if I could FLICKING SPEAK!

Cheep cheep cheep!

Ahem. In any case, Mr. Banz hadn't shown up or responded yet, so Lucy navigated back to the main menu and evidently decided to review her character sheet. Ahhhh, now this was what I'm talking about! I couldn't wait to see how the full dive virtual world differed from the old flat-screen counterpart that I'd been…what the scribble?!

Name: LucyLips Race: Sprite-born
Main Class: -- Sub-classes: --, --
Level: 3 (+1) Available stat points: 6 (+4)
Strength: 9 Agility (sub): 11
Intellect (main): 15 Endurance: 9

She was below level five, so the missing classes were normal. You didn't typically unlock your core class until level five unless you really knew what you were doing. But those stats…starting point for your main stat was nine, then you get an automatic six point boost at the first level, so she hadn't spent any of her points on Intellect. Sub stat's base was, what, seven? That sounded right, and it got a four point boost at level two, so…she hadn't put any of her points into Agility, either. Level three meant that one of her standard stats got a two point boost, which means she must have spent two points on Strength and four on Endurance to balance the two out.

…What exactly was she trying to do here, anyway? I was honestly perplexed. I mean, yeah, not everyone likes to min-max but here in the Sprite-born starting area all the gear was going to require Intellect and Agility. And everyone knows that putting your first five points in Intellect and one in Agility gives you the 20/12 split that so many of the low-level base skills require to learn.

Was she able to accomplish anything at all in combat? Maybe she was trying to build for some obscure crafting job that I didn't know about? I'd never paid all that much attention to the crafting system when I was playing, to be honest.

"Hmm," said Lucy, absent-mindedly tapping my head and making my vision shake. Great, she talks to herself, too. "What was it Ray said? Something about the unlabeled skills increasing two points every four levels? So I guess that means Endurance will go up two when I hit level four, so…"

She tapped at the interface and dropped four points into Strength and two into Endurance:

Name: LucyLips Race: Sprite-born
Main Class: -- Sub Classes: --, --
Level: 3 Stat points: 0 (-6)
Strength: 13 (+4) Agility (sub): 11
Intellect (main): 15 Endurance: 11 (+2)

"Ugh, that doesn't make me very happy, but I guess it'll even out pretty soon. At least I finally caught up to Agility."

Wait, was she actually trying to balance all her stats? Um, why? That was pretty stupid, actually. She'd never get to use some of the most awesome skills if she kept this up, because the stat requirements would be out of reach.

Hey? Lucy? Maybe you shouldn't hit the accept button? I mean, you could 20/12 it right now without…

Cheep! Cheep!

"Yeah, you're right, little gal! I shouldn't worry about it! I'll get 'em even eventually!" She hit the accept button.

Noooooo! I was trying to tell you the exact opposite of that! Also I'm a guy! What is wrong with your head?!

Well, she adjusted her stats, so obviously next she'll pop open her skills window and maybe I can see exactly what we're working with here.

"Ray, you're here!"

A giant hand swiped across my vision and the interface vanished without a trace.

I looked up in dismay, and sure enough: there was the Nix-born. And here I'd thought my day couldn't get any worse.

"Hey-ya, Luce! Had something I had to wrap up."

Gah! I hate being right.


So, Nix-born. I mean, I don't have anything against the Nix-born race, per se. I've always enjoyed Spider-born the most out of the Agility-prime races, but Nix-born with their secondary Endurance stat had some survivability options that were really good for solo play. It's just…the character models look like such snazz-holes. And if you build it, they will come…

There are good Nix-born out there, I'm sure of it! I just haven't met a lot of them. Maybe they're all on the Asian servers. Or something.

Whatever. Point being, RayBanz was a pretty snazz-hole-ish looking standard Nix-born, right down to the "I'm too emo for my pants" starting equipment set. I think it was called "Darkness Breathes" or something similarly stupid. Yeah, but does the darkness chafe?

Guess I'll never know, since cosmetics don't have equipment. Or pants at all, really. Huh. Awkward.

Anyway, as soon as he showed up Lucy plastered herself all over him, pressing me against his black leather cuirass and almost killing me! Okay, so maybe not so much with the killing, but being squished was not precisely comfortable. I felt like a tube of toothpaste, and someone was trying to get the last bit of paste out.

Thankfully, he shoved her off of himself in short order, and then started straight in with the demands while I desperately wriggled and tried to extract my arm-wing-things from their prison of flesh.

"Okay, I figured today we could head over to South Yorba and clear a couple of those dungeons, maybe grab a fetch quest or two. That should get you up to level five or so, and then maybe we can do something interesting once you've got your base class. So, you'll want to equip that wand you picked up in the old granny's basement—"

Hey, I remembered that quest! One of the classic Sprite-born starter quests, it dated back to the original release. Giant rats, maudlin old woman, standardized wand reward that almost no one used past level three. Ooh, I got an arm free!

"—and do you remember how I told you to hoard your stat points early on? You should maybe drop a few of those into Intellect, since that'll boost your wand's attack value slightly. You said your wand's element was ice, right? I wonder if you can survive North Yorba yet; there's a bunch of low-level ice drops that way—"

Did this guy never stop? Also, Lucy hasn't invested any of her stat points in Intellect, you know? Hey hey, second arm free! I did a brief victory pose, or at least as much of one as I could manage with my nether regions still sunk deep within Lucy's cleavage.

Wow, did that ever come out a lot dirtier than it actually was. Heh, guess the profanity filter wasn't perfect! Double entendre for the win!

Evidently my victory pose finally caught RayBanz's attention and he stopped short. "Did you—stuff your cosmetic down your bra?"

Bra? What bra? I sure didn't see any bras down here. Or feel one, for that matter.

"Oh, she was having a hard time keeping up, so I wanted to make sure she was safe!"

"A hard time—it's a cosmetic pet. They just fly around after you wherever you go and maybe pick up an item drop now and then."

"Well, she's little!"

Ray gave me the hairy eyeball. Or maybe he just liked the excuse to check out a nice pair of thrushies. Thrushies? Oh, maybe like a thrush is a small bird, kind of like a thrush? Stupid profanity filter; now I was just confusing myself.

Anyway, I gave Ray the hairy eyeball right back. Or at least the fuzzy eyeball. Given Lucy's spectacular inability to read the mood, I was wondering if my face was capable of emoting at all.

"—yeah, we're not doing that." Ray grabbed me in one hand, successfully copping a massive feel along the way, and unceremoniously dropped me on the ground, where I splatted and lay glaring up at him in complete affrontery.

Well, maybe I imagined the splat. Yet again, something that should have hurt was at worst mildly uncomfortable.

Lucy started to bend down, worry on her face. "Oh but—"

Ray grabbed her shoulder. "It's a cosmetic pet, Luce. It'll be fine. Okay, you have your wand? Need to stock up on any potions? Oh, guess you probably don't have much money yet. Eh, you'll be good. I should be able to tank everything in South Yorba, no problem. Let's go!"

Lucy shot me a last concerned look, but then dutifully trotted off on the heels of Ray, Jerkwad Extraordinaire. I continued to glare at the sky until the invisible boundaries of my world caught up to me and started dragging me along again.

Well, nothing for it, I supposed. I raised my right wing…arm-ish thing…limb…you know, I'm just going to go with arm; what the hinterlands. I raised my right arm and swiped it down. Nothing happened. Pretty sure that was vertical—well, horizontal, technically, but vertical from my point of view where I was being dragged along flat on my back. Come to think, Lucy had a little outward motion with her fingers right at the end. Could I reproduce that? I gazed dubiously at the fluffy sausage I was calling an arm and tried to wiggle the end of it. I wasn't sure if that was a slight bit of motion, or maybe just the breeze ruffling my fluff.

Not like I had anything else I could accomplish right at the moment. Swipe! Swipe! Swipe, and maybe…no, nothing. Swipe! Swipe! Swipe…

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A note from EO Tenkey

You know what I hate? Stat screens! Seriously, do authors actually think I'm going to read all 70-zillion skills that they've loaded their character up with? No! I'm going to skim the hinterlands out of them! It's a waste of ink! Er, pixels!

But someone told me that 'round these parts, you need to include stats to run with the popular crowd, and then my protagonist was all obsessed with them for some reason, so here we are. I'll try to keep stat dumps appropriately scarce, although if Mr. Familiar ever figures out how to open his interface, all bets are off.

For those who desperately need to track these things in order to laugh at me when I inevitably make a mistake, there are 12 "races" in Born Again Online (BAO; pronounced like an American would try to pronounce the name of the Chinese dumpling). Each race has a main stat, a sub stat, and two standard stats from amongst the four "primary stats" of Strength, Agility, Intelligence, and Endurance. Stats grow every four levels in a sequence (main => sub => standard 1 => standard 2). Main stat starts at 9 and grows 6 points every 4 levels. Sub stat starts at 7 and grows 4 points every 4 levels. Each standard stat starts at 5 and grows 2 points every 4 levels. Each level additionally grants the player 4 points they can invest however they see fit. Stats in BAO are unusual in that they do not affect the game in a linear fashion (so dumping all your stats in strength will give you some boost to your physical attacks, but it will tail off quickly). Mostly, your character's stats influence what skills you can learn, what skills you can equip, and incluence a whole slew of secondary stats in complicated ways ("secondary stats" are things like critical hit chance, dodge chance, etc.). The system is intentionally opaque and difficult to get your head around, because the game developers wanted the focus to be on skill builds and equipment load-outs. The prevailing wisdom for more casual players is to hoard your points until you find a skill you want to learn (or find equipment you want to use), then distribute them to meet its base requirements.

There, done, now go enjoy the story. If you really want to crunch numbers, maybe play a real RPG. Or take a math class.


About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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