Prof and his new, four-legged companion were standing on a small hill, bordered on three sides by a deep forest, and on the fourth by a shallow valley with ploughed fields, pastures and a small village. Before anything else, Prof made himself comfortable beneath a large tree, and drank his beer with pleasure. The view was nice (one could even describe it as picturesque – if someone with any talent painted it and left it somewhere for a couple of centuries, you could have bought a house from the price), there was no unfocused customer service chick to drone on and on about things no one was interested in and the – imaginary – headache Prof was building in the Afterlife Office was starting to fade. The only thing he missed was a smoke, but he haven’t found anything similar in the “Convenience Store”. Probably the Locals lived healthy without the Tobacco Industry forcing them to smoke, just for letting themselves being sued. Yeah, sure. Prof found a few things in the store that made cigarettes look and smell like fresh mountain air, and a few that were maybe illegal everywhere that is not a shaman’s hut. And a lot of stuff, that would have made any drug dealer back on Earth… have a very good time on his own. Multiple times. The stuff was that good. With all that stuff floating around (yes, if it someone can make and sell it, it will float around), and using only open fire, Prof had doubts about the health condition of the Locals – who did not smoke. But whatever.
According to the climate and the plants Prof assumed he was somewhere in the temperate zone, and if his guess based on his Central European upbringing was right, it should be around May, or the beginning of June at the latest. With around 25 degrees Celsius, not a cloud in sight it was a perfect late-spring day! The best day for a beer, after an exhausting shopping spree. After he was done with his beer, he turned his attention to a blinking red exclamation mark in his left lower peripheral view. Oh, the System had something to say? His assumption proved correct, after concentration on the mark, a few ethereal parchments appeared before his eyes.
We welcome you to the world of Arkadia! Because of your species and choices, you have been spawned in the Kingdom of Wanderberg on the continent of Fenria! Your Cultural Skills have been accordingly set to Bergian. This includes but is not limited to: [Speech], [Literature], [History], [Laws], [Heraldry], [Culture] and [Etiquette]. Have a nice life!
For actually reading and understanding the Rule Book and also asking intelligent questions, you have lost the hidden Perk [Utter Moron]. Also, for shoving at least a minimum of Intelligence in reinventing yourself, your EXP-Sponge Perk was upgraded to the Perk Point Harvester. You now receive not only 10% more EXP but also 10% more Skill Points among others. It’s not stealing, if it’s just laying around without an owner! Go, harvest!
Because your Skills: [Navigation] and [Geography] are higher than 100% from the start, and you possess the Cartographer Perk, you have been gifted with a Mental Map! The Map will show you the places where you have been personally in great detail. You can paste other maps into your Mental Map, these will be shown in another colour. Please be aware that the correctness of these maps will be unknown till you visits the place yourself!
Because your Skills: [Looting] and [Valuation] are higher than 100% and your Luck is higher than 15 from the star, you have been gifted with the Perk: Scavenger. From now on you will have a higher chance to find something good while rummaging through stuff! Get rich, baby!
Prof was cracking with joy! The Mental Map was an incredible boon, he basically got his own interactive GPS with a satellite mapping function! He checked it out immediately – according to the scale, the continent – no, Fenria – was about as large as the geographical Europe (that is: till the Urals), with the large inland seas and bays (Baltic, North Sea, Biscay and the Adriatic) missing. Of course, there were only the coastal outlines, a few larger island near the coast, about a dozen major rivers, and a few mountain ranges included, without any real detail. In contrast the hill he was sitting on and about a kilometre around it was nicely coloured, with the nearby hills, valleys and the village indicated. His tiny, colourful patch was situated a bit to the West of Central Fenria, if you would compare the continent to Europe, around South-Eastern Germany, maybe Austria or thereabout. There was a mountain range indicated to the North-West and a major river flowing from there to the South-East. From the colourful patch Prof interfere that his… let’s call it Mapping Sphere had a diameter of one kilometre while standing (or in this case, sitting) on a small hill. Prof was sure that in a forest the sphere would be smaller, and he will had to climb trees quite often.
The Perk he got gifted was a nice addition to his Skills, but took only second place to his new Map. He was almost in love with the Map. Map good! Map nice! The upgrade was also nice, plus 10% for his Skill Points meant… a further ten. He may have been a bit over-zealous with his drive to close the gap to the Locals and managed to amass a whopping 99 Skill Points per Level – before the new Perk. Unfortunately it was not retro-active, but let’s not be greedy, shall we? The “among others” concerned him a bit though. What “other” Points were there to harvest?
However, there was still one message pending:
Because the first action you took after entering Arkadia was to start drinking, you have been gifted with the Perk: Alcoholic (Slight)! From now on, you have to drink three portions of alcohol in one sitting, or five portions on different days! Get wasted!
“Oh, you mo….ing shi...d of a...” Let’s just say, Prof’s previous mother tongue was much more suited to swearing than English, and Prof was quite proficient in it (swearing, that is). After five minutes of imaginative genealogy and descriptions of abilities, Prof calmed down again. The Administrator was certainly NOT a nice guy! Prof even read that pile of Rule Book, was smart about reinventing himself, and the first thing that happens in Arkadia is to make him an alcoholic!
And he was still lucky. Prof couldn’t even imagine how many thing one could do with a strategically placed sheep outside of everyone else’s view. And what kind of “Gift” that very nice guy Administrator would deign to allocate to any tricked individual. Obviously there were not only achievements on Arkadia, but consequences too. Prof had to be very careful what and how he did in the future!
It was also time to decide, what he should do, at least in the short term. Since there was a village already within easy walking distance, it made the most sense to start there – to get familiar with the new rules, do the local “beginner” quests, learn as much from the Locals, find out where the next town, city and dungeon was, what kind of animals and monsters would he most likely face. Prof calculated that after about a month he will set out for the next town anyway – since his knowledge about Arkadia was limited, there was no need to plan further. What happened after that was anybodies guess. Sooner or later Prof will need to get money, his left-over money would not keep up for forever. Speaking of money, Prof checked his pouch, and yes, the nondescript “System Coins” were changed to the usual medieval ones. On one side of the silver pieces there was the coat-of-arms of Wanderberg – thank you, [Heraldry] – on the other side the (probably) idealised portrait of King Endreh, Second of His Name. The copper pieces had the coat-of-arms and the four mountain peaks symbolising the four Bergian Kingdoms – actually there were currently only three of them because of some historical mix-up of territories and those being occupied by different folks. Thank you, [History]. For the Bergians the Four Kingdoms, or rather the old unified Bergian Kingdom was sacred, and on the political to-do-list for the last couple of centuries. Thank you, [History], again, and thank you [Culture: Bergian] and [Politics]. It is amazing how many useless titbits one accumulates if the Skill Level is high enough. Prof wasn’t so sure, if he was interested in the dynastical fuck-up that lead to the breaking up of the old kingdom, but he still knew it. Thanks, System. The iron bit stayed as a nondescript System-Coin for some reason.
He avoided the peacefully grazing four legged trap and set out for the village. As soon as he reached the field, the Locals paused their… agricultural stuff they were doing to watch the stranger. Prof knew theoretically – despite being a city-guy – that fruits and vegetables weren’t grown in the supermarket and agriculture was a bit more complicated than driving out the young plants to the fields in the spring and hunting the mature specimens down in the fall, but practically he had no clue, what you had to do to grain to make it grow. Probably water it, or there was the thingy with manure, and other agricultural actions. Yay, [Agriculture] at 13%! If he hadn’t have [Herbology] on a higher level, he wouldn’t even know, the Locals were doing something to grain.
Oh, those picturesque medieval settlements! Shacks with patched walls, roads that haven’t even heard about pavement, but are in an intimate relationship with ankle-deep mud even in the middle of summer, the refuse piles at the back of each garden, and because of the absence of canalisation the overwhelming, ehmmm… rural… smells! You probably saw pictures of some really nice medieval villages that are part of the world cultural heritage. Those are the few settlements the locals had any attachment to and weren’t big or important enough to not get burned down, shot to pieces or carpet-bombed into ruins. The village Prof arrived at wasn’t one of those. Rather it was of the former kind, where to Locals will burn it to the ground in a few centuries time to restart with a clean slate. Or just move the village a few hundred metres to give Archaeologists in the future some work and let them puzzle about some finds.
Next to the village entrance there sat the welcoming committee. You know the old folks that are sitting all day in front of a house or bar, or in a park, reminiscing about The Good Old Times when they still made real cars and that didn’t look like electric shavers, when politics was for gentlemen, when the youngsters knew how to behave, the train was always on time, the country still had an army and a real king. You know the type? No? Go visit a park in good weather, there should be dozens around. Well, the committee – let’s be nice and call them a committee and not old folks sitting around – was made up of half a dozen men, sitting beneath a huge willow, watching Prof intently. Fortunately for Prof, he was aided by [Etiquette] and [Culture: Bergian], but also some common sense (no, greeting unknown elder gentleman with “Yo, old-timer, wazzup?” is not polite), so he managed to give the proper Bergian salute (right hand on the heart, palm facing inwards, four fingers showing) and be polite. The last one was never wrong to be applied. Especially when you arrive somewhere you know nothing about. Or talking to figures of authority. Including your girlfriends dad who is a retired tank commander. Well, you got the point: be polite, or someone may take offence and gives you some physical tutoring.
“Greetings, Sirs. I just arrived in the surroundings, could you perhaps give me some directions?”