I dash from ruin to ruin, crushing chipmunks, badgers, and the occasional raccoon while Dan and I settle into a bit of a routine. I smash, he tells me stories.
“You know you aren’t the first new player to join me in these woods.”
I shrug, I hadn’t thought about Dan’s unknown but most likely lurid past. Dan starts chuckling to himself.
“This one child...Wow. So he shows up in the forest, has not looked around for more than five seconds before he poses before me and says...wait, hold on, I have to get in character.”
Dan descends to his knees, points at me with one arm and sets the other one on his hip. He talks in a squeaky high voice.
“‘Tutorial master, attend me anon. You shalt be my first vassal, beloved above all others. Come, place suitable attire for this world’s first warrior king at my feet. We shalt bring the blessings of Furor to this forest and claim it for our own.’ I mean he didn’t actually show up in the game as a kid, that’s not allowed, but it was pretty obvious. Especially when he stomped his foot after I balked at his demands and started to explain what my job was as a tutorial master. We managed to move past that small disagreement but we had to break up when he described my duties after each fight. I won’t bore you with the whole list, but once he made it to polishing his sword I had to reject his admittance to my tutorial zone.”
The strange tugging at my lips happens again and I think I might even chuckle. “Wait? Can you reject people? What happens when you do that?” The scab from Robert’s recent rejection itches inside me. It’s ok, I tell myself, you hardly like Dan anyway.
He pauses for a second. “Well, I guess that bag is out of the cat. Yes, I can reject anyone from my tutorial zone. It means that you would get transported to a general starter zone where there are only automated tutorials and lots of other players. You are in a trial tutorial program that not everyone can participate in. A bit of a leg up if I do say so myself. But don’t worry sweet cheeks, you couldn’t get rid of me if you tried. We have wonderful chemistry.”
Stupid Dan, what’s he know. I just glower at him as hard as I can. “It’s cat out of the bag Dan, not bag out of the cat.”
Several undead corpses surround the end of my staff, but as I watch, several of the corpses disappear. Huh, no several year long bio-degrading then? It’s nice not to have to worry about it but irksome that the realism is not complete.
My golden experience bar is only one-quarter empty after smashing another six undead and emptying out the third of the abandoned stone dwellings. I’ve been using Jointbreaker and Two Handed Bash exclusively in fights but that’s getting a little boring. I think about each skill and see two windows:
Joint Breaker (Level 1) - 10% progress towards level two.
Targeting the joints of your enemies allows you to deal moderate damage and slow their mobility. At higher levels, this skill will gain effects.
Two Handed Staff Bash (Level 1) - 5% progress to level two
Wielding your staff with two hands and smashing your foe from above yields additional damage. At higher levels, this skill will gain effects.
Interesting, my skills are making progress much slower than my overall level. Why did the game designers do that? I think back to Dan’s description of the levels...each level does require more experience to progress, so the difference in the rate of progression might level off between skills and character levels at some point...but why have skills progress slower at the beginning of the game? Maybe skill level ups are really good?
I guess I should try to discover new skills instead of spending all my fights advancing just the first two I discovered. That way I can avoid investing in the wrong skills. Is that why the game developers designed the skill/level mechanics this way? I can stand here all day thinking about it or come up with more fun ways to smash. Smash it is.
I approach the next group of undead and think about my next devastating staff attack. Maybe if I jump and do Two Handed Bash that will be a different skill. The undead raccoon on my left and right are about the same distance from me. I try to move towards one side but they both look up and hiss at me in unison. Dang...
As they start padding towards me, I hold my staff perpendicular to my body at hip level on my left side, with my hands spread apart but biased towards one end. I poke at each of their faces alternating back and forth, hoping to keep them at a safe distance. I hit lefty in the nose and then clip righty on the chin. They fall back and look stunned. A small red one appears over each of their heads along with a weird icon of a star flying around a stick man’s head. I see a new notification symbol in the corner of my vision. Cool! I stumbled on another skill.
My staff keeps poking them until I start to feel tired. I step back and then shrug, might as well try to figure out some new skills. Holding one end of my staff with both hands, I spin while bending my legs, so my staff is really low the ground. It hits the raccoon on the right knocking its legs out from under it where it lies still.
The raccoon on the left darts forward to bite my ankle. I bring my staff down on the raccoon on the damaging it for five hitpoints. I kick the left raccoon off my ankle as the other raccoon starts getting to its feet, I can see its red eyes staring at me as saliva drips between its teeth. I take my staff in both hands again, bring it over my head, and slam it down, but instead of trying to hit the raccoon, I just hit the ground. The pine leaves between me and the raccoons jump off the ground in a wave. When the wave hits the raccoons they lose another five hitpoints and move away from me at least a meter. The notification symbol jumps again. Sweet!
I step towards the raccoon I just kicked off my ankle and it bites my knee before I hit it in the head. The other raccoon growls and takes my ankle between its teeth. After two more whacks, my golden experience bar progresses and one of the giant raccoons drops off of my knee onto the forest floor.
My red life bar has dropped to fifty percent. I kick with my left leg as I brace my staff and right leg slightly behind me. The raccoon flies away at least ten feet and I see yet another notification appear. The raccoon gets to its feet. I try to run towards it but I can only walk with my knee and ankle in their current state.
I guess that the chances are pretty low the raccoon can dodge my two hand bash after the addling my kick and pokes have delivered so I wind up and try to end the fight. I bring my staff whistling down and hear a satisfying crack and whomp as my staff slams the raccoon into the ground. My experience bar fills slightly in the bottom of my vision.
I stand, slightly panting and look down to see blood dripping onto the green pine needles below me. Gross. I sit down, hoping this will lead to the wounds healing faster. The skin on my knee knits together. The damp fog stings when it rolls over the open wound. I resolve not to watch my wounds repair themselves again. I’ll just keep an eye on my hit point bar, less disturbing that way.
As I wait for my wounds to heal I think about the notification icon I saw during battle. A window appears:
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: Flurry of Blows (Level 1)
Rapidly poking every enemy in front of you stuns and damages them.
Not bad...so I can use my Flurry of Blows skill for five seconds once I have 100 stamina. Got it. Will the duration extend as I get better at the skill...maybe it is a good thing they don’t level up so fast, the game could get too easy too fast if skills like this become too powerful.
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: Sidekick (Level 1)
A powerful stationary kick that can knock a single enemy away from you.
Hmm, Sidekick? Does that mean there are other kicks I could learn? This one is pretty straightforward, a nice powerful kick to get something away from me.
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: Leg Sweeper (Level 1)
An enemy can’t stand on legs that are no longer planted in the ground. At higher levels, this skill will gain effects.
Another good one. I can get an enemy right where I want them, but it leaves me exposed for nearly as long. It would be better if someone like Dan were fighting with me too.
Congratulations! You have discovered a new skill: Staff Quake (Level 1)
The force from your staff hitting the ground knocks any enemy in front of you back, dealing damage in a cone in front of you. At higher levels, this skill will gain effects.
Ok, this one is sweet. What if there had been more than two raccoons? That could add up to a lot of damage.
“Mind sending those skill descriptions my way?” Dan says. I don’t mind.
“Wow, those are great skills. Imagine if we had some people to do damage while you kept them stunned. The damage dealers might get too much aggro, though...Staff Quake might help you keep the monster’s attention.”
“That’s a gamer term, short for ‘aggressive measure.’ It’s how aggressive a monster is towards a particular gamer. If someone else was say shooting arrows at a monster as you kept poking it with your staff if the monster wasn’t dead by the time the stun was done, the person shooting arrows might have the most aggro, so the enemy would attack them. Ideally, since you’re the big strong warrior all the enemies would attack you and not frail damage dealers or noble healers like myself. Another way to put it is ideally monsters will always be the MOST pissed at you. Then we strap a bunch of armor to you while I plead with the gods to keep you alive. So really, if you think about it, you’ll be a pretty awesome oversized charity case trash can.”
I mull it over, getting the idea, even if it’s terrible. If I strap a bunch of armor on, I’ll get hurt the least, so if everything does damage to me, that’s the minimum damage someone will take in the time the fight lasts. I’m not sure if it is Dan’s description or just the concept of standing there while I get hit but I can already tell it won’t work for me.
“I can see the value in that type of strategy but that’s a no-go. I’ll think it over but I bet there is a better way.”
“Uh, that’s a true and tried gaming strat sugar. The core of any good group is their tank. I wouldn’t think too hard.”
“The saying is ‘tried and true’. You leave the thinking to me Rothlington the Blessed, and I’ll leave the begging from gods to you. I’m assuming that’s how you heal people?”
“Oh, yeah, everyone has to deal with the gods for their boons. My boons just require actual begging when I use them.”
“This is the part of the tutorial I cut off earlier?”
“Yes! As I was saying before you rudely interrupted me...”
“No thanks Dan, let’s just keep bashing.”
Dan grumbles a bit then he chuckles.
“That reminds me of another failed tutorial applicant...except instead of just being impatient and not taking full advantage of my amazing services like soooooome people in this forest, this guy was a real jerk too! After greeting him in my charmingly enthusiastic way, he blinked, stared at me for like thirty seconds and said...wait for it.” Dan put his hands over his face and then mimes as if he was an old-fashioned robot, straight arms, legs, and jerky movements. “I do not require a tutorial. I am the one they call ‘Null Division.’ I am the best gamer in the world. Skip all tutorial material. Take me to town.“
I laughed as Dan kept up his robot impersonation, making beep bop R2-D2 noises as he mimed walking in little circles. I forced out a question through my chuckles.
“Wow, some people...wait, Null Division? I think I’ve heard that name...did you look him up?”
Dan stopped his routine and then kicked the dirt with his arms behind his back.
“Yeah, apparently he is one of the best gamers in the world...I didn’t realize this game was attracting the top talent but it’s been getting more and more popular. I guess I blew an opportunity there but come on, who wants to spend time with the tinman? Not I. Hopefully she doesn’t find out...”
“Null Division is a she? I thought it was a he?”
“Oh...um..Puppy cheeks, I’m getting a call, why don’t you keep practicing and I’ll see you online tomorrow? Can you manage without your glorious tutorial master?”
“Get out of here Dan. I’ll do better without you I’m sure.”
He pouts before vanishing.
I decide to just keep bashing undead before going to bed -- what’s the point of logging out before sleep anyway? I’m definitely going to get fired regardless.