Chapter 8 - Francine - Two Weeks Ago


I opened my eyes after the VR pod closed above me. Instead of the confines of a modern mechanical wonder, I gazed over amber fields of long native grasses -- a light breeze caught my hair and pulled it back from my face. Narrow streams cut through the grasslands, ending in the several hundred meter wide river to the south. A large flock of black and grey birds flew above me, honking at each other like cars on a crowded New York City street; dismissing the group of homesteaders below them.

I recognized the large Brighthollow river to the south and smelled the ocean in the light breeze. Turning to the north, I surveyed the large swathes of forest stretching below the wispy clouds Large solitary birds soared in the thermals above the forest, perhaps looking for a midday meal. I was knowledgeable about my surroundings, thanks to Dan’s research, but none of his documents conveyed the immensity of this untouched land. My James would have liked it here. I started to tear up until I pinched my hip.

That’s enough. I’d wallowed in grief for too long already. It was time to grow my new home.

I startled as a man wearing homespun brown and tan clothing and two weeks of untrimmed beard started speaking behind me, holding his hat by the brim with two hands in front of him.  

“My lady, I think we are here.  This is the best location to settle.  There are clear views in all directions, easy access to the river, and an abundant source of trees with which to build.”

This must have been one of my townspeople.  I had purchased what the makers of Incrementum called a “Premium Homesteader Package.” A key part of their business plan, they sold various different account types which change the circumstances of your character at the start of the game.  It cost them nothing to change a few bytes in their server’s database; it cost 100,000 bitcoins. I don’t begrudge them the right to secure a return on the money they invested into creating Incrementum. I was a businesswoman after all. I only wished they had a more expensive package available to accelerate my goals.

The game representative I spoke with beat around the bush.  He claimed their top of the line designers and developers painstakingly crafted the perfect starting packages even for the most ambitious homesteader. I think what they were really doing was managing their risk. “Pay-to-Play” is a time-honored way for game companies to make money, getting players to pay for things that will help them in their game. However, if enough gamers felt the Pay-to-Play system was unfair to players that could not pay, a community backlash could put the game out of business.

I considered contacting some executives from the club and using some of the leverage I had collected over the years to acquire a unique starting package but I just couldn’t. I’m not typically moved by arguments about fairness and honor, but I could picture the look of disappointment on James’s face when I had finally told him how I kept beating him at Monopoly all those years. Let’s just say it is not smart to let someone else be the bank every time you play. Besides, what was the point of pursuing James’s dream if I was going to cheat to do it? I would build an empire, another one, like we always wanted, but in a new world, without machines and silicon.

My starter package came with an impressive amount of homesteading supplies and ten artificial intelligence families to help build my town. Each family has at least one male and female child of working age, so I have at least 20 male laborers and 20 female laborers. For my plans, that number would have to increase rapidly.

“Thank you...” I looked at him expectantly.

“Mitchell Samuelson, my lady.”

“Thank you, Mitchell. Have everyone unload our supplies and set up their tents. Then gather to meet me at the small hill over there. We have a lot to do and we must begin at once.”

As Mitchell walked away from me, gathering the milling families behind him, I turned and walked to the slightly raised hill behind me. I didn’t need to think about the speech I was about to give to the founding families. I had already worked out our next steps, and my speech, over the prior week.

While I waited for them to unload all the donkeys and horses, I reviewed the land around me. Besides this small rise, suitable for quite a large building, the land was perfectly flat for at least one hundred meters in every direction. A hundred meters to our south it began to slope gently downward for another hundred meters before meeting the Brighthollow river. A hundred meters to our north the woods began, a great source of lumber for the building we needed to construct.

I thought ‘Map’ and the Homesteader Map interface appeared before me.  It showed a bird’s eye view of the land around me, several kilometers in each direction before a dense grey fog obscured the land. I imagined that would not clear up until I had visited the fogged areas myself, or perhaps if I got a scout to create maps for me. There were several interesting icons on the interface. When I thought about the first icon, roughly one kilometer to the northwest, which looked like a pile of rocks, some helpful text appeared.

Iron Deposit

Thinking about the second pile of rocks, another, two kilometers to the northeast, uncovered the text.

Gold Deposit

The first icon made me smile and the second was just a shrug.

Iron was an essential metal for advancing the technological base of my nascent town. We would need it for our farming tools, building materials, weaponry and even our beer tankards. While my starter kit contained an anvil and other basic blacksmithing tools, it did us no good whatsoever without the raw ore, and our initial supply of it was quite limited.

Gold, on the other hand, provided almost no value to us whatsoever.  While it was shiny and at least in my world had a lot of technical applications in electronics, in this world, it was of almost no use whatsoever. I imagine its inherent scarcity would be useful for forming a currency at some point, what was the point right now?  Incrementum had no kingdoms, no banks, no currencies.  It only had a land to explore and small communities of humans, supposedly struggling to exist after some cataclysm.  I had not paid attention to the history of the land put forth by the developing company. It had little to no effect on my objectives.

Reaching the iron mine would be our first priority after establishing our outpost. Why should I spend my greatest resource, time and human labor, on digging up a shiny metal which we can’t even use to acquire other resources? No, Iron it is.

There were several other interesting icons on the map. They looked like little groups of people. I noticed my founding families were approaching before I could look more closely. I made a mental note to investigate the map further after dealing with more pressing concerns.

Once everyone was standing in front of me expectantly, I began to speak.

“Pay special attention today, my friends, my founders. You will want to note every detail for the stories you tell your grandchildren. Today is when each of us can stop struggling to survive on our own. Today is when we can stop traveling in search of a home. We are done searching for the perfect location.”  

I looked at the dust and sun covered faces of my people. Their determined and weary faces did not hold the excitement I had imagined after writing this little speech. No matter.

“Today is when the founding families of the Athenian Empire broke ground on its capital, Athens!” I raised one first above my head, expecting at least an applause. Instead, the most notable response I got was a tall man with a large nose, a nose so large it fit one of his fingers easily in its cavernous depths. He coughed.

The tears started to gather in my eyes. James would have been so good at this. He used to get so animated talking about ancient history, and the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece was one of his favorites. I could see his shiny blue eyes and teeth as if he was standing there right in front of me. I shook away the memories that had kept me imprisoned in our old apartment and forced myself to focus on the task at hand.

Maybe I’m being too grandiose I thought. I’d spent quite a bit of time researching oratory skills and speech writing. It turned out there was a lot to writing and delivering a good speech I took for granted when I wasn’t the one that had to do it.  I decided to throw out the next few paragraphs of my rehearsed speech.

“What does all this grand talk mean for right now? We need to build my people. Who here has experience growing food crops?” One family of a man, his wife, and four children raised their arms, along with a smattering of others. The family trait of big bones, noses and ears were strong in each of them.

“You there, does your whole family farm?”

“Carl Calderson, my lady. Yes, we all worked our family farm before we decided to join your ladyship. The soil was poor and we were constantly harassed by wolves - they ate more chicken than we did. I swear the wolves left me thank you notes on the front porch each time I traded for a new pair of chickens!” A few other people chuckled at Carl’s story.  

“Carl, you will be in charge of all farming.  Please organize these people that have some farming experience. Three days from now, meet with Mitchell and provide a list of what you need and what we can expect our initial farms to produce. The crops you grow will need to feed us all through the winter when game is scarce. As Mitchell for any tools you need from my stores, I will provide him with access. I imagine you will want to start the farm near the river for easy water access, at least until we are able to build the aqueducts.”

I saw Carl give Mitchell a sidelong look. Time to squash any potential disputes.

“Mitchell speaks for me when it comes to the Athens, when you hear an order from him assume it came from me. Mitchell, I will speak with you at the start of each morning to determine where my efforts are best used for the rest of the day. Please make sure you have spoken with the rest of the town leaders at the end of each day to be ready for our morning meeting.” I could see the people standing near Mitchell and his family start to lean and step away from him.

Perhaps placing the man in a position of importance will hurt his relationships with the other villagers but so be it. I’d long ago realized that my talents are best spent managing the big picture and focusing on whatever particular priority requires my attention. I needed someone to keep track of the daily details.

“Who here has skill with building?”

One blond man with forearms that looked as large as my legs tipped his hat to me.

“Matteus Larson, ma’am. I can build any structure we need.  Can’t say I’ll be able to do all the work myself, though. Someone needs to cut down trees and mill boards for me. Or if we aren’t going to have a mill for awhile, at least help me notch and place the logs.”

“Right you are Matteus, get with Mitchell after this meeting to find out who is idle and can help you. Your first priority will be lodging.  I want one structure per family, laid out in a circle around this hill. Make them the appropriate size for the family, starting with the largest family first.  They can house the rest of the children until more buildings are completed. My own lodgings will be last once everyone else is housed. Build the structures in the order of most family members first. Don’t argue, my people come first. I can travel to my realm at will and do not have to rough the cold nights.”

“Does anyone have experience logging?”

Two men and their wives tipped their straw hats. Both men had wirey red hair, broad backs and massive beards. Their features were as similar as their wives were different. The smaller wife, who was shorter than me spoke up first.

“Sopha and Von Karlson ma’am. His brother, Jorg, and his wife, Dotti.” She says, gesturing to the other couple. “We have lived in the trees our whole lives and can fell them faster than any team of four you can pit us against. When Jorg isn’t eating that is.” She said.

“Impressive, are you sure this is the task you are best for Sopha? I thought cutting trees was a strong man’s game.”

Sopha’s face darkens and she scowls at me.

“Ask whoever you want. I saw faster and longer than these giant lumps of muscle. It’s not the strength in your limbs but how long and fast you can move the tools. I’m a bit surprised that you would question a woman’s fitness.”

The quiet grumbling from the other women gathered around me was surprising, I thought I was being practical. I perform a clumsy half bow and made a note not to question these hardy women’s abilities.

“My apologies, Sopha. I was unaware that strength was not the primary attribute required for logging. I’m a practical woman, not an ideological one.”

Sopha nodded her head.

Fair enough. I gathered myself and continued on.

“Who has been caring for our animals?” A wiry man with red hair and a thick mustache raised his arm.

“Crawly Edmundson, your lady. My boy Edward and I have been taking care of the stock.”

“Thank you, Crawly. Start our stables to the east along the river for easy access to the water, but so the farm and pastures and pens won’t compete for land as we expand. Work with Matteus on building a stable and pens for our livestock. Matteus this is the second highest priority after lodging. Do we have any livestock for pasture?”

“No, your lady, that would be one of the first things we need to discuss.  Hunting for meat in the wilds can work but it is unreliable.  It is much safer to raise our own animals for slaughter.”

“Right you are Crawly. Hunters, keep your eyes open for any animals that appear to have plenty of meat and are not terribly vicious.  I do not know if this land has bovine or swine, but either would be ideal.”

“Where is our blacksmith?” A surprisingly short, but extremely wide man with dark curly hair reaching below his shoulders raised one of his muscular arms.

“Your name sir?”

“Norman Blackson”

“Smith Norman, you will setup your Smithy directly south of this hill, close to the river for easy access to fresh water but far enough from our homes so we don’t have to smell you all day.” I got a few chuckles at that one, but I was serious.  The man smelled awful.

“Your bellows and arms will give the rest of these people the tools they need to feed us all. Please speak with Mitchell about finding more apprentices and any other labor you require. Matteus, the Smithy is the third building on your priority list.”

“Finally, we need an underground food storage dug near the river to prevent our foodstuffs for spoiling,  latrines connected via piping to the river and plenty of firewood. Between that effort, and the day to day operations of cooking and cleaning everyone should be busy. Any questions?”

A stout woman with golden tresses -- easily a third of a meter taller than me -- and five children gathered around her and her equally as tall, but thin husband spoke up. “Don’t forget clothing Ma’am.  We will need to find wild sheep, or plant cotton, spin it into yarn, and weave clothing. We have to prepare for winter and have replacements ready when we wear through our current clothes. Mary and I also make the finest rugs you’ll find, ask anyone.” The young women next to Gloria curtsies to me, I assume it must be Mary. Her bright red dress draws my eye against the earth toned clothing over everyone around her.

“Right you are. Please lead that effort...”

“Gloria Jorgdaughter” she said.

“Gloria, our Masterweaver, speak with Mitchell on anything you require. I’m interested in a small rug if you and your daughter Mary would humor me, perhaps in shades of reds like her lovely dress?”

I can see the girl blush before she dips her head. “Yes m'lady”

“Any other questions?” I asked.

A lean, angular woman with a bow strapped to her back, standing close to another man, with corded muscles and sharp cheekbones, nodded her head.

“Not all our goods and clothing can be made from cloth ma’am. We will need a tannery and leather workers to turn animal hides into clothing and other useful items, like saddles and leather armor.”

A frowned to myself, how had Dan and I missed this basic necessity?

“Yet another excellent point. Good woman and man...”

“Valeria and Raul Huntson.”

“Thank you. You will be our leatherworkers.  Work with Mitchell on where to place the Tannery, perhaps near the forest to the north?”

They both nodded.  I took in a deep breath.

“Anything else?”

A frowned as a bald man, my own height, with a shield and sword dangling from his belt said, “What about defense, my lady? Just wolves and bears can threaten our livestock, let alone the possibility of other clans or monsters attacking us for daring to gather...”

“Do not worry about defense.  We all need to focus only on our infrastructure.  If we need to keep a watch for predators talk to Mitchell about setting up a watch. But I have my right-hand man recruiting and fielding a defense force, an A-Team, even now. We should not expect to meet an organized group of visitors from my realm, or a raiding clan from your realm, for three weeks at the minimum. I have this information from the Gods themselves.” I figured that it was easier to refer to Gods than game developers.

“If your specialty is combat, choose one of the projects I have mentioned and contribute to it.”

The bald man bowed to me slightly and step back.

“Anything else?”

I took the silence as a good thing. These people weren’t the cheering type, but it seemed they would not shy away from hard work. Oh why not, I’ll give my rehearsed speech one more try.

“From here, we will build the anvil that creates an empire. When you are sitting in your family’s seat of power, a building made of stone with a roaring fire, that has more rooms than you can count, you can think back to this day and remember that when I, Lady Francine the Sharp, say something will be, it will be.”

I straightened my back placed my hands on my hips and looked as confident as I was able. This time, I saw several men’s eyes widen and their wives smile, probably imagining a warm room on a cold night, with their families at their side.

“That is all, let’s get to work people.”

“A word M’lady?” Mitchell walked up to me.

“Yes, Mitchell?”

“I don’t understand why you chose me to speak with authority and manage the people’s efforts...I’m just a simple farmer.”

“A crisis of confidence Mitchell?  You were not so hesitant when you pointed out this was the perfect place for us to settle. ”

“Good sites for buildings and camps, I know. Planting a field or raising animals, I know. Organizing this many people to complete more than a half dozen significant building projects? I will try but  have never done this before.”

“I have faith in you, Mitchell.  Remember, I am still here.  Your primary job is to carry out my instructions, bring me information and deal with small issues you do not think are worth my time. I will be here every morning to address any problems and provide guidance. Now please, get to work, I have planning to do.”

Mitchell tucked his hat into his belt and walked through the long grasses down the small slope away from me. The rest of the townspeople scattered throughout our undeveloped town, moving supplies off of our pack animals and setting up their family tents in a rough circle around my rise.

I noticed several icons in the corner of my vision. After thinking about inspecting them, windows appeared in my vision:

Congratulations! You have invented a new skill: Speak to Them (Level 1)

Improves the desired effect of speeches to groups of people.


  • 10% (5% x 2 inventor’s bonus) stronger effect on emotions of the audience
  • 10% (5% x 2 inventor’s bonus) decrease in audience scepticism


Congratulations! You have invented a new skill: Organize the Pack (Level 1)

Increases productivity of each townsperson by actively directing their efforts. Beware, this effect will fade by 25% each day you have not been seen by at least one townsperson directing and contributing to the town.


  • 4% (2% x 2 inventor’s bonus) faster resource gathering
  • 4% (2% x 2 inventor’s bonus) faster building speed
  • 4% (2% x 2 inventor’s bonus) faster production


Congratulations! You have invented a new skill: Delegate to Dominate (Level 1).

By placing your trust and authority in a subordinate you are able to be away from your city for longer periods of times without suffering consequences.


  • Any negative effects from not being present in one of your cities are suspended for one month (2 weeks x 2 inventor’s bonus) after directing your chief representative at that city.


Congratulations! You have invented a new skill: Status Reports (Level 1)

Establishing regular reports from all heads of industry in your town lets you access information related to each industry easily, and with regularity.


  • Your town overview dashboard will update once each morning in addition to each time you speak with a townsperson that has the latest information.
  • You have access to a “trends dashboard” displaying status report information over time. (inventor’s bonus)

Inventor’s bonus? I don’t normally like surprises but this one was acceptable.  I knew that Incrementum had an adaptive skill system, but I had not heard of the inventor’s bonus. Nor had I expected such basic management techniques to be available for invention. My
Organize the Pack skill alone gave me a massive advantage over other homesteaders. As I organized the growth of this town those bonuses will go up, and go up 2x more than any other homesteader without the bonus.

Speak to Them and Delegate to Dominate were interesting. I didn’t have plans to hold many speeches or leave the town. I should consider changing that.  If I work on this speaking skill it could have long term gains for important scenarios, like before battle or a major building project. If I don’t have to be in my town to make progress, perhaps I could go some other route... No, that would have to wait on Dan. I’d consider making plans around these skills but I cannot deviate from my current path. I was banking on the efficiency of all my townspeople in productivity and growth instead of war making and adventuring.

Speaking of efficiency, it is nice to have a game interface that summarizes the status of my town.  Thinking about the overview dashboard mentioned in my new Status Reports skill brought the semi-transparent window into view. The window had many tabs including Resources, Professionals, Research, Towns, Cities, Nations, Empires, Taxes, Government, and Events. I didn’t have time to go through them all but given all my orders were resource related it seemed prudent to review that tab.



Gain Rate

Burn Rate















































The resource tab seemed pretty standard for a resources and land management game. The “Unknown” resources indicated there were some special resources that I may have access to some day.  I wasn’t going to worry about it right then, however.  

I thought that the question marks would probably disappear when I met with Mitchell throughout the week and get a real handle on how many resources we could expect to produce with the people that were working on each resource. My first goal was to produce as much food as possible to increase our stores and make recruiting more people a possibility. I would also need to invest in research and development to increase the rate at which we gathered resources.  If I could gather twice as much grain with the same amount of labor, that would let me townspeople focus more on tools and experimenting with new methods.

I was going to leverage humanity’s knowledge of course. Some might call that cheating, but it’s just common sense. Humanity already discovered the agricultural breakthroughs, like crop rotation, that led to the industrial revolution. Giving my people strong direction on what experiments they should run and what tools to create just made sense. I had no intention of trying to create an actual industrial revolution but the efficiencies that allowed it to happen in the real world will give my town and people an advantage here in Incrementum.

While this summary dashboard has a nice summarized burn and gain rate, I was sure there would be peaks and valleys to worry about. Unfortunately, I was right and we didn’t have much of a peak before diving deep into a valley.


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