This chapter opens up by informing us that leveling up in a crafting profession is less like cocaine and more like some kind of psychedelics:
the world suddenly stopped. A strange feeling came over me: Kart stood nearby, ladling molten copper from the smelting pot, and it froze in the air, barely touching the ingot mold. Walking around Kart and marveling at this effect, I noticed that a point of light began to form somewhere in my chest and shine out through my robe. The shining started to grow and increase in brightness, while a pleasant warmth started to spread through my body. In a few moments the light became so bright that I almost shut my eyes. When it had filled the whole of the smithy, there was a flash of light, and for a few moments I shone like the sun.
Despite the level he got out of it, Danny isn’t actually making much progress on making rings. The end of the day is also when he reveals his true colors as a racist:
My first day of ring-making ended in my complete capitulation, but it did have one positive point: Kart made Rat-skin coats, trousers and boots for us. Even if these clothes gave no stat bonuses, the total increase in armor from 6 to 13, as well as the look of the outfits, made us feel a lot more safe and comfortable. At least now I no longer resembled a zebra.
That’s right, Danny’s one of those anti-zebra bigots, because we aren’t all sick of seeing those guys on Twitter and YouTube already.
Danny continues trying to make a ring, and eventually manages it in some kind of weird trance state where he imagines doing it but instead does it for real. He then begins fiddling with the process to see if he can get some stat boosts onto it.
Closing my eyes, I imagined the ring before me with its Intellect bonus. Letter ‘I’ appeared next to the imagined ring. Other possible stat bonuses were Strength, Agility, Rage and Stamina. A row of letters ‘Str’, ‘A’, ‘R’ and ‘Stm’ appeared near the rings.
Reign of terror: If Agility and Rage are going to get one-letter references, then Strength one of Strength and Stamina should use a letter other than their starting letter for identification, like how Magic: the Gathering uses B for Black and U for blUe, or better yet just change Stamina to Endurance so you can use E.
Kart and I had a strict daily timetable. In the morning I went to the mine and spent a couple of hours killing rats, levelling up my Intellect, gaining Experience and getting skins for Kart, I then handed the tails in to Rine and made rings until the end of the day. Hunting Rats became sheer pleasure – after I put on eight Intellect rings I killed Rats non-stop, without ever running out of mana. My section, Kart’s section and those of a couple more prisoners who, for the price of a ring permitted me to hunt there, had enough Rats for me to bring down 30-40 by noon and increase my reputation with the guards by 60-70 points every day.
Danny has mentioned that Shaman is a pretty unexceptional class for standard gameplay, but it’s letting him completely wreck the mine rats. For that matter, the other half of his super-build, the jewelcraft profession, was also supplied by the state. Now, he can always level up the jewelcraft profession on his own, just like Kart is doing with leatherworking despite snitching being his primary, but still, whoever set his profession supplied him with half of his rat-slaying build and nudged him towards the other. Did Mariana feel bad enough about setting him up to hack him a build that would get him into the main game world in a hurry, despite not feeling bad enough to not actually set him up? Did the city officials decide to go easy on him for getting rid of those protesters, and just did so in a way that was invisible to the public and their bosses? Were the Scandanavian subversives involved?
A couple of weeks went by with such a work schedule. I even forgot that there were plans to bump me off and the date set for that had come and gone.
Just in case you thought that was gonna be an actual plot point. Not that Danny would have much difficulty bribing people into joining he and Kart as part of a new gang. Not only would supplying rings to his minions incentivize people to join, it would also make them more effective mooks. Less so with the shady “accidents” they fight each other with as opposed to straight-up shanking their enemies, but still.
All that aside, I’m disappointed that they set up an open bounty on Danny’s head, and then there wasn’t even one attempt on his cyber-life during the duration of that bounty. Presumably the dwarf prison gangs are gonna come after him eventually, but still.
Danny’s side hustle attracts the attention of the mine governor, though, who’s upset that his mine productivity is falling behind with Danny and Kart buying up all the spare ore, and hands Danny a quest:
Quest accepted: “Present for the Regional Governor”.
Description: In the course of 17 days craft a piece of Jewelry which gives a total stat increase of +5. Quest type: Unique Limitation: only for Jewelers.
Reward for completion: +500 Experience, +500 reputation with the Pryke mine guards, +3 to the Jewelcraft profession. Penalty for failure: -1500 reputation with the Pryke mine guards.
Note that despite the “quest accepted” text, Danny cannot actually decline. Danny has no clue how to craft anything higher than +1, so this is basically just smacking him with -1500 rep points. He wasn’t actually told to stop his side hustle, though. Which, why leave a way out? Why not just tell Danny that from now on prisoners are forbidden from buying ore? The mine interacts with the real, human-driven game economy, so the game cannot ignore economic realities just to maintain a certain level of challenge. Would a +5 ring actually be enough of a bribe to keep this regional governor fellow happy despite the mine’s poor performance in recent weeks? If the regional governor is an NPC, why would he be programmed to be corruptible at all? Sure, the Illuminati super-government is corrupt as all Hell, but they’d still prefer their underlings be incorruptible if that were possible – and with NPCs, all the problems of culture trickling down from the top go away.
If the mine governor is trying to bribe the corruptible regional governor into looking the other way on his poor performance the last couple of weeks, he’s pretty canny. Once every prisoner in the mine has a full set of strength rings, Danny and Kart will stop buying ore, and meanwhile the productivity of the whole mine will have shot upwards. So I’m not really complaining about anything here, just wondering about the implications, and wondering whether the author has thought them through.
Danny has this rock he’s been carrying around for a couple of chapters now, which so far as he knows has no purpose. While pondering how to complete his quest, he starts tossing it up and down and this triggers the unlocking of a new ability that allows him to commune with rocks. This rock would apparently like to be carved into a rose, which Danny does, carving it into a stone rose in a fugue state. Which lasts a while.
“Doing some work, eh?” grinned Kart, taking a seat beside me. “If you call sitting down in one position for two days while cutting something out of a stone oblivious to your surroundings ‘doing some work’, then yes. What’s there to worry about? We brought you food, but you took no notice of it. So we had to feed you like a baby!”
How’d they get the extra food? It’s established that mine officials don’t care who fills a prisoner’s quota so long as it’s filled, but will the prison chef just hand out Danny’s food to anyone who walks up to collect it?
“Mahan, you’re such a naive clod,” smiled Kart. “Although, truth be told, quite a few things happened while you sat there oblivious to the world around you. Remember: as long as you’re making the rings you’ll remain untouchable in the mine – the benefits received by the people using them are just too high. So no-one would want to get on your bad side just for a small amount of experience in Meanness. While you were ‘off-line’ creating, not only was all the stolen stuff returned to you, in the form of money at least, since those idiots immediately sold everything to Rine, but it was even topped up with 30 gold as compensation. And the oafs who took our things will be working for us for free in the mine, while other prisoners personally make sure they’re not slacking. Official apologies and assurances of peace were relayed to you, although I believe that none of that really mattered to you at the time. And these two chaps didn’t just feed you for two days in a row, but also prevented three attempts to drop some crushed rock into your food. So, I congratulate you, Mahan, you are now the leader of those who took the path of levelling up in professions.”
The megagraph here is from the original text. Most LitRPG has really spaced out paragraphs, but this one tends to run long. I feel like I shouldn’t be throwing stones in that regard, though, seeing as I do the same thing rather a lot.
More importantly, Danny’s just been promoted from “notable in the mine because of that one time he killed a guy” to “leader of several dozen people” and he didn’t do anything. He just sat around and it fell in his lap. It’s not like he didn’t have the resources to make it happen himself, if he just started trading rings to everyone gang-less to get them to sign up. Apparently Mahanenko didn’t want Danny to actively pursue power like this? But he’s already got sizable gangs breathing down his neck, so it’d be a perfectly reasonable act of self-preservation even if Danny’s not generally a power monger.
The deadline for the regional governor gift quest is looming, and Kart has figured out his end, making twenty flat copper sheets:
“Oh, Mahan, it’s good that you came by. Just imagine – I’m finished already! Only the first one gave me trouble as I was getting the hang of it, but it was all plain sailing after that.
I promised I’d stop nitpicking minor translation issues a while ago, but dear God seeing a basic idiom messed up like this really leaps out even after the general grammar weirdness has faded away.
In any case, it’s referenced a couple of times that Kart will have enough reputation to leave the mine if he and Danny succeed at their quest. Danny will only be a breath away from it himself. Even without Kart’s help, Danny needs only 1,000-ish reputation on top of the quest reward to get out, which is like one month of rat slaughter. Unless the rats have suddenly run out (if that’s even a thing that can happen), he’s practically done.
It’s only been, like, two or three months. Danny definitely hasn’t been completely inert in getting this done. He’s been scheming to beat the system since he got here and most of his actions have been non-obvious. There was no single brilliant “aha!” moment, but that’s not how real intelligence works anyways. Danny’s just been trying things, and kept trying new things until some of them worked (I could nitpick his success rate, but look, no one wants to read about Danny trying nine things that don’t work before something finally does). At the same time, Danny has had one massive advantage in that his state-assigned class let him aggro the rats, and received a strong nudge in the direction of his other major asset by his state-assigned primary profession. The book seems like it might be aware of this and going somewhere with it.
Regardless of how that shakes out, there’s another problem: Danny is basically done being in the mines, but we are only 46% of the way through the book. Unless the next month is gonna be way more eventful than the first two (ish), Danny’s on track to be out long before the end of this book. Maybe this is gonna be a thing like Succubus did, where each book in the series covers two or three distinct arcs in order to hit a decent wordcount before pushing it out the door for $4.99.
Or maybe something’s about to go terribly wrong.