Chapter 8 (cont.)
The last post was half again as long as usual, so we’re picking up in the middle of chapter 8 here. Danny and his orc admin buddy are trying to prevent the regional governor from working out that Danny’s the one who made the chess pawns.
“The figurines were made from Malachite. No Malachite was ever brought into my mine,” replied the orc.
“This is my mine! You hear, you ugly orc mug? Remember: this is my mine, not yours!” shrieked the Governor as he jumped on the chair.
“No Malachite has been brought into your mine. Ever.” replied the orc, unperturbed.
“Then I want to get the item that he created,” a calmer Governor now turned to the orc, ignoring me altogether. “Even if it’s not the chess pieces, I will not allow him to own a Unique Item. Moreover, he should go pack his things – I’m taking him back to my castle. I have no intention of letting a Jeweler capable of making Unique and Legendary Items slip away from me.”
“Prisoner Mahan cannot leave your mine at your behest,” replied the orc, also completely ignoring my presence. “Neither I nor you may break the law. Neither I nor you may take a prisoner’s possessions by force. That is also the law.”
“I’m the law here!” screamed the Regional Governor, breaking off the orc and spraying spittle in all directions. “If Mahan didn’t make the orc chess pieces, he must create all the rest! He must! Only I should possess such things, because with their aid I could open…” The Governor suddenly fell silent, glancing from side to side, got his breath back and went on. “I shall await this man in my castle! Today!”
So apparently this NPC is easily corruptible. Why would you place a guy like this in charge of any kind of critical component of the game economy? I don’t mean in an abstract “think of the NPC farmers!” kind of way, this mine is in charge of supplying copper to the player economy, which is one of the methods that the Corporation profits off of Barliona. Why put an easily corruptible NPC in charge of that?
In any case, the visit from the regional governor doesn’t amount to anything right away. So far it’s looking like it’s just like the dwarf mafia conversation Danny overheard, a setup that doesn’t actually go anywhere. Instead, the next plot point is this:
“According to the Emperor’s decree, each mine in our province must provide at least one prisoner for mining Malachite at the restricted-access Dolma Mine. Provision requirements: random selection from prisoners of level 7 or above with at least level 9 in the mining skill. On my mine we have forty eight sentients like that and the selection process picked out the prisoner known to you as Sakas. According to point 6 paragraph 15 of the provision on prisoners in the Malabar Empire, I am questioning other candidates on whether they wish to take the place of the chosen candidate. Here is the situation. The Dolma mine contains Large Copper Veins, from which Malachite is mined. The task of the prisoner is to mine 20 pieces of Malachite in the course of two weeks. The mine contains aggressive Rats, so there is a chance that the prisoner might be sent for respawn and be stripped of all his stats. If this happens, he returns back to his mine. As in our mine, there are sections containing veins; no-one has access to these except for the prisoners, so the section would have no immediate guard protection. But if the prisoner, being attacked by a Rat, manages to run back to the main part of the mine, he will be helped by guards and healers.”
The orc fell silent for a few moments, and then continued in his usual Akela voice:
“The level eight orc known to you as Sakas has ten levels in Mining and nine in Woodcarving. He put pretty much all his free stat points into Agility, so he doesn’t have much of a chance against the Rats. I am asking you: do you want to take Sakas’ place?”
Think maybe this is the regional governor’s means of retaliation? Think again:
“The reason is simple: the crafted Malachite figurines. The Jeweler profession became very popular in Barliona in the past week. Practically one out of ten sentients is now aiming to become a Jeweler. The mines meet the demand for ores well enough, but they cannot do so where Precious Stones are concerned. Now everyone’s rushing to buy up Lapis to make the Dwarf figurines, but you have to train yourself up before you’re able to work that stone. You have to learn by making Copper Rings and working with Malachite and only then can you start making things with Lapis. It is possible to mine Malachite in our province, but only prisoners are able to do that, because Dolma is not one of the free mines. The Emperor ordered for one prisoner to be taken from each mine and sent to mine Malachite.
Anyway, naturally Danny is going to jump on the quest despite the fact that he’s mere days away from being released, because he’s all heroic and plot armored and-
“In that case I’ll pass. I have no reason to risk everything that I’ve already achieved. I have too much to lose.”
Danny does make Sakas a full set of +7 uber-rings plus a chain, so he’ll at least stand a chance.
The transport portal shimmered in the middle of the office; the Dolma mine was probably on the other end. The orc met me with a chilly look. My refusal had probably lowered his opinion of me, quite a lot. But I’m sorry, I can’t help that – I need to get out into the main gameworld. I don’t see any other way than sending Sakas to his death. Finishing the last of the rings there and then I gave them to Sakas.
“Here, take these. I hope they help,” I said, but then the heavy voice of the governor broke the silence:
“Prisoners cannot take items to the Dolma mine that have been in their possession for less than a week. The portal would not let them through, so you can take your rings back. They’re no use to Sakas.”
Well, then. It was nice knowing you.
“Sakas, stop! Let me at least shake your hand for good luck,” I stopped the orc and, when he hesitantly stretched his hand, jerked it, pulling Sakas away from the portal and clearing a path for myself. Before I dove in, I looked at the governor, who stood there, silent, and said:
“For the record: I agree to take Sakas’s place,” and not waiting for a reply, I closed my eyes and stepped into the transport portal. A pang of cold, some slight disorientation and I found myself next to a lop-sided sign, where time-faded letters proclaimed: “Welcome to the Dolma Copper Mine”.
Stop aside, Sakas. Let the protagonist handle this.
Mining in Dolma works differently from Pryke. There are no individual sections. The rats are sparse, but ubiquitous. Prisoners are encouraged to group up and kill rats, but once a group is formed it cannot be disbanded and they must all make the 20 Malachite per person quota together or else all fail together.
This means that the mining section itself is like a Dungeon in the main gameworld. But if that’s the case, getting together a standard Dungeon group is a must – a tank, a healer and three DDs (damage dealers, fighters specializing in damage).
Apparently the translator doesn’t know the term “DPS.”
The first prisoner to step into the mine immediately gets pounced on by a rat, and Danny assembles a handful of guys from the Pryke – no one he knows, and it’s possible they’re from some alternate server version of the mine? – into a raiding group to kill the thing. It’s way too long to quote, but it’s good. It has the tactics of an MMO fight, the tank managing aggro while the healer keeps him on his feet and so forth, but no arbitrary miss chances or anything like that, it’s been translated into full dive properly. The class trinity make it recognizable as a game fight, but it’s an actual fight, not just some toons standing around wailing on each other and babysitting cooldowns until someone falls over. As a healer on the backline, Danny’s perspective is more strategic and less visceral than Threadbare’s, but that difference doesn’t diminish the intensity of the fight.
After Danny gets all his jewelry on, he powers up like whoa and suddenly his lightning spirit attack can shave off 10% of the rat mob’s HP. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but bear in mind he’s the group’s healer.
“WHAT?” Eric stopped in his tracks. “How? I heard about this – in my old clan the guys who did Jewelcraft said that there was a feature allowing you to change stat bonuses by decreasing the ring’s durability, but to get it you had to go through a ton of quests, go somewhere and study something. How is a prisoner able to do all this – especially with a level 7 character? A short name, such abilities in Jewelcraft… There’s something you’re not being straight about, Mahan – you’re holding something back. Well, to hell with it, pass those rings here.”
This book keeps drawing attention to how jewelcraft is allowing Danny to completely break this game in half. It’d better be going somewhere with this. Anyone can level jewelcraft. Non-prisoner players can select it as their primary profession. If it’s the key to real ultimate power, that should be common knowledge, and players specializing in it should likewise proliferate, driving down the price of the magic items.
It’s not impossible to recover from this. Danny’s old Hunter had a mix of +10 and +20 rings. Danny can put together +7 rings now, but if he hits a plateau at around +10, that all makes sense. You zoom up from +1 to +10 in a hurry, but rings more powerful than that are much harder or require much more rare materials, so they’re less common.
The book does seem really enamored with going on about how overpowered Danny’s jewelcraft is, though, so I’m not sure it’ll end up going that route.
I moved to give Eric the rings and was surprised by a message popping up in front of me. From Eric’s expression I guessed he was seeing the same thing.
Attention! You cannot transfer items or money to players from parallel Pryke Mines.
So they really were from the Pryke Mine, but from some parallel version of it.
It turns out that Danny can gear up his party members, but only by using materials mined exclusively from Dolma, not Pryke ore allowed. Dolma’s sparsely equipped, so they have to improvise a little, but they manage to get it done. Unfortunately, none of the money anyone has comes from Dolma, so Danny has to give his stuff away for free, but on the bright side, there is only one other healer in the entire mine and Danny quickly finds himself employed as a freelance in exchange for a portion of the Malachite mined. He’ll finish up in less than a week at the rate he’s going now, and can just lie around the mine’s safe zone all day after that, stargazing or whatever.
So, we’re back to waiting for the other shoe again.