The Kartoss Gambit: Crocodile Tears

Chapter 6

Danny has returned to Farstead and picked up a tremendous amount of loot left for him in his bank vault by Anastaria. She also leaves a note in which Danny’s craft-unlocking fugue state gets even specialer:

[“]The only thing that Rick was curious about was how you managed to change stats, since you need character level of 150 and 100 levels in any profession before you can access the design mode. It goes without saying that this is unlocked via a quest chain, which needs several people to complete – it’s physically impossible to solo. Our analysts are still racking their brains how this is possible and are even putting Karachun’s words into doubt. But Eric, whom I contacted specifically on this account, has confirmed that you were able to change the properties of the rings you crafted. All my analysts are in a state of shock and can only shrug at this. This is the third reason why we want you in the clan.[“]

There’s also a letter from one of his prison buddies, Eric, confirming that the Phoenix Clan was lying when they said they’d ditched him to join Phoenix, but also that they’d told the Phoenix Clan everything about what they’d done in the dungeon. So, Danny’s earlier trick question was actually totally pointless? Apparently Anastaria did have access to reliable information on who got what item, she just didn’t have the information memorized and assumed Danny was being truthful when he said Leite got pauldrons.

There’s a new shaman trainer coming to visit town, which Danny was notified of a bit ago, and he wants to pay this new trainer a visit while he’s within Danny’s extremely limited range of travel. Upon arrival, it turns out that he is apparently expected and the new trainer came here to visit him, specifically. He’s about to give Danny a step-by-step walkthrough on how to find the secret land of the dragons and unlock sweet new totem powers, but Danny stops him. He said to himself earlier that he’d puzzle out this secret dragon quest on his own because doing things without hints always got a bigger prize from Barliona than accepting help from NPCs. The trainer visiting town apparently considers it vitally important that Danny complete his totem quest ASAP.

“All right. If you can provide a good reason why you must find the Dragons on your own without my help, I will agree. But your reason must be indisputable.”

“I cannot give you a reason. This… This is something within me – I feel that this is the way I must do things and if I accept your help it would mean a greatly inferior result,” I decided not to beat about the bush and tell Kornik the whole truth. As ridiculous as it might be. Even if he’s an NPC, he’s a clever NPC with access to the information that I need. If I don’t get help with sorting out my feelings, one day I’ll go mad from the inner contradictions between logic and emotions. This isn’t easy for someone who’d been guided by his head his entire life. And a pretty shabby head at that, I thought, remembering how I ended up in prison.

“That is the most cast-iron reason that a Shaman can give,” there was now a hint of satisfaction in Kornik’s voice.

What’s the point of even asking for reasons if your culture considers “because I don’t feel like it” to be the most impeccable excuse for doing or not doing anything?

During the training, Danny asks why his intuitions so often guide him away from “rational” thinking (a concept I continue to object to on the grounds that Danny frequently provides perfectly sound reasoning for decisions he then claims were made on pure intuition), and while the answer is too long to be copy/pasted, it basically boils down to Danny being psychic in real life. This is explained as “inexplicable intuition,” and while that is a real thing, it is, by definition, a thing that no one can explain, which means an author inserting it into their story is basically just using it as an excuse to have a character arbitrarily make the right decision. Like, sure, that happens. But your character arc can’t just be “don’t bother thinking and guess all the time because your guesses are preternaturally accurate.”

There’s also a whole tutorial about how to summon elemental spirits that I skipped over, but in case it comes up later, Danny can now summon fire and water spirits relatively quickly (it takes shamans ten seconds of chanting to get their interface open, so having the fire and water spirits handy still doesn’t really make them fast) and is especially good with water spirits.

Chapter 7

In an interaction with the old ladies I didn’t comment on because they’re boring, Danny received what he’s convinced are several clues to his dragon quest. His reasons for being convinced of this are reasonably solid but also have to do with those boring conversations, so just trust me on this one that Danny’s pursuing a reasonable quest hook here.

One of the out of place lines spoken by the old ladies is “You’ve been running between us half the day almost – probably done twenty miles by now.” This convinces Danny that what he’s looking for must be within twenty kilometers of Farstead.


The meat of this chapter is a quest by a kobold player, a difficult race to play because NPCs react so poorly to them, asking Danny for his help in completing a quest in the Farstead woods. Danny’s pretty sure he and the kobold are after the same thing, the secret location of the dragons, so he agrees to help out. On the wyvern ride over, the kobold explains that he’s looking for a dragon to give to Anastaria, but also that he’s got a vendetta with her Phoenix clan, so I guess the dragon is part of some kind of trap? Or maybe he’s only got a vendetta with the specific member of Phoenix who destroyed his clan through some unspecified act of betrayal? Also, Anastaria apparently has some siren poison that makes her more attractive to everyone who sees her in the game. Is she even that pretty, or do people just think she is because the game mindfucks people into being super horny every time someone sees her?

Regardless, Danny didn’t actually read the kobold’s quest until they arrive at a dragonkin hut in the middle of the woods (the dragonkin isn’t a dragon/human like you might expect but rather a wingless draconic creature). When he does read it, it turns out he’s meant to be sacrificed to the dragonkin in exchange for a lead on where to find the dragons, or else he has to sacrifice the kobold. The kobold just singled him out to help on account of his being low enough level to be easily knocked off. Also, I guess only players in clans are locked out of Krong Province? ‘Cause this kobold is apparently allowed in.

“So you think your threads make you a good player?” I heard the lizard’s voice for the first time in minutes. We stood opposite each other, breathing heavily, each trying to outstare his opponent. I don’t know why Reptilis’s breath was heavy, but I’ve been taking a real beating. Even raised my Endurance by one in this time.

“If you little piece of shit, turned your brains on even for a second, you would’ve seen a 1 under my name. Do I need to spell it out for you or will you finally start using the body part you shove your food into? Do you think an ordinary player, who knows nothing about the game, would be able to get a ‘First Kill’ by level twenty? So your level 40 for me is child’s play. Say your prayers, you flippin’ lizard. I’ll write a message to the admins as well, saying you tricked me out of five big ones in gold. We had an agreement. You are guaranteed to be dragged through the courts in the real world. Kiss ‘good bye’ to your Anastaria.”

“Fudge off. I’ll drop your gold in the Bank after I send you for respawn.”

Attention! You have the NPC and player profanity filter turned on. To turn it off go to the character settings (only for players aged 21 and above)

Apparently “fuck” is the only word this filter applies to, since “shit” is fair game. Danny’s able to keep a step ahead of Reptilis through a combination of high-level gear and having lots of consumable items. Also he’s able to figure out how his new elemental shaman actually abilities work halfway through the fight and gets access to several extra water spirits, but I don’t think “understand how to target enemies with your class abilities” can really be counted as an ace up Danny’s sleeve. How many players can’t do that? Once Reptilis is on his last legs, Danny asks what he’s up to.

“That’s not the main reason,” sighed Reptilis. “I told you how I became a kobold. Yes, I like this character now, but I haven’t forgotten that once I had a clan and that I want revenge. Brutal revenge on the bastard who tricked me out of the money – one of the influential Phoenix players. He constantly hangs out with the Emperor. I want to make him duel me in front of the palace and for that I have to get a Dragon. Only that would get me into the palace. The moron from Phoenix highly values his place in the shadow of the Emperor, who, in turn, hates duelers and generally violence in any form. Whatever the results of the duel, both of us would be permanently banned from the palace. I may not give a flying fig about this, but for him it would be a far harder blow than a change of character. And now only you stand between me and my revenge, since you’re not letting me have the Dragon. What can be so important about your quest?!”

Turns out the super great dress that Danny got from his interminably dull swamp treasure quest would work just as well as a dragon for getting into the emperor’s palace, so Danny agrees to sell it to Reptilis, then finishes him off to get the next leg of the dragon quest. And then solves a math puzzle to unlock the next leg of the chess pieces quest. The whole math puzzle thing was really weird to begin with and its inclusion here is kind of random. He figures out the puzzle after the language filter bugs out a little while censoring Reptilis vitriol for the one guy from Phoenix clan, which, okay, sure, but why is that the climax of the chapter? Why didn’t the clues to the next leg of the quest just show up automatically? I have no idea what the narrative purpose of this puzzle is supposed to be. In any case, that is the chapter.

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