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A: Dungeon Master Online E1

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It has been about an hour since the DMO servers finally opened and were immediately flooded by hapless gamers. Many were too scared to venture out into the world and decided to remain safely in the confines of their starting Town to avoid being killed by monster or Player Killer alike. Not all of the duped were craven; slowly groups started pouring out of the Towns in every direction, hoping that undertaking quests with allies would relieve some of the danger.

 

Our adventure begins in the rural Town of Winterhaven, a starting area known for being one of the smallest Towns in Varuna, being home to but a few NPCs. Surrounded by the Silver Sea, the Alares mountain range and the Fall.

 

One group of adventurers sick of inaction has recently formed within the walls of this town. Five victims of circumstance have found each other and decided to work together to get find a way to get rid of this dreaded world.

 

Cha’ac the Warforged Warden, Iris the Elven Cleric, Solitude the Tiefling Rogue, Amroth Anárion the Elven Ranger, and Quarius the Eladrin Wizard have formed their first party in the middle of Winterhaven’s Market Square.

 

Now it is time for them to set out and find their first quest!

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"Everyone's got their inventory ready right?" Amroth said, checking his own for the fifth time, he was damn nervous for what they were going to do, but he knew it had to been done. He gripped his bow a bit firmer to steady his sweaty hand, his breath high and shallow in the top of his lungs. Checking his map he looked at he area around Winterhaven. "The way I see there are three options to us, north, south east or south west." He pointed each of them out on the map, two points of interest indicated by a dot and circle and a castle-like location indicated by the tall castle symbol.

 

"I feel like going south east is the best course of action, it's a bit further than north but safer too I think. If I was a Player Killer I'd go north and wait somewhere between here and that POI, since it's the place most players would go on their first trip outside the city walls I think. That leaves us with south east and south west, somehow I feel like the south west area will be higher leveled and harder to get through, so I'd like to keep that for later. After the POI south east, whatever it is, we can head back to town or go further east and to the north to the castle that's east of the mountain range." He drew out the plan on the map. They'd have to traverse just a tiny bit of a forest to get to the POI he pointed out. "Does everyone agree?" He said, looking at the group, a strange bunch of characters, the magic robot scared him a little, he couldn't see it's facial expressions very well. The cleric seemed nice enough but the rouge and mage seemed to dislike each other, though he doubted they knew each other before this.

 

Amroth sighed and put away his map, planning and conversing wouldn't get them out of this damned mess any quicker, they needed to move, however reluctant he was to do so.

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The solidly built construct whirled the hammer about in its hand, testing it's weight and enjoying the heavy whooshing sound. "South east is as good as anything, I suppose." The voice wasn't as mechanical as one might expect, but melodious and smooth, with an odd, clicky emphasis to the guttural sounds. It hadn't particularly meant to join up with a group so soon. Not until it had figured out a bit more about its situation. But then the first corpses had fallen outside the city. And Cha'ac had been forced to reconsider. True, as a Warden, one of the Prime Access classes, it was more well-built, and could endure more than your standard wizard or rogue, barring freakish luck. But with much of a heal factor, that endurance would be worn down eventually.

 

So a group it was. A cleric to keep it alive, and some ragtag misfitss to help wear the big ones down with more damage. In return, Cha'ac could do more with its capabilities as a tank. Sure, it was playing the game on the terms of those traitors that had locked it in here, but that was fine, for now. Eventually, the warforged would find a way to start breaking this prison. Eventually, it would find a way to start dishing out again. If that meant laying low, so to speak, then so be it. But this game would not break its spirit. Not now, in the immediate panic, nor at any point in the future, whatever might happen. Cha'ac was going to break free. It was only a matter of time.

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"Okay," Iris agreed, squinting down at her copy of the map. "I see it. This game should implement a navigator or something..."

 

After marking out the POI, the elf then folded the map back up and tucked it in her backpack, surveying her new team-mates for a moment before sinking into her thoughts again. Aiming to achieve maximum realism is a good objective for game developers to strive towards, but forcibly keeping people in here was just uncalled for. Puffing out her cheeks in annoyance, Iris pulled out her GUI for the nth time and tapped the Logout button impatiently, grimacing at the lack of response by the game system. Looks like her classes would just have to go on without her.

 

"Suppose there's a Gamemaster or two out there. Maybe they'll know what's up with this situation?"

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Normally, Solitude would have struck out on his own immediately, eager to amass wealth and levels. However, the realization that death was now permanent and extended to real life (he had been outside the starting area already and seen someone die, which convinced him to turn back), he found it more prudent to group up. He couldn't say he trusted his group particularly, but given he was the shady Rogue himself, it was at least likely they were more trustworthy than him. Except perhaps the Wizard - if he got a bit too excited or wasn't very skilled, it would be quite possible he'd end up killing his allies with AoE attacks. At least the others were, at worst, distractions for the enemies.

Solitude liked Iris' suggestion. "Even if not GMs, we should probably ask some NPCs for information, since they boast such sophisticated AI, rather than putting our lives in the hands of the Ranger's guesswork about what the best path is." Having chosen to play a Tiefling was a fitting move for Solitude. The demonic appearance and history of antagonism suited his attitude well enough - he simply didn't care enough about other people to mince words.

Solitude wasn't accustomed to waiting for people to agree, and so approached the nearest NPC shopkeeper. "Can you tell me anything about the surrounding area outside this village?" he demanded.

“I-I-I’m sorry, sir,†the shopkeeper replied, frightened by both the Tiefling’s appearance, “I’m but a travelling merchant. I haven’t been in this t-t-town for long. Y-y-your best b-b-bet would be the inn.â€

Solitude turned back to the group, somewhat displeased. "Well, we can either try the inn or run off into the wild and hope we picked the right way." Although he didn't agree with the latter course of action, he would abide by it if necessary. He always looked out for himself, and he was fairly certain he could at least use the others as a distraction while he escaped, if indeed they ended up on a stupidly dangerous path.

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Quarius squinted his eyes, reading through his list of items and spells again and again to make sure that the game system hadn't glitched and given him one feat extra or less by mistake. Or perhaps, if somehow or other he had been the Chosen One, and had been given a super secret special technique which would allow him to become all-powerful in the future and defeat the evil mastermind behind all this. Wasn't that how it always went in games?

 

Once he was doubly sure that nothing was out of the ordinary with his inventory and character screen, Quarius dismissed the GUI with a lazy wave of his hand and a deep sigh. He examined each one of his party members, appraising them for their choice in race and class. Obviously, the Warden was an experienced player - it was a Prime Access class, and not many gained Prime Access without being extensive beta testers. The Tiefling seemed to be a decent player at least, too, but he had a strange look about him... As though he would attempt to pickpocket his spell book at the next possible chance. Quarius briefly considered using Presitidigitation to turn his entire inventory invisible, just in case.

 

That reminded him, though - he had no idea how to cast spells on-the-fly. Did he just... wave his hand and say the magic words? Did he have to open the GUI every time he wanted to use a power? Was this game still turn-based, like its tabletop variant? He could imagine very bad consequences if he didn't manage to figure out this conundrum by the time they encountered their first monsters.

 

"Don't worry, guys, I'm an expert in death game scenarios like this." It was true, to a certain extent. Quarius had watched all the cartoon shows with characters being stuck in digital worlds. There was a particularly famous one just a year ago, titled Blade Science Offline. "The first thing we should do is to claim a house for free, while everything is still chaotic. Once people settle down and get a working economy up, these things aren't going to be cheap."

 

He pointed towards an empty house in Winterhaven, flipping through his GUI as he selected Prestidigitation and a few options. A glowing sigil in the shape of 'Q' carved itself into the wood of the door in response. "There, something like that. We'll have to come back later to set up a more permanent signboard though," Quarius said with a smile. "Next, we need to procure ourselves rare loot. Chances are, the good farming spots haven't been located yet. But once they have been, particularly large factions of players will likely gather around the area and claim it as their territory. Before that happens, we need to squeeze it dry of magic items and experience."

 

Nodding, Quarius began to march over to the inn, where it was most likely that they'd be able to find a quest NPC and start their journey. 

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"A house?" Cha'ac said incredulously, making a disgusted noise. "Really? We're here trapped in a stupid game that we can't get out of, and your response is to cozy up? I can't believe this. Of all the people on this server I could've formed a party with, my luck is finding the only idiot in this place who actually likes it here. Good god." Smacking the wizard with the hammer suddenly didn't seem like such a bad idea at all, and the mechanical hand tightened around the handle. But no. Restraint had to be exercised. True, Cha'ac wanted to get out desperately. And true, the wizard's attitude was...well, anathema to that. But while it could very easily ruin the man's day, what would that accomplish?

 

"Ugh. Fine. Go make yourself a hovel for all I care. Meanwhile, I'm going to start breaking these mobs over my shield so that I can start feeling the game out. If we can't log out here, maybe in another city. Anyone who wants to get back to their friends and family is welcome to follow me." Cha'ac sneers, eyes blazing with contempt. "Or you can keep pretending you're a mighty wizard like you're still ten years old. Let me know how that works out for you when you build your ivory tower." The warforged retched again, and stalked off towards the inn, staying a good distance away from the wizard. Time to find out what the surrounding area had to offer before they went out.

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Amroth Tsked at the group blatantly ignoring his idea and rushing into the inn, he wasn't the kind of guy who liked to follow quests, besides any level 1 quest would be swarming with other players and possibly player killers at this point. He let the rouge go about asking for quests or whatever. Since he was in the inn anyway, he best figure out what lay around the village, south east in particular, since that was still where he planned on going. He walked up to the innkeeper and smiled. "I want to know more about the lands surrounding the village, south east in particular, who knows most about these kinds of things?" he said to her, she took a moment to ponder before responding. "Your likely bet'd be Valthun, he knows quite a lot about the area.", he inquired where he might Valthun, "He's the bookworm over yonder. Careful, he talks a lot when he gets excited"  came the reply. He nodded a thank you and walked over to Valthun.

 

Amroth walked up to the man and smiled. "I hear you are the man to talk to when I want to know about the area surrounding the village, me and my team have an interest in the south east area, mind if I sit down?" Valthrun looked up from his book, visibly excited someone had actually come to talk to him about his passion. “Hmm, yes, of course! Have a seat, have a drink. No wait, don’t have a drink. Hmm, unless you pay for it yourself, you’re free to do whatever you want. So, what can I help you with?†Amroth thanked the man and sat down, he pulled out his map and placed it down on the table, his finger on top of Winterhaven. "Our group has been held up in this village for too long now and we feel like we should move, the way I see it, there are three options to take, north, south west and south east. I fear that north will be a busy place and that we'll find nothing but death there and I fear south west is invested with tough creatures. So that leaves us south east, to this point of interest." He trailed his finger over the map to indicate the location he meant. "Do you know what we'll find down there?"

 

“Hmm that would be the Silver Keep. Named after the sea. Used to be a stronghold to hold of pirates during the age of the Old Empire, but it has been defunct ever since the southern raiders stopped pestering these lands. It was officially abandoned for years, with the exception of the straggler or two looking for shelter from the rain. You’ll more than likely find bandits or other unsavory types inhabiting it.†Amroth nodded at the man and scratched his head, he didn't like the idea of running into trouble, but that would happen anyway, bandits could either be an easy hit or a tough deal. "Bandits, huh? Would you know just how much of a trouble bandits would be to novice adventurers? And do you expect anything of worth to be down there?"

 

“I fear my knowledge of their martial prowess is limited, but I’d guess that they have enough experience to get rid of a group yet to bloody their swords. I wouldn’t recommend novice adventurers to head towards the Silver Keep. As to whether there is anything of worth… I wouldn’t know.†Valthrun broke off eyecontact for a split second and took a peek at the corner of the Inn before going back to looking Amroth in the eye. Amroth nodded but was surprised at Valthrun's glace through the inn, not wanting to draw attention Amroth decided not to look in the same direction as Valthrun. "Which direction would you suggest then? North or south west? Or do you have an other idea on how we can get some experience and money?" Amroth paused for half a second, the glance didn't feel right, something shady was going on. He didn't mind braking some rules, as long as no real players were hurt. "My friend just bought a house though, we can talk more... privately there, if you wish."

 

“W-w-w-wait! Simply because I groom myself properly doesn’t mean I’m not interested in women! Please keep your indecent proposals to yourself. By the gods, I’ve never heard something so absurd. H-H-Have a nice day.†Obviously flustered Valthrun stood up from the table, nearly tripping over his robe and stumbled out of the Inn after dropping a few coins into Salvana’s hand. Amroth stared at the man leaving, scratching his head in confusion. He made eye contact with Salvana and raised his shoulders, not knowing what he did wrong. He walked over to Iris, still scratching his head. "I... don't know what's wrong with him, maybe a bug or something? Anyway, we souldn't go to south east apparently, though I know nothing more than that."

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Quarius was, to be honest, more than a little shocked by the Warden's sudden outburst. Well, now that he thought back on what he said, the Warforged's anger wasn't completely misplaced, but it was reminiscent of a six-year old, crying after he discovered that someone took away his precious toy. Whining and wailing about the situation won't help resolve it at all. "Excuse me, sir, but if you took just a moment to sit down and think about our situation a bit more carefully," he addressed the Warden with a tinge of annoyance in his tone, "You'd find that charging off to... What did you call it? "Break these mobs over my shield so that I can start feeling the game out"? These mindless actions will accomplish nothing."

 

"Did you ever consider the possibility that whoever created this world, the mind behind this 'game', would be intelligent enough to cover all possible exits? If he could program a virtual world as tangible as DMO, why in the world would he make a beginner's mistake, like 'Whoops, I forgot to restrict them from logging out from this particular town!'? Cool down and think about what I'm saying here."

 

Quarius took a deep breath, calming himself before continuing. "The mastermind must have a grand scheme, or a plan, if he locked thousands of players into his game. He may be performing a grand social experiment. He may be a psychopath, wanting to be the god of his own personal realm. Whatever the case is, it's far more likely that he'd set certain "win conditions" for us. Say, to defeat him in battle. Or complete an impossible quest. Something like that is far more likely to happen than him 'allowing people to log out from a different town'."

 

"As such, my proposal of getting a house and good equipment is to establish us in the best possible position to achieve whatever win condition he throws at us, while all this is still new and chaotic. If you get caught up in the turmoil just like everyone else, what sets you apart from the others? What makes you think you can do something that no one else can? Do you think you're the only Beta Tester in this region? It's likely we'll be trapped here for weeks, if not months. Might as well approach this problem from a more rational point of view. I don't know if you're still willing to follow me and my approach of cozying up, but I'd definitely appreciate the help of an experienced player like you."

 

With that, he flashed a smile at the Warden despite his previous outburst, and turned to look at the various occupants of the inn. While the Ranger named Amroth had gone to converse with a scholar, but didn't seem to be particularly successful in his endeavors. Instead, Quarius set his eyes upon a wise old man located in the corner of the inn. NPCs this old usually had nuggets of information to share. Perhaps a valuable quest or two. It was time to see if his training in Diplomacy would pay off.

 

"Afternoon, my good man," he greeted the old man, waving to Salvana as he seated himself on the opposite side of the table. "Two beers here, please! My name's Quarius Elandor Darion, and I was wondering if you knew of any information regarding the regions surrounding Winterhaven."

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Iris shook her head at Amroth sympathetically, patting the elf gently on his back.

 

"Nah, I think he's just suffering from a case of shyness," She replied. "You'll have to be less aggressive when it comes to the art of courtship. Looks like even NPCs in this game have some degree of emotion, too. Or maybe it's just genius programming."

 

Taking a second to politely wave away Salvana, who was raising an empty stein at them questioningly, Iris continued her chatter. "Well. At least we managed to get some helpful tips from him before he fled, so there's that. I've got a pretty bad feeling about the North myself, to be honest, but we should probably consult the rest of the team before making any solid decisions."

 

Plopping herself up on a nearby barstool, she glanced over the heads of the other patrons in the inn, trying to pinpoint where their new battle mates went. Quarius has walked himself to the edge of the room, and is attempting to engage a rather scruffy looking elder into a conversation. The Warforged, on the other hand, has positioned himself right at the other end of the room, seemingly intent on not crossing the Wizard's path. Even the reserved, aloof rogue was nowhere to be seen. 

 

Similar groups of adventurers have entered the inn too, trying to squeeze out every single drop of information from the NPCs. Iris twitched her elven ears slightly, taking advantage of her slightly heightened senses as an elf to listen in to ongoing conversations. Drunken gossip and hearty chatter contributed to most of the din, but eventually, a shred of information drifted her way.

 

"Sounds like there's another NPC out here, in the Market Square," She whispered, tugging at Amroth's cape. "A flower girl. Cuter than Valthrun, going by the descriptions those guys are making. What say you?"

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“Hoho, hello young man. Information you say? All I know is that some pesky goblins are living somewhere north. Fiends robbed my farm a few days ago! Unpleasant.â€

 

Quarius continued to converse with the old farmer. It seemed like he had some useful information to share, possibly pertaining to a quest. He briefly considered how he might approach the topic, without sounding too unconcerned about this NPC's fictional farm. "Oh dear," replied Quarius, looking concerned. "I hope they didn't do a lot of damage."

 

"They took some goat and some milk," Ellian laughed it off. "Likely the wretches were just hungry! Hoho, doesn't mean I stuck around to find out how friendly they were. Say... what was your name again?"

 

"Quarius the Mighty. I'm with a bunch of adventurers looking for fame and fortune. I don't suppose you know anyone who is willing to offer a bounty for these goblins?"

 

"Now that you mention it, lord Padraig has been annoyed with them as much as I have." Ellian pointed towards the corner. "Hoho, likely he'll have something to offer!"

 

Now, that was something. Most likely, this lord fellow would have the resources necessary to reward them for their quest. "Aha! Thank you so much, good sir. Rest assured, I shall teach those goblins a lesson so good they'll never think of attacking your farm again."

 

Smiling at the farmer, Quarius stood up and turned towards the corner of the inn where Ellian had gestured towards. There, a rather regal-looking man was seated, alone, sipping at a cup of cold beer with a contemplative look on his face. Quarius marched over to his table and seated himself on the opposite side of the round wooden table. "Lord Padraig?"

 

Ernest looks up to the Eladrin. "Good day. What can I do for you?"

 

"My name's Quarius, and I'm with a bunch of adventurers looking for fame and fortune. An old farmer informed me that you might be offering a bounty for the heads of the goblins which have been terrorizing your town."

 

"You have come to the right person, Quarius. As it happens I have been looking for able men and women who can help me get rid of the menace."

 

"Great! Can I have more details of the task? Where are the goblins hiding? How many of these pesky beings are there?"

 

"Of course." Ernest scratched his chin while trying to recall all the facts. "They are hiding in the abandoned Dwarven goldmine to the north and my best estimate is that there are 30 of them. I'd say you have your work cut out for you, but would you mind if I ask something more of you?"

 

A side-quest! This would definitely yield possibly more rewards. "What is on your mind?"

 

"I sent a bunch of adventures a few days ago to see if they could take care of the goblins, but I have yet to hear from them. I fear for the worst. Would you mind investigating what happened to them while you are there and report your findings back to me?"

 

Quarius nodded. "I'll see what I can do. If you don't mind me asking, sir, how much will this task be worth? I need to know a few numbers so I can convince my friends to aid me."

 

"I don't have a lot of gold, the goblin's raids have slowed down our town's finances. I'd offer you 120 gold pieces."

 

Nodding, he continued. "Our group's actually keen on locating magic items, but 120 gold pieces should suffice too, I think. Unless you happen to know of any places we might be able to find enchanted equipment...?" Quarius looked hopeful.

 

"Actually, I am sure the adventurer's had some nice looking equipment. If they met their end by the goblin's hands you'd be free to take it and no one would care."

 

"Brilliant! That would do nicely, Lord Padraig. I'll go converse with my compatriots about the task, then. I look forward to working with you." He stood up and offered a handshake to Ernest.

 

Ernest shook Quarius' hand. "I look forward to hearing news of your success!"

 

Satisfied, the Wizard turned to look for his party members once more, grinning widely from his success at obtaining what seemed to be a pretty decent beginner's mission. Promises of experience, gold and magic items... He'd see what the Warden would have to say about that!

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As the wizard seemed to take charge of the charge into the inn, Solitude decided he'd rather not be trying to get things done in his presence. Information gathering was a subtle art, and after witnessing the wizard get into an argument with their valuable warforged ally Cha'ac, Solitude was convinced he'd be better off conducting some recon on his own. He left the inn to his party to handle, and wandered off into the alleys and streets of the village, making good use of his Streetwise skill to pick up various whispers and rumours circulating around the place. He quickly learned that a man by the name of Valthrun, who lived in a tower in the village, was seeking "opened minded" people for some task. That sort of talk always meant the task at hand was either going to be incredibly dangerous or incredibly illegal - both of these were what Solitude was after. Danger of course was risky, but Solitude was convinced that the ones who could increase their level and wealth fastest would be the best off in this game, and that would not happen without great risks.

 

Solitude headed over to Valthrun's abode and rapped at the door until there was an answer. A man answered the door, and Solitude was obliged to check, "Are you Valthrun?"

 

"Hmm, yes. Yes, I am. Who are you?" he replied, not quite opening the door fully yet.

 

"An interested businessman who has heard you are looking for open minded people." Solitude smiled - close-mouthed, as he'd realised early Tieflings didn't look too pleasant when baring their teeth.

 

Unfortunately, it still did not go down well. "I'm sorry, I think you might be confused. Have a nice day." Valthrun moved to close the door to his tower. With the nice approach failed, Solitude resorted to more intimidating methods, placing his hand on the door to stop it closing, "I must insist my information is reliable, and I will not take no for an answer."

 

It seemed to work, as Valthrun got visibly nervous and gave in, "Y-yes, of course," he gulped, "I'm sorry. Come on in." He opened the door, revealing that the room, save for the bed, was covered in open books. "Hmm, would you like something to drink?"

 

Solitude entered and looked around, only momentarily distracted by the quantity of books lying around. "No, thanks. I won't take up too much of your time, so let's get straight down to business. What exactly are you looking for open minded people for?"

 

"Hmm, a ring. A few m-months ago a group of bandits stole a signet ring from Padraig during a raid." Valthrun took a deep breath to calm down. "I want that ring."

 

Solitude clapped his hands and rubbed them together - now they were getting somewhere. "Perfect, I happen to be very much in the business of acquiring valuables by any means necessary, I am certain I could procure that ring for you. Though, there is of course the matter of payment for services to be rendered."

 

"Payment. Of course, payment..." Valthrun took a moment to think about the word. "Payment, hmm. I can offer you gold, but sadly that's about it."

 

"Gold is of course the preferred payment method. Do you have any information about the whereabouts of the bandits? And, as it may be relevant, who or what is Padraig?"

 

"The bandits are likely still hiding in the Silver Keep to the southeast of town. Unless they decided to leave by now, but I believe that to be unlikely. Hmm, Ernest Padraig would be this town's lord."

 

So, this Valthrun wanted to sneakily obtain the Lord's ring - Solitude loved how the intrigue of this situation worked to his advantage. "I should very much hope your payment will be generous, for me to return the ring to you rather than his lordship?"

 

Valthrun wasn't surprised by the question. Types like these tend to look for the more profitable route. "Yes. I assure you I am capable of matching every offer."

 

"Very well. I take my leave now, and I shall return once I have the ring." Solitude concluded, letting himself out. He was certainly happy with that result, but there was the opportunity for more: if bandits were getting away with raiding the town, surely he could coax some reward out of the town Lord. Besides that, he of course now had to check on the Lord and whether it may be more profitable to return the ring to him instead.

 

Asking around, Solitude learned the Lord was in the inn as usual for this time of day . As he headed in, he noticed the wizard shaking hands with a man who seemed to match the Lord's description. As Quarius headed back toward the entrance, Solitude hit him up "That's the Lord of the village right? You get anything from him?"

 

"Yep," Quarius replied, grinning widely. "We got ourselves a simple goblin elimination quest with gold, experience and possibly some magic items too. Not bad for a start."

 

"Maybe I was wrong about you" he said, but didn't think, "I've picked up an item retrieval quest myself, now I'll go see if I can squeeze something extra from the Lord." and with that he left the wizard and sat down with Lord Padraig. He had to be careful how he worded things, lest he reveal the shady quest he'd gotten from Valthrun regarding the Lord's ring. "My name is Solitude, and I am an adventurer looking for adventure. I have heard around town that there is somewhat of a problem with a group of bandits having raided the town, and am wondering if you may desire assistance with that issue?"

 

"Bandits... that's been a while. The few guards we have were able to drive them away fast enough, so they didn't inflict that much damage. What exactly would you like to help me with?"

 

"Are there any particular valuables they stole which may be important to have returned? Or is there any sort of bounty, official or otherwise, on the bandits themselves or their leader? It is admirable your guards managed to drive them out, however I imagine you'd be unable to send them off on an expedition to chase the bandits, whereas a free adventurer like myself could go on the offensive." Solitude offered, probing for some sort of quest.

 

"Well, they did take my signet ring. It holds significant emotional value for me, but as it is but a copper ring its monetary value is very low. I wouldn't recommend risking your life for it, but if you do I would gladly accept it back. Sadly I have not heard of any bounty on their heads."

 

Solitude frowned. That wasn't what he wanted to hear. "Hm, well as you say it seems there is little reason to pursue them. However, would you not consider a reward on behalf of the town if someone were to exterminate the bandits, thus removing the danger of any future attacks on the town? I would like to remove the danger out of altruistic motives, however mere gratitude doesn't fill an empty stomach or replace a blunted sword."

 

"Haha! If it's gold you wanted you should've said so in the first place. Let's see... there is no official bounty on the heads of the bandits, so I can't use the cities finances to reward you for it. I could pay you out of my own pocket if you retrieve my ring, but I can't offer you much."

 

Solitude felt the need to urge him further with some bluffery. "Surely the head of the town has some liberties to place bounties, or to otherwise invest the town funds in measures to improve the town - in this case, removing neighbouring dangers. I'm sure you would be quite justified in this case, and would enjoy the popular support of the public for it."

 

"You have a point. Yes, for an adventurer you have quite the way with words, are you sure I couldn't charm you with a career in politics!" Padraig laughed. "Very well. Get rid of the bandits and I'll see to it that you'll receive a reward."

 

That was more like it. Solitude said his goodbye and headed back over to join Quarius. "Well, I've now got us a quest to eliminate some bandits to the southeast, as well as retrieve a ring for that scholar Valthrun, both of which promise a decent pay as well as being in the same location. The bandits may move on, so I suggest we tackle them first and go after your goblins afterward."

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Amroth looked confused at Iris, wondering what she meant by courting and why she emphasized the fact that the girl was cuter than Valthrun. He ignored her comment though and nodded. "let's go". Still wondering what went wrong with Valthrun he moved through the market, asking around about the flower girl he learned that she was called Delphina, and where she stood. He smiled as he walked up to her, she really was cute, but of course, a NPC. They made their introductions, she seemed like a really nice person, or rather, NPC. "My friends and I we will go out into the fields around the village soon, probably north or south west, I was wondering if you know could tell me anything about these locations."

 

"Oh, no, I'm sorry," her voice was almost inaudible, "I don't know much about the area." Amroth nodded, she seemed rather shy. "I see, we've already talked to some people in the inn. But is there something you might need or want from outside of these walls?" Amroth asked. "Not... not really." Delphina started blushing. "Thanks for asking." Amroth smiled at her. "No really, me and my friends will be going out anyway and if you would like us to look out for some flowers or something else, please tell us, we'd be more than happy to oblige."

 

"I only sell flowers grown in my own garden... I really don't need anything." Amroth scratched his head. "Is there anything else we can help you with? Like, do you need some help in your garden or anything?"

 

"Uhh sir..." She took a peek at the weapons Amroth was carrying. "How do I say this politely," she whispered to herself, not aware that she was thinking aloud. "Yes, uhh, you're scaring away the other customers... I really don't need anything." Amroth was flustered by her comment. "Sorry... I um... didn't mean any harm or anything. If I uh... ever find some kind of flower I know nothing of, I'll bring it to you... without weapons. Sorry for... everything." He apologized again and walked away, he didn't understand what was wrong with him, usually he was quite well with people.

 

As he returned to the inn he saw the rogue and wizard conversing about their next course of action. He heard that there was a ring that the bandits stole which Valthrun wanted, although it sounded rather shady. He interrupted the two. "I'm sorry but Valthrun explained to me that the bandits to the south east are probably stronger than we can handle. So our option is to go north or go south west, although we have no idea what south west is yet. So I'm suggesting north first, although I have a bad feeling about it. Also, don't bother with the flower girl, she's quite useless, maybe if we find a flower or whatever she can tell us what it is, but she serves no purpose whatsoever. I hate the AI in this game, it seems like they are dead-set against me or whatever."

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Iris had creeped back to the Inn with Amroth after listening to his rather depressing conversation with Delphina, and met up with the rest of the gang. Solitude and Quarius both piped up with their own findings too, highlighting some quests they have collected after interacting with the NPCs for a bit. Iris couldn't help but grin a little at this progression of events; this felt like the first time their team has displayed such a high level of teamwork.

 

"Alright then!" She grunted, pulling out her map from her backpack in an attempt to mark their new routes down. "We... head South East. Clear the Keep." Pressing a fingernail into the paper, she marked the corresponding spot on the map with a slight dent. "Then... North?"

 

Her plan was met with a smattering of grunts and cheers. Switching the order of the destinations gave the same result. Eventually Iris tucked her map back into it's home and flipped her hair in annoyance, then moved herself into a stance, with her hand thrust out in an inelegant fashion.

 

"Okay, whatever. Let's settle this like adults. ROCKS PAPER SCISSORS. NOW."

 

It took the rest of the team some time to realize the elf wasn't joking, but they eventually, begrudgingly, took part in the game. The Goldmine won. Giving herself a satisfied nod, Iris marched towards the gates of Winterhold, with her fellow fighters in tow. Their long delayed adventure's finally beginning.

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After investigating Winterhaven the group has finally decided to move towards the Alares Mountains in the north. After checking if they were prepared one last time they decided to move out when all of a sudden a bright yellow exclamation mark appeared in front of them.

A quick peek towards the other Players in the area revealed that the party of five was the only ones who could see this exclamation mark… it was part of their GUI! It turned out that their GUI was updated with a ‘Quest Log’ tab, containing information on the two Quests they had obtained while in Winterhaven.

That wasn’t all they noticed, as right next to the entrance gates a teleportation circle had suddenly appeared. None of the players had seen this circle during their investigation, which led to the conclusion that they had unknowingly triggered a flag required for the portal to appear. A hooded NPC stood next to the teleportation circle. He smiled once he noticed the group approaching.

“Welcome, adventurers. I notice you have opened up two destinations; the Dwarven goldmine and the Silver Keep. I can bring you to either of these places, for free! Simply say the word and you shall be there in an instant.â€

A game of Rock-Paper-Scissors had decided that they were heading for the Dwarven goldmines, so they told him their destination and stepped on the circle as they were told. “Bye, bye.â€

“Hello.â€

They were looking at the exact same person and standing on the exact same teleportation circle, but their surroundings were different! They were standing in front of a huge stone door carved into the mountain. They quickly questioned the hooded figure.

“You must be confused, this is the first time we’ve met. You must be talking about my brother! He’s always been a troublemaker. Either way, you’re standing in front of the Alares mountains. You best be careful, I’ve heard there are kobolds in that mine over there… or were they goblins? Oh, well, I've said enough and have grown tired of it. Be on your way and let me know once you've finished your business here.â€

 


 

After a brief discussion it was decided that the group would push open the doors and let Cha’ac go in first, in order to defend them from danger. As they pushed open the doors they heard a loud rumbling sound resonate within the mines and to no surprise a group of goblins was ready and waiting.

Their bright yellow names hovered above their heads; the Cutters, two Warriors, a Blackblade and a Sharpshooter stood prepared for combat within the black and gold mine. 

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Quarius cast a quick glance at the humongous room inside, visibly surprised at the cavernous space before him. He didn't expect to fight goblins in an area this big. Clearly, the others were surprised to a certain extent too, and for a short moment, all of them stood at the doorway, gaping at the amazingly crafted room before them. Every single detail had been carved into the rocks and the walls, from the towering dwarven statues to the tiniest cracks on the rocks. Quarius quickly snapped out of his reverie, however, noticing that enemies were already upon them. As he prepared to make a move, the image of a dice appeared in front of his line of sight, rotating rapidly in mid-air before coming to a stop on a glowing 22.
 
It appears that he had rolled for Initiative, and was going to go first.
 
"Just as well," he said to himself, before turning to look at the rest of his teammates. "I'm going to position myself where the ranged goblin can't get to me!" He turned and ran off towards the great statue on the right, stopping just behind the great flaming brazier that was positioned in front. "Now I need to attack them... Let's see. I just raise my wand like this, and... Arc Lightning!"
 
A streak of electricity burst forth from the tip of his implement, crossing the vast distance between him and the goblins in the blink of an eye. The next thing he knew, he saw one of them recoil from shock, a glowing red 7 emerging from its chest before it exploded into a shower of pixels. His vision traced the path of the other streak of lightning, which had soared cleanly over another goblin's head. "Looks like I need to practice on my aiming... But not bad for a first strike." Quarius found himself grinning, making a few practice swings with the longsword he held in his other hand as his heart pounded in his chest. Who knew shooting lightning could be this exciting?

 

Amroth took a glance around the room, his eye immediately fell upon the goblin with a bow, that one could be a big problem for the short ranged guys. It was easily within his range though. At the dice roll he got a 21, glaring at Quarius he watched him go first, and kill of goblin cutter while missing the other one. Amroth smiled at the easy death of the goblin, heart beating fast he charged straight forward, as close as he could get to the archer, closer than his teammates without getting too close to the gutters.

 

He took a deep breath as he readied not one but two arrows, as he released his breath he released both arrows. Both struck the goblin, the first in it's chest, a '7' appeared above it's head, the other struck the goblin's shoulder, a '+2' got added next to the 7, then they combined to '9' which disappeared, the goblin remained standing however. He sighed in slight disappointment, he had secretly hoped to down the goblin in one hit, but alas. "The cutters aren't that big of a deal, it's the others you should be careful of.' When he finished his shot he noticed the an other goblin moving, the blackblade moved diagonally behind cover, just barely within range of Amroth. "Careful of the sneaky blackblade, behind that wall" He pointed at the location of the blackblade. Next he waited as Iris made her move.

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Nodding in reply, Iris bounded over to the front line, raising her arms up high as she ran. Particles of light gathered at the ceiling above her, eventually forming themselves into a dazzling beam, which the cleric then directed towards the second cutter. A sharp hiss erupted from the goblin where the light seared it's skin before it exploded, disappearing with a similar burst of pixels as the first cutter. What remained of her attack then floated back to Iris, gathering and forming a softly glowing ball of light in her right hand.

 

"Cha'ac!" She called, tossing the ball and letting it gently envelop the Warforged. "Plus two!"

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"Much obliged." Cha'ac moves forward the moment the glowing little +2 lights up in the corner of his vision, where his hitpoint total is located, and a white light runs through the seams between his plates. He'd wanted to dash into the mob of cutters to keep them busy, but seeing both the wizard and Iris slay two of them with impressive-looking spells, his targets shifts instead to the Blackblade who was hiding behind cover. The warforged whirls his hammer around once, to grip it overhand, braces himself, then sets out in a dead sprint for the cowardly goblin.

 

In that rushing charge, he momentarily forgets his situation. He's back in DCO again, coursing through a virtual dungeon and smacking enemies left and right, feeling the power of a a being not his own and yet himself at the same time. His heavy feet sound off a barrage of stomping clanks throughout the roomy hall, like the salvo of a machine gun, and then he's up against his enemy, bringing the mighty hammer down against the little creature's chest with a sickening crunch. Well - at least they did right with the effects. A glowing red 11 jumps up from the spot of impact, then dissipates. "Don't go anywhere," he scoffs, loudly on purpose to draw the other goblins' attention, "I'm not done with you yet!" The taunt provides a little purple dot next to the hovering nametag - the Blackblade is marked. Cha'ac looks around for a moment, narrowing his eyes at the sharpshooter, but otherwise not moving. Next turn, though...

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 The Cutter notices and opportunity when the Warforged charged his brethren; it immediately skulked after the construct and flanked it with the help of the Blackblade, making it easier for him to strike Cha’ac. A strike at Cha’ac’s back triggers 5 damage on the Warforged.

 

Meanwhile the Sharpshooter decided to retaliate and show the Ranger who’s the better archer. He moved a few steps forward to ensure that he’d get a clean shot on his target, loaded a bolt onto his crossbow and fired. The bolt landed cleanly on Amroth’s chest and the red words “Critical Hit: 9†flew up into the sky before disappearing along with the bolt.

The two Warriors who had been hiding in the back both ran towards the group and threw their javelins at Solitude and Iris. Iris was able to dodge the javelin headed in her direction, but Solitude was not so lucky. The javelin missed all his vitals, but still managed to scrape and damage him.

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Solitude could only grit his teeth as his poor Initiative roll left him going last. He watched his allies move and enemies strike, and fall, only for himself to be unable to dodge the javelin that came his way. It carved a notch out of his side as it grazed it, and while he felt the pain, he knew, after overcoming the instinctive reaction, that he didn't need to hold the wound to slow the bleeding or anything.

He would have to be patient, with neither the range of the wizard or ranger, nor the durability of the warforged or cleric, he could only position himself and bide his time. He sprinted forward and got into cover behind a wall, where he could wait for enemies to draw near while keeping out of the open.

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Quarius watched the Goblin Warriors throw their handheld spears with surprising force, grazing Solitude by the side. It looked like these critters weren't melee, as he originally suspected, which made them all the more dangerous since they were located too far for the Rogue to counterattack. It was up to Amroth and him to take them out while Cha'ac kept the Blackblade and Sharpshooter busy.

 

He marched forwards boldly, caught up in the moment as he raised his wand once more, concentrating on one Warrior in particular. His eyes narrowed, his implement crackled with power, and he unleashed another Arc Lightning with a sharp crack, striking his target straight in the chest with the bold words "Critical Hit: 11" emerging from the goblin. It seemed he was too focused on his target, however, as the other bolt of lightning completely missed its target once more, streaking off to the side to hit the far wall.

 

The goblin looked hurt, but it didn't explode like the Cutter had, even though this attack did more damage. It appeared that these were rather tough little buggers. Quarius turned to head back into cover - but he found himself paralyzed on the spot. "Crap," he muttered once he realized what was going on. In his excitement, he had used up his move action and placed himself in an unfavorable position. He could only hope that the goblins lacked the common sense to focus their attacks on him.

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Amroth grunted at the pain he felt when the arrow hit him straight in the chest, with a grimace on his face he looked at the archer who had shot the arrow. "You will have to wait!" He growled at the archer and stared at the warrior Quarius had hit. Still breathing heavily he drew another two arrows, took aim and shot. Another grimace appeared on his face as both arrows missed their target, crashing somewhere against the wall behind the goblin. For a second he stood there, then he remembered the ancient wisdom of his people, passed down by his village elder. "Shoot, aim, shoot. You will fail before you hit your mark, but remember, you can always shoot again." He took two more arrows and nocked them, his mind focussed on the Warrior.

 

As he released his breath he let loose the arrows, knowing from the moment that he shot that he would strike home. Both arrows struck neatly in the chest, a +6 and a +7 rising above the arrows to form a +13 above the warriors head. The warrior looked surprised at him and slumped down a bit as it was in great pain from the attacks. "He's down to half health guys, we should finish him off!" Amroth shouted before dashing to the left, hiding behind a wall, he would pop out when it was his turn again but this would prevent him from being hit.

 

The damage Amroth took didnt miss Iris's eyes. Snapping her fingers, she activated her Healing Word, allowing another burst of light to wrap itself around the ranger's body. His HP bar promptly filled back up, putting his health back into a safe level again.

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"Well." Cha'ac rumbles, looking around. "I suppose the party's all here. Let's dance." The hammer whooshes through the empty air once more as he brings it up in an uppercut. Green glowing ghostly lines erupt, whipping out from the weapon and lashing into the goblin archer. Thorns erupt with a crackle of breaking branches, piercing the creature's flesh as the lines return, pulling it with them. 14 damage lights up, then fades again. The warforged steps closer, turning with the momentum of his hammerswing. As his withering gaze locks with both the Blackblade, Cutter, and Sharpshooter in turn, they each get the purple marking dot near their name.

 

The hammer begins to crackle with lightning as it passes the nadir of the swing, blue light streaking behind it as he lifts it in another upswing, striking the archer right in the face. The lightning passes from the weapon and into the goblin, little sparks tormenting his body, telling the warforged that he's done 11 more damage. A brief moment of silence passes as the lightning energy fades. He knows that the others won't hear him, but Cha'ac whispers to the Cutter, "Wait for it..."

 

A thunderous boom echoes through the hall, and the goblin is smashed into the ground. The enemy collapses as if his bones have suddenly disappeared, and then disappears as the lethal 3 damage quivers a little before fading as well. Cha'ac looks thoroughly satisfied, if such a thing is possible with the lack of expressions on his face. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we do it."

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The Warriors noticed that their group was slowly being whittled down. The two of them and the Blackblade currently engaged with the Warforged were the only remaining Goblins and one of them was badly hurt as well.

 

The hurt Warrior shouted something in the Goblin language before running away from the fight, hoping to escape with his life. The other Warrior took a few steps forward and threw a javelin towards Iris. The javelin managed to hit home and the numbers 9 popped up on above Iris’ head.

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Solitude hadn't paid much attention as Amroth had taken cover behind the wall with him, too focused on planning his next move. Goblins fell fast around Cha'ac, so Solitude set his mind on the javelin-throwing warriors. He waited for a javelin to fly past, striking Iris, before sneaking out from his corner and quickly taking cover behind a minecart several feet away. He noted one of the warriors had retreated, leaving him a single worthwhile target - the remaining warrior whose Javelin had struck him. It was revenge time.

Solitude deftly hurled a shuriken at the unaware warrior, striking him in the neck for 18 damage. By the time the warrior spotted Solitude, another shuriken was thrown out, finishing off the warrior with another 14 damage.

That just left the one near Cha'ac, who was utterly doomed, and the fleeing warrior who was close to getting away. Only Amroth had a chance to stop him before he escaped.

"Quick, shoot the other one!" Solitude called out to him.

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