Monday, October 24, 2016

The Dark Herbalist: Video Game Plotline Tester by Michael Atamanov

The Dark Herbalist: Video Game Plotline Tester

by Michael Atamanov

The book is released! 
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Video Game Plotline Tester

"Have you ever played Boundless Realm before?" the middle-aged HR employee asked me, starting off the interview with the question I was most dreading.
In the job posting, there had been a rather unambiguous requirement that I must have: "Never played the game before." I suspect that, if I had answered "yes," the interview would have ended as quickly as it had begun.
"And have you played any other popular online games, uh... Timothy?" he asked, having finally read my name from the screen in front of him. He was at the end of a long day. He must have been tired.
"Yes, of course. I've been a gamer for about six years now. I used to be pretty active in Kingdoms of Sword and Magic."
"Gamer..." he muttered back disdainfully. The slang term, it seemed, was not to his taste. The man furrowed his brow in dismay. "And how did you do in our competitor's game? Where you able to achieve anything noteworthy, Timothy?"

Should I tell him the truth? Or was it dumb to expose such things to this total stranger? Despite my misgivings, I decided to risk it:
"For the last five years, it has been my only source of income. I didn't earn enough for a luxury yacht or a villa on a tropical island or anything, of course, but it was more than enough to survive on and pay my way through college."
"Why do you say, 'of course' there was no yacht?" He inquired. Much to my surprise, the man began laughing. "The top players from Boundless Realm easily make enough for a simple ocean-going vessel. But as far as I know, in KSM, withdrawing game money was against the rules. Would you care to tell me more about that, Timothy?"
I guess I chose wrong. I shouldn't have said anything. Was this the end? Would I be sent on my way? The man didn't insist on an answer, though. Instead, he asked a different question entirely:
"Then why did you leave KSM? Although, I guess we can skip that. The answer is obvious. The number of active players has been falling sharply. More and more people have been changing over to Boundless Realm. It’s more entertaining and realistic, after all. The money must have simply dried up."
I just nodded in silence, as I really didn't have anything to add. Once upon a time, our clan could gather five or even seven thousand players for PvP raids into enemy territory or to take down superbosses. But those times were long gone now. Yesterday, we had barely been able to scrape together fifteen players for an assault on an enemy castle, and three of them were noobs who'd only been in the game for a week. And yet we... took the castle! The only defender from the enemy clan who remained actually seemed glad to be rid of the burden, wishing us the best of luck, and trying to unload his account onto us, as he was preparing to leave for Boundless Realm.
That was when I decided once and for all that the time had come to ditch that sinking ship before the competition put it on the bottom of the sea. It was a huge shame to see all the money I'd put into the game go down the drain, though. You see, I inherited the family apartment after the tragic death of my parents but I had to sell it to pay off my sister’s medical bills. There was a decent chunk of change left over from that, though, and I decided to invest it in virtual property near one of Kingdom's capital cities. At that time, Kingdoms of Sword and Magic was growing quickly, so the purchase had seemed a sound investment. Who could have foreseen that, literally two weeks after my risky acquisition, the previously unknown Boundless Realm corporation would launch their own game servers? And could anyone have predicted that they would then go on to become the largest and richest corporation on Earth in just three years, pulling hundreds of millions of gamers from all over the globe into their extremely realistic world? Now, the value of my virtual property in Kingdoms had fallen so severely that it couldn't even justify the time I had put into building it.
The HR employee spent a few minutes reading my resume more closely, then raised his eyes to me and said with a smile:
"A level-three-hundred-ten human paladin, a level-two-hundred-seventy drow bowman, a level-one-hundred-ninety half-elf mage... Not bad, not bad at all. So Timothy, have you been made aware that, in Boundless Realm, a player can only have one character, and changing or deleting it is not possible? It's the best way to make sure our players truly mesh and sympathize with their characters as we would like. Only then do they perceive the game world as true reality."
I just nodded in silence. How could I not have known...? That was the thing that had most worried me when I first saw an advertisement for Boundless Realm game tester positions online. The problem was that I had already tried to play Boundless Realm. That was over three years ago, though. At that time, it was still just an open beta, and it had seemed a bit "undercooked" for my tastes. There weren't any training scenarios, guides or in-game hints yet. In the place I started, everything just looked blocky and incomplete. There were no "glorious beckoning horizons," or "enchantingly real sunsets," as their ads now proclaimed. Back then, Boundless Realm had nothing of the sort.
And what was more, I had only played for seven minutes. I made myself a level-one barbarian, took a two-handed ax, left the starting area and, right next to the village, found myself face-to-face with a group of vampire bats around level-seventy. A second later, I was dead. The game told me I'd have to wait a whole hour to come back at the respawn point, so I just cursed at the half-baked imbalanced game and deleted it from my computer. But now, I was hoping very much that my abortive previous experience would not be hampering my attempt to find work as a "Video Game Plotline Tester," as the official job notice called the position I was now interviewing for.
"What can I say, Timothy? You really do have a lot of video-game experience, and no physical or mental health issues. I don't see any real obstacles to your employment with our corporation," said the man, smiling at me again and extending a computer tablet with a survey. He told me to find a seat in the small room next door and complete the questionnaire, then wait for the introductory meeting to begin.
I went into the room, got out my cell phone and, pretending to take a selfie with a sleek poster of a blue water dragon, sent a message:
"I passed the interview."
Almost instantly, my phone gave a slight vibration. It was the reply:
"No rush, but what did they offer? I'll run through the forums."
Then, I found a chair and started ticking boxes on the tablet. The survey covered many questions about my health, family life, criminal history and bad habits. The second half of the survey turned out to be of a totally different type, clearly aimed at determining the game character best suited to my personality.
Next to me, there were other job seekers mashing away at their tablets. Most of the men and women were around my age, though some were older, even including a few senior citizens. It didn’t take me long to form an impression of my future work environment. I saw students, who had been expelled for truancy or failing grades, down-sized office workers, down-on-their-luck stock brokers, hopeless gaming addicts, and desperate retirees who hadn’t managed to find more suitable employment... To generalize, the people sitting around me were losers, who hadn't found themselves a place in the real world.
I didn't consider myself a loser, but I could agree that I fit into the group very organically. I was already twenty-two years old, but I didn't have a job, a girlfriend, money, or even a place of my own. So, it wasn't really clear what separated me from them. I had a good head on my shoulders, I suppose. I graduated from college with a degree in Research Chemistry. I could hold down a conversation, wasn’t especially ugly and had a reasonable talent for sports. Also, I had an easy enough time getting along with women but, for some reason, all my girlfriends had left me for other guys. Usually, when they found out I had to take care of my disabled sister, who couldn't walk, they would run for the hills. It was a shame, but I would never have agreed to trade in my baby sister for some shallow Barbie.
My sister, Valeria, was eleven at the time of the accident. My father was behind the wheel of the family flying car when it crashed full-speed into a thief trying to evade the police. The impact and resulting thirty-meter fall killed my mother and father instantly. My younger sister, though, lost both her legs and suffered many lacerations and broken bones. The police finding my father not at fault in the crash didn't make it any easier, either. I had to sell our apartment in the good part of town to pay for Val’s treatment and other expenses.
For my sister's sake, I gave up not only my parents, but also friends, psychologists and the rest of the world. It was hardest of all right after the accident. Valeria was in so much constant pain that she couldn't see a reason to exist. Many times, she asked me to give her a handful of sleeping pills so she would never have to wake up again. I did my best to comfort my sister and convince her not to commit suicide and, day by day, her will to live grew stronger. We tried many things to improve her mood, but the first thing that worked was taking walks. We used to live near a large park, and it was always pleasant there. Unfortunately, not long after that, we were forced to move from the center of the metropolis due to lack of funds, and took up residence in the outskirts of town. Soon after, the walks stopped on Val’s own request. My sister just couldn’t bear the jokes and laughter of the neighborhood kids. They called her a cripple, and even pelted her with rocks. It was just too much.
But then, she found a new way to forget about her physical handicap. Virtual computer-game worlds allowed her to blow off steam and enjoy beautiful surroundings once again. This new pastime didn't really bring us much money, though. In fact, it was more the other way around. The situation became especially dismal in the last few months, when the game world she'd chosen a few years earlier, Kingdoms of Sword and Magic, began to show obvious signs of giving out...
I shook my head, chasing away the sad thoughts, and returned to the survey. After breezing through the questions, I stopped at the very last point: "Desired method of payment." There were two options: fixed monthly income or the ability to withdraw game currency and exchange it for real money. In Boundless Realm, as in the majority of MMO's, it was normally only allowed to give money to the company. You could put real money into the game, but there was no way of taking it back out. An exception was made only for employees of the corporation. They were allowed to withdraw virtual currency from the game in lieu of a real salary, if they so chose.
As for me, that possibility was the very reason I was now so driven to find work at the Boundless Realm corporation. I mean, it was clear that no sane company would ever offer a stable salary to any of the pitiful losers in the room with me today. But with a legal method of turning game money into real money... There was no telling what could happen. My character could get rich in the game, for example. And that would immediately solve my financial problems in real life as well. That said, my sister and I had a perfect understanding that for every person that got lucky, there were thousands of people who made the wrong choice and would just be pouring their blood, sweat and tears into a job that would almost certainly end up giving them less than minimum wage. But we had made our choice, and it was a conscious, shared decision.
The chubby middle-aged accountant-type woman sitting next to me gave me a nudge. She got to a question about "charisma," and was whispering loudly to everyone around, asking what that word even meant. I couldn't make out what the guy sitting on the other side of her said, but he was clearly trying his best to maintain a serious facial expression. The woman grew a dark shade of crimson and began entering text on her tablet at the speed of a printer, covering what she wrote with her left hand. I shook my head. Well, if this was the caliber of my competition... I marked the option "Withdraw game currency" with determination.
Alright, decision made. There was no going back now. All the same, I tried to cast off the creeping sensation of dread coming from my empty bank account. And it wasn’t just that I had no money. I also had a past-due loan with interest slowly accumulating on top of it. If I couldn't pay off at least part of that loan in the next few weeks, the bank might block my card. Beyond that, my sister and I hadn't paid rent for three months. Our landlady was already threatening to evict us. It would be very, very hard to get by without a stable salary.
But I still decided to take the risk, just as I had when buying in-game property in Kingdoms of Sword and Magic. But this time, I wasn't just betting a two-bedroom apartment in a prestigious neighborhood, but everything my sister and I had left.

* * *

"Alright, everybody. Welcome!" An elegantly dressed swarthy man with dark curly hair walked out onto the small stage. "My name is Alexandro Lavrius. I am Director of Special Projects for the Boundless Realm corporation. And you all have been selected to work under me as videogame plotline testers. What's wrong with the microphone?"
The microphone was giving off a horrible screeching sound, making my ears ring. The director's young assistant, looking afraid, scurried nimbly out onto the stage, and adjusted the microphone attached to Alexandro's collar. The director cast a very unhappy gaze at his subordinate, promising the girl a chewing out, and continued:
"Alright, now that's out of the way. So then, first a short introduction. The virtual Boundless Realm you will come to occupy is in fact quite large. It’s not actually boundless, as you might think from the name but, still, it is quite substantial in size. It is already larger than the actual earth, so you can travel around discovering new and interesting locations in a practically limitless way. At present, there are around two hundred forty million players in Boundless Realm, and that number continues to grow by two to three million each month. You'd think our corporation would be proud of that, and simply rest on our laurels and rake in the cash. But, no. Our management is constantly dreaming up newer and more grandiose plans, and the development of the game is still in full swing. However, the planning department saw certain risks in the medium-term future and our directors agreed the threat was real.
We see two main problems. The first is that, despite the abundance of different races in Boundless Realm, and their unique characteristics, seventy-eight percent of players choose to play as humans. That is a clear imbalance. And, if we consider the fact that another seventeen percent play as different types of elves and half-elves, while three percent are dwarves, then we see straight to the root of the problem. Those who chose one of the other selectable races, and there are over one hundred, account for just two percent of players.
The reasons for this disparity are many. Not least of all is that potential new players have practically no positive examples of gamers using the less popular races. And this is at the fact that the game forums are full of the most detailed guides on human paladins, wood-elf bowmen, drow mages and half-elf assassins. There's nothing surprising in the fact that new players are afraid to take an untested path. Since they can only have one character, they don’t want to take any chances. The unfortunate result of this is that new players tend to create human paladins, elf bowmen or drow necromancers, and our world is already overflowing with them. Our existing users are justifiably losing their sense of uniqueness and interest in the game because, every day, they meet several exact copies of themselves.
The second problem is choosing a place to live. Before our players, there stretches out a truly Boundless Realm, which can be expanded even further whenever necessary. All the same, the currently existing map is hardly being used: ninety percent of players live in one of just a few huge megalopolises or in their immediate vicinity. The reasons for such overcrowding are also many, but above all, they are economic in nature. Resources are available in cities, money circulates in cities, and there are banks where players can safely store their property in cities. That is why, despite the high price of real estate and resources there, players still come in droves to live in these very cities. Millions of beautiful locations, created by talented designers and teeming with unique missions and local inhabitants are sitting around unused. And what is more, we are becoming aware of a growing dismay among players, who feel that 'there's nothing new to discover and it's starting to get boring.'
Why am I telling you all this? As you may have already guessed, none of you will be allowed to choose human or elf characters, and none of you will be becoming yet another knight or bowman. What’s more, you will start the game in far-off wildernesses, and getting to densely populated locations from there will be very, very problematic. Also, such a move would be looked on with extreme disapproval by our company. You will all have an alternative start to the game, which will make encountering dangers and difficulties a near certainty, and that is no accident. Our test groups have shown that successfully overcoming trying situations is the very anchor that holds our players in the game world. With time, we hope that all newbies will start in such locations, so one of your missions will be checking if it is possible to survive and level up your character in these challenging conditions.
Your group is one of many chosen in the previous weeks to attempt new atypical race and class combinations, taking bumps and bruises along the way. But at that, you will make interesting guides that eloquently describe the virtues of your unusual races, classes and professions. I warn you now: few of you will pass the trial period and be hired on permanently, as our corporation only needs the personalities and stories that garner a keen response among existing and potential players. But, even if you don't pass the trial period, this will give you all invaluable experience in the video-game field, and be an excellent opportunity to immerse all your senses in Boundless Realm through the most modern technologies.
Now, you will be given your assigned character cards, which the system automatically chose for you based on today’s test results. After that, you will have time to ask questions of my assistant. Then, you should go to the HR department before the end of the business day and sign your contracts, so you can start working tomorrow."
"Can we start playing today?" asked a chubby boy, whose pale face was abundantly smattered with the pimples of adolescence.
Alexandro Lavrius, looked over us at the clock on the wall, then quietly asked something to his young assistant, after which he answered:
"You can only start working after you’ve signed a contract. Also, don't forget that it is currently around four in the afternoon in Boundless Realm, and it gets dark at nine. After this meeting, you’ll be going to the HR department, shown to your workstation and given instructions on how to use the virtual-reality capsule. You'll then have to create a character, start the training missions and get out into the main world... You won't have very much time to find a safe place to spend the night. Night in Boundless Realm, outside the cities and other safe locations, is very brutal and treacherous. It is highly likely that you will be eaten by monsters. If that does happen, you would lose some of the experience you gained and a whole hour for respawn. But, if you want to risk it and start work today, I don't see why not. If you can survive the first night, it will be a useful experience for you and will have a positive effect on your further career as a tester."

* * *

Goblin herbalist??? I stared at the card handed to me in incomprehension. I even took out my smartphone to look up information on goblins in Boundless Realm. The first link rewarded me with the following text, taken from a forum:
"Goblins are vile little bastards who play mean tricks, steal vegetables from gardens, and attack lone travelers. Thankfully, goblins are very weak, so even a total noob can handle them. Sometimes, you find whole villages of goblins. They’re decent sources of experience, and an easy way for beginners to level themselves up. I don’t know why, but the developers made this NPC race available to players. I would personally find it hard to imagine someone dumb enough to choose this green abomination, especially considering the very restrictive penalties to intelligence and strength, which make it practically impossible for a goblin to be a decent mage or fighting class. From a purely theoretical standpoint, I could imagine a goblin player as a bowman or a crossbowman due to their bonuses to agility and perception, but I've never met someone disturbed enough to try, because all the kinds of elves have even stronger bonuses there. Oh yeah, these green freaks also have a serious penalty to relation with humans, so goblins won't be able to go to normal game locations by default."
Given that anyone about to create a character would see this text, if they were considering playing a goblin, how could the developers of Boundless Realm be surprised that no one wanted to be one?!
The person who wrote the text was called Overgrown Woodsman. According to his forum account, he played a level-two-hundred-four human druid. For curiosity's sake, I read through the next seven links from the search engine as well, but everywhere I looked, I found the same unappealing information. I sent my sister a message about the character I'd been stuck with, and continued looking intensely into guides on goblins and Herbalism.
I was distracted from my reading by a strange sound nearby. I raised my head. The director was long gone, and now the very same old accountant-looking lady who had earlier asked about charisma was arguing with his assistant.
"Is something the matter with your assigned character?" the employee asked in a calm, even boring tone.
"Is something the matter?! The fact that I'm a dryad dancer! I saw on the game forums that dryads don't wear clothes! I mean, just think about! I thought I was applying for an office job. I mean, I knew the schedule might be a bit wonky, but I didn’t think I’d be working as a stripper!"
The director's assistant was already on edge after the incident with the microphone, so some annoyance started slipping through in her voice:
"The system determined that this combination of race and class would be optimal for you. If it isn't to your liking, I’m afraid I have to tell you that you did not pass the trial period and will be first to leave the group..."
I noticed a mocking grin pass over the face of the boy who had earlier told her the meaning of charisma. The system had probably made this bizarre choice because of his misleading hint. The assistant outstretched her hand demandingly, preparing to take the character card back from the lady's hand but, just then, a young woman's voice sounded out from the back rows:
"Wait! Could I trade characters with her?" A pretty girl with a good figure and hair in a long dark chestnut braid down to her belt stood from her place and started toward the stage. "I took a look at the introductory information on dryads. Sure, their only equipment slots are for rings and bracelets, but all that is compensated by their racial bonuses. Also, the dancer class seems uniquely suited for dryads. They have bonuses to attractiveness, charm, and the reaction of any member of the opposite sex, after all."
The director's assistant agreed:
"That's exactly right. It's a good part to play, and an easy character to gain experience with. Also, the path of a dryad dancer is very unusual. There isn't a single guide out there, and leveling up a character like that successfully practically guarantees that you would pass the trial period."
The accountant-type woman cringed and muttered in dismay:
"Let's just see what kind of filth they tried to push on you... It could hardly be worse than an exotic dancer." She took the thick card from the girl's hand and read. "Oh! Yes! Yes! Gremlin banker! I've been dreaming of something like this my whole life!"
The middle-aged woman practically kissed the pretty girl she traded cards with. After that, I heard people all around me shouting:
"Would someone want to trade for a troll cannibal?"
"I'll trade a hobgoblin trickster for any other class!"
"Does anyone want an orc astrologer? I'll trade for any melee character!"
Not waiting for the end of the freak show, I stood up and headed for the HR department. Goblin herbalist didn’t seem so bad anymore. I was totally fine with my lot.

* * *

Though I tried not to show my emotions, I was under a strong impression from the opulence and luxury the corporation had on display. The Boundless Realm corporation had a huge skyscraper, which seemed to have many underground floors as well. As the elevator went down, I noticed a few floors there was no button for on the panel. But, through the transparent glass elevator doors, I could see them. They were filled with well-equipped armed guards wearing body armor and gas masks. Arthur, the kindly technician leading me to my workstation, explained that these underground floors were off limits to us mere mortals. They housed the corporation’s holiest of holies: the game servers. And it was harder to gain access to them than it was to get into a bank vault full of gold. These technical floors were crammed with an endless number of security systems and filled with poison gas to make sure no criminals would even think of trying to get inside.
After that, without stopping, we passed by the underground parking ramp. It was crammed full of luxury automobiles and flying cars. The elevator doors opened on the testing department's floor, and I saw IT: a huge room that stretched out to infinity with a great many high, raised walkways, lined with rows of small identical-looking cabins. Arthur and I walked down one of the long platforms and stopped before a translucent door. I stared blankly at the writing on it: "4-16A."
"Floor four, side A, cabin sixteen. This is where you'll be working. Go in, get your bearings and take off your jacket," he said, pointing me inside to a chair and a coat hanger on the wall, but not going inside himself. "Every cabin has a pullout desk and a built-in refrigerator, so you will be able to store food here and have snacks before work. There is one set of restrooms every fifty cabins, and at either end of the walkway, there are also shower rooms. But you should know that every row has three hundred cabins, so don't count on the showers being free, especially in the evening near the end of a shift. Alright then, I wish you the best of luck!"
As Arthur said the last sentence, his eyes were drawn away from me by a beautiful and I would even say glamorous lady with luxuriant red hair and a proud look who walked past my cabin. She was wearing a long, emerald green dress and high-heeled shoes, and a hat with a wide brim. Her fingers were adorned with gemstone rings, which glimmered up at me, catching the eye. The woman didn't stop to look at Arthur. It seemed she didn't even notice me. She walked another fifteen meters, then stopped before a standard door, just the same as mine. She beeped in with her electronic key, and the mystery girl ducked into her cabin.
"Who was that?" I asked the stick-straight technician at half voice.
Arthur jerked back to reality with a shudder.
"Who is she? How am I supposed to know? She works here. She comes around in the evening, and only leaves in the morning. She must play a night character. Clearly, she is a good player and makes good money. Once, I saw her parking in the underground garage. She drives a luxury sports car, which is so nice I'd never be able to afford it, even if I saved up for the rest of my life. But I have no idea who she is in the game. We cannot see your game avatars, we just help you set up the equipment. Generally, though, elite players get their own offices on the upper floors of the building, but she must prefer the convenience of coming right down here from the parking lot. Alright then, I'm getting off track. Get undressed, I'll size you for a sensor suit and helmet."
Just after the door closed behind Arthur, I got out my phone and told my sister I was ready.
"Call up the console and tell me the number of your virtual reality capsule and game session. I'll try to link in."
I typed a technical command into the keyboard and took a picture of it on my phone camera.
"Wait five minutes, so we can start at the same time."
I put on the suit, which was bristling with electrodes and laid down in the virtual reality capsule. Looking at the timer on the small monitor, I waited five minutes, then closed the lid of the virtual reality capsule, cutting myself off from the real world. The screen lit up before my eyes...

* * *

Damage taken: 2757 (Bite from Cursed Bat)
You have died

* * *

What the hell was that?! The message jumped in as soon as the screen loaded! The image slowly faded out and I found myself enshrouded in darkness. One minute went by, then another, and maybe a few more. Nothing was happening. Was this it then? There was no game interface, nor any other menu windows, just pitch black all around. Something must have gone wrong. Bats! That was right! They were the last thing I saw in my short game as a barbarian. That meant I would now be dragged from my capsule and fired for lying in the interview.
The world around me suddenly lit back up, and the character-creation window came onscreen. Yikes, I made it by the skin of my teeth. So, what was I seeing? A level-one goblin herbalist. I couldn't change race or class.

Character name: Amra.

Here I was again overcome by a cold sweat. When I made the barbarian, my first move had been to try and give him the name "Conan," in honor of the famous television barbarian, but it was taken. Then, I checked another name used by the famous hero, "Amra," and it was free. As far as I knew, the game rules had changed over the past three years and, now, all characters had to have two-word names: "Tony Blackheart," "Ahmed Slinking_Snake," "Ellie Very_Pretty." Things like that. But my name was only one word, and what was more, it was only four letters long...
A noob with one-word name? I guess it could help me hide the fact I worked for the company. I wasn't opposed in principle, either. It was nice to be a bit unique. Now, the time had come to deal with my appearance and stats.
I saw a green face staring back at me. It was defined by a huge set of eyes, and ears of a magnificent dimension. The system suggested I play around with the settings and turn this standard-issue goblin into something more personalized and suited to my taste, but I decided not to do that yet. A hint told me that I would be able to change my character's appearance for free all the way up to the end of level ten, so I decided I could skip this for now. I was much more worried by something else: Alexandro Lavrius had said that there wasn't much time left until nightfall, so I didn't have a second to waste.
First and foremost, I wanted to see the bonuses and penalties for the goblin race. Unfortunately, Overgrown Woodsman hadn't been lying about the penalties:

50% penalty to Intelligence increase rate
50% penalty to Strength increase rate
-20 penalty to relations with the following races: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Dragons
20% penalty to experience gain

The penalties were a very hard pill to swallow. I was especially unhappy with the penalty to experience gain. The negative characteristics of the goblin race were hardly compensated by the bonuses, either:

30% bonus to Agility increase rate
30% bonus to Perception increase rate
+20 bonus to relations with the following races: Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, Ogres, Giants
+30 bonus to the reaction of forest and swamp creatures
30% bonus to movement speed in forest and swamp tiles

Finally, I reached the main stats of my big-eared goblin. Every character in Boundless Realm, whether an NPC or a real person, had only six main statistics: Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Constitution, Perception and Charisma. Overall, it was very standard and easy to understand. Strength governed the damage you could do with hand-held weapons and the maximum weight you could carry. Agility was important for ranged weapons and dodging. Intelligence allowed you to understand the properties of objects, and defined the amount of mana a magical character had, as well as how effective their spells were. Constitution influenced the number of hitpoints and endurance points. And perception was for a character’s eyesight, smell and sense of hearing, and also gave it a higher chance of discovering hidden objects. And finally, charisma: a stat that determined how those around your character would relate to it.
There were several ways to raise the base stats: you got to assign a certain number of new stat points every level, you could raise stats by leveling up primary skills, or you could raise them with magical objects.

0 of 100
Character level
Endurance points
Strength (S)
Agility (A)
Intelligence (I)
Constitution (C)
Perception (P)
Charisma (Ch)
Unused points
Primary skills (2 of 4 chosen)
Herbalism (P A)
Trading (Ch I)
Secondary skills (0 of 4 chosen)

The developers had assigned my character two primary skills by default: Herbalism and Trading. And though I didn't have any questions on the first one (it was, of course, hard to imagine an herbalist who didn't have a good understanding of herbs), Trading was somewhat confusing. I couldn’t delete Trading from my skills. Based on that, the developers had the notion that I was supposed to be a dainty little goblin trouncing through the forest collecting bunches of plants and selling them to local traders. So, I needed the Trading skill to make sure unscrupulous hucksters weren’t taking me for a ride. My character’s intelligence was about that of a stool, so if I didn’t have a specific skill for negotiating, I’d be getting duped out of money constantly. I was also a bit confused by the letters in parenthesis next to the skill names, but I quickly realized that they were the statistics the character gradually built up by using it.
Three free stat points didn’t seem like much! After playing around a bit with the parameters, and reading their descriptions, I discovered that hitpoints and endurance points depended only on constitution. Alright, I'd put one of the free points into that. My total hitpoints grew to 21, while endurance grew to 20.
Next, I stopped on agility. Based on the guide from Overgrown Woodsman, and what I could figure from my racial bonuses, it was agility precisely that would be the main determinant of my big-eared character's success. I put two points there, bringing it up to four. That seemed to be all. Although... At the very last moment, just before I started playing, I decided I couldn't bear how low my goblin’s intelligence was. In the description of the stat, it was directly stated that an intelligence score lower than three would hamper my ability to speak properly or understand others. That meant, as it was, I wouldn’t be able to talk to other players and NPC's nor understand missions and hints. I lowered charisma to the minimum (he already wasn't a beauty, but he became a downright monstrosity) and moved that point over to intelligence.
Now I really was done. Time to get going!

The book is released!


  1. This is so unfair, is there any chance it can be released sooner. I just can't wait to find out what happens next.

  2. well, since it's a new series, we're going to post at least haf of the book before release (Maybe even 2/3). Just watch for a library post (pinned). Thanks for reading! :)

  3. Great teaser, cant wait to get the book to continue the read. Luckily two other litRPGs are being released soon to tied me over, Alexey Osadchuk's Mirror World book 3 and The Phantom Castle by Vasily Mahanenko, they should help the time go by.

    If I don't finish them too fast.

  4. Thanks! We're trying to make our releases without big spaces between them. But translation is a tricky thing. Quick translation is almost always bad translation.

  5. sigh i love it so far but wish you hadnt released the teaser

  6. But how else can we control y... I meant, thank you! We'll post more soon :)

  7. Pretty good, will check it out.
    Will the author continue with perimeter defense?

    1. Yes, there is going to be book IV, series final. But it is not yet complitely written and translation is also going to take time...

  8. Neeeeeedddddd mooooaaaaarrrrr!!!
    Read it on the RRL page when I saw it come up there, and I somehow followed through links to get here. Say hello to the crushed dreams that there might've been more on here yet!
    Any ETA? IK that stuff like translation can be, and is, quite difficult, but you give us a bunch of awesome stuff and then make us wait! That's phycogical torture that is!
    That's why I almost prefer when authors don't allow pre-orders, because you don't know that the book is coming out xD
    Thanks for these chapters though!

    1. This is indeed an awesome and very addictive series... And we can't let our readers being tortured! So we'll post more soon! :)

  9. Wow, nice story.
    At first I thought it was a copy of Legendary Moonlight Sculptor. Poor MC, new VRMMORPG, sick sister, no relatives, no money, want to get rich playing, meets beauty while playing, etc. But even though there are so many similarities, the story is unique enough and makes you want to read more.
    Looking forward reading the whole book (series)

    1. Thanks! We like this series as well! I'm not sure if author ever even heard of moonlight sculptor (I'll ask him though!), but I know that the series was inspired by discussion between him and Vasily Mahanenko.

  10. this is looking like being an excellent and addictive book.

  11. looking forward to tomorrows book release

  12. Replies
    1. Summer 2017. Michael finished writing it a few weeks ago and it went to translation.