Jane had shared her quest with him once they’d become a party and so now the pair of them were headed towards their delivery destination, threading their way through the streets.
Everywhere you looked, people were still in disarray and things hadn’t gotten any better. Some players walked around in a daze, others wept in the streets. Most were alone in the crowd, but groups were forming. There were fights.
It wasn’t bad enough that they’d been locked in here and threatened with death. Broken or unfinished classes, and a stupidly random stat generator had really cut into people.
Quill himself was still in turmoil over his attributes. STR 1, DEX 3, HEA 7, INT 2. Sure, wisdom had rolled nicely, but these were basement level. Already his mind was tumbling over possible classes, but what could he achieve with any of them? He had no power to fight with, no accuracy, and he’d probably get one-hit and die half the time. Even if he did kill anything, he’d get so little XP that it was going to take him literal years to level up.
The one saving grace of the afternoon was Jane. Seemed pretty tough and resourcesful, not wasting any time before finding her first quest and setting out on it. She’d been supportive during the attribute rolls. Without her, he might have given up right there. He was moved that she’d been willing to party up with him. Not that you had to stay together or anything, you could disband and move on at any time, but still. He had to find a way to contribute though, or he was only going to hold her back.
They found Yelsin Greer in a vegetable and meat shop near the edge of town.
“Hello,” Jane greeted the NPC. “I have a package for you.”
“Ah! I was waiting for this.” Yeslin accepted the box. “Thank you kindly. Please let Mirren know I got it safely. No, wait. Better, I’ll write you a receipt. Here ya go!” He handed her a piece of paper.
They headed all the way back through town to return to Mirren, the woman who’d given Jane the quest. They found her in her house, two boys running circles around her, and her tiredly stirring a pot over the fire.
“Boys, please! Settle down or there’ll be no dinner for the both you.”
The boys completely ignored her.
Jane held the receipt out. “We delivered the box.”
“Oh, thank you, dear. That’s so very kind of you. Here, as promised, your payment.” She ladled out two bowls of soup and handed them to Jane and Quill.
The two looked at each other.
“No coin?” Quill wondered.
Jane glanced at the woman, who had gone back to cooking. “Guess not.”
Quill sat down at the table. “I suppose that’s fine. I mean, we were just going to use it to buy food anyway.”
Jane joined him at the table and picked up a wooden spoon. She stared at the food. “Do you think we have to eat in the game world?”
“I am feeling hungry,” Quill admitted. “Some games do have food meters. If you don’t eat or drink on a regular basis, you start losing health.”
“I hope that’s not the case here, but I’m betting it is.” Jane ate a spoonful of the stew. “Wow, it’s pretty good.”
Quill at some as well and nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Man, I still can’t get over this place. So real.”
“First full dive?”
“Yeah. I played PC games when I was younger, but kind of got out of gaming for a while. And virtual reality stuff was terrible for a long time so I never bothered. You?”
“I played Elder Dungeons for a few months. It was almost as good as this. Not quite as realistic though. No pain, no hunger.”
“If I wasn’t trapped in here, I’d really be enjoying it.”
They finished their meal and left the house, happy to get away from the bratty boys. Wandering around, they found a small city park with a single, large apple tree. Below it stood a meek woman in a dress and head scarf. She had a quest symbol over her head.
“Nice!” Quill grinned.
They approached the woman.
She raised her head as they neared. “Oh, hello. Are you a traveller?”
“Uh, yes?” Jane answered.
“That’s nice. I’m looking for apples. Can you find me 1 apple?”
Quill cocked his head at her. The woman was literally standing under an apple tree. He shook his head then climbed the tree and picked an apple. He brought it down and gave it over.
The woman smiled. “Thank you! You’re so kind. Here, take this for your troubles.” She handed them a single copper coin.
Jane stared at the coin in her hand. “That..doesn’t seem like a lot of money.”
“It’s one of our first quests, though. No surprise there.”
“What’s the exchange ratio? Because there’s probably silver and gold, too, right?”
“Probably. I’m guessing it’s ten copper to a silver, ten silver to a gold. Or a hundred copper to a gold.”
“Let’s hope so. Because if it’s one hundred to each, we’re never going to get rich.”
Quill smiled. He liked this girl. Despite the situation they were in, she was handling it well. Maybe better than he was. He’d really lucked out meeting her.
The next quest involved taking someone across town a dish of food. Then they found another quest where they had to go buy some chicken legs and return, from across town. As night fell, they located yet another quest, carrying a message to someone — across town.
Jane sighed as they accepted the last quest. She sat down on the flagstone street and rubbed her bare feet. “Let me guess, all of these quests are going to be across town, aren’t they?”
Quill sat down across from her, legs crossed and took her other foot and started massaging it. “Probably. Fetch quests. They suck in every game.”
Jane looked at his hands holding her foot in surprise. “Oh, you don’t have to do that!”
“It’s fine. Happy to help.”
“No. They’re filthy from walking around all day.”
“I don’t mind, really.” He continued to massage.
She looked down and continued to rub her other foot.
“I’m betting the fetch quests are purposely designed to waste time,” Quill thought aloud.
Jane nodded. “We should try to pick up as many quests on one side of town as we can, and then head over to the other. Might be more efficient.”
“Agreed.” He put her foot down and took the other from her, ignoring her objection. “Sucks so many of the NPCs are hostile to you though.”
She made a laughing groan. “I know! I guess charisma does matter. I hope it’s not affecting the size of the rewards we’re getting.” Despite her words, she looked a bit down.
“Don’t mind them. They’re just NPCs, not real people. They’re reacting to an arbitrary stat; they don’t know the real you.”
She perked up a bit at that, as if she’d forgotten. The NPCs were completely lifelike, after all.
Quill sat up straight as her earlier words clicked. “Whoa. I didn’t think of that. That charisma might affect reward size.”
She waved the idea away. “I was joking.”
“No, you might be onto something. In some games, charisma can affect things like the prices of goods in stores. That might be the same here.”
“So we should leave you to do the shopping and talking.”
“While we leave the fighting to you, apparently.”
She looked sympathetic. “Quill, I’m so sorry about those rolls.”
“Don’t be. You didn’t cause them.” He sourly shook his head. “This is why role playing games implemented alternate systems for initial attributes. You can take the gamble, or you can accept an average number across the board—“
“Or distribute your own points.”
“Ah, you know, of course.”
“Yeah, I’ve role played table top games. It’s fun.”
“Before this, I would have said it’s a lot more social and appealing than video games. But I guess full dive offers the best of both worlds: the visual aspects of the RPG as well as actually talking to real people, face to face.”
“The face to face is a really nice change.”
“It is! I missed this.”
Jane looked up at the darkening sky. She opened the little cloth sac they’d been rewarded from one of their quests. In it was a wedge of cheese and a few coins. “Hmm. I don’t think we have enough to rent a room for the night. And this cheese isn’t going to fill up both of us.”
“Finish that last quest and then look for a place to crash for the night?” he suggested.
She nodded and stood with a groan, obviously sore from the day’s efforts. “Ok, they didn’t have to make the game this realistic.” She chuckled.