Entering the large, busy plaza where people were choosing factions turned out to be a little intimidating. Also, seeing how many people had managed to scrounge up some kind of clothing, she felt a little too sexy in nothing but a little apron that didn’t really cover much.
Quill, this random guy who’d been kind enough to bring her here, must have noticed her hesitation. He whipped off the flag he was wearing and handed it to her, using his other hand to kind of cover himself. “Here. As nice as the view is, it’ll cover a lot more than the apron. So let’s switch.”
“But then you’re going to be the one with the exposed bum.”
“And I freely admit, it’s not as nice as yours and I think people are going to hate me for giving them mine instead of yours. But it’s fine. Really. Take the flag.”
Blushing for some silly reason she didn’t understand, Jane pulled the apron off and felt embarrassed at her nudity in front of him, though it really wasn’t any different than wearing the apron. Maybe it had something to do with the way he quickly averted his eyes out of some gentlemanly ideal, despite the obvious reaction to her body behind his hand. She quickly grabbed the flag and wrapped her body up like a sarong. She noticed a few disappointed looks in the crowd. Whatever. This did feel better.
Quill tied the apron around his waist and let the top flop over to create a second layer. It covered his front.
She had a momentary thought about checking out his bottom but pushed it aside.
Together, they walked around the plaza, checking out the various classes. Quill was very polite. He chimed in with his thoughts here and there, but didn’t try to push her in any direction. Nor did he try to talk down to her just because this was a video game and she was a girl. She liked that. Eventually, they reached the end of the class statues.
“What do you think?” he asked. “Red or blue? Crimson Legion or Azure Alliance?”
She stood facing the portals with one hand on her hip, biting her lip. This would be a big decision. She wished that she had more information. “Hmm. Rogue looks overpowered. Seems like an obvious choice. Warlock might be cool, depending on how hot the incubus is,” she joked.
“I don’t know. The Legion classes are really cool, but also very aggressive. If this were a PC game, I’d totally play alts for at least half of them. But as a main?”
“Keep in mind that we’re trapped in here. Class could be the difference between life and death.”
“Yeah, ‘cause I needed even more pressure.”
He laughed. “Sorry.”
“Um, I think I’m going to stay in Stormstadt. Mage is another obvious choice. Cleric would be super useful, but they also have a big role in raids, right? I’m not sure I could handle that kind of responsibility. But the druid… Look at all those different forms you could change into. Wouldn’t that be so cool?” She turned to him, excited by the idea.
“Very cool,” he agreed.
“What about you?”
“I like the idea of playing a paladin, but the class is unfinished. Maybe warrior or mage? I guess it might depend on who I was partied with. You know if you — I mean, you don’t have to or anything, but if we, like, were in a party and you wanted to play a support class, I could take the tank class or something, oh my gosh it’s hot, isn’t it? Why am I so hot? We should go find out how we get our attributes, shouldn’t we? Or, oh, sorry. You’re still choosing factions.”
Jane smiled at his awkwardness. It was cute. He was way older than her, but whatever. She took a last look around, nervous and worried about making the wrong decision. “I think I’m going to stay here,” she finally decided. Yes, she was going to stay. Something about the blue faction felt more comfortable. “Shall we ask around about attributes?”
He nodded and waved her forward. “Ladies first.”
“You’re just saying that so I don’t look at your bum,” she teased.
He cracked a smile. “Nonsense. I’m entirely motivated by my desire to be a gentleman.”
They asked around and did some searching. It turned out that the place for choosing attributes was actually right outside the stadium. Returning, they found long lines of people queued up. At the head of each queue was a plinth, and above it a floating, 20-sided die about the size of a beach ball. They, too, lined up and slowly made their way forward. As they waited, they read about the attributes on a large sign hanging on the side of the stadium.
They watched as various players in front of them took turns rolling the die. Each time it landed, it gave a score between 1 and 20. This was then applied to each base attribute in turn:
Strength (STR) – Melee damage (Does not affect ranged damage, which is only a product of ranged weapons). STR is also used for general power, such as carrying and lifting.
Dexterity (DEX) – Accuracy during combat. Also affects the quality potential of crafted items.
Health (HEA) – Affects amount of HP and HP recovery rate.
Intelligence (INT) – Affects the rate of XP acquired, the number of spells which can be permanently memorized, and offensive spell power.
Quill pointed towards Intelligence. “See that? Affects the rate of XP acquired. That means if we have lousy INT, we’ll level up slower. That’s harsh.”
“Kind of realistic,” Jane added, “but yeah, not so great when we’re playing for our lives.” She pointed to the next item. “Similar for Wisdom.”
Wisdom (WIS) – Affects the rate of skill progression, and the power of defensive and healing spells.
Stamina (STA) – Energy used for physical actions and spell casting.
Charisma (CHA) – Affects quality of influence with NPCs and the power of charm spells.
“Why does Charisma always sound like a terrible stat?” Jane wondered aloud.
Quill shrugged. “Charm spells would be cool though. Could be very useful.”
“Really? I guarantee they don’t work on any boss. Probably nothing high level either. Tons of monsters probably have resistance to it. It’ll only be useful against low level mobs.”
When it got to be their turn, Jane found herself too nervous to proceed. She shook her head and suddenly dodged back behind Quill, using him as a shield. “I can’t. You go first.”
“Ah, sure,” he joking blustered, likely for her benefit. “No prob. I’ll show you how it’s done.” He stepped up to the 20-sided die and then stopped, confused. He looked around. “Wait, there are no baseline stats? No option to average things out or anything?”
“Nope,” someone said from the next line over.
Quill looked dumbfounded. “Really? It’s a hundred percent RNG?” He looked around, his eyes a bit wild. “This is even more important than our class. Attributes will decide everything we can do, everything we can become. To make it completely random is just nuts!”
Jane felt herself go cold. She covered her mouth with her hands. Their stats were totally RNG? What a horrible gamble!
Quill hesitatingly reached up to give the die a spin. The ball rolled around in the air in all directions, fast at first, then slowing, until it came to a rest with one face of the die facing them.
It was a 1.
Jane immediately looked at Quill.
He stood frozen. The muscles on his jaw flexed. “Fuck,” he muttered. Then he reached out and gave the die another spin.
Jane felt her heart go out to him. The worst roll he could have had. So much for being any kind of fighter or melee damage dealer.
The die landed: DEX 3.
Oh no. Jane nearly gasped before stopping herself. Ranged fighting was out, too.
Jane winced. Ok, not as bad as it could have been, but he wouldn’t be tanking anything.
This time Jane couldn’t stop herself. She gasped.
Quill slammed his fist onto the plinth. “Dammit!” The second worst roll he could have gotten. He’d have almost no magical ability either. And since intelligence affected your rate of experience, he’d barely level up, no matter what he did. What awful, awful luck.
Quill didn’t give up, he spun again.
Jane grabbed him by the shoulders. “That’s fantastic!”
Quill reluctantly nodded and seemed to relax a bit. He gave her an awkward smile. “Guess I can be a craftsman or something maybe.”
“Or a healer!”
“Who can’t memorize any spells because I have an intelligence of 2.” He reached up and rolled again.
“That’s good, too!” Jane insisted.
Quill nodded but didn’t say anything. He gave one last spin.
“Guess I’ll at least get along ok with NPCs,” he joked. He seemed to force a smile and waved her forward. “Your turn.”
Jane looked up at the die and the very last thing in the whole world that she wanted to do was roll it after what she’d just seen him go through. It had left him with next to no class options and entirely crippled his ability to make any progress. They’d been in the game only a couple of hours and already his chances of surviving the game seemed nil. And she just knew that the same was going to happen to her. She reached up and rolled the die.
Heart pounding, she nodded. Ok, it wasn’t as bad as could be.
Better! That was good enough to at least be a ranger, even if it wasn’t a very good one.
“Ah!” she screamed with joy.
Quill laughed next to her. He nudged her with his shoulder. “Nice. That’s awesome.”
For a moment, she marvelled that he could be so gracious after his own rolls, but then the die was in front of her again and she felt the pressure mount. Intelligence. The XP stat. This was it, make it or break it time. A low roll left her for dead, too. If she could just roll this one attribute ok…
She screamed and threw her arms around Quill without even thinking, jumping up and down with excitement. Tears burst forth.
Quill laughed and hugged her. “Congrats. Good for you.”
She pulled herself off him and stood back, embarrassed because she barely knew him and they were both basically naked and she was crying and she’d gotten such a high number, especially compared to him and this was crazy. She reached up and hurriedly rolled again.
“Again!” she gasped.
Quill bowed. “I see you’re going to be party leader, no question whatsoever,” he teased.
She blushed and reached up to roll again. She couldn’t believe how good her luck was. She was going to level up quickly, she could be a great mage or healer. She had options. She had potential.
That slammed her back to reality. She breathed deep. Ok, so her energy was super low. She wasn’t going to be able to fight for very long or cast a lot of spells. But she could make do, right? She could.
“Ugh. I guess you’re the one who’s going to be doing all the talking during quests,” she joked.
Quill chuckled. “Hey, somebody’s gotta do it.”
They slid out of line so that others could roll.
Jane felt giddy and silly. She couldn’t believe she’d lucked out that much. It had been the complete opposite of Quill’s experience. She looked up at him.
He was putting on a brave face, but she could see the strain around his eyes.
He must be hurting. She felt the urge to reach out and take his hand, but held back.
A loud groan came from the line next to the one they’d been in and they looked over.
In front of the die was a young, short, very slim teenage girl. She looked really down. Barely able to reach high enough, she rolled again.
Jane bit her lip. Oh no. It was even worse than Quill’s rolls had been. Hopefully things would pick up now though.
The crowd groaned again, this time with some laughter, hopefully in disbelief.
Quill shook his head. “Fuck, that’s unfair. I can’t believe those devs did this to us.”
Jane nodded in sympathy.
This time the crowd’s reaction was deathly silence. What a horrible roll.
The girl looked devastated. With a shaky arm, she rolled again.
Jane spun away, unable to watch. “This is so wrong!” she exclaimed.
“Poor girl,” Quill said.
Tears streaming down her face, the girl rolled.
“Un-fucking-believable!” someone cried out in the crowd in anger.
The girl sobbed, her whole body shaking. The guy behind her had to take her hand and guide it up for her last roll.
The highest roll for the most useless stat. Everything else had rolled as bad as it possibly could.
The girl turned and stumbled and pushed her way through the crowd, away from where Jane and Quill stood.
Jane stepped forward. “We should help her!”
Together, she and Quill pushed through the crowd and looked all over. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the teen.
Jane’s heart ached. She leaned against the stone wall of a shop. “She’s screwed. She’s so screwed.”
“Worse than me.” Quill’s head still rotated, surveying the crowd.
Jane felt a sting in her eyes and fought it. “The whole game is going to be like this, isn’t it? Finding ways to hurt us. They’ll never let us out. They won’t. We’re all going to die in here.”
Quill’s eyes found hers. He stepped forward and this time he was the one to take her shoulders in had. “Hey. You rolled really well. You can pick just about any class. You’re going to kick ass at this game. You’re going to live.”
She looked back into his eyes. They were dark green, and at this distance she could see flecks of gold in them. “But what about you?”
He huffed, then tried to grin, though it was strained. “I’ll do what I can with what I have. I’ll make the best of it. Same as life, right?”
She pushed off the wall and stood straight. “Right. Sorry. I guess I just felt overwhelmed all of a sudden. I just…” she trailed off.
“Forget about it. It’s going to happen to all of us at some point. But that’s what friends are for, right?” He smiled wider, then faltered. He stepped back, releasing her. “Sorry. I’m being presumptuous.”
She emphatically shook her head. “No. Friends. I like that.”
She grinned back. Maybe there was hope after all. She swiped her hand and brought up the menu, then selected Quill and clicked Invite to Party.
The invite window appeared in front of him. He raised his brows and hesitated. “You sure? I mean, you saw my stats. There will be plenty of people with better that you could team up with. I don’t want to hold you back.”
“But how many of them have a cute bum?” she joked.
“Are you going to hit Yes, or what?”
He laughed silently and ran his hand through his brown hair. Then he pressed Yes.