Merchant King

1 – The Merchant and his Dream

“Love the class selection. Couldn’t be any more typical, could it? Warrior, fighter, paladin, mage, thief, assassin, berserker, boring, boring, boring…” 

Standing in a black void on a floor of black glass, Hadiin scrolled through the list of class options with disinterest. They appeared before him, lifelike and human sized, vibrant and powerful representations of their type. He could see why the vast majority of people choose to play one in this full-dive MMORPG, as in most such games, but after years of playing such roles, he now found them dull and repetitive. He wanted a new challenge. 

The list of classes was long as the game was quite open in its development and style. As he got down into more exotic, and much less popular, options his interest perked up a bit. 

“Glass canon devourer, phantom kraken, blue cryo slime…hmmm. Merchant.” He paused scrolling. Merchant caught his eye. Typically an NPC role, not usually involved in much fighting, which is why it wasn’t popular. It was the kind of thing chosen by players who were into farming and fishing mini games and couldn’t handle the action. A class seen as lacklustre and childish.

And yet…

What if it could be played differently, more dynamically? Gold was an intrinsic and very important part of the game. It could open up many possibilities, especially with such an open world. There would be many disadvantages, such as in exploration and combat, true, but perhaps that was just what he needed to challenge himself. 

He smiled to himself as he pictured himself in the game, rising up to become caravaner, then shopkeeper. For most players, winning meant adventuring and gearing up and killing monsters, grinding away until you were able to kill whatever last boss had been released during the latest patch. 

What about him? Was that a worthy new goal? He imagined himself wealthy, a landlord, a Mogul Emperor, an Arabian Prince, a Spanish King, surrounded by mountains of shining gold. 

A king.

Yes… Now there was an interesting idea. The game did have a number of nations and a variety of rulers. These were, ostensibly, all NPCs, but it was an open game and the rules quite flexible. What if he were to set his sights on a throne?

No adventurer would be capable of this, of course, for if you attacked the throne, any number of high-level guards would rise up and slaughter you. Which is why, even if they had thought of it, and a few surely had, no regular player could ever assume a throne. 

But a merchant, with gold and influence? Could he buy a crown? Why not?

His smile widened. He choose Merchant as his class. 

Attributes…Strength, Dexterity, yada yada yada. He dumped most of his attribute points into Charisma, maxing it out. The rest he threw into Intelligence and Wisdom. This left him weak, for the moment, true, but he might manage some minor spells. More importantly, he would have the advantage in NPC relations and Charisma did actually have a lesser affect on players as well, just as strength would in a fight. 

He hit the Finished button and the world blossomed with light, causing him to blink. 

When his vision returned, he found himself standing in a very crude and small village. There were no more than a half dozen wooden huts and dirt roads. Peasant NPCs stood about or performed medial tasks such as feeding chickens, sewing and gardening. A party of hunters was returning with a deer over someone’s shoulders. The air was fresh, the smell of plants and woodsmoke on the the breeze. And dung. Hadiin definitely smelled shit of various kinds. Lots of animals here and likely no plumbing. Surprising bit of realism to add to the game.

Several other newbie players ran about in a variety of crude beginner gear, mostly cloth armor and with a simple bow or knife in hand. No doubt they were on early quests and killing the world’s lowest-level beasts. 

Hadiin checked his inventory and found himself equipped with a Merchant’s Pack. 

  • Backpack (small)
  • Bedroll and blanket
  • Candle (10)
  • 7 days rations and water skin (empty)
  • Tinderbox
  • 5 gp

Now that was interesting. There was no specialized equipment as he had no specialized skills or abilities for weapons or crafting. No armor nor weapons. But he did have far, far more money than adventurer classes started out with. That made sense; money was a merchant’s weapon of choice, after all. 

Nodding, he closed his inventory screen and looked around. Something on the distant horizon caught his eye. With a bit of excitement, he jogged over to the nearest house and found himself a way to scale the wall and to get himself up to the roof. It was not a simple endeavour and he found himself huffing and puffing along the way. That would be his absent strength and stamina, no doubt. But at last he gained the rooftop and stood up. 

Far, far away, over hills and forest, he could just make out the spires of a glorious fantasy castle reaching up over the trees. 

He grinned and reached out, as if he could grab the throne from here. “You will be mine. Oh yes, you will be mine.”

Then the straw roof gave out and he tumbled through the air into the house below. He crashed into something, there was heat and smoke and his HP meter plummeted to nothing. The world went black and he floated in empty space. Words appeared in yellow lettering. 

You died. 

-50% gold

Remaining gold: 2 gp, 50 sp

“Fuck!” he cursed with all his might, flying into a helpless rage. One stupid mistake and he’d just lost half of his investment fund. Unfair, bloody, stupid…

He stopped himself and tried to rein in his anger. Taking deep breaths, he regained control of himself. “Should have put something into Health, I suppose.”

Fighting to keep his temper down and not to be too negative about things, he waited for the thirty-second re-spawn timer to count down. Then he reappeared in his original location in the starter town. 

Taking another deep breath, he forced himself to be positive. That was going to be his strength and his armor here, an outlook that sought out silver linings and the profit in any situation. Yes, he’d died, that was true. But better to have died and learned this valuable lesson now before he’d amassed and lost even more money. In effect, if he had to learn this lesson, it was one of the cheapest times to do so. 

Now, how to actually make money?

Killing monsters for parts he could sell was out of the question. If a short fall and cooking fire had taken him out so easily, then slime could probably kill him at this point. Dammit, he could trip and fall and hit his head on a rock and lose himself even more gold. 

He started walking about the tiny village and cast his eyes around to everything he saw. A homely old woman was marked as a cooking trainer. A middle-aged man stretching hides over wooden frames was a skinner and leather working trainer. A motherly woman in one of the houses could teach make bandages (rough). 

From what Hadiin knew of the game, crafting and professions weren’t very popular with most people, especially at lower levels. The best drops for gear and items were in dungeons and boss fights. Most players zipped through the open world as fast as they could, grinding levels with all speed, so they could get to dungeons as soon as possible, where the best loot was. The open world and professions were, in large part, ignored.

Hadiin didn’t have that option though. He spend several tens of silver learning cooking, skinning, leather working, and bandage making. This left him with 80 sp. It was depressing how quickly money was disappearing from his account. 

Learned: Cooking – Level 1

Learned: Skinning – Level 1

Learned: Leather working – Level 1

Learned: Bandages – Level 1

Now that he had skills, he needed raw materials. He checked the rest of the NPCs in the village, but there was no general goods vendor, nor vendors of any kind. That meant he’d have to source mats elsewhere. Also, more worryingly, he didn’t know the value of goods yet. It would be very risky to invest his little coin in anything without being able to calculate a return.

Taking a chance, he approached the hunters who’d returned to the village with the deer. They were sitting around, drinking beer, while the deer hung from a wooden stand, draining. He put on his best smile. “Good sirs! How are you this fine day?”

The NPC hunters looked up. One answered. “Well enough, sir.”

“I’d like to purchase that deer.”

The speaker frowned. “But that is our dinner. It will feed the village for a week. It’s not for sale.” He shook his head.

“I understand. Then perhaps I could hire you to acquire a new one for me?”

The hunters looked uncertain, but interested. 

“I shall pay…5 sp for a deer.”

The hunters laughed.

“Ahem, I mean to say 15 sp.”

That silenced them. They looked at each other. 

Finally, the hunter spokesman nodded. “Very well; we accept.” 

The hunters rose and picked up their weapons and then headed back out into the nearby forest that surrounded the village. 

Hadiin nearly danced with joy. This was working. 

The hunters returned in a couple of hours with another deer, this one even larger than the first. 

Hadiin paid and took possession of the kill. He tried to lift it but found his pathetic strength not up to the task. Shrugging, he asked one of the hunters to string it up on one of their empty racks which, thanks to his natural charm (ie, his high charisma), they were more than happy to do for him. 

He rented a skinning knife from the hunters for 1 sp and then took to gutting and skinning the kill. To his relief, realism was limited in this case. Stabbing the deer in the belly and drawing the knife down once was all it took for the skin to entirely drop from the corpse and land in his inventory. 

  • Leather piece (1)

Trading the skinning knife in for a butcher’s knife, one swipe and the carcass fell apart into pieces of meat which also landed in his inventory. 

  • Meat (5)

An idea popped into his head. He turned to the hunters. “Gentlemen. You have had a hard day, though very productive. You must be tired.”

“Aye!”

“True enough!”

“Then let me be of service. I can have that deer there skinned and chopped up in a moment for you. All I ask in return is…to keep the skin for myself while you keep the meat.”

The hunters conferred amongst themselves, then eventually agreed. 

Hadiin skinned the deer. 

  • Leather piece (rough) (1)

Unfortunate. Looks like his skill wasn’t high enough to guarantee good pieces yet. Fair enough. If he collected enough, they could be combined. Still, it was a piece for free. He also cut the deer into meat and gave it to the hunters. 

He looked around and spotted a communal stone fire pit that wasn’t in use near the village well. Lighting it with his tinder box, he brought out his meat and opened his cooking menu. 

  • Fried Egg
  • Steak
  • Bread

Not a lot of options yet. And as he only had meat, he’d start with steak. Putting the five pieces of meat on the fire, a timer ran down over each, taking only seconds. When ready, he collected them.

  • Steak (poor) (5)

Excellent! Feeling rather hungry he saved one for himself. The other four, he would sell. It had cost him 15 sp for the deer and 1 sp to rent the knife, giving him a leather piece and 5 pieces of meat. He’d have to sell each of his 4 steaks for at least 4 sp in order to break even. And so he shouted out to passing adventurers, “Steak for sale! Steak! Only 4 sp!”

The adventurer players just laughed as they ran by.

“We can make it ourselves for free.”

“No one’s gonna buy that, dumbass!”

Hadiin sighed. He’d figured as much. So he went around to the NPCs instead. “4 sp for a lovely, delicious steak! Mouthwatering, it is. Just smell that. Come on, now, don’t be shy!”

In the end, he was forced by market demand to reduce the price of the steaks to 1 sp each. That left him 12 sp in the hole. He filled his water skin from the well, then found a quiet spot under a tree and ate the last steak, satisfying his own hunger. 

Sitting in the shade, he spun a silver piece in his fingers, not dissuaded in the slightest, for now he knew that making money was indeed possible. “I see it’s going to be an uphill battle. But it’s a start.”

Money:

68 sp

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