Bitter 220

Britta tried to resummon the shade. It didn’t work.

The lack of response could mean the spell was bugged, or it could mean the shade was busy, doing whatever it was shades did in their off time. The game was still in beta, and upgrading could easily have exposed some poorly written code. That seemed the most likely answer. She didn’t think all those arrows had done it any harm. It wasn’t dead. She hoped.

She checked her status screen. The Shadow Agent spell was greyed out. When she tapped it, no message box appeared. If she was going to end up losing the spell completely, she would be very annoyed. And how was she supposed to find out what the shade had learned about the mayor?

She would wait. She didn’t have much choice.

The shade was temperamental. Perhaps upgrading required it to go through some kind of metamorphosis. Like a butterfly. Maybe it would emerge as a more beautiful version of itself. Or the change could be more like puberty, and it would emerge a surly teenager. That wouldn’t be much fun. She knew how annoying those were; she was one.

In the meantime, she still had a bunch of decisions to make. Too many, to be honest.

She had a point to add to her attributes, but where to add it would depend on which Stage 2 spell she chose. Which spell she chose would depend on what they did. She knew their function on a basic level, but not the ins and outs that would have made it easier to make her decision. Choice didn’t mean much if you had no idea what the options meant.

Now that she knew how to make a bug report, she would send APE a nice long explanation of why the whole selection system was the wrong way round. She was quite looking forward to it. She had a lot of excellent points to make.

There was also a new area on her screen for skills. When she’d made her barbarian character at APE, she’d had skills instead of spells. They were cool fighting moves that she could use like special powers. Skills weren’t all fighting related, though. When the kobold shaman had buffed her, she had gained a bunch of temporary skills that had helped her stay alive against the dwarf. For a while.

Whatever gnome illusionists gained as skills, they would definitely come in useful.

It said she had three points to apply. Anything that helped her survive better in fights would be welcome.

She tapped the button telling her three points were available. A new screen opened.

“What the…”

It spread out and filled up her entire view like a night sky full of stars. The screen was filled with dots of various sizes, forming something that looked like the Milky Way.

Each dot had a label next to it, but so small it was impossible to read, or even select with her finger.

Britta reached out, gesturing with her hand like she would on her phone screen. The image expanded as the dots got bigger. Each had links connecting to other dots nearby, constantly branching out in all directions.

The labels also got bigger, but the words next to them were greyed out, making it hard to tell what they said. If she squinted, she could sort of guess. Resilience, Strength, Duplicity… they were just words. When she tapped on them, small tags appeared saying things like +1 Fortitude or 5% Evasion Throw. They weren’t exactly useless, but how were they skills?

The skills she’d encountered before had names like Whirlwind and Silpling’s Might. They did cool things, not give you small bonuses.

And there were so many of them it made her head swim. What was the point of greying them out so you couldn’t read them until after you chose them? Shouldn’t it be the other way around so you knew what to pick? More items to point out in her report. They were really making her earn her pay.

“Explain skills,” she said.

Skills are a key feature of character development,” said the emotionless female voice. They had changed it to a more sultry voice for a while, but they had reverted to the old one. Sexy voices probably took up more processing power.

Skills become available after sub-class selection is complete.

The screen suddenly shifted sideways, making Britta feel off-balance. It stopped abruptly and she nearly fell over. It was like watching a 3D movie where the 3D actually worked.

The screen zoomed in on three larger circles that seemed to be at the middle of the galaxy. They flashed in turn, lighting up the greyed out text. Acrobat. Puppet Master. Coward.

Once sub-class is selected, quirks become available.”

The little dots next to the sub-class circles flashed. Once you chose your sub-class, you could pick one of the dots attached to it. A quirk. She felt she understood how it worked, so far.

Three or more connected quirks create a skill.

Quirks lit up in groups of three, connected to each other. As they did, new tags appeared with names like Missile Launcher, Shield Helmet, Power Boost.

So, skills were only awarded once three quirks were activated. That meant her three points were actually worth one skill.

“Longer chains create more advanced skills.

Chains of five and six quirks lit up, forming constellations across the screen. The tags associated with these had strange names like Mericle’s Miracle and Wall of Dundas.

“Wait, stop, pause,” said Britta. She listened to see if her command had been followed. The voice was silent. She turned to the Great Gnome who was standing next to her with a serene smile on his face like a little, hairy Buddha. “Is there a list of what combinations make up each skill?”

“A list?” said the Great Gnome. “Oh, no. Where’s the fun in that? This is an adventure of discovery!”

It felt more like an adventure of statistics and flow charts.

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