Bitter 459


Britta looked over her status screen. She had two points available to put into her attributes, and three points to use on the skill tree. There were going to be a lot of combinations she could come up with, each with its own unique set of effects. A real gamer would work out all the possibilities, and choose the ones best aligned with the current meta. She was tempted to pick at random and see where that took her, but she would probably regret it in the long run.

There was no hurry, she could decide which direction to take her build after she’d had a chance to think about it.

It was only as she sat there staring at the computer screen that she realised something had changed. Her maximum health, which had been 65 HP until recently, was down to only 25 HP. That was a huge drop.

Her health had been something of an anomaly since magic users were supposed to be quite fragile to make up for their potential to do vast amounts of damage. That had never been an issue for Britta.

She did very little damage, and her potential for doing more was not impressive. Illusionists were more of a novelty act.

Her health had been up to 80 HP at one point, but after losing her armour to the lava it had gone way down to 55 HP, which was still a nice large number, and then she had levelled up to Level 4, and hit 65 HP.

That was where she was before she hit Level 5. Why had it suddenly tanked to only 25 HP? You were supposed to improve as you went up levels, not get worse.

Her health still wasn’t too bad for her class — probably about average — but Britta had been spoiled by having a massive health pool. She didn’t like being reduced to these ‘average’ numbers.

What had changed? Had there been some kind of reworking of the system that only came into effect once her pre-launch character levelled up? Or had she lost some bit of gear that had been inflating her stats without her realising? Did changing into the robe she bought have an effect? There was no way to change clothes and find out unless she logged back in.

She tried to put it out of her mind, but it rankled. It was Dad’s fault. He always made a huge fuss when a game adjusted something without explaining it. He would complain and moan endlessly, determined to work out what had happened. Bug? Hotfix? Glitch in the Matrix?

It seemed Britta had inherited his zeal for accountability from games companies. She would probably end up just as disappointed in the results.

Britta sat at the computer for over an hour dwelling on her lost health points. It achieved nothing, and she could have used the time to get all sorts of other things done, but it was much easier to be annoyed and inactive.

Finally, she convinced herself she could come back to it after she chose a new spell.

Scrying PerceptionPhantasmal Conjuration and Invisible Army.

She hovered over them with the cursor, but no tooltip appeared. In the game, she could ask for details, but how was she supposed to get more info from here?

“What does Scrying Perception do?” she asked the laptop.

Scrying Perception — allows the caster to view the targets mood from a distance.

The words appeared on the screen while simultaneously being spoken by the laptop, which was very useful. Less useful was being able to detect people’s moods even if it was from a distance. What kind of useless spell was this?

“What does Phantasmal Conjuration do?”

Phantasmal Conjuration — creates a ghost that will haunt the target for a limited time.

That sounded like a troll spell. An excellent way to get on someone’s nerves. It depended on what kind of haunting it was, though. And did it work on monsters, too? It would have been nice if she could try these spells out, take them for a spin around the block. Or if someone had made a video of it being used.

Invisible Army?” she asked.

Invisible Army — summon an army of one hundred soldiers, unseen and undetectable.

Did that mean they were actual solid soldiers who couldn’t be seen? That seemed very unfair. A hundred people you couldn’t see attacking you — there had to be a catch. Were they very small men? Did they accidentally injure themselves because they couldn’t see each other? Were they unarmed and naked? It still seemed like the best option.

Britta couldn’t select the spell while she was at home, but she really had no clue which she would have picked even if she could have.

She switched to the skills page and the vast tree appeared on screen. Nodes were lit up, offering her the choice to go in various direction. It was too much for her brain to handle right now, so she clicked out of it.

The one thing she hadn’t found so far was any mention of levitating. That had been the spell she had most wanted, and it no longer seemed to be available. Not at this level, at least.

It was all a bit disappointing, really. If she had more of a purpose with what she was trying to achieve in the game, she would have had a better idea of what she needed. It was like with her studies, once she had decided what her goal was, it became much easier to arrange what she would require to get it done.

In the game, she had gone out of her way not to have a specific goal, and this kind of ambivalence was the result. Perhaps she should make up a definitive endpoint for her character. Or maybe she’d just wander around aimlessly and see where that took her.

It was strange how much more engaging the anticipation of what she would get from hitting Level 5 had been than the reality of it. She’d wanted a big prize — Now you can fly! — not all these small fiddly changes she had to implement herself.

She closed the laptop and told herself it was for the best. No point getting carried away over something that wasn’t real. If she wanted to stay in control of her life, she needed a sense of perspective.

Dad came running in. “I did it! I did it! I’m the King of the World!”

In fact, she needed a double helping of perspective to make up for his lack of any.

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