The Pryke Mine lay before me in all its beauty. Great rocky cliffs,
about 100 meters high, rose along the whole boundary of the mine. Their tops
hung over it, forming a cap around the perimeter. Like the roof of a stadium,
an association flashed in my head. No amount of effort would allow you to scale
such a wall, although the scattered ledges seemed to dare you to try. 'Interesting,'
I thought, 'I wonder if the mine is surrounded by mountains or goes deep inside
the earth?' I should ask someone, in case the idea of digging a hole out of
here catches on. Another thought was just as interesting: is this mine even
connected to the main world or is it in a separate location within the server
memory? I could dig a hole and end up nowhere. At first glance the mine itself
comprised quite a pleasant-looking valley approximately several kilometers in
length and about a kilometer wide, with a somewhat uneven surface. The valley
was divided up in two parts: the first, about 300 meters long, contained wooden
buildings, one of which I immediately recognized as the smithy. For now the
other structures remained a mystery, but were most probably barracks for the
prisoners. The second part of the valley was separated by an unimposing wooden
fence, which had grown lop-sided and rickety in places. The shouts of prisoners
and sounds of mining picks were ringing from that side of the mine. So, this is
where I'll be working. The place where I stood allowed only limited visibility
because the view was obscured by an enormous cloud of grey dust. It was
strange: I could see the dust, but could not feel it at all. It was probably
just a graphic effect imposed on this location to give it a more authentic
Not far from where I appeared and at some distance from the other
buildings stood a house that sported the sign ‘Welcome to the
Pryke Copper Mine.”
Right, so this is the local administration office,
housing some intimidating official who had the power to grant me access to the
Yes, access to the main gameworld. Just before I was placed in the
capsule I looked up the contents of Article 78 Section 24, cited by the judge
when speaking about the possibility of entering the gameworld. I somehow missed
this part before, while I was preparing myself. Reading this even lifted my
spirits somewhat. The text stated: “If the prisoner earns Respect with the guards
at the place of confinement, he or she may be given the opportunity of being
transferred to the main gameworld.” It contained a lot of other text that stated
that for the first six months you would have to live in a special colony, even
if you earned Respect on the second day of your imprisonment and that 30% of
all the earned money would have to be paid to the Corporation upon leaving the
mine. There was something else, which I didn't recall, but the main thing was
that I had a chance of getting transferred to the main gameworld.
So my chief aim in the near future was to earn Respect and to get
the person in charge of the mine to like me. Or the other way round: get liked
and gain Respect. It didn’t really matter as long as it resulted in me
leaving the mine. Great, I've spent just a few minutes here and I'm already
making plans on how to leave.
Now I just need to figure out what I have to work, play and, in
general, live with in the next eight years. I had to have a good look at my
character, his stats (statistics) and description. When I was getting ready for
prison I would never have imagined that they’d give me a
Shaman, because all the forums said that prisoners usually get assigned either
Warriors or Rogues. So these were the classes I read up on, pretty much
becoming an expert in them. Not a single bastard wrote on any of the forums
that a prisoner could be given a spell-casting class. Blast! I don’t
even know how to cast spells and figuring this out by myself will be very
I brought the window with the
character description before my eyes:
Statistics for player Mahan
Critical hit chance
Free stat points
Racial bonus: reputation gain with all factions is increased by 10%
What 'fantastic' stats. My virtual heart began to ache when I
compared this Shaman with my level 87 Hunter. He looked so wretched next to my
former character. Sigh…
Energy. The biggest headache for all the
prisoners. In the main gameworld even if Energy fell all the way to zero, the
character simply suddenly stopped and rested for several minutes, waiting for
it to recover, and then continued to carry out the player's commands. But they
say that here things are not so simple. As Energy is lost, you get tired for
real and your Hit Points slowly diminish. A sudden fall in Energy could even
lead to character death. I would have to test this parameter in more detail,
since I paid little attention to it with my Hunter.
Stamina. It determines the number of Hit
Points in the ratio of 1:10; the higher the Stamina, the slower the rate of
Energy loss. What the ratio was in this case I didn't really remember, but was
aware it existed. I must level up my Stamina as much as I can, as this is
important for survival.
Strength. This is the main stat
necessary for mining ore. I didn't know what influence it might have on the ore
itself, I found nothing about it in the manuals. This parameter also influences
the strength of my physical attack. Because I'm not a melee fighter, the
calculation is quite simple: Physical Damage = Strength + Weapon Damage. No
modifiers. I'll have to do without, I guess.
Agility. Ehh... Something I knew so well
when I was playing my Hunter, but now I don't even know what to do with it. In
my case Agility did little else than determine the dodge chance and the critical
strike chance. So if I don't engage in melee combat, this stat will remain
useless for me.
Intellect. This is what Hunters,
Warriors, Rogues and several other classes lack. In place of this statistic
they use Rage. Intellect determines the amount of mana in the ratio of 1:10 and
the rate of its regeneration, although the exact formula slipped my memory. Intellect
also determines the strength of my magical attacks. Here we have a modifier:
Magic Damage = 3 x Intellect. I had no idea how it all worked, despite having
seen Shamans in action, as they banged their Tambourines, danced and chanted
some sort of songs. There must be a reason they do that.
Not selected. So here is that stumbling
block, which makes virtually all the players rant about Barliona. They rant,
but continue playing. Yeah, they keep burning their fingers, grumble, but still
go for the cookies. In Barliona with the four main stats, which were fairly
standard for all games, each player was allowed to pick additional four. What
is more, they were not chosen from a set list, but you had to perform certain
actions that would lead to the system allowing you to pick a particular stat.
For instance, when I played the Hunter, I needed Marksmanship, in order to be
sure of hitting the opponent and having a chance of dealing him triple damage.
But then I knew beforehand that I would need this stat and spent some time
hitting the training dummy until the system allowed me to select Marksmanship.
Only four additional stats could be chosen, so picking them needed serious
thinking. Of course it was possible to remove an undesirable stat, despite the
system saying it could not be removed. But this could only be done personally
by the Emperor and gaining an audience with him was often out of question for
an ordinary player. Even if you managed to obtain an audience, the privilege of
removing a stat cost around 20 thousand gold, so players wrote angry messages
on the forums and threatened to leave the game. But after some time they
usually simply deleted the old poorly calibrated character and rolled a new
one. The game called and beckoned.
And then there was Jewelcraft. A zero level in a profession meant
that, although it was included by default, it had to be activated via a
trainer. Probably this wasn't that important - where would you find a
Jewelcraft trainer in a mine?
I'll give you a brief view of how these statistics could be
increased. With each level a player gains 5 points that could be invested in
any one of the stats, thus increasing its importance. But that's not all.
Certain activities level up the stat that ends up being used the most. For
example, if I shoot a mob with my bow - not only do I gain Experience for the
kill, but also gain a certain percentage in my Agility progress bar. As soon as
the progress bar is filled to 100, Agility value is increased by one, the bar
itself is reset in order to go through the same process again. Thus the more I
hit mobs with a bow, the higher is my Agility. Here in the mine the main stat
is Strength and it will level up before anything else.
I was suddenly torn away from my daydreams.
"Don't just stand there! Get a move on!" the rough yell of
the overseer returned me to 'reality'. Judging by the manuals, all the
overseers in the places of confinement were NPCs, but their programmed behavior
model was completely in the hands of the designers building the locations. Since
no-one likes prisoners, the guards were developed with appropriate
temperaments. All this quickly flashed through my head, leaving my
'castle-in-the-air' thoughts of freedom, which I had began to put together,
"Move, move! The boss doesn't like to be kept waiting,"
the guard repeated, roughly pushing me in the direction of the local
The interior of the building turned out to be surprisingly pleasant
and quiet. I had the feeling that I had ended up in a completely different
world - there were exquisite statues, paintings on the walls, a large crystal
chandelier, carpets, carved wood and a quiet cool breeze brushing past me. All
of this made such a harmonious whole that put you more in mind of an
out-of-town residence of some rich aristocrat than an administration office of
a mine full of prisoners. The governor of the mine sat behind a luxuriously
crafted table in a separate office. He was a huge orc, about two meters in
height, green and menacing, like all the representatives of that race.
"Shaman Mahan," the governor's low and calm bass travelled
across the room as he was reading some document — probably my
case file. The orc's appearance reminded me of someone, but I just couldn't
remember who exactly. The governor was calm and dignified, like the Snow Queen,
though in looks there was little resemblance. But who did he resemble then?
"Sentenced to eight years for the crime of hacking into the city sewage
network control program which led to system shut-down. "Was it your idea
or did someone put you up to it?" the orc asked the question showing
virtually no emotion. Such a play of intonations, or rather their total
absence, did not exactly inspire you to 'burst into song'. Songs. 'And now I
will be singing my last song...' Akela!
That's who the image of the orc reminded me of! Akela from Kipling's
'Jungle Book', the Lone Wolf, Mowgli's mentor. A picture of the majestic wolf
sitting on a rock from the ancient animated film rose before my eyes. That's
right, if the wolf could be colored green, punched in the face to squash it and
have his fangs pulled outside, you'd have the spitting image of the Pryke
Copper Mine governor. Although no, for a complete resemblance you'd have to
color the old wolf's eyes red.
"So, you're playing the
silent game. Well, well. That's your choice," said the governor, while I
enthusiastically dressed him up in the wolf's hide. Suddenly I was hit by
extreme heaviness, my legs gave way and I fell on the floor, without taking my
gaze off the orc. A message immediately flashed before my eyes:
Your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards
has fallen by 10 points. You are 990 points away from the status of Mistrust.
Attention! Racial bonuses do not apply on
the territory of the Pryke Copper Mine.
"I repeat the question!" it was immediately clear that he
knew how to raise his voice. He was good at it too: it made shivers run down my
spine and I was ready to tell him anything. That's what I call 'influence'. He
probably had his Charisma value bumped up sky-high. "Did you decide to
destroy the Imitator yourself or did someone put you up to it?"
My body felt heavy and leaden, but something clicked inside my head
and the ability to think rationally returned to me. Incidentally, lying down on
the floor turned out to be ideal for having a good think. I should add this
method to my arsenal in the future. So, I have two possible lines of action -
to stay silent or give him the whole story. In the first case I will most
probably gain a negative reputation before I am sent to work in the mine. The
second option meant that I would tell one imitator how I destroyed another
imitator. And would thus also gain a negative reputation - who knows how this
orc had been programmed. One should expect the worst. So, I lose out either
way... Darn, nothing else for it, I have to respond.
"I did not destroy the imitator. I had an assignment for
running a security check and I carried it out," I tried to speak in a calm
voice, but under the orc's heavy gaze only a whisper came out. "And I'm
hardly to blame that the imitator was so poorly protected. I was simply
carrying out an assignment," I repeated once again. I hardened my resolve
and focused all my strength on picking myself up, at least to my knees, but my
arms refused to cooperate and I hit the floor I once again.
"An assignment..." the orc said thoughtfully. No, if you
really tried, you could discern emotions in his voice. They were just very
deeply hidden. "All right, let it be an assignment, as you say. So listen,
performer of assignments on the murder of imitators. You will now go to Rine,
where you will be given the Mining profession and the starter bag for
collecting ore. After this you will be shown to your place of work. We have the
same rules for all prisoners - you have to fulfill a daily quota: 10 units
(pieces) per each level in the Mining profession. Anything above that you can
sell to Rine. Meals are twice per day, in the morning and in the evening. Water
can be found in the mine. Questions? No
questions! You're free to go!"
The heaviness fell off me and I was again the master of my own body.
As I got up, I looked at the orc, who already forgot that I was there as he
studied another document. Damn, you can't end a conversation on such a note. I
have to ask him about something, but what? About the mine? He'll immediately
send me to Rine. About getting out of here? He'll say that it's possible once I
paid 100 million gold. What can I ask? Right, hang on a moment! I'm a Jeweler!
"If I find a Precious Stone, who do I give it to? Am I able to
work it by myself?" I asked the governor, as the overseer started to push
me out of the room. I only knew enough of mining to ask a stupid question of
this kind. Barliona's developers played the following joke on Jewelers: the
Uncut Precious Stones could not be simply bought from NPCs, who only resold
stones that had already been worked. Jewels have very low drop rate when
killing mobs and can otherwise only be obtained from ore veins or from ore processing. There were no other places
to get hold of Precious Stones. With my Hunter I was lucky enough to glimpse, a
couple of times, how people picked up pieces of Topaz or Ruby from loot dropped
by high level mobs. There were no such mobs around here and I had little idea of
what sifting through the ore involved; it probably required certain tools.
However, obtaining a Precious Stone from a vein seemed quite possible. At least
in my view.
A silence descended on the room. Even my escort stopped breathing
and looked his boss.
"We have many stones, as you well noted," he replied, and
I wondered if the governor could be brought to a state of rage. He seemed as
calm as a python. Suddenly, as if hearing my thoughts, the orc smiled:
"But if you find a Precious Stone among them, for each one I would
personally record a day's quota of ore next to your name. One stone - one
quota. As for processing them... You're a Jeweler, so if you find a precious
stone, you'll be given a recipe for its cutting. Or you could go to Rine, who
won't cheat you with the price. So, Ore Miner Mahan, the Conqueror of Imitators
and Hunter for Precious Stones, go for it. It's all in your hands and in your
pick," the orc leant back in his armchair, which had a strong resemblance
to a throne, and continued to smile.
A message appeared before my eyes:
Your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards
has increased by 10 points. Current level: Neutral.
Whew! I had been all but crestfallen when stripped of those ten
reputation points. Incurring such a loss on the first day was very stupid,
considering my plans to leave the mine. I had to be more careful with Rine: the
last thing I wanted was to run up any losses with him. I turned around and was
taken by the overseer to see Rine.
I discovered that he was a dwarf, working some piece of metal with a
hammer in the smithy nearby. He was about a meter-twenty, stocky and compact,
with powerful arms and thick eyebrows, which hung over keen sparkly eyes and a
potato of a nose. A pretty typical dwarf, whose like I'd met many times across
Barliona. As I approached Rine, I laughed to myself: what else would a dwarf do
other than work in a smithy or mine ore?
"I see that reinforcements have arrived," said Rine in a
businesslike manner, looking me over head to toe. "Very good, we were getting
short-handed. So, you want to learn to swing the pick and not take your legs
off by accident?"
Taught by the harsh experience with the mine governor I replied
"That's right, honorable master Rine, I'm going to be a mine
worker for the next eight years, so I would be grateful to receive a grain of
your wisdom and experience in mining ore," I said with all the charm I
"I have enough experience, as you well noted," mumbled the
dwarf, looking pleased, "teaching you to mine ore isn't hard - just
remember not to hit your legs with the pick and the rest is simple. Look — here
is a vein of Copper Ore, which you will have to mine." Suddenly a rock
pile with some kind of nodules appeared next to the dwarf.
"You take the pick and start to hit this," the dwarf
continued. "Don't just stand there! Grab your pick and start hitting the
pile of rocks."
"What happens to those who refuse to work? Or to those who fail
to meet the daily quota and simply sit and rest?" I asked as I slowly
approached the rock pile.
"Those are dealt with simply: no daily quota - no food. You
spend a day without food and your body begins to eat itself. Few could stand
the pain of their own stomach beginning to self-digest. Then comes death and a
respawn back here in the mines. And this will repeat until the prisoner starts
to work like everyone else. In my memory, the toughest prisoner could endure
four such respawns. Then he broke. They say that the sensations from your own
death are no laughing matter. You want to try starving? No? Then, like I said,
grab the pick and start mining the ore," said the dwarf matter-of-factly.
I came up to the meter-high pile of stones, which the dwarf for some
reason called a Copper Vein, took a swing and hit it, putting all of my pent-up
anger behind it, trying to get it over and done with in one blow. The hit
generated a flurry of sparks and the pick, rebounding from the rocks, hit me
quite painfully on the leg. This didn't seem to lay a scratch on the Copper
Vein, which stood there as a hostile witness to my total ineptitude as a miner.
"Copper-banging bastard," I whispered in pain, "that
bites!" Somewhere on the edge of my vision flashed a message:
Damage taken. Hit Points reduced by 5: 11
(weapon damage + strength) - 6 (armor). Total: 35 of 40.
"Er-hem..." coughed the dwarf. "I see it's not
exactly working for you, is it? Your pick really showed you. Don't get too
carried away with hitting the pile. This isn't Mithril ore, all you need is a
little force. Easy does it — go at it bit by bit and aim better. You have
to hit between the rocks. What's the point of hitting the stone itself?"
So, being a miner is not all that easy. In my past life, as I now
call the days when I was playing my Hunter, I spent most of my time shooting
mobs rather than gathering resources. After all, few people actually bother
with the latter, since there are prisoners like myself doing the job for them.
Some of us mine ore, some gather herbs, some do something else: there are many
prisoners who have plenty of work to get through. Virtually 90 percent of all
resources in Barliona is gathered by prisoners.
So, I had to hit between the stones, instead of going at them
directly and do it with a moderate force, which, at the same time, should not
be too weak. All right, let's try it. I lifted the pick once again, found a
place where two stones touched each other and went for it. This time my blow
went home - the pick did not bounce off, but got firmly lodged between the
"That's it," said the dwarf, looking satisfied. "Now
you understand what I mean. Well done lad. Now you must loosen the stone and
continue as you started."
I took out the pick with some difficulty and started to level a blow
after blow. The first thirty blows came easily. I'm an ore digger, a real
miner! I will get through the daily ore quota right now and the rest will be
just for me. I will mine money, will gain Respect and will soon be free and
wealthy too! The next thirty strokes were more difficult, but I still continued
to see myself as a successful ore miner. But my plans for enrichment were
waving a white flag in farewell, and a funeral march began to play somewhere
inside my head.
In about two hundred blows I only managed to break off a few stones and
understood that I wouldn't be earning enough money from the ore. The pile
continued to stand there just as before. And if the dwarf was right, I had to
make just four hundred more blows to get to the finish line. Just! My hands
were shaking and barely able to hold the pick, sweat covered my eyes, my legs
were bending beneath me, but there was still a lot of work to do. Insistent
flashing of some message at the edge of my view was beginning to annoy me, so I
moved it in front of my eyes to read it properly. It made me somewhat
You are tired. Current level of Energy: 35
You hit points have been reduced by 4.
Total: 31 of 40.
"You're not getting tired, are you?" the dwarf suddenly
asked me. "That's normal. Look at how much you've got through. Here, have
a drink," and he gave me a large cup with water. The cup looked like it
had seen better days: it was dirty and covered in some kind of stains, but,
reluctant to disappoint Rine, I took it and carefully tried its contents. As I
took the first draught I felt as if I was struck by electricity - the water
invigorated and cooled me and renewed my desire to keep going. I drank the
whole cup almost immediately, noting to myself in surprise that ordinary water
could be a source of such great pleasure. Before I had to use special
extortionately priced elixirs for the same purpose. But here you had simple
water... As a bonus a message appeared:
You restored your Hit Points. Total: 40 of
You restored the level of Energy. Total:
100 of 100.
And so I kept working, swinging the pick and drinking the water in
turn. After three hours of such work the pile was in pieces, leaving several
modestly-sized reddish rocks in its place. So, here it is - Copper Ore.
"At last," mumbled the dwarf. "I nearly fell asleep
here. This here is your ore. As you see, you've got five pieces, which is half
of your daily quota. The more ore you mine, the quicker you will level up your
skill and the less time you'll have to spend on each vein. So, from now on you
are an official ore miner, and now you can see how much durability the vein
retains. Useful to know as you work. Here is a sack for your diggings. It might be small, but it will do for a
Straight away I saw a message:
You gained the "Mining"
profession. Current level 1
You received an object: Small mining sack
(8 slots. Total free: 8)
Attention! No Achievements can be gained
in the "Pryke Copper Mine".
I put the sack over my shoulder and we went down into mine, where
Rine showed me the site where I would be working from tomorrow. At last I could
get a view of the place without the cloud of dust. The fence separating the
barracks from the mine had several entrances, which the workers used to get to
their designated sections. The territory was divided into squares about twenty
meters across, with an entrance on one of the sides. All the other sides of the
square were made up of piles of rock about a meter and a half in height and
entering a section through them wasn't exactly effortless. Small paths ran between
the sections and overseers walked up and down them at a leisurely pace. I later
discovered that the sections could only be accessed by their owners and by
those to whom they granted permission. Anyone else was simply unable to enter.
As we walked across my section we passed prisoners at work, who gave me
appraising looks, and I noticed with surprise that there was neither disdain
nor aggression in their eyes. Strange; prisoners do not usually behave like
this. Something wasn't right here. I made a note to myself that I would look
into this. My section was located all the way at the end of the mine, but it
contained as many as twenty Copper Veins. Was this many or few, I wondered.
"This is where you'll be working," said the dwarf.
"Twenty veins will last you a good while. The veins are renewed every day,
so you should have enough work for the next year. Water is over there."
Rine pointed somewhere towards the middle of the mine. "Your neighbors
won't bother you, everyone here is well-behaved. I think I told you what you
need to get started. But ask if you have any questions, I could have left
I had no desire to ask about ore mining (I'd figure it out as I
worked), but I had to ask something. I decided to ask him about my profession.
Jewelcraft skills were locked for me for the time being — I
needed a trainer in order to unlock them and to tell me what I should do with
them and how. But where would I find one in a mine? Perhaps the dwarf could
"Honorable Master Rine," I began, trying to fill my voice
with as much esteem and respect as possible, "I was designated the
profession of a Jeweler, so I would like to know if you have someone in the
mine who could teach me this profession, so it isn't wasted."
"A Jeweler, you say?" the dwarf smiled. "We only have
industrial artisans working here: an Artist, a Sculptor and a Glass-blower; we
even have a Woodcarver. But we've not had a Jeweler yet. You've seen our boss's
den, right? It was decorated by the local prisoners. As far as you're concerned,
I could be the one to teach you the basic Jewelcraft skill, but for the time
being you should forget about it. I won't do it for free and you have no money
on you yet. Once you start making regular earnings from selling ore, then we
can talk. By the way, I buy the ore at 10 copper coins per unit and in order
for you to learn the cheapest Jewelcraft recipe you need 10 silver coins. You
can do the maths. And don't forget: In order to learn Jewelcraft, you first
need to unlock it, for which you will need another 20 silver coins. And at 1
gold Jeweler’s tools aren't cheap
either. Now you have an idea of how long it would take you to become a Jeweler.
I’ll be going now: I've
spent enough time on you as it is. There is no need for you to eat today, so I
advise you to get a good rest. In the next eight years you won't be getting
much of it. And don't be late getting up in the morning: the food is only
served for two hours after the wake-up call."