Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New LitRPG series Dark Herbalist by M. Atamanov

Video Game Plotline Tester

a novel
by Michael Atamanov

The Dark Herbalist

AVE YOU EVER PLAYED Boundless Realm before?" The interview started off with the question I was most dreading.
In the job posting, there had been a rather unambiguous requirement that I must have: "Never played the game before." I suspect that, if I had answered "yes," the interview would have ended as quickly as it had begun.
"And have you played any other popular online games, uh... Timur?" The middle-aged HR employee interviewing me, clearly tired at the end of a long work day, finally took the pains to glance at my resume and read my name from the screen.
"Yes, of course. I've been a gamer for about six years now. I used to play Kingdoms of Sword and Magic fairly actively."
"Gamer..." The computer term, it seemed, was not to his taste. The man furrowed his brow in dismay. "And how did you do in our competitor's game? What were you able to achieve, Timur?"
Should I tell the truth? Or would it be dumb to expose such a fact about myself to this total stranger? I decided to risk it:
"For the last five years, it has been my only source of income. I didn't earn a luxury yacht or a villa on a tropical island or anything, of course, but it was more than enough to feed myself and pay my way through college."
"Why do you say, 'of course' there was no yacht?" I was surprised to note that the man began laughing. "The top players from Boundless Realm are doing quite well enough for a simple ocean-going vessel. But as far as I know, in KSM, withdrawing game money was against the rules. Would you care to tell me more about that, Timur?"
I guess I chose wrong. I shouldn't have said anything. Was that the end? Would I be sent on my way? But the man didn't insist on an answer. Instead, he asked a different question entirely:
"Then why did you leave KSM? Though, I guess we can skip past that question. The answer is obvious. The number of active players fell as players started coming over to the more realistic and entertaining Boundless Realm. The money must have simply dried up."
I just nodded in silence, as I really didn't have anything to add. The times when our clan could gather five or even seven thousand gamers for PVP raids into enemy territory or to take down superbosses were long gone. Yesterday, we had barely been able to scrape together fifteen players for an assault on an enemy castle, and three of them were noobs who'd only been in the game for a week. And yet we... took the castle! The only defender from the enemy clan who remained actually seemed glad to be rid of the burden, wishing us happy gaming, and trying to unload his account on us, as he was preparing to leave for Boundless Realm.
That was when I decided once and for all that the time had come to ditch that sinking ship before the competition put it on the bottom of the sea. It was a huge shame to see all the money I'd put into the game go down the drain, though. At one point, I'd had to sell the apartment left to me after the death of my parents to pay for my sister's medical treatments. A large part of the money left over from that I had invested in virtual property near one of Kingdom's capital cities. At that time, there were more daily active users in Kingdoms of Sword and Magic every day, so the purchase had seemed a sound investment. Who could have foreseen that, literally two weeks after that risky acquisition, the theretofore unknown company Boundless Realm would launch their own game servers? And could anyone have foreseen that said company would become the largest and richest corporation on Earth within three years, pulling hundreds of millions of gamers from all over the globe into their devastatingly realistic world? Now, the value of my virtual property in Kingdoms had fallen so severely that it couldn't even justify the time I had put into building it.
The HR employee spent a few minutes reading my resume more closely, then raised his eyes to me and said with a smile:
"A level-three-hundred-ten Human Paladin, a level-two-hundred-seventy Drow Bowman, a level-one-hundred-ninety Half-Elf Mage... Not bad, not bad at all. So Timur, have you been made aware that in Boundless Realm, a player can only have one character, and changing or deleting it is not possible? It's the only way to make sure our players truly mesh and sympathize with their characters as we would like. It allows them to perceive the game world as true reality."
I just nodded in silence. How could I not have known...? That was the thing that had most confused me since I first saw an advertisement for Boundless Realm game tester positions online. The problem was that I had already tried to play Boundless Realm. But that was over three years ago. At that time, it was still just an open beta, and it had seemed a bit "undercooked" for my tastes. There weren't any training scenarios, guides or in-game hints yet. The rendering of the place I had landed seemed merely schematic. There were no "glorious beckoning horizons," or "enchantingly real sunsets," as modern billboards now proclaimed. At that time, Boundless Realm had nothing of the sort.
And also, I had only played for seven minutes. I made myself a level-one Barbarian, took a two-handed ax, left the noob area and right next to the village came face-to-face with a group of Vampire Bats that were level seventy or so. They took me down in one second. The game told me I'd have to wait a whole hour to come back at the respawn point, so I just cursed at the imbalance and deleted the half-baked game from my computer. But now, I was hoping very much that my unsuccessful past experience would not be influencing my ability to work as a "Video Game Plotline Tester," as the official job notice called the position I was now interviewing for.
"What can I say, Timur? You really do have a lot of video-game experience, no health issues, and you seem like a fairly well adjusted person. I don't see any real obstacles to your employment with our corporation." The man smiled at me again, extended a computer tablet with an interview survey, and told me to find a seat in the small room next door where the testing and later introductory meeting was supposed to take place.
I went into the room, got out my cell phone and, pretending to take a selfie on the backdrop of a cool advertising sign with a blue water dragon, sent a message:
"I passed the interview."
Almost instantly, my phone started vibrating nearly imperceptibly. It was the reply:
"No hurry, but tell me what they offered you. I'll wade through the forums and try to figure some stuff out."
Then I found a chair, and on the screen of the tablet given to me by a corporation employee, started making ticks in the boxes, answering the many questions about my health, family life, criminal history and bad habits. The second half of the survey turned out to be of a totally different type, clearly aimed at determining the game character best suited to my personality.
Next to me, there were other job seekers mashing away at their tablets. They were primarily men and women just as young as me, though there were also older people, and even some elderly. Fairly quickly, I built an impression of my future work environment. Students who had been expelled for truancy or failing grades, office workers subjected to downsizing, down-on-their-luck stock brokers, hopeless gaming addicts, retirees despairing at the lack of normal employment available... To generalize, the people sitting around me were losers, who hadn't managed to find themselves a place in the real world that was precisely how I would characterize my fellow job seekers.
I didn't consider myself a loser, though I could agree that I fit into the group very organically. I was already twenty-two years old, but I didn't have a job, a girlfriend, money, or even a place of my own. So it wasn't really clear what separated me from them. I had a good head on my shoulders. I'd graduated from college with a degree in Research Chemistry. I was capable of holding a conversation. Nature had blessed me with a pleasant appearance and I was a fairly capable athlete as well. I found it easy to get along with women, but for some reason all my girlfriends had left me for other guys. And when they found out I had to take care of my disabled sister, who couldn't walk, they couldn’t get away fast enough. That was a shame, but I would never have agreed to trade in my younger sister for some painted doll.
My sister Valeria was eleven when the flying car our father was driving had crashed at full speed into a thief trying to escape the police. On impact, and after the resulting fall of the totaled vehicle from thirty meters in the air, my mother and father had died, and my younger sister lost both legs and got a large number of fractures and other injuries. And though the police had declared my father innocent in the crash, that didn't make it any easier I had to sell the apartment they left me in their will to pay for Val’s treatment and other expenses. It was in a good neighborhood, as well.
For my sister's sake, I gave up not only my parents, but also friends, psychologists and the rest of the world. It was hardest of all right after the accident. The tormented Valeria couldn't see a reason to exist. Many times, she asked me to give her the strongest sleeping pills I could find so she could sleep forever. I tried my best to convince my sister not to commit suicide, and day after day found her new reason's to live. The first thing we discovered that brought her any joy was going on walks. We lived near a large park, and it was nice there. But after that, we were forced to move from the center of the megalopolis due to lack of funds, and took up residence in the outskirts of town. After that, the walks stopped on Val’s own request. It was unbearably painful for my sister to hear the jokes and laughter of the neighborhood kids, who would laugh and throw stones at the crippled girl.
Her new way of venting, allowing her to forget for a time about her own physical handicap, became the virtual worlds of computer games. But that way of passing time didn't really bring us much money, in fact it was more the other way around. The situation became especially dismal in the last months, when the game world she'd chosen a few years earlier, Kingdoms of Sword and Magic, began to show obvious signs of giving out...
I shook my head, chasing away the sad thoughts, and returned to the survey. After breezing through the questions, I stopped at the very last point: "Desired method of payment." There were two options: fixed monthly income or the ability to withdraw game currency and exchange it for real money. In Boundless Realm, as in the majority of MMO's, it was normally only allowed to give money to the company. You could put real money into the game, but not the other way around. An exception was made only for employees of the corporation, to whom that rule didn't apply. The virtual currency they withdrew from the game was how they got paid for their work.
As for me, that possibility was the very reason I was now striving to find work at the Boundless Realm corporation. I mean, it was clear that none of the pitiable losers gathered in this room could hope for good income from a real company. That said, with a legal method of turning game money into real money... There was no telling what could happen. My character could become rich in the game, for example. A that would immediately solve my financial problems in real life as well. As such, my sister and I had a perfect understanding that, for every person that got lucky, there were thousands of people who made the wrong choice and would just be pouring their blood sweat and tears into the corporation for what would almost certainly amount to less than the minimum salary. But we had made our choice, and it was a conscious, shared decision.
I was nudged by a middle aged chubby woman sitting next to me. She looked like a typical accountant. The woman got to a question about "charisma," and asked all the people sitting near her in a loud whisper what that word even meant. I couldn't make out what the guy sitting opposite her said. He was clearly trying his best to make a serious facial expression though, and the woman grew a dark shade of red and began entering text on the tablet with the speed of a printer, covering what she wrote with her left hand. I shook my head. No, these kind of people were definitely no competition. So I decisively marked the option "withdraw game currency."
Alright, decision made. There was no going back now. All the same, I tried to cast off the creeping sensation of dread coming from my empty bank account. And it wasn’t just that I had no money. I also had a past-due loan with penalties slowly accumulating on top of it. If I couldn't pay off at least part of that loan in the next few weeks, the bank might block my card. Beyond that, my sister and I hadn't paid rent for three months. Our landlady was already threatening to evict us. It would be very, very hard to get by without a stable salary.
But I still decided to take the risk, just as I had when buying in-game property in Kingdoms of Sword and Magic. But this time, I wasn't just betting a two-bedroom apartment in a prestigious neighborhood of a huge city, but everything my sister and I had left.

* * *

An elegantly dressed swarthy man with dark curly hair walked out onto the small stage. "My name is Alexandro Lavrius. I am director of special projects for the Boundless Realm corporation. And you all have been selected to work on the front lines of just such a project as videogame plotline testers. What's wrong with the microphone?"
And in fact, the microphone was giving off a horrible screeching sound, making my ears ring. The director's young assistant, looking afraid, scurried nimbly out onto the stage, and adjusted the microphone attached to Alexandro's collar. The director cast a very unhappy gaze at his subordinate, promising the girl a chewing out, and continued:
"Alright, now that's out of the way. So then, first a short introduction. The virtual Boundless Realm you will come to occupy is in fact quite large in scale. It’s not actually boundless, though, as you might think from the name, but still it is quite substantial in size. It is already larger than the actual earth, so you can travel around and discover new interesting locations in a practically limitless way. Right now, there are around two hundred forty million players in Boundless Realm, and that number continues to grow by two to three million every month. You'd think our corporation would be proud of that, and simply sit back on their laurels, raking in the cash. But our management is constantly dreaming up newer and more grandiose plans, and the development of the game is still in full swing. All that said, the planning department saw certain risks in the medium-term future and our directors agreed with the threat assessment.
We see two main problems. The first is that, despite the abundance of different races in Boundless Realm, and their unique characteristics, seventy-eight percent of players choose to play as Humans. That is a clear imbalance. And if you consider that another seventeen percent play as different types of Elves and Half-Elves, while three percent are Dwarves, then we see straight to the root of the problem. Those who chose one of the other selectable races, and there are over one hundred of them, account for just two percent of players.
The reasons for this disparity are many. Not least of all is that potential new players have practically no positive interesting examples of gamers using the less popular races. And this is at the fact that the game forums are full of the most detailed guides on Human Paladins, Wood-Elf Bowmen, Drow Mages and Half-Elf Assassins. There's nothing surprising in the fact that new players are afraid to take an untested path and choose exactly the races and classes, for whom the path is completely mapped-out and has been studied in the greatest detail. As a result, yet another Human Paladin, Elf Bowman or Drow Necromancer will enter the game, and the world is already overflowing with them. Our users are justifiably losing their sense of uniqueness and their interest in the game, because every day they meet several exact copies of their character.
The second problem is choosing a place to live. Before the gamers, there stretches out a truly Boundless Realm, which can be expanded even further whenever necessary. All the same, the currently existing map is hardly being used: ninety percent of players live in just a few huge megalopolises or near them. The reasons for such overcrowding are also many, but above all, they are economic. Resources are available in the cities, money circulates in the cities, and there are banks where the players can keep their resources safe in the cities. That is why, despite the high property values and expensive resources there, players still come in droves to live in the cities. Millions of beautiful locations, created by talented designers and teeming with unique missions and local inhabitants are sitting around unused. And what is more, we are becoming aware of a growing dismay among players, who feel that 'there's nothing new to figure out and it's getting boring.'
Why am I telling you all this? As many have probably already realized, none of you will be allowed to choose either Human or Elf characters, and none of you will be becoming yet another Knight or Bowman. What’s more, you will spawn in the game in far-off wildernesses, and getting to inhabited locations from there will be very, very problematic. Also, such a move would be looked on with strong disapproval by our company. You will all have an alternative start to the game. It will make encountering dangers and difficulties a near certainty, and that is no accident. Our test groups have shown that successfully overcoming trying situations is the very anchor that holds our players in the game world. With time, we hope to make such locations the normal starting locations for all newbies, so one of your missions will be checking if it is possible to survive and level up your character in these fairly challenging conditions.
 Your group is one of many chosen in the previous weeks to attempt new atypical solutions and combinations, taking bumps and bruises along the way. But at that, you will make interesting guides that describe eloquently the virtues of playing unusual races, classes and professions. I warn you now: few of you will pass the trial period and be hired on permanently, as our corporation only needs the truly creative personalities and unique stories that cause a keen response among existing and potential players. But, even if you don't pass the trial period, this will be an invaluable experience for all of you in this field, and also an excellent opportunity to immerse all your senses in Boundless Realm through the most modern technologies.
Now, you will be given your assigned character cards, which the system automatically chose for you based on today’s test results. After that, you will have time to ask questions to my assistants. Then, you will have to go to the HR department before the end of the business day and fill out work contracts, and you will be able to start work in-game beginning tomorrow."
"Can we start playing today?" The question came from a chubby boy, whose pale face was abundantly smattered with the pimples of adolescence.
Alexandro Lavrius, looked over us at the clock on the wall, then quietly asked something to his young assistant, after which he answered:
"You can only start working after you’ve signed a contract. Also, don't forget that it is currently around four in the afternoon in Boundless Realm, and it gets dark at nine. You're going to be going to the HR department, shown to your desk and given instructions on working the virtual-reality capsule. You'll then have to create a character, start the training missions and get out into the main world... You won't have very much time to find a safe place to spend the night. Night in Boundless Realm, outside the cities and other safe locations is a very, very harsh and dangerous time. It is highly likely that you would be eaten by monsters. If that were to happen, you would lose some of the experience you gained and a whole hour for respawn. But, if you want to risk it and start work today, I don't see why not. If you are able to survive the first night, it will be a useful experience for you and will have a positive effect on your further career as a tester."

* * *

A GOBLIN HERBALIST??? With incomprehension I looked at the card handed to me. I even took out my smartphone to look up information about Goblins in Boundless Realm. The first link rewarded me with the following text, taken from a forum on the game:
"Goblins are vile little bastards who play mean tricks, steal vegetables from gardens, and attack lone travelers. Fortunately, Goblins are very weak, so even a total noob can handle them. Sometimes, you find entire Goblin villages. They are decent sources of experience, and an easy way for beginner characters to level themselves up. It isn't clear why, but the developers made this NPC race available to players. I would personally find it hard to imagine someone dumb enough to choose this green abomination, especially considering the very restrictive penalties to Intelligence and Strength this race has, which make it practically impossible for a Goblin character to be a decent Mage or Warrior. Purely theoretically, I could imagine a Goblin player as a bowman or a crossbowman due to their bonuses to Agility and Perception, but I've never met someone disturbed enough to try, as the various types of Elves have even stronger bonuses to the same. Oh yeah, these green freaks also have a significant penalty to relation with humans, so Goblins won't be able to go to normal game locations by default."
Given that any beginning player would see such a text, if they were considering playing as a Goblin, how were the developers of Boundless Realm actually surprised that no one wanted to play this race?!
The person who wrote the text was called Overgrown Woodsman, a level two hundred four Human Druid, according to his forum account. For curiosity's sake, I read through the next seven links from the search engine as well, but everywhere I looked, I found the same unappealing information. I sent my sister a message about the character I'd been stuck with, and continued looking intensely into guides on Goblins and Herbalism.
I was distracted from the reading by a strange sound nearby. I raised my head. The director was long gone, and now the very same old accountant lady who had earlier asked about charisma was arguing with his assistant.
"What seems to be the matter with the character the system assigned to you?" The employee asked in a calm, even boring voice.
"What seems to be the matter?! The fact that I'm a Dryad Dancer! I saw on the game forums that Dryads don't wear clothes! Absolutely horrible! I was looking for normal work in an office, even if maybe the schedule would be a bit wonky, but I never wanted to work as a stripper!"
The director's assistant, after the incident with the microphone, was already on edge, so she didn't even try to hide her annoyance now:
"The system determined that this character would be optimal for you. But if the choice offered isn't to your liking, I have to tell you that you did not pass the trial period and will be first to leave the group..."
I noticed a mocking grin pass over the face of the boy who had earlier told her about the meaning of charisma. The system's strange choice had probably been the result of his intentionally bad hint. The assistant outstretched her hand demandingly, preparing to take the character card from the lady's hand, but just then a young woman's voice rang out from the back rows:
"Wait! Could I trade characters with her?" A pretty girl with a good figure and hair in a long dark chestnut braid down to her belt stood from her place and started off toward the stage. "I have also already looked at the introductory information on Dryads. They really do not have equipment slots other than for rings and bracelets, but all that is compensated by other racial bonuses. Also, the Dancer class makes a good combination with the strong sides of Dryads attractiveness, charm, huge bonuses to reaction of any member of the opposite sex."
The director's assistant agreed:
"That's exactly right. It's a good part to play, and an easy character to gain experience with. Also, the path of a Dryad Dancer is very unusual. There isn't a single normal guide on it, and successful leveling up of such a character practically guarantees that you would pass the trial period."
The accountant cringed and muttered in dismay:
"Let's just see what kind of filth they tried to push on you... It could hardly be worse than a naked dancer." She took the thick card from the girl's hand and read. "Oh! Yes! Yes! Gremlin Banker! This is the role I've been dreaming of my whole life!"
The middle aged woman practically kissed the pretty girl that traded cards with her and agreed to become a Dryad Dancer. After that, exclamations could be heard from all sides of the room:
"Would someone want to trade for a Troll Cannibal?"
"I'll trade a Hobgoblin Trickster for any other class!"
"Does anyone want an Orc Astrologer? I'll trade for any melee character!"
Not waiting for the end of the freak show, I stood up and headed for the HR department. A Goblin Herbalist was actually pretty cool. I was totally OK with my character.

* * *

THOUGH I TRIED not to show my emotions, I was under a strong impression from the splendor and magnificence of the corporation. The Boundless Realm company had a huge skyscraper, which seemed to have many underground floors as well. Some the elevator passed didn’t even have buttons on the panel. But through the transparent glass doors, I could see well-equipped armed guards wearing body armor and gas masks. As the kindly technician by the name of Artyom leading me said, these underground floors were off limits to us mere mortals. They contained the holiest of holies: the game world's servers, which were harder to gain access to than a bank vault full of gold. These technical floors were crammed with an endless number of security systems and filled with poison gas to make sure any malefactors wouldn't even think of trying to get inside.
After that, without stopping, we walked through the underground garages, filled with luxury vehicles and planes. The elevator doors opened on the testing department's floor, and I gazed upon IT: a huge room that stretched out to infinity with a great many high raised walkways lined with rows of externally identical small cubicles. Artyom and I walked down one of the long trestles and stopped before a semi-transparent door. I stared blankly at the writing on it: "4-16A."
"Fourth floor, side A, cubicle sixteen. This is where you'll be working. Go in, get your bearings and take off your jacket." My guide did not go inside, but pointed me to a chair and a hanger on the wall. "Every cubicle has a pullout desk and a built in refrigerator, so you will be able to store food here and have snacks before work. Up here, there is a set of restrooms every fifty cubicles, and at either end of the walkway, there are also shower rooms. But you should know that there are only two showers per row of three hundred, so don't count on them being free, especially in the evening near the end of a shift. Alright then, best wishes to you. And have a great day gaming!"
Artyom said the last sentence to a beautiful, and I would even say chic lady with luxurious red hair and a proud look who walked past my cubicle. She was wearing a long emerald green dress and high-heeled shoes, a hat with a wide brim, and gemstone rings, which gleamed up at me from her fingers. The beauty didn't stop to look at Artyom. It seemed she didn't even notice me. She walked another fifteen meters, then stopped before a standard door the same as mine. She beeped in with her electronic key, and the mystery girl ducked into her cubicle.
"Who was that?" I asked the stick-straight technician at half voice.
Artyom shuddered and returned to the real world.
"Who? How am I supposed to know? She works here. She comes around in the evening, and only leaves in the morning. She must play some kind of night character. Clearly, she is a good player and makes good money. Once, I saw her parking in the underground garage. She drives a luxury sports car so nice I'd never be able to afford it if I saved up for the rest of my life. But I have no idea what character she actually plays. We cannot see your game avatars, we just help you set up the technology. Generally, though, elite gamers get their own offices on the upper floors of the building, but she must find it more comfortable to come down here from the underground garage. Alright, I'm getting off track. Get undressed, I'll size you for a sensor suit and helmet."
The door had just closed behind Artyom when I got out my phone and told my sister that I was ready.
"Call up the console on the screen and tell me the number of your virtual reality capsule and game session. I'll try to link in."
 I typed a technical command into the keyboard and took a picture on my phone camera of the information she requested.
"Wait five minutes. Let's start at the same time."
I put on the suit, which was bristling with electrodes and lay down in the virtual reality capsule. Looking at the timer shown on the small monitor, I waited five minutes, then closed the lid of the virtual reality capsule, cutting myself off from the real world. The screen before my eyes lit up...

* * *

Damage taken: 2757 hitpoints (Cursed Bat bite)
You have died

* * *

WHAT THE HELL?! The message jumped in immediately. The image had hardly even loaded yet. The message slowly faded, then I found myself in darkness again. A minute went by, then another, and maybe a few more. Nothing happened. So that was it? There was no game interface, nor any other menu windows, just pitch black all around. Something must have gone wrong. Bats! That was right! They were the last thing I saw during my short game as a Barbarian. That meant I would now be dragged from my capsule and fired for lying in the first interview question.
The world suddenly lit back up, and the character creation window came onscreen. Yikes, I made it by the skin of my teeth. So, what was I seeing? A level-one Goblin Herbalist. I couldn't change race or class.
Character name: Amra.
Here I was again overcome by a cold sweat. When I made the Barbarian, my first move had been to try to give him the name "Conan," in honor of the famous television barbarian, but the name was taken. Then I checked the name of another famous hero Amra, and it was free. Insofar as I had been able to familiarize myself with the changes in game rules that had taken place over the past three years, the name of any character in the game now had to be made of two words: "Tony Blackheart," "Ahmed Slinking_Filth," "Ellie Very_Pretty." Things like that. But I still had the old kind of name, and what was more, it was only four letters long...
A noob with a name like that? I guess I wouldn't be "totally giving myself away," as a corporation employee. I wasn't opposed in principle, either. It was nice to be a bit unique. Now the time had come to deal with the appearance and stats.
A green face was staring at me. It was defined by huge eyes and ears of magnificent dimension. The system suggested I play around with the settings, turning this standard model of a Goblin into something more personalized and matching to my taste, but I didn't actually do that yet. As the hint told me, I would be able to change my character's appearance for free all the way up to the end of level ten, so I didn't have to rush too much with this issue. Now, another thing was much more important to me: the director Alexandro Lavrius had said that there wasn't much time left until nightfall, so I didn't want to waste a single minute on any nonsense.
Above all else, I had to figure out the bonuses and penalties for the Goblin race. Unfortunately, Overgrown Woodsman hadn't been lying about the penalties:
50% penalty to Intelligence increase rate
50% penalty to Strength increase rate
-20 penalty to relations with the following races: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Dragons
20% penalty to experience gain
The penalties were a very hard pill to swallow. I was especially unhappy with the penalty to experience gain. The negative characteristics of the Goblin race were hardly compensated by the bonuses, either:
30% bonus to Agility increase rate
30% bonus to Perception increase rate
+20 bonus to relations with the following races: Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, Ogres, Giants
+30 bonus to reaction of forest and swamp creatures
30% bonus to movement speed in forest and swamp tiles
Finally, I reached the main stats of my big-eared Goblin. Every character in Boundless Realm, whether an NPC or a real player, had only six main statistics: Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Constitution, Perception and Charisma. All in all, it was very standard and easy to understand. Strength governed the damage you could do with hand-held weapons and the maximum weight you could carry. Agility was important for ranged weapons and dodging. Intelligence allowed you to understand the properties of objects, and also determined the amount of mana and strength of spells for all kinds of magical characters. Constitution influenced the number of hitpoints and endurance points a character had. Perception defined the vision, smell and hearing of the character, as well as the chance to discover hidden objects. And finally, Charisma: a stat that determined how those around your character would relate to it.
There were several ways to raise the base stats: distribute the stat points received with every level, raise stats by leveling up primary skills, or raise them with magic objects.

0 of 100
Character level
Endurance points
Strength (S)
Agility (A)
Intelligence (I)
Constitution (C)
Perception (P)
Charisma (Ch)
Unused points
Primary skills (2 of 4 chosen)
Herbalism (P A)
Trading (Ch I)
Secondary skills (0 of 4 chosen)

The developers had assigned my character two primary skills by default: Herbalism and Trading. And though I didn't have any questions on the first one (it was, of course, hard to imagine an Herbalist who didn't have a good understanding of herbs), Trading was somewhat confusing. I wasn't able to delete Trading from my skills. Based on that, the developers had the idea that I was supposed to be some kind of little Goblin trouncing through the forest collecting bunches of herbs and selling them to local traders. So I needed the Trading skill to make sure sneaky profiteers didn't leave me with my pants down, given how stupid my character was; his Intelligence was about as high as a stool’s. I was also a bit confused by the letters in parenthesis next to the skill names, but I quickly realized that they were the statistics the character gradually built up by using that skill.
Three free stat points, how very little! Having played around a bit with the parameters, and read their descriptions, I discovered that hitpoints and endurance points only depended on the character's Constitution. Alright, I'd put one of the free points into that. The number of hitpoints grew to 21, while endurance grew to 20.
Then Agility. Based on the guide from Overgrown Woodsman, and also the Goblin race bonuses, it was Agility precisely that would become the main determinant of my big-eared character's success. I'd put two points there, bringing it up to four. That seemed to be all. Although... At the very last moment, when I already was preparing to start the game, I decided I couldn't bear the very low Intelligence of my Goblin. In the description of the stat, it was directly stated that Intelligence lower than three meant I couldn't even speak plainly or understand normal speech. So then, my Goblin couldn’t even talk normally with other players or NPC's and would not understand his missions or hints. I lowered Charisma to the minimum (he already wasn't a beauty, but he became a downright monstrosity) and moved that point over to Intelligence.

 Now I really was done. Time to go!

A new LitRPG series from Michael Atamanov, the bestselling author of Perimeter Defense! Video Game Plotline Tester (Book One of The Dark Herbalist series) is available for preorder on Amazon.
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