《The Butcher of Gadobhra》Chapter 18: A knock on the Door.


"OMG, this is awesome. Do you see all the stuff we can choose from? I had no idea this shit was in the game." Rolly hadn't calmed down for half an hour after reading the various abilities that could be purchased with Core Skill Points.

"I see, I see." Ben was on his fifth piece of charcoal from the hearth, making notes on the walls as he read through the long list of abilities. "I'm also confused by some of these. And some of the implications."

Suzette had already chosen her abilities and was kicking back with another bottle of wine and some of the snacks. She'd always had a good feel for her characters and made decisions quickly. Possibly not the most optimal for some builds, but screw that; she wanted to like her character and enjoy playing. She found that a quick wit and nice smile could also get you ahead faster sometimes than just game mechanics.

As usual when presented with a large amount of new information, Ozzy was brooding. He was of the opinion that if something seemed to good to be true, it needed more looking at. Something was off, and while he had suspicions, he needed more information.

"How much money does anyone have left? I need 1 SP to access the Global Net."

They all looked at each other then shrugged. Ozzy had tossed a bunch of gear their way from money he got in the real world. No one minded giving some back. That, and there was probably a good reason. He wasn't real talkative when in this mood unless you asked direct questions.

"8 copper"

"37 copper"

"Uh, none, and I'm in debt to the bar for a smallish amount."

"Not unexpected, Rolly, but that's enough. I have 57 copper left in my account. Transfer it all to me. I'm going to log into the GDN and see if I can find a good source of info on Core Skills and Points."

Less than a minute later the four of them had alcoholic beverages in hand and were watching the opening scene of a recent datacast.

"Welcome back folks to another great Vidcast about our favorite topic: Genesis Engine, brought to you by your favorite recreational beverage: Bludgeon Brew! Grab a couple of cold Bluds and kick back while we talk some numbers. I'm here with my favorite punching bag, Darkdeath54..."

"Wow. Knuckles is still gaming? He's old as dirt."

"And that shit beer he keeps tossing adverts for tastes like dirt."

"Quiet, time is money here, we need to get info on things."

A short time later they were even more confused.

"So players get Core Skill Points like we did. They get them from killing bosses, which we did. But their list of options is much different. Granted, that list was for Warrirors and obviously other guildhalls will have other options. But I saw the same perks on both lists, and ours were cheaper." Ben had tried to copy down the list while Ozzy paused the vidcast and was now comparing his charcoal scribblings to the list in his interface.

"Yes, definitely cheaper in a lot of ways. And we have options that they'd kill for. All those extra Health on a tank? Huge advantage. Ironic though, we have a better list, but won't have all the points players get from killing bosses to take advantage of it."

Rolly was fairly drunk at this point. He had pondered the question of whether getting drunk while you were dead could carry over until you respawned. Being drunk would make getting through a couple of hours of Death De-buffs a lot easier.


"Hell, give me a couple hundred points to spend on those abilities and I'll be a boss." He stomped around the room, arms out stretched. "Oh no! it's the dreaded Rollyboss, we is doomed for sure." His rampage came to an end when he tripped over a couch pillow Suzette tossed in his way. "Dammit, slain again. Probably by some little tailor."

Ozzy quit laughing suddenly as an idea pinged around his skull. "You know, I have a wild idea. I think that......"


Rolly was still on his back on the floor. "Someone at the door, go be a dear and answer it Benedict."

"There isn't a door to this room Rolly."

"Well, there is now Ben. Look." Sure enough, Rolly was now pointing at an oak door with brass hinges that had not been there before. The problem with really good VR at times, was you forgot where you were. Shaking his head, Ben opened the door.

The person standing at the door was immaculately dressed in a pinstriped suit and a stylish top hat. Pale leather gloves and shiny black shoes completed the look. He held a leather satchel in his left hand. He sported long sideburns but was otherwise clean shaven. His hair was the pure white that is left when old age has bleached out any natural color.

He was also only three feet tall. He tipped his hat at Ben. "Good day to you sir. Might I be given a moment of your time? I am Elgebert Coppertwist of the Law Firm Coppertwist, Fellrock, Kindfeld and Bumplasonek."

Astonished, Ben backed away from the door. "Certainly sir, won't you come in. I apologize, my friends and I were relaxing before work and did not expect anyone." Rolly quickly got off the floor and took a chair.

The gnome, for that was what he obviously was, entered the room. After hanging up his coat and hat, and doffing his gloves he took a seat. A large stack of papers were taken from the satchel, and quills and an ink fountain were placed on the table.

"All set. If you'd please just all sign your Non-Discosure Agreements, I'll be on my way."

Ozzy and Ben both sat down. Ozzy nodded at Ben. Ben looked hard at the stack of papers and at the gnome. "My apologies, but could I ask for your name again? I am Benedict, and this is Suzette, Roland, and Ozwald."

"Not a problem young man. As I said, I am Elgebert Coppertwist of the Law Firm Coppertwist, Fellrock, Kindfeld and Bumplasonek. We have law offices in Wolvesburg, Devil's Gate, Argo City, Shadowport, and of course the Imperial Capitol. My card."

Ben took the card and passed it to Ozzy. It was what it appeared to be, an expensive business card drawn in gold ink on black parchment. "And may we ask the reason for your visit, Mr. Coppertwist?"

"Certainly Benedict." He smiled at Ben.

After a long pause Ben asked, "What is the reason for your visit Mr Coppertwist?"

"As I said before, and will most likely repeat a few more times, to have you sign your names on your Non-Disclosure forms."

"And what is it we aren't supposed to disclose?"

"Sorry my boy, but I simply cannot say. I've signed a similar contract myself and cannot discuss the details."

"Then I'm afraid sir, and I speak for the group, that without a thorough reading of those huge contracts we will not be signing anything."


"I'm sorry Mr. Benedict, I thought I had made myself clear. Let me put it another way. I have brought four Non-disclosure contracts and will be witnessing your signatures on them before taking them back to our client. That part is not open to discussion or change. None of us are leaving this room until that happens." The door abruptly shut and disappeared and the computer showed a blank white screen.

Ben looked over at Ozzy and nodded. Ozzy stepped forward. "Mr. Coppertwist, I wish to ask you a number of questions that would clarify this matter. Are you open to such questions?"

"The gnome smiled warmly. "I am not. As you are neither my client, nor closely related by family, I am under no obligation to give advice. I was hired to procure your signatures."

Ozzy nodded at him in understanding. "And I am certainly not wishing for you to give such advice sir on a pro bono basis. It is doubtful that I can find myself in your family tree; my heritage seems to be going in the opposite direction. But I am in possession of the entirety of my current monetary horde, and will offer it to you in payment. Will you take myself and my friends on as clients for a short period of time for the payment of two copper coins?"

"Two copper you say? I'll be careful not to spend it all in one place. But I accept. Taking a man's last two copper in the world has a certain feeling to it. The money just feels more special."

He took out an hourglass and set it on the table. "You have until the sand runs out gentlemen and lady. I am at your service."

The gnome settled in his seat. Ozzy sat down. "What's in the contract? Why should we sign it? And what happens if we don't?"

"The contract states that you will not communicate via the Global Data Net any information you aquired today in this room. If you wish to mention such information in-game and take the chance of your employer discovering it, that is up to you. Not really a wise choice, but up to you. Actions have consequences."

"You should sign the contracts because if you don't, bad things will happen for all of us in this room."

"What will happen is the following: I will be late to dinner and you will incur the wrath of my secondary wife. Great cook, terrible temper. Then, as we continue our stay, after a few weeks you will find this room and my company tedious, especially when the wine runs out. My primary wife will become annoyed and place a bounty on your heads that will follow you for years. And of course, there is a chance that your employer will be upset with your absences, void your contract, and dump your comatose bodies in the gutter. Please, don't make me late for dinner."

Rolly's eyes grew large at these pronouncements: "Ok, we have to sign the contracts! I'm not dealing with a pissed off gnomish cook!"

The gnome shoved the contracts forward, Rolly picked up quill and ink, turned to the last page and paused. "But I think we should talk about the remuneration owed for our easy co-operation and not holding either your dinner or your wife's temper hostage."

"Harumph. Harumph I say again!! Well played young man."

"Yes, while it is set in stone that these contracts will be signed, I do have some latitude in offering a small bit of remuneration. I will even go so far as to make it a substantial bit of remuneration along with an explanation once the NDA's are signed. Will that satisfy you young man?"

"Sure does." Rolly signed with a flourish.

"Rolly, are you sure?" Suzette had been locked into bad contracts before.

"Sure Suzy, isn't it obvious?"


"Yep. We learned something. And someone doesn't want what we learned to get to the player population. They have both enough connections to find us while we are dead and the ability to send someone to meet us. ACME can log us out or log us back into the game, but they can't manipulate the game world this way. So this has to be a part of the game world. Someone very powerful in the game world."

"If the person wanting the NDA could force us to sign, there would be no need to send a high powered lawyer to convince us. So he's here for another reason - which might be to give us information, or to give us remuneration for the NDA. Either way, we have to sign. And if we have to, why make the nice lawyer late for dinner? It's all really clear once you think about it."

Sighing, Suzette took up another quill and signed a set of paperwork. Ben and Ozzy did the same. Their lawyer put fine sand on the ink to ensure it didn't smear, then gathered up the paperwork and sat back in his chair after getting a glass of wine. "Now then, I thank you all for making this nearly painless, and also a bit entertaining. We have some time left, so let me give you a quick explanation."

"Earning points the way you did is not a problem; this is meant to happen - although you did manage it very quickly. I checked and the other Boss kills by Contract Workers have been in the Level 2 and Level 3 range, and not an Elite. Elites are by nature a challenge for larger groups. I will not mince words - you got extremely lucky. I would not tempt fate again that way. There can be worse things than just dying in this world."

Ozzy interjected, "So it's the list of skills. Specifically certain parts that seem to pertain to....certain things."

The lawyer nodded. "Just so. In an unforeseen chain of events, that document was open at the time and being modified. When you used the command it gave you a version you normally would not see. The options you have are on that document, but so are....other things. To fix things we hit you with an NDA. To make it fair, we give you a little bonus if you ask for one."

"On to that bonus. I can offer each of you three things:

1.) An individual loot chest of the size you have waiting for you.

2.) An additional 5 Core Skill points or

3.) Ten Gold Coins

You may each choose differently, but by the sand in the glass you have only another two minutes of my advice.

Ben spoke quickly: "What is your advice on our choice of reward. And is there anything else we should know?"

The gnome became serious and business like, speaking quickly. "You should take the Skill Points. Gold will come and go, so will magic trinkets. Skills are forever, and you especially will be in dire need of them."

"Other things. The Game is rigged against you and in favor of the corporations. But you know this, it's the same in the other reality. But the rules are different here and the corporations don't understand all of them.

I am reminded of the wise words of my First Mother: "Everyone cheats. If you aren't cheating, you aren't playing the game hard enough. But if you cheat, you should be good enough not to get caught." Dad just liked to say: "Cheat with both hands, and run like hell if they find out." I think both philosophies have their place."

The gnome put on his coat and gloves, settled his hat, and picked up his satchel.

"Lastly, this isn't just a world of players and corporations. It is filled with people very much like you. People who have lived here all their lives. Remember that. Genesis Engine is new to you, but the world has been here forever."

"Oh, and Ben? Love the old fashioned charcoal sketches. But you might find /Mylibrary.notebook to be handy as well."

Turning he walked to the door. They saw nothing but empty sky beyond it. He stepped out and fell out of sight. His voice echoed up and through the door. "You'll know where to find me. You got my Card. Not in the book, you know."

Ben shut the door after a quick look outside and a shake of his head.

Pausing, he started cursing.

Ozzy laughed, "Let me guess, brings up an in-game notebook and saves charcoal?"

Ben looked at his scribblings on the walls. "Yep. About 10 pages long, easy to use. I hate ACME so much. Let's do HEY BILLY! as much as we can for a few days."

"I checked on the command from the Vidcast", '/Showcharactercorestats'. Each of you do that and confirm you got the message I just got.

Suzy did as he suggested.

ERROR. Your creature type does not use Core Stats. Each of your skills will have individual base values and success calculations. Please use the command /HELPQuery for further information.


Skill.Pubgames.Darts Tertiary Skill

Recreational Game: 50% +10% per level in Darts + Variable 1-20


Combat: 50%+10%per level in darts + 5xDex%-Target.Evasion

Damage: 10pts base + 5xSTR. Piercing



Combat: ATTACK +10% level in spear +5XDEX%

Damage: Default Weapon does 10pts +STRx5

ERROR: ATTACK = 0. Level.spear.combat=0

Revised: 1% + 5xDEX% - Target.Evasion

"Holyshit, now I know why I can hit with darts and not a spear. I'm lucky I had some DEX to help.

"I expect we are blocked from using nearly all weapons and armor except at their default levels. It's quite obvious that ACME built a box around a lot of the most basic skills to keep us from being anything but serfs in this game. Let's see how much we can do to crawl out of it."

An hour later they compared notes.

Suzy had gone with increased stats and some low level skills that would help her along a magical path she was walking.

Core Skill Cost Magic Eyes 1 and 2 3 points Dark Vision 1 1 point Ceiling Increase CHR 2 points Hedge Wizard 3 points Spirit of the Swan x2 4 points Spirit of the Owl 2 points Hit 'em in the Knee 5 points

This increased her CHR by 2 and let her take it eventually to 7. INT went up by 1 point. These were heritage changes so they used the cheaper points cost. Heritage was a mystery, but she was willing to explore in the direction she was taking. Hedge Wizard was a shot in the dark with random low level magic spells. The last skill gave a better chance to critical with a dart, and thus a better chance of delivering a poison. Darts didn't do much damage and some things would shrug them off.

Ben just listed the skills he had found at the end of page 10. No need for much explanation.

Core Skill Cost Main Hand: Hand X-Bow as a Courier Weapon 5 points Run like the Wind 5 points Whip as a Courier Weapon 5 points Whip: 1 attack per round, reach, entangle, tool. Base Chance 50+5xDex+10xLevel Damage: 30+5xDEX

Instead of the default stats, Ben could now use a whip in melee with a high chance to hit, although it had a low damage. The advantages of the weapon were it's versitility.

Rolly surpised everyone and was very happy with his choices. "It's awesome. I don't have to eat chicken. I can heal people now. I'm betting the natural weapon mod will transfer to my pet. Plus I'll be able to spot the next Boss we run into and know what we are up against." Odd choices, but Rolly had shown an intuition in other games that paid off. And long ago they'd agreed that they all made their own choices. None of them had enjoyed being in Max/Min guilds where your choices were dictated.

Core Skill Cost Tastes like Steak 5 points Life Transfer 1 5 points Identification 1 and 2 8 points Melee Damage 1 2 points

Ozzy was having difficulty. He expected to earn a couple more points of STR from his skills, and it made sense to increase his cap. That lead to some worries about what the system had told him about too much STR. Spirit of the Bear fixed some of that. He'd added One Fist of Iron in the hopes of having a good unarmed attack since his other weapons were very situational. But what else to take eluded him and said as much to the group. Immediately Suzette suggest Dark Vision and Yo' Mama is Ugly. "That way the monsters will be after you, not me." That made sense to Ozzy. "But why Darkvision?"

"You trip a lot in the dark. As big as you are now, I don't want you landing on anyone." A good enough reason as any to take it. He left the other point until later.

Core Skill Cost Ceiling Increase STR 2 points Spirit of the Bear x2 4 points One Fist of Iron 5 points Yo' Mama is Ugly! 2 points Dark Vision 20' 1 point Unarmed (fists) x2 per round. Base Chance: 50+5xSTR+10xLevel-Evasion. Damage: 20+5xSTR

Ben and Rolly could log back into the game now. They only had a 4 hour penalty. Suzette and Olly were on death number two for the week and had another hour. They agreed to all go out to the rabbit meadow as soon as they were all out. They'd take the walk slow because of the Respawn De-buffs and scout carefully.

Ozzy kicked back in a chair. It was a mentally tiring day. Suzette came and sat in his lap and put her arms around his neck, her head on his shoulder.

"Need a hug?"

"Desperately. Can't lose my femme fatal image in front of the guys. But that freaky catapillar thing, and then the undead rabbits really bothered me. Killing you didn't help. I'm glad that's out of the way."

Ozzy put his arms loosely around her, squeezing once and then relaxing. "I think the guys know how tough you are by now. You don't have to keep up a facade when you feel down."

She smiled. "Oh, it's not for them really, it's for me. This is the 'real me' now, and I can't let that slip away, even for a moment. Can't really go back, not much left of me."

Ozzy just held her. No talking necessary. They'd known each other a long time.

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