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Name Vale dePardon Class Skills
Class Occultist Fencing
Subclass Explorer Ancient Body Magic
Level 10 Paranoia
Experience 536542 Ancient Occult Lore
XP to next level 123468 Map Reading/Cartography
Stamina 49 49
HP 49 49
Mana 70 70
Total Original Level Ups Bonuses
Strength 3 2 1 0
Agility 7 3 4 0
stamina 5 4 1 0
Intelligence 7 7 0 0
Willpower 6 6 0 0
Luck 15 8 4 3
Perm Bonus Source Mystic Clover
(Luck +3)

Trent Noguero glanced at his character sheet and smiled in satisfaction. It had been a long, hard road to hit level ten, but now his character, Vale dePardon finally had a subclass!

He’d been playing as Vale dePardon in Secret of the Old Ones for a year and just hit level ten a week ago. It was quite an accomplishment. Of the tens of millions who were playing, less than a couple thousand people had made it to level ten so far.

Level ten was a huge milestone and allowed a player to choose a subclass. He’d chosen Explorer for his subclass which allowed him to choose his fifth skill, [Cartography].

Both choices, his subclass and [Cartography] skill were all part of his plan, a plan half a year in the making. Among other ways Secret of the Old Ones deviated from other games were its unique bonuses, skills, even rumored classes. In a game with 30 starting stat points, a level cap of 30, and only one additional stat point every level for a possible total of 60 stat points at max level…

Bonus stats would be a huge advantage.

When Vale heard about these designs decisions, he’d decided on his strategy before even playing the game. He’d put as many points into the Luck stat as he could. In a game where stats were so important, where his character sheet even showed his original, Level 1 choices in brackets, finding anything that could give him a unique, permanent bonus would be amazing.

Luckily, two months in, his gamble paid off. What’s more, he was able to find an amazing item that gave him a permanent stat bonus of +3 luck. Unfortunately, finding the Mystic Clover had been part of a long, involved adventure that had gained him a full-blown enemy.

His [Paranoia] skill was currently letting him know an enemy was nearby, and he knew it had to be Brutus Drake, his nemesis, his enemy from the Mystic Clover adventure.

In the past, he’d always fled from Brutus, or gotten away somehow. Combat in S.O.O. was a strange combination of in-game skills and real life abilities. A character could not use skills they knew unless they had an in-game skill for it, but if they did, their real skill roughly translated into their ability in-game. The game’s system helped, but there was no substitute for real training…

The strange combat and skill system had actually motivated players to learn how to make antique crafts, pursue knowledge, and practice martial arts outside the game; presumably, as the mysterious designers had intended.

Unfortunately, Brutus had three skills devoted entirely to combat. He was also a skilled fighter. In a game where player deaths forced a mandatory one-week lockout from the game, he was notorious. He’d been challenged by full adventuring parties in the past and still came out as the victor, helping himself to all their gear and becoming an even more formidable player.

Normally Vale would run; he’d have no choice. Unfortunately, the whole reason he was so eager to get his tenth level, his subclass, and the [Cartography] skill was currently filling his laboratory. In addition to his Mystic Clover, he’d also found a mysterious map over half a year ago.

It had taken him a month to figure out what the map meant, what it might do, and now that he knew, his mouth was dry from excitement. However, he’d just spent every coin he had to buy all the materials for the arcane accelerators and intricate symbols drawn in powder on the floor. All his wealth had been used to cover his laboratory in ancient hoodoo.

His back was against the wall. If he fled, he’d lose half a year of progress. He couldn’t let Brutus just have it. Eventually, his decision made and his spine steeled, he ascended the stairs to his cellar door and walked out into the moonlight.

Luckily, Vale wasn’t a terrible fighter himself. His high-quality Rapier of Twilight was not a bad weapon. Plus, his [Fencing] skill, 3 years of Fencing Club in college, and a year of hands-on combat experience in S.O.O. had made him fairly dangerous in his own right.

Unfortunately, Brutus was a superior fighter in every way except for one; Vale had magic. He usually avoided using it because of the risks, but the only way he was going to win this fight would be to cheat.

Sure enough, Brutus was standing outside. The shadows on his craggy, brutish face moved as he grinned. His heavy armor shimmered with enchantments and his enormous greatsword glowed with fiery runes.

As amazing as the hulking man’s gear was, it was common knowledge he had an even better set stashed away somewhere. The last time someone actually managed to kill Brutus, they’d taken his gear. They’d believed him brought down for good, or at least a long time. The community celebrated. However, a week later when Brutus could log back into the game, he’d hunted down those who killed him, took out their friends, and even slaughtered the players who planned the celebration of his death.

He was ruthless.

After Vale drew his rapier, Brutus crowed, “So, we finally meet and at last—“

Vale wasn’t interested in talking. He sprinted forward, using his [Ancient Body Magic] skill to cast <Arm Speed>, <Leg Speed>, <Superior Aim>, <Enhanced Reflexes>, and <Explosive Strength>. The combination of spells exhausted almost all of his mana, and he felt the mental strain pushing against his paltry 6 Willpower.

He fought to stay conscious. If he went under, it would be treated as if he’d died and he’d be locked out for a week. It was unacceptable to go down now, to lose everything. Vale fought through the pain.

The fight was over amazingly fast. S.O.O. supported massive criticals for killing blows. After Vale dodged Brutus’ first hasty, surprised swing and sunk his rapier up to the hilt in the brutish man’s eye socket, he was awarded with the kill.

Vale was a little shocked he was still alive. In any other circumstance, he would have lost. Only the full combination of all five spells had let him win, but it had been an enormous risk, one that most players, including him, would not have been willing to take. He came close to dying just from the spell backlash. Ancient magic was no joke in S.O.O.

Vale didn’t pause to gloat or see how much experience he’d earned. He didn’t even stop to loot. He just dragged the big man’s corpse into his laboratory through the cellar and locked the door. He couldn’t know who else might have been watching, and he had to move forward with his plans immediately. All the reagents, the careful planning, everything had to be used now.

The proper stars were even in alignment. There would be no better time.

Vale walked to his carefully inscribed circle and realized he was bleeding from somewhere. Oh well, it could wait. All his spells from before were still activated so he was riding a high of magic. He paused for a second, breathed deeply, and called up his Occult activation menu.

Do you want to activate your arcane portal?

Vale chose YES.

Are you sure? The map tethered to this arcane portal is demanding a permanent loss of -5 Intelligence to proceed.

Vale paused and thought for a while. The map was asking for an insane loss of Intelligence. It hadn’t even occurred to him that he could lose anything, that it would cost him more than he’d already given up to use the map. He should have known there’d be more to it. He’d been a fool. It even made sense that he had to give up Intelligence, the one stat necessary to have deciphered the map in the first place. It was the core stat for his primary class.

He stared at the prompt a long time, but finally gritted his teeth and chose YES. He had to know where this map led. He had to know if he’d been right.

Suddenly, he felt nothing but pressure, like the entire world was pushing in on him. Flashes of lights and color bombarded him, even with his eyes closed, and he felt the brush of catastrophe a number of times. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but he knew he was barely avoiding death. He hoped his Luck stat would be enough.

The map had been meant for the transport of an explorer twice his level.

Eventually, the colors stopped spinning and Vale opened his eyes. He was greeted with the sight of an enormous, ethereal tree.

“Yes, I was right!” He whooped with joy.

*note: image is not mine – was used as part of a writing contest prompt*

He stood on a walkway leading directly into the World Tree. To his left was the aspect of Autumn, the surrounding forest all shades of honey gold and red. To his right was the aspect of Spring, trees dripping with vibrant green vegetation and radiating the vibrant glow of life. Majestic mountains loomed in the distance, framing the World Tree like supplicants.

He slowly walked forward, giddy from his success. He had no idea what to expect. In an entire year, players had heard hints of the World Tree but nobody had found it. Vale was the first.

He stepped into the tree and got a flashing prompt:

Congratulations!

You have found the fabled World Tree!
You have a choice… of Power!
The World Tree is ancient and must gift some of its power!

Choose between:

Fire – +Strength +Intelligence
Wind – +Agility +Intelligence
Water – +Willpower +Intelligence
Earth – +Stamina +Intelligence
Upon your choice you will receive:

A Legendary class

A required addition of an elemental magic skill corresponding to your choice (upon the next level up a skill can be chosen)
*Please note that this magic skill can be used without affecting player sanity. Does not require a Willpower check

XP

Additional stat points allocated

Do you wish to accept this power?

Vale chose YES.

Choose your Element

Each element can only be chosen once by one person each

The World Tree’s energy only grows to this level every 1000 years

Vale thought carefully. He’d been working on being something of a gentleman scholar with an occultist flair for his character, and he decided to stick with that.

He chose AIR and all hell broke loose.

Stat points awarded
400,000 XP earned
Level Up!
Level Up!
New Title earned: Legendary Air Adept
New Legendary Class earned: Air Adept
System Alert! Vale dePardon has found the World Tree. Vale dePardon is the Legendary Air Adept of Secret of the Old Ones!
Mandatory Skill awarded

It was all a little overwhelming at first, but Vale quickly grasped what was happening. He grinned as he allocated his 2 stat points from gaining two levels and examined his new character sheet. All his health, mana, and stamina were maxed out again. He’d gotten lucky too. His stats from his new class were applied before he leveled so he gained more mana per level.

Name Vale dePardon Class Skills
Class Occultist Fencing
Subclass Explorer Ancient Body Magic
Hero Class *At Level 20* Paranoia
Legendary Class Air Adept Ancient Occult Lore
Level 12 Map Reading/Cartography
Experience 940542 Elemental Magic: Air
XP to next level 69458
Stamina 59 59
HP 59 59
Mana 90 90
Total Original Level Ups Bonuses
Strength 4 2 2 0
Agility 10 3 4 3
stamina 5 4 1 0
Intelligence 10 7 0 3
Willpower 6 6 0 0
Luck 16 8 5 3
Perm Bonus Source Mystic Clover
(Luck +3)
World Tree Tithe
(Int -5)
World Treen Boon
(Int +8, Agi +3)

With a thought, the World Tree teleported him back to his dank cellar. Vale’s eyes glowed as he mentally went through the list of all his new abilities. It was amazing, completely amazing. He’d made back the Intelligence he sacrificed and then some.

Giving up that 5 Intelligence hadn’t been easy. He figured he’d had to go through with it for the game to determine who was a real Explorer or something. If he’d been wrong about where the map took him, he would have been screwed.

He immediately folded the precious map and decided he needed to hide it as soon as possible. There were three more elements that the World Tree could give. He had to decide whether to gift them to friends or sell the knowledge of how to get them. Each element would probably be worth about a million US dollars, but he’d have to sell them all at once. After someone else got an element, he would no longer be the only player holding the secret of how to get to the World Tree.

He was tired, but he got in motion. First thing was first; he had to loot Brutus’ body. After being stalked for so long by the huge psycho, it was going to be incredibly satisfying to sell all his gear. He’d have to find an NPC with decent rates, though. No players would touch it.

Vale knew he was one of the most powerful players in the entire game now. Unfortunately, because of the system alert, the rest of the world knew it too.

Let them come.

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