ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT IS A GOOD NUMBER
Previously: Education in Crisis
Themesong: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye & Kimbra
So, yes, I did manage to teach the Iguana how to person. Alt-form shifting, Intelligence, and Linguistics. Having a human form didn’t stop him from lounging under heat lamps and eating bugs though… just thought you might like to know.
I didn’t invite any of the students from either class (that weren’t already companions) along with me. I did, however, welcome Korosensei to the company, not as a companion, or indeed, as a passenger… but as an employee. Over my time in that world, I’d come to realize how great an oversight it was not to have such an incredibly competent instructor, one dedicated to education and to his students, on my staff.
Certainly, I was good at it, and so were others… and let’s face it, it’s not exactly rocket science to be a good teacher… I had any number of good teachers… excellent teachers often… but to be a great teacher? That… that took a true genius for the art. Korosensei was (personality foibles aside) a brilliant teacher, a maestro. I’d be a fool not to recruit him… especially since I could, at this point, pass on almost any ability to him I felt needed passing on to my Magi.
On that subject, I had noticed that while, yes, Actually Teaching did allow me to pass on abilities… less so inherent qualities such as immunity to disease, but even then it was possible… it didn’t do it at the fiat backed level. I could teach someone to fly the same way I did in Buffy… but they didn’t have my speed, coming in at about 60%, though that value went as high as 75% and as low as 32% depending on the student, and I couldn’t really tell you why one was good at it and the other bad… part of it was physical endurance, but the rest might have been willpower, but that’s a guess… and yes, before you ask, the secret is to fling yourself at the ground and miss. Still, it was one hell of a useful ability and not something to be lightly passed up. There were unfathomables, but passing on a basic defensive or statbooster perk was always worth the time to the student… less so to the teacher perhaps, but a good teacher should take joy in the accomplishments of the pupil.
Still, eventually the decade came to an end and I packed up Viggo (yes, I’d spent much of the last nine years in a giant orbital chrome battle fortress, mocking the pitiful efforts of humanity to even reach me, let alone hurt me, sneaking out only to shop and catch a show) and returned to the House of Wares, wondering if Jump-Chan was back from her meeting or not.
She was, as it turns out, and seemed to be in a good mood, for once. Not that she was normally in a bad mood. In fact, she was normally not in any mood at all.
“You seem… happy,” I commented.
“I… am. Yes,” She replied after a moment’s consideration.
“Any particular reason?”
“Yes,” She said, nodding her stone face, which was looking much more human and decidedly feminine. “I have been granted permission to, as it were, step out into the settings you visit and interact with people there. Do not worry, my actions will not cause butterflies, but I will be able to speak to people and indulge in various activities.”
“So, you were complaining to higher that you were bored,” I asked.
“Oh. Yes, well, a little. Not so much bored as out of sorts at such limited contact and ability to speak to others on a regular basis. I did petition to be able to recruit knights to correct imbalances in those settings you visit… but those above have judged that would interfere with your primacy. I asked if I could have you do it, but again, they have said that that would require giving you information you might not otherwise have… but they will consider the matter.” The face sighed dramatically. “They did offer to allow me to tell you the next 10 jumps again, for a price.”
“What would this price be?” I asked, suspicious.
“You must surrender all perks, powers, and advanced tech for the next jump, aside from what you buy in that jump,” The Chamber responded. “You’ll get them back at the end of the jump.”
“Mmm… too steep… especially without knowing the relative threat level,” I responded.
“They anticipated your complaint. I am to inform you that the next setting is one where average humans can survive without difficulty. The threat level is considered 1.2 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the danger level of the world you came from. By comparison, the world in which we met is ranked 2 out of five.”
“Hmm…” I tilted my head. “I’ve dealt with personality compression, sickness, and memory loss too often. And there is a threat of sudden death from accident in my own world. The risk is unacceptable.”
“If you were allowed to keep a reasonable degree of regeneration and preternatural toughness, your memory palace and astral layers (but not the ability to pull people in or manifest your various selves), and immunity to disease, would that be sufficient? They are willing to allow you free choice of starting location, age, and origin for this jump as partial payment.”
I considered, then shrugged. “Not that knowing effects much, but sure. This is clearly important to them, so yes. I’ll take the deal, just out of curiosity if nothing else. Though I’m still betting I’ll have do deal with at least seven genocidal fuckwits in the next ten jumps.”
“Very well, your next ten jumps are, in alphabetical order; Borderlands, DC, History’s Strongest Disciple, Honor Harrington, Naruto, Rick & Morty, Star Trek, Undertale, Worm, and Yu-Gi-Oh.”
“Oh… huh… let’s see…” I considered. “Borderlands is a book series… or a very violent video game… or a movie I think… DC again will probably be fun… History’s Strongest… that’s a manga / anime, right? Martial Arts I think. Honor Harrington… oh, I used to love that series… left Origin before it ended… hope the jump runs through the whole thing… maybe get Ziggy a Tree-Cat form… Naruto… huh… that should be violent. Rick & Morty… fuuuuck… I remember absolutely loathing that show… I can’t imagine sharing the universe with those horrible people for a week, let alone a decade… well, I can, actually, but it’d be like sharing it with the Great Old Ones, only even less pleasant. Star Trek? Any idea which era? Undertale… that’s a cute little indy video game about not hurting people just ‘because they look scary, right? Yu-Gi-Oh is an anime about a reincarnated egyptian pharaoh playing a TCG because reasons… something about punishment games or something… and what… the hell… is Worm?”
“I cannot answer those questions,” The Chamber responded. “Are you ready to make your choices for your next jump?”
“Yeah… sure… what is it?”
“You will be a Gamer in the world of Yu-Gi-Oh, which is very close to the world you came from.”
“Wait… Yu-Gi-Oh is the next world?”
“Then you owe me one more.”
“I… I’m sorry?” Jump-Chan looked confused.
“I’ve technically already begun the Yu-Gi-Oh jump. That makes it ‘this jump’ not ‘next jump’. You owe me the names of the next ten settings. Not including the one I’m about to begin.”
“Ah… hmmm… a semantic difference… and, as it turns out, one that makes no difference, as one of the ten I already listed you’ll be visiting twice during that time.”
I opened my mouth to protest, then sighed. “Fiiine. That’s fair enough. But next time, I expect full value for my screwing.”
“You realize that by that logic, you are whoring yourself out for information?”
“And? I’ve sold actual sex for actual money. I was a companion in the Firefly jump. There isn’t any shame in it, not if it’s done willingly and not out of desperation.” I patted the Chamber’s face. “Sex is, like any other activity, invested only with the emotions we choose to invest it with.”
“You’re very strange, for a quasi-mortal.”
“You’re telling me.”
“I mean that. You enjoy reading pornography about people embarrassed to be whoring themselves out or being whored out by others.”
“Yeah, well, we all have our kinks.” I said with a small smirk.
“Yes, and you have more than most!” The Chamber accused.
“I’m much older than most. And I’ve had a very strange life. I’ve been a lot of people,” I shrugged. “Now, what’s this about being a Gamer?”
“For the next ten years, you’re going to live the life of a relatively normal person on a normal modern day earth… your only restriction is that you play tabletop roleplaying games. The only real risk of chain failure is if you completely abandon the hobby or somehow bring about the total destruction of the tabletop rpg industry as a whole, you fail.”
I considered, then asked “This is one of those overlay scenarios, right? It sounds like it. Generic Roleplayer but instead of being on a totally normal Earth, it’s on the Yu-Gi-Oh one, right?”
“That is correct. You’ll have 1000 Role Points and 1000 Card Points. And playing Monster Card Duelling does not count as Roleplaying, just EFF-WHY-EYE,” The stone face said, speaking the last three letters in that painful conceptual language that Higher had used on me in our brief encounter.
I stoically refused to flinch, and instead I merely nodded. “Very well. Yu-Gi-Oh first, I guess. What even are the origins? Doesn’t everyone just… you know, play that stupid game?”
“Yes. Utterly unlike real Trading Card Games. No Sideboard, No Best of Three or Five Matches, Decks with mixed mechanics, decks without multiple copies of the same card, focusing on high life totals despite the only health point that matters being your last one? Those are all pretty much basic TCG elements that the setting passes up. Ah well… Are there even multiple origins?”
“There are as many as five origins, depending on where in the setting you are. There are 14 perks, 15 items, and 10 drawbacks, of which you can take two for a maximum of 500 CP.”
“Some of the origins are location dependant?”
“Yes. That is, of course, not an issue for you at this time, but if your normally randomly determined location places you in Satellite, the former Old Domino City that has become a giant slum, you cannot be a Collector. If you are in Ancient Egypt, which is before the time of the card game, obviously, you may only be a Drop-in or a Trader. ”
“How do you be a trader without cards to trade?”
“You could be a normal trader trading goods,” The chamber pointed out, making me feel instantly foolish.
“I knew that,” I said lamely. “Right… DI, Collector, Trader… what else?”
“Normal and Technician. Normal is a normal person with basic dueling abilities and friends, but also a susceptibility to evil. It normally costs 50 CP. Technician is a master duelist, one with a job as a card tester and no friends. It is priced at 100 CP. Collectors have an encyclopedic knowledge of every card and card effect or very nearly, as well as three identical starter decks, and an obsession with card collecting. Also 100 CP. And Traders have trading skills and know what people want… but not what they themselves want. They also know nothing about dueling. That one would normally cost 200 CP.”
“Hrm… I guess I’ll roll… oh, wait… I don’t have to… but I don’t know any of these places very well… I’ll roll anyway. I can change my mind if I want… Three. What’s that?”
“New Domino City. A supposed utopia where the duelists fight on the back of high speed motorcycles. It is the home of the cold-hearted and arrogant Jack Atlas, who has an Australian Accent. NDC specializes in Synchro Monsters,” The Chamber rattled off.
I just looked at her for a long, long moment and then said, “Who the hell is Jack Atlas, and why should I care about him or his accent? And what are Synchro Monsters… and who the fuck plays a card game on motorcycles at speed? That’s just fucking insanity… and isn’t the MC of this story like… 14? He can’t even drive a motorcycle.”
“I did not write this. I do not know the answers to your questions, or rather, I do know some of the answers, but I’m not going to tell you.”
“Thaaanks,” I snarked, then sighed. “That’s fine, I guess… and I guess I’ll be a Collector. Nothing says I have to actually play this game… or even get a complete set. I can just… collect… while I’m at game stores anyway. I guess… And I’ll start at the lowest possible starting age. I’m guessing that’s something in middle school?”
“Very well. Your age is set to minimum. As a collector, you live in a nice house and your parents are rich. They’re also snarky and pun driven for some reason. You’ll have plenty of free time and some friends that you’re not particularly close to.”
“How is being distant from your friends and obsessed with collecting cards not a drawback?”
“Because it isn’t. Stop bothering me. As a Collector, you start with a Real Starter Deck like Yugi Mutou or Seto Kaiba have. 50 Cards, many of them Forbidden cards that can’t be used in official tournaments. The only two set cards are a Blue-Eyes White Dragon and a Dark Magician. You’ll also have Crazy Hair which has anywhere from two to seven different colors and comes with plenty of extreme spikes.”
“Yay… useless but fancy cards. Oh… joy. I am… sooo… happy. Wait, Yugi isn’t a collector… why would I have his hair?”
“Technicians, Collectors, and Traders all get Crazy Hair. Yugi is a Technician. But if you like you can pay 50 CP to swap to normal hair.”
“I… wow… what a waste of points. No thanks.”
“Hair Craziness is a respectable trait in this world.”
“I… I’m not even going to touch that one. Anything else for… I won’t say free… for my initial investment? Something that might make it worth it?”
“The freebie for Collectors is a perk called ‘Outside Battle Luck’, meaning that you’ll find cards that people have lost just lying around on the ground… and about five dollars worth of currency every month.”
“Five… fucking… dollars… what the… you can’t be serious. This total waste of CP guarantees finding random cards and five bucks a month? Only Charley Fucking Bucket would think that’s a good deal. Five Bucks a Day would be a crap perk. You’ve got to be… just out of curiosity, what utter crap do the origins get so I know if I’m being righteously boned or not?”
“Drop-Ins get ‘Card Trick’ which allows them to throw Yu-Gi-Oh cards like ninja stars and guarantees they’ll never get paper cuts,” I snorted at the stupidity, but didn’t interrupt. “Normals get ‘Blend In’ which means they are relatively unnoticeable and thus it is relatively safe for them to walk around during the night… and they’re relatively less likely to be attacked in a Team Battle.”
“Relatively useless? Nooo… Just fucking useless… good lord. That’s terrible. Next?”
“Technicians get ‘It’s a Trap’… which has nothing to do with cross-dressing. It lets you know when your opponent lays a trap, making you immune to their bluffs with spells or useless traps. It also comes with a heightened ability to determine the sex of anyone you’re looking at… alien, androgynous, or other. Traders get several items free, but no perks.”
“Oh, weeping spirit of game design… why? I mean, I know this is a low power setting, but that’s just spectacularly lame.”
“No Comment. As a Collector, you’ll get clothing suited to your persona that fits with your hair, a duel disk, a deck box, legal ID, and a chewed up ball cap. Further, you’ll gain an Expanded Card Box that can only accept Duel Monster Cards and is bigger on the inside, able to hold upto 10,000 cards. That effect will expand to every card box you own. You’ll also receive five free booster card packs of your choosing. They must all be the same kind.”
“Oh. Yay. that’s what… 20 bucks worth of cards? Sweet! Now I can buy lunch without worrying about getting my fix,” I grumped, muttering imprecations against cheap-ass Jump Builders should have to spend time in their own Jumps just to see how lame it was. Same for those who included nothing but crap drawbacks. “I guess the card box is nice… ish. So… what else do I get a discount on as a Collector? Cards?”
“Negative. Only Traders get a discount on Cards. There are only three other things that are discounted for Collectors; ‘Spirit Partners’, ‘Heart of the Cards’, and ‘Destiny Cards’… that last is listed as an item, but it is clearly a perk.”
“Mmm? How so?”
“It is nothing more or less than a fiat backing for all your cards. They cannot be destroyed by anything. If they’re stolen or lost they come back to your currently equipped card box.”
“Indestructible… so… I could layer a starship’s hull in them five deep and they’d be perfect armor?”
“No. They’re paper. They would deform but be undamaged.”
“Fair enough. How much is that?”
“250. And Spirit Partners is 150. It allows you to talk to between one and three of your chosen cards, who will become Duel Monster Spirits. It will also allow you to see other Spirit Monsters including Astral Projections.”
“I… probably can already do that… but if the crap available here is any indication, I doubt I’ll find anything more useful. Fine. Sure… Shame I can’t just make up my own cards.”
“You can. You can have an Original Deck for 200. It includes 10 existing cards and 40 unique, unusual, and forth dimension breaking monsters, spells, and traps that only you have.”
“I… see… okay… sure. I can… wait, all the cards I start with are tripled, right?”
“Err… yes? Except in the booster packs.”
“Good. That means I can have three copies of 100 unique cards… and I’ll apply my floating discount to Original Deck, since it’s the only thing you’ve mentioned so far at 200. That’s 500. Halfway there. My Origin Deck will have Soul of Ice, Silent Judge, and Spirit of Twilight… those will be my three Card Spirits.”
“I… see… very well. Heart of the Cards is the Collector Capstone. It allows you, once per duel, and only when you’re low on Life Points, to draw that one card that changes everything. And it also means that you’ll never panic when a dire situation arises, with your brain working three times faster looking for a solution or an escape plan.”
“I… hmm… that’s… a fairly weak Capstone… I don’t know how well that mental speed boost will work on me… but I seldom need that much time to determine if a situation is truly hopeless… what are the other Capstones, if I might ask? I assume the Technician one, since that’s based on Yugi, is the one that institutes a shadow duel?”
The Chamberface shook her head, “Negative. ‘Millennium Evil’ is the Normal Capstone. ‘Anti-Shadow Realm’, the thing that protects you from all evil in this universe, including Shadow Duels and other pocket dimensional traps. It also guarantees 100% peace in this universe, whatever that means, and says that, in anything to do with games and life bets, the odds will always be in your favor. It says you’ll always win Russian Roulette. The Drop-In Capstone allows you to take anyone person from this universe as a companion.”
“Kripes on a Crutch, that Drop-In one suuuuucks. Mmm… Millennium Evil sounds more useful over all, but Anti-Shadow Realm sounds really useful in this world. I’ll take that.”
“You’re over by 100 Card Points now,” The Chamber reminded me.
“Yeah. Yeah. I know. What drawbacks we got?”
“For 400, you can have recurring nightmares-”
“They won’t be frightening, but will wake you up with a racing heartbeat and in a cold sweat.”
“The lack of sleep will make focusing difficult and you’re likely to faint once a month.”
“What part of ‘Pass’ don’t you understand?”
The face grinned at me and I threw a grape at her… only for the grape to enter the carving, becoming stone, then vanish into her gaping stone maw. “Ugh. Seeds.” And she spat two tiny pebbles out onto the ground. They did not revert from stone. “At 300 there’s ‘Sore Loser’-”
“Pass… and I mean it this time.”
“Fiine. 200 has ‘Easy Grab’… that means thieves will relentlessly try and steal your cards and other possessions when you’re not looking and will sometimes face you head on.”
“No. Thanks. That sounds lousy. Don’t you have anything cheaper? I only need 100 CP.”
“But you might find some other stuff worth buying.”
“I really… really… doubt it,” I said, tickling Ziggy’s tummy as he tried, in vain, to gnaw my hand off at the wrist. Such a cute little beastie.
“Very well, starting at the bottom, there’s Rival. That’s Zero CP.”
“First, Zero won’t cover it. And No thanks. Second… it’s not starting, it’s resuming.”
“Pedant,” She accused. “Very Well, RESUMING at nearly the bottom… There are Malfunctioning Duel Disk, Bald, Power Disabled, and Can’t Handle It. The first limits your deck size in duels because any duel disk you touch breaks. The second makes you bald, obviously, but requires you to be male for some reason. The third takes away the rest of your powers. And the last makes you cry like a bitch when you lose. Each of those are worth 50.”
“Well, how… pleasant… Maybe… Don’t know how much dueling I’ll actually be doing. Maybe… haven’t been male in a while. No fucking way… a pure powerless drawback for 50? Ugh. That’s just craaaap. And naw… Seriously? That’s not fun. Are there any at, you know, the 100 CP price point that I’m actually looking at, or are you just dicking me around?”
“Two. ‘Think Out Loud’ means you reveal your strategy to your opponents without noticing, and ‘Disliked’ means that people tend to hate you after dueling you.”
“Clarification. Do both of those relate only to Duel Monsters?”
“Well, ‘Think Out Loud’ makes no mention of the game. But Disliked specifies ‘your deck’ So it’s definitely referring to card game duels at the very least.”
“Tend to hate you after duelling you… me… hmmm… But that could be a small window and they get over it. And it’s not iron clad and, again, nothing forces me to play that game. Fine. Fine. I’ll take Disliked… I mean… how bad… naw… naw… I’ll do Bald and the Duel Disk Malfunction. Screw it. I’ll be a dude… oh… nooo… wait… heh. I could totally take that Nightmare drawback.”
“Why the sudden turn around?”
“Oh. I won’t do it. There’s nothing there that’s worth it… It’s just, the major problem with the Nightmares is the lack of sleep and being drowsy and unfocused all the time, right?”
“Yes? I mean, that is what the text implies.”
“Yeah? Well, I’ve got a hat that makes me clear-headed and as chipper as if I’d had a full night’s sleep. Could soooo totally cheese that drawback… but the waking up in a cold sweat sounds like no fun at all.”
“Soo… just Bald and Malfunctioning Duel Disk, then?”
“Yeah… oh, point of order, you specifically said ‘any duel disk I touch malfunctions’, right? That would include any of my opponents’ duel disks if I can touch them, right?”
“Uh… I do not think that was the intention, but it does seem to be how the text reads… so… yes?”
“Just asking. So, let’s do the other one. I hope it’s more user-friendly… and has stuff worth taking… and a companion import worthy of the name.”
“I was going to ask, not going to use your GIT to import people into the first half?”
“Not worth it. Very very not worth it.”
“What’s not worth it,” Vita said, walking up to me wearing her bunny PJs and rubbing her eyes sleepily.
“I thought you were in bed, young lady,” I wagged a finger at her, but I was smiling.
“Couldn’t sleep. VIctoria is still at the party…” She trailed off, then clambered into my lap without asking.
“Silly,” I commented, but didn’t evict her. “We’re going to a world of collectable card games and role playing… but it’s pretty much just Earth again. Nothing overwhelmingly weird or anything. Do you want to hang up and help me figure out what I’m doing, or do you want to spar for a while?”
She considered, then shook her head.
“No? Neither? What do you want to do then?”
“Snuggle,” she yawned, pulling Ziggy off the back of the chair and into her lap, at which point I became merely furniture to comfort the small and very violent demi-child. If I haven’t commented on it, it’s somewhat strange but also somewhat reassuring how our personalities become, not rigid, but fixed to a large degree. Every jump sees us revert back to our default ages if we imported, complete with what seems like a refreshing of the persona we had before whatever overlay was applied. If my companions don’t import… they just don’t age, thanks to Yuzuha.
That’s not to say we’re changeless, merely that the older we get, the more oomph it takes to make a major change. Joy merging with Planet certainly caused a huge shift to her personality. Before, she was introspective and sometimes prone to emotionality. After? Brash and aggressive, but far calmer. I know that sounds like it’s contradictory, but it’s not. As Planet-Joy, she can process billions of parallel thought patterns simultaneously. In fact, she has a huge chunk of herself that’s living virtual lives inside her bio-computing matrix at any given time, and only a tiny fraction of them are paying attention to the outside feeds. But those that are are among humanity’s brightest minds, Transcendent Intellects, and if it seems like she’s impulsive to an outside viewer, the truth is she’s considered very very well the options. She’s also a Humanity Firster and fairly warlike… but willing to cooperate when it matters.
It’s also intriguing to examine the post human among us. Joy is a bio-computer with a planetary surface of neural fiber. Francine is a hyper-psi singularity pretending to be a teenage girl. Sakura is an optronic crystal-computer with a lunar-volume (or nearly) of computing matrix. VIctoria’s a magical book who contains her own virtual world. VIggo’s a hypertech Death Star. VIvian’s a cherry tree rooted in nth generation computing gel. And I’m an eldritch abomination with too much time and computing power on my super-earth sized ice-brain’s hands… wow, that was a tortured bit of english. And none of that touches on those who are post human in body, of course.
I patted the small warrior on the head and chuckled inwardly, projecting my thoughts to the Chamber and closing the channel to the rest of the telepaths and sensitives in the Warehouse. The Chamber could hear my thoughts as speech, so it wasn’t much of an issue. ~So… what kind of backgrounds do we have for gamer? That old saw about Real Men, Actors, Brains, Loonies, and Munchkins? Or are we talking about Bartle’s Taxonomy, with Achiever, Socializer, Killer, and Explorer, though that’s MMO based? Or Robin Laws’s Specialists, Storytellers and Casual Gamer? As long as it’s not D&D 4th Edition’s system… there were eight of those… and I think there’s even a system with eleven different distinct groups.~
::I do not know of these classifications, but none of them match the listings I have. The choices are ‘Casual’ (who are the drop ins, with just enough paper trail to live legally, one month on an apartment, and a flyer for a local gaming group), ‘Real Roleplayer’ (who apparently wear costumes, speak in accents, and are deeply involved in the story of the game), ‘Power Gamer’ (who live for something called ‘the crunch’), and ‘That Guy’ (who appear to be annoying in a variety of ways). All four have no attached cost. I do not know much about these archetypes, but why would anyone choose to be a ‘That Guy’?::
~People do not normally choose to be a That Guy. They become a That Guy because they cannot restrain themselves. Power Gamers also don’t seem to be a choice. It’s a mind puzzle to them and they enter a spiral where they feel they must optimize in order to survive… or at least for their character to survive. I can’t imagine wanting to be either of them, and I certainly wouldn’t choose to be one for a decade. Which I guess leaves Real Roleplayer and Casual. While Real sounds like it could be fun… I don’t know well it meshes with Collector… What kind of perks do each get?~
::Just perks, or items too?::
~Just perks. Items are always secondary to my choices.~
::Well, first of all, everyone gains the the ‘Superb Gamer’ perk. That will allow you to easily track story progress and scene action, describe your character’s actions with clarity, never forget character elements or abilities, and seldom, if ever, confuse character knowledge from player knowledge. You’ll be patient when it’s not your turn, have an easier time getting other players to speak up or be engaged with the game… and never spill your snacks or drinks. And you’ll be quite good at learning new games or teach other people to roleplay.::
~Nice… I mean, I don’t forget anything usually, but I do sometimes have separation issues… I do know an awful lot. But that would be a good skill to pass on to others. Some people,~ and here I had to resist tickling Vita, ~aren’t very patient… or forget that their character isn’t a hammer-wielder… but that doesn’t tell me the differences between Role Player and Casual from a perk perspective.~
::Patience, grasshopper. I am getting there. There are a trio of other general service perks. ‘Ambassador of Games’ is 50 RP and gives you a special talent for instilling a love of gaming in others, as well as a sense for what game or games would do the best job of pulling a given individual into the hobby. It also guarantees that those you introduce to gaming will quickly learn those skills needed to be an excellent gamer and never turn out to be ‘That Guy’. ‘Master of Masters’ costs 100 RP and makes you one of the best game masters around. Your campaigns will always be creative and interesting, your sessions well run, your atmosphere and ambience perfect perfect for the scene you’re portraying, your rules decisions always appropriate, and your balance between rules as written and going with the flow will always be on point. You’ll never forget campaign details, never have a problem engaging your players, and any technology you use to enhance a game session will never cause problems or be unwieldy or be hard to control. And you’ll always catch anything cheating at any game you participate in,:: I whistled low at that last, but didn’t otherwise interrupt. ::And last, ‘Rules and Standards’ will set you back 400 RP and allows you to enforce a general code of conduct on anyone who willingly engages in any activity you’re in charge of. Violating that code won’t even occur to that individual, as long as they’re on your side or should be cooperating with you in the first place.::
I nodded, considering, then smiled. ~Ambassador of Games and Master of Masters both seem like things I can already do… but I suspect that some of that is the Dunning-Kruger effect and that I’m not as good as I could be. Since they’re both reasonably priced and passing up the chance to improve at one of my favorite pastimes would be ridiculous, I’ll take them… at least provisionally. I don’t know how many points I’ll be able to scavenge from the drawback section of this thing, I can’t fully commit to them, but they seem like a reasonable expenditure of 150 RP. That leaves me with 850… and can we please get to the differences between Role Player and Casual now?~
::We can, though you will be pleased to know there is no Drawback limit at all in this overlay. Now, starting with Freebies. The Casual gets ‘Quick Learner’ which allows them to pick up the basics of skills and topics very fast, like learning the fundamentals of a new RPG in a few minutes. Mastering skills and topics will still take time and effort. The Player gets ‘Get the Voice Right’ which allows you to give every character a unique voice and vocal mannerisms, as well as never forgetting which belongs to which character.::
~I won’t go so far as to call the voice one lame… It’s pretty cool, actually… but useless for me. Then again, so’s Quick Learner… so call it a draw so far.~
::Indeed. At the 100 RP price point, we’ve got ‘Looking for Group’ which practically guarantees you’ll always be able to find people who enjoy your hobbies or cool people to hang out with. If there are any people around, odds are you’ll be able to find a group. That’s contrasted with ‘The World of Imagination’ which makes you highly creative and good at writing fiction, while protecting you from any form of writer’s block or similar affliction.::
~Huh… both are fairly weak, but I wasn’t expecting much from this. That said, they’re both useful in their own ways. I’d say that World of Imagination is better, since I already have a huge group of people following me and hanging out with me… and inside me. Odd to think that, with all my companions, I still technically outnumber them… Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if each of me had our own bodies… that might be an interesting perk… Getting off topic. I’d say that World tips it a little towards Roleplayer. Call it 1:3 right now.~
::Very Well. Moving on to the third tier, the 200 RP… these are the discounted prices, you understand?:: I grunted in affirmation and she continued, ::Roleplayer’s get ‘All The World’s A Stage’, which makes them extremely good at acting, able to stay in character no matter what’s happening… even to the point where a surface scan of their thoughts will reveal nothing besides the assumed persona. It guarantees perfect memory of any character details for any persona and the ability to switch instantly between them. Contrast that with ‘Hell of a Nice Guy’ which makes you incredibly charismatic, so that people will enjoy spending time with you and be much more likely to listen to your ideas. You’d be treated as a long time member of any social group, even if you weren’t really part of it as long as they knew you. People will be forgiving of idiosyncrasies and mistakes, treating you as if you were a longtime friend. And you’ll have a much easier time picking up on inside jokes, traditions, and defining anecdotes for groups you do join.::
~Mmm… that’s… My memory is categorically perfect. I can’t imagine paying anything for ‘All The World’s a Stage’… but Charisma perks are always nice and i’ll be running without my old ones for this jump, so… yeah, Hell of a Nice Guy brings things pretty much into balance… maybe a bit more. Call it 5:4 in Casual’s favor. Are there Capstones?~
::There are. Casual gets ‘Dungeon Master’s Girlfriend’ for 300 RP… do not glare at me, that’s the name of the perk. And it specifically says you don’t have to actually be dating the GM. It says that Enemies will target other people, you’ll tend to find items that you need, NPCs will favor you, things will tend to go your way as much as possible without it seeming like blatant cheating. I know you’re thinking ‘yay, favoritism in gaming’, but it also applies in real life too, with random chance working in your favor. In fact, you’ll never experience bad luck unless someone is directly causing it… yes, I thought you might like that. The Roleplayer gets ‘Bullshit Level Keikaku Doori’ which, as you well know, is excellence in manipulating and predicting people’s actions… even those with seemingly total power over you… though that might take a little time and effort.::
~Niiiice. Both are good… though I think the luck will be more useful what with my other abilities suppressed… though if I can scavenge the 600 I might take the BS scheming as well… we’ll see. I guess I’m going Casual… it’s not really drop in since I’m a Collector already though. Hrmmm… well, I guess I’ll take the entire Causal perkline. Each could be useful. Might sell back LFG if I don’t have the points though. And I’ll apply my Floating Discount here to Hell of a Nice Guy. That should take me down to 300 CP… Let’s switch over to Imports and Drawbacks before I look at the other perks and items, okay?~
::I am entirely at your disposal and we have just under four weeks to nail this down. I have literally nothing else to do with my time as I’m a big stone box until the jump actually starts.::
I chuckled low enough not to disturb the finally sleeping Vita and stroked her hair, ~I see being stuck in linear time with us has made you far more restive and dissatisfied with just… existing. Welcome to the quasi-human condition. Now you have to go out and get a job and work for a living,~ I quipped, teasing the Chamber. What happened next I hadn’t expected, but I really, really should have.
A piece of paper fluttered down from the high above and invisible rafters. It had a single image on it that made no sense at all and yet conveyed its meaning in the same excruciating way that Higher’s last message to me had. As close as can be rendered, it said, in all block letters (psychic flames omitted for public safety), “YOUR REQUEST HAS BEEN REVIEWED AND APPROVED. THE CHAMBER OF THE ORDEAL SHALL, FOR THE DURATION OF YOUR STAY IN THIS REALM, BE REQUIRED TO LIVE AS MORTALS LIVE. THIS INCLUDES MAINTAINING ALL BIOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS. NO SPECIAL ABILITIES OR PERKS WILL BE GRANTED TO ‘JUMP-CHAN’ DURING THIS SOJOURN, NOR WILL FUNDS, RESIDENCE, OR EMPLOYMENT BE GUARANTEED.”
I blinked at that, and looked to see how the Chamberface was reacting.
She seemed startled, but the image shrugged. ::How hard can it be? I have observed mortals doing so for eons past counting.::
~Oh. You’re going to regret saying that. I was considering helping you out if you got into a bind… Now? I think you should probably experience the highs and lows for yourself. Now, if you please, tell me about importing my companions?~
::I am beyond mortal comprehension. I will not require assistance, nor would I ask even if I did,:: The Face expressed, looking annoyed at the presumption of weakness or dependency. ::As for importing, it will cost you 200 CP per 8 companions. They will receive an origin with all freebies and discounts, and (with Single Shot) 700 RP each. They cannot take Drawbacks, but you can transfer your own RP to one of them at the rate of 1:1.::
~Per? What is the limit?~
::There isn’t one. You may create or import as many as you are willing to pay for.::
::For 100 RP, you may also recruit ‘The Gygax’… not Gary Gygax himself, but an incredible GM who is always happy to run games or be a player, with an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming history and lore. He or she comes with Super Gamer, Ambassador of Games, Master of Masters, Get the Voice Right, The World of Imagination, and the Powergamer 200 RP perk ‘Know the Rules to Exploit Them’ which grants perfect memory, instant recall, unlimited storage, and perfect indexing.::
~Naw… I can pretty much guarantee that at least one of my companions will end up with enough of that to make it work out better if I don’t get a newbie. Drawbacks? Start with the worst, since there isn’t a limit.~
::The worst is something called FATAL-::
I could hear the capital letters in her tone and jerked in alarm, shaking my head and almost jostling ZIggy and Vita. ~Nooo… Nothing with FATAL in it with regards to roleplaying is ever going to be worth it.~
::Why? It merely says that, at least once a week, for at least six hours, you will be required to play a session of FATAL. It even guarantees you a group of gamers who believe it to be the best and most accurate medieval history game ever made. What is wrong with that? I thought you enjoyed gaming::
~FATAL… which FYI stands for Fantasy Adventure to Adult Lechery… no matter how much the creator may claim it stands for From Another Time, Another Land… is the worst roleplaying game ever to receive widespread fame… or infamy. It is, essentially Rape in Game Form’. Not only is it mechanically broken, far far to complex and obsessed with pointless details… such as Anal Circumference and Hymenal Resistance… I really am not joking… and it has totally random character generation that is just… horrific to behold. Well over 100 dice rolls to make a single character. And later rolls can force you to go back and modify earlier values that you’ve already done math on! It has a value called ‘Retard Strength’ if your intelligence is low enough. There are something like 400 different skills… even my most ridiculously complex system only has 200 when you toss in every different lore and magic skill and martial art and weapon skill possible, and no one has ever needed more than a quarter of that and that character was just silly. In combat, you can accidentally… ACCIDENTALLY! start raping an enemy… and there are rules for raping someone to death. It is racist, sexist, anti-semitic, and wildly homophobic. And the class system is just… why would anyone ever want to roleplay a Delouser… No. A weekly gaming session of FATAL with the kind of horrible trolls in human skin who would consider it a good game would not be fun. It would require a very long bath in very strong solvents… after i murdered them all and burned the play site down… possibly with an orbital strike.~ I realized I was breathing hard and grimacing, then forced myself to relax. ~So… let’s move on, shall we?~
::Err… yes… I… I think I shall avoid that. The next most extreme is called Mazes and Monsters, Part Two. It makes reference to anti-gaming propaganda film released in the year 1982 and says that, before you can leave, you must create a sequel that reverses the sentiment of the first. It can be direct to television or a theatrical release, but must reach the general populace and not just a gaming audience.::
I shook my head at the oddness of that. I’d seen the original Maze and Monsters, starring a young Tom Hanks decades before I started Jumping and found it a bland and pointless movie… though it did explain why my mother had been against gaming so assiduously… that and the fact that she’d associated it with mental illness (something she has always been extremely nervous of) and my father (someone she resented for most of my youth). She also banned video games… which of course ment I did those things with my friends or at my fathers and just didn’t tell her. Silly parental individual… ah well, it was ages ago now. ~How much is that one worth?~
::300 or 500. The more valuable version requires convincing Tom Hanks to star in the sequel.::
~Right. Cool… I’ll take the lower level for sure. No point making this harder on myself. Next?~
::For 200 or 400 there is ‘Public Backlash’ and its upgrade, ‘The World Has Gone Crazy’. Also stemming from the 1980s, it was common to believe that D&D and games like it were devil worship. Take this and you’ll have to live with that kind of approbation your entire time in this world. Take the upgrade and for your stay, gaming will be treated like witchcraft was in the town of Salem in 1692. You’ll have to keep the hobby alive and game regularly or you fail the jump. I’m going to guess from your aghast and outraged expression that you do not feel this is worth it?::
I shook my head, astounded. Who could enjoy gaming enough to game every week but hate it enough to inflict this pain upon all other gamers at the same time? Clearly the same people who would take that Fatal Drawback.
::For the same price is ‘Prehistory’ and its upgrade, ‘No Gygax’. The lower level merely shifts your starting date to 1974, the same time Dungeons and Dragons is getting started. Groups and resources will be few on the ground and many of the ideas taken for granted by later generations of gamers do not exist yet. The upgrade means that Gygax will never have left the Marine Corps and will have not invented Dungeons and Dragons. You’ll have to do so in his place and you have only 20 years to make Roleplaying games into an industry at least as developed as it was when Gygax left Dungeons and Dragons’ parent company TSR in 1985. On the other hand, you won’t have to game on a regular basis, since you’ll probably have trouble doing so since no groups exist at the start of your stay.::
I created a doppelganger and piloted it into the kitchen to get some hot dogs from the grill, nice and charred on the outside, and considered. Out of range to disturb Vita, I commented to the granite countertop, “I like the idea of going back to that point. It could be very interesting. I don’t know about replacing Gygax as the father of role playing… but maybe. Let’s take the lower level for the moment and I’ll consider… also, starting then will make it much easier to get a second Mazes and Monsters made with Tom Hanks. He’ll be younger and not as huge a star. So we can bump Part Two up to the 500 level. That’s 700 Drawbacks and 350 left over from starting points. Next?::
::For 100 or 300, there are That Guy and Those Guys… I believe you might know what that implies?:: The Chamberface didn’t shift back into speech despite my own switch, and I shrugged, so it continued, ::The first means there will always be a That Guy in every gaming group you are a part of, even if you get rid of the first. Another will simply appear at the next session. The upgrade means everyone you ever game with will be That Guy. You still have to game regularly.::
I smirked. “If I still had my ice or time powers in this world, I’d say sure to the base level. I could simply zap the tool at the start of every session. But naw. No point taking either as far as I can see. Next?”
::At 200 without an upgrade is This Guy which makes people see you as That Guy. No?:: I shook my head. ::Fourth Edition? It makes every game that’s not at a gaming con one of your definitely not on your favorites list. Also 200. No?:: Again I shook my head. ::How about Rules Lawyer, which forces you to look up any question about a rule or its interpretation and to follow the written rule precisely. Its 100 or 200 with Rules Lawyer Jerk which means you’ll go out of your way to create rules conflicts… I’m sensing another No, aren’t I?:: I nodded this time and, having finished layering my dogs with all sorts of unhealthy goodness, began eating them slowly.
Having my mouth full, I switched back to telepathy. ~Can’t imagine why I’d feel the need to take that kind of annoyance on myself, quite frankly. I sense we’re moving into the just blah section instead of the intriguing section, but continue, if you don’t mind.~
::Another 100/300 in Strict DM slash Killer DM is next. The Strict Dm never fudges rolls, often restricts options for character creation to better fit his campaigns (he’ll tell you those restrictions before you make your character), and insists on people paying attention and being involved in the game, limiting chatter to downtime. The Killer will try and kill as many characters per session as possible, within the rules. In both cases, all your DMs will be like this for the full time of your stay.::
When I just snorted in indignation, the Chamber moved on. “No Snacks… no. I think not.:: I frowned, then shrugged. No way were there enough RP on offer to make me give up snacking at the gaming table. Snacking is part of gaming! Snacking is life! Mmm… I love snacks. ::Lousy Schedule? Life interferes with your gaming time? Or Shitty Schedule? That ramps the minor scheduling issues to major scheduling issues?::
~Ick. No. I had enough of that back in my original world. I like hassle-free gaming, thanks.~
::Fair enough. That leaves only one last drawback, one that can be taken multiple times. It’s called ‘Extended Stay’ and every time you take it it adds 10 years to your stay and gives you another 50 RP.::
I swallowed hard, then laughed. “You must be joking. Really?”
::Really. Why? You can’t take it that many times. You don’t have your unending lifespan nor can you science up a way to recreate it without your perks or technology.::
“Uh… Wrong. I have a link to Yuzuha. She provides me and all my companions with ageless immortality. It’s not technology. She’s a tree with supernatural powers, and while you and higher might have meant to include my companions in the general nerfing, you didn’t. I’ll accept that any that import, even the Global Rule basic import, might be nerfed… Yuzuha is an item initially and the immortality she provides to others is neither a perk nor an ability.”
::You really should have taken Rules Lawyer,” The Chamberface grumped.
“Naw. I like having control over that. But let’s go with… I dunno… I guess I’ll find out how many points I need and fill in the extension later. But first… Let’s get 4 Companion Imports. That’s 800 points, so I’m at 250 positive right now. I guess that means it’s time for-” I cut off as Zane entered the kitchen to grab another platter of ribs to take out to the still ongoing festivities. “Heya buddy. Looks like next jump will be a fair bit longer than most, but in a mostly normal version of earth… I’d say this qualifies as vacation. Let everyone know. I’ll be picking 32 companions to import. Lots of card games and roleplaying. You want in?”
He considered, then nodded, “Yeah. Sounds like fun. Any idea how long?”
“I figure less than two centuries, but probably at least 60 years. Haven’t figured out exactly. Depends on how much stuff I want… and how pissed off Yuzuha is about being benched.”
“Benched?” he asked, pulling a beer out of the beer fridge and popping the top off with a thumbnail.
“Reasonably certain that if she accepts either import option, our stays will have to be shorter because we’ll be using her immortality effect to go any longer.”
“Ah. Wait… does this mean total power down for everyone?” He asked suspiciously, eying me over the bottle of beer.
“Pretty much. Covert defenses and mental stability stuff all still active, but nothing overt. And no tech past the present… which is starting in 1974, so even computers are going to suck for at least 30 years. We’ll cope. The world is largely the real world, basically as safe as it gets. Now shoo, get those ribs out to the hungry people and pick three other group captains to each pick 5 companions to come with. I’ll pick the last 8 myself… Sounds good?”
He took a deep swing, then nodded. “Yup. Sounds good. Are we breaking up into smaller groups so we can form cells?”
“Hey, no comparing insurgent operations to role playing groups! I didn’t take that drawback!” I pointed a chili-dog at him accusingly.
“Really? I mean, there really was one of those?” I nodded and he grimaced. “Cheeses… that’s… good call. Okay. Catch you in a bit.” and he left just as Kendra came looking for the ribs.
I eyed her for a second, then gasped, “You’re pregnant!”
She glared at me, then Zane, “You told!”
“He did not! I can hear a second heartbeat! How have you been keeping this from me?”
Zane rolled his eyes, “She’s been pregnant for two jumps… That’s why she’s been using Alt-forms for the last two. The fetus is only present in her base-form, apparently.”
Kendra blushed as I raised an eyebrow at her, then she nodded slightly. “Yeah, I… freaked out a little when I realized I was… you know… about a week before Assassination Classroom started. I thought we’d be done with that in a year and we’d be back here and maybe onto someplace safer than Assassination Earth… but then it became a decade… I don’t blame you… I mean, I could have shifted back and then the kid woulda been born on VIggo, but…” She shrugged and I nodded.
“I get it. It’s a big step. Medbay says everything’s okay?”
She nodded, “Oh. Yes. That’s even how I figured out about the altform thing… I don’t know if it’d worked if I hadn’t gotten pregnant in this body… but it is what it is. Experimentation might tell us more… but that would…”
Zane chuckled, “Yeah. Somebody’d have to get knocked up, baby!” He chuckled, then waggled his eyebrows at me. “We could do a grand experiment! We could call it “Operation Everyone’s Expec-” he grunted as Kendra elbowed him and I had to deal with the emotional turmoil of fetish warring with practicality. I’d always considered pregnant women deeply attractive… but I hardly needed every female companion getting pregnant all at once… that would be madness… MADNESS I say. I already had enough trouble from my three children and three wards… I still wasn’t certain if Vita counted in that last group or not. Families were confusing enough before one added semi-ageless immortality to the mix. I say semi because of the yoyoing of ages from starting a jump to ending a jump usually resulted in a 10 year cycle… but our core bodies never aged at all. Not a bit. And the core bodies seemed to lock onto an individual companion at odd times.
Zane had two default forms. One was human and about 35 in appearance, one was a lucario and a young one at that. Kendra looked exactly the same as when I’d stuffed her in stasis all those centuries ago, which made sense. Ahab on the other hand looked like he had after assuming the mantle of Venom Snake, complete with metal horn. Joy was 24. The Kittens 13, despite them not being the same age in their original world (Mini was a year younger) and both of them having been fully mature young women when that jump ended. It was as if their forms were all fixed at the time I’d formed relationships with each of them… and if that wasn’t weird, I don’t know what is… but even that didn’t cover everyone. Gaius looked to be in his mid 50s despite being in his mid 80s when we’d met (though as a Watercrafter, he looked younger than his age naturally) but Anne had been in her 40s when we’d met… but was in her 20s now. Maybe it had to do with their own self image? I had no idea what the logic was, but as long as everyone was healthy and happy, I wasn’t really worried about it… even if it did create relationships which would have looked reprehensible in many of the worlds we visited… of course, that was silly. The physical ages might fluctuate… but all of us were immature idiots half the time… another benefit of ageless immortality… for certain definitions of benefit.
I shook my head to clear it of images of swollen bellies and smiled at Zane and Kendra, “Well, congrats, I guess… Or should I hold off another 6 jumps until you decide you’re ready?”
Kendra looked like she was freaking out and Zane looked like the cat that had swallowed the canary. I considered offering to decant the kid until Kendra was ready, but she was, in theory, just as aware as I was as to the tech available to us. If she hadn’t already considered a uterine replicator, I didn’t think it was my place to suggest it. Coming from me, it might sound like I was bossing her around. I made a note to have Velma mention it in passing. She was good at being diplomatic without the air of authority and layers of resentment that existed between Kendra and me. And that reminded me that I had, for certain values of ‘I’ given birth to several of Zane’s children… for certain values of ‘Zane’. Sigh… My lives are so complicated.
It hadn’t even been the first time. In fact, 82 of my Manifestations as King-Priest of the Magi had been female and all but four of them had born children… including #145 K’nevel Shut-de-door-keep-out-de-weasel (the 69th female King-Priest) who, with her husband Togowayle von Fropfrop the Blue, had had nine children born of her body: Siamac, Murigennan, Beolwyn-my-precious, Mergon (which is funnier in Magoo than in English), Drosophila-hac-Fruitbat, This-is-a-girl’s-name, Aragtus-Aragtus-Aragutus, and Paisley-Frankenstein. All told, I had memories of having given birth exactly eight fewer times than there had been King-Priests (170… the 165 children of King-Priests and four as Sheanna of Blackmoon back in Tortall, plus Jason, my first, all the way back in Harry Potter)… even if I’d only once actually lived through the process in real time. Hurray for magical painkillers.
(Technically there had been 178 King-Priests, though officially there had been 169. For a 9 lifetime period, the Hegemony had spanned both the Milky-Way and Andromeda Clusters… and had not possessed Hyper-FTL comms. During that period, I’d been incarnated once in each galaxy, with the two halves of my being living lives exactly, to the second, as long as each other, connected via me. It had been one of the stranger periods in my existence. I had been very very glad when nigh-instant comms reconnected the two halves of the Hegemony.)
Ah well. As K&Z left the kitchen I turned back to the countertop, chilling it down and dumping some ice cream on it to mix in some strawberries and toffee crumbles. “Okay, Chamber, Items. Go.”
::All origins gain ‘Core Rulebooks’, ‘Crown Royal Bag’, and ‘Bare Necessities’ free,:: supplied the cake-batter flavored ice-cream covered Chamberface. ::The first are the core books required to play your favorite RPG. Not the splats, just the basics. It’s not much, but it is free. The Crown Royal Bag… I was under the impression that Crown Royal is a not-very good brand of Canadian Whisky?:: I nodded, cringing at the idea of Canadian swill… I was filthy fucking rich, I didn’t drink whisky that was less than 40 years old and had gotten progressively pickier with age… at least with booze… and yet I drank wine coolers… I’m not a sane woman-thing. ::Why would dice come in a bag for Alcohol?::
“Seagrams sells it’s mildly not-terrible Crown Royal brand in cotton bags that are traditionally purple with golden thread work. Back when the idea of gaming specific supplies were a pipe-dream, almost every gamer kept their dice in a Crown Royal bag because it was incredibly convenient. My dad knew a guy who worked as a bartender who would sell crown-royal bags for a couple bucks a pop to the local game shop who’d turn around and sell them to kids for five bucks. Of course, by the mid-90s other dice-bags were becoming pretty common, but they often weren’t nearly as nice as CR bags… though usually much tougher. I take it the Crown Royal Bag comes with a full set of dice?”
::It comes with just enough dice to play your favorite RPG, but can hold as many dice as you put in it, and the die you want will always be the one you retrieve. It, unlike the Core Rulebooks, can be upgraded for 50 RP so that it contains an unlimited amount of any type of dice needed, as long as that type of dice existed in your world of origin.::
I blinked at that, then smiled. “Wow… that’s a lot… I mean, there are solid gold dice in my world… not that I need gold.” I have thousands of metric tons of the stuff. “Sure. I’ll spring for the upgrade. 200 CP left without taking any Extensions. Never can have too many dice. What’s Bare Necessities?”
::It is a job that pays enough for you to live on, assuming you live simply. Also, a basic home of some sort, a cheap but decent vehicle of any appropriate type, and the basic sundries needed to live in this world. The job will be something you are capable of doing, and that works with your background, and have a reasonably flexible schedule. Like the dice bag, this can be upgraded, though that costs 100 RP.::
“To what? Nicer accommodations?”
::Essentially, yes. For that price, you’ll have a trust fund that pays in whatever the local currency is, equivalent to two hundred thousand dollars US, circa 2015… per year. Your home, vehicle, and other possessions from this jump are upgraded to be appropriate to that level of income. The money is legal, with all taxes paid, and all documentation needed. No one will question where it came from. Further, you may pay the upgrade price multiple times, each time moving the decimal point one space to the right. This trust fund will follow you to all future jumps, adapting as needed, and can be toggled off for a jump. All other forms of income you receive, be it perk or item or just by working, may be added to your trust fund, and will also be completely legal with all taxes paid and documentation needed. I can feel your eyes boring into my surface… stop that.::
I blinked very slowly and deliberately, processing that ridiculous largess and considering very carefully… “I… hmmm… yeah. I’ll take five.”
::You realize that’s two billion dollars a year, yes? 416 million dollars in 1974 dollars. That is, as far as I can tell, an egregious amount of money.::
“I can, in fact, do math, yes. Thank you. And I’m very much aware of the amount of money I’m talking about. And to pay that off, give me No Gygax and two extensions. That takes me up to 30 year since No Gygax doesn’t say it extends my stay, just that I have twenty years to accomplish that goal. No Gygax is 200, I had 200, and two Extensions is 100. That’s 500. I’m even… so far. Anything else everyone gets?”
::Negative. However, ‘Character Sheet’, ‘All the Books’, and ‘Con Registration’ are all general items. The Character sheet grants you a sheet that displays the holder’s actual abilities… as best approximated into whatever RPG the holder requests. That costs 50. For another 50, it can do this for anyone the holder can see. All the books is similarly two phase. For 50, you gain all the RPG books ever published. For 100, it includes all accessories, including maps, DM Screens, or Soundtracks… and you’ll always be able to find exactly the part of the collection you’re looking for when you go looking for it. And the Con Registration gives you VIP pre-registration at any Convention you want to attend, as well as a reserved place at any event, panel, or game session you desire, including hotel reservations and travel arrangements, all in a handy document folder that will have just what you need when you decide you want to go to that Con. Are Cons really that important?::
“On a scale from one to yes? Oh you betcha… fuck, all those are nice. Fine. I’ll take the Sheet and the Registration. That’s another 4 stays… we’re up to 70 years. Better not be anything amazing in the rest of these items… and I really want those books… well… one of my companions can take the hit for that. One of them better or I’mma be pissed.”
::As a Casual, you get a set of Quick Start Rules free. That’s the very basic first session rules for any game system you want to try. For 50, you can get a cooler that contains an unlimited amount of drinks and gaming snacks… chips, pretzels, sodas, cookies, trail mix, candy… that sort. For 100 more it could be take out like pizza or chinese food instead, and the cooler keeps the stuff hot or cold. And for 100 straight up, you can get a ‘Magic Writing Implement’, be it a pencil, pen, calligraphy brush… it can change as you desire and never runs out of whatever medium it uses. Whenever used to fill out a form, it will always do so correctly, with the proper information and all calculations made correctly. It appears when needed and disappears when not.::
I ground my teeth, then sighed. “I’ll take it… the Implement I mean. The other two are crap, but I guess the Quick Start Rules are free… bleh. Two more extensions… that’s 90 years. Change my starting age to 18. I don’t need the hassle of being underage… fuck… 1974 is still Viet Nam… there’s a draft active… oh. Waaait. New Domino City isn’t in the US. Hah! So, are there any other really nice items or abilities I should know about to tempt me to stay longer?”
::I still think you are cheating with abusing Yuzuha’s ability like that, but technically you are correct… Higher also deems your longevity to be a basic defensive quality. I guess they just want to see what you end up doing with all that time. Regardless, yes, there are multiple convenient things you might want. The Roleplayer has a journal that automatically records entries related to your adventures, especially the fictional ones, a folder that produces supporting evidence and documents for any character you create, including one normal person in the real world of each setting after this, and a costume that’s guaranteed to be comfortable and match the character you’re playing… purely costume though. Power Gamers get a case that produces pre-painted and assembled miniatures for any game you might want or need them for, a quick reference guide that automatically opens to the relevant section of any rule book you’ve a question about, with an easy to understand explanation of the rule in question, and an all purpose tactical map that works for both gaming and real life. That Guy gets cheater dice that are more likely to roll well, a cheater pen that can erase and replace information seamlessly, and a perfect gaming room that becomes a warehouse attachment after the jump.::
I considered, then shrugged. “While the document folder, mini case, tactical map, and gaming room all sound useful, they also sound like something that only has to be bought once to help everyone… maybe a few times for the map and the case and the folder. What about perks? Anything useful from the other two lines… not used to having practically unlimited points… feels… odd…”
::The Power Gamer’s Perks include Speed Reading, the power to read and fully absorb written material at 100 times normal… useless for you… the Know the Rules to Exploit them memory perk… also useless for you… a perk called ‘Analysis which makes you excellent at studying systems and figuring out how they work and what loopholes there are… also useless for you, you legalistic supervillain you… and Synergy which makes you better at combining your various abilities into new ones. A talent you’ve already demonstrated quite a bit. I don’t think you’ll find my new there… testament to your own inner Power Gamer nature?:: She mocked.
I snorted. “I am not a power gamer. I’ve just been at this a long time and I’m not an idiot. One picks up a lot of abilities over 80 jumps.”
::Has it really been that many? I guess it has… very well… That Guy’s perks, if you’re interested, are a talent for insulting, annoying, and disgusting people; the ability to cope with social or complete isolation without issue; an excellence in cheating that makes your cheating hard to detect; and protection from being forced to suffer the penalty for wrongdoing.::
“What are they if I’m not interested?” I snarked, then waved the question away. “Never mind… stupid joke. “Naw. None of those really suit me. Good lord… I’ll be 118 at the end of this jump and it’ll be the year 2064… I guess I should table the rest of this until I see who Dogman has picked.”
Zane had organized the end of jump cookout into a basketball & tiddlywinks tourney, but most of that had wound down now and people were merely draped over furniture or each other. Clearly this was a sub par time to ask them to be introspective, especially with the amount of booze in their systems, but he’d managed to frame the division into sub-cadres with the subtly that only comes from experiencing far too many military campaigns. Of course, being Zane, he’d substituted bald-faced ridiculous for guile, and so the cadres were now competing to see who could make the goofiest of trickshots.
Thus, when I asked for a report, I was told that Zane’s Team Fearsome had HO, Toph’s Team Amazon had HOR, Kagetane’s Team Dreadnaught had HORS, and Amelia’s Team Invincible was out, having racked up HORSE just as I arrived from the kitchen. Zane, or (as he was calling himself) Fearsome Six (in a team, the six is the commander, in certain military traditions), looked inordinately proud of himself. Of course, he had the senior-most group of companions, so of course he was winning. Git. I didn’t point this out to him. Even with the perk dampening field that generally pervaded the common areas of the warehouse, just the sheer weight of experience and muscle memory was stacked against the other teams.
Team Fearsome consisted of Zane and Kendra (of course), as well as Zane’s best friend (besides me) Bao, Bao’s SO Uriel, and the Sasuke to Zane’s Naruto, AJ. Where AJ went, Francine was nearly always there, though the duo weren’t quite an item. I mean, they were together, but I don’t think it was romantic so much as just long familiarity. Looong familiarity.
Team Amazon (named for the rainforest, not the tribe of women-warrior, according to Amazon Six… Toph) was a bit more of a mess. Toph had drafted her son, Buji, but his traditional wing-man Simon as they were currently feuding over something I had no interest in getting involved in, but it was suboptimal, all things considered. She’d also drafted her best friend, Reggy, who had drafted Kohina, who in turn had drafted Gaius, who’d selected Petra. That team had a interesting mix of dynamics, which I liked, even though I’d really have rathered that either Simon be included or Buji not be. But that would require pulling rank and either making Buji feel slighted or Simon feel pitied and I just wasn’t going there. And no, Simon wasn’t included on any other team… though both his parents were… maybe I could be subtle about it.
Caine and Beth had both been selected for Kagetane’s Team Dreadnaught, which also included Bart, Meetra, and the Bookers… maybe I could convince the Jedi to give up her spot? Argh… ethics are hard. No wonder so many people become supervillains when they have some power. I made a note to speak to Meetra a bit later… though I would feel a little uneasy about putting Simon, who was a good kid, into that group of hardened killers. Hopefully, they wouldn’t feel the need to massacre any ethnic groups during our stay in this world.
If Team Fearsome’s theme was couples, and Team Amazon’s was ‘people Toph doesn’t hate’, and Team Dreadnaught’s was murderers with tenuous morals and self-control, Team Invincible’s theme was… ladies. Amelia, as Invincible Six, had selected her Maj, Queen Anne; Rapunzel stand-in Lizzy; the Mad Doctor Brigid; scary superheroine Raven; and Tsundere Goddess Tokimi-Chan. The relationship complexity of that group was… umm… staggering. Raven had been having an affair with Anne (also Yuzuha, Nurgath, Caitlyn, and Caine, but they weren’t in the group… and Nurgath had also been having affairs with Yuzuha and Anne… all of which I knew about because the drama of that involved a being I was literally soul-bound to), Anne had also been having a fling with Brigid, who was in triad with Rosalind Lutece and Tokimi-Chan… and Brigid had been frequenting the beds of three members of the Bookers (Ladysmith Book, DeWitt Boostock, and Fleetwood Hale… the other two, Manfred and Whitey were a bit of a couple and hadn’t that spurred debate on the old is it gay or just masturbation to have a homosexual relationship with one of your quantum twins question.). This I knew about because Amelia, still a diehard Anne partisan and I had, err… well… yeah… it’s complex.
In my defense, I had invited Amelia to join my household, but she steadfastly refused until Ryoga and Yoiko returned and the entire household could make an informed decision. Also, she felt accepting would be rude to Tokimi-Chan… who, despite being my self-declared fiancee for centuries, I’d never slept with. Frankly I was somewhat astounded Tokimi had managed to have a stable sexual relationship with Brigid and Rosalind… but maybe it wasn’t sexual for her… I wasn’t prying. I should point out that I hate Soap Operas… so why was I living one? For instance… why was Caine sleeping with both Beth and Lizzy… and Joy? And why was Joy sleeping with both Ahab and Kagetane? And why was Ahab sleeping with Reggy and RayRay and Francine!? And why… oh… good lord, so many… many… I’ll draw you a picture.
At least the Choirs haven’t been branching out among my other companions… or trying to kill each other… or my actual love interests. In fact, I think they’re mostly trying to convert my support staff to one of two rival religions based on me… which might work if the vast majority of them didn’t already belong to a third religion based on me. It was like being god of one Abrahamic faith and having missionaries from the other two faiths trying to gather adherents… except my Neo-Magi (the people who followed me from Warhammer 40k) could just send their representatives to ask me if the Lost or the Righteous had my stamp of approval… which they didn’t… but the Neo-Magi just humored the crazy ladies (and secretly collected the XXX-rated fanfiction that Fi and Sabine kept generating… ).
But back to the Teams. I considered who was and wasn’t selected, them waved to Carwyn and told her that she was now Calamity Six, with a team that consisted of Cirno, Velma, Frankie, Mini, and the kids. I picked Carwyn as Six because she was good at getting the others to work together… and she had no partner that I’d be relegated to second tier if I picked the other. Of course, Team Calamity would be my personal team, but then again, weren’t all the teams mine? Why do I feel the strange need to chuckle maniacally and rub my hands together?
That accomplished, I wandered around, talking and chatting, just being casual and telling everyone what the next jump entailed and offering everyone an out if they didn’t feel up for decades of gaming in something like the real world. I may have subtly hinted to Meetra that it would be helpful that she could beg off to allow Simon to take her place so that he could spend time with his parents. I’d have to see if I was convincing, but I’d wait a few days before formally announcing who the companions for the next jump were and soliciting companion builds.
As it turned out, Meetra was more than happy to trade her slot to Simon… but she wanted something in trade. She wanted priority placement in the next jump that had significant power on offer. The idea of gaining gaming related abilities, although useful, paled in comparison, she said, to some of the real power offered and she wanted some of that. I considered that, wondering if I had a power hungry Sith on my hands or a Jedi who wanted the power to correct injustices… or a Magi who wanted to actually make things better. Ultimately, what I had was a friend and follower making a request that was reasonable. I nodded and agreed that, baring extremis, I’d do as she asked.
And that was that. I had my teams… though everyone would likely take advantage of the Basic Import. Not like anyone really needed to stay in the warehouse if they didn’t want to. I announced office hours a week before the jump was to start and invited the various Sixes to get their teams in order.
I shan’t go in depth into who bought what, but perhaps some of the demographics will serve to amuse or enlighten… or, often (as happened to me) confuse. Contrary to my hopes, all four origins had had their adherents… yes, even ‘That Guy’, but I’ll get there eventually. In general, of the 700 CP each (besides Ahab and Joy) had had to spend, five or six hundred had been spent on discounted perks, which was good, and almost everyone had taken their origin’s capstone, which showed intelligence… but not all had and there were some interesting builds and some strange ones… but none that made no sense at all. Unfortunately, some of the statistics saddened me a little, but again, I’ll get there.
In the Casual Camp there was Uriel, Buji, Kohina, The Bookers, Tokimi-Chan, Carwyn, and Velma. Each and every one had taken the GM’s Girlfriend Capstone, because it was pretty darn good. Buji’d then sacrificed all the other perks to get ‘All The World’s a Stage’, the master actor perk from from the Roleplayer line. Kohina had gone after the Know the Rules memory perk from Power Gamer, and the Bookers had decided on the Analysis perk from the same line, which made sense for bodyguards slash contract killers. So far, so reasonable.
The Roleplayer Room was larger and had most of the really questionable builds, but that should be no surprise considering that Roleplayers tend to make choices for thematic reasons rather than practical ones. It contained Zane, Bao, Reggy, Caine, Beth, Amelia, Anne, Lizzy, Frankie, Mini, and Amaryllis, plus Ahab and Joy. Of course, The Bosses had only gotten 100 RP, so they couldn’t have the Bullshit Tier Keikaku Doori / planning to rival the best Capstone, but they weren’t the only ones who didn’t have it. Anne had given it up to get the Know the Rules memory perk and Speed Reading perks from Powergamer; Lizzy had sacrificed it fom the self-updating Tactical Map, the document generating Character Background, the shapeshifting Omni-Costume, and a set of the minis that all Powergamers got; Frankie had ignored it in favor of All The Books, the Omni-Costume, basic Snacks, and the Con Registration; and Amy had opted instead to get Casual’s Hell of a Nice Guy, which was the equivalent of multiclassing I guess. Beth had gotten the Capstone… but nothing else, being the only one of my companions to take the Table Rules enforcing ‘Rules & Standards’ which made anyone who gamed with her pretty much have to play by any reasonable table rules she insisted on.
Of course, she hadn’t taken Master of Masters, so she’d have to compete with those among us who had… at least to be GM in our group… not that I anticipated a clique of MoMs locking up all the GMing, but they’d certainly dominate the prime tables I anticipated, at least for a while. Still, counting myself, only nine members of our cadre had ponied up for that particular perk and the responsibilities that came with it: Zane, Caine, Amelia, Raven, Tokim-Chan, Carwyn, Maggy, Joy, and I. It wasn’t impossible to run a game without it, certainly I’d managed for centuries… but it certainly would help… especially if you also had a decent imagination. Still, it was important to remember that just because one lacked a perk to back up a talent didn’t mean one couldn’t do it just as well without it. It was something I had to remind people of from time to time… and I’d definately have to this time, since unless Joy decided to join Toph’s group, they had no MoM at all.
The third faction, Power Gamer’s Prosperity Sphere as Zane insisted we call them, included Kendra, AJ, Francine, Gaius, Petra, Kagetane, Simon, Raven, and Maggy… a membership roster that I think should surprise no one. All but two of them had taken the powerblending Synergy Capstone… and those two who hadn’t were the hyperspecialized Francine (Psi) and Cirno (Ice Magic)… both of whom had taken the charisma boosting Hell of Nice Guy from the Casual Line. Interestingly, Kagetane had spent his last 100 RP to buy the cheapest That Guy perk, the manipulative and insulting ‘Rude Crude Dude’. He said he found the idea amusing.
And that should tell you who was at ‘That Guy’s’ Table of ‘Specialitude’… which is, unfortunately, a word. Toph the Anti-Social, Bart the Sociopathic, Brigid the Highly Unethical… and Alex the Pain in the Ass. When asked why, Toph had hinted that she might enjoy another few decades alone in the deep jungle and she was afraid she’d forgotten how to be alone. Bart and Brigid on the other hand said they just wanted to be able to get away with minor crimes without being hassled… which was kind of scary. Alex had, at first, claimed it was entirely about the gaming room and being able to insult people, but I finally got him to admit that the getting away with things short of murder and the cheating perks were a major driving force as well. I had to remind him that those perks would not work on me and which point he sassed my and claimed ‘We shall see, we shall see indeed.” Oh yes, my boy… we shall. Of course, all four ‘That Guys’ got the cheating and get away with stuff perks… because of course they did… siiigh. That Guys.
Perhaps the saddest thing were the infrequency of certain perks being taken… or maybe that some items got take at all. Only Uriel and I had bought Ambassador of Games… which I understand, since it’s not a very ‘utility’ perk… but still kinda heartbreaking. Only AJ, Frankie, and I had taken the Con Registration item… but we had money and money can fix many such oversights in future I suspect. So much so that I almost considered turning in my Con Registration for a bump to 20 Billion a year… but spending money like that just rubs me the wrong way… plus, if I really wanted that bump, I could just stay another twenty years. And speaking of the trust fund… one of my companions apparently wanted financial independence.. Or hadn’t thought I’d share, since Reggy had signed up for 2 Mill a year from her own personal trust fund. But maybe she anticipated it coming in handy in a future side jump situation. Also potentially pointless was the fact that Toph, Frankie, and Uriel had bought the Snacks & Drinks… Uriel at the second level… they did realize we had a warehouse full of food options, right? Ah well… maybe I’d snitch some of Uriel’s Pad Thai.
As for Ahab and Joy’s builds? Well, as I said, Joy had spent her limited stipend on Master of Masters. Ahab had bought World of Imagination and claimed he was going to try his hand at writing fiction. From the Yugioh side, Ahab was a trader, which came with nearly a dozen free (and useless) cards of various rarities free, while Joy was a Technician, which came with trap detection. Both got Crazy Hair. Joy spent her stipend there on the finding random cards and five bucks cash a month thing (Sigh, really?) and Ahab… on the Trap detection… because really? What the hell else was he going to spend it on?
And that, as they say, is that.
It has been said before, and will be said again, no doubt many times, that Time and Money fix many problems. And that’s when they are alone. When they’re combined? They function exponentially. Gygax and Arneson still existed in this world, even if Gygax was still in the Marine Corps. It was childsplay to get enough money together to convince him to leave, then to get the two of them together and guide them into creating an improved version of the original Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons.
Money again conquered any issues about reach and popularity. Advertised in magazines I now owned, sold in stores i now owned, and published by companies I also now owned, D&D, Tunnels and Trolls, and Rune Quest all flourished in seemingly direct competition with each other as I made roleplaying a household term… and royally pissed off the anti-satan crowd. Mazes and Monsters was no better in this world, but it was ten times as popular. Unfortunately for the microbrained haters who owned the rights to it, they were no less susceptible to money and charisma and I soon owned the rights to Rona Jaffe’s book… along with not just the rights to the movie, but controlling interest in CBS itself.
Convincing the still young Tom Hanks, who’d to date only starred in M&M, to reprise his role was simplicity itself. I offered him money… and a chance to star under director John Hughes, who I’d convinced to direct the sequel. I even convinced Jaffe to ‘pen’ the second by throwing 100k at her and telling her to sign on the line and tell anyone who asked that she’d written the book… The sequel was a decent hit in theatres across the country, where the case was made that role playing was, if you weren’t an idiot, just good, and often risque, fun.
A string of high budget and skillfully directed D&D Movies followed over the next decade, ranging from the terrifying Tomb of Horrors to the intrigue filled ‘Ill Met In Lankhmar’ to the fantastic ‘Icewind Dale’ trilogy. I was relentless in pushing not just the realm of role playing forward, but also video gaming, CGI, and the reputation of science fiction and fantasy as a whole. When Magic the Gathering came out, I was Richard Garfield’s silent backer. When Duel monsters came out, I was the primary backer.
By the end of the 20th century, thanks to careful investing and foreknowledge, I wasn’t sitting on a fortune worth 48 billion dollars… I was sitting on ten times that, making me the single richest person on the planet… and no one knew it because it was diversified across a dozen countries and three times as many corporations. I was the majority shareholder in Time-Warner, Disney, Hasbro, Microsoft, Kaiba-Corp, Sony, Fox, Amazon.com, Google, and Viacom… though you’d have had to have a degree in forensic accounting to know it.
To most people who knew me, I was just Sebastian Johansson, a somewhat eccentric game expert who went to all the conventions and bought people games just to see if they liked them. I also had a network of people collecting every card, comic, and game being published anywhere in the world and carefully shipping me at least one case of each… even if the game was utter crap, I’d have at least a dozen copies… of every official release.
It was in the middle of a trip to Germany to the award ceremony for the board game Settlers of Catan in 1995 that the first oddity occurred… though I wasn’t to realize it for almost a decade. It was at the Essen Game Fair (which, a decade earlier, I’d managed to get combined with the Spiel des Jahres award ceremony for Game of the Year) that I ran into a father and son from Italy. The father seemed vaguely familiar to me, a young man in his late twenties with the name tag ‘Bertino’, but the son, ‘Gino’ all of 6, was a fierce Duel Monsters player, clearly gifted with insight into the game and he’d managed to win the junior tourney and was doing very well in the adult bracket where I was one of the judges.
He lost, but I remember complementing the boy and telling him how the company that made the cards, Industrial Illusions, was based in California, but that it featured a lot of Japanese style art in addition to the Egyptian and European themed cards. Gino, who’d never heard of Anime, was fascinated, and I gave Bertino a card for one of my local contacts in Italy who could hook him up with recommendations that Gino might enjoy.
That was it and I’d largely relegated the incident to inactive memory for many years, especially since 1996 was the year the events of Yugioh actually began. I’d had my agents watching out for Mutou Yugi to solve the ridiculously heavy pyramid necklace fob called the Millennium Puzzle and to track the incidents surrounding that. I knew that Seto Kaiba was going to try to kill Yugi and his friends… I’d read enough of the manga to remember thinking how stupid it was to try and murder several schoolmates using games that must have cost millions and millions of dollars (let alone Yen) to construct.
Now, please, I don’t want you to think I was doing all this out of concern for Yugi or his friends. I really had no vested interest in making certain that they survived. In fact, for my purposes, if they actually died it might have been better, but I certainly wasn’t going to root for that outcome either. Rather, I merely needed evidence that Seto, functioning as de facto CEO of KaibaCorp, was unhinged. That allowed me to call an emergency meeting of the board of directors and seize control of the company through my proxies. Yes yes, I know, taking candy from sociopathic children. Bad EssJay. But seriously? Death games for teenagers? Who thinks this is a good idea?!
Regardless of the marginally questionable business ethics, I had any number of reasons to want to derail the plotline of Yugioh’s timeline. See, somehow the physics of this world mean that the underlying magic of the original egyptian stone carvings that became the Duel Monster cards is tied to a form of perpetual motion energy source… I’m not kidding. I might have lost all my science perks, but I’d still spent a lot of time sciencing over the last few thousand years and had had twenty years to push the tech level upwards from 1974 levels… and some of the mangatech in this world was already pretty advanced… and I could see the coming destruction of the original Domino city in a Duel Monster Energy fueled calamity that would claim any number of lives. Better to head that off as best I could.
Then, before I knew it, it was the new millenia. My various businesses hosted new year celebrations all over the world, often importing acts from around the world to entertain and spread the theme of a global society. That’s why I had the J-Pop girl band Shonen Knife perform in Paris, american thrash metal / shock rock band GWar perform in Tokyo, Bhangra artist Daler Mehndi perform in New York, Finnish folk group Loituma perform in Mumbai, and Columbian super-star Shakira perform in Sweden, since (as we all know) Finland doesn’t actually exist… or at least, in this world, for some inexplicable reason, it didn’t. Instead, it was, of all things, a Japanese Fishing Colony… and the location of Domino City, because of course it was… though I guess that does explain why a Japanese city has an European name.
It was around this time that I hired a young woman named Ishida Yokimi to head up operations for Sony Entertainment of America. She was hardworking, a full decade and a half younger than her predecessor, and a firm believer in making a product with global appeal without making it pablum. I had one task for her… create an MMO that would dominate this world’s market as thoroughly as World of Warcraft did in my homeworld, and do so without breaking up the Final Fantasy Numbering scheme… The result? Final Quest Online, a blending of Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy… and, thanks to Manga-Tech, the first fully VR MMO.
In 2008, in a stunning coup, the capital of that fantasy world would play host to the Duel Monsters World Championship and record the single largest attendance of any sporting event ever. 10.7 million people from all around the world would watch, rapt, as Yugi Mutou managed to eke out a slim, come from behind victory, over Seiji Tanaka to clench the All-Japan title, only to go down swinging to French-Chinese upstart Zachary ‘Zane’ Cho in the final. The media circus that erupted a few days later as the 26 year old Seiji accused the 28 year old Yugi of being a has-been who’d accepted money from the Yakuza to throw the tourney would go on to be the decade’s biggest gaming scandal, as, in a stunning turn around, Yugi managed to prove that it was, in fact, Tanaka who had Yakuza ties and who’d been planning on throwing the final. The news was so shocking that even US President Gore felt the need to comment… what? You thought I wouldn’t meddle in politics too?
Another oddity came in 2010, when I was reviewing applicants for some of the various scholarships I’d established… I know, I have a global financial empire that runs a significant percentage of the world economy, I should have people to do this kind of thing for me… and I do. But giving money and assistance to people who deserve it is one of life’s real pleasures and so I personally review all the finalists for all my scholarships just to see what kind of people I was helping.
Now, I don’t get all the details. The scholarships are racially and gender blind for the most part (some schools aren’t, so I can tell a little from that, and applicants come from all over the world, so since some countries are mono-cultures or largely… well you get the point) and I don’t even get full names… but I do get details of the individual’s life, grades, written application, homelife specifics, and testimonials by concerned sponsors. And I’d just been reviewing the file on a young person from Natal, a state capital in brazil, remarking on this young boy or girl’s achievements. He/she was an orphan and had been fostered by an elderly woman, had a passion for entomology and anime, and maintained a near perfect academic record, with only gym class being an issue. She/he was also apparently non-vocal, perhaps due to some past trauma.
The letters of recommendation came from a teacher, a priest, and the child’s foster mother and all of them were moving and or glowing and I was impressed by their passion and clear fondness for the child. So I approved the funds transfer and then I moved on to the next in the pile. But I’d remember the incident a few years later.
The oddities began to build faster and faster as time went on, but I only recognized them in hindsight. I blame being busy more than the lack of my full suite of perks, but to be fair, by the time the moon exploded, I’d been in this world as Sebastian for nearly four decades. I think I can be forgiven for never having actually verified that there was no Kunugigaoka Academy in this world. But, looking up at the crescent that was all that remained of Luna, I could tell that I’d been wrong to make that assumption.
And just like that, I realized what else I’d been overlooking. I’d met Umberto Pepperoni at a gaming convention when he was 17 years younger… and somehow inspired a wealthy italian business man to move to Japan. I’d sent GWAR to Tokyo, inspiring three japanese girls who must have been all of two years old at time, to emulate their shock-rock costumes. I’d hired Ishida Benjiro’s mother to run Square American, thus allowing her young son to become obsessed with Americana and Benjamin Franklin. My stunning coup in getting a major sporting event (yes, Duel Monsters is still a sporting event, shut up you haters) to be held online had led to the very public shaming of Tanaka Arita’s Uncle and the involvement of the Anzai Yakuza Clan. And yes… as it turns out, thanks to a prank pulled on me by some of my employees… I’d given a scholarship to an Iguana… and Kunugigaoka, being very Japanese, had not wanted to make waves with the incredibly wealthy trillionaire who decided to send an IGUANA to a Japanese School.
In fact, as I went back over my memories, I realized that, in some way or another, I had encountered the families of every member of Class 3-F and, as is the common property of massive gravitational objects, deflected their fates just enough to guarantee that they’d all be in that class with those particular issues… and then a massive chrome space-fortress appeared in the sky and began to rebuild the moon… because of course it did. And there was, functionally, no way to contact myself, as the united Earth Military tried everything they could to blast the Disco Star out of the sky… which wasn’t much, to be honest.
And so, with my Sensei-Self stuck in the sky, I felt the responsibility to make certain that my former students actually managed to make something of their lives. So that’s what I dedicated the next fifty years to. So, once again, the class roster of a group once known as Class 3-F of Kunugigaoka Academy… updated, age 66:
F-1) Anzai Kyoden (M), retired as Chief of Police, Tokyo, at age 51 to run for Mayor. Known as Anzai the Inccoruptable. Won in a landslide despite the massive political corruption. Married Holly Wataburger. 3 children, 11 grandchildren.
F-2) Shankar Tibbs (M), dedicated his life to helping develop treatment and early detection for those with various sociopathic and antisocial personality defects. Struggled with his own impulses for decades. Wrote a series of best-selling murder mysteries with a sociopathic main character who constantly struggled with violent urges. Never Married.
F-3) Makaba Rikudo (F), won fifteen e-sport world championships in Starcraft, Starcraft 2, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Neo-Pong. Retired at age 24, founded E-Gonomics, a company that specializes in VR based educational software. Married Ugaki Haruna. 4 children, 2 grandchildren.
F-4) Holly Wataburger (F), wrote a book about following your dreams, never got over being obsessed with the current fads, but did get over her sillier phase. Joined the JDF. Served in the war as a tank commander. Went on to advocate for tanking to be taught in schools. Married Anzai Kyoden. 3 children, 11 grandchildren, one rottweiler named Erwin.
F-5) Matara Dearche (F)… Still making poor choices… but cute.
F-6) Dabo Yukimi (F) writer of the incredibly popular Bluefang Darkwater, Hero of Two Worlds series of young adult novels. Has 7 cats and one husband, all of whom adore her. Adoptive mother of 3. First Human to be successfully cloned.
F-7) Ishida Benjiro (M) Japanese Ambassador to United Nations 2034-2041, Prime-Minister of Japan 2042-2066. Married Onohara Toyoshige. One Son, Ishida Furankurin.
F-8) Onohara Toyoshige (F) Writer-Director of 19 feature films. Winner of 7 Golden Globes and two academy awards. Tokyo University Professor of History.
F-9) Hashimoto Dina (F) Co-Founder of the J-Grunge Movement, which is to Grunge as J-Pop is to Pop Music. Co-Founder of Polyamory Japan. Arrested and jailed for political protest 2022-2024. Married to Ebuchi Ebi and Tanaka Arita. 2 biological children, 1 grandchild.
F-10) Tomioka Chomei (M). Food Critic for Mainichi Shimbun. Married to Gashu Saana. No children. Chomei was nearly killed in a traffic accident in 2029 and his spine replaced with cybernetics. He was killed by the terror EMP blast of 2054.
F-11) Zero Vita (F) Extremely cute. Not particularly useful except in combat, but very good at playing tanks. 34 time DOTA2 World Champion.
F-12) Lloyd McGill (M) Founder of Werewolfism and author if ‘So you want to be a Werewolf’, a book that advocates a werewolf-like lifestyle, embracing outdoorsmanship, naturalism, and howling to relieve tension. Officially unmarried. Unofficially has six wives and 19 children. Also works as a conspiracy discreditor and anti-conspiracy educator.
F-13) Ebuchi Ebi (F) Co-Founder of the J-Grunge Movement, which has been described as the unholy fusion of Cybergoth fashion and Norwegian Death Metal. Co-Founder of Polyamory Japan. Arrested and jailed for political protest 2022-2024. Married to Hashimoto Dina and Tanaka Arita. 3 biological children, 2 grandchildren.
F-14) Tanaka Arita (M) Very surprised by how his life has turned out. Two Time Judo Gold-Medalist, Youth Counselor, professional role model. 5 biological children, 2 grandchildren (don’t do the math if you’re squeamish). Married to Ebuchi Ebi and Hashimoto Dina.
F-15) Tofu (M) Founder of Virtual Buddhism, a school of Buddhism which utilizes VR to mediate, a form of Cyber-Asceticism. Called the world’s second fastest growing religion in 2051.
F-16) Matara Levi (F) Movie Star. Mostly Action films. Brief Career in music. Voted worst album of 2024. President of Screen Actors’ Guild from 2048-2064.
F-17) Zigminder Alex (?) President of TSR-Time-Warner. Inventor of the Virtual Toaster, a device that VR transmission of nutrients. Credited with ending world hunger.
F-18) Sato Chuichi (M) Mangaka. Creator of the truly amazing(ly violent) Trauma Kid Juno which ran for 22 years. Credited with starting third wave shonen comics and revitalizing the industry. Unmarried, 3 children with the same woman.
F-19) Nakae Eichi (F) Housewife. Mother of 3. Very happy with her life. Married Stephano Pepperoni. They live in Switzerland.
F-20) Doi Moromao (M) Musician, musical educator, never married. Composed an entire symphony for beatbox, entitled ‘My Life in Sound, volume 4’. Married and divorced twice. No children.
F-21) Mufasa Arello (M) Joined the JDF, injured during the war, sent home, became an MP, eventually elevated to General in charge of the JDF’s Keimutai. Married to Akechi Sonada.
F-22) Tokimi-Chan (F) CEO of ACOM Global (the fusion of Microsoft, Sony, Viacom, and Fox)
F-23) Akechi Sonada (M) Medical Doctor, specializing in cybernetics and trauma surgery. Served as a medical officer during the War. Married to Mufasa Arello. They have a dog named Fritter.
F-24) Ignatz Ignasty (M) World Wildlife Fund spokesman. Died of extreme old age in 2031, age 26. Left behind 31 children, 8 of them human, with 19 different mothers, 5 of them human. Ignasty Park established as world’s largest park in his memory, encompassing more than 1.4 million square miles of rainforest in Brazil and Peru, including reforested regions.
F-25) Matara Stern (F) Career MMA fighter and fashion designer.
F-26) Umberto Pepperoni (M) Became fluent in Japanese so he could speak to Gino’s Wife Sakiko. Ended up with two japanese daughters-in-law. Died of natural causes in 2062, age 95.
F-27) Gashu Saana (F) Co-Founder of the J-Grunge Movement, which is said to be only marginally preferable to electroshock torture, but still better than Country-Western. Professor of Music Theory, the Sorbon. Plays seventeen instruments. Composer. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Voted Rolling Stones greatest Guitarist of the decade 2041-2050, #7 of all time. Widow of Tomioka Chomei. Remarried following his death. 1 child.
F-28) Ugaki Haruna (F) Actually turned out to be bisexual. Actress-Comedienne. Speaks 41 languages fluently. Nobel Prize in Literature. Nobel Peace Prize for her work in handling the refugee situation during the War. Married Makaba Rikudo. 4 children, 2 grandchildren.
So there you go. What started as a dream in 1974 to make roleplaying as popular as it could be ended up (thanks to compound interest, shrewd investment, insider knowledge, and 2 billion a year) being the single largest economic force in the world by the time 2064 rolled around… and I got to watch a bunch of very interesting people grow up… and play a lot of games. I mean a lot. Four days a week, fifty weeks a year, for nine decades. I played board games, card games, video games, mind games, politics, and roleplaying. Sooo much roleplaying… not all of it PG-13.
Still, it was a damned good life, and even in this world so much like my own… if a bit too animefied to be purely the same… and I realized, with a bit of a shock, that I’d miss this world and it’s weird obsession with Duel Monsters… but then again, the Yu-Gi-Oh card game was the best selling TCG of all time back in my homeworld… so eh? Who am I to cast stones?
“So… Papa, what are you looking forward to most,” asked Amaryllis, president of Disney and very pretty princess.
I shrugged, sipping a pina colada as I looked out over my family and friends playing on the beach of the Atlantis resort, and ran my hand over my bare scalp… “Having hair again, I think.”
She smiled, then put Ziggy on my head. “There. Easily solved.”
Next: Worm (yes, really)
OMAKE: Relationship Chart
If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.
I also have an original Novel (it’s space opera) in progress here. Please Check it out. Let me know if I should create a Blog for it too. I also have a very silly second chain about a Jumper named Zed, temporarily on hiatus. It isn’t very long.
AN: Yes, I know the featured image has hair… that’s what Sebastian looks like when he has hair after the drawback wears off. He is 108 years old.
- Soul of Ice
- Silent Judge
- Spirit of Twilight
- Hypersonic Ice
- Entropic Goddess
- Bend it Like Aang
- The Magi Manifestation
- Light of Heaven
- Preemptive Retaliation
- Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
- William Shatner
- Sixty Pounds of Rule Books
- Sugar Doppleganger
- Fork of Nature
- All You Can Eat
- Three Big Rats
- Psychic Storm
- My Friend the Goddess
- Armor Victoria
- Cherry Tree Super Computer
- Black Eyes White Ferret
- Red Eyes White Ferret
- Green Eyes Purple Ferret
- Three-Headed Ferret of Doom
- Ark Magna
- Faustian Bargain
- Wings of the Dark Hawk
- The Righteous Choir
- The Lost Choir
- The Dire Weasels
- Disco Moon
- Big Fluffy Doggy
- Bigger Fluffier Doggy
- Biggest Fluffiest Doggy
- Butler of Doooooom
- Genocidal Half-Wit
- Richard Garfield, TCG God
- The Jumper’s Warehouse