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December 12, 2012 / milesandhisfavorites

Darkwood: Guild of Fire Part One

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

The Fellowship of the Ring

Darkwood wasn’t exactly a game.  It was more of a social experiment.  Give about ten million nerdy teens a fantasy world roughly the size of Molokai, tell them anything goes, sit back, and observe.  The whole thing would last for one year, at which point the state of the world would be examined in detail and then published in one huge study.  Sort of like Second Life plus World of Warcraft.  I got into the whole Darkwood thing about three months into its running time, and by the time it ended… well, that’s for later.

As I started, I created a pretty standard character.  There were three races to choose from: human, oldest inhabitants of the continent of Hakanos (a strange and mysterious place where rulers and allegiances changed on a dime, as well as the game’s setting) and gifted sword-and-shield users, the Lavatu, a mysterious race of beautiful elves from regions unknown, who were gifted in archery and magic, and the Garath, a muscular, Minotaur-like race who send their enemies fleeing with powerful two-handed weapons skills.  I made a human, putting my assigned 30 skill points into Elemental Magic, Dual-Wielding, and Stealth.  He was tall, slim, and had nut-brown spiky hair.  I named him Jericho Redfist.

Immediately after clicking “Finish Creating”, I found myself in the middle of a forest clearing.  Ignoring the basic tutorial signs appearing in the corner of my screen, I took a moment to assess my surroundings.  The clearing was surrounded on all sides by thick green forest.  Above me, what appeared to be a hawk circled, letting off a solitary cry.  Following the instructions, I checked my inventory.  Listed were, as starting items:

  • 30 gold coins
  • 1 Iron Sword
  • 1 apple

This game wasn’t giving me much, and there was a hunger meter I had to keep in the green, or die in a few days.  Next, I checked the map.  Hakanos was huge, at well over two hundred miles of wilderness, towns, and cities.  I was in the deep south, in a region called the Great Southern Forest.  The region was pretty isolated, with only one or two small villages within walking distance.  Just then, out of a less tangled edge of the clearing, came a blonde Lavatu player on horseback.  He was trotting slowly, saddle bags shaking back and forth.  According to the red lettering above his head, his name was Rodis.  He pulled up next to me, smiling.

“Hail, player!  Looking for things to buy or sell?  I am Rodis, merchant of fine wares from the ports of Fordsmith to the Helmhearth Mountains!’

“I don’t have much right now,” I responded.

“Then are you in need of directions, lore, knowledge?  Those things I offer free.”

“You’re really into this, aren’t you?  And directions to anywhere I can make a living would be helpful.”

“If you’re looking to go local, Catris City isn’t too far north.  It’s currently ruled by Julius Eisengrim, a tough guy who started out in the north.  I hear the Guild of Fire is recruiting.”

“Guild of Fire?”

“Mercenaries based out of Catris.  Standards aren’t too high, they’ve taken plenty of Fiend Cat bait like you before.”

“What’s the way to Catris?”

“Just head in that-” Rodis turned his horse to face what I could only assume was north.  “-general direction, and you’ll hit Catris in an hour, tops.  Just keep an eye out for bandits.  They like to raid the farms on the border.  Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a fresh load of juniper berries and rock salt from the Dunesea Border.”

And with that, Rodis rode off into the forest, bound for some village to trade with players.  I, on the other hand, had some mercenaries to meet.  So I ventured into the woods.  Insects and birds chirped in the trees.  About fifteen minutes later, I found myself wandering up a steep hillside.  When I got to the top, I noticed that my hunger meter had dropped to about half full from the climb.  So, reluctantly, I munched on the apple.  Eh, if the Guild of Fire thing didn’t work out, maybe I could take up a career in farming.

The view was staggering.  The Great Southern Forest stretched for several square miles at least, and beyond loomed desolate mountains.  Off in the distance, I could see a single white spire.  Catris City.  Didn’t look too far.  I continued hiking through the forest, when out of nowhere, something jumped at me and knocked me into a tree trunk.  I pulled out my sword, and began searching for whatever had attacked me.  Then, perched on a few rocks, I saw it.  So that’s what a Fiend Cat was.

It was at least nine feet long, with long scimitar-like teeth, black and red fur, and a primal look in its eye.  It lunged at me again, but this time, I was ready.  I jumped to the side, and it slammed into the same tree.  I stabbed it a few times with my sword, and it fell still.  Unfortunately, all it yielded was a Fiend Cat pelt, which wasn’t worth a vast amount, but it could be crafted into Fiend Cat Armor, which sounded cool.  So I hung onto the pelt, continuing on my journey.  Finally, after another half hour and a few sightings of Fiend Cats (none of which came near me), I finally got to a huge marble wall.  Noticing me, a guard on top of the wall shouted down to me.

“State your intentions, player, or I will shoot!”

“I simply wish to join the Guild of Fire!”

The guard apparently lifted the gates, and I walked into the city.  It was one of the biggest on the continent, with winding streets lined with market stalls, simple homes, and lots of guards.  This Eisengrim person must have been a tough ruler. Unfortunately, Rodis hadn’t told me where the Guild of Fire was located, so I asked a few other traders and townspeople.  It took a while (and a couple of gold coins), but I found my way to the headquarters, a large estate on the edge of town.  In the center was a temple-like building, surrounded by a bunch of barracks and training fields.  The man at the gate asked for identification, so I just said that I was looking to join.  He sent me to the main building, the interior of which was lined with tall bookshelves and statues of wild beasts.  A room branched off from the main entryway marked RECRUITMENT.  I opened it, closed it, and found myself face-to-stomach with a giant mole.

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