Continuing (and probably concluding) my irregular misadventures in Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn. For the story so far, a sad tale of axeless lumberjacking, lost shoes, bullying healers and being rubbish at hiding, clicky here and scroll down.
Things are looking up. I mean, I'm being diligently followed everywhere by a horse, a llama, a dog, a cat and a rabbit. They'll fight for me if I tell them to. Even the rabbit. I can't think a more definite sign that I've made it.
You may remember that the conclusion of Chapter 3: Logs saw me reach something of a turning point in Ultima Online. I discovered how to trade. It's unquestionably an essential part of any RPG, on or offline, but for some reason UO thought that not mentioning the obscure way it's gone about wouldn't be any sort of problem. Once I'd stumbled across it by accident, in an instant the population of New Haven was transformed from surly, silent nobodies to bounty-laden merchants one and all. Shift and right-click on them. Don't ever forget that if you decide to play UO - because the game won't tell you.
Frankly, I've been on an insane spending spree ever since. I accrued a fair whack of cash during my many hours of clueless wandering, with no idea until now how to spend it. I've got all manner of useless crap now, mostly tools for tradeskills that I only practiced until I was 2.8% proficient before I got bored of building chairs, sewing animal hides together or whatever. With a belly full of expensive cheese and wine (just because I could) and a backpack full of miscellaneous sharp implements, I staggered contentedly over to the harbour. That's when I see her. The animal handler, a winsome brunette standing coyly outside some stables, apparently not at all worried by the big wolf waiting a few feet away. Could she.. Could this be... Surely not. Yes. Oh yes. She's willing to sell me pets.
I start with the Llama. A mere 400-odd gold - pocket money, thanks to my regular scavenging of high-level players' cast-offs (again, see Chapter 3) - and not only did I now have a faithful and pleasingly weird pet, but also a giant bag on legs. For this was a llama that could carry stuff for me, the solution to my recent lumber-hauling woes, and one more thing that could have saved me rather a lot of confused misery, if only the existence of this wonderful, and surprisingly affordable, beast had been mentioned before I tried to carry 60 logs across town. In thanks, I killed the wolf.
I leave the horse until last, convinced there'd be no way to ride it without programming an 80-key macro or something. Dog, cat, rabbit, in that order, each with their own little shift-right-click menu. I order them to follow. They duly follow, all stood apparently on top of each other (and the llama) in one big pile of furry meat, going faithfully going wherever I go. And now, the horse. I can't believe it. Just a double-click and I'm riding it, hurtling around New Haven at a speed it took me 40 levels and hundreds of hours to achieve in World of Warcraft. I can go into shops on horseback, and no-one complains. I can even chop down trees on horseback, even though this surely means I'm only getting the spindly branches at the top and not the good trunk-wood. Still, beats walking. Man, I feel good. I've got my own personal animal army and a magic axe - what's not to celebrate?
Well, I still can't fight anything more serious than, as it happens, a llama. Depressingly, my own llama keeps picking fights with passing Mongbats, and beating them more soundly than I can. I'm a successful lumberjack with five faithful pets - is that all I'll ever amount to? It's not fair. I want to kill zombies. The magic axe isn't quite magic enough to stop them from killing me, unfortunately.
It's then that I notice something new in my inventory. It's a gift. UO has just celebrated its tenth birthday, and I've been given a present. It must be some terrible mistake, some robot that manages the server confusing ten huors with ten years. Guys, really, I just got here - it's ludicrous to treat me like a veteran. I feel like I've just been given too much change by a shopkeeper. It'd wrong to keep it, surely, but ooh, shiny.
The gift allows me two free items. There's a lot of furniture and decorations in there, stuff only of use if I ever owned a house, and just thinking about the degree of complexity and crazy logic this would involve is absolutely terrifying. Let's just say I'm not a ninja who likes to settle down. What else have you got? Ooh, that's a nice hat. Samurai, you say? Ninja, samurai, same difference, right? Sold. And that's a rather big sword. Yes, I know it says Paladin on it, but hand it over.
I now look awesome. I have a fearsome helmet and massive sword, though admittedly these do clash a little with the jester outfit I'm currently wearing. Both hat and blade list multiple statistics I don't entirely understand, but I'm hedging my bets that more numbers = more killability. Steeling myself nevertheless for more failure, I go find a zombie.
I found the end of the universe inside an abandoned house.
He's dead in an instant. I barely touched him, and he certainly didn't land any blows on me. Oh my. These guys have bested me time and time again, but now they can't so much as scratch me. Everything really is coming up roses. Soon enough, there are piles of dead-undead around me. I'm unstoppable! I'm also as confused as ever. A gift I wasn't expecting has reversed my fortunes in an instant, and I don't know quite why or how.
Then an amazing thing happens. A passing player asks politely for my help against some skeletons that are giving him trouble. It's actually the first time anyone's communicated with me unbidden in UO so far, but more than that, he thinks I can help. Me! Of all people! I'm totally taken aback, but then I look at my hat, my sword, my llama, my horse, my dog, my cat and my rabbit. Yeah, I guess maybe I do look like I know what I'm doing. Who ever would have thought it?