“Ok, so if I am in a video game, is this the character generation process?”
Bob replies, “To some degree. There are no levels in Nirvana. If you want to be stronger, then exercise, or get special equipment. These things can change your avatar. If you want to be smarter, study – even special equipment won’t make you smarter. Want to get better at something, then get training or practice – a lot! Nothing gets ‘implanted’ in your brain. Nobody has figured out a way to do that without causing insanity or death, and it doesn’t matter if you are live or digital. So far, all the results are the same. So this also means there are no ‘Classes’ or similar functionality. People will be people, though, and they will label themselves or others for their own convenience.
The system will also not ‘robot’ your avatar. So if you get bit by a zombie and you die, your old body becomes a monster that the system controls. The system also cannot read your mind, so no one else can either. What the system can do is change anyone’s sensory inputs. This allows it to create feelings of pressure, blindness, hot, cold, whispers, etc. This also lets the system create magic.”
“Wait! You said my ‘avatar.’ I thought I was IN the video game.”
Shaking his head, “Ahh, sorry for the confusion. Nobody is actually IN the video game. Everybody, live and digital, is piloting an avatar and getting sensory feedback to their brain – even if that’s digital. This also means that actions in Nirvana can’t damage your digital brain. You can still experience emotions and trauma – those are simply ways your brain handles what it perceives. Does that clear it up?”
“Yep, I get it.”
Using hand gestures to emphasize his words, Bob continues, “Ok, to continue, magic is the ability to alter or override the natural physics you experience. Flight, touching fire without being burned, bending light to become invisible, teleporting, and much more. It has a corresponding energy cost and its own set of rules. You can think of it like eastern cultivation practices, and most commonly, people use those classic names and words to refer to it. You will find enchantments, formations, alchemical potions, and many things of that ilk.
Generally, spells and abilities have a verbal component. This is because the system listens for the command to activate the related sequence of events. Magic items also have some trigger that activates them; magic words, push a button, wear it, drink it, etc.
Every player gets an interface to their character sheet and the Social, Inventory, and Help system functions. The interface hasn’t been implanted in your brain; this is the system ‘listening’ for player requests and then creating the sensory input; a box in your sight, the feeling of a sword in your hand, etc. You must approve any changes to how your interface interacts with you. So even if somebody gives you a magic item that makes the boxes red, you must agree for the change to take effect. The one thing in your interface that cannot be hidden or have the content changed is the ‘Help’ section, where you can find the ‘Reset’ button to return your interface to its defaults.
Since everything is about your sensory input, you can change anything. You just have to find the recipe and resources to make it happen. There are no ‘programming interfaces’ within Nirvana, so if you later want to become a content developer. You will have to get access from an external server. I say that, but based on your background, I should also say that there are some magic keyboard interfaces for the social screen. Primarily used by those who value privacy and want to avoid saying their messages out loud.
That was quite a bit; any questions regarding those basics?” asked Bob.
“I can’t think of any right now. So do I get to change anything at this point?”
Nodding, Bob continues, “Sure, let’s go through the rest of the basics. First, is there a fantasy or science fiction race that you would like to begin play as? Like with a name, please seriously consider this option as you could be in that form for a very long time. It’s also important to point out that humanity still has prejudices and bigots, though most tend towards human vs. non-human instead of the color of your skin or hair.”
“Will this change anything about my gameplay?”
Bob confirms, “It can. It modifies some base physical interactions and some sensory inputs. So you could start a little stronger, or less pleasant looking, things along that line. You may also get low-light vision or some other sensory modifier. If you choose something with additional limbs, like a tail, you won’t be able to control it from the start. You will have to learn control and practice it to improve. Autonomic things, like gills, will cause you to panic the first few times and then become subconscious. It will also take time to adjust to a significant height difference and anything along those lines.”
“I’ve never really concerned myself with the opinions of others, and I have loved cats all my life. I’m guessing that a feline beastkin is an available choice.”
“Absolutely, and it’s fairly common. Any special traits or coloring?” asked Bob.
“I would like to be a grand-champion blue-point Siamese, with sapphire blue verticle-slit cat eyes – and I’d like to still be able to see in color if that’s an option. I presume only one set of ears, the cat ears on the top of my head, and, of course, a tail! Oh – can I get retractable claws?”
“You can – beastkin are anthropomorphic animals. They may stand upright, balance, walk and run like a man. They can also revert to a more natural posture and move and run like the animal they are based upon. Most have the skin or fur qualities of the animal they are based on. So you will have fur and the other markings in addition to the modified body structure. This is a significant deviation from your human form; you will need to spend some time acclimating to it. Here is what you will look like.” Bob gestured, and then there was a 3d model standing between the two chairs, but off to the side, so it didn’t block our view of each other. It slowly rotated to show all sides.
“That’s fantastic! It retains the predator look and still speaks to the grace of breeding! Can I make adjustments?”
Nodding, “Yes, what would you like to change?” asked Bob.
“Would you lengthen my canines just a few millimeters more? Also, please lengthen my ears and give them small tufts of fur. And a slightly more blue, like a Russian blue. The off-white body coat is perfect, and I see I have human instead of feline genitalia. That’s appropriate, I’m sure.” I winked at him.
“Actually, it is appropriate. We’ve found that if we deny the base nature of people that this too contributes to mental instability. Satisfied?” asked Bob.
I nod, the image is gone, and I’m a few inches taller and have fur. I’m sitting on something, and it’s not comfortable. I slowly stand up. I need to use the arms of the chair to balance myself initially. My tail flicks into view, and I smile. Things are sharper in outline and duller in color. The beeping is suddenly extremely annoying and then suddenly shuts off.
Apologetically, Bob says, “Sorry about that; I could see your ears flatten. I removed the smell too. Moving on, we will give you some appropriate clothing and some initial currency.
Currency in Nirvana is based on metals, their purity, and their weight. Base coinage in most areas is copper or aluminum, then iron, silver, and gold. Other metals may be used, and you will have to learn about valuing them during play. We give all newly revived individuals 200 silver in the local currency of their starting town. This is usually enough to buy some basic supplies and gear and get some training in essential skills for the most common paths people start on.
You will start in a port town near a tropical forest, not a jungle; it’s tamer than that. This will be the only time in the next ten years you enter the game through a portal instead of at an altar.
‘Open Wardrobe’ and ‘Open Backpack’ are shortcuts to specific inventory screens. You can always say ‘Open Inventory’ and navigate from there. Open your wardrobe, and while you are here with me, you can pick a few outfits from the warehouse racks to add to your wardrobe. We do it this way to give you a little individual flair to start and to make it less likely that others will target you as a ‘newbie.’ You can equip your avatar directly from the wardrobe screen, or you can change your clothes the old-fashioned way. Since your anatomy is different than what you are used to, I recommend using the wardrobe screen this time. If for no other reason, most people carry a belt knife of some kind to cut food. Pick any one of them that suits your fancy. You can fight with it if you have to, but it’s technically a tool and not a weapon. So, don’t expect a lot from it.
You may also pick two simple weapons from the display. I also recommend boots instead of shoes, even if you are staying in town, and I am partial to hats.” smiled Bob.
“Do I really need shoes?”
Shaking his head, Bob replies, “Most beastkin don’t, but you can wear them, and there may be times when you want to.”
“Ok, first things first – a loincloth for the body and two for the wardrobe. Need to keep those dangly bits out of sight. Now a set of thick-soled boots. I’ll also take a set of cultivator’s robes – these light grey ones with vines embroidered are excellent – into the wardrobe! That looks like a leather kilt with a Pteruges sewn over it. It will give me some protection and let my tail move about freely, so I’ll take two, one to wear now and one for inventory. I’ll also take a sleeveless leather jerkin; there are a couple of green ones here, one for my inventory and one on the body. I’ll take the saw-back bowie knife, sheath, and that wide leather belt. As for a hat, I’ve always loved hats too, but with these ears, I don’t think I will be wearing one all the time. Perhaps something that will go with the cultivator’s robes. A skull cap in a matching grey. Hey, there are some leather bracers! I’ll get a set of those too – and fingerless gloves! Guess the over-the-calve boots are going to be my greaves.
Now for weapons…I’ll take that ranseur with the flat iron butt; it can also serve as a walking stick.” I had a lot of D&D characters over the years that used a ranseur, and I liked the idea of keeping an enemy at a distance. I liked halberds too, but after holding one, I decided that it would be more difficult to learn. “I need something for ranged…Is there a set of bolas in the display? I’m not seeing them.”
Bob grins, “Now, that isn’t something that gets asked for very often. It is a simple weapon, and you can find it in the drawers below the display.”
“Thanks. My brothers and I used to make sets out of stuffed tube socks and fight in the backyard as teenagers. Non-lethal and can totally ruin somebody’s day when you hit them in the groin.”
Still grinning, Bob adds, “Well, you will find these can be lethal should you get them wrapped around somebody’s neck or get them to pound them in the head with the stone weights. The leather cups aren’t going to cushion that blow.”
“Good, I can use them for more than hunting!”
Sitting up, Bob says, “One last thing before you start your adventure Jebediah.”
“Just Jeb, I’ll save the full name for formal occasions.”
Nodding, Bob continues, “Very well, Jeb. We like to help everybody learn a cantrip. Your body will generate enough energy that you can power it a few times a day without hurting yourself. These are the most commonly selected: Lighter, Bandaid, Flashlight. Is there one of these you would like to learn? Or do you have something else in mind?”
“Those are obviously useful, and I am guessing I can learn as many as I want if I can find somebody to train me. I think what would be useful is some ability to add flavor to something; salt, sweet, bitter. Could make a traveling life more bearable.”
Agreeing, Bob says, “Quite true, and there is a cantrip for it. It has a complication that the others don’t because it has the flexibility to grow. Not in how much it will create, but in how many things you can create. The cantrip is ‘Spice Rack.’ It will create up to a tablespoon of any spice or flavoring you have had personal experience with – even those from before Nirvana. For example, you would call out ‘Spice Rack Salt,’ and it would create a tablespoon of salt in the container you are holding. Would you like to learn it?”
“That’s awesome, and yes, I would!”
Bob materialized a long-handled wooden spoon and handed it to me. “You can use any container, but I think you like the idea of having a long-handled wooden spoon to stir a pot.” I nodded at him, and he continued, “The somatic component to this cantrip is for you to hold the container in one hand and to act like you are pouring something from the other into the container. While you do that, say, ‘Spice Rack’ and the seasoning you want. Note that you can get only single-source, single-word seasonings. You won’t get anything if you say ‘A-1 sauce’ or ‘Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt,’ and if you say ‘Pepper,’ you could get black, red, or any other kind – but only a tablespoon at a time.
It would be best if you didn’t do this more than three times a day until you have received some training, and the closer together you do them, the more exhausting it will be. Are you ready to try?” asked Bob.
I answered him by holding my spoon in my right hand to catch what I was pouring from my left hand and saying, “Spice Rack Honey.” Suddenly there was a tablespoon of honey leveling out to the edges of my spoon. I immediately stuck it in my mouth, and Bob started laughing! I rolled my eyes and mumbled around the spoon, “Mmmm…so good!”; and it really was.