On Tumblr this past Sunday, September 2nd, there was a writathon where writers were to dedicate a whole day to working on their works in progress, either by writing, researching, editing, creating playlists for them, whatever. I roped Rachel into doing it with me and, while we didn’t spend the entire day doing the writathon, we both got farther along in our works than we originally would have been.
In the span of about two hours – with random distracted outbursts here and there – I wrote 1345 words of Hard Mode. My original goal had been 1k words for that particular WIPs, so yay!
Hard Mode is about a group of gamers who are stuck in a role-playing, simulation game and must learn to work together to survive. That sounds a little basic, and there’s probably been stories like that before, but I’m having fun with these characters!
If anyone’s interested, I’ll stick the piece that I’ve written below. I hope everyone else is doing well!
“Anyone else see the castle coming into view on the horizon?” Wyatt asked, the alchemist nearly skipping ahead of the rest on the path.
The forest around them wavered out as they moved forward, their path going from crude, dirt roads into cobblestones dusted with other players’ footprints. Landon’s graphics card did its magic, the castle blinking into view with its stone towers and colorful banners waving in the game’s wind. With the castle came the town wall, the stones protecting the citizens from the monsters that plagued the land at night.
With the daylight, the drawbridge was down, allowing NPCs and players alike to come and go as they please. More and more other players of the game were crowding into the castle town, no doubt eager to hear the new plotline.
“We’ll have some good competition, it seems,” Raine said from beside Landon. Her gaze was sweeping over the crowds, one of her hands placed on the dagger at her belt.
“No one’s experience any lag?” Elijah asked. “With this many folks around, this’ll be a good indication to how we’ll all fare in any dungeons or temples we come across.”
“Not lag, really,” Noah said. He was squinting at the castle. “Uh, but is the castle supposed to be blinking?”
“No,” Landon said, his stomach twisting. How would their group be able to complete the task if one of their teammates couldn’t properly see the graphics?
“Dammit,” Noah muttered. He sighed and asked sheepishly, “Sorry, but do y’all mind if I log out real quick? Just gotta check my graphics setting.”
“No problem,” Raine said, setting against one of the trees at the edge of the path.
“Wait a sec. Do we want to reach the castle town first?” Landon asked. “It’d be safer for your avatar in there if you’re logging out.”
“We’re all right here,” Wyatt said with a shrug. “We’ll make sure nothing happens to his avatar while he’s away from the keyboard.”
“Besides, I assume we’ll get caught up in a cut scene for the new plot once we make it far enough into the town,” Elijah said. “Noah won’t be able to log out in the middle of a cut scene.”
“Good points,” Landon conceded. Noah gave him a brief smile before his avatar grayed out with the letters AFK resting above his head. After a moment, his avatar disappeared completely and Landon fidgeted until Noah wavered back into view about five minutes later.
“There we go,” Noah said, staring at the castle. “Much better. Onward!”
The group clamored down the path and joined the crowds. Elijah took the lead, his avatar being tall enough to meander through the crowds to head toward the castle. It was from the king of the realm that the players would receive the new plotline, the new goal of Steel and Sorcery. Raine gestured for Noah to go right behind Elijah, considering Noah was the smallest of the group, and amid the jostling of the crowd, Raine ended up a step behind Landon. Landon presumed Wyatt was bringing up the rear.
His presumption was shattered when Raine tapped his shoulder and called out to the other two, “Wait… We lost Wyatt.”
Elijah glanced at them over his shoulder before tugging on Noah’s arm and leading the rest of them out of the crowd toward one of the castle town’s alleyways. “Thought it’d be you who would get lost,” Elijah said casually to Noah.
Noah’s ears turned red. “What? Why?”
“You’re the smallest, that’s all,” Raine said, her gaze directed at the crowd as if they could spot their lanky fifth member. “Shouldn’t be surprised with what I’ve learned about Wyatt’s attention span these past few sessions, though.”
“He probably found some market stalls and is spending our gold,” Landon said, mentally berating himself for not taking up the rear. He should have been in the back keeping an eye on everyone.
“We have gold?” Noah asked.
Elijah chuckled. “Not much,” he said. “Wyatt’s probably putting us in the red.”
“I’ll go find him,” Raine volunteered. “We can either meet you guys here or at the castle.”
Landon was fine with meeting Raine and Wyatt at the castle, but he said, “We’ll wait here. Don’t think we can get the mission without the whole team.”
“Alright,” Raine said. “Be back soon.”
She disappeared into the crowd, moving faster than Landon believed possible. Then again, he never tested out the rogue class. He quite liked the swords of the knight class, figuring the balance between offense and defense would suit him better than having a higher speed.
“Are all these players here for the same mission as us?” Noah asked, his eyes transfixed on the other avatars passing them by.
“Maybe,” Elijah said lightly. “A new plotline always draws players in. Of course, it also depends on the teams’ skill levels. I have my user settings so I can only see other players around the same skill level as us. Helps with lag and loading the graphics.”
“Wait, how do you do that?” Noah asked. Elijah helped Noah bring up his user interface and walked him through the graphics options. Once they were done with the little tutorial, Noah beamed. “Okay, that’s so much better! There’s still a lot of people here, but at least I can see across the road now, haha!”
“How are you at a high enough level to join this mission,” Landon asked, “when it sounds like you haven’t really explored the basics of the game, like the user interface? I mean no offense,” Landon added quickly when Noah’s ears tinted red again. “Exploring all those options is just usually one of the first things I do whenever getting a new game, so it’s a little odd to hear someone else… not.”
Noah shrugged and tugged at the hem of his warrior armor. “I kind of just dive in, usually,” he said. “I tend to figure out stuff as I go, but little options like the user settings I tend to forget about because I’m busy playing the game. I don’t really think of that stuff until someone else mentions it or teaches me.”
“Other people you play with haven’t mentioned things like that?” Landon asked.
“I usually play by myself,” Noah said. “So… no.”
“Well, you’ll learn by being with us,” Elijah said. “Just stand next to Wyatt, wherever he is, and he’ll babble enough to probably teach you how to code a game yourself.”
“What about me? What do you need me to babble about?” Wyatt appeared at the edge of the alleyway, Raine right behind him with a shake of her head and a small smile on her face.
Wyatt didn’t wait for anyone to answer, for he suddenly produced a bottle of thick, bubbling orange liquid from his user interface. “I’ll babble about this!” he said. “I got this from an NPC vendor over by the entrance. He says it amplifies our magic power by five. I think we’ll each get at least a small boost if we each take a sip—”
“I am not drinking that,” Elijah said, his nose scrunched up. “That stuff looks like my first attempt at cooking tomato soup.”
Wyatt raised an eyebrow as he stared from Elijah to the bottle. “Dude, tomato soup is red—”
“Why don’t we talk about this later,” Landon said, “and get going to the castle? I’ll take up the rear this time.”
“Sounds good to me,” Raine said, gesturing for Elijah to take the lead once more. “I can trust your attention span.”
Noah fell in step behind Elijah and Raine motioned for Wyatt to go ahead of her. Wyatt instead grinned and looped his arm with hers. “Since, you know, you can’t trust my attention span,” he said.
She rolled her eyes but opted to stay connect to Wyatt as they caught up with Elijah and Noah. Landon followed a step behind, marveling at the amused smiles on his teammates’ faces. Was he the only one willing to take this seriously?