Back in the dungeon Doyle is exuberantly happy. ‘My axebeaks actually did a good job! Obviously they wouldn’t be too weak or they wouldn’t qualify as a level two monster, but still. Their first showing wasn’t exactly stellar and just a couple minor changes turned them from sham to wow!’
Ally nods, ‘that went a lot better than I expected. Sure, we can expect other groups to get defeated, but those were the settlement’s top players. Though Jim had a point. His group only had a single front-line fighter. If there was another the two might have been able to stop the charge without injury. Still would have lost a shield. They aren’t called axebeaks for no reason. That Sammy needs some more lessons on how to fight different weapons. Don’t face an axe straight on. You have to angle your shield.’
Doyle nods, but then remembers what Ace and Jim had just been talking about. ‘Is what they said about pre-system stuff and magic true?’
Ally shrugs, ‘eh, sorta? Magic, qi and all the other mystical energies do reinforce stuff. A tree grown in a high magic area will produce better wood than one in a low magic area. Though the way mystical nonsense reinforces materials and animals is more in line with concept skill. Grow a tree in a swamp heavy with the dead and it will end up twisted and mushy. Grow the same type on a natural iron deposit and you get ironwood. A rare commodity, if only because humans tend to find more value in the iron itself. Short sighted and stupid that. Trees are renewable, even if it does take decades.’
‘Anyway, the real factor in why her shield shattered is crafting skills. While there are all kinds of mystical techniques involved, especially at higher skill levels, the real foundation is in the basic work. Skills make this easier. A little nudge to hold the knife just a degree higher, the whisper that the paint could use a smidge more blue to really capture the sky, and that hint which really breathes life into a character. You don’t need skills for that of course. There are always talented people out there and that is why not all so-called pre-system items are trash.’
‘Powerful items are beautiful not because someone wanted to make them beautiful to match the power. Rather, it is the other way around. Of course, beautiful isn’t quite the right word as a Hideous sword can be just as powerful as a Beautiful one or even a Simple one. What matters is the quality of the work.’
‘If you would think back on when Jack had received your very first true loot drop? Jeremy berated him for not appreciating it more and the reason he gave was simple. For an item to be magical it needs to be a masterwork. A masterwork! Even the simplest magic dagger enchanted to keep its edge needs to be made by a master smith. In fact, the creation of a masterwork is what divides a journeyman of a craft from a master on many worlds. After all, if you can make a masterwork then you’re a master.’
‘So yeah, the better the craftsmanship the more power an item can fit. Better materials can increase this limit, but it is all for naught if the item isn’t a masterpiece. This brings us to that shield. No mass-produced item can be a masterpiece. Some really advanced societies have tried. Scanning down below the subatomic level and then a complete recreation of the item still doesn’t work.’
‘Your world had the concept of an artist putting their soul into their work. That isn’t entirely wrong. Beyond magic, beyond science, beyond even the collected knowledge of all the immortals in the local area, is the soul. That spark that separates those who are sapient and that which is not. Through its interaction with the world, items become receptive to enchantments.’
‘Of course those tech based societies are always finding corner cases and loopholes so they can push forward with mass production. One of my favorites is a laser weapon, which is almost completely mass produced. The only masterpiece in the whole weapon is a single crystal lens, which the beam goes through as the last step. They don’t even need it in most cases, however a non-magical laser is so much easier to block than a magical one.’
‘Anyway, I went on way too long there. The short and sweet of it is all your so-called high quality weapons and armor from before the system are machine made. Your monsters are made of world energy. A power that can be considered above mana and that shield didn’t even have mana. Against dungeon monsters a sweater knitted with love by a grandmother would provide more defense than a machine-made leather jacket.’
Doyle sighs, ‘okay tutorial lady. Handicrafts good and machine made bad. Got it.’
With a smile, Ally crosses her arms and turns up her nose. ‘Humph, this is important for you to know. While a magic item’s aura can be hidden, the craftsmanship is much harder to hide. Even if they cover it with an illusion, you would at least be able to detect the illusion. Now you know to be careful if you ever see someone raggedly dressed yet has a suspiciously fine piece of gear.’
‘Though I guess the actual bit about making a masterwork doesn’t apply to you directly. After all, a dungeon’s loot always counts as a masterwork and actually where you would get most of your eversharp daggers from. This is because unlike a normal crafter, your drops are formed directly from world energy through the lens of your soul.’
Doyle nods, but then stops as he thinks of something. ‘Hey Ally, is there a way to make an item specifically drop for someone? Those founders seem to be doing all right on normal gear, but I would like to help them a little. For instance, my kobold mages can drop wands and I figure Ruby having one would make things a lot easier for them.’
Ally sighs, ‘yes it is possible, but no you can’t. If you would refer back to the item costs, you might remember there being a third one besides the temporary and loot options. That is the real cost. What it takes to just spawn an item wholesale and is about a thousand times the cost of the temp option.’
‘Now you could spawn them some armor, I guess. Each piece would only cost you about 2k world energy but you aren’t exactly making enough to do that. You have to keep the dungeon stocked after all. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. While even you can’t tell when a loot drop will happen, there is a way to favor them.’
‘In this case, favoring Sammy. The system likes to give out quests that push a person forward. What could be better for that than defeating a foe which has defeated you before? All you have to do to trigger such a quest is make a bird stand out and declare it is the one who defeated her. Make it the leader of the pack or something.’
‘While the group killed the bird in the end Sammy wasn’t really in her right mind and was at best a distraction. Once she travels back to the second floor, the system should pop up a little solo mission quest for her to whomp it good. Likely to earn herself a new shield from the quest and you won’t even have to pay for it.’
‘This sort of thing is something to be on the lookout for in the future. On the flip side you need to be careful that people you don’t like miss out on such opportunities. Someone you don’t like gets rebuffed by the ice mage? Make the mage cast rock shard spells the next time they face it. Simple things like that can show your displeasure to others without tipping your hand.’
Doyle shakes his head, ‘that sounds delightfully abusable. Though I would assume that I can’t artificially set up such conditions?’
Ally shakes her head, ‘sadly not. If the situation doesn’t arise naturally, it doesn’t work. No putting down rules to let your favorites farm quests. This though? The pieces are already in motion and you would just be pointing the way for her.’
Doyle pulled up a view of the first axebeak room. He had gone through and re-summoned everything already as Jim and crew hadn’t cleared all that much so the birds were back. Focusing in on the center-left bird.
‘Now what am I going to do with you? Your claim to fame is shattering a shield with your beak, so maybe give it a touch up?’ The beak while vaguely axe shaped isn’t quite there. It angles down all right but the top but is just a curve. Doyle is sure some axe out there must be shaped like that, but he is more familiar with the classic full crescent shape.
‘So your beak will be the target, now how to change it? I can see two practical ways of doing this. Either split the axe in half with the toe and heel of the blade being on the upper and lower mandible. The other way is to keep things as they are but extend the toe of the bit off the top so the bit is all one piece. Hmm, actually that is a good point. If I split it, the strength could go down. Second option it is then, and I might as well sharpen it a wee bit while I am at it. Then for a bit of dramatic flair let’s turn the edge a nice ruddy red.’
Doyle pulls up the editor he hadn’t used since messing with the clover and loads in specifically the chosen bird. After he tweaks a few settings, it becomes clear this isn’t exactly a new idea. There are even a couple presets hidden away, one that fits his current needs perfectly.
Doyle unsummoned the bird and then summoned the altered replacement. The bird looks almost the same, though having summoned it now he can see some other parts have changed. While this new bird can do most of what the others can, it won’t ever run as fast. Instead, it has traded out some of that frightening speed for the ability to swing its head back and forth with great force.
‘Well, that is a welcome surprise’, Doyle murmurs to himself. This new variant of axebeak should be made to engage even after the charge. It should do even better against front-line fighters. Once stopped it just has to haul back its head and start pounding away at the enemy. No need to retreat for another charge.
Doyle looks over the rest of the floor and does a mental shrug. ‘So Ally, anything else I should be doing at the moment? The second floor is in place. Anything I need for the wolves or what not?’
Ally takes a moment to go over the floors and his monsters. Then, with her chin on her fist, ponders for a moment more. ‘We want a couple wolves to get in. Preferably at least one of each type. Besides that maybe work on your kobolds? If more than a handful of wolves make it in, they are just screwed. While the kobolds in theory work as a team, they don’t do as well on that front as a wolf pack.’
Doyle nods, ‘hmm, yes I could work on getting them to be more of a team. As it is only the first floor has anything close to a true leader despite me assigning supposed leaders elsewhere. Thank you for the idea. Let me go think it over. If Sammy shows up again, make sure I notice. Whatever happens with her I want a front-row seat. This incident shouldn’t break her but who knows? It could always be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.’