we left Gestalt running through the woods, scattering rabbits left and right, as he discovered that his cordon bleu chef skills weren't going to make him rich and famous in the land of Dereth, and that his dreams of a vast franchise-driven magical pizza dungeon delivery service were sadly in vain...
With his hopes shattered and his sword already stained a dark crimson by the blood of all the rabbits which he had valiantly slayed during his reign of terror in the Derreth countryside, Gestalt considered it time to seek out a new challenge, and to explore a new and dangerous frontier land.
And so this week we bring you "Part Two : In which Gestalt takes a trip to Darktide, and ponders insurance fraud"
Any similarities to real events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental, yadda yadda yadda...
Welcome To Darktide, Here's Your Coffin
So was born Gestalt into the world of Darktide...
For those of you not familiar with this crude and violent land, Darktide is a place where any man may kill another, and frequently does without any good cause or provocation. A typical conversation in Darktide goes something like this -
Joe Newbie - "Hello fine fellow, pray could you tell me..."
Ragnath the Bearded Slayer slashes you for 12 damage
Joe Newbie - "Hey, why are you attacking me?"
Ragnath the Bearded Slayer jabs you viciously for 27 damage
Joe Newbie - "Run away!"
Ragnath the Bearded Slayer turns you inside out
Joe Newbie - "Aaaagh!"
On death you are given a temporary respite by your dark god, during which time this land's other human inhabitants may not attack you. Usually this lasts just long enough for you to reach your corpse and find that the person who killed you has looted it and taken your favourite pair of platemail socks. At which point the conversation continues something along these lines -
Joe Newbie - "Excuse me kind Sir, but you appear to have picked up my platemail socks which I dropped here not five minutes ago."
Ragnath scratches his beard. "Five minutes ago you say?"
Joe Newbie - "Yes, I believe so. Please could you return them?"
Ragnath looks at you threateningly
Joe Newbie - "I'm not a player killer anymore, you can't hurt me!"
Joe Newbie - "Bael'Zharon's power flows through you again. You are once more a player killer."
Ragnath strikes you for 14 damage
Joe Newbie - "Run away!"
And into this world of disorder, chaos, and meaningless violence arrived Gestalt...
Knowing full well that in his inexperienced and armour-less state he was easy pickings for more powerful people in this morally desolate land, Gestalt immediately headed for a nearby dungeon that he had discovered in his earlier travels in the world of Thistledown. For although the population of each of the worlds of Dereth is different, the geography of the land, and the monstrous denizens that inhabit it, are essentially the same in each.
And so Gestalt shamelessly camped the dungeon, for it was full of lowly drudges that were little danger even to a wet-behind-the-ears dyed-in-the-wool born-again newbie such as he now was. Treasure was present in vast quantities (at least to the eyes of a relatively inexperienced dungeoneer such as he), with no less than three chests containing valuable healing kits, potions, gems and other sundry desirables, as well as a dagger which some poor fool had left lying around on the floor.
And having reached the lowest levels of the dungeon, slaughtered its rightful occupants, and pilfered every available treasure, Gestalt returned to the surface and headed back to the outpost to sell his ill gotten gains.
On reaching the shop he exchanged these stolen goods for a sizeable pouch of pyreals. And these pyreals proved sufficient to replace his practice sword, which he had affectionately titled "Toothpick" in honour of its combat capabilities. His new blade was a large and impressive looking sword, which was much suited to the cleaving of enemies in twain.
And there was much rejoicing.
Meanwhile, Back At The Dungeon
Gestalt now returned to the dungeon, knowing full well that the chests which he had but recently plundered would already be fully replenished.
The scholars of Dereth term this odd behaviour "respawning", and attribute it to some form of deus ex machina, but Gestalt had developed a more plausible theory upon pondering this strange phenomenon...
His conclusion had been that the monsters of Dereth are in fact all participants in a vast insurance scam of great deviousity. How it works is something like this -
Our brave hero enters a dungeon and finds a chest filled with valuable treasure. Having looted the entire surrounding area he takes the treasure and returns to the surface, immediately heading for a shop which will purchase his illegally obtained goods, although the shopkeeper pays him far less than the true market value of the goods on sale.
Meanwhile, back at the dungeon, the monsters have already revived themselves and filled out the necessary forms (in triplicate!) to claim the true market value of the missing goods on their home insurance.
Having been compensated in full for their losses, the monsters use a hidden portal (which Gestalt has thus far been unable to locate) to visit the shopkeeper to whom our hero has sold their rightful property. Using the insurance money, they repurchase the goods from the shopkeeper at a specially negotiated bulk discount price, and return to the dungeon before the hero can get there again.
Of course, sometimes the hero retains some of the stolen goods, or the shopkeeper has already sold part of the loot to a third party in the interim. In these cases the monsters merely purchase another item of similar value, and this explains why the treasure you find in a given chest is not always the same when you return to the dungeon.
The scam is perfect, and everybody (apart from the unfortunate insurance men) gain from it. The hero gets around 80% of the market value of the looted treasure on selling it to the shopkeeper. The monsters get the full market value (after the first 50 pyreals) on their insurance, but then only pay 90% of that price to the shopkeeper to recover the stolen goods. And the shopkeeper makes a 10% profit on the sale in the space of a few minutes, as well as gaining the extra business from both the hero and the monsters.
Think about it, this is the only possible explanation, unless you believe the unlikely theory that somebody or something is merely refilling the chests at random every few minutes...
Gestalt Goes Shopping
And so Gestalt continued to plunder the dungeon in this fashion for quite some time, and entirely without guilt. For how could he feel guilt when the monsters were thusly profiting from his own plundering of their treasure? Why, the only people to lose from this scam were the faceless insurance men, and how could they be truly considered victims?
After several trips to the dungeon Gestalt had profited greatly (and undoubtedly the shopkeeper and monsters along with him), and had (amongst much rejoicing!) reached level four.
But the shopkeeper did not trade in all the goods that Gestalt had plundered during his dungeon crawling exploits, and so having reached a more lofty level of experience and equipped himself with armour and a large sword, Gestalt decided to venture into the main town to the north of the outpost in order to dispense of the rest of his dubiously acquired equipment.
The town was a dark and violent place though, and filled with many more experienced characters with all the moral fibre of our friend Ragnath from the first page of this tome. Arrows and magical spells flittered back and forth across the hillside, and men chased each other round in round the small town in circles, brandishing their weapons all the while.
Fear And Loathing In Holtburg
And so it was that an over-ambitious young man started using Gestalt as target practice with his new bow. Despite repeated requests to desist this uncouth behaviour, the youth continued his uninvited attacks.
Turning on him, Gestalt charged, sword raised ready to strike. But the youth turned and ran up the hillside, and despite his highly developed running skills Gestalt was unable to catch up with him. The youth stopped again, and fired again, and Gestalt gave chase again.
And so they ran round and round the town together, until eventually the youth stopped for too long, and Gestalt caught and slew him. And there was much rejoicing!
By some miracle Gestalt then managed to sell his goods and purchase some new armour without being slain in the meantime, and so he left town to return to his favourite dungeon.
But ere he had gone far he was set about by two thugs who were much more experienced and better armed than Gestalt, and it was but a short struggle before Gestalt's body lay dead on the ground. Returning to the scene of the crime shortly afterwards, Gestalt found the pair still standing by his body, which had been shamelessly looted.
"Why did you attack me?" Gestalt demanded, his courage increased by the fact that he was immune to attack from them for the next few minutes.
"You attacked my vassal", Thug 1 explained. "He says you killed him and stole all his money."
"What? That idiot with the bow? He attacked me! It was self defence."
"Oh", replied Thug 1, and stood considering this.
"Ah, sorry," quoth Thug 2. "Here, you can have your chainmail breastplate back."
Such is life in the world of Darktide. Death is fast and often comes without reason, but some of the inhabitants still have honour. It is indeed a curious place with a certain alluring charm, but not somewhere that I would recommend as your first stop on reaching Dereth...
John "Gestalt" Bye
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