When a mysterious video game shows up in John's mail, he is disappointed to find that it's a high fantasy role playing game. With nothing else to do, he plays it anyway, getting transported into the game. Having become a mage, John uses his new found powers to fight monsters, and finds out there's more to the game of Ilia than meets the eye.
John heard the mail truck pull off away from his house and shot up straight in his bed. He had pre-ordered Death by Darkness months ago, and today was finally the day he would get his hands on it.
He shot down the stairs and out onto his front lawn, ignoring the stares of passing drivers looking confused at a half naked man running giddy as a schoolchild.
He reached his mailbox and opened it. Ignoring what he could only assume was junk and bills, he pulled out the manila package and tore it open. Excited to see the cover art in person finally, he was disappointed to find something else.
Instead of a dark character silhouettes in shadows holding a sword, the cover showed a large monster dwarfing a human. The human had a sword in one hand and the other hand was glowing purple. In large letters at the top, the cover said ILIA.
"What the heck is this? Some kind of RPG? Ughh." RPGs, or role-playing games were more story driven games, where your stats and choices drove the narrative. As much as John liked gaming, he would rate RPGs near the bottom of his list, above sports games.
He begrudgingly grabbed the rest of his mail and went back into the house, throwing the game and the mail on his desk. He sat down and booted up his computer, deciding he needed to find where his real game was.
After checking the order, the delivery company, and listening to over an hour of "we appreciate your call and can't wait to help you", John sighed and gave up. He leaned back in his chair and looked at the game.
Even though RPGs weren't his thing, he still kept track of new games coming out. He had never heard of Ilia. He grabbed the case and turned it away, but the cover offered no answers, only the same artwork in reverse. Opening the case, he found that the disc was a simple gray with the title in small print.
He did a quick search on the game, but came up with no results, only a handful of weird conspiracy posts on less than trustworthy sites. He sighed and glanced at the disc again.
It had been ages since he had gotten to play a new game, and Death by Darkness was his only one coming for the month, as the developers promised long gameplay, and they were known for being practical in their marketing and wording. RPG or not, John had serious new game withdrawal.
He grabbed the disc, slid it into his computer, and let it autostart. A simple black start screen popped up with ILIA in bold, silver letters. Underneath it, was "PRESS ANY KEY TO START".
John lazily hit the spacebar, not being inspired to excitement by the display so far. The screen opened to two figures, highlighted spotlights. WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MALE OR FEMALE? John clicked on the male and the camera zoomed past the pair and illuminated three items.
On the left was an axe, in the middle was a book, and on the right was a staff. FIGHTER, MAGE, OR HEALER?
John clicked on the book. Might as well be able to have some magic. The items faded from the screen and a wall of text replaced it.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
YOU HAVE CHOSEN MAGE. ON THE COURSE OF YOUR ADVENTURE, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO EVOLVE INTO DIFFERENT OPTIONS OF MAGE. EVEN THOUGH YOU CHOSE MAGE, YOU CAN STILL LEARN PROFICIENCY IN THE OTHER TWO BASE CLASSES.
ILIA IS A WORLD OF WONDER, BUT IT IS DANGEROUS. MONSTERS ARE TAKING OVER THE FIVE KINGDOMS, AND THE PEOPLE ARE WAITING FOR THE CHOSEN ONE. THEY ARE WAITING FOR YOU.
YOU CAN HELP OR YOU CAN HARM. THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
ARE YOU READY?
⸻ ♦ ⸻
John pinched his tear ducts around the bridge of his nose. What was the point of picking a class if you could become any of them? And evolving into a specialty? Was there really much difference between various mages?
And the story. People were waiting for a chosen one to save them from monsters. It was a very thin premise and nothing about the graphics so far had given him any hope whatsoever.
He got up, pushing himself away from the table. This was the problem with role-playing games. It was almost always some generic save the world crap using might or magic. Maybe they throw in some comedy elements or cute cartoon-y things. At the end of the day, you grind and progress until you're the right amount of levels above the bad guy, and win.
He used to play them all the time. She always loved them. And he used to do anything for her. He started wondering if Ilia would be something she would enjoy, but he shook the idea from his mind. What ifs weren't worth thinking about.
He grabbed a drink from the fridge and took a big sip, letting the carbonated syrup and caffeine wake him up a bit. Sighing to himself, almost defeated, he glanced back at the computer.
"Screw it." John whispered to himself.
He walked over and hit the glowing YES button. The screen grew bright. His computer seemed to warp as if the sides of the monitor were reaching out to cacoon him. He dropped his drink and tried to step back, but the bright white screen broke the border of the monitor and spread around him. He could feel it pulling him in, and before he could finish screaming, John passed out.
He woke up in a clearing, surrounded on all sides by trees. A fox was sniffing at his feet, but took off when he started to stir. He was wearing loose, dirty clothes that reminded him of starting gear in most RPGs. A small spell book sat next to him, near his waist.
"There's no way. What's going on?" He said aloud
A small, gray box appeared in front of his field of vision. It had writing which read:
⸻ ♦ ⸻
Welcome to Ilia!
Thank you for choosing to play! Our world is in desperate need of help. As you have chosen [Mage] as your class, we have added the appropriate quest.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
John swiped at the box with his hands and it faded only for another to pop up.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
Use your first spell!
⸻ ♦ ⸻
John looked at the book, wondering what spell he would be stuck with and wondering what the quickest way back to Earth would be. He scooped up the book, ready to open it, when the fox from before flew through the air and landed at his feet, dead.
He snapped his head toward where the fox had flown from and saw a short, fat, green creature staring at him. It was licking its lips. It screeched again and began to charge.
John opened up the spell book and a screen popped up in front of his eyes.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
You have learned [Levitate]!
⸻ ♦ ⸻
That's great and all, he thought, but knowing it and knowing how to use it are two different things.
He held out his arm, fingers spread and palm facing the creature. He held the spellbook open in his other hand. Something about this stance felt right to him, and he shouted, [Levitate]!
The creature kept charging, but John noticed that its feet were no longer touching the ground. John moved his arm up and its body followed higher into the air. It screeched at him angrily, but once it was fairly high up, John closed his hand into a fist.
The creature plummeted back to the ground, landing hard on the ground. It sat up, eyes rolled into the back of its head. John stepped forward closer to it, but it quickly shook the dizziness off. It was close enough that John could see its yellow eyes as they glared at him.
It went to get back to its feet, but John cast another [Levitate] this time bringing it up into the air then quickly slamming it back into the earth. Before it could sit up stunned, he ran up and kicked it in the side.
It groaned and lazily reached into its ripped up belt, pulling out a rusty knife. Kicking it seemed to cancel out the stunned effect and it quickly scrambled to its feet.
John had an idea. The last use of [Levitate] had taken a lot out of him. He could feel himself growing tired, but he could also feel the tingly sensation of the magic inside of him. He knew he at least had a little left.
He held out his palm as the creature made its way to its feet. John yelled out another [Levitate], finally feeling the last bit of magic pulled from wherever it resided in his body. The creature lifted into the air once again, before John brought his arm down, slamming it into the ground. It was still alive, but it had dropped its knife.
This time, instead of kicking it, John picked up the knife and drove it into the creature's chest. It let out a shuddered breath and blood pooled out of the wound, and finally went lifeless.
John collapsed backwards onto his butt, relieved that this was now over. He took several deep breaths before realizing he could see a small gray square in the corner of his vision.
He tried grabbing it with his hand, but that didn't work. He then decided to mentallt focus on it. Once he did, it pulsated.
"Open." Nothing happened. "Enlarge."
Suddenly, several boxes popped up, stating various messages.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
You have discovered a [Hobgoblin]
Typically hostile, hobgoblins will attack most creatures, including each other, on sight.
You have used your first spell!
Reward: 10 xp
Kill (5) Monsters
Reward: Specialty [Weapon]
You killed a [Level 1 Hobgoblin]!
You have earned 100 xp
You are out of mana!
You are now Level 2!
You have earned 3 stat points
⸻ ♦ ⸻
“Well,” John said to the corpse of the [Hobgoblin], “at least that was worth the trouble. Now, how do I see my stat sheet.”
He was hoping just saying it outloud would do something, but it lead to him just staring out into space. He checked the peripheral of his vision to see if there was some sort of glowing box or any indication that he could pull it up, but there was nothing there. Finally, he simply just thought the word.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
Please choose a name
Level 2 [Basic Mage]
You have (3) unassigned stat points
Levitate (lvl 1)
Kill (5) Monsters
⸻ ♦ ⸻
Pretty basic stats, but why the hell is my charisma a three? I’m not that bad. He mentally assigned one of his points into charisma out of spite and the other two into intelligence, hoping this game was like a lot of others. Pulling up his stat sheet, he noticed the change.
⸻ ♦ ⸻
⸻ ♦ ⸻
He sighed a breath of relief. A lot of games attached intelligence to magic usage, and it looked like this one wasn’t any different. On top of that, it looked like increasing the stat refilled his mana reserves. He didn't like the realization that each use of [Levitate] cost five mana. He edited his name to John and closed out the screen.
Now that he had all that squared away, he looked at the clearing around him. Other than the corpses of the fox and the [Hobgoblin], the field was clear up to the edge of the treeline. There didn’t seem to be any obvious choices on where to go. He thought of the word ‘map’ but the system kicked back.
You must have access to a physical map to unlock it in the system.
Sighing to himself, but glad he had his magic back, he picked the direction opposite of the way the [Hobgoblin] came from. His quest might want him to kill creatures, but he didn’t want to end up in some sort of den where they were waiting to flay him alive.
He found a well worn path as he approached the trees that had a small sign hanging from the trunk of an oak at its entrance. The arrow pointed into the woods and said “Lightville. One day’s travel.”
“I guess that’s the name of a village.” John clutched his book and took off down the path, his head on a swivel for anything that may jump out at him.