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From Shifti
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Author: Jonas
Kris’s computer made the familiar *da-dunk* noise that told him he had received an IM. This was unexpected, not because Kris didn’t know anyone online, but because it was 8AM on Christmas day and he assumed everyone he knew were either asleep or opening presents.

Dook51: Hiya Kris! Merry Krismas!

Ah, Dook, he should have known. Of all Kris’s online friends, Dook was almost always online. They had met through an online RPG and had exchanged emails a month later. Ever since, Kris could only remember a handful of times when he had seen Dook listed as offline.

Schnee: You’d think one day off from your puns would be a good present >> Kris typed.

Dook51: Ah, such words have wounded my dignified pride. I guess I shall have to take back the present I gave you D:

Schnee: Present?

Dook51: Check your email :D

Kris alt-tabbed to open his browser; sure enough, there was an email from Dook waiting for him. There was no message text, but the attachment was enormous—300MB! He tabbed back to the messenger.

Schnee: The hell’d you manage to send this? Even with my comp it’ll take forever to download

Dook51: It won’t take long, I swear! Don’t you want your present? ;)

Kris, admittedly, did want to see what his friend had gotten him. He obliged and was surprised to find that Dook was correct. The file loaded within three minutes.

Schnee: How in the...?

Dook51: Fear mah leet internet powahz!

Schnee: No

Dook51: D: please?

The file came with a loader that Kris launched. Instantly the familiar six-sigil logo of Seal of Rin filled the screen. It was the online game that Kris had met Dook on.

Schnee: It’s loading S.R

Dook51: That means the pack is working :D

Schnee: Pack?

Dook51: Mod pack! Kris, buddy, enjoy the biggest compilation of Rin mods ever assembled! Easy to install, easy to activate, easy to play!

The game finished loading and Kris logged in. Immediately he moused down to the add-on menu to look at Dook’s pack. He wasn’t kidding when he said it was big. The list of categories alone took up an entire page in the menu! All the big-name mods were included, along with countless others Kris had never heard of.

Schnee: This thing is...incredible! I didn’t even know Rin had this many mods.

Dook51: And thus the gift serves its purpose  you gonna log on or what?

Schnee: Eh... I think I’ll make a new character instead. Don’t wanna mess things up my main.

Dook51: K, I’ll meet you at the start zone.

Kris entered the character creator. Choosing a race was easy. Among the ten options Seal of Rin provided, only the Lutrin had ever appealed to Kris. This race of anthro-otters was portrayed in the game’s lore as plucky underdogs, and had an energetic spirit Kris couldn’t help but admire. Plus they were cute, but he wasn’t going to say that out loud. Kris picked the arcanist for his class and the game loaded an image of a brown-furred, humanoid otter draped in a thick, billowing robe. Kris frowned. Lutrin were energetic, tropical creatures who would never wear something so heavy or cumbersome. This contradiction was one of the few things in the game that irked Kris—limited customization leading to limited immersion. But all of his characters shared the same issues, so this one wasn’t going to be any different. Unless....

Kris moused over to the dropdown menu that displayed available add-ons. He scrolled down to a mod labelled ‘Enhanced Creation’ and hit ‘enable’. Once the screen reloaded, Kris started when he saw the new interface. Incredible, was the only true way to describe it. The trait list had expanded to include everything from degree of scruffiness to tail length, and the out-of-character clothes had been replaced by loose shorts and clan tattoos. Something had been done to the character model as well. Kris couldn’t put his finger on it, but it seemed to be more...vibrant than normal. Looking into that would have to wait—Kris spent a good half hour tweaking the plethora of options until he had created a character that felt right.

The result was the most satisfactory character Kris could imagine. His Lutrin stood at three-foot eight, slightly below average for the race. Fur was rough, but not scraggly, as if it had been messed up through some rough-and-tumble adventure rather than neglect. The face was what Kris was most proud of though. The Lutrin wore a grin that radiated a friendly certainty, a fun, eager resolve only enhanced by the peculiar shade of emerald in its eyes. All that remained was to give this character a name. This process was usually an exercise in frustration, with Kris struggling to find both a name that was both tolerable and not already taken. This time though...this time Kris could only think of one option for his character. As the Lutrin entered the game world, it bore Kris’s name as its own.

The moment that Kris’s screen loaded the sandy beaches that formed the Lutrin starting area, he opened the add-on menu once more. A mod named ‘Enhanced World’ stood out and was quickly enabled. Kris’s mouth dropped when the screen reloaded. Seal of Rin was no slouch in the graphics department, but it paled in comparison to what the game world looked like now. The mod had the textures and colours of the game. The beach, normally shaded, now sparkled in sunlight as azure waves crested its shores. Shells and small crabs littered the sands, actually shifting as players ran past. There was no way Kris’s computer should have been able to handle something like this, but the frame-rate was just as smooth as it had ever been—in fact, it might have gotten better! Eager to try more, Kris reopened the add-on menu and grinned eagerly when he saw the mod labelled ‘Enhanced Immersion’. He enabled it without a second thought.

When the game reloaded for a final time, Kris raised an eyebrow when his character was nowhere to be found. It took a few seconds and a camera-turn to realize that the mod had swapped his view from the normal third-person to first. Made sense, he mused, it was an immersion mod after all. Right then, time to start playing! Kris turned and found the NPC, named Sier Claun, for his starting quest. It was impressive the way the camera bobbed and shifted while Sier explained that gulls had made off with some of the food stores and that he had to go clam-diving to restock them—an easy enough fetch-quest. Kris accepted and beelined for the water, thrilled at how seamless the movements were.

Kris could only stare transfixed when his character hit the water. Droplets flew through the air as Kris dived down into the ocean. The water was clear to his character’s eyes and easy to see through. It was all so vibrant that Kris even caught himself staring hungrily at a school of fish that swam by as he made his way to the quest target. Water flowed around Kris’s fur like air, salt tickling his whiskers as he dove down to his goal . The clams were too large to carry up to the surface, and too strong to force open conventionally. It took several minutes of tugging and straining at the lips of the shell before Kris remembered that he was an arcanist. A quick second to clear his mind and a moment to cast a force nudge spell were enough to make the clam give up its tasty, tasty meat. It was harder to swim back to the beach while carrying the meat, but not by much. Sunlight warmed Kris’s fur as he brought the meat back to Sier.

“Ah, Kris! Excellent!” Sier said happily as she took the clam meat from him. “This’ll go over great at tonight’s dinner. We’ll be fire-cookin’ tonight!”

There was a pause while both Sier and Kris recalled the deliciousness that had been previous fire-meals. Kris swayed with the thought of rich, succulent meat infused with both the salt of the ocean and the roast of flame.

“Oh! Right! I almost forgot!” Sier remembered suddenly. “There’s some guy at the rest-hut looking for you. A traveller, I think, haven’ seen him before.”

Kris tilted his head curiously but said nothing as he made his way to the reed-lined hut. The mystery was solved when he saw the familiar fluffy, lithe tail that could mean only one person.

“Heya Dook!” Kris exclaimed as he pounced his friend and nuzzled against his long, silky fur, noting mildly the scent of forest dirt.

The Ferrit turned his head a tad too late. “Hiya Kri—aaah! Wet fur! Wet fur!” Dook yelped. He tried to shake off the still-drying Lutrin.

Kris laughed as he let go. “Gotta get used to water if you’re going to keep showing up at the village. What brings you this way?”

“You, actually. I have a job to look into some strange thefts in one of the outlying towns and I could use a magical eye to help. Interested?”

Kris blanked. “Seriously? Me, go on an adventure?”

Dook shrugged. “Well I know you haven’t left the village before, but I figured I’d give it a shot. If you don’t want to I can—“


“Oh...ok then. We can leave in an hour if that’s ok.”

Kris was literally bouncing with excitement. “An adventure! Me! I get to go on an adventure! Wheeee!”

“Calm down, calm down.” Dook chuckled. “It’s just a small investigation, nothing major.” He ruffled Kris’s headfur. “There’s a whole world out there after all, but if you want to see it, it would be my pleasure to help.”