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Literature: The Avatar Chronicles

The Avatar Chronicles is a trilogy of young adult novels by Conor Kostick.

In a World where skill in a massive, intricate MMORPG has become the way through which matters of economic and juristic disputes are settled and where high-level players reign supreme, both in the virtual and real world, a small boy from a coastal village bets all and wins high - but the system has its issues with that.

Epic is a novel by Conor Kostick, published in 2004. Epic is set Twenty Minutes into the Future, on New Earth, a planet 'somewhere in the universe' which human colonists have settled on long ago. With them they brought Epic - originally invented to prevent psychological problems from isolation and boredom during the long travels through space in a semi-frozen state, Epic now dominates the colony's culture. The game's currency is valid for real resources. Loss in in-game tournaments gets you assigned to worse jobs. Social status and personal wellbeing all depend on your character's level, equipment and status. To make matters worse, Epic is Nintendo Hard - once your character is dead, all their stuff is gone as well, and you have to start all over again. And to compound matters, high-level equipment, spells and skills are almost exclusively in the hands of Central Allocations, a group of nine people, which dooms most appeals against their decisions to failure.

Epic is also the colony's only outlet for any sort of conflict; violence is seen as absolutely despicable in the colony, and merely the act of striking another human is enough to warrant exile onto a small island.

The protagonist of Epic is Erik Haraldsson, who lives in a small village that produces olives, and whose fate is about to turn for the worse: his mother has had little luck in the game, having just 'died', and so they are about to be forcibly moved to an assignment in the salt fields or coal mines, when Erik decides to defy a trope and creates a new character...

The sequel to Epic is Saga, a much Darker and Edgier story. Set in a virtual world which was originally designed to be like Epic, only Cyber Punk as opposed to Heroic Fantasy. After 2000 years of existence however, the "game" has become alive, and is pretty much a universe in it's own right. Saga is ruled over by the Dark Queen, who has created a card system to indicate the rich and the poor, with Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet colored cards. The poorest of the the poor (and the majority of Saga's citizens) are Red, with Violet being for the super-rich.

Naturally, not a lot of the Reds are in favor of this system, causing a lot of young Reds to become anarcho-punks. One such group of teenagers are our main characters, Ghost, Nathan, Athena and Milan.

The third book in the trilogy is Edda. Penelope's lived her entire life in the equivalent of a hospital bed, spending all her time in the virtual world of Edda (yet another world designed to be like Epic and Saga), coding the game to create modern weapons and vehicles for her caretaker, Lord Scanthax. Scanthax's goal is to make himself ruler of all the virtual worlds, and it's only Saga that stands in the way.

Now that Penelope's a teenager, she's begun to question her own background: Why would a baby have been left behind when her planet was evacuated? Does Scanthax really care for her, or does he only view her as a high-maintenance tool? Are there other humans or at least some sentient virtual life besides Scanthax's manifestations that she can connect with? As she tries to find answers, and Scanthax continues in his conquest, all the virtual worlds will be affected.


These books provide examples of the following tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Ragnok. The people don't even know he murdered someone. He's just that much of a dick.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Big Erik, though he gets past it.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The now self-aware game has become schizoid – one part gives life to NPCs and wants to be friends with humans, but also end because it is lonely. The other part is a vampire, wants to continue living, and can kill people in the real world with hypnosis.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Any sort of violence, even just slapping someone, gets you banished to an exile island for lifetime.
  • An Aesop: Fleeing into virtual realities and not doing the things that need to be done in the real world is bad. Which goes into Broken Aesop, because their colony is only declining because people are forced to depend on Epic.
  • Apocalypse How: There's an item among the pirate treasure Erik got a map to that can completely destroy Epic.
  • Arrested for Heroism: Harald was exiled for life - because he punched someone in order to stop an Attempted Rape.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Erik does this. His careful observation of Inry'aat the Red Dragon's attack patterns allows him to discover a loophole that he and his friends can take advantage of to kill the dragon, an unheard-of feat since it is supposed to be unbeatable.
  • Axe Crazy: Ragnok, what with throwing a wheelchair-bound old man out of a high tower's window over a game character, committing a real life murder – perhaps the first in all of the colony's existence.
  • Bag of Holding: Erik's character Cindella has one.
  • Bag of Spilling: On every death, your entire character is erased.
  • Blood Knight: Ragnok enjoys playing the Executioner a little bit too much.
  • Bond One-Liner: Ragnok specifically prepared some for his Total Party Kill of his colleagues.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Reversed. In-game money is useable in Real Life; many people have to play Epic in order to be able to buy necessities. A game over can plunge you into deep poverty.
  • Character Class System: Each player must choose a character type. Erik chooses Swashbuckler for his character Cindella, which is a very rare type almost unheard of since most people create strong, warriorlike characters.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The medallion the archbishop gave Bjorn in return for his gods' bell. Turns out that merfolk are really thankful to that god.
    • You remember that cursed dagger and invisibility item that got Anonemuss' avatar killed? That Lord Scanthax's troops took back with them? Yeah, they're used by Assassin at the end of Edda. If he hadn't been using those particular items, he'd still be alive and Ghost would be dead, and chances are Lord Scanthax would not have been defeated.
  • Chekhov's Skill: When Erik creates his Cindella character, he's mildly interested in the fact that Mock is listed as one of her combat skills, but can't picture a time when he'd use it. Erik uses it to distract Inry'aat, the Red Dragon, at a critical moment when they're fighting him and about to be killed.
  • City Noir: The setting of Saga, more or less.
  • Combat and Support: Players of Epic will often team up to fight enemies like this, and the final battle ends up being like this as well. The "Combat" portion is made up of warrior-type characters, while the "Support" portion is made up of spellcasters and healers, who stay out of the thick of the fighting.
  • Competitive Balance: Since farming enemies in Epic is the main source of real-life money and fights are used for settling conflicts, a focus on combat is established, and people don't usually choose classes with noncombat focus or seemingly gimmicky stats like Beauty.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome: In-universe. Since "Epic" is Serious Business, everyone sticks with the predictable classes, even though there are loads and loads of them. invoked
  • Cool Swords: 'Thunder' and 'Lightning'. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Defector from Decadence: Svein Redbeard, after he realizes that his government is refusing help to people over a videogame. And he gets petrified, then thrown off the committee. Subverted, in that he doesn't turn up to the battle, and later on wants to preserve the game and tries to kill Cindella.
  • Digital Avatar: Naturally.
  • Dual Wielding - B.E. with his twin swords, Thunder and Lightning.
  • Dump Stat: Averted with Cindella, Erik's new character. Otherwise played straight - since Epic is Serious Business, nobody would waste any points into a stat like Beauty. However, it's Erik's defiance that rouses the attention of Epic's kernel, which has become self-aware.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Using roughly two thousand arrows to juggle and kill a huge red dragon.
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: Boy, howdy. Complete with full 3D data helmet and in-game tactile sense. NPC AI so complex it reacts to player-made events. All in Real Time, with an ecosystem, everything. But you still can't get ye flask.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Like Dwarf Fortress turned Up to Eleven.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Punched someone in the face? Onto the exile island with you. Enjoy third-rate seeds and rusty tool shipments.
  • Enough to Go Around: Averted. There are several unique items which hold clues to enormous riddles or the nature of Epic (or are just really powerful) but they only drop once.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Epic.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Epic has a dash of everything.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Played with.
  • Fluffy the Terrible:
    "Bouncy?" B.E. groaned with disgust. "Inny, it's an ethereal guard dog. It can detect astral projections and ethereal walkers, let alone invisible and hidden creatures. It can savage a troll single-handedly, and you've called it Bouncy?"
  • For Science!: In the ending, Svein Redbeard turns against Erik in-game to prevent Epic from being shut down - just because there was still so much to explore!
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Count Illystivostitsch can kill you by making you think he's ripping your heart out. From cyberspace. Not your character. You.
  • Game Breaker:
    • Erik's defeat of the Red Dragon lands him tons of loot for his character. But since the in-game currency is valid in Real Life as well, he is suddenly rich enough to uproot the entire planet's economical system. invoked
    • The government has access to a code that disables PvP protection - they alone can create a character that can attack other players outside the arena. Whilst that means that said character (the "Executioner") is also attackable, it's been equipped with tons of highest-level equipment (including a shield that voids all negative magic) and spells. Also, none of the other players know that it's possible to attack another player.
  • Genius Loci: More like genius ludi... Epic is alive!
  • Global Currency: Bezant, as well as silver, gold and pennies.
  • Hive Mind: Epic is all NPCs at once, and the game itself.
  • HUD: Little to none at all. Players have to store their own things, count to check numbers, etc. A Life Meter is mentioned, though.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Averted. When trying to bring down the Red Dragon with More Dakka and kiting, they bought so many arrows they ended up having to borrow two carts to carry them.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Ethereal Tower of Nightmare.
  • Inevitable Tournament: Justified, as the colonies' government enforces it, and those that do well (usually members of rich families, who get powerful equipment handed down) may go to study Epic at the University, which opens the path to government jobs.
  • Jerk Ass: Whilst playing as the “Executioner”, a character capable of attacking players outside PvP, Ragnok passed the time by sneaking up on an unsuspecting player for a One-Hit Kill – which might just have vaporized a lifetime's worth of Level Grinding.
  • Lord British Postulate: Inevitably, this is going to get both the “Executioner” and Central Allocations. It already got the Red Dragon. Any finite number can be reduced to 0…
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Discussed. Anonemuss quotes and discusses the necessity of violence with the group, who live in a world where it is treated… strangely . (See Violence is the Only Option).
  • Magical Negro: Dark Elf Anonemuss sort of ends up with this.
  • Metal Gearing: Necessary in conversations with NPC, because even Twenty Minutes into the Future, You Can't Get Ye Flask.
  • Money Grinding: Most players are forced into a lifetime of this.
  • More Than Mind Control: Even though the vampire is eerily charismatic and hypnotic, Ragnok seems to be acting on his own impulses.
  • Munchkin: Ragnok, in the worst possible way.
  • Murder Simulators: Discussed, and technically inverted. The point of Epic is to keep violence away from society, by making it the only place where violence may exist.
  • Mysterious Past: Anonemuss. Who exactly is he, and what sort of violence did he commit that warranted an exile?
  • Near-Rape Experience: Whilst it's never mentioned in any detail, the incident that lead to Erik's father punching Ragnok, therefore making himself an outcast, had to do with Erik's mother Freya, who was a)drunk and b)struggling…
  • News Travels Fast: Averted; the world of Epic at large only learns that the Red Dragon has been killed (by a group of children) when a party member lets it slip to an NPC.
  • Nintendo Hard: If your character dies, it (and all your items) is gone. If you're an adult who is fighting in the player-vs-player arena to settle a grievance, you could very easily lose everything you've worked thirty or forty years for.
    • This is a plot hole - it is possible to transfer all your belongings to another player (family member or a friend) before the fight and if you die you can make a new character and get it all back. Freya explicitly sold all she owned to buy arrows (for the dragon fight), which she then gave to Eric. No tax or anything. Basically you can find the character class with most valuable starting equipment/money, stash it all onto a helper, suicide, make a new one etc. and noone would care or be able to trace this.
    • It is also explicitly mentioned that children/nephews of rich people have access to incredibly powerful stuff that their progenitors acquired earlier. Basically the whole idea of Epic implies incredible inflationary potential since no money sinks are mentioned that can contain it.
  • NPC: Their AI, however, is so complex and independent, they're nearly human. Did I say nearly?
  • Only Six Faces: Played with. Being as intricate as it is, Epic is fully capable of rendering stunningly realistic faces, but since beauty is invested in with the Point Build System, has no combat use and is therefore usually a Dump Stat, only NPCs and Cindella have something that looks like a face, whilst everyone else uses a nondescript gray expanse as a face.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're aware they're in a game, at least.
  • Point Build System
  • Power Perversion Potential: An extremely immerse video game with perfect 3D graphics and sound, tactile sense feedback and NPC that can be arguably alive. Libraries of different body, beauty is a stat that can be levelled very high…
    • The perversion potential is mentioned in-universe as well, though in their world violence is considered a perversion.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Interestingly enough. Not only does Erik reappear in Saga, but his character, Cindella, is the only Epic character that was transferred over to the Saga game.
  • Punny Name: Anonemuss. References to the Internet Hate Machine not intended.
  • Rage Quit: Erik considers doing this to avoid capture, but fears to find his character in the same ship but on the bottom of the ocean when he logs back in.
    • At the same time, Bjorn actually does this, and not only survives due to his helmet of waterbreathing, but finds and befriends the king of all merfolk.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Out of all the Central Allocations people, the druidess Bekka is probably the most Lawful Good. And also the only one not to be oneshot'd by Ragnok.
  • Red Herring: Cindella pretends to do a Main Quest whilst following a different idea altogether.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Erik
  • Royal "We": The Dark Queen uses this in Saga.
  • RPGs Equal Combat: Epic was intended as an RPG. Since it became the method of solving conflicts and deciding who goes to the university, nearly all the players spend all their time
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Low level equipment contains gems such as pot helmets. Which are treated by poor people like gems, and cost around a year's worth of work. Crosses over with Rainbow Pimp Gear.
  • Schizo Tech: Each world has its own technology - for example, since Epic is a Standard Fantasy Setting, you've got only swords, bows, and the like, but Saga is a Cyber Punk City Noir and therefore has high-technology Ray Guns. Schizo Tech is what you get when the virtual worlds collide.
  • Serious Business: Epic controls everything on New Earth - want to appeal to a government decision? You'll have to fight their character. Need an urgent shipment of solar collectors or other supplies, but have been denied? To appeal, you'll have to win in PvP. Lost your job? Arena match!
    • There's also one University for the entire colony. Guess what you study there.
      • And that's the requirement for going for government - having studied a MMORPG. An incredibly complex one, but still.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In-universe, Cindella's name is a shout-out to "Cinderella" and various characters Erik knows of named Sinbad.
    • Cindella is a swashbuckler, and very good at taunting. Did she just use Insult Swordfighting on a dragon?
    • Epic's two moons are Sylvania and Aridia.
  • Skeleton Government: Nine people make up Central Allocations.
  • Slash Command: Well, #.
  • Space Whale Aesop: If your government start to decide everything through World of Warcraft, delete the game. Only that the game will become a vampire that can hypnotize you into dying of fright.
  • Sprint Meter: Depending on your stats, your character can run for only so long. The Executioner manages a couple hundred stairs at full tilt. This is never brought up again.
  • Standard Status Effects: And they are definitely not useless this time.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Justified. Most armor is heavy, and most players don't bother having their character take swimming lessons. In a fight against a member of Central Allocations (a man wants a new hip for his wife and has to play a video game for it), we see his character missing a jump and promptly drown.
  • Talk to Everyone: Actually required; shop NPCs, for example, only reveal the good stuff when prompted through conversation.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Humanity has escaped the old earth, where (we are told) everyone killed each other. Cryogenics and spaceships exist(ed), as well as some very advanced computing technology (Epic itself), but New Earth nevertheless exists (mostly) in Medieval Stasis.
  • Violence is the Only Option: Played with, and center of the books' Aesop. Whilst in the real world, violence in all forms is forbidden (to the point where, when Erik lost a tooth due to an accident whilst playing, he had to lie about it lest his friend may be seen as having deliberately hurt him and therefore being banished), it's the only way to proceed in Epic and therefore better your lot in real life – instead of forbidding violence and the oppression and differences it causes, New Earth merely shifted it elsewhere.
  • Wallet of Holding: Averted. The heroes have to open a bank account and have clerks rummage through the dragon hoard they looted to see how much they actually made.
    • To do large transactions, they get Djinns they can command to shift the money. But only nine times.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, aside from Ragnok and Godmund, who got a confirmed death, what happened to the other committee members? We know their characters were killed, but…
  • You Can't Get Ye Flask: For all its advanced AI and stunning realism, the dialogue system in Epic is pretty bad. Usually, players resort to Metal Gearing in order to get the NPCs to talk.
Avalon HighYoung Adult LiteratureThe Avatars Trilogy
Avalon: Web of MagicLiterature of the 2000sThe Avatars Trilogy

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