How did the cunning Dark Warlock Emperor Murphy solve the Thousand Kobold Challenge?

I ask my bunkmate in the morning to camp a spawn point together. My thinking: if we can both hit the Kobold before he gets a chance to attack, we won’t take damage. That way we can grind all day.

Of course I’m not ready to grant my bunkmate Named Character status. He’ll have to earn it.

He agrees to give it a try. So we’re squatting together around a Kobold cave, and my thighs cramp but I don’t want to look like a wimp. These other boys must have grown up on manual labor. I wonder if they also have STR: 5?

The first Kobold that spawns takes a hard left when he sees us. We step forward in unison, but my bunkmate is farther away and hits him late. The Kobold scratches me right before he dies.

The next one is the same, and the next one.

No matter how closely we time our attacks, the scrawny little rats always get a Kobold Scratch in right in between.

I hang my head. There’s only one possible conclusion…

Combat is turn-based?!

No way is the future Dark Warlock Emperor staying here to smack Kobolds for another hundred days.

I sit around dawdling all afternoon with the other trainees. They seem to be bonding and enjoying themselves. Must feel like a vacation for them.

Suddenly, I have a bright idea. I’ll dual wield clubs! That’ll kill the Kobolds in one hit. My bunkmate lets me borrow his club. I pick up my own in my right hand, and grab his in my left.

It won’t budge.


If I drop my club, I can pick up his in my left hand. Somehow as soon as I pick one up with one hand, the other becomes too heavy to lift. I feel so much sympathy for video game characters now. To live in a world where physics itself is your enemy…

On the other hand, I’m not the most athletic character, so this may come in handy.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m finally saved by a bad habit. When I’m really bored, I drink a lot of water. I probably down 15 mugs of water while listening to the campfire conversation.

That’s why I wake up three times to pee this night. The first two times I’m super sleepy and drop back into bed immediately, so drinking 10 mugs of water wouldn’t have been enough. But since I drank 15 mugs, I wake up for a third time just before dawn and sunlight started streaming in before I fall back in bed. That’s when I notice the HP bar over my hand is full!

Do you ever feel as if you’re at the brink of a revelation but don’t know what it is? I stand in the doorway and stare sullenly at my hand.


HP: 10/10.


Suddenly, I realize that my wounds are completely healed. That they were already healed on the first two trips to the outhouse. I stand there grinning like an idiot, still staring at my hand. I start cackling. Gotta practice that diabolical Dark Warlock laugh, after all.

My bunkmate throws a pillow at me to shut me up. “What’s the big idea, crazy?”

I ignore him. HP refills every time I sleep, regardless of how long!

The next morning proceeds as normal. Two hours of mind-numbing Kobold-bashing later, the other guys invite me to a game of sportsball. I decline graciously.

Time for a power nap.

Lying in bed in daytime makes me restless. I stare at the ceiling (bottom of the bunk above) and count the swirls in the wood. That reminds me of the big mahogany dining table that my parents picked up from a yard sale back when we lived in Ohio.

Can’t believe we lugged that old thing all the way to Pennsylvania. My third grade teacher Ms. Lynn gave out stickers for good behavior. I saved all those stickers and put them on the legs of that table. Would I ever see it again?

Even though I really miss my parents, it’s only the thought of that mahogany table covered with Hello Kitty stickers that makes me tear up. Was it even mahogany? The word ‘mahogany’ makes it sound especially nostalgic, so let’s just pretend it was.

I finally fall asleep and dream of Pittsburgh.

I wake up from a nightmare that everything in the world had turned pixelated like Minecraft. Thank God I landed in an alternate universe with high resolution.

Never thought I’d say this, but I miss alarm clocks. I overslept.

Still, I got HP back as planned. Dragging myself out of bed with the grungy taste of nap in my mouth, I go collect more Kobold ears. By dinner time, I’ve caught up with everyone else. I have 37 ears now, and everyone else only has 36.

At dinner, I tell my unnamed bunkmate about the HP refresh trick. We craft a master plan.

That night, we take turns sleeping.

He watches me while I fall asleep. As soon as he thinks I’m fully asleep, he shakes me awake and sends me off to hunt Kobolds while he takes a nap. When I get back, I shake him awake, and so on.

By morning the next day, I’ve made three trips to the Kobold caves and he’s made two. We’re so excited by our strategy that we blaze through the afternoon. At the end of the day, we both pass 70 ears. I arrange mine in neat, morbid stacks of ten under my bed.

Unfortunately, even though short naps heal HP completely, they don’t cure exhaustion.

I’m having trouble uncrossing my eyes.

“Hey Murphy, how many fingers am I holding up?”

My bunkmate raises a trembling hand. I’m not sure if his hand is shaking or my vision.


We giggle helplessly. It’s like being drunk. Whacking Kobolds is hard work!

It’s time to get back out there.

At this point, I realize it’s futile to keep my bunkmate’s name from you. His name is Pluneth and he has the makings of a Core Party Member. Yesterday he kept to the plan and bashed just as many Kobolds as myself.

Whacking Kobolds with the whole group for a change makes the morning nice and relaxing. It’s almost as if everything is back to normal, even though Pluneth and I have three times as many ears by this point. That’s when it happened.

As I crushed the 6th Kobold of the morning, I heard what I could only describe as The Narrator Voice from the back of my skull: “Level Up!”

A warm glow travels up my spine and bathes my body in gold light. Yes! God rays extend from the heavens to shine a spotlight on me … no I think I imagined that last part. I check my stats:

LVL: 2
HP: 15/15

Everything else is the same. I suppose stats are just placeholders until we pick Classes. A few eyes turn to stare inquisitively.

Five minutes later, Pluneth hits Level 2 just after me. Now everyone is glaring.

The cat’s out of the bag.

“Spill the beans, Murphy! How did you two level up so fast?”

We make the most of a PR disaster. Pluneth and I regale the others with the tale of our misadventure into sleep deprivation. Mouths hang open in admiration.

“Wow! That’s smart!”

A booming laugh emanates from the corner of the dining tent, startling all of us. It’s the Drill Sergeant. The dwarf walks over and claps a muscled hand on each of us, nearly toppling me over.

“Well done lads. Only 1 in 5 classes figure out the Sleep Recover before training ends. The fifth day must be a record.”

A mischievous glint flashes across his eyes. He tickles the sunken bag under my bloodshot right eye with a stout finger.

“But you boys only solved half the puzzle! You can recover HP just by lying down on a bed and closing your eyes for a minute. You don’t have to fall asleep.”

You don’t have to fall asleep. You don’t have to fall asleep. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FALL ASLEEP.

The Drill Sergeant’s words reverberate in my skull. I bury my face in my hands. All those hours wasted staring at the wood swirls under Pluneth’s bunk, and I could have just closed my eyes and counted to 60?!

New Comment
4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Minor nitpick, but I find it hard to believe no one would have found the trick when the HP are literally hovering over one of your limbs, esp. since people have little to do.

I have a bunch of models where this happens, haven't decided which is true in the story yet. Ex:

Everyone else lived with this floating constant over their limbs their entire lives that never decreased from 10/10, and don't even notice it at this point.

Which means changes to that should pop even more, I think.

It's not rare for me to lie with eye closed for a few minutes, and even more so on holidays or when tired. If you have X people over 100 days -- and they have nothing better to do than lounge about, do they really not figure it at some point?

(But really, nitpick as I said.)

I think you underestimate how bad people are at noticing confusion.