So I began playing ARK again on a private server. It’s a pretty chill PvPvE server, with ORP2 and S+. This si the story of me attempting to craft a saddle, and it illustrates the good things about ARK, along with some of the funny.

I managed to tame a level 156 Pteranodon. I started the tame at like, level 15, and it took me about two hours. The time comes when I’m level 38, and can learn the saddle engram. Fantastic. However, I’m gonna need to go gather some stuff. Hide, fiber, and chitin/keratin. First two, I can get no problem a few feet from my door. Chitin, though. Chitin is hard to find. Medium-tier resource, a first test of my survivor. And so I looked up a guide. “Travel to the volcano shore.” Okay, but mantis and scorps are gonna gib me. So I need a safe way to reliably farm them.

Another guide is discovered. This guy builds a house, shoots from the window. Effective, but I don’t have a way to lug that 3/4 across a 40km/sq map at scale travel speeds. No. It’s not safe, and it would take two hours or so just to walk in a straight line. Wait. In my harbor is the boat I built to level faster. Hausboot time!

I christen her the SS Anne, gather my meager belongings, bid farewell to Silly Dilly the Dilophasaur – for I know not that I’ll see him again – and, pteranodon in tow, set out to the wide sea beyond. The journey is uneventful, of course, on the coastal waters. No threats lurk this far from the depths. A few ichthyosaur, a manta or two, all swimming peaceably alongside. As I round the final bend round Pelagornis Bay, I see a glimpse of the volcanic shoreline. The black ash and hot magma flows make it a sight to behold. Wreathed in fog and steam, I had to stop for a moment and admire the view.

Then I spotted them. Bright carapaces gleaming as they flitted about the shoreline – mantis. Several, a dozen, I couldn’t tell. But two stood out, a bright yellow and green pair. They eyed me warily as my Hausboot drew ashore. Once I came within the standing shallows, they leapt.

Luckily, I’d drawn my crossbow and prepared for this. One arrow took the yellow full in the face, and barely scratched his fine shell. It was enough, though. Enraged, they began swimming under my boat, hissing mightily. Unsure of what the fuck was happening, I shot them both repeatedly in the ass and face. They spun in place, with no way to fight back.

From the far waters, a manta approached. Drawn by the struggle and the ichor, it was in a feeding frenzy. It swiftly devoured my first kill even as I earned it. My precious chitin, the reason for this journey, gone in a flash. What could I do?

My second target and I were akin in desire at that moment, and both fell upon the intruder in our mortal game with vigor. Neither struck at the other while the flappy-finned fucker lived. Too soon, it ended, with our prior aggressions renewed.

We struck out at one another, though all of his blows were futile. In our brief alliance, the beast had become lodged not just under, but partially INTO my raft. Though I’ll not claim it was a fair fight, I fired my crossbow again and again at his belabored form. With a final THWUNK-KRAK, I caved in his squishy little monster head.

Thus the victor, I proceeded to hew at his bits until I had a fine stack of usable chitin. Lamenting the loss of the other mantis, I put out to find a bit of fiber. I’d left mine at home, certain to find some along the way.

I came out of the volcanic mists and found a small spit of green land. I put ashore, and swiftly harvested the plants about. As the final bush crumbled, a vicious snarl sounded.

Out from that same bush bounded two very large, very angry sabercats. A frightened spear jab saved my life, as I reflexively attacked.

Pushed back, the cats weren’t able to keep up with my immediate flight. I made the ship, and urgently took us out to sea. Once clear, I began to craft the saddle. The goal of this whole trip. The entire purpose of life at this very moment.

I needed hide. I had, of course, my entire supply. I’d gathered THAT before the trip, as the creatures near my home were small and mostly harmless. 170 pieces of good, high-quality hide. Because you only need 125 for the pteranodon saddle, you see, I’d planned to make some hide armor with whatever was left.

I misread the information, though. My chest of goods contained 170 hide, it’s true. But the saddle was larger than I thought. 225 I needed. Which meant I was going to have to hunt, most likely something far scarier than a dude with a metal stick and a cloth hat.

But wait. There appears to be a break in the rocks over yonder. I’ll sail through this who put an island in my way?

And so it came to be that I was held fast atop an errant sandbar, hidden beneath the night waves. With fear, I attempted to free her. But the SS Anne had sailed her last (and only) voyage. Her captain had ruined her.

Suddenly in a panic, I realized the truth: I had no way home.

I decided not to die there, on that forsaken spit of rock and brush. As though to affirm my determination, a squargle sounded from above. Hopeful eyes, drawn by the sound, turned heavenward. Shapes wheeled above, but were they vultures to feast on my flesh, or angels to be my salvation?

One dove towards me at speed, and I feared the worst. But as it passed into the moonlight, I saw the truth. A pelagornis splashed in the water feet away. A flash of insight, then, as to my predicament.

I looked longingly at the leather I’d brought. I couldn’t spare any, not really. I’d need to kill a pelagornis in a manner that didn’t use my hide.

I had a crossbow, but the whole flock would scatter if I attacked one. There was no way around it. I had to craft a bola, get one on its way down to snatch a fish. I ripped my leather to shreds, crafting 5 bolas, at the expense of 15 hide.

Hoping to recoup my losses, and the needed 55 additional hide from one or two birds, I set to work. With a squonk, a bird dove as I readied. I caught it about the flippers right on. Ensnared, it couldn’t get airborne. I turned it into a bloody pincushion.

I harvested it’s skin, and found I need only 5 more hide. I double checked my inventory, my box, and my bird. I found a spike wall, which uses 10 hide to construct. And an item…and item can be deconstructed for half that value….I’ve got it!

I quickly place and destroy the spiked wall. Triumphant, I begin to craft – fuck. It’s not 225, either. It’s 230. I’m STILL 5 hide short. In frustration, I drum my fingers on my keyboard. Again, divine providence ensued.

The bright green shape of the placeable spike wall appeared. I still had one more, and I hadn’t realized they were in a stack of two. I have my hide.

Now I sit atop a rock, halfway home. It’s been 4 days. I hope Silly Dilly is well. I suppose I shall soon find out.

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