Training Toughness wasn’t fun, but it was something that had to be done. What good was enough Strength to hold a shield against a charging minotaur if I would break my arm trying to do it?
While other things could be trained in battle, nobody would train Toughness in real battle, at least not on purpose. It was always better to not get hit or soften the blow, but that meant Toughness didn’t increase.
Unlike training Strength, however, there was only so much Toughness training I could take. I could swing a giant piece of metal all day, even until my arms felt like they were on fire- but the actual amount of damage that did was minor… and the pain quickly went away.
Letting Kasner shock or freeze me? That was something else entirely. Sure, he controlled his power so that it was safe, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Plus, if I was to actually get any training out of it he couldn’t hold back too much either.
Apparently there were passive defense skills- more than just Armor Mastery, Shield Mastery, or the like. Ice, fire, or lightning resistance existed, but they weren’t easy to obtain or train. There was even an Iron Skin skill that protected against physical damage. Unfortunately, most of those skills were nearly exclusive to the Monk class and a few others. Everyone else found them harder to pick up for the most part.
As a Paladin, Alhorn could learn Darkness Resistance easily- if we actually encountered anything with those sorts of abilities. Beyond that, he wasn’t much better off than me except having Toughness as a favored Attribute, increasing training speed.
Both of us had to sit through Kasner’s training sessions… as well as hitting each other with training weapons. Goblins hadn’t been too much of a physical threat, but the hydras had been rather dangerous. Unfortunately we were already well into hunting hydras by the time we knew the full danger, and taking off a few weeks to train Toughness would have meant giving up on the opportunity.
Minotaurs, however, would still be around later. Unlike goblins, each one of them represented a significant threat to our physical bodies. Though they wouldn’t be in danger of getting attacked as often, the rest of our party joined in too. Everyone wanted to survive if they did get attacked.
This included Socks, who was actually the most likely of our group to get injured- though also not as much as others. Socks was an animal, and so didn’t think about combat in quite the same way as we did… and while she knew to avoid attacks, she still took a lot of hits. Either the pain bothered her less or she was just mentally tougher than me… or both.
For a real world application of fighting non-humanoids, Alhorn and I each went up against Socks. I’d fought plenty of wolves before, but a bigger stronger smarter one was something else. I didn’t like hurting her- the wounds I made on her hurt me almost as much as… well, her teeth and claws hurt me.
Once I knew how it felt to have Socks attacking me, I wondered how any of our enemies put up with it… but then again, they didn’t have to deal with it for long before they were dead. I knew Socks wouldn’t really hurt me, not beyond the point of drawing blood, but it was still terrifying to have her teeth around my neck, or even around my whole head.
Socks and I did find a good way to make the training more fun. We wrestled. I was at a significant disadvantage without equipment, since Socks didn’t ever use any… but if we actually got to a point of wrestling I gained that back. The two most useful things in wrestling were hands and arms and lots of Strength. Sure, weight mattered, and Socks had me beat there… but that just helped even the playing field a bit. The point was that it was training and fun, and that meant when I came out covered in bloody scratches that I felt better about it. Alhorn and Halette did the same, to varying levels of success.
Kantrilla also got practice with healing spells that way… though it was hard on her. It almost seemed like all of our wounds hurt her more than they did us. Even so, she began to grow used to us being injured in a safe environment.
We concluded our training after several weeks, for several reasons. First, we couldn’t afford to stop adventuring forever. We still had to pay for staying at the inn and meals after all, even if our equipment maintenance costs were lower. Second, we didn’t want to lose our good adventuring habits. Even while training we still visited the dungeon once a week to kill a few minotaurs and keep in practice for real combat. Finally, there was only so much Toughness and other attributes could be trained in a short time, even with magical healing speeding up the process. Out bodies needed some time to get used to the growth before continuing, and returning to adventuring and leveling up would help with that and speed up the process in the long run.
We returned to hunting minotaurs in the dungeon, spending another week on the second floor to make sure there weren’t any more sneaky tricks to be had. The third floor would certainly have more minotaurs and more traps. Most importantly, it could have bosses. We had taken the time to make sure we were prepared for the chance of fighting them, even if we weren’t planning to seek out a minotaur boss right away.
The additional training really paid off, because more minotaurs with a higher probability of being armored led to longer fights. That led to a higher probability of taking a hit, and even small bits of damage could add up… and large hits could tear through your breastplate and into your ribcage.
I found that out on accident. I couldn’t have been sure that I would have died without the additional Toughness… but it was close enough to be uncomfortable. At least it gave me a good excuse to get new armor, and fortunately minotaurs were profitable enough that I could afford it- especially with Carlos’ help carrying loot. I would have loved to say my armor was super magical, but it was only slightly better. Even so, every little bit helped.