Gameplay in Shartak occurs on a grid-like map of the island. Players participate and interact as outsider and native characters of various classes. The island is also home to many characters controlled by the system. These non-player characters (NPCs) include traders, helpful shamans, and various kinds of animals.
While the game generally revolves around conflict between outsiders and natives, players are free to devise their own unique goals. There are good and bad ways of accomplishing certain tasks, but there is no right or wrong way to play.
Characters rely on Action Points (AP) to perform almost all actions in the game, such as moving, speaking, writing, fighting, searching, and trading (see explanations below). Most actions cost 1 AP. When a character's AP reaches 0, they rest and are temporarily unable to do anything.
One AP is replenished every 20 minutes; in 24 hours, a character regains 72 AP. Most classes cannot exceed 75 AP, but scouts and explorers have a maximum of 80.
Some actions use 0 AP (such as dropping an item, attempting to heal a target that has full health, trying to search with fewer than 2 free inventory spaces, or proposing a trade at a trading post — actually making a trade requires 1 AP). Others use AP in increments of 0.5 (e.g., speaking, moving over zero density jungle, or tracking with advanced tracking for 1.5 AP). Every 10 minutes, your character regains 0.5 AP.
If you run out of AP, the game will tell you how many minutes you have to wait until you get another one. Some activities cannot be performed if they would send you into negative AP (e.g., contacting a shaman). Other actions (like moving through swampy terrain or swimming) can send you into negative AP, in which case you will be unable to act until your AP becomes positive again.
If you have multiple characters and have them cooperate, you will be "cursed". Actions will cost extra AP until the curse wears off. Curses occur because such behavior, termed "zerging", is widely seen as cheating. (See the FAQ for more information.)
- Main article: XP
Performing certain actions earns Experience Points (XP). Players with enough XP can buy skills, which improve a character's current abilities or grant new ones. The most common way to gain experience is to attack an animal or another player.
Humans and animals in Shartak have a limited amount of Hit Points (HP). Damage inflicted to a character (by other players or animals, etc.) will reduce their current amount of HP. Some items, including all drinks and most fruits, will replenish a player's HP if they are consumed or used. If you're bitten by a snake or hit with a poison dart, you'll lose 1 HP over your next few actions in addition to the immediate damage felt from the attack.
If a character's HP reaches 0, they die. But death is not the end; it is just another part of the game. Dead characters can play as spirits or can contact a shaman on the island who will assist them in returning to life. (Contacting the shaman in your home village costs 25 AP, while contacting the nearest wandering shaman costs 50.)
Players can be harmed and killed even while they are logged out (asleep). You may sleep, but for other players on the island, life goes on.
Your character is located in the center block in the map grid. You can move into any directly adjacent block that has the "Move" button by clicking on it.
Movement through beach, grassland and non-heavy jungle terrain usually costs 1 AP, but with the trekking skill it only costs 0.5 AP (note that character AP display is rounded off), and trailblazing allows 0.5 AP movement through heavy jungle as well. Travel through swamp and water terrain is harder and consumes more AP per movement. Certain terrain can be dangerous: swimming in deep water can result in a shark bite, which can only be cured with a first aid kit or healing herb (see Items#Consumables).
Besides moving to adjacent areas, characters can also enter and leave huts, ship compartments, and temples found in their current location. They are also capable of climbing mountain paths and certain tunnels; see Terrain for more information.
Maximum density jungle terrain requires chopping down some of the growth before moving there. If you aren't carrying an item to chop the vegetation, you can attempt to "push" through maximum density jungle, but you will fail most of the time.
If you have a machete or cutlass (see Items#Melee weapons) you can chop down impassable jungle (level 10) in adjacent areas down to level 9. You can also "Chop Jungle" on your square. Passable jungle growth ranges from level 9 (dark green) down to level 0 (brown dirt). Chopping may cause your weapon to dull and become less useful for attacking and further chopping. All jungle (and camp) areas regrow vegetation over time.
You can attack other players and animals on your square. Use the first pull-down menu to select the target and the second pull-down menu to select the weapon you wish to use.
The number is the damage (in HP) you will inflict if you hit the target with that weapon. The percentage is your chance of hitting the target with that weapon.
On very rare occasions your melee weapon may either break (and be automatically discarded) or inflict extra damage: "Maybe it's luck or maybe it's skill, your attack is right on target and inflicts more damage than normal. You attack the tiger for 5 damage. It dies." Punches are also capable of dealing extra damage. (See Special weapon event odds for related statistics.)
No matter where you are, you can attempt to search your square for any items you might find useful, and on most squares you have a chance to find something. Your success rate in finding items and the types of items you find depend on the type of terrain you are searching. The best search success rates are available in the medical and ammunition huts in each camp. (See a camp's page for the locations of its resource huts.) Searching costs 1 AP unless it's done in a swamp (in which case it costs 3) or you can't carry any more items in your inventory (in which case it costs 0): "You're carrying too much to be able to search. You need to drop or use something first."
An unsuccessful search generally does not mean that there are no items in the area, just that you didn't find any on that attempt. You can search any area multiple times and continue to find items (see How searching works). However, if the search results in "You find a broken knife, which you discard. It seems there is nothing to be found here." it means that there is nothing to be found where you are.
If another player is in the same area as you, you can communicate with them by using the textfield next to the "Speak" button and then clicking the button.
All outsiders can understand each other, and all natives understand each other. But without learning the language of the other group (see Skills), it is difficult for an outsider to comprehend the words of a native and vice versa.
- Main article: Writing
If you own a knife or dagger (see Items#Melee weapons), you can leave messages on huts, trees, and in the sand. These messages are not permanent, but they provide a means of creating temporary landmarks and communicating with other players. Outsiders and natives write in different languages.
- Main article: Signpost
With two pieces of driftwood, you can place a semi-permanent signpost in an outdoor location. Signs can be used to communicate with other characters (by marking directions and distances to important locations, for example). As always, outsiders and natives write in different languages.
"Look For Tracks"
- Main article: Tracking
Tracking skills let your character examine your square for the tracks of animals, shamans, and other players that have passed through the area previously.
- Main article: Trading
When inside a trading hut, your character has the opportunity to trade items in your inventory for those that the trader has in their inventory.
Many items are fundamental to gameplay, including weapons, consumable items, and others. Items are stored in a player's inventory (which cannot be seen or accessed by spirit players) and can be traded with the trader in each camp.