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Comments: 5

“Pass the chips, you hog.”

Steph passed the bowl over, but not before taking a few more.

I passed out the custom character sheets among the five of us. After months of preparation, we were finally ready.

The cool nighttime came in through the open windows. We quietly filled out the sheets to our character sheets.

Needless to say we were excited to play this new game we made. We had all put much work into it.

I was chosen to write the story, being the communications major in college. I liked storytelling anyway. I saw myself as an author in the future.

Hugh and Lucas made the rules. They both loved rules. They played sports throughout high school, and what would a game be without rules? Their challenge was designing appropriate rewards and penalties and balancing them.

Rachel and Stephanie designed the board and pieces. They got to choose how everything looked, what miniatures we would need and craft decks of custom cards. They were both looking forward to exploring their inner set designers.

Most of us knew each other from high school, but I was only really friends with Stephanie and Lucas. Steph and Lucas had been dating since ninth grade, and have been best friends with me since before that. I still joke that I was the one who introduced them to each other. Hugh and Rachel entered our circle after we all moved back from college. One night they just joined us at the bar and that was that.

We all shared a passion for gaming and fantasy. So naturally we began having game nights. We played all sorts of games, from Risk to Tapestry. Then I had the idea to create our own tabletop game.

I sat before my computer for months, designing a world that would captivate players. The game concept was simple really. You are summoned to another world to free from the Dark Lord, and explore and quest while doing it. Not only did this work brilliantly as a story, but as a game mechanic. The player would have to bring their natural skills into the game with them. Upon giving this prompt to the others, they set to work.

My fingers wove a symphony. Words floated out of my head and onto the pages. Literary worlds and figurative characters landed and arranged themselves neatly.

I created concepts for the others to build off on. Magical weapons. Ancient and mysterious civilizations. All sorts of lore and potential storylines. I still considered it a work in progress, but I pretty much had a small book ready by the time we were ready to play.

At long last, the pages lay finished before me. I presented them to the others who picked them up and began obsessing over them. I sat patiently as they read, and I could tell already they were spellbound. It took all of my will not to cheer. I had brought the power of imagination to life.

And now here we were, ready and eager to immerse ourselves into fantasy.

We set up the game. Rachel rolled out the mat and Stephanie put the handmade pieces on the board. They had printed and laminated a blank map of a globe, the mysterious planet that we would be summoned to, a world of unknown potential to everyone but me. I knew this world inside and out. It would be my designation in the party to be the loremaster.

On it they put a token to represent our party. That represented our starting point in the world that I made.

They laid out various decks with custom designed cards. There were many, the back of each card was elegant, yet simple. They did not see a need to overcomplicate the first edition.

I looked at my completed character sheet. We were required to write our own name, our chosen class, and our level. We each started at level one, and would level up as we gained in world experience. There was room to write equipment underneath. We would determine those by choosing a starting class.

The class list was interesting, as Hugh and Lucas had customized each class to stretch across every genre. The purpose of the class was to define your character, to shape what they will become over time. It was who you wanted to be.

Steph looked up beaming. “Can we share our classes?”

“Yeah,” I nodded and went first.

“I am a Forge Master: With the right tools and ingredients, a forge master can create just about anything. They specialize in weapons and armor, as well as enchanting them. Their starting item is the blacksmith hammer.”

From what Lucas and Hugh previously told me, a Forge Master’s imagination was the limit when it came to inventing things in this 

Steph went next. “I’m the Musketeer: Familiar with both the sword and the gun, a musketeer can switch between ranged and melee at a moment’s notice. The starting item is a sword.”

It was Lucas’ turn. “I’m the Farseer. I’m good at seeing and hitting stuff from far away. I got a bow.”

Made sense. Lucas loved archery. So much so he had a compound bow he practiced with every month.

Hugh went. “It was a tough choice between this and the Brawler, but I decided on the Trickster. A miscreant with a talent for mischief, this character specializes in confounding opponents with skills that seem impossible.My starting item is a wondrous cape.”

I was a little confused by the trickster class. To me, it sounded like a rogue with a flair for the dramatic. But I suppose that’s the kind of person Hugh was naturally. 

Rachel went last. “I’m the Arcanist. I know all sorts of spells and lore.” This did not surprise me. Rachel was a heavy Harry Potter fan. Roleplaying didn’t come to her naturally like it did the rest of us. She was always referencing mainstream works in our games.

Now that we selected our classes, it was time to pick a trait from the trait deck. These shuffled cards held random attributes that would shape our journey throughout the world. Hugh claimed you could be almost anything. I picked mine. My card read:

The Chosen One: 

You are handpicked by the gods or fate to fulfill a destiny. Pick a random patron deity card. Upon visiting a temple of your god, pull a card from the favor deck.

I did so. I picked up Otomipent, the Watcher. Everyone else revealed theirs. Stephanie was a champion. Lucas was deadly. Rachel was a fast learner, and Hugh was worthy.

I admired the creativity that went into the character creation. They all did very well off the lore I gave them.

It was time to begin. I read the intro in my best dramatic voice:

“Adventurers! Your immediate assistance is required! In a parallel universe, the Dark Lord rules as a tyrant. Only the heroes of your world can vanquish him! The players find themselves in the Petrified Woods….”

A low wind picked up outside. It turned into a ghastly howl, coming through the open windows. The pages were swept off the table and spun around us, mockingly.

Next thing I knew everything went black. And then there was light.

We were standing in an unknown forest. The trees around us were of petrified wood. My stomach churned as I realized where we were.

“What happened?” asked Rachel.

“Where the hell are we?” demanded Hugh.

Stephanie picked up on it first. “The players find themselves in the Petrified Woods” she said. 

“Is this real?” asked Lucas. His voice had both terror and excitement in it. I could not blame him. I was about to voice my own confusion but another voice beat me to it.

“Hullo, strangers!” A bearded man approached, with an ax slung over his shoulder. His steps were wide like his stature. I instantly recognized him as one of my creations, the Woodsman. A charming character with a singular purpose, to introduce us to the adventure.

“My, what strange clothes you wear!” The Woodsman laughed in a booming voice. I looked down, and saw that we were still in our millennial outfits.

“What the fuck is going on?” screamed Rachel. We were all wondering that. This kind of thing only happens in stories.

“Um, excuse me” I stammered. The Woodsman beamed at me. “I don’t think we belong here.”

“Of course, you don’t!” cried the Woodsman. “But there is adventure to be done, and by my ax, someone has to do it!”

“But we’re not adventurers. Now tell us how to get out of here!” My voice was shrill.

The Woodsman’s smile had teeth like tombstones. “Follow me adventurers. I will lead you to my home at the edge of the forest, and send you on the next leg of your journey.”

He turned and walked away, leaving us behind.

“What do we do?” asked Rachel.

“I guess we follow him,” said Stephanie. “Maybe if we play a little it will let us out.”

We started after the Woodsman. I brushed my hand against one of the trees. It was as stonelike as I had imagined it when I wrote the intro.

Our party was silent as we moved through the petrified forest. None of us knew what to say. Every now and then a sinister wind blew through the trees, causing shivers that added to the chills to our spines.

We checked our phones. They were unable to pick up any signal or connection. They might as well be useless, except perhaps as flashlights.

“It’s a good thing you adventurers came along. The Dark Lord has been terrorizing us for quite a while now. I hear things in Brighton are particularly nasty.” said the Woodsman, sounding quite optimistic about the predicament.

I racked my brain, trying to figure out how we got here. One moment we were in the apartment, the next we were in a fantasy world. I felt like the Pevensies in Narnia. Except we created this world to be a little more grown up.

Off in the distance, a wolf howled. Everyone, including the Woodsman, jumped. I knew what it was. It was the Big Bad Beast, coming to get us. Our first mini-boss. But here we were, unarmed and unarmored.

I quickly explained to the others. “We’re not meant to fight anything yet. We needed to get to go.”

“Aye,” the Woodsman agreed. “The Beast would never dare enter my home.”

We picked up the pace. A walk turned into a jog, and a jog turned into an all-out sprint as the howls came closer and closer.

There it was, the Woodsman’s house at the edge of the woods. Light flickered from inside. It was more like a large lodge than the shack I imagined when I wrote it.

As we were exiting the forest, a deep growl came from the underbrush.

“The Beast is upon us! Run! I will hold it off!” the Woodsman hollered.

We ran. The Woodsman bellowed as he went into battle. We reached the door, and I could not help but look back.

The Beast was a dark shape, towering over the Woodsman as he made his last stand. Fiery red eyes glared at us. I stood frozen in fear, until Hugh grabbed me and pulled me into the house.

I fell on the floor. Rachel slammed the door behind us and Lucas pushed the bolts shut. All of us already knew the Woodsman would not be joining us. We were safe, at least for the time being.

Rachel started crying. Hugh put his arm around her. Rachel was never good at accepting hard truths. But here we were, trapped in a game of our own making.

“How did this happen to us?” I asked.

“Whatever this is, we are getting out of it,” said Stephanie. She was always practical. She turned to me. “You wrote this. How do we get out?”

“I don’t know.” I replied. I really didn’t. Everyone wants to go to Narnia until they actually go there.

“Maybe we click our heels together,” said Hugh, panic entering his voice..

“If we die here, do we die for real?” asked Rachel. No one wanted to answer that question. 

Someone had to say something. Stephanie took charge. She was always good at that. “This is a safe house, right? We spread out, look for weapons and items. Neil, you think about how to get us home. I want to know everything you know about this world. The rest of us will search the house.”

Stephanie was always a leader, even when we were kids. She was the one behind all our schemes, made our battle plans in snowball fights and led by example. I was impressed she did not let our situation scare her.

I numbly agreed. There was a living room off to the side. A roaring fire stood at one end of the room. Trophies of animals and other treasures adorned the wall. I weakly collapsed in the colossal chair before it and tried to think.

In the story I wrote, we started in the petrified woods, which served as a tutorial level. They make their way to the edge, where they find the town of Brighton. From there, the quest is made clear. Nothing much else was shared beyond that. Not that I wrote too much else. Just defeat the Dark Lord, and end the game. That was it. Our ticket out of here.

It seemed very straightforward, yet I had my doubts. How did time work here? Would we return the moment of our departure, or come back years later? I didn’t want to think about how long it would take in real time to defeat the Dark Lord. I had written plenty of lore beforehand. I wondered how much of my imagination actually made it into this world.

“Guys, come over here and check this out!” Hugh called from the basement.

The rest of us followed his voice to see him standing at a circular table. Around it sat five chairs. At each seat there were our starting items. For Lucas there was a bow and a full quiver of arrows. Stephanie’s sword and pistol, along with a bandolier. A wand for Rachel, elegantly carved from white wood. A folded yellow cape that could only be for Hugh. And a blacksmith hammer, undoubtedly mine. 

We each approached our starting item with wonder. One by one we picked them up. The hammer sent a warm tingle through my hand. A red rune glowed on the head.

A loud crash came from upstairs. We ran upstairs and from the other room heard the huffing and gnawing of the Beast.

“It got in!” I exclaimed.

“So much for the impenetrable fortress.” Hugh said. 

“No, this is good,” said Stephanie, “It’ll have a harder time moving around inside.” It was like she was born for this.

“I’ll take front. Lucas, get some height from that table. I don’t know what that thing can do Rachel, but now’s a good time to find out. Neil, Hugh, stand back for now.”

I ran to the back of the room. The sounds of growling and stomping got closer. The Beast didn’t bother being quiet. It thought it had us cornered.

A large, dexterous claw wrapped itself around the door. Following it came a sinister wolf’s head bearing broken antlers. Its long dark fur was wet with sweat and blood. Its red eyes seemed to be staring into my soul. 

For a moment, it seemed the doorway was too small for the Beast to fit through. Then it grabbed the other side of the door frame with its other claw, and began to pull itself through. Its body cracked and deformed as it squeezed its way through the frame, coming back together as it came through.

“Now! Shoot it!” 

Lucas fired. His arrow sank into the Beast’s shoulder. The Beast roared in pain and bared its fangs. Stephanie ran forward and stabbed at it. A claw intercepted her before she got there and she jumped out of the way.

Another arrow struck. This time in the head. The beast went limp and fell. Silence filled the room.

“Is it dead?” I asked.`

The Beast opened its eyes again. It reared up and roared. We did what any sensible group would do. We screamed. A schick noise filled the air. The Beast stopped moving again. Stephanie had managed to cut its head halfway off. She pulled the blade out and swung again. This time it went through completely. The eye lights went out, and the Beast was dead, laying in a gathering pool of black blood.

“Holy shit. We got lucky.” Stephanie breathed.

“Stupid piece of…” Rachel was still waving the wand around. Aside from sparks coming out at the end, nothing else was happening.

THE PLAYERS ARE VICTORIOUS.

“Who’s there?” said Lucas.

THE ADVENTURERS WENT EAST, TO THE CITY OF BRIGHTON. THERE, THEIR SERVICES WERE NEEDED….

We waited but the voice did not return.

“It seems we have a mysterious narrator.” I commented.

“So we go east? Which way is even east?” asked Hugh

Stephanie pointed. “Look.”

The body of the Beast was disappearing, breaking away like autumn leaves from a tree. In its place sat a decorated chest. My stomach sank again as I recognized the reward from my story. Sure enough, the others looked inside and found strange currency, as well as a map. The map was mostly blank, with the exception of a key and a tiny dot in the center. 

The dot jumped to life and began dancing on the paper. To our amazement, a detailed floor map appeared, with a compass included. We found Brighton and began making preparations. We also searched the kitchen for food. We had no idea how long our journey would be, and we certainly knew the Woodsman wouldn’t need it anymore.

It did occur to us then how easily we let the Woodsman sacrifice himself to save us. He was just an NPC I wrote, but he seemed so real. He certainly seemed real as we buried his remains on the lawn. The ground was hard and it took us several hours. By the time it was done, the sun was beginning to rise. Against my better judgment I took the Woodsman’s ax. I would need a weapon.

We could see off in the distance a city highlighted by the red glow of the rising sun as we prepared to go. It was not too far away, we would reach it in a few hours' walk.

“Look,” said Rachel and pointed to the sky. Not all of the stars had disappeared yet. But she was referring to a blue light traveling across the sky. My heart sank. Here in this world, comets were literal harbingers of destruction. I couldn’t imagine then what would happen, but would soon find out how bad things could really get.


Submitted: January 13, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Jon Nathaniel. All rights reserved.

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Comments

A.K.Taylor

Interesting start. It reminds me of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon series from the 1980's. There are a few differences in setup from that comparison, but it's almost a re-imagining of that scenario.

There's room for more embellishment and descriptive flair, but your story as is works as a good starting point. I think if you work on improving the atmospheric tone and narrative flavor, you could have a solid adventure story going. This tweaks my interest but it doesn't suck me into it all the way yet.

I'll keep an eye out for the next installment. I kinda want to see how you build from here.

Fri, January 14th, 2022 6:46pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much! I've never seen that series, but I will have to look into it. I like you advice about establishing an atmoshpere, I'm trying to make this story as strong as possible. I think I know what you mean about getting sucked in. Part of that is because I am a novice writer. The other part is that I want the story to unfold as you read more, so not everything is revealed at once. It's a new style I'm trying and any feedback is valuable to me. I do have the next few chapters written and am deciding whether I want to release them in monthly incriments (which will give me more time to edit) or whether to release only the first three chapters as a teaser, or just to post it all at once. What would you want to see?

Tue, January 18th, 2022 9:02am

llywrch

I like the story, but you take too long at the beginning to get it started. While much of the exposition is needed, I would get to the start of the game, then backfill the exposition where the information is needed.

Nevertheless, I also would like to read more.

Mon, January 17th, 2022 9:02am

Author
Reply

Thanks for the feedback! I'm revisiting the first chapter to make it more streamline and build an atmosphere and find the right balance of showing vs. telling. I'm glad you want to read more, I have a lot of fun writing this so far, and actually have future chapters in their early stages. The question is if I want to post them now and get more feedback, or release them episodically. What do you think?

Tue, January 18th, 2022 9:05am

FromBlackToViloet

I believe you had a great premised and are off to a good start. I like the game they’re making, also how each character has a part with it, reminds me of dungeons and dragons. What I do like how you get straight to to the point, which still makes it naturally flow when they are now entering the game. As for the exposition with the characters, maybe describe more instead of the main character talking about them. Like show us as the readers don’t tell. Throughout the chapter, I loved the dialogue and the common references how we would feel if your stuck in the actual game. Sometimes I feel like in movies they sort of skip over the shock and just naturally go with the flow. I’m sorry if I was in a game I would be r freaking out and referencing all kind of things being stuck in a mythical magical world. Now if the game made me magically suck into hogwarts I won’t complain as much lol. I did like throughout the dialogue we got to discern the dynamics btw the friends like I could tell immediately who is who and their personalities. The only thing is to add more imagery like A K Taylor said. You’re off to a good start, there’s so much directions you can go with this, keep it up. I just put some mild suggestions in blue. Wonderful job! And I don’t trust that huntsman

Tue, January 18th, 2022 5:19am

Author
Reply

Hey there, thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment! They really help me gain insight into my own work and improve on it. I like that I can capture the shock of entering another world, and I too would be making such references. I know I did a few in there, but I am also concerned about copywright issues, do you think it'll be a problem?
I am revisiting this chapter to add more descriptive detail and stmosphere as you and AK Taylor suggest. I'm very excited to keep working on this project, and already have the next few chapters mapped out. Should I release them early for more feedback, or keep it episodic as I originally planned to give myself more time for editing?

Tue, January 18th, 2022 9:11am

G.P.Sharp

I love the way you set the story up. Creating the pieces, writing the lore, and building an entire RPG from the ground up were all fun for me to read along to. While it was a little slow at the beginning, I think much of the beginning elements you mentioned are not only necessary, but interesting.
As a dungeon master myself, I may be a bit biased, honestly, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though I don't have experience with set pieces (as my players are all to separated for us to meet in person, nor do I have the time/money/skill), the rest of the elements of this really hit home. I especially liked the intro to their classes and the way you described them pulling the cards for their backgrounds, it made the game feel that more authentic.
The only big criticism I would give this story is that the characters themselves feel a bit lacking in their personalities. While I understand it is only the first chapter, you have a large cast, and you did put some background details with them all, I do wish more of each character were explored by their actions and dialogue instead of just the main character giving us the details.
While Stephanie as the leader felt explored, everyone else just felt like they were in the background. However, I understand it is early in the story, and that future chapters will most likely explore our surrounding cast. I do advise you build up their personalities quickly, though, within the next chapter or two at least, otherwise they may prove to just be additional scenery to the reader.
Side note: loved how you handled the woodsman. Strange, scripted like dialogue, which made him a classic NPC, but the impact of his death and them seeing a dead body for the first time was not ignored. Excited to see where you take this story next!

Sat, January 22nd, 2022 12:30am

Archia

I really enjoyed your first chapter, it's very exciting and very well developed. There are stories out there about people magically entering games but I think the fact that this game was created by them makes it really different and interesting. They've created their own journey and fate, and it's a very challenging one.
The descriptions were very clear, although at times their reactions and emotions seemed a bit underwhelming. When they were transported into the game I expected a little more drama but it seemed a very quick transition to them accepting where they were and moving on. Though when they reached the woodsman's house there did seem to be a bit more of a realiation and shock there and that was great to see. Descriptions can be great and make it clear and easy to understand what is going on and what everyone is like, but sometimes it's nice to learn that information through the actions of the characters.
Overall though you have a really great concept behind this and it's going to make for an exciting story. It seems like you've put a lot into this and the characters and I think with a few more actions and showing what they're doing their development could really be strong. I'm sure there's going to be a lot more exciting adventure and it will be really interesting to see where it goes.

Sat, March 19th, 2022 7:08am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your feedback! I hope you keep reading, as there is a lot more to come.

Mon, March 28th, 2022 1:04pm

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