Attempting to Ford a River, You Roll a 4
From the east bank, the water looks shallow enough to cross on foot. You step into the river. The water is clear and shimmering in the sunlight. The riverbed is made of sand and flat stones, the kind good for skipping. Mid-crossing, you look up to judge the distance to the west bank. The surface of the water crests just above your waist. The current, too weak to uproot you, tugs at your knees. Your foot catches on an unseen rock, and you fall headfirst into the water.
Once you are submerged, the water seems deeper than you thought possible. As if you were plunged through a pit into a hidden, darker under-river. The current, much stronger here, tumbles you, confusing up with down. You thrash in panic, then remember to swim. Your clothes and pack, armor and weapons, feel heavier than a millstone. You feel your items sinking you, so you frantically unfasten sword and chest plate, bow and boots. You’ve held your breath too long, on the verge of inhaling water.
You struggle and shed your inventory until you finally reach the shallows. You crawl onto the shore and look back to see raging rapids, sure that this could not be the same river you first stepped in.
Attempting to Resist the Effects of a Poison, You Roll an 8
The water from the well seemed like any other: odorless and clear. It tasted clean on your tongue, but in your belly it sloshes like wine. Your brain spins in your skull. You shut your eyes and grit your teeth and clench your fists and dig your heels into the dirt. You suck long drags of air in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. You try to fight an enemy already inside you, your only weapon your will to be well. Hot bile rises in your throat. You choke it down. Cold sweat coats your brow. You whisk it away.
An imbalance in your humors creates tremors in your bones. You fall to your knees, then onto your side, curling like a wilting flower. A ringing in your ears blocks the sound of a breeze that chills your clammy skin. An eclipse blackens the path, the well, and the sky. Your body becomes a net filled with fish spoiling in the sun. Each fish thrashes as if to swim. A thousand fish gasping dry air and cannibalizing each other. You are too delirious to know you can hardly breathe because you are vomiting. You are unaware when you shit blood. You will be a fever until you break.
Attempting to Gather Rumors in a New Village, You Roll an 11
You hear of the deacon’s illegitimate children: one a servant boy he keeps close, one a girl banished to a faraway country, one in a small, unmarked plot in the church graveyard.
You hear of a midnight sighting of a ghost in the jailhouse.
You hear of a tea shop believed to be a front for trafficking of enchanted weapons and illegal writings.
You hear of a local man with a dick the size of a unicorn’s horn.
You hear of a saucy, old barmaid whose impropriety has destroyed three marriages.
You hear of a blacksmith who got away with killing his wife because he waited until the full moon and blamed the carnage on werewolves.
You hear of shopkeeper after shopkeeper ripping off customer after customer.
You hear of a brothel that specializes in blackmail.
You hear of rivalries with the neighboring village, an immoral haven for barbarians and scoundrels, where etiquette is forgotten and incest is lawful.
You hear of a boy born with talons, fiery breath, and the black eyes of a demon, still living, hidden in a locked cellar.
You hear of bribery, forgery, robbery, conspiracy, and many criminals whose names are foreign and meaningless to you.
You don’t hear of anyone whom you can trust.
William Hoffacker is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Cartridge Lit, an online literary journal dedicated to poetry and prose inspired by video games. His work has appeared in NANO Fiction, The Matador Review, Fixional, and others. More information is at williamhoffacker.com, and he tweets @YoungestOfOne.