The One True Game: According to Hoyle, and Others


If you felt the foundation of the very earth move this day, if you saw the Heavens open and a ray of light shine down on a suburb of Atlanta, if a certain grognard seems a little more cheerful, you may have already guessed that our very own diaglo realized his dream today. At his home, a small group of four players eventually swelled to seven, and The One True Game lived. Yes, the master himself ran a game of OD&D. And it went very well, I must say.

By way of introduction, I have played since first edition, but never played the true 1974 version of the game. Rules-wise, I am sold on 3.x. (My apologies to the referee for that blasphemy, and I won't use the term again in this story hour.) But to play under the enthusiasm and pure love of the game that our diaglo embodies was an opportunity I could not pass.

This is my first story hour, although I have made contributions before. I invite the other members of the game to contribute here as well. Some of the characters are posted in this Rogues Gallery thread. For now, I am using the format of letters that my character hopes will one day reach home.

The first couple of posts will be some brief background, and then we'll get started on the action.

On edit: In my excitement I almost forgot to mention that while there were seven players, an eighth chair sat empty, a little back from the table, in honor of Ryan/Angelsboi. This story hour is dedicated to the memory of the games and good times we shared.
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Chapter 1: Beginnings

The County Margrave has been at war. Lord Margrave and his men have won victory in a great battle, and have taken the fight to the enemy. Every experienced soldier has answered the call, leaving the County under the watch of those of little experience. Indeed, less than one in a thousand of those who remain has ever seen combat of any sort. The call has gone out for volunteers to report to the Keep Margrave. Others who were less willing have been conscripted into service. It is here that we will meet our heroes, on the road to the Keep to report for duty.

Our narrator is Dalin Hoyle. Dalin comes from a land-holding family, mostly several acres of apple orchards. They are not wealthy by any means, but far better off than most. He is the third son, and does not stand to inherit much, so he has sought his own fortune. For the past few years he had done well for himself making money the honest way, by gambling. Dice, cards, drinking contests, or just betting on everyday events, he doesn't care as long as he can game. He has had his ups and downs, but has always gotten by. Had to return home a few times, but never for too long.

Recently his worst run of bad luck almost ended him up in debtors' prison. Thankfully, his father and older brothers taught him the basics of weapons and armor, and he has even competed in a few small tournaments. This background convinced the County of Margrave to offer him conscription into military service to satisfy his debts. He makes for the Keep wearing his brother's spare chain mail, and carrying his own sword and crossbow. His shield boasts the family standard, a green apple tree. Other than basic supplies, he has little else. Of course, he always tries to have a little walking around money, so he never has to turn down a bet.

Other members of the party have either been conscripted into service or have answered this Proclamation:


Be it known that the Lord Margrave has rallied his vast army and laid siege to the enemies of the free people.

Therefore, it is with unbridled pride and devotion that I call upon the best and very formidable militia of this great land to fill the ranks of the departed army.

All able bodied citizens of this land are expected to provide what assistance they may.

Lady Devereaux, Castellan of Margrave Keep
Acting Authority in the Absence of Lord Margrave
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Dearest Father and Mother,

I hope this letter finds you well. Your young Dalin has much to tell you. Foremost, please thank my friend Brother Ben Selzkin for scribing these words. He has promised to teach me the ways of ink and quill, and considers this my first lesson. Ben is a good man, as you will see from the stories of our brief time together.

Only a few weeks ago I had rightfully won the service of a noble steed, complete with barding, and my breeches were filled with coin. On my way home to tell you of my good fortune I stopped in a small tavern and chanced to join an ongoing game of cards. Before the morn all of my hard-earned winnings were gone, and my vow to you was the only thing that kept me from placing my inherited chain mail and sword on the table. These I kept, but they would not have been enough to satisfy the debt I owed. As I promised you last winter, I did not come crawling home this time. Instead, conscription into the service of County Margrave was offered, and I accepted.

With directions to the Keep, I began a walk of several days. Rumors I heard along the way, of others answering the call to duty, but I saw none of these until the Keep was nearly in my sight. Near dusk the path through the forest narrowed, and the light of a campfire on the trail was a beacon for this noble soldier and three others. Before I could make the acquaintance of my fellow soldiers a ranger by the fire called out a warning of goblins the area. He called himself Serda, and his guide was an ox of a man called Pendra. We had not yet reacted to their instructions when foul little red-skinned creatures came at us from the trees on both sides.

Let not your heart be troubled, for your son lives to send you this letter. While I feared for my life, the training offered by you, Father, and by my brothers, allowed me to keep my wits while the beasts fired arrows from every direction. Almost instantly, a low-born conscript who I would come to know as Igor climbed into a near tree and dropped one of the goblins. I swear to you now that I later witnessed this hunchback leap into the branches of the next tree to attack a second of the monsters. Another recruit I later learned was an excellent archer by the name of Dram Smith moved through forest, loosing arrows at every turn.

Those days in the orchard served me well, as I too had to climb into a tree and teach my sword the taste of goblin blood. In short order we had slain seven goblins. I even managed to drop one with my crossbow as he fled. Three goblins escaped, one of them apparently the leader of the bunch. Pendra took a nasty wound and went down, but Serda administered some form of medicine that renewed his vigor. Brother Ben, a man of the cloth, took an arrow in the rear and went down as well. With the goblins likely the regroup, we made for the Keep in haste, Pendra carrying Ben.
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First Post
Again, it's pronounced Eye-gor

To look at Igor one wouldn't make much of him. One eye is all white with cataracts, the other appears to be lazy and wanders all over. He hobbles with a pronounced limp, making his movement more of a onelegged skip than anything else. He has a shield on his arm which hangs limp apparently useless. On his belt are a sword (with several notches from a recent battle) and a dagger. He wear some faded leather armors and a backapck, both of which fit poorly over the large hunch in his back.

He talks with a raspy voice as though he is constantly out of breath and his laugh has been described as maniacal and disturbing (especially when inexplicably leaping from tree to tree killing goblins, laughing the whole time)

He is the party cook, and is (in)famous for his bean casarole (seven kinds of beans, plus several things that look like beans) and newly appointed quartermaster for the group. Also his background with the wilderness makes him the only one in the outpost even remotely capable in a forest or other wilderness.


We arrived at the Keep, but Pendra and Serda turned back to check for other conscripts reporting for duty. After being welcomed and shown to our bunks, we continued our introductions. As I mentioned before, the archer was Dram Hammersmith, a burly man covered in furs and skins. Igor spoke in a raspy, hissing voice and assured me that he was in not way capable of leaping any distance, much less from one tree to another, and that I must have imagined such a feat in the confusion of battle. He and I had both been quick thinking enough to grab a few items off some of the fallen goblins, and I offered to bet a small coin purse I had found against a similar pouch he had procured in a simple dice game. Despite his efforts to cheat, I still beat him fairly, winning a few coins and the knowledge of his true character.

Brother Ben was still quite injured, and we were introduced to Brother Hetrick, who administered some herbs and advised him to rest. This we all attempted, but it seemed like only a couple of hours before we were awakened by our screaming Sgt. Guido. He kindly advised us of our collective worth, and that we were to report immediately for an assignment at Outpost Xavier. Of the twenty-six outposts around the Keep, I know Outpost X to be the worst possible assignment. Practically on the battle lines, and the days’ journey there is a peril in itself.

Report we did, although Ben tried to talk some sense into the Sarge, even providing him with a note from Brother Hetrick. This only brought him disfavor, although he quickly rose to his station on the march, lifting the spirits of the men and offered to act as and advisor and healer for them. There were twenty of us, plus Guido, and I dare say those that I have named already were the only ones to have ever seen an iron weapon, much less wielded one in battle. Farmboys would be a complimentary term for this bunch. Dram and I began making efforts to get the men in line, to impose some sort of order on the group. Sgt. Guido apparently took note of our efforts, for the three of us were soon rewarded with field promotions. Brother Ben was put in charge of wound dressing and healing, being the only one of us with any such knowledge. Dram was made Corporal of the Watch, and your own proud son is now Corporal of Arms.

On the way to the Outpost we met them we were to replace, or what was left of them. They were battered and wounded, many of them not likely to survive the trip back to the Keep. They had nothing to offer us in way of supplies, and indeed told us they had given everything, weapons and supplies, to a giant who was tormenting the Outpost. This creature was said to be over twice the size of a man, and intelligent enough to demand that items of value be given in exchange for the lives of the men of the Outpost.

Once in sight of Outpost X we could witness with our own eyes the damage done. What was once a three-story stone tower was now missing most of the upper level. A 200 foot radius around the tower was cleared of growth and of rubble from the tower, and the door was falling from the hinges. A quick inventory told us that we had enough food for about a week, but we decided the door was the more urgent matter. Dram took charge of these efforts, and we managed to find a few farmhands who had mended fences before. Of course, what we needed was a reinforced wooden door that could hold back attackers.

Igor began scouting the area for useable herbs and food, having some knowledge in this area, and he also set some traps for small animals. I attempted to train some of the men to use the weapons they had, spears among the best of them, simple sticks and clubs for most of the others. Igor had salvaged a sword and shield from one of the goblins, and I assigned these to young Vosh, who appeared to be the most able-bodied of the bunch. Ben advised us that the water was fit to drink, despite the murky color and bitter taste. Dram had only four archers, plus one boy with a sling. We agreed that each of us would be in charge of a watch once night fell.

I went to report our progress to Sgt. Guido, recalling that he had hurried to the roof upon our arrival and had not been seen for some time. Any optimism our efforts had given me was soon quashed when I found Guido passed out and smelling of a drink most foul. I dared to taste the stuff myself, and was lucky enough to vomit it back up. The spirits for more fit for use to flame arrows and such, and I gave it to Dram for that purpose. Guido I handed over to Ben, who examined him and advised that he did not show signs of being a habitual drinker. Giving our commander the benefit of the doubt, I still recommended that Ben consider himself authorized to declare Guido unfit for duty should the need arise.
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Late in the day, the repairs to the door were nearly complete. A member of Dram’s watch signaled that he heard a sound. Others agreed there had been a male voice from down the road on which we had arrived. Dram advised that the door was serviceable, but may not hold. Determining that action was needed, I took Vosh and headed to investigate. The bold Igor volunteered to join us. We departed, and the door to the Outpost was closed behind us.

A short distance down the path we came upon the body of a man. I instructed Vosh to guard the perimeter of the clearing, where he could just see the body a short distance away. Investigation revealed him to be one of those who had left the Outpost earlier in the day, a deep slash wound across his chest. He still wore his leather armor but was without the sword I was certain he had before. While preparing carry the body back, we heard crashing in the woods behind us.

On my honor as a Hoyle, I swear to you, my own parents, that the warnings we had heard were true; the creature, this giant, stood no less than the height of two men. A barrel-chested beast, his head was above many of the trees. As Igor and I began to lift the body of the fallen man, we turned to see Vosh was already at the gate, standing in a pool of his own urine. We moved quickly to join him, and the body of another of our departed men sailed over our head, smashing into the wall of the tower. Once we were inside with the gate bolted we were glad to hear that the giant had wandered off. If he meant only to strike fear in our hearts he met with great success. The men we had worked so hard to motivate were again shaken and losing confidence in our chances. It was an effort on my part not to let them know how much I shared these feelings.

Our preparations and repairs continued in earnest, for now we had seen the true threat to our safety, and our lives. The work on the door was completed, and Igor continued work on his traps. I learned that his field promotion had been to the position of Quartermaster, and he was turning out to be quite resourceful. Dram did an excellent job of reorganizing his watches, as they were becoming out of sorts. Brother Ben had put the men through some sort of test of thinking ability, and had enlisted as his aides three brothers (in the familial sense of the word): Goodrich Greslam, Rizzle Greslam and Grizzard Greslam.

Night came, but I found myself unable to sleep. Volunteering to assist in watch duties turned out to be my good fortune, for I was awake when the excitement began. A light mist was falling, and through the woods we heard a great deal of movement coming down the path. This was surely no giant, but from the sound we made it to be a force of more than two dozen man-sized creatures, heading our way in a hurry.
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Bumping for Brother Ben

At age 25, Brother Ben Selzkin has spent the last 9 years living with clergy in the local priestly temple. After long days spent washing stone floors, piling hay for the horses, cleaning the stables, tending the fire in the kitchen, scrubbing pots, mending robes, memorizing verses, kneeling in prayer, assisting in services, collecting alms, running messages, and generally fulfilling the fathers' every need, he felt a yearning desire to experience life outside of the temple.

During his studies he has, on occasion, spent time with others in his family who have travelled to meet him. As the 5th child 3rd son of 17, Ben has fallen out of contact with several brothers and sisters who have moved away for many a reason. His parents work as horse trainers, grooming and feeding a herd for a large manor house some distance away. Ben still harbors fond memories of growing up on the horse farm: sleeping in the hay, eating his mother's cooking, and playing games outside with other children.

Well known for his quick smile, soft words, easy temperment, Brother Ben has an unfortunate tendency torwards clumsiness. Having spent long years confined to the temple grounds his appearance is somewhat unpolished and his palor a bit off, but his friendly ways more than compensate having won him the friendship of several frequent visitors. He typically wears brown robes or a tunic and breeches like most others in the temple's service. On what he would do if he left, however, he is still unsure.


Adding this for Loki44

Dram Hammersmith

Dram is a tall, rangy youth of about 19 years (6’4”, 200 lbs.). He’s not a bad looking guy but isn’t particularly striking apart from his height and piercing bright green eyes. He has long blonde hair which is usually plaited in a single braid on the left side of his head. He sports a wispy goatee on his chin, but doesn’t shave and can’t grow a full beard or mustache yet. Dram is well-built and quite strong, especially for his age. He hasn’t yet realized the full extent of his strength however and doesn’t boast or make a show of it. Over his coarse linen undergarments he wears a pair of thick leather leggings made of bear hide, with his upper-body covered by hardened, yet flexible, pieces of various animal hide (whale, seal, mastodon, etc..), all skillfully stitched together with caribou sinew. His hooded fur cloak is fashioned out of fox, rabbit and beaver pieces patched together into a single garment. He wears homespun woolen stockings, badly in need of darning, beneath his knee-high polar bear boots (yes, white boots, now somewhat grayish and dingy, but he’s damn proud of ‘em!). His outfit is trimmed here and there with bits of fur and he wears a necklace made of bears’ claws (a gift from his dearly departed mother). Dram tends to carry his bow in-hand. His sword is sheathed across his back, next to his quiver, and his war hammer rests in a belt-loop at his side.

Both of Dram’s grandfathers came to the County of Margrave as young men (they were cousins). His father’s father, Fenn, and his mother’s father, Wonn, were among the first settlers in the Borderlands. They came from the north armed with a burning desire to forge a new and more prosperous life for their families. Together they established a solid reputation as trustworthy, hardworking and reputable blacksmiths. Their smithy soon became well-known throughout the County. Fenn’s eldest son, Gil, and Wonn’s eldest daughter, Helga, were promised in marriage in order to weld together the dynasty they had sparked. Gil and Helga begot two sons. The elder was named Tankurd and the younger, Dram. As fate would have it, Helga died at the same moment Dram sucked life from this world. Gil was never the same. He became obsessed with his work, often working til dawn. As Tankurd and Dram were toughened over the fires of their father’s madness they grew in strength. The endless pumping of bellows and hammering of iron and steel were only tempered by their father’s enduring devotion to their mother, his tireless pursuit of perfection, and the inner strength they gleaned from the family worship of Thor, the Leveler. As Tankurd and Dram grew into manhood the Borderlands began to change. Most of the young men in the County were being called to duty on the frontiers, and most were not coming home… least not whole. There was an increased demand for weapons, armor and all the trappings that a larger militia required. The situation was ripe for business-minded men to make a killing. Gil Hammersmith was not among them. A rival smithy, the Skun Brothers Armoury, took advantage of the situation. They imported cheap goblin labor to work at their forges. Gil refused to do the same. All the lucrative commissions passed him by. He was reduced to shoeing horses, mending hoes and repairing hinges, mostly in return for eggs, milk, meat or whatever else was needed for survival. As a result, Gil could no longer pay his taxes, which were ever-increasing to fund the Count’s seemingly futile war efforts. Dram’s older brother, Tankurd, was conscripted and his whereabouts are still unknown. After Tankurd left for the frontier, Gil sank further into despair. One particularly dismal night, when tax collectors approached him in the smithy, he went crazy and beat them senseless with his hammer. Dram tried to fight off the reinforcements but was soon subdued and unceremoniously conscripted into the militia. His last vision of home was his father being dragged, kicking and screaming, off to the county jail where he will stay until Dram can pay off his debt. Dram is torn in two directions: home, towards his father, and forward, towards his brother. Only Urth, Verthandi and Skuld know what awaits in the Borderlands!


Coming out of the trees, from down the path, and running towards the outpost, were twenty-one men. Or I should say twenty men and one dwarf. (I have been using men to refer to my fellow soldiers, but our eventual number included four women. They stand their watches and acquit themselves well, and I consider them “men” in the racial sense of the word, and soldiers in every sense of the word.) The red-haired dwarf was heavily armored, wearing plate, carrying a shield and a warhammer, and his stout legs seemed to struggle to keep up with the others. As we opened the gates we saw that they ran in fear, for they were being followed closely by a pack of wolves that had them easily outnumbered.

The dwarf was the last one in the door, due in part to his slow pace but also to his desire to insure that the others were seen to safety. We managed to close it behind him only seconds before the wolf pack split and seemed to surround the outpost. As quickly as they came, the growling dogs departed, simply going around the outpost as if it were an obstacle. And they had good cause for their haste, for close on their heels was a threat to all living creatures. The giant had returned.

Dram and his archers were already making their way towards the arrow slits, preparing to fire on the wolves, and now they turned attention to a much bigger target. It was too dark to make out the creature clearly, and I saw little for myself. In the bottom floor of the tower, the new unit was in chaos, and they had brought with them pack animals and a great deal of supplies. The mules were the giant’s goal, and he began shouting in the common tongue “Give me what is mine! Give me the animals!”

Understand that the desire to give in to his wishes was strong in all of us. One had only to look at the ruined top third of the outpost to see the consequences of refusing him. But we could see too that he would never be satisfied. The previous unit had given over all of their supplies, leaving Outpost X nearly barren, and yet now he was returning for more. Our assignment is to man and protect this outpost, and we were determined to do our duty.

I began shouting to the new arrivals to take up arms and help me protect the gate. They were slow to react, and seemed to not know what to do. There were pole arms and spears which could be used to brace the doors, if only someone would bring them. The dwarf, who I later learned is called Darius, took up a bow and made for a position to fire on the giant, his race’s mortal enemy. Dram was already in position, and he lit his arrows so that they might serve as beacons for the others to fire on. His first two shots fell well short, as the giant stayed outside the clearing, a short distance into the trees.

From inside the door, I could not see what was happening, but I felt and heard the boulders the giant was throwing at our new home. BOOM! I thought the walls would crumble for certain. He had aimed for Dram’s position, and managed to cave in the wall there. Still, the archers continued to fire, and I continued to shout orders at the men on the bottom floor. A few were actually beginning to respond, while others were rushing to unload the mules, in fear that we would give in to the giant’s demands. Darius managed to connect with a flame arrow, hitting the giant square in the chest. BOOM! The giant returned fire on the dwarf’s position, knocking Darius down to the ground floor. The armored dwarf hit hard, obviously shaken, but he got up quickly and made for another arrow slit.

BOOM! Another hit, just above my position. Stones and debris fell on me, and I ordered the men to use the rocks to bar the door. The dwarf’s burning arrow made a perfect target for Dram, and he connected with two more, clearly wounding him. The three arrows were no where near enough to kill the giant, but he did not expect to be met with such a fight. He turned and began to lumber away.

Once we realized that he was leaving, we were too exhausted to shout and relish our victory. Brother Ben made a quick survey of the wounded, and learned that we had lost one man to the attacks, crushed by the stones thrown by the giant.

The new unit was led by Corp. Chervac. I asked him about Guido, and he had served with our Sergeant. He swore that Guido was not known as a drinker, but suspected that he had lost hope. Surely his assignment to Outpost X, with such green troops, was meant as a punishment or revenge of some sort, if not a death sentence.


Darius had already demonstrated his combat prowess, but we soon learned that there was even more to this dwarf. He pulled Brother Ben aside, having seen that Ben was working to nurse the wounded to health while he himself still suffered from the wound he received fighting the goblins. Darius called upon the power of his god, Thor the Thunderer, and laid his hands upon Ben. There was a flash of light and Ben was restored nearly to full health. Many of the recruits witnessed this act, and were in awe of the dwarf's presence. He took the opportunity to talk with Vosh, the man I had been attempting to motivate for the better part of two days now. I could see that Darius had a natural ability to inspire the men, and while I found myself lacking this quality I too was impressed by him, and hoped that we had found something we had been lacking.

By morning we began finding roles for ourselves, and attempting to get the Outpost in order. This was quiet a task. Dram and Darius began looking at the structure itself, seeking ways to repair walls and the murder holes. Quartermaster Igor took ten men and began digging pit traps around the perimeter of the Outpost, although we lacked the proper tools for digging. I took ten men and two women and began training them with polearms and pikes. Brother Ben took Vosh (at my request) and the three Greslam brothers to assist him in preparing graves for the four fallen men.

Mirel and Kayla, two of the women from Cpl. Chervac's group, began to take charge inside the Outpost, caring for the animals and taking inventory. The list they prepared showed how carefully we would need to govern ourselves. We had:

12 handaxes

11 shortbows

51 score arrows

2 barrels of oil

100 torches

1 barrel of pitch

500 feet of rope

12 mules

24 saddlebags

4 polearms

12 pikes

7 beds in the infirmary were occupied, plus Sgt. Guido was still sleeping there, leaving 12 beds free.

An abundance of firewood, although most of it from freshly fallen and green wood

About one week worth of food.

Fresh grain and feeds

A roll call turned up 41 souls:

Sgt. Guido
Cpl. Chervac
Cpl. of the Watch Dram Smith
Cpl. of Arms Dalin Hoyle
Quartermaster Igor
Brother Ben
Darius, Hammer of Thor (the only Dwarf)
28 unskilled men
4 unskilled women
7 comatose men


3 unknown soliders from the previous detachment
1 man from Sgt Guido's unit

Cpl. Chervac filled us in on our situation. "You are the best of the rest. The army has gone off to fight the war. We are here to insure the peace. Keep Margrave is on the Borderland of the Wilds. There are 26 Outposts in a line along this border that report directly back to the Keep. If they should fall... (a worried look crept into his face). We are just as likely to face bandits, elves, creatures of the forest. As we are to face Orcs, goblins, and their like. A Giant is unusual. And thus why the second unit was sent under my command.”

“I don't know whether we can expect more supplies or if we should be prepared to fend for ourselves. I was instructed to bring the supplies and the reinforcements to aid Sgt Guido. Normally we do 1 month stints at the Outposts. With couriers sent to the Outposts only when new orders are issued or from the Outpost when new confirmed information is to be passed back to the Keep. The Keep already knows about the Giant from Brother Thom."

While going about our morning's activities we began to face the fact that this would be our routine, fending off attacks in the night, making repairs and burying the dead during the day. At least until we took the initiative and did something about our tormentor. We began work on a plan to take the fight to the giant.

Your faithful son,

Cpl. Dalin Hoyle
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