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11:38, 22nd May 2024 (GMT+0)

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Posted by The DirectorFor group public
The Director
GM, 6938 posts
Sat 2 Sep 2023
at 17:15
  • msg #1

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Dave Arneson's Day is the first of October, and it is the date when this campaign started, a few years ago. Its purpose was, and still is, to (humbly) remember Dave Arneson and his legacy.

For this reason, for the third year on the run, I'm proposing a small writing competition for the players participating to this campaign. Of course, the end date will be the first of October 2023 (let's make it 12:00 mid day, GMT, just to be spot on).

The winner of this small competition will receive 200 XPs to divide as desired between their characters (of course, if the player controls a single character, that character will receive the 200 XPs, if the player controls more than one character, then the XPs can be divided as desired). The runner up will receive 100 XPs and the third will receive 50 XPs. All other participants will receive 5 XPs.

In your submission you will write a fantasy story set in a classic Blackmoor location or trope, with your character as protagonist. It is important for this competition that the story incorporates a strong Blackmoorian feeling.

The story has to be written as a post private to the GM in reply to this thread and it can be as long or short as desired (as long as it is accepted by RPoL), but has to be a single post for each player (player, not character). The post can be modified as many times and desired. After the submission deadline of the first of October 2021 @ 12:00 mid day GMT, all posts will be made visible to everybody and the winners will be proclaimed.

In order to keep everything tidy, please post in this thread your essays and post your questions and comments in the general OOC thread link to a message in this game
This message was last edited by the GM at 00:02, Sat 09 Sept 2023.
The Director
GM, 6954 posts
Sat 9 Sep 2023
at 15:48
  • msg #2

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Getting the first submissions by private message :)
The Director
GM, 6973 posts
Fri 15 Sep 2023
at 19:36
  • msg #3

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Two more weeks... :)
The Director
GM, 6983 posts
Sat 23 Sep 2023
at 00:39
  • msg #4

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

One more week to go :)
The Director
GM, 6997 posts
Thu 28 Sep 2023
at 14:06
  • msg #5

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Let me remind you that we are almost there :)
The Director
GM, 7002 posts
Sat 30 Sep 2023
at 15:25
  • msg #6

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Time is almost over! :)
The Director
GM, 7004 posts
Sun 1 Oct 2023
at 13:39
  • msg #7

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

Today is the 1st of October, the Dave Arneson's Day! This is your last opportunity to submit your write up! :)
The Director
GM, 7005 posts
Mon 2 Oct 2023
at 07:16
  • msg #8

Dave Arneson's Day Writing Competition (2023)

This year I received only one valid entry:

Jan Tarran:
The day had started so well. He'd been with his father the day before hunting in the forest and they'd come across a patch of herbs that his mother needed for her herbal medicines. They'd agreed for Jan to go and collect them early in the morning while his mother was out gathering berries, fruits and herbs. Jan had started by retracing the pair's steps from the day before, but realised that he could cut across the edge of the forest to save him some time. He'd foolishly allowed his concentration to slip, and had not seen the signs any experienced hunter would have noticed; the birds had stopped singing, the foraging animals were in hiding and had stopped moving long before he past them.

And that was when he'd been attacked.

The first stone had missed, but the crack of it impacting on a nearby tree had finally alerted Jan to the impending threat, albeit too late. His eyes had darted to the sound but, seeing nothing moving there, had realised that the threat was from the opposite direction. The second stone caught him as he was turning and beginning to lower himself to present a smaller target. That reaction had saved him as, instead of catching him full in the back of his head, the stone had flashed across his scalp. It had opened a wound there, and his head swam with the sudden pain, but he had not been stunned. The third stone caught him hard on his chest, temporarily knocking the wind out of him.

His senses alert now he could see he was outnumbered, at least five to one. The figures had hidden themselves amongst the brush and foliage around the base of a number of larger trees, but had foolishly only done so at one side of the small clearing. This had given him the chance to move in the other. The thought had occurred to him that it could easily be a trap, that they were herding him towards another, more dangerous threat, but five against one were dangerous odds and he felt at least moving he had a chance to use his knowledge of the trees and area and possibly evade the threat.

As his attackers had revealed themselves and started to cross the clearing, Jan had turned and rushed away from them; not directly towards them, but an arc that took him close to two of them and away from any threat that might have existed in the other direction. He'd felt and heard the whistle of further stones passing close by, knowing that they'd be unable to throwing or use their slings accurately and keep up with him. Not here in the forest.

He'd ran for a minute or so, till the fog on his mind had cleared and he was able to recognise where he was. He turned to his left, taking him deeper into the forest and his attackers saw the opportunity to try to cut him off. While Jan ran around the thicker foliage, his attackers had to run through it - both slowing and entangling them, but also slashing at their clothes and flesh as the thick thorns bit deep. As the first had emerged from the foliage Jan had been waiting. He'd launched himself low at his attacker, pushing them back into the thorns, and had received a heavy elbow in his back. But he'd kept his footing and had the advantage.He repeated punched at the vulnerable groin and knees, causing his attacker to cry in pain and fold over, dropping the heavy branch they'd been carrying. Grabbing it he'd swung it upwards from the floor, catching his attacker under his chin. Now there were only four to worry about.

The second broke through the foliage moments later, attracted to the sounds of commotion and, seeing Jan crouched over, had made the mistake of trying to rush him from behind. One swing of the branch had ended that assault; his attack crumpling from the blow to the side of his head.

Three.

But unfortunately for him, two of them had burst through the foliage at the same time, and were able to flank him. They took it in turns to draw Jan's attention, and he'd received a number of blows from their fists and clubs. Blood poured from his nose, his lips were split and swollen, and one of his eyes threaten to swell and close. At the very least he'd be carrying evidence of this fight on his face for the next week or so. He had needed to reduce the odds quickly, before the fifth and last of his attackers reached him. Realising he had to take a risk and target just one of his attackers, he allowed the weaker looking one in close and he had feinted towards him, the branch held in both of his hands, but his swing was to his rear. The loud crack followed by a cry of pain told him everything - he'd broken his attacker's arm, and they'd now dropped their own weapon. Ignoring the cry of desperation and flurry of blows to his back from the other attacker, Jan fell upon his  target and brought the heavy branch repeatedly over their head and shoulder. His attacker had tried in vain to lift their working arm to protect their head, and Jan noted with grim satisfaction that after his fourth or fifth blow there was another crack, lighter, closer to the wrist, that suggested he'd taken this enemy out as well.

Two.

But with his focus on just the one, the free attacker had moved behind him and positioned their branch up across his chest, pinning his right arm and lifting his head. It was a strange move, but Jan quickly realised that it wasn't meant to hurt him, merely to stop him from raining blows on the cripple before him. At least, that was what he thought until the fifth attacker had rushed from the foliage and, with Jan fighting the restraint, smashed his branch across Jan's stomach. The northerner grunted and tried to fold forward with the pain, but he was held in place. He was repeated smashed across his stomach and chest. He grunted as another blow crashed against him, this one cracked a rib and he cried in pain. This only encouraged his attacker, who pulled the branch back for a wider, heavier swing. Jan tensed and pushed forward, his pinning attacker moved with him holding fast, but Jan wasn't trying to break out, merely make their footing unsteady. As his attacker pulled the branch back, Jan pushed back and twisted, forcing his enemy's arm out and round - and into the very position he'd been occupying a moment earlier. The swinging branch impacted on it with a sickening snap of bone, and the cry of pain preceded a loosening of pressure on the restraining branch. With his enemy now between him and the final attacker, Jan snapped his elbow into their groin and threw his head backwards, smashing their face against the top of his own head. His eyes watered with the sudden shock and pain, but he felt more than heard the crunch of bone and knew then that he was free to move.

One.

Stepping out and away from the restraint he heard the muffled cries of pain and anguish behind him from the floor. Gripping his own branch tightly in his hand he stared through tear and blood matted hair at the boy before him. Perhaps two years old than him, he'd made Jan's life a misery since his family had arrived. In his eyes they weren't human, they were northern scum, little better than the foul orcs and goblins that raided the surrounding villages from the depths of the forest. Despite being born near the village, for the first five or so years of his life Jan had received beatings from the group and had learned how to avoid them. He'd trained with his father, had learned the hidden paths of the forest, how to remain still and let the sounds of the forest mask his presence. And for a good few months, while these boys had worked in the fields with their own families, Jan had been on the grasslands and forests surrounding the village, hunting and gathering anything of value. He hadn't seen any of them for a good few weeks now, and had fallen into their ambush a little too easily.

He raised his branch and pointed at the sole standing attacker. This boy, two years older, had been the ring leader, and if he was not there the other boys would only look for Jan if they had nothing else to do. But with Tomas present it seemed to be his main, driving goal. He wanted to hurt Jan, had gone out of his way to confront him, and had even tried to get the other boys to talk to their parents to avoid buying the herbs and plants that his mother collected to try to ruin his family financially, and force them to leave.


In Blackmoor, it would seem, if you couldn't trace your family history to more than a few generations on Blackmoor soil, you were still viewed as an invader, scum, and were to be treated as such. His father was well respected for his hunting ability, but Jan had heard the gossip in the market and his father was not fully trusted. When things went wrong, suspicion fell on him. Missing livestock, it was the fault of the Tarrans. Broken fences or stolen goods; the Tarrans. If someone fell ill, or had a spate of bad luck; the Tarrans. His mother was a healer and a herbalist, and had on occasion been asked to attend the birth of some of the children when there were complications or difficulties. Of all the births attended, none had been lost in childbirth. But that had not stopped the gossip. Witch. In league with demons. And yet, when she was needed, his mother would attend and ask only to cover the expense of the medicines she had used.

And yet they were still feared and hated. And Tomas, despite having never suffered at the hands of a Skandaharan, hated Jan the most.

"Tomas," Jan said, spitting blood and saliva, "There's no one to hide behind now. If you want me, you have to come and get me," Tomas laughed at him, that shrill, hateful laugh. Jan needed to make a statement, needed to do something to break the cycle. Tomas was too full of hate for Jan, so would not listen or talk other than to curse or abuse him. The challenge was set and fear welled in Jan's heart. He'd fought Tomas a number of times, and had never beaten him. And now he was hurt, bleeding, with at least one cracked rib possibly more. His head swam and he knew he didn't have much energy left. He was nearly done and had been running on pure adrenaline for too long now.

Tomas' face contorted, showing his anger. Stepping back so that Tomas' friend, Luk, was on the ground between them. Tomas took a step forward. "Take another step, Tomas, and it will be Luk that you hurt," Jan said. Tomas sneered, so Jan smashed his branch against Luk's shin. Luk cried out. Tomas took another step, Jan smashed the branch again on Luk's shin. "The more do, the more I hurt him. If you cared for him, you'd let me be."

Jan had one last hope. He had to break the gang, show them that Tomas had little interest in their safety or protecting them. His sole interest was in hurting Jan. Tomas stepped forward again, shouting that he didn't care what he did to Luk, that he was going to die at his hands. Jan could kill Luk and all the others, for all Tomas said he cared, it wouldn't stop him from hurting Jan.

And there it was. Luk had heard this, the others nearby would have heard it too. The seed had been planted, hopefully the doubt would linger. Tomas leaned forward, and started to run at Jan, trying to tackle him and press him to the ground. Jan's immediate gambit had failed, he had to do something, and he suddenly panicked. He threw his branch at Tomas as he ran, hoping to distact him so he could turn and run. And fortune intervened. His throw was poor, the branch fell short - but impacted Tomas' right knee. As he pulled his left knee back in his rush, the branch caught behind it. Tomas stumbled and fell, and Jan saw his opportunity to escape back into the forest. It was him against Tomas now, and he just had to get out of his attacker's sight and hide. He rushed forward, Tomas grabbing at him as he passed, but Jan was moving too quick, the last of his energy focused on putting as much distance between him and Tomas as he could.

Behind him he heard the cry of anger, and glanced quickly behind him. Tomas had tried to get up quickly but had fallen, and was now smashing the floor with his branch. He must have realised that Jan had too much of a head start. The branch broke and Luk must have said something because Tomas suddenly smashed his fist into the boy's face. Luk fell backwards. And Jan lost sight as he turned, his arms pumping, and ran into the forest. His breath was heavy, his chest tight, and he only managed a few minutes of quick running before he found a suitable hiding spot, ran past it, turned away from it then slowed, performing a slower walk so as not to disturb the ground or vegetation around him. Concealing himself in the foliage, he lay curled up and waited.

The boys did not come looking for him, and exhaustion took over him. Jan slept, and awoke at dusk as the shadows began to grow long, and a coolness had fallen over the land. He spent some time walking slowly, but the sounds of the forest told him that nobody was lying in wait or searching the forest for him. Returning home his mother had a worried expression, but his father had looked calm. While his mother attended to him, strapping his ribs and rubbing some of her herbal medicines into his cuts and bruises to prevent infection and aid healing, Jan explained what had happened. His father's face was stern while his mother looked concerned and worried. Over the next few days Jan spent time with his father, but they didn't travel too far and hunted small game using traps and snares rather than arrows. Nearly a week had passed before the other villagers arrived at their home, angry, searching for revenge. Jan's father had stood his ground, refusing to allow them entry. They told a story of how Jan had ambushed them in the forest, and had set about each one individually. When their friends had come to help, he had turned on them. They ignored Jan's own injuries, their lust for justice was too great. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that the Tarrans would suffer an embargo, that their goods would not sell at market, that they would never be welcomed in the village until justice had been met.

Jan's father had replied quickly that the village had never made them welcome, and that the threats would only hurt the community at large. They didn't need to sell their goods at market to survive, but there were those in the village that relied on the meat, furs and medicines that the Tarrans provided. But his arguments fell on deaf ears.

His life became hell from then on. Jan was not welcome in the village, and spent all of his time in the forest with his mother or father or, when they were far enough away that he was safe from prying village eyes, allowed to hunt alone. The few times that Jan had been caught by the other boys and couldn't escape, he'd received a thorough beating; but on the whole Jan managed to avoid the anger of the young villagers. His father continued to hunt and gather, and developed quite an underground market for his goods while his mother was only ever called on at the direst of times. Her medicines, however, were still very popular although none of the villagers would ever admit where they had acquired them from. The Tarrans did their best to reconcile with the villagers. When goblinoid hunting parties drew near, they quickly offered the village a warning, but when the village was raided no one saw fit to warn the Tarrans. Though, once they had realised that village was in peril Jan and his father had come to help out, their accuracy with their bows providing much needed support. And yet their assistance was never recognised, the threat on their lives never talked about. Had it not been for their own self-sufficiency the Tarrans could easily have starved, and despite the fact that there were a good number of the villagers that owed their lives and health to the Tarrans, such was the weight of public opinion against Jan that they were never acknowledged or accepted.

Finally, Jan's father had spoken with him. He expressed great sadness that the life they had wanted for their son had never emerged, that the prejudice of the villagers against the Skandaharan people ran very deep, and in some cases would never cease. They were proud of their heritage, of the blood that ran in their veins. They still held their honour, and to them that was everything. But Jan was approaching adulthood, and he needed to find his own feet in the world; and with all the best intents in the world his father admitted that Jan would never find rest in the village. The village would never accept him. He would never be more than a third class citizen, worthy only of the village's disdain and hate. And with a heavy heart his father had offered him a way out. He would speak with the town council, and Jan could become an adventurer. That way the youth could make his own reputation, and the village would be free of the perceived outcast. Having been a victim for so long, Jan readily agreed.

It took his father some time to persuade the village leaders to gift him with the gold and equipment that all young adventurers were given. There was outcry from the families of the boys he had wrong, he should be sent away with nothing, made to fend for himself. But the rules of the council were concrete, and any youth who desired to leave as an adventurer was entitled to the gifts provided they paid it back at the earliest opportunity.

Jan left soon after, a newly made bow across his back, clothing made from the furs and skins of the animals his family had killed kept him warm. The other youths who left the village were given a worthy send off. The village square would be packed with well wishers, they would receive hugs and kisses, and friends and family would weep at their children's passing into adulthood. It was a time to celebrate their coming to adulthood, and for them to see they were part of a community. Only this time Jan was alone, his parents walked with him through a deserted village. He could feel the looks of the villagers from inside their huts, hidden from view by curtains, shutters and shadow. There were no tears, no sobs, no cheers or wishes of good luck. Hell, Jan had half expected a banner wishing him a quick death - once the gift of gold had been repaid, of course. But then he figured that Tomas wasn't the best at reading or writing, and any banner would have been taken down to avoid embarrassment.

So Jan walked, conscious of the silence, acutely aware that he nor his family were welcome here despite their best efforts. And that this act was a way for his family to try finally to be a part of the community. He needed to find his own path, and he hated the villagers for forcing his parents to do this to him. He had never felt hate such as this, but it empowered him. He held his head high, determined to make a show for those that were watching. He wouldn't dishonour his parents, wouldn't show fear, wouldn't show that he cared what these people thought of him.

And with the silence following him, Jan left the only home he had ever known. His parents walked with him until they reached the boundary of the village. There his father placed his hand on his son's shoulder, and his mother had held him in a silent embrace. They were Skandaharan, they were proud, and they had already said everything that had needed to be said. Now was Jan's time to walk through the mist, to find his own path, to find his own family and place. But Jan's heart was closed and cold. His family's land was close to the forest, away from the village. If fire broke out and devastated the village, it wouldn't affect his family and Jan would not care. In his minds eye he would return in a few months and bring revenge on those that had ensured his exile. He had been treated like the lowest of goblinoids; foul scum, unworthy of attention of comment. He would return, laden with gold, honour and reputation. And if some of the village were to burn, then so be it.


Congratulation, Jan! You won the first prize, and the second, and also the third, plus the packages of XPs associated, and there will be no other prizes awarded this year.

The lack of participation is a disappointment for me, as this campaign started originally as a tribute to Dave Arneson (and in my heart still is my humble tribute to Dave Arneson), but I can see I didn't communicate this well to the players. Never mind, we all know that the games belong to the players, rather than to the game masters :^)
This message was last edited by the GM at 07:17, Mon 02 Oct 2023.
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