Gaming time again – really has it come round again? There seems something a little upsetting that three months can pass before you can find time to spend an afternoon together. Still only three of us and the players are beginning to worry about their ability to survive combats, despite being perfectly good in a fight. If they take a look at the rationale section they might get a few additional pointers, I did remind them of the need to use parry as a defensive tactic. I also dropped in the need to stock up on herbs that speed up recovery from concussion damage. We also used this session to trial using RM Combat Minion to manage the combat. Although we were quicker in the last session, there is still a lot of table look up and tracking to do and I am not convinced I always remember to tick off the various penalties. RM Combat Minion looks fairly promising in this regard helping to pick up combatants who had fallen unconscious and applying penalties to actions.
A road less travelled is built on the plot from Seeking Solis, but now transported into the region of Numeriador and the village of Eruimar at the end of the Rammas (wall) of Ered Luin (Blue mountains). Having decided that the information on the spies is worth giving to some sort of authority both Pick and Limolas has expressed a desire to travel South. Limolas wishes to travel to Mithlond to deliver the information and to further research where the mysterious Barad Cam might be. For Pick this is a less desirable option, he is hoping to travel to Caras Celairnen and the kingdom of Arthedain where he can find passage back up river towards the Dwarven centres of Nogrod and Telenaug. Here he hopes to find the same information, but without having to have contact with the elves.
So it is that our mismatched pair decide to travel south having realised that their star is waning in Culwic. Suitably equipped for travelling in the wilds – pack pony carrying tent and food – they make their way along Rammasluin road (Sindarin: blue wall) to Eruimar. Resting up in the village, which is a popular stopping off point for traders of Dwarven goods and adventurers alike, the party discover rumours of a black-marketeer and when news of an attack on a caravan. Naturally their suspicions are aroused, and Limolas investigates further, but is unable to find any further leads. Meanwhile, one of the survivors of the attack, a certain Hobbit by the name of Jerramiah Fallowhide, has given a breathless account on how he and fellow trader (Grubby Durnan) managed to escape. Clearly, unhinged by his narrow escape the inner warrior has been released. Jerramiah wants to rid the area of the bandits and get his cargo back. Grubby seems more intent on drinking the Laughing Brook Inn dry. The rest of the village who have crowded in also would appear to feel helping Jerramiah is not worth the risk. However, a stout and courageous Dwarf by the name of Dagaard Drachoschlar steps forward offering the service of his hammer and with the offer of free beer on the Hobbit, Pick and Limolas decide to provide their services in investigating the crime.
Investigating the ambush site revealed a picture of the story that matched Jerramiah’s version events. The hapless Fredwine and two of the guards lay dead, another (Culwine) appearing to have escaped. The remains of Grubby’s cart of coal lay smouldering obviously not worth the effort of transporting, but the other three carts had been driven off into the wilds. Limolas tracked the carts until if became too difficult for him to track further, but with his sharp elven eyes spotted a lone watchtower up towards the mountains. Further stealthy investigation by Hobbit and Elf discover the empty carts outside of what appears to be a well defended tower.
Leaving the two dwarves out of sight, Limolas and Jerramiah scouted the surrounding area to see if they could find some tactical advantage that did not require a full frontal assault or scaling the walls. They soon discovered a cave with a secret door, but were stumped when it came to disarming the trap. Limolas, not known for his intellegence, spent many hours staring at the problem until he believed he had a solution. The rest of the party waited outside while he tested the solution.
Not losing a member of the party under a pile of rock proved to be the first lucky break Limolas and Pick had had in their adventures. In due course the party made their way up the secret passage to the sub levels below the watchtower. Nervously, they made their way through a series of abandoned rooms until they met their first group of bandits. Luckily, the bandits were sleeping and despite the stated aim of rendering their opponents unconscious they dispatched the somnolent soldiers speedily.
Up on the next level they met another group of brigands, more active this time but still not ready for an enemy within the walls. Pick chose this moment to lose his cool and spent the majority of the brief combat tripping over objects. Thankfully, Dagaard proved to be a more effective fighter, and Limolas dispensing with trying to use a bow to fight in a melee proved that parrying was a good method of creating an opening from which to dispatch an opponent. Although the combat was brief the party knew that all hope of stealth was now gone.
With caution the party pressed further up the watchtower, unexpectedly no further reinforcement appeared, but moving through the third level they came upon a room with an attractive woman by the name of Ferien who claims to have been held hostage. The players ,succumbing to her powers of persuasion, believe they have rescued an Arthedain princess, and are congratulating themselves when the sound of running feet from the corridor and a cry from Jerramiah bring Pick and Limolas rushing from the room to his aid. Jerramiah tells them he has just been knocked down by Culwine ( a guard on the ambushed caravan) and another man. He tried to tell them they had been rescued but they would not stop. The not so agile, Pick races downstairs but is too slow to prevent the escape of Culwine and his companion on two of the three horses used to pull the carts.
Pick returns to Limolas, Dagaard and Jerramiah where the party discusses the way forward. Dagaard declares that they must protect the fair maiden from harm at all costs and although they may have dispatched many foes they cannot risk leaving her behind or taking her into combat. They agree to split with Dagaard and Jerramiah with protecting Ferien, and Pick and Limolas further exploring the tower.
Pick and Limolas encounter no real further problems until they start to exit onto the roof where the two roof sentinels try to keep them at bay with ineffective arrow fire. Rushing the guards they discover a third brigand who compared with his fellows proves to be a more effective opponent, but when outnumbered is still quickly defeated. Believing the last of the bandits to have been dispatched the pair take a moment to look out over the battlements. They spy a robed and cloaked figure in a hat climbing up the road to the tower. At this moment they hear a grunt and one of the previously dead bandits has made his way to the edge of the battlements and jumped over the edge. A little surprised Pick and Limolas attempt to mark where the body has fallen but it proves to be lost in the underbrush. Assuming the bandit to now be dead, they turn their attention back to the approaching figure.
Racing through the castle levels they gain the mid level arrow slits in time to see the robed and cloaked figure wave a greeting to the tower. Fearing a wizard, Pick issues a challenge to the approaching figure, who (upon realising that the watchtower is no longer under the previous occupants) makes a run for safety. Limolas lets fly with an arrow and by freakish fortune manages to hit his first mark, although the arrow is flying sideways. Unfortunately, for the fleeing traveller is does so in a rather forceful way an killing him outright. Both Pick and Limolas go down to inspect the body and rather than a feared wizard discover they have killed what appears to be a scholar. Deciding to check on the bandit that fell from the tower they pass round to the other side, but apart from the obvious sign of the passage of a falling body can find no evidence of the bandit. Unsure what this means they bar the main entrances and return to Dagaard, Jerramiah and Ferien.
Upon reaching the princess’ room they find only Dagaard and Jerramiah waiting. When asked where Ferien is they respond that she is a nearby room. However, it becomes quickly clear that this is not the case and on further inspection the party discover that the final horse has been taken and there is no sign of the princess. Confused now as to if it was the missing “dead” bandit or Ferien, who may have also escaped out the secret tunnel, the party decide to block up the tunnel and bar the doors. Then they take to hunting in earnest for Jerramiah’s goods.
Jerramiah’s goods turn out to be some shields and spears smithed in the dwarven forges of the Blue mountains. Not an exactly legit cargo, Jerramiah is now forced to consider options for recouping his losses. In investigating the origins of the cargo it becomes clear to Pick and Limolas that Jerramiah may have been set up. He was contacted by a soldier of Arthedain who gave the name of a quartermaster in Fornost as wishing for the weapons to be shipped away from spying eyes. The soldier’s name was Herren, but Jerramiah now realises that the man was one of the bandits from the castle having seen the uniform in one of the rooms. In searching the rooms the party also discover several coded messages, including one with a red crescent moon seal, which when added to some Angmar gold coins, suggests a spy plot connected to the Witch King. The final nail in the coffin is a book detailing the weaknesses and strengths of several nobles of Arthedain suggesting someone is plotting to overthrow King Argleb and that at least one loyal noble is marked for assassination.
Having secured the tower the party are now considering what options to take next. Given Jerramiah wishes to sell his weapons, and Pick and Limolas would like to hand the spy information over to the Arthedain authorities, the plan is to return to Eruimar to replace the horses, hitch up the carts with cargo and travel to the river port of Elvenbyen to transport the goods downriver to Caras Celairnen. Meanwhile, Dagaard reveals that he is under a geas to revenge the death of a companion in Caras Celairnen and although he knows not the name of the man who poisoned them both believes he will recognise him when he sees him.