Which came first?

Our budding Bounders are taking their ease in the Midnight Rooster at Wibblesham when they are summoned urgently to the nearby village of Crissingham. The breathless messenger explains that two of its citizens have been mysteriously turned to stone and that Mayor Twofoot wishes the support of the Sherriffs to investigate. Spurred on Alvi, Aelfric and Brega are soon at the village Grange where most of the villagers have gathered in a worried mob around the Mayor. It appears that another four villagers have been turned to stone. Mobbed in a chorus of voices some fear a fearsome monster, others a snake or perhaps some kind of bat or miniature dragon. The midwife reports seeing a chicken in the window of a building near where one of the victims were turned to stone.

Cockatrice by Baron-Engel @Devianart

Reflecting on the information Aelfric remembers the tales of his Granny about a fearsome creature of sorcery called a Cockatrice. A mixture of chicken, snake and bat that could turn a man to stone with its beady gaze. Once these were released by evil sorcerers to terrorise villages back before the men from the West Isle came to the shores of Middle Earth. Armed with this mythical knowledge, the party cautiously enter the Market Square to investigate. With a “cluck cluck” leading them on, with the exception of Alvi, they take precautionary action by hiding in the nearest house. There is a moment of embarrassment and then a plan is hatched. Soon the Cockatrice is spotted with the chance of surprise. Brega immediately launches a Shock Bolt at the monster and alerts it to their presence. Unfortunately, both Aelfric and Brega are immediately turned to stone by the Cockatrice’s beady gaze. Luckily, Alvi holds her nerve long enough to launch into a soothing tune that sends the capricious chicken to sleep, at which point she dispatches it before it can reawaken.

Alvi attempts to revive her companions but they appear to be immune to any method of revival that she has at her disposal. Bravely, she explores further to check if this was the only Cockatrice. At the statues of Pancho and Sago Foxburr (the first two victims) she finds the remains of an oily, iridescent eggshell in the hen coop but no more. Reassured she returns to the Grange to inform the Mayor that the problem has been solved. The villagers though are uncertain and decide to wait out the night at the Grange.

During the evening Alvi has a strange conversation with a sandy-haired hobbit called Latana. She admits to feeling guilty as she was the one who gave Pancho the egg (the boy loves chickens). She hints that she did not acquire the egg by legal means and it may have come from a tower in the nearby Red Hills across the Brandywine.

Soon Pancho and Sago are found alive and unfrozen and this is swiftly followed by other villagers until finally Aelfric and Brega are also fully mobile again. Alvi shares her findings with her companions as the village begins to return to normal. They decide that Latana and her role in discovering needs investigating further.

Towards skills without levels part 3

If you have been reading this blog you will know that I am considering a move away from levels as part of the mechanics of the game. I feel that they encourage a hit first and solve problems later approach to roleplaying. Even when you do address this by awarding experience points (XP) for ideas or roleplaying, players tend to focus on levelling up as a measure of success.

In the first blog, I thought about the factors that influence this and some input from Peter R demonstrated that for adventuring PCs. In the second post, I considered the time for education to each level of knowledge. In this post, I will look at how this might affect NPC character development.

RanksHours per rank
1-572
5-10144
10-15270
15-201800
203600
Time taken to increase by one rank

Based on a modern education system, which is probably being very generous in some settings, the amount of time to study for each rank is a simple formula to apply. However, the access to education and study will be restricted by social class. I have divided social strata into serf, merchant, lord and royalty. For my basic work up I have considered merchant to include artisans/skilled craftsman, who in Middle Earth are likely to be as wealthy as an innkeeper or costermonger. The number of hours to have deliberate study is limited for lower levels of society because they would be required to complete daily tasks for survival which Lords and Royalty wouldn’t. Also this is based on a 6 day learning week which then gives wiggle room for sickness or other major events. Based on background it would be possible to decide on the ranks available for variations on a theme.

AgeSerfMerchantLordRoyalty
10-154102436
15-202102436
20-25151218
25-3001612
30-400036
40-500036
500036
Hours per week available for study in age brackets

These hours of study can then be turned into the time taken to achieve one rank (level 1-5 only) by dividing the hours per rank by the available study time per week.

AgeSerfMerchantLordRoyalty
10-15187.232
15-20367.232
20-257214.464
25-30
72126
30-40

2412
40-50

2412
50

2412
Weeks needed to achieve one basic rank based on social status and age

And from here a simple calculation based on a 52 week year to work out the number of basic skill ranks achievable in a year.

AgeSerfMerchantLordRoyalty
10-15371726
15-20171726
20-2514913
25-30
149
30-40

24
40-50

24
50

24
Basic skill ranks achievable in one year of deliberate study

A “serf” would now achieve 15 ranks or around 3 skills of an apprentice level before 15 years old and a further one by 20 years old. Spread these out and you have a reasonably well-rounded individual with a specialism. However, Merchants, Lords and Royalty are already going to have a range of skills that will be greater than 5 ranks before 20 years old. For this reason the next level of ranks calculation has been applied for ages above 20 where the NPC is likely to be more specialist in nature, focussing on a core set of skills.

AgeSerfMerchantLordRoyalty
10-15 (ranks 1-5)371726
15-20 (ranks 5-10)14913
Ranks per year combined table

A serf might add 5 ranks to a skill above the fifth rank between the ages of 15 and 20 years but this is in reality a fraction of a rank each year, so can be used at need. Merchants are able to develop four skills to rank 10 by 20 years old, giving them mastery in a group of skills connected to their trade. Lords and Royalty obviously have a wider range of skills that need to be developed as the ruling classes. In Middle Earth they are also likely to be Dunedain and longer lived, therefore being more able to study in later life.

As a mechanic this appears to provide a good method of creating NPCs with a realistic background without having to worry about their levels. Let’s face it, unless the PCs plan to kill every villager the level is irrelevant. I could imagine creating a bank of villagers with an interchangeable specialist skill set at various ages. There is one little hitch at the moment and that is spell casting. Spell lists could be learnt as a percentage chance or as individual spells (my preferred option), but casting and particularly resistance rolls in Rolemaster are very dependent on a level derived mechanic. I can see some work will need to be done on magic mechanics.

In Caras Celairnen there is a lord called Bregol according to the unpublished Lindon module but printed in other source material. He is quite a significant figure as the Arnaroquen and if I followed the level grading from Lords of Middle Earth Vol II (MERP ICE ) would be around level 20. In my setting Bregol is going to be a Lesser Dunedain of around 40 years of age. My aim is to maintain game balance so for this to work the “aged” model should be roughly similar to a level 20 version. I’m going to do this very quick and dirty on a MERP character build with a more permissive Rolemaster approach because the secondary skills are more important than the adventuring primary skills.

Bregol at 10 with adolescent ranks added as baseline

Bregol is a Merchant Lord and if the class/profession rule still applies then he is most likely a Bard but really this is irrelevant for everything but magic realm and lists. I more inclined to let the skills be developed according to the type of character than be restricted by a notional profession.

Bregol at 15

Bregol would have received considerable schooling by the age of 15, mastering basic weapon skills and athletic skills with a knowledge of diplomacy and some regional knowledge by 12 and developing his regional lore and sailing skills by travelling with his father’s sailing ships before 20 years old. An adventuring bard would gain roughly a rank for each skill per level so Bregol at 15 would be about level 5. If his father had been more warlike then Bregol would be proficient in different types of weapons and possibly would be developing ranks above 5 but a less broad sweep of other skills.

Bregol at 20

By 20 years old, Bregol has travelled extensively down to Gondor and on the Harad. He has learnt to speak several languages more fluently and more about the locations he has visited. Although he is not a sailor or a navigator he has learnt about these skills to a level of competency of most seaman apart from the key ship leaders.

Bregol at 25 years old

From 20 years old to 25 years Bregol begins to take on daily responsibilities and although it would be unfair to say he isn’t learning things about state-craft and running a business, the effect isn’t as great. I could use the study time to develop 9 ranks in a new skill, but I don’t think Bregol is that kind of person. He will be getting married and settling down soon and even as a Dunedain Lord his available hours of additional study will be reduced.

Conventional MERP character development taken to level 10 leaves Bregol at pretty much the same ranks for the skills of our 25 year-old learning over time. In the trial run it takes until level 12 to replicate the same character sheet and only if I go with a 2:1 point transfer for secondary skills. A Rolemaster development would be similar within the usual restrictions of development points based on stats and I would (if really exploring this) use a no profession for comparability.

In the next blog post I will look at how development of 10+ ranks and equivalent level 20 specialist development can be handled using study time. However, before the comments start flowing that PCs will develop slightly differently as I plan to use something like Peter Rs development mechanic for adventuring skills but offer the PC a chance of developing other skills in downtime using this method.

The Holly and the Ivy

Crystal Shard 2

Having saved the Polliwot hobbits and the local Eriadorians from the Orc raiding party the thrown together band of heroes feted and weighed down by as much victuals as can be spared consider where to travel next. Pick, Billwise and Dagaard, already feeling obligation to the memory of Limolas, wish to travel back to Caras Celairnen to deliver the recovered crystal to Mithparvandir. Ydal and Denig lacking horses and any definite destination join them.

Mysteriously, Mithparvandir is no longer at his lodgings in the Causeway district. Windows and doors boarded, it appears that the scholar has not been in his lodgings for many weeks. The party decide to find lodgings in an out of the way inn where Denig’s stone features will attract less attention. They end up at the Captain’s Daughter in the Shore District where Hrothgar is used to strange adventurers.

After a few days of welcome idleness, the party is visited by Mithparvandir who is looking travel weary and strained. It turns out that he has come for more than the crystal recovered from Elvellon manor. He has discovered the location of a second crystal in the long deserted lands of Hollin. However, he clearly fears other forces are searching and tells the party that they should have little contact so that the watchers will be unaware of the connection.

More concerned about her missing Mearas and its lack of return, Ydal sets off alone to search for her missing horse. The remaining adventurers, gather supplies for the road and set out along the East road for the bridge over the Hoarwell where they plan to head south into Hollin. The journey is relatively uneventful apart from a poor attempt at highway robbery that left the remaining miscreants running for the hills.

The party travel on into the haunted lands of Hollin, dogged by the sense that they are being watched. Each day there seems to be a crow somewhere in the sky on a nearby holly tree. Yet, aside from this, they travel to the site of the Villa of Casaredhel without incident.

Across Middle-Earth – Eregion by ralphdamiani

The ruins of the villa lie in a valley which helpfully supplies the party with a vantage point to survey the lie of the land. Deciding it is relatively safe, Billwise sets out to scout the ruins. He notes the passage of some large creature from a small out building where a natural cave leads underground and calls the rest of the party to investigate. They are unable to determine what type of creature but are unwilling to enter into its den to discover its nature. Instead, assuming it is nocturnal, they investigate the ruins and discover two potential entrances that lead to under the villa. The first is clearly a trap door built for easy access to whatever lies below and the second is a small gap in the hypocaust that would allow a very tight crawl without armour.

After Billwise has crawled some way through the latter and discovered that this route leads to the lair of the beast, the adventurers choose the trapdoor and the stairs down. They cautiously enter and explore a small work room complex which has been emptied many centuries ago. All that remains are a few forgotten scraps of parchment with Dwarvish runes and Tengwar script. The Dwarves easily decipher the runes which appear to be part of a text on a weapon forged to defeat the dragons of the first age that used the heart of a dragon. Should the weapon be discovered and broken then the dragon would be released. The Tengwar is just gibberish and they decide to wait and find a translator later.

In the main workroom there are three levers by an iron door. Fearing a trap but also thinking that they open the doors, Denig tries each lever in turn. No disaster befalls the adventurers and finally they push on opening the doors that lead to the forge room. It is here that they discover another crawl space that leads to the beast’s lair. Careful searching also reveals a secret room in which a casket sits on a pedestal. Denig uses a series of intuitions to determine the nature of the rooms traps and finding that removing the casket will result in the deaths of all the party advises that taking it and running is not an option. They party spend much time debating how to defeat the trap and after a very slow lock pick and an ingenious use of an axe to prevent the exit of a trap dart confirm the presence of the crystal in the casket. Again Denig intuits that removing the crystal would result in everyone’s deaths as the ceiling collapses in workroom. Much discussion revolves around replacing weights and and bracing until the party realise that there is a way out of the room without being crushed by rocks. Only it also involves the beast in the lair, which most suspect is a troll.

Billwise is dispatched through the narrow tunnel to confirm this. Unfortunately, he also disturbs the troll in its sleep and a failing arm crushes a hobbit toe. The hobbit yelps in pain awakening the troll and although Billwise escapes safely the troll is now aware of strangers. The troll, is also very keen for a bit of dwarf pie as pickings have got a bit lean in recent years. Not being keen on fighting the troll underground the adventurers agree to go outside and wait for the sun to set and the troll to emerge.

So as the valley is cast into shadow, our worthy heroes confront the enraged troll as it emerges from lair. Denig fires a flaming arrow which seems only to make the troll angrier and Billwise leaps from behind to attack from behind with little effect. Meanwhile, the dwarves close with the colossal foe and Pick leaping high slams his war hammer into the troll’s sternum driving bone splinters into its heart. The troll reels backwards almost crushing Billwise as it does so. Having anticipated a mighty battle the rest of the party look a little crest-fallen: although are also relieved.

After rooting through the troll lair and recovering a few items, the adventurers prepare to remove the crystal from the secret room. At the last minute Pick realises they had not thought through how the hobbit was going to climb up to crawl way entrance in the forge room. A hasty escape route built out of ramps from old bookcases and all is ready. Billwise retrieves the crystal without incident apart from the ceiling collapsing where expected.

The adventurers then spend the next day investigating the ruins and obelisk in the wood in case they have missed something but are unable to discover any other hidden passages. With nothing left to loot and feeling rather out of pocket on this quest they set off back towards the Last Bridge. They have travelled a few days onto the Ettenmoors, again with the crows shadowing their journey, when they are attacked by a band of Orcs. The Orcs attack with savagery clearly bent on recovering the crystal. Most of the party are asleep and slow to rouse putting them on the back foot. Both Dagaard and Pick are significantly wounded being hard pressed on all sides. Billwise attempts to draw off an Orc by running away, a tactic that proves ineffective, forcing Billwise to seek a rear advantage in close combat. The stone-skinned Denig battles with magical energies but only gains a small advantage before being forced back into a defensive stance. Soon though the Dwarven hammers are hitting their marks and orcs fall until none stand.

Pick and Dagaard’s wounds are healed by Denig, and the untouched Billwise removes the orc bodies. The adventurers are a little concerned about the nature of the attack and puzzled at how the orcs knew they had a crystal and why they would want it. However, they are soon back at the Last Bridge Inn and such musing can be done at leisure and in safety.

Rewards and Reputation

Billwise gains a satchel of a long forgotten explorer containing a +10 OB dagger, +5 Pick Lock kit, a map of the villa somewhere and a leather pouch with 50TP. Denig receives Time’s Arrow (+20OB sends target back 10 secs in time) and a Rune of Restoration. Pick has gained the monicker of Troll Slayer amongst the party.

Down the Hobbit hole (pt2)

As with most councils of war, the subject of leadership and planning reared its ugly head. Denig, the stone man, counselled that he and Ydal should scout the area to assess the location of the Orcs camp. Billwise and Pencho disagreed complaining that the Big People were as noisy as Dwarves in chainmail. Although Pick and Dagaard did not express much of an opinion, it was Pick who swung the vote of all the adventurers towards Billwise’s plan and grudgingly, the stone man was forced to agree.

After a second breakfast, Billwise and Pencho stealthily set off into the woods. Billwise is shown how a Hobbit could move undetected by others through the wood and notice large patches of sunlight where the pursuit of Orcs could be hindered. Following a sunken road, they find an abandoned ruin which appears to be occupied by two Orcish shamans. Below, in a dark defile, a large number of Orc voice can be heard, indicating the main body of the force is larger than the number of adventurers and Hobbits. During their time scouting the area, a cloaked figure, who carries a distinctive pipeweed odour, arrives and converses in Morbeth with the Orcs. Billwise and Pencho, not speaking the language, understand none of this but do catch a few words spoken. They continue their scouting, noting the small patrols of Orcs moving through the wood and a set of riverside huts in which prisoners appear to be kept.

Back at the smial, the scouts inform the council of what they have discovered. The adventurers all agreed that the first task is to free the prisoners, who are probably being kept as a food store. With two Hobbit guides, the adventurers travel through the woods to the riverside without any untoward events unfolding.

Near to the huts, the party formulate a plan. Denig insists that he and Ydal can pacify up to ten Orcs and insists that they are the only ones to enter the camp and that the rest attack any fleeing Orcs first. The Dwarves are unconcerned so long as Orcs are killed and Billwise prefers to wait and see what unfurls before to committing to combat.

As Denig and Ydal move towards the hut where the Orcs appear to be sheltering from the day, they are surprised by a hidden sentry. Ydal attempts to cast her Calm spell but is unable and so retreats. Denig charges to the door of the hut and cast his Calm spell on the occupants of the room. Immediately, one of the occupants relaxes into a calmed state. Unfortunately, the other five are very much active and with a sentry charging, he looks to be very much in trouble.

Realising his only hope is to hold the doorway until help arrives, Denig chooses to engage one Orc in the doorway and ignore the sentry. Ydal shoots wide in haste and the Dwarves rush in, whilst Billwise seeks an opponent to shoot. Soon the sentry is felled by Dagaard but the remaining Orcs seek to escape through the flimsy rear wall. Denig is driven back by the Orc’s charge but both appear evenly matched. At the rear of the hut, both Dwarves engage the remaining Orcs, war hammers breaking bone like winter twigs. At the front, Billwise races through the trees and with element of surprise dispatches the Orc fighting Denig with a thrust through its backbone sending it reeling back into the hut. Unfortunately, the act also disarms Billwise. Fortunately, there are no more foes.

After freeing the captives, the valiant heroes and the weary, starved prisoners return to the smail where the immediate concern is where to house and feed the extra mouths. This is closely followed by decisions about how to remove the Orcs from the woods!

Down the Hobbit hole

In the gloom of a dry but underground space, the heroes awaken, bound and unable to recall much more than their own name. Gradually, they begin to recognise their companions around them but are unable to communicate in more than their first language, an advantage for both dwarves but not for the other occupants of the room. Soon it becomes clear to everyone in the room that although they are with companions that they have travelled with there are others in the room. To make things clearer one group decide to cast light spells which although successful, result in the loss of magical abilities for one of them. Each adventurer although bound tightly appeared to have their basic combat equipment.

Eventually, the adventurers’ ability with language is restored and Billwise, Dagaard and Pick free themselves. They are confronted by the sight of a dark-haired female adventurer and a short stone-troll still bound on the floor. Uncertain of the nature of the troll whom they understand to be called Denig and the raven-haired woman known as Ydal, Pick opts for leaving them bound whilst Billwise examines the door to facilitate an exit from the room. At that moment, the door opens.

Pick, Dagaard and Billwise, being the only adventurers freed, readied their weapons. A small round head poked around the door and gave a squeak of shock before retreating rapidly. Unfortunately, the door swung shut preventing the three freed prisoners a chance to escape. Quick thinking Billwise thrusts his dagger into the door to act as a handle, that it succeeded surprised all present but the result was to no avail as the door was latched on the outside.

The nascent party have only a short time of introductions and tentative trust before the captors return, though captors they are not. Indeed, the small group of Hobbits that wait outside of the cellar door turn out to be the saviours of the fallen adventurers, who were in danger of being consumed by a party of raiding Orcs. It appears the Orcs have encamped in Neffwin wood for a reason, according to the elder clan leader Isundras Kettle. He adds, between naps, small bits of knowledge he has gained from living in the Misty Mountains during his youth. More pressing is the discovery of the smial’s backdoor by a band of Orcs searching for the purloiners of their latest food supply.

Naturally, the adventurers all decide that they should help their rescuers but with two different parties of adventurers, there was a small amount of tension over planning a sortie to displace the invaders. Alongside this is the reluctance of the leader of the Hobbit men, one Pencho Goodspear, to engage in direct combat. Luckily, it is Billwise who both parties listen to as the Hobbit expert and so it is that under a stealthy but slightly inefficient fire of slingshots the Orcs are defeated. Mostly, it must be said, under the hammers of the Dwarves, but Denig’s stone skin dented more than a few Orc blades. In the woods, the remaining Orcs are ambushed by the Hobbits.

The heroes and Hobbits gather in council within the smial, food, of course, is provided. The Hobbits explain that they have recently travelled from the Ettenmoors after hearing of the new land granted by the Big King of the lake and have recently made Neffinwood their home. Between naps, Isundras tells the party that he feels that no Orc would travel this far from the safety of the Wilds of the Ettenmoors without purpose. From this Pick, Dagaard and Billwise draw conclusions that these are of the same party encountered in the Weathertops, a fact that they do not share with Denig and Ydal. There is much discussion, with Pencho again making it clear he will not risk his hunters in direct battle. Speaking for the women, Fairly Goodnough counsels hiding or leaving, but in private, to Pick, insists that the adventurers exterminate the vermin who have invaded their new home.

Towards a system without levels

Recently,  I had one of those moments of insight that make you want to move on. They usually lead you onto new things and new places but they are also mighty scary and need some time to process and if you are sensible (or just a lot older) require a bit of planning. I’ve had a few in my life and they have led to changes that have only helped me grow, even if the process as not always been enjoyable and yes, dear reader I have learnt to plan for the change through failing to do so previously.

Anyway, to the point in hand, I thought “Why do we have levels and EP?”. I think it grew out of the emulation/simulation debate raised by Gabe and a growing dissatisfaction with the whole EP reward and class system. So I raised the question about if anyone had done it and how it worked on the Rolemaster forums. Of course, there is no need to re-invent the wheel when you know it exists, which given the love of rule mechanics often foisted on RM players, was a surprise to find already invented, if a little diverse.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised because I already knew Runequest used a learned skills system and in some ways, I was thinking about a similar concept. I think that there are several things to consider before I put the mechanics to players as a way forward and inevitable at that stage we may tweak things but when I mentioned it at the post-game beers the other night they didn’t quail.

Here is a list of things I’m thinking about

  • How many hours/days to acquire skill ranks?
  • Are all skills learnt at the same rate?
  • Is the rate of learning linear?
  • What is the effect of a mentor/tutor/school?
  • In game skill development?
  • Natural aptitude vs resilient study?
  • Hierarchy of knowledge or accomplishment within skill levels?
  • Complimentary skills?
  • skill/knowledge fade?
  • How to provide an overall measure of success to the players if no level?
  • How do you encourage adventurers out of school?

Which is a lot of questions to work on, hopefully, I can blog some of my thoughts on the approaches we come up with. I suspect that initially at least we will apply this to the secondary skills in MERP which are almost impossible to develop using the development points given for each level. Certainly, that is what my players would like as a starting point.

Elvellon Manor and the first crystal shard

Returning from their audience with the King of Arthedain and feeling very smug that they are now Royal Rangers, Pick and Limolas meet up with Billwise and Dagaard at the King’s Rest. In the common room of the inn they adventurers listen to the news of the prevention of an assassination and roaming bands of Orcs. They talk to the recovering Galabron and gain information about strange events by the Royal Barrows and of bandits on the southern Greenway.

Refreshed and resupplied the party sets of along the Greenway. The first night out and Pick observes a passing group of wandering elves passing to the west. Although notes this event he does not consider it significant and tells no-one in the morning. The heroes continue southwards until they near the Royal Barrows where they climb the high hills of Tyrn Gorthad to investigate. The sun shines on the burial tombs of the last King of Cardolan and his sons. The party spend a day investigating and foraging for food without incident and so continue on their journey toward the Manor of Elvellon. 

Nearing the region in which Elvellon Manor is located the adventurers come across a canvas-sided caravan studded with arrows. Using his uncanny ranger abilities Limolas is able to intuit that a previous associate by the name of Jeremiah Fallowhide was here recently. Just as he informs the rest of the party of this fact, who should poke his head out of the canvas flap than the aforementioned manic hobbit. Jeremiah explains to the party that he was embarked upon his latest mercantile adventure of transporting some Dwarven steel ingots down to the kingdom of Saralainn when he was attacked by Dunlending bandits. Escaping only by good fortune where his guards did not, Jeremiah has been camped out in his wagon with no way to go forward or back. He looks upon the arrival of the heroes as another sign that fortune on his side as they will surely chase down the bandits and recover his goods for him. However, this time the Pick and Limolas are less than willing to risk all for the unhinged merchant preferring to stick to the task of finding the crystal. Yet, when Jeremiah describes the direction that the bandits went in (confirmed by Limolas’ tracking skill), they agree to keep an eye out. After some pleading by Jeremiah, they also leave the hobbit with some food to allow him to wait out the time it takes for them to investigate. 

So it was that the adventurers began to climb into the hills of Cardolan following the tracks of the Dunlendings and away from the Greenway. Within half a day the party had sighted the ruins of Elvellon Manor and noticing smoke rising, approached the ruins with caution. Both the Elf and Hobbit scouted ahead of the less stealthy Dwarves and in doing so discovered the bodies of fifteen slaughtered Dunlendings. Limolas and Billwise returned to the Dwarves and reported what they had seen and the party then entered into the ruins to secure the area. 

orcs_debate_by_turnermohan-d8jo68t
Orcs by James Turner Mohan

In the ruins of the keep, there are signs of a hurried defence against superior numbers of possible Orcs and something bigger which has pulled the heads of some of the Dunlendings. The party discover two heavy chests and decide to leave these until they have explored the area more. Scouting further the heroes discover a sunken room in which two small Goblins are sheltering. Quickly, they dispatch the two small Orcs and then proceed to investigate the wall on which a freize of Dunedain princes in battle with Orcs is painted. Limolas quickly discovers a secret door and also that further in are more Orc guards. 

After a quick discussion to plan an attack, the adventurers decide to rush the guards with the Dwarves cutting off any escape as quickly as possible and Limolas and Billwise wounding the guards with missile fire. It takes less than a moment, for the party to quell any resistance and none of the Orcs escapes to warn their companions. Justifiably, the heroes begin to feel very pleased with themselves. 

Cautiously, the heroes explore the underground complex. In one room, Limolas sets off a trap that releases a cloud of mist, but it seems that the trap has deteriorated with age. Further in, they party locate the rest of the Orcs and decide to leave the area rather than risk a confrontation with a large party of Orcs. Consequently, they descend to the next level. 

Below, in a great hall, the party come across a depressed Troll moaning about being sent down below by the Orcs and not being wanted. The Troll’s misery doesn’t last for long and the heroes begin to explore further. At the far end of the hall, there are two doors protected by wards. In his exploring, Limolas discovers a secret passage which leads to a number of rooms not accessible through the two additional, unwarded doors that lead off the main hall. 

The party explore several rooms down the secret passage. A plain blue room appears to have some sort of magical properties but not understanding the lore of magic, the heroes move on. An alchemy laboratory and plush room are soon explored and the party of soon loaded with a few additional weapons and a few potions of unknown use. 

The explorers descend another level and discover an ossuary full of bones, which unfortunately animate as they enter the bone repository and the party are suddenly outnumbered. Dagaard full of war-like confidence charges in and engages the skeletons, closely followed by Pick who joins more out of a sense of Dwarvish solidarity than a real desire to wade into a room full of walking bones. Limolas remembers that a bow is ineffective and belatedly puts away his bow and joins the battle with his longsword drawn. However, this prevents Billwise from entering the room. Quickly, the adventurers dispatch the skeletons, helped in the most part by the Dwarven hammers. 

f2b702e630d0c54efda7dcf62df39670A door led off the room, which of course being adventurers, they opened. Unfortunately, the room was home to a Wight which immediately attacked. Pick overcome with fear ran in panic leaving only three to face the fearsome undead. Heroically, the three fought against the malicious spirit vanquishing it with their combined might. Finding no treasure the three victors went in search of the missing Dwarf. 

Sometime later, having recovered Pick, the adventurers continued their exploration of the third level. The party began to wonder at the purpose of the crypt when the discovered a bier in a room decorated with a scene taken from the lays that appeared to show Morgoth triumphing over the Elves. Beyond this room lay a discovery that only served to confirm this idea. Behind a rotten door, the party were met by a hideous sight. A creature composed of the flesh of many humanoid creatures roiled in the darkness. Many heads and limbs seemed to lurch out towards the surprised adventurers; Limolas barely escaping the first grasping hand. Battle was quickly enjoined; Dagaard was nearly lost to the folds of the creature but for the arrow loosed by Billwise which finally incapacitated the creature. 

Relieved, the party continued on and after dodging some caustic slime by using their shields as protection, discovered a cave system. This is where Pick took the lead, a confident caver he determined that one route might lead to the surface. The adventurers decided to investigate this first to see if they could escape the caverns without having to go past the Orcs on the first level. Eventually, they reached the open air and debated what would be the next course of action. Knowing that rest was needed and worrying that the horses might be discovered by the Orcs they decided to return with the horses back to the Greenway and Jeremiah Fallowhide. 

The adventurers reorganise back at the Greenway. Jeremiah’s caravan is pulled off the road and the horses and heavier items of loot are stashed with the hobbit. With a rest period completed, Pick, Dagaard, Limolas and Billwise return to the caverns and resume their explorations. They soon discovered a bridge crossing an underground river and beyond this a cavern that led to steps up to a metal door. The only problem, four skeletons that guarded the door. Dagaard rushes recklessly to engage the skeletons. After being victorious over skeletons recently, the now more confident Pick and Limolas quickly join him. The battle appears to go well until Limolas is caught off-guard and finds himself skewered by a skeleton’s sword. Having dispatched the remaining skeletons his companions rush to his aid but they are too late, Limolas’ spirit is already travelling to the Valinor. Having noticed a subterranean lake, the heartbroken party dispatch the Elf’s mortal remains to the depths of the lake along with his beloved fishing gear. From the depths, a giant catfish breaks the surface before diving to the depths once more. 

skeleton_warriors_by_aaronbradburyDetermined to find the crystal so that Limolas’ death would not be in vain, the hobbit and dwarves return to exploring. More skeletons block their path and locked rooms thwart them. Until eventually, they discover the crystal sitting in a casket. Unfortunately, it sits behind a set of iron bars which also appear to have prevented a number of skeletons from escaping, judging by the armour and the desperate way two cling to the bars. Pick devises a plan to lift the bars and wedge them open with a stone from a nearby empty sarcophagus. This plan has to be slightly altered when they realise that Billwise is incapable of moving the heavy stone lid into place under the bars as the Dwarves lift the metal obstruction. 

Stealthily, Billwise moves across the room amongst the scattered skeletons to pick up the crystal. As he reaches to take the crystal he hears a scraping sound as soft a paper. It soon becomes apparent that the skeletons are reanimating, which means it is time for a quick exit. Thankfully, only two skeletons escape before the bars are lowered back into place and these are swiftly dispatched by the three companions, who then vacate the area for safety. 

Taking stock of the aims of the exploration, the adventurers decide the cost has been high enough with the death of Limolas and that with the profits from Jeremiah’s ingots and the contents of the captured from the Dunlendings there are sufficient rewards to support further adventuring. As a result of the discussions, the party return to Jeremiah with a chest containing 20,000CP and the ingots.

REWARDS GRANTED

A crown with some jewels – value unknown
Five potions of unknown use
A collection of short swords, daggers and arrows
20,000 CP
5 ingots of dwarven steel +5 belonging to Jeremiah (% of profits)
Handaxe that glows red at evil or undead the party aren’t really sure yet.

MISSIONS/QUESTS COMPLETED

Collect the crystal shard from the ruins of Elvellon Manor

CHARACTER(S) INTERACTED WITH

Galabron the bard
Jeremiah Fallowhide