Hammer and the Anvil

Depending on the GM, a lot of time can be spent building the locations in which adventures can be set. I know some GMs just take it all from published materials and run without thinking about the big picture. To be honest why would you when your players are just interested in solving the mystery, slaying the beast and getting the gold/girl. For me this works well for one off adventures, but not so well when the characters become involved in a campaign or series of interlinked adventures. I begin to find my players become more interested in the world around them and I have to have a set of reasons why they can’t take over a town as overlords or set up their own bank or…. Well the hundred and one off-the-wall reasons that can be given by players. Which means at the very least you should have some background at your fingertips.

Then there are GMs who write adventures/campaigns creating the content needed to play a game because, well they enjoy the process or don’t like what is available. Finally, there are the world builders who relish the chance to think about the macro and the what ifs. Well I’m one of those, and even though Middle Earth is full of source material, there are plenty of places to build and develop. My computer, and some binders are littered with pen sketches of places, notes on names and characters: along with adventures to run. So it was with interest that I read about World Anvil  on the Kind GM’s blog.

The site provides a way to organise all those pesky bits of paper into a coherent gazetteer. You will have seen some of my latest content appearing on the blog pages, but really that is an awkward way to manage the content.  So I have been plugging in some text of locations that are of interest currently to see if the site will work for me.

The content holders are useful and mostly match with information and ideas that I want to record, and there is a useful way of linking characters into geographical locations. However, there doesn’t appear to be a way of linking the location to the characters, unless they own the site. If you upload maps they can be linked to the site and I guess using a side bar space I can start adding specific detail from the map.

When I started I just put up one location and started to link characters associated. I soon discovered that when you do this, you will need at least some headline work on races and locations of a top level nature to tie things together. For example, I needed to create a species man and then subdivide to ethnicity Northman/Riverman to include this information on the character. It is possible to get away without having this infomation and leaving it very generic, but at some point linking locations and characters into kingdoms etc has to be done. As a result, it is better to do it early and add to each new item rather than retrospectively.

One thing I do like about the design of the site is the ability to put in secret information that is not generally known to the world. This apparently would be available to subscribers of the world stream but not to the casual observer. Quite how this works in practise I don’t know. I guess a player could read the public content and GMs subscribe, but how do I know which is which?

The website allows for collaboration (any budding authors drop me a line), but really without upgrading to a private account, I don’t think the capacity for images is going to be large enough to cope with more than a few maps. So at some point I’m going to run out of space. It also uses BB code (a cut down HTML) which in this day of smart interfaces seems a bit dated. Even the basic WordPress toolbar begins to look science fiction compared to this.

As a trial I’m going to carry on building locations and ideas for Caras Celairnen because it does make organising the content easier. It is a useful tool for creating the correct environment and forces me to think about who lives in a place and what they look like and how they act. However, at some point I will end up taking all the text and relocating in a more published format elsewhere. Like many internet ventures it will only last as long as the server, so it will pay to make a back up.



I can’t see the wood for the trees!

In the previous session, the party had finally discovered the location of the labyrinth of thorns and recovered amber stones. Now faced with the potential of a long slog back through the swamp with diminishing rations; the adventurers decided to camp in the dark, misty wood to allow Limolas to forage for food.

After a fruitless day of searching for food, Limolas decides that a night hunt would be more productive. The Dwarves knowing that their sneaking through woods was not something that would help gain supplies let Limolas forage alone.  Confidently, the elf ranger slipped into the dark woods.

Alone, but unconcerned by the mist-enshrouded wood, Limolas foraged for ways to supporting the party’s diminishing rations but found little wildlife and precious little in the way of edible plants. The night wore, and unusually for the wood-wise elf, branches began to snag at his clothes. Soon a branch had a grasp of his arm, and it was only good fortune that he was able to escape. Soon the pressure of being alone in a misty wood where living trees were attempting to take his life was too much. The elf broke and ran. In blind panic he ran; he stumbled; he created cover under a pile of leaves and slept.

Meanwhile, the dwarves waited the night watches out. They too discovered that they were not alone in the woods. Dagaard becomes suspicious of an ancient and decaying tree. Convinced that it has moved location he awakens Pick and the pair waited on alert. After a few anxious hours, the peril of the living tree becomes a reality and the heroes hammer away at the rogue tree.  Under the pressure of the dwarves mighty warhammers, the tree is soon broken. Fearing for their companion alone in the woods, a sleepless watch is maintained by the pair of warriors for the remains of the night.

An unexpected sighting

When we last left the dynamic duo they had, with the aid of Dagaard Dragonheart and Jeremiah, recovered the stolen goods and routed the bandits from an ancient watchtower. Now re-provisioned and prepared for a travel the party set out for the riverport of Elvenbyen on the river Lhun to gain passage to Cara Celairnen. It is here that Jeremiah intends to sell his now recovered weapons.

animalphotos15The journey to Elvenbyen is more eventful than the expected. A chance sighting of a herd of Astenhabli (an antelope) provides the traveling caravan with a fine feast thanks to Limolas’s foraging skills, but the party soon realise that they need to work on their cooking skills when a passing party of hunters notice the fire and join the party and demonstrate how food should be cooked.  The hunters have recently been overwintering in Elvenbyen and provide Pick with some useful information. However, the hunters are also very cautious about Limolas, and use many warding signs to which the self obsessed Limolas is unaware. The hunters leave early in the morning and it is as the party pack to leave that they discover a second visitor. A small swarm of Neekerbreekers (Locusts) have invaded the trail ration packs. Suddenly, the wonderful bounty of the land has reversed and with a small amount of food it looks like a hungry two days to the river.

Although the day’s traveling was easy and without incident, again small misfortune befell the party. During the middle watch Limolas’s sharp eyes and ears failed to notice a pack of dire wolves on the hunt. The party prevented from the expedient creation of firebrands to hold the pack off were sorely pressed to hold off the wolves, disturbed as they were from sleep. Indeed, Jeremiah slept throughout the short but brutal conflict. Only Dagaard had the presence of mind to grab a flaming brand from the fire, and it was his quick thinking that drove the pack off. Not however, without the loss of one of the carthorses. So it was that come the morning, having dispatched the wounded horse, the party redistributed the cargo over two carts and abandoned the third.

Now travel had become a chore, forced to travel at an even slower pace because of the load on the horses and to take more frequent stops the party camped again by the the Laughing Brook (now a river swollen with winter snow melt). The night was spent with growling bellies  and the hope that no more unfortunate events would befall them before reaching Elvenbyen on the morrow.

8kflytbArriving in the bustling Elvenbyen the party make lodging and although Limolas is aware that the locals  will not sit near the party, is still blissfully unaware of how distrusted he is in Northman circles. Listening to the talk in the inn, it is clear that there is an agitator stirring up discord between the Rivermen and Arthedain and Elves. Slu Rev (Sly fox) is talking of freedom from the ancient kingdoms. There is also talk of elves bewitching men in a nearby forest. The party appear to pay little attention to the rumours and instead settle down to decide on the next course of action. Soon an argument breaks out over who is paying the fees for travelling down river. Jeremiah pleads poverty – “I was the one who was robbed!”. Limolas the fashion victim bemoans that he has not bought a new set of clothes since Culwic where he purchased is splendidly fashionable pair of Glutani fur trousers. Jeremiah takes delight in pointing out that they are in fact goat, but Limolas refuses to accept that this is so. Meanwhile, Pick is carefully guarding the true value of his wealth and in an attempt at distraction offers up the 12 gold coins discovered in the tower. However, since these are stamped with Angmar imprints they are worthless unless melted down. Jeremiah insists that they must sell the furs if they do not have enough to cover at least a ferry fee.

In the end Pick and Limolas entrust the negotiations to Jeremiah who departs to sell the hides and secure passage. However, Pick believes that Jeremiah is far from trustworthy, and says as much to Limolas, but neither decide to go with the manic halfling. Instead both head into the town so that Limolas can do a little clothes shopping. Limolas is very impressed with the service at Jørnsen’s outfitters. A pretty smile and some flattering words soon have him being asked to remove his cloak, and then rapidly being hustled to a less noticeable area of the shop. Upon discovering that a coat made from the hides of Glutani will cost more than a Warhorse, Limolas realises that he is not wearing Glutani skin trousers and that Jeremiah was indeed right. Beating a hasty retreat he returns to the waiting Pick. Pick has decided that he  wishes to return to the inn, but Limolas wants to buy some fishing hooks and so the pair split.

As he was about to enter the chandlers, Limolas spots a familiar figure, Culwine! His bald 06fa4850d3e2c3efcbe428a226e850c9head and bulky figure make him stand out in the crowd. Limolas decides to follow but in the confusion of the docks loses the one time caravan guard and associate of the Rogues of the Borderlands. Limolas returns to the chandlers and having found fishing hooks and a circular casting net realises that he has been robbed of his change purse. Limolas assures the shopkeeper he can pay, but the looks of suspicion suggest that the Riverman does not trust any elf. Limolas makes a rapid return to the Inn and another quick dash  pack so that he does indeed have his desired fishing gear.

Upon leaving the chandlers, he notices a gathering and has the chance to witness the Slu  Rev (Sly Fox) is holding court and stirring up trouble against Elves of all people. Becoming as inconspicuous as possible, Limolas hangs around a bit longer and notices that Slu Rev bears an uncanny resemblance to the the rogue who fell from the battlements and whose body was not recovered. He then spots Culwine who whispers to the Slu Rev and both disappear within the crowd. Although Limolas tries to find out where they have gone he is blocked and barred by the crowd dispersing.

762aaa8c26c1c4d1b3899cc8807e64cbBack at the Inn Limolas, tells Pick and Dagaard of his recent encounter. Dagaard is all for finding Culwine and this Slu Rev and forceful extracting from them the whereabouts of Grubby Durnan from them. Pick points out that currently, they don’t know where Culwine is and charging into town  won’t achieve anything.  Limolas is more outraged about the way Slu rev was talking about Elves, and it is at this point that the dwarves feel they need to point out that most of the population here distrust him and think they will be bewitched. Talk then turns to the rumour about bewitching elves in the woods. Dagaard suggests to Pick that he takes Limolas to investigate so as not to attract unwanted attention. Limolas agrees when Pick makes the suggestion and it is at this point that A smug hobbit returns with news of a sale and booked passage across the Lhun.

With a delay before departure Pick and Limolas decide to investigate the woods on the following day. Morning finds them at the edge of the wood, but nothing seems amiss. Limolas spots a thin trickle of smoke on the other side of the small forest. Without any other clues the pair set off through the woods to investigate. Traveling in the woods they are attacked by two Rivermen. Having successfully dispatched their attackers, the deadly duo decide to cut their losses and return back to the inn. Leaving the mystery for others to solve.

Upon their return, Pick decides to investigate Limolas’s claim to have seen the man from the tower and Culwine. He and Dagaard do a pub crawl around town, but apart from tasting many fine ales and meads, and a few not so fine ones, they do not see either of the men or anyone else associated with the tower near Erumar. Members of the party are left undecided on whether Limolas has genuinely seen the two men.


3431aba28ecd81b5ab832053f33c6420Finally, the party travel with two carts loaded with weapons across the river without incident. They travel down the causeway and notice a tower in the mists. Jeremiah thinks it is something to do with scholars/monks/seers of Arthedain but isn’t sure. As it has nothing to do with getting to Cara Celairnen they party push on. Apart from a midnight encounter with a Mewlip, who is out numbered and out flanked, the party arrive in Caras Celairnen with no further incident.

Who we are and where we are from

The players gathered eagerly around the table. It has been less than half a life-time since we played, but it might as well have been two life-times. Both these players have run their own campaigns and games. They have been successful GMs with a range of people wanting to join in the fun. They might as well have had no experience the way they  peered confused at the range of abilities and Stats. “Where is my hits?”

“How do I know I can move in chain?”

“Is this stat good?”

Suddenly, my rustiness in rolling several characters with a blend of skills didn’t seem so bad.

Soon the choices were made. An unusual pairing I have to say, but they chose them, and although the blend of skills is not perfect it could work.
Photo: The adventurers have travelled to the small town of Culwic and taking residence in the "Two rivers" inn. The back story is that this unlikely pairing formed sometime ago in the southern foothills of Ered Luin. It was clear to Pick that he was in need of a companion to help him seek out treasure. Such a companion would need to be ignorant of the true value of the ores and items he really sought. In Limolas he had found the mother lode, not only did Limolas not appreciate the value of such things he was never likely to find out. In fact, PIck now has the perfect companion who will be happy with small trinkets and will, in general, accept all of his suggestions. It has also confirmed Picks long held belief that elves are indeed half-wits. Limolas on the other hand is delighted to have a companion who can help him navigate the world. Who will help him gain the means to get the finer things in life and who is carrying cash that reduces his need to do menial labour.Elven ranger – Limolas strengths in subterfuge but can generally be thought of as at the back of the queue when the brains were handed out. Limolas’ main concern is looking good and ….oh shiny things!

Dwarven warrior – Pick Strengths in body development. He is able to stand up in a battle soaking up damage and drawing attention. His interests are in the deep dark places and the treasures held therein.

There are slight problems in a dwarf and an elf pairing outside a large party, but its not unheard of. It became apparent straight away that Pick was going to be the brains in the outfit and Limolas was never going to be bright enough to notice. This means that I am going to have plenty of fun reminding players to stay in role. I think both players need to see “Of Mice and Men” to get a feel for the power balance. It does mean that although Limolas only confirms Pick’s prejudices against Elves. Limolas really doesn’t understand what the fuss is about.