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.

Cut one's coat according to one's cloth

The idea for this blog post was started from a series of posts on The Rolemaster Blog around the semi-spell user professions in Rolemaster (RM). They were a sort of lament over the Ranger and the Bard not having spells that buff combat level in comparison to some of the other semi-spell users in the system and particularly in the RMu version. I commented a couple of times, but then it felt like I was about to launch into a blog post that wasn’t really connected to the spell lists but more about how I play these characters as a player and a GM. As a result, I thought I would move my thoughts here into a more MERP-like blog.

Unlike its big clumpy brother, MERP provides less Profession options.

I know, its a bit ironic that I’m talking about professions when I’m also exploring playing without Profession classes and levels. However, this is talking about history of how things have been played and how the mechanics of the game have influenced this.

You get two Arms law based professions (Warrior and Scout), two pure magic users (Animist and Mage) and two semi-magic users (Ranger and Bard). At the start it is worth mentioning that MERP and RM magic in the Rules As Written (RAW) format is not very Middle Earth friendly. It is a common complaint of most players and GMs who love Middle Earth and wanted to journey through it. Just as importantly, to be fair to the old guard at ICE, the RAW were always meant to be a starting point and then tinkered with. However, this creates a problem of portability of characters between games run by different GMs. In this reboot phase, I have been hampered by players wanting to play old, much-loved PCs with spell lists I wouldn’t have granted purely because of the way it changes the tone of the game. However, I’d rather play and we all enjoy it than get over picky about a fixed idea of how things should be done.

Aside from the questions of magic in Middle Earth, the issue of I need my Bard/Ranger to be more combat ready in some format got me thinking this. If your game needs your semi-spell user to be more powerful in combat, are your adventures the ones for the party? Over on the RM blog, Hurin, pointed out that most of his adventures are combat heavy. Which kind of makes me think of a Roman gladiator contest. We all sit round the edge like gods and watch the mighty heroes fight their way across the arena. Occasionally, we may throw some dice to determine their fate.

A ranger walks the wilds of a mountain

In my MERP games, there is still a lot of combat (probably more than I would like but the mechanics and story tropes kind of push it in that direction). However, there is also a lot of wilderness exploring and for us a Ranger is a vital part of any party and gains an awful lot of experience points (ie development) through tracking, avoiding ambushes, scouting, foraging either with or without spells. Similarly, the Bard acts as the Urban version. Rewarded properly, both professions make good progress through the levels.

In terms of level development, my observation of MERP that focuses on experience points (XP) weighted to combat encounters is that warriors rapidly increment levels early with a lag for the semi-spell users. Animists played as healers are the next to develop because suddenly they start to use lots of healing spells. Bringing up the rear are Mages who struggle to employ effective spells in combat (unless they game the system).

A party of adventurers of different Professions

When warriors and scouts reach level 5 the rate of development switches as the combat specialists have exhausted the range of new foes and the enhanced bonus. Animist healers continue to power forward as even though the fighters are better they still take some damage and random Criticals. The mages really begin to pick up the pace as well as the spells on the lists become more useable in combat. Semi-spell users continue at a steady pace because unlike the warriors they haven’t used up all the bonus multipliers on Criticals and Kills.

In contrast, if you move the XP generating events away from a combat focus. All professions benefit. First the Pure and semi-spell users can use those “odd” spells to complete an adventure. Second, events that rely on skills other than combat are promoted in character development. To go back to an earlier post; the party can fight their way in or they could use some form of deception of stealth. To my mind a nudge to players habits of you get a reward for doing it this way (apart from walking away alive) reap benefits in the long term for the game and the choice of Professions used in your game.

As a GM this means the planning of your adventures and campaigns needs to hold elements that reflect the different skill sets of each Profession. In an ideal party I’ sure you would like one of each 6 Profession. However, this never has happened to me….well OK a few times but only because these were one-off massive games with about 12+ players and that made the law of averages work. Generally, the party is too small or players prefer to play a certain type of Profession.

Should your party have a Ranger then find reasons for them to employ the odd Limbwalking spell and look after the party in the wild in a way that doesn’t involve tackling an irate boar or a pack of hungry wolves. A Bard, then give them chance to gather information from the locals or to use their smooth talking or Songs spell lists to get through a section. Make the Mage use their low level spells to overcome obstacles or use Arcane knowledge to interpret clues. Most importantly reward them for it!

Which brings me full circle to Rangers and Middle Earth. In our games because much of the adventuring happens in the wilderness Rangers generally develop faster than Bards. Which is a failure of our games because none of us, as GMs, have favoured the type of environment that favours a Bard of any persuasion (Entertainer, Loremaster or Diplomat).

Currently, I have a game with a Dwarven Warrior (skills in locks, caving, dwarf lore and combat), a Hobbit scout (stealth, trickery, locks), and an animist/healer (whose player keeps thinking he is still playing a Ranger who is now sadly deceased). Previously, the adventure in the swamps used the skills of the Ranger to track and survive in the wild. OK so it backfired and he ran off into the wilderness in fear leaving his companion to find a way home alone but still the bulk of the XP didn’t come from the combat. Down the Hobbit Hole used a lot of the Scout’s stealth and I have deliberately constructed a campaign around the dwarf for his lore and caving. Although I’ve kept the NPC Dwarf linked to the party just in case of a fatality.

In summary, there is perhaps no need to rehabilitate the Ranger and the Bard. Rather, ensure as GM’s that adventures use their skills and abilities in a way that is rewarded with adventure success and XP for character development.

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 pt 3

The party spend time planning when and how to ambush a few patrols in the hope of reducing the number of orcs in the war band, They set out to prepare to ambush a patrol using the sunken road. As Billwise has shown himself to be very fleet of foot and stealthy, the party decide to use him as an advanced scout. This proves to be fortunate as he is able to alert the party to a patrol before they encounter it. Hoping to use surprise, the adventurers improvise a hasty plan. The dwarves stand out in the open, to tempt the orcs into rushing them, whilst the others hide using the ample forest cover. This proves a disaster with the ambush discovered before the trap could be sprung. Fortunately, the dwarves mighty war-hammers inflict punishing damage and soon the small patrol of orcs is dispatched.

While the party hide the bodies, Billwise scouts towards the sunken road and discovers a lack of patrols. He reports this back to the others and Denig suggests that this is because it was a bright day and patrols might be less frequent. He goes on to suggest that they use the time to scout the camp with more detail as he thinks that the Orcs will be less alert at this time of day.

So it is that, with the rest of the party nearby, Billwise stealthily approaches the ruined manor. He finds no sentries and after a quick survey reports back to the others. Who, after a discussion, decide that Billwise should sneak in and kill any sleeping orcs that might be inside. To aid him Ydal casts a Prayer of Quiet on the young hobbit, allowing him to go about his deadly business without a sound being heard.

All goes well as Billwise slips into the darkened building, enveloped in silence he attempts to dispatch the first of the sleeping forms, but killing is a messy business and if you are a hobbit it becomes more difficult when the first blow is not a killing one. Although willing, it becomes clear that Billwise lacks the skill for a quick kill but with a brief struggle he dispatches his first foe aided by the blessing of silence. He swiftly moves on to the next sleeping orc and again struggles for a quick kill. This time the struggle allows the orc to escape outside the bubble of silence that surrounds Billwise. The cry alerts the other occupants of the ruined building and also his waiting companions.

Hearing the cry, everyone, except Denig, rushes into the building to assist Billwise. Ydal rushes to aid Billwise and Pick rushes to prevent an orc Shaman from entering from another room. Dagaard guards the door ready to assist Denig who keeps watch for guards from the main camp below. Suddenly, beside Billwise, the corpse of dead orc drags itself upright, clumsily gripping its scimitar, still congealing blood oozing from it wounds. Dagaard quickly rushes in to protect the vulnerable hobbit’s flank. A second shaman has joined the battle and his invocations look set to make a quick battle last longer than expected reanimating the dead. Fortunately, the undead orc and his more live companion are dispatched and the first shaman (an apprentice) at the door looks set to be pressed by weight of numbers.

Outside, Denig, seeing no immediate threat from sentries, prepares the ritual of golden slumber and makes his way into the ruins. In the ruins, the shaman invokes a spirit of calm over the party and they are unable to undertake any aggressive act. The two shaman make for the exit only to meet Denig coming the other way. Denig releases his prayer but the apprentice resists and slashes at Denig’s stone skin with his scimitar. Denig holds the door whilst his companions try to figure away to aid Denig. Meanwhile the shaman, continues to build invocations against Denig, despite Billwise’s attempt to use the area of silence around him to prevent the prayers. Denig resists each attempt to unleash Dark Forces on him and battles the apprentice. Ydal throws up a wall of silence around the room to prevent the camp from hearing the sounds of fighting and blesses Denig to aid him in his lone stand.

Ingeniously, Denig calls on his tribal gods for a bolt of lightning to strike his opponent, but all that is granted is a mild electric shock. The shaman continues to lash out at the stone man with dark energies. Alone and with no help Denig it looks like all is lost. However, thanks to the doorway and his stone skin he defeats both the apprentice and the Shaman.

During this time, unable to act aggressively the rest of the party take on different tasks. Dagaard and Billwise investigate a barred door way from which whimpering is coming. Pick investigates the room the Shaman and apprentice came from rooting around for treasure. In the barricaded room, Billwise and Dagaard discover that the source of whimpering is a small child, no doubt saved as a tasty morsel. Billwise, not much larger than the child, reassures the traumatised soul.

Meanwhile, Pick discovers some treasure including bags with runes of screaming. Which he sets off. Unfortunately, he is outside the quietened room and the noise is heard by the sentries in the camp below, a fact made apparent by the sudden sounds of disturbed orcs from the camp below. The party flee carrying the child, but not before a note written in Elvish with a distinct hand and ink is recovered from the shaman along with his staff. They struggle to move quickly through the woods but the sunlight appears to be on their side and there is no sign of pursuit although a hideous din is heard from the camp.

Back at the Periwott smial, the party assess their options. Fearing that their trail may be followed, Denig attempts to cover the trail and lay false route, while Billwise scouts for potential pursuit, of which he sees no sign.

Back at the smial, the child is reunited with her mother amidst many tears. The night passes without incident. In the morning, the party decide to investigate the effect of their recent raid and find lack of patrols. Curious, they return to camp with Billwise as scout and discover some dead orcs who were not killed by them. Most of the party are confused by this and fear some new opponent able to slaughter orcs at will. However, Denig tells party that it is because the war band were leaderless and turned of each other to decide leadership. He goes on to tell them that eventually a leader was decided and they have either left or gone on to do what ever it was they were here for. Denig thinks that this is the the former as the orcs are far from the usual places they would normally inhabit.

Neffin wood, now free of orcs, is home again to the Periwott hobbits, who offer sanctuary to the rescued prisoners. The rescued villagers work with the hobbits to gather food and a new community is founded. During this time our heroes rest and recover and discuss the next steps. Although the hobbits can supply a few simple supplies it is clear that the adventurers will need to re-provision with gear suitable for adventuring. Pick, Dagaard and Billwise are all keen to find Jeremiah who they left with the cart and the plundered loot from the ruins of Elvellon manor. They also invite Ydal and Denig to join them as they believe that they could be helpful in any other explorations that are given to them by Mithparvandir.

Rewards and Reputation

A staff x2 PP multiplier, a note with a distinct style of writing and ink.
The gratitude of the Periwotts and local villagers mean that should they need somewhere to stay the characters will always be welcome. Local tales will always be told of how the heroes took on a much larger force and vanquished them saving the woods.

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.