Conspiracy in the Mists
A Lord of the Rings RPG Adventure for 3–6 low-advancement characters
by Joel P. Shempert.
This is an adventure designed for beginning characters, approx. 0–2 advancements. It can be a stand-alone scenario or the lead-in to a Chronicle of long-term exploits and epic struggle. It is set in the fractured Realm of Arnor in the Autumn of T.A. 1407, and its focus is on the Men and Dunedain of Arthedain and Cardolan, but it is open to characters of diverse race and background.
Scene 1 : At the Sign of the Soaring Stallion
It is the year 1407 of the Third Age. The once-proud Northern Realm of Arnor has long since fractured into the lesser territories of Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur. In Arthedain alone is the line of the Numenorian Kings preserved, but the struggling Kingdom is hard pressed to persuade the other two provinces to acknowledge its rule, especially as the Arthedain-controlled watchtower of Amon Sûl is hotly contested for its coveted Palantír. Currently, relations are fairly good between Arthedain and Cardolan, but Rhudaur remains hostile and has exhibited much unrest of late, which is suspected to be in part the work of the Dread Realm of Angmar in the North, arisen just 100 years ago. Does its mysterious Witch-King stretch forth His icy hand to seize and crush the remnants of Isildur’s realm of old ? What is the nature of this dread and shadowy Lord ? And could the rulers of Rhudaur be collaborators in His dark designs, and the Men of Rhudaur the hand that holds the hammer of Doom ? These are the questions whispered on the North Wind to the hearts of the people of Eriador.
In the bustling Arthedain town of Bree, waypoint at the crossing of the North’s Great Roads, the mood is restless on this misty November night. Tension is high and blood runs hot, for in less than a week emissaries from both the neighboring realms will arrive at Amon Sûl to meet with King Arveleg of Arthedain to negotiate a peace between the feuding neighbors. And nowhere does the apprehension boil over moreso than at the Soaring Stallion, chief inn of Bree and welcome refuge for travelers of all sorts, where patrons now gather in the Common Room to hear news and air concerns, and engage in a grim camaraderie in anticipation of the coming day.
Narrator Note : The Soaring Stallion is indeed the inn which stands on the site of the future Prancing Pony (whose name represents a gradual degradation over time from its once-prouder title). Narrators can make this plain to players (out of character, of course,) or allude to it subtly, or ignore it altogether.
The ornately carved and vividly painted sign of the Soaring Stallion depicts a great white horse flying on graceful feathered wings over a crescent moon, against a starry field of deep blue. Firelight beckons its windows, and within its expansive Common Room a diverse array of folk sit or stand, drinking, smoking, and conversing in groups of three or four. Different folk tend to keep to their kind, and across the room can be seen clumps of tall, proud Arthedain, fair but haggard Cardolani, and even, huddled secretively in a corner, a small cluster of dour, swarthy Rhudaurim, as well as a furtive band of Hobbit-folk and the odd pair of Dwarvish traders. The conversation tends toward the impending future of the realms, and the veneer of amiability throughout the inn is a brittle one.
Only one spot in the room seems to emanate an air of mirth : the fireside, where a wandering storyteller weaves a tale with art and aplomb. Attending to him are several workmen of Bree, as well as a tall, burly traveler with a hooded and withdrawn youth in tow.
Narrator’s note : This scene is designed to facilitate the meeting of a disparate group of Player Characters, and can be handled with varying degrees of detail. The players can all be simply “placed” in the Common Room to save time, or their individual entrances can be played out, at the Narrator’s discretion. There is room for all races in the scene. Elves will have the hardest time justifying their presence at a rough and rowdy inn, but various stories can be concocted. An emissary or spy from Rivendell would be most likely.
The burly traveler and hooded youth are in fact a Royal Guardsman of Arthedain (and sworn protector of the Crown Prince Araphor), and young Prince Araphor himself, respectively. They are traveling incognito. The Prince has journeyed here from Fornost Erain, the Capital, with his Father, King Arveleg, on their way to Amon Sûl for the conference. The King and his retinue are staying elsewhere in Bree, at the estate of a wealthy local, but Araphor insisted on seeing the gritty, peasant side of life and coerced his Liege Protector to sneak out into the town with him, whereupon they found themselves here. The Prince is delighted and fascinated with the seedier side, but he is experiencing a bit of culture shock and so is withdrawn. The Guard, for his part, is keenly aware of all the doings around him, and grimly concerned for the safety of his charge.
The Prince and/or his Bodyguard can be Player Characters, if desired. It might be an unneeded hassle for a one-off adventure, but having a Player-controlled Prince would probably be advantageous for a more long-term story. If they are to be Narrator-controlled, then they will keep mostly to themselves, but if engaged in conversation with players, the Guard will do all the talking, and claim he is a wandering trapper and furrier from Northern Arthedain who is in Bree to sell his wares, and the boy is a young fosterling apprenticed to him.
If player-controlled, the Prince will be a 0-advancement Noble with attribute penalties from the “youth” age category. The Guardsman will be a 1-advancement warrior.
To run them as NPCs, use the following :
Araphor, son of Arveleg
- Order : Noble (0)
- ATTs : Str:5 Vit:5 Nim:8(+1) Wit:8(+1) Per:8(+1) Brg:10(+2) (with youth penalty)
- Reactions : ST 0, SW +1, WP +1, WS +2
- Order ability : Deference
- Skills : Armed Combat (blades) +4, Climb +1, Debate : Parley +1 Inquire (converse) +3, Inspire +2 Lore : custom (Arthedain) +1 Lore : history (Arnor) +1, Observe (spot) +2 Persuade (charm) +3, Ride (horse) +3, Run +2, Stealth +2
- Edges/Flaws : Charmed Life, Rank 2, Duty (future rulership of Arthedain), Reckless, Youth
- Health : 5
- Description : 14 year old Dunadan, slight but energetic, black hair and green eyes flashing with enthusiasm and wonder. His noble bearing tends to show through even when he tries to hide it. He is eager to learn and experience new things, but far from sure of himself yet.
Araphor (S. “Royal”) is a young man on whom rests the burden of future kingship, and though he respects that duty, he wants to taste life first, and find excitement and adventure. He also lacks confidence and suspects rulership of the struggling realm is beyond his ability. He loves his father and is loved in return, but he also exasperates the King with his impulsive and reckless (but not capricious) rebellion. In the Soaring Stallion he has found his closest brush yet with the darker, poorer side of life (even then neighborhoods of Fornost that he has explored are relatively aristocratic), and he is quiet and withdrawn but keenly aware, taking it all in with relish. He is particularly fascinated with the storyteller’s animated tale. Araphor possesses an ornate shortsword, which is stowed in the stables.
Belegil, Royal Guardsman
- Order : Warrior (1)
- ATTs : Str:10(+2) Vit:12(+3) Nim:8(+1) Wit:5 Per:9(+1) Brg:7
- Reactions : ST +3, SW +1, WP 0 WS +1
- Order abilities : Warrior-Born, Swift Strike
- Skills : Armed Combat (blades) +7, Climb +2, Jump +1, Observe (spot) +5, Ride (horse) +4, Ranged Combat (Bows) +3, Run +2, Search +1, Siegecraft (defence) +1, Survival (Mountains) +2
- Edges/Flaws : Faithful (Araphor), Hardy, Wary, Duty (protection of the Prince), Fealty (Crown of Arthedain)
- Description : 28 year old Dunadan, broad-shouldered and well-muscled, stoic of face with short-cropped hair. He is taciturn and pensive, liking not the danger that his young charge incurs by mixing with the common folk. His wary eyes continually (though unobtrusively) scan the room alert for anything that might threaten the boy. He wares a simple hooded travelling cloak and rugged wilderness gear, obtained from a local trader for the night’s disguise.
Belegil (S. “Mighty Star”) is the scion of a humble but well-off family of the middle class of Fornost. He has excelled in his career as a soldier of Arthedain, though he has seen little combat, as the Northern Lands have enjoyed an uneasy peace for a generation or so. Since the renewed unrest of Rhudaur, he has experienced a handful of border skirmishes, in which he distinguished himself enough to merit his place in the Royal Guard as sworn protector of the Royal Family, and in particular its Prince. He takes this duty very seriously, though he is somewhat awed by nobility and easily swayed by Araphor’s impetuous will, as evidenced by their presence here tonight. He has great apprehension about these circumstances and knows there is little he can do, unarmed and unaided, to ensure his charge’s safety if things should go awry. He has a sword, but it is stowed with his horse’s gear out at the stables, so as not to attract attention.
Other notables in the Common Room
Harford the Innkeeper
- Order : Warrior (3), Craftsman (4)
- ATTs : Str:7 Vit:10 Nim:6 Wit:7 Per:11 Brg:8
- Reactions : ST +2, SW +2, WP +1, WS +2
- Order abilities : Battle-Hardened, Favoured weapon (mace), Place of Trade, Speedy Work
- Edges/Flaws : Doughty, Friends (Folk of Bree), Hoard 1, Crippling Wound (left arm), Slow Recovery
- Skills of note : Armed Combat (clubs) 6, Craft : Innkeeping 4, Craft : Brewing 3, Debate : Haggle 2, Lore : local news and gossip 3, Persuade : Informal Diplomacy 3, Siegecraft 3
- Health : 10
- Description : 43 year old Middle Man, bald-pated and mustachioed. His face is typically stoic and inscrutable, though a keen wit often shows itself in his ever-watchful eyes. He is burly and hairy-armed, and is missing his left arm at mid-bicep. He is remarkably deft with his remaining arm and hand.
Harford, known affectionately as “One-Arm Harry”, is a former soldier of Arthedain, and veteran of many border skirmishes with Rhudaur. When one such conflict took his left arm, he retired from service and took over managing the Stallion from his ailing father. He is known as a gruff but fair man, and is loved and respected by all in Bree. His influence may carry even more weight than Bree’s Mayor, though Harry for the most part shuns such use of his clout. Despite his wishes, though, he frequently finds himself the unofficial arbiter of town disputes. Though he has no love for Rhudaurans, he exerts his influence over patrons to ensure that Men of the East Province have a safe welcome in his establishment, if not a warm one. As he moves between booths and tables in the Common Room, he interjects on occasion to promote fairness in the many heated discussions, and to ensure that none get out of hand. (note : Harford keeps a studded mace behind the bar, in case of real trouble.)
Abelyne, the Barmaid
- Order : none
- ATTs : Str:4, Vit:5 Nim:7 Wit:5 Per:6 Brg:7 (with Youth penalties)
- Edges/Flaws : Honey-Tongued, Weak, Youth
- Skills of note : Craft : Serving 2, Lore : local gossip 1
- Health : 5
- Description : 15-year old Middle Woman, lithe and vivacious, with dancing green eyes, ample curls of red hair, and a splash of freckles across her cheeks. Her simple serving-girl’s dress is plain and shabby, but she wears it well, with the awkward grace of emerging adolescence.
Abelyne is Harford’s niece, and together with Harford’s wife Silba comprises the serving staff of the Soaring Stallion. Silba has taken to bed early this night, leaving young Abelyne alone to serve drinks and food for her Uncle’s patrons. She is hardworking and adept, but a bit out of her depth. She is also a bit distracted, being enamored somewhat with the mysterious traveler’s youthful charge. It’s not terribly common for folk her own age to frequent the Inn outside of special occasions like this one, and besides Abelyne can’t help but be drawn to the handsome yet shy manner of the disguised Prince. Harry is forever having to shoo her away from the Prince’s side to get on with her serving duties.
Galboron the Storyteller
- Order : Minstrel (2), Warrior (5)
- ATTs : Str:8 Vit:8 Nim:10 Wit:8 Per:8 Brg:11
- Reactions : ST +1, SW +2, WP +2, WS +2
- Order Abilities : Natural talent, Gladden, Evasion
- Skills : Armed Combat (Blades) +8, Climb +2, Inquire (Converse) +4, Insight +5, Inspire +5, Lore : History (Arnor) +7, Lore : Songs (ballads) +3, Lore : Tales (epics) +5, Observe (Spot) +4, Perform : Compose Verse +2, Perform : Sing +2, Perform : Tell Stories +6, Persuade (Charm) +3 Ranged Combat (Bow) +3, Ride (Horse) +3, Survival (woods) +2, Track (Orcs) +2
- Edges/Flaws : Armour of Heroes, Bold, Honour’s Insight, Travel-sense, Wood-crafty, Code of Honour (protection of the borderlands from Rhudaur), Stiff-necked
- Health : 9
- Courage : 4
- Description : 37 year old Dunadan, tall, fit and vigorous. He is square-jawed and masculine, yet fair of face and his eyes are gentle. Unruly curls of dark hair fall frequently over his eyes, and a finely wrought embroidered cloak drapes over his shoulders, rippling and flourishing as he performs.
Galboron (S. “Enduring Brightness”) is a traveling storyteller and songsmith who roams the countryside of Eriador buying hospitality for a tale or song. He has somewhat of the regal bearing of Numenor, and is no doubt of Noble blood, but he himself is unaware of his exact ancestry, and enjoys none of the advantages of the Nobility of the land. He prefers it that way and is in no hurry to uncover his heritage, instead roaming the land freely and answering to no master. He is at home in the wild as much as at hearthside, and though he serves no one directly, he often keeps watch on the doings of Arthedain’s enemies, doing his part to preserve the peace and safety of its borders. He bears a long hunting-knife, and has a shortbow and quiver stowed with his horse’s gear.
The Rhudaurim in the corner
- Orders : Warrior or Rogue, 0 or 1 advancement
- ATTs : all 6, except a 8 in STR and VIT for Warriors and 8 in NIM and PER for Rogues.
- Order Abilities : Swift Strike for Warriors, Fleet-Footed for Rogues
- Edges/Flaws : Furtive for Rogues, Tireless for Warriors, Hatred (Arthedain) for both.
- Description : Rhudauran men in their early thirties, relatively dark-complexioned, with shaggy manes of black hair and in some cases black beards to match. Their garb is rough but sturdy, being mostly animal hide. In comparison to their Arthedain and Cardolan neighbors, they’re not quite savages, but they’re definitely a bit uncouth. The blood of Numenor has not entirely departed from these folk, but with the influx of Hillmen over the last century, it has definitely thinned more than in the other two lands.
Three or four grim Rhudauran Men sit in a corner booth, keeping mostly to themselves and commiserating over their ales, speaking skeptically of Rhudaur’s chances of gaining anything in the coming summit. The other patrons may shoot them an unfriendly look or two, but they are mostly left alone. The Rhudaurans themselves may occasionally offer an incendiary comment in response to the general discussion, but Harry will then interject with a gruff, conciliatory caveat to de-escalate the situation.
These men are actually conspirators in a plot to disrupt the coming summit and further plunge the three Provinces into open war. Ostensibly visiting Bree to trade goods, in truth they are here to secure uniforms of Arthedain from the barracks of the local Guard for use in their scheme. In fact, they have already done so, and are awaiting word from one of their fellows that the coast is clear to depart the town.
Whatever roles the Players have designed for their characters, they all wind up at the Soaring Stallion Inn on this gloomy evening for whatever reason. Most likely they are all simply travelers seeking refuge, but more specific goals can be crafted by players. The welcome firelight of the Common Room beckons even the most reclusive of travelers. Galboron is telling the tale of coming of Elendil and his sons out of the Wreck of Numenor, and the founding of the Twin Kingdoms in Middle Earth. The Narrator can gloss over this or go into descriptive detail if he/she likes. Several patrons (particularly those who have no taste for the idle debate and gossip of the others) are drawn to Galboron’s vivid retelling. He appears to be caught up in weaving his tale, but the careful observer (TN 15) may notice that he keeps a keen watch on the Rhudaurim.
The rest of the room is embroiled in grim argument kept simmering just below the boiling point by One-Arm Harry’s gruff moderation. (He receives a +3 modifier to his Persuade test against fellow Arthedain, and –3 vs. the Rhudaurim. He doesn’t actually change anyone’s mind, but he does defuse hostilities and encourage fairness in the debate.) There are few who are optimistic about the coming summit, and those few are mostly Arthedain ; none of them are Rhudaurim. For the rest, opinions vary, but each nationality generally feels that they will be slighted in the negotiations : Arthedain forced to concede too much power to the ungrateful “Rebel Provinces,” Cardolan’s concerns ignored, Rhudaur further dominated by tyrannical Arthedain, etc. The Rhudaurim are obviously the most bitter, and mostly commiserate amongst themselves, but will occasionally interject angrily at some claim made by another, forcing Harry to step in. The Cardolani are not openly hostile or contentious, just rather pessimistic, and the Arthedain simply can’t understand why the others balk at the magnanimity of King Arveleg.
As the evening wears on, Another Rhudaurim man enters the Common Room and sits down with his fellows. Shortly thereafter, in response to a hotly contested claim by one of the locals, he gets up and stalks back out to the Inn yard, seemingly in disgust. The others retire soon after to their room, and emerge about fifteen minutes later bearing large, soft bundles. This sparks some curiosity, and the Rhudaurim, according to their cover as traders, claim they contain assorted furs and woodworks for sale in the market. Some of the locals in the common room ask to see their wares, but the Rhudaurim respond hotly that they’ll just have to wait until tomorrow in the Market Square, and leave abruptly. Galboron, having just finished his tale (and received accolades from those nearby), gathers his travel pack and leaves a few moments later.
The Rhudaurim are actually preparing to leave town, and the first one left the inn to prepare their horses, while the rest gathered the uniforms acquired from the Arthedain garrison (this, of course, comprises the contents of their bundles).
If any PCs are curious and investigate themselves, they will hear sounds of a struggle coming from the stables. Inside they will find Galboron grappling with the Rhudaurim, holding his own despite their superior numbers. At last a knife flashes, Galboron is cut, then thrown down, and the Rhudaurim mount their ready horses and fly out into the night. The players will probably have to dodge the galloping horses as they barrel out the stable door (Swiftness Test, TN 10). A successful Observe test (TN 15, +3 if they fail the Swiftness test and are thrown aside by the horses) will reveal a bit of cloth in the colors of Arthedain poking out of one the bundles, where Galboron pulled it open earlier.
If no-one investigates when the Rhudaurim leave the common room, the players might notice the sound of horses in flight (Observe (Listen) test, TN 15 for the noise in the Inn), but otherwise the first anyone will hear of the fight will be a stable-boy rushing in ten minutes later, claiming there is a wounded man in the stables. Harry will investigate, along with presumably the players. Belegil will move protectively in front of the boy, but after some whispered cajoling from Araphor, he will move cautiously to the door with Araphor in tow. He will keep back from the others, however, and advance cautiously on the scene.
They will all find Galboron lying stabbed in the straw. “The Men of Rhudaur are schemers and villains,” he gasps. “I have overheard them many times this night alluding to their plot when they thought no ears were near ; now I have caught them in the act of departing Bree on their evil errand. We must move swiftly in pursuit to prevent it!” When questioned, Galboron will elaborate that he heard talk of assassination, and relate how he tore open one of their bundles to see the livery of Arthedain inside. He will say that from the sound the Rhudaurim were fleeing North.
Belegil and Araphor will enter as Galboron is explaining, and at some point, probably on hearing of assassination, Araphor will forget himself and rush past his protector to Galboron’s side, exclaiming, “What is this plot you speak of ? Is this a threat to the Crown of Arthedain ? You must tell me!” At this Belegil will be dismayed, and start to concoct some excuse for his charge’s behavior, but Araphor stops him. “No, my protector, the time for disguise is past. This is too great a matter. Good people and subjects,” he says pulling back his hood and standing full and tall in the nobility of bearing already emerging in his fourteenth year, “I am Araphor, son of Arveleg the King, and Crown Prince of this land. If I understand this man aright, the Crown needs your aid to prevent a great evil.” At this all present are amazed, save Galboron who has a knowing look in his eyes. Belegil will grudgingly concede the truth of this, but insist that others can pursue the conspirators ; Araphor must get to safety and his Father warned. Araphor will insist that there is no time, Galboron will agree, adding that there is much that is still not known of the plot, and much disaster may be wrought if the Rhudaurim are allowed to escape. He will be cut off as he winces in the pain of his wound, prompting the players (or, failing that, Harry) to rush to him to inspect it. How seriously he is wounded depends on the needs of the Narrator ; if Galboron is required to accompany the players and provide guidance and exposition (this may particularly be the case if Araphor and his guard are Player-controlled), then it is only a scratch which once bound does not seriously hinder him. If, however, the Narrator feels the players are fine on their own, then it is serious and deep, and requires rest and tending. He will still insist on continuing on, but he is in no condition to move and Harry’s good sense will prevail ; he and the stable-boy will carry him to a vacant room at ground level, and have Abelyne dress his wound.
Plans are hurriedly discussed. Harford is a loyal Arthedain patriot and will gladly loan out horses if any players need mounts. Belegil and Galboron have their own ; Araphor will ride with Belegil, at the latter’s insistence. A message can be sent to Araphor’s father if anyone thinks to do so (or the Narrator can prompt it); Araphor can write and seal it, and Harford will dispatch the stableboy to deliver it. The party should depart as quickly as possible ; the longer the delay the greater the head start of their quarry.
There is no way that the players will overtake the riders within the town. Another group of conspirators has caused a disturbance near the North Gate to draw off the Watch, and there remains only one guard easily overcome (but not killed). The Rhudaurim will have anywhere from a half hour to an hour’s head start once the players reach the gate. The guard, if questioned, will say that after he was flung aside and the gate opened, he saw them gallop off to the northwest.
Of course, if the Prince and Guard are player-controlled, the above events may play out very differently, but the result should be very much the same.
And with that, the chase spills out into the open country, in a gloomy night under a fell moon.
Scene 2 : Pursuit of Phantoms
The still night belies the urgency of the lonely band’s errand, and neither the swirling mists clinging to the horses’ flanks nor the full and ominous moon shining in a clear sky bring any cheer or hope to the heroes as the pursue their quarry across the flat and sparsely covered lands. Much speed will be needed to close the gap between them and their enemies before they reach the border of Rhudaur.
Once outside the town, the Rhudaurim are subject to a Mist of Speed spell cast by a Sorcerer of Angmar from a camp atop the Weather Hills. It should be impossible to overtake them, though the players can easily follow their trail (Track test, TN 10), even by night, with a full, ominous moon overhead. The Sorcerer’s bearing is 12, providing 12 hours of such speed, but this should be more than enough to give them a substantial lead. As per the spell, players who can see the Rhudaurim party will see only an impenetrable could of mist, and hear no hoofbeats. Do not call attention to this, however ; instead rely on subtlety and flavorful description to thrown off suspicion : call attention to the swirling evening mists which float about the horses’ feet, leaving the Rhudaurim tracks barely visible beneath ; describe how the fog persists even in morning, and mention that though the tracks seem fresh, they can see nothing through the mist ahead, and hear no sound of hooves. In fact there is a natural fog covering the lowlands, and the spell’s mist merely blends in with it.
This scene should be relatively uneventful, as the PCs follow the trail in the soft ground and struggle in vain to overtake the Rhudaurim. The path taken runs North-West from Bree, leaving the North Road about five miles out and skirting the Chetwood, then heading straight across open country for the Weather Hills. The rugged rocks reach up beyond the swirling fog, bare and forebidding, about 60 miles from Bree. When within 20 miles or so, the heroes will be able to see the hill of Amon Sûl with its guard tower, standing apart from the rest away to the south. The PCs should be able to reach the Hills late on their second day of riding, assuming they maintain a speed of Running while still stopping to rest regularly. They can drive the horses harder, but risk slowing the chase down if they tire their mounts. (If Running, make a Weariness Test about four times a day. If a mount reaches the Tired level, the party can only proceed at Trotting pace until they rest enough to recover. If they reach Weary level, they can only Walk. Below that, they must stop until the horses have recovered at least to Winded. The horses can only Gallop at Hale level, and if Galloping, make the test twice as often. Also, negative modifiers can be assigned to the test if players continue to push the horses too hard. Each point of negative modifier from weariness will confer a -.1 to travel speed.
NOTE: technically a Running horse is a Demanding action and would require more frequent tests, but it’s unnecessary and slows down the narrative. )
Eventually, the tracks lead to a sheltered pass in the Weather Hills. It is hidden by greenery and surrounding rock, and is little more than a narrow crack in the rocky hills, a fissure just wide enough to walk two by two. It is located at a gap in the fortifications built into the Hills by Arthedain, and thus provides an unobtrusive point for Rhudaurim agents to slip in and out of the country. In their haste, however, these agents have made little effort to conceal their trail, and the pass is easily discovered by the players.
In the pass, going is slow ; it will probably take a full day to pick their way across it. Of course, this also applies to the Rhudaurim, but they should be well ahead by now. Again, a pretty uneventful trip, but the atmosphere can still be played up, as the mist licks at the craggy edges of the ravine.
Upon reaching the end of the pass, the players will encounter all but two of Rhudaurim conspirators lying in ambush. They are concealed behind rocky outcroppings on either side of the mouth of the pass, and will fall upon the heroes as soon as they leave the crevice if they are not detected first (Observe test, 15 TN). There should be four of them, two Warriors and two Rogues, though this number can be adjusted in accordance with the hero group. This should just be a warm-up battle, designed to slow the players down while lone remaining Rhudaurim continues on his errand, his horse bearing the bundles of stolen uniforms. Thus it is best if the PCs outnumber their foes, and can make short work of them. To further speed things up, if their ambush starts to turn to rout, the remaining Rhudaurim will break and flee.
(A word about time of day during this sequence : don’t sweat it too much while traveling, but bear in mind that the approaching scene relies much on atmosphere, so the final leg of the journey should be structured so that the PCs finally come upon their prey in darkness, probably well past midnight, thus enabling the dawn to come at about the time they are approaching Amon Sûl [see Scene 4, below].)
After this battle, the PCs can continue in pursuit of the last conspirator. This is the same Rhudaurim who prepared the horses back at the Inn, and is the mastermind of this particular band, though not of the entire plot. He is a 1-advancement Rogue. He is still riding in great haste, careless of concealment, and his trail runs along the base of the Weather Hills in a Southerly direction. The fog still persists in the day or so it takes to follow, but does not conceal overmuch. When at last the heroes catch up with the villain near the Southern tip of the Weather Hills (a mere handful of miles from the Tower of Amon Sûl), they are confronted with a shocking scene.
Scene 3 : Treachery Laid Bare
Riding slowly over rocky ground through the ever-thickening fog, the pursuing heroes are startled by voices piercing through the veil. The speakers cannot be seen, but their words echo in the still air, and one can be discerned as Mannish, speaking the tongue in the harsh accent of Rhudaur, while the other is the guttural voice of a thing inhuman, and though it also uses the tongue of Westron, it twists and mars the words in its very utterance.
The PCs will hear the voices long before they can see the speakers or be seen by them. There is ample cover in the surrounding rocky outcroppings for the PCs to hide and listen ; the sound of the mystery voices’ quarrelling is enough to cover the approach of the heroes’ mounts.
The Rhudaurim voice declares, “If your kind don’t have the stomach for this kind of work, you’d best slink away to your dirty holes right now, for we’ve no use for you!”
The second voice, which PCs with appropriate experience—or Galboron, if present—may recognize as Orcish (Lore Test, TN 10), replies, “You just shut your filthy gob with that talk, man-rat ! A little word or two more, and perhaps you’ll see just what we’ve stomach for. But my Lord Ghashthrak has no will to serve as meat for the slippery plans of treacherous man-folk. How do we know you do not send us to our death that you may pick the bones ? Treachery and trickery ! Skai !”
“Lord?” retorts the Man of Rhudaur. “What is this Ghashthrak but a pillager of towns and a burner of huts, with a straggling band of Goblin-folk that prey on the weak and slow ? Your precious Lord would do well to remember that it is to his benefit that we allow you lot your part in this plan.”
There is a snarl of rage and the sound of a jagged blade drawing from a rough sheath with a rasping scrape. “Dung-eater ! I’ll feed you the tongue that spits those words!”
There is another drawing sound, one of bright steel. There is a sword-stroke, and a hideous scream, followed by an instant of awful quiet. The mist begins to thin and the outline can be seen of a tall man standing over a crumpled form. The silence is soon broken as more inhuman voices, a handful or more, howl in anger.
“Enough!” bellows the Rhudaurim. “I know your kind and what persuasion they heed—the next to so much as twitch or gibber meets the same fate ! Now be still and await your part, and when your Great Ghashthrak arrives with his full band, you shall have it in full : plunder and battle to satisfy all!” This is met by enthusiastic roars.
Another Rhudaurim voice interjects and may be recognized (Observe (Listen) TN 10, if the players managed to hear him speak earlier) as the voice of their quarry. Indeed, his silhouette as well as that of four or five others can be seen standing behind the tall man as the mist continues to disperse, and opposite are a half-dozen or more Orcish shapes. The voice speaks thus : “Sir, may I remind you of the prize I’ve brought ; it must be secured and put to use or our plot is all for naught, and the lives of my fellows and I risked in vain.”
The other turns to him sharply, and snaps, “Yes, yes, did you think I’d forgotten ? When the warband of these Orc-folk attack Amon Sûl and its outlying settlements, it will be simplicity for a handful of men in the livery of Arthedain to attack and slay the arriving emissary from Rhudaur. Perhaps then will our rulers rise up and fulfill the destiny of the Eastland, for it’s certain those sleeping fools take no care for our nation now!”
This meets with cheers from the assembled Rhudaurim. The leader, however, soon stills them with a gesture and wheels about. “And some who claim to be spies and footpads would also do well to take greater care ! We are discovered!” He points out toward the PCs’ place of concealment, as the mist further parts to fully reveal the features of Man and Orc.
The leader is a tall and commanding man, dark and unpleasant as many of Rhudaur, yet with an air somewhat of nobility upon his brow. He is not dressed as a soldier of Rhudaur ; indeed, all he and his companions are arrayed as common travelers and bear simple arms but no armour of war. The spy from Bree’s horse stands in their midst, his reins in the hand of his rider. The Orcs are a ramshackle band of plunderers, with rough and sawtoothed blades, and cobbled together armour. All present react swiftly to the revelation of the heroes. The Orcs to attack with bloodlust and vigour, and the Rhudaurim to take the horse with its bundles and flee. The Rhudaurim leader may stand his ground under the right circumstances, and will turn and fight if overtaken, but for the most part he will exercise prudence and leave the Orcs to deal with the interlopers.
The Orcs are Standard Orcs from Fell Beasts and Wondrous Magic, and number 6–8, but the Narrator can adjust this amount to give the Players a good workout but not overwhelm them. They will fight ferociously but may flee as the tide turns. The fog has thinned and offers no hindrance to close combat, but may still cause difficulty for ranged combat, at distances of 15 or more (TN +5), shooting becoming impossible at over 30 feet.
Soon after the battle is done, with just enough time to assess the wounded and gather themselves but not enough time for any real activity, the mist closes in thick upon the heroes, so that they may see their hands in front of their face and their comrades standing nearby, but little more. The land seems to grow suddenly silent. This time, the mist is the work of a Fog-Raising and Fog-Weaving spell, cast by the mysterious sorcerer high up in a crag upon the Weather Hills.
(A note on the Sorcerer : encountering him directly is beyond the scope of trhis adventure, but if the Narrator really wishes to know his capabilities, treat him as a 5–7 advancement Sorcerer with 12 Bearing, 9 Wits and 10 Perceiption and having at least the spells Fog-Raising, Fog-Weaving, Mist of Speed, Far-Seeing, Evoke Fear, and Shadow of Fear. If threatened directly, he can defend himself with Lightning, or if desperate, a Blast of Sorcery. In addition to the effects attributed already to his magic, he has used Far-Seeing to watch for and assist the Rhudaurim’s flight from Bree, and used Mist of Speed a few days past to convey the Orc-band through Rhudaurim lands.)
As the players huddle together and attempt to see out into the gloom, a sense of dread descends upon them, shaking their inmost being. Despair grips their hearts, as of some Sorcery worked unseen. Is it a mere fancy, a product of the night’s gloom ? Or is it an agent of Dread Angmar, or the Witch-King himself ? Are the rumours of Angmar’s claw grasping the heart of Rhudaur true ? All such questions add to the growing fear and despair. (This is the effect of a Shadow of Fear Spell combined with Evoke Fear to incite terror. The PCs should all make tests to resist, but even if they shrug off the concrete effects they should still be filled with dread.)
Scene 3 : Flight and Warning
The heroes have not long to brood on such thoughts, as first one, then another, then a score of lupine faces emerge from the enveloping fog—Wargs ! From their terrible muzzles issue low snarls, and in the cunning intellect of their eyes broods deep malice. From the center strides a particularly massive wolf, astride which is an imposing Orc, brawny of frame and cruel of face, and adorned with a necklace of the flame-scorched skulls of man, woman and child. “Ghashthrak,” whispers Belegil, for this fell reaver is long known as a ravager of the North. Flanking him are a handful of Orc warriors, also riding Wargs. The whole host slowly advances, the beasts on the edges circling around to flank the fear-stricken band.
It should be obvious to the players at this point that they must flee. Indeed, depending on the outcome of the Fear spell, some of them may be Unmanned and running already (make sure they at least get a good look at the Warg pack, however). The only safety is in nearby Amon Sûl, and this is the only direction left open for retreat. The PCs will have to act quickly to avoid being surrounded. Also, the Watchtower is the best place to bring warning of the Rhudaurim plot.
It’s a straight chase scene from here. The Wargs in hot pursuit, the PCs fly for the safety of the border tower, ideally with white knuckles around the gaming table. The unatural fog quickly dissipates, and the Shadow of Fear itself departs as the Angmarim Sorcerer goes his way ; however, the actual fear shouldn’t leave the PCs’ hearts ! Never let it seem like the Wargs are just “there;” keep them an ever-present threat, growling, nipping at heels, sometimes overtaking a steed to run alongside it for a space, before the horse once more pulls ahead. The warcries (and perhaps a bowshot or two) of the Orcs can help as well.
It’s a ten mile ride to the hill of Amon Sûl ; hopefully the heroes have kept their horses fairly rested. If they run into trouble, several options are available : fudge the rolls, shorten the trip (are the players really counting mileposts anyway?), or bring in the Cavalry—a band of mounted Bow- or Spear-men of Arthedain intercept the chase, and drive away the bulk of the Wargs (and riders). These are a company dispatched by King Arveleg (one of several) to search for his son (this is only if a message was sent earlier ; otherwise they will be searching the wrong area). If the Narrator can help it, though, he/she should allow the pursuit to last right up to the very slopes of Amon Sûl. There, archers from the well-defended walls can repel the Wargs as the heroes race along the winding path up to the waiting gate. Realizing that their quarry is beyond their reach, the Wargs and riders will break off and make once more for the hills. Riders are dispatched, and some stragglers overtaken, but Ghashthak himself should escape if possible.
Regarding Ghashthak (Bl.Sp. “Fire-bringer”), he can be simulated with the Standard Orc Captain out of FB&WM, perhaps with an advancement or two. No one should be foolish enough or unlucky enough to have to battle with him, but there he is just in case.
Once safely inside the tower, the PCs enjoy a simple denoument process and can rest from their labours. King Arveleg is extremely grateful to those who aided his son (and helped avert a great threat to the Realm). He may convey rewards or special status on PCs. He is overcome with mingled love and exasperation toward Araphor, but cannot remain angry with him for long. He holds Belegil blameless in the matter and is indeed grateful for the Guardsman’s able protection of the Prince (this is of course assuming he did succeed in protecting him!). As for the plot, with their plans thus discovered and the Orc-band routed, the attack of the Rhudaurim dissidents is aborted, and the still-living conspirators are still at large. The Rhudaurim emissary arrives unmolested and expresses polite gratitude for the PCs efforts on his behalf, though he is slow to believe the full tale. Indeed, he half suspects some scheme of Arthedain to pacify him without addressing his grievances, and will not be so easily put off. The Cardolani emissary also arrives and talks begin, threatening to last many long days without final agreement or compromise. King Arveleg is disturbed by the penetration of Orcs so far into the lands of Men, and by the whisper of Sorcery arriving with the tidings of the Heroes, but those questions are left for another day.
Notes on Experience Awards
All the normal causes for giving out Experience apply of course (Primary objective : foiling the assassination plot, Secondary Objective : keeping the Prince alive). In addition, consider awarding points for the following achievements :
- Making friends with the disguised Prince (if Narrator-controlled): 20
- Discovering something about the Prince’s true identity : 30
- Personally investigating the Rhudaurim’s activity in the stables : 50
- Taking the initiative in planning the pursuit : 50
- Having the forethought to send a message to Araphor’s father : 30
- Questioning the Guard at the North Gate : 20
- Maintaining swift pursuit without over-tiring the horses : 30 for all who do so
- Successfully hiding and hearing of the Rhudaurim plot : 30 each
- Successfully fleeing without leaving a companion behind : 30 each, bonus 50 for anyone who actually rescues a companion
- Making it all the way to the gates of Amon Sûl without help
Helping the Players
Of course, the individual Narrator can choose whether he/she gives aid to players in any circumstance. But I recommend being particularly nice to players in this adventure, which is designed to introduce them into an exciting new storyline, if not into Middle Earth gaming itself. Don’t be too nice, though—you want them to sweat to earn the well-deserved accolades of the King.
In addition to fudging the occasional roll where it would wreck the story, consider the granting of situational Courage points. Particularly in the flight to Amon Sûl at the end, it would be nice to reward players for their achievements/compensate them for their trouble, and ensure that everyone makes it in safe and sound. This also goes for the escape from the approaching Wargs in the first place. Especially consider granting extra courage to Araphor, if player-controlled. His survival is an important facet of the adventure, as his premature death will change the shape of Middle Earth history. Also, he’s sure to be the weakest character in the adventure. Give the guy a break.
Maps and Visual Aids
Decipher’s available maps (or any serviceable map of Middle Earth) can be used, but I actually refer to Karen Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-Earth, preferring its detail and pursuit of accuracy. It contains (though scattered between sections) very nice maps for Bree and the Prancing Pony (which shares its floorplan largely with the Soaring Stallion, the area between Bree and Weathertop (Amon Sûl), and the hill of Amon Sûl itself—in the latter the lines marking the ruins can even be connected to form the layout of the standing tower and surrounding wall.
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