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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Scene

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 :

Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4

Other Notes

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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