This is a collection of six ready-to-run adventures which you can use whenever your company is in eastern Eriador. They can be stand-alone or linked into a loose series as best suits your needs, and are assumed to take place sometime after 2954 - but not wedded to that date, if your requirements are different. If you have the supplement Rivendell, there's lots of useful material there to help you flesh out locations and the general environment.
The first adventure takes the party from the foothills of Gundabad across the Misty Mountains to the former capital city of Angmar and finally to Rivendell itself. The following five adventures are all based out of Rivendell and are set in the various lands surrounding the Vale of Imladris. They gradually get harder, the first five can be undertaken relatively easily, but the final one presents a greater challenge - although none are appropriate for complete novices, play a few other adventures first. Several suggestions are provided for how you can incorporate these adventures into an ongoing campaign or build a campaign around them, even though there is no definite 'plot arc' (or Big Bad to defeat) save the growing of the Shadows, the gathering of evil, in preparation for the War of the Ring that is to come.
In the first adventure, Nightmares of Angmar, some children have been kidnapped by goblins and it falls to the company to track them down and get them back. It's an autumnal quest, suitable for the last adventure of a year. However, you might want to make up your own reason for them being in the Black Hills (where it all begins) in the first place, most of the reasons provided are rather weak. On the other hand there's an impressive array of options to help you weave this adventure into whatever else is going on. Throughout the adventure, support is provided to help you run each encounter and event... although there is little lee-way for handling anyone who doesn't do the expected thing! There is an interesting mechanic of 'Key Points' - places where the characters' actions or words have a positive or negative effect on a certain pivotal NPC. These will determine how that individual acts in the future, but ought not to be revealed to the players, it's just something that the Loremaster should track.
The next adventure, Harder than Stone, is designed for spring, perhaps after the Fellowship Phase following Nightmares of Angmar. It's undertaken at the behest of Elrond of Rivendell which will lead the company a merry dance along the mighty river Hoarwell. A caravan of dwarves has been attacked... and the characters will have to travel deep into the Trollshaws to find out who's behind it all. Yes, these adventures are full of lots of travelling... but as that's central to all the Tolkein stories, that's not very surprising!
This is followed by Concerning Archers, a spring or summer adventure that begins in Rivendell when Bilbo Baggins gets into an argument with a scholar over hobbit participation in a battle - and asks the company to travel to the ruins of Fornost, the city of the Kings, to check things out. Bilbo reckons that a company of hobbit archers were involved in the fall of Fornost, but the elf to whom he is speaking has been dismissive of such a possibility... and they've made a wager about it. Bilbo needs evidence to win! (Why Bilbo, who's described as being in his prime, won't go himself isn't even discussed, you might want to think of something should your players bring it up.)
The fourth adventure is The Company of the Wain and is interesting in that it's quite episodic - you could interleave events from it with other adventures to good effect as it revolves around a group of travelling traders. Perhaps the company just keeps encountering them as they go about other business. Travelling traders are an unusual sight up here, and there's something a bit odd about this lot...
Next comes What Lies Beneath, which comes with a warning that travelling is even more extensive in this adventure than in most, so it's best started early in a year. Hiraval, a Ranger of the North, wants some assistance to reclaim his family's ancient mansion - not just because he thinks it could improve the safety of the region, but also because he is being haunted by an ancestor who is driving him nuts about the place!
Finally, Shadows Over Tyrn Gorthad has Gandalf asking the company to deal with a veritable plague of barrow-wights who are passing far beyond the Barrow-downs and growing bolder all the time. It will take several Adventuring Phases, indeed several years, to play out in full and the danger is immense. They will need to research and study lore about the barrow-wights before thay are in a position to deal with them, and even researching them carries its dangers.
Overall, a fine collection of adventures that are very true to the whole feel of the setting. There's a tendency to assume that the characters will follow the set path through each adventure, and little support if they do not, but provided they do the right things the Loremaster is well supported to run their adventures. Complete these, and there will be songs written about the company, stuff of legends!
Return to Ruins of the North page.
Reviewed: 10 March 2016