Classic Fantasy Trouble on the East Road - a LotR adventure
#1
I’m running (and going to post) a tolkinesque adventure - using the CODA system of Decipher’s LORD OF THE RINGS RPG (plus a bunch of house rules that we have been using for so long that I frankly can’t remember what is in the book and what is not). The characters already have some advancements and are from some stories I did offline. Since the stats are somewhat lengthy, I will not publish them here, but try to mention the relevant values when I make rolls. Timewise, we are ca. fifty years after the Battle of the Five Armies (the one at the end of THE HOBBIT).

Instead, here follows a potted history of our heroes:

Eriathorn is the leader of this little group - both by virtue of actually being the one who knows where to go most of the time (he is an experienced tracker, knows much about living in the wild and generally is a good judge of situations) and by being the central character in the group. He is a warrior by trade and a Dunedain, a Ranger of the North, and as such has sworn fealty to Aragorn, but unless his chief calls, he mostly travels around with his friends - not quite by choice. He actually often doubts that they are quite sane - for some reason he does not know (actually because it is one of his ancestors) he has attracted the attention of a Ringwraith, who - while trying to capture, not kill him - will cut down anyone in the way of his plans without batting an eye.
Ambidextrous, he is a superb sword fighter, managing twice as much as any normal fighter, but his biggest asset is perhaps his versatility- while perhaps not being able to do the difficult tasks, he has enough understanding of what is needed to direct the effort successfully. He is well-travelled and has a good working knowledge of the geography of the Eregion (and to a lesser degree the neighbouring regions), but has made a special study of the dress and adornments of the different regions - often he is able to tell from a quick glance where a person hails from.

Galwenion is a noble of the House of Elrond. He trained as an archer in Elrond’s host, but as soon as he could, he put down his bow again - he still can shoot better and faster than most men can ever aspire to, though. Like his cousin, he has a gift both for healing and for smithcraft, although they pale compared to Elrond’s and are closely tied together - he can craft you a scalpel so sharp it cuts its box, but can barely produce anything that can successfully function as a shovel. Horse shoes he only can do since Theolin discussed with him how they are basically metal bandages for the hooves, and he will still take a very long time for them. Once finished, they are superb shoes, though. 
Otherwise he has a smattering of skills as befits any noble - in the woods he is better at remaining unseen than even the ranger, he can be quite persuasive, but also intimidating and knows the basics of this and that. His perhaps biggest flaw is his pride - like all elves, he can get easily offended and descends into pure pigheaded stubbornness as a result. Nowadays, he mostly takes on the role of one of Elrond’s emissaries, tackling problems at his command when the half-elf does not have the time or inclination to get personally involved. When he was send to meet a delegation from Rohan and to guide them to Rivendell, he was attacked by a hunting party of orcs and wargs. A ranger jumped into the fray and saved his life, cutting down the warg that had already his teeth around the elf - something Galwenion never forgets and that binds him deeply to Eriathorn. Still, even together they might not have survived that, but fortunately the Rohirrim were quite close and Theolin immediately ordered a charge, which rather solved the problem.

The Rohirrim went to stay in Rivendell and rest, but Theolin, their Captain, joined forces with the two others to find out where the orcs had come from. Another warrior by trade, he specializes in mounted fighting and is rarely separated from Nightfirn, his enormous warhorse (spiteful tongues claim that while one half might be Mearas, the other half is certainly Gondorian plow-horse). While neither the fastest nor the most graceful horse in Rohan, the stallion is battle-trained, steady and extremly strong and Theolin would not exchange him for the king of the Mearas himself. The horse’s name comes from his coat - an everchanging grey with black marks that looks like firn at night over dark stone.
His rider is kin to the king and has from birth been trained in warfare - he is the professional fighter of the group, has seen battle both big and small and will fight with an indomitable spirit and fury that is seldom seen - only standing down once the enemy is vanquished, no matter how bad his own condition. When not fighting, however, he is extremely good-natured, a sportsman and jester and never too proud to see to the practical side of things.
When time and space allow it, he can deliver a devastating charge attack, and knows how to handle nearly all kinds of weapons to some degree, but since a spear is not always the most practical weapon, he is also the only one in the group who is trained in unarmed combat. Books and book-learning are not his forte - he greatly prefers the outdoors and movement to sitting quietly and reading.

Melea of Tharbad is the last in the group, the only woman and non-fighter, and at first was included only because Elrond himself ordered it. She often feels a bit off amongst all these nobles - there never was any question that Eriathorn is more than a simply woodsman, Galwenion might try to hide it generally, but if need be, he can become the most lordly of all of them, and even Theolin had led slip accidentally that king Fengel is actually an uncle of sorts and that his position as leader of the delegation to Rivendell is one of high status. Melea in turn is only the daughter of a fisher from a small settlement at the edge of the abandoned city of Tharbad. Her mother had been ill most of her life and since she was a young girl, Melea kept her company and cared for her while her father worked. During that time, she read every book she could find and started to work as a scribe to supplement their income - something that became even more important when her father died. There are quite a number of books in the ruins of Tharbad, and Melea has probably read the majority of it - quite often while making beautiful copies to be sold to loremasters as far away as Gondor and Esgaroth. While she faithfully transcribed and translated every sentence, she began to understand how the forces of nature could be made to obey a strong-willed and gifted individual - which she was. Confronted with a dying mother and an ever-precarious existence, she began to explore that path, never wanting more than to ease her mother’s burden a bit. Unfortunately, even the best intentions did not prevent some mistakes - she could only learn by experimenting, after all - and the books that she had did not really teach the kind of magic that she needed. The closest she came to healing her mother was to make her appear more healthy, but the more she tried to force the matter, the more she actually twisted her mother’s life force.
By some good fortune (and a tip from his mother in law), Elrond (who had actually at one point aquired a book from her) came upon her before she could complete the path she had started on. He held her as she had to end the spell and let her mother die - even the halfelf could do nothing more but ease her pain at this point. He then took the young woman away to Rivendell - both to keep an eye on her in case the magic had already twisted her mind, and to keep her safe from those who would exploit her powers. He also quite hoped that Gandalf might have an idea what to do with her, but the wizard is of course at the moment otherwise occupied. Making Eriathorn take her along solved a few problems for Elrond - she would not get bored or feel a burden, someone else could keep an eye on her, she had some skills the group had been missing so far, and friends with good judgement would probably be the best help she could get to stay on the side of the Light. Elrond is the only one who knows the full extend of her powers so far, although Galwenion has recently begun to suspect them and has made her promise to confess to Eriathorn what she can do.
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#2


Blackmail the leader at the place.

[i]I rolled for a quest - not exactly a very heroic one. Let's see what the place is.


Newly-restored landmark

Deviant rogue

Okay, so a deviant rogue somehow took posession of a newly restored landmark and we should get him to change his mind about something by means of confronting him with the realities of life - I refuse that my heroes actually blackmail somebody. So let's say a band of rogues, masquerading as refugees from Lake-Town, has taken position in one of the old watchtowers near the greenway. Elrond does not wish to treat them unfairly, but since they arrived, several nasty things have happend to travellers passing there. So our heroes are send to impress upon these people that they either play nice, actually help travellers and generally behave, or the might of Rivendell will evict them.

Under Eriathorn's skillful guidance, the heroes set off. It is already late in the year and the mountains have become difficult to pass, but down here in the Angle, between the valleys of the Hoarwell and the Loudwater, the weather is still pleasant and the sun shines warm still. Expecting only a short journey, our heroes have not burdened their horses with much - their normal armour and weapons, certainly, what they need for a few nights on the road, some tools that always come in handy, like rope and a bucket, but neither much bulky clothing nor many rations. If this needs more time than expected, Eriathorn can always hunt up some game for them.

To capture the difficulties of the journey, I will use a Mythic roll.

PC positive

Celebrate

New ideas

So the first thing is actually positive for the heroes - they meet a group of travellers on the road who think it is a great idea that the tower is once more manned.

Galwenion soon spots the waggons making their way up the East Road. “They must have come over the High Pass”, he speculates. “Probably part of the dwarves’ attempt to rekindle trade with Eregion, now that the orcs have been dealt such a blow, although I can see only men.”
They soon are close enough that Theolin calls out to them. They exchange a few pleasantries, as travellers on the same road are bound to do, but Eriathorn’s attempt to warn them of the new danger on the road is met with cheerful indifference. “At least with bandits, there won’t be orcs and trolls and similar nasties around”, the leader of the merchants declares with a shrug. “We have hidden the most valuable things and set aside a sum for roadside extortions. We won’t be bothered much.”
Feeling that this is their best chance to catch the bandits in the act, our heroes decide to travel with the caravan. Theolin, with the help of Melea, is delegated to convince the travellers of this plan.

The test is routine - TN 10.
Melea supports him (mostly by looking nice and sweet and harmless) - her TN is 10-5=5, her Persuade +5. [\i]

14 = 3[d6]+6[d6]+5

That's 9 above TN = superior success, giving Theolin an addittional +2.
Theolin's TN is 10, his Persuade is +5, too.

13 = 1[d6]+5[d6]+7

[i]That's a complete success!


Theolin easily convinces the travellers that they are harmless enough, but can provide valuable help if needed. His good natured openness and Melea's sweet smile even manage to mask that Galwenion has, as usual, his hood over his head and that Eriathorn looks somewhat doubtful - he does not want to draw any of his enemies to the group, but he agrees that simply masquerading as travellers and waiting what will happen will be the easiest (if risky) way to proof that the rogue is involved.

Extravagance

Oppose

Inside

They travel on for some time, Theolin chatting, Melea more quietly talking with an extraorinarily garbed merchants who is not quite convinced that it is a good idea that the heroes come along. The other two meanwhile keep their eyes open and talk little.

Do they spot anything?

(50/50) Yes, but...

Introduce a new NPC

Waste

Travel

Some way ahead, there is a strange lump on the road, that slowly resolves itself into the shape of a traveller, slumped down on the side of the road, but still faintly moving. As soon as he realizes, Galwenion exclaims sharply and gallops towards the person, Theolin hard on his heels. Eriathorn, more cautious, takes a moment to warn Melea, than drops his reins as well.

Is it a trap?

(50/50) Yes

Well, who guessed. Let's see who spots the ambush beforehand. Eriathorn has Observe +6, Galwenion +5, Theolin +3 and Melea +4, TN is 10.

13 = 5[d6]+2[d6]+6

14 = 5[d6]+4[d6]+5

12 = 5[d6]+4[d6]+3

10 = 4[d6]+2[d6]+4

Apart from Melea, who is still too far back, it seems, all spot the various men in the bushes before they can attack - they will not be surprised. Melea, won't be surprised, either, but she also will not be able to participate in the fight for another 2 rounds.

The opposition has +2 swiftness, there are 1d6+2 bandits.


8 = 6[d6]+2

13 = 6[d6]+5[d6]+2

The group has +3 | +4 | +2 | +7 (Melea gets +3 for her Wary edge)

10 = 4[d6]+3[d6]+3

15 = 6[d6]+5[d6]+4

10 = 6[d6]+2[d6]+2

10 = 2[d6]+1[d6]+7

Galwenion goes first, then the bandits, all others after that. Galwenion, who has quickdraw, immediately wipes out his bow and shoots - at -4, since on horseback. That still leaves him with +8. The bandits set the TN at +11, with an additional +3 for cover =14.

10 = 1[d6]+1[d6]+8

Galwenion brings up his bow and lets fly an arrow, but he misses as his arrow diappears in the hedge. His horse, a human one he borrowed to be more inconspicous, startles at the sudden swish of the bow and crow-hops to the side.

His horse spooks, since he fumbled. He probably wants to get down anyway, so it will be an Acrobatics Test (+4, TN 10) to see how well he lands.

11 = 5[d6]+2[d6]+4

He manages, and now has to cope with incoming. The first 2 will try to shoot him (at +4, TN 14).

9 = 4[d6]+1[d6]+4

9 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+4

Two arrows impact on the hard surface of the road while the elf swings a leg over the pommel and glides down the side of horse. 

Two others will shoot at each of the other riders (TN 13 and 12 respectively), while the last two have some cunning plan that makes it necessary to sneak towards the caravan.

10 = 2[d6]+4[d6]+4

10 = 5[d6]+1[d6]+4

8 = 3[d6]+1[d6]+4

14 = 4[d6]+6[d6]+4

One shot potentially hits Theolin.

9 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+2

5 points are absorbed by his chain mail shirt, but 4 get through. That is still well within his current wound level (he has a very ruddy health 13).
An arrow Theolin can’t dodge impacts heavily in the man’s shoulder, but fortunately the mail shirt the warrior always wears absorbs much of the damage. The arrow gets stuck in the mail, just scratching the skin. As a superb rider on a horse used to combat, Theolin easily stays in the saddle, but he is decidedly unhappy.

Melea comes next - knowing that going ahead will not be a good idea, she tries to assemble the caravan into some kind of defensive position. Do the merchants want to fight?

(50/50) No

Does any one of them have any idea what consists a good defensive waggon ring or similar (Melea has only a vague idea - warfare isn’t her forte)?

(Likely) Yes

That will occupy them for the next couple of rounds - I will assume that they are familiar enough with their Waggons and draft animals to accomplish it without explicit tests.
Next Eriathorn will spring into action. He has four actions, the first two of which he will spend to get down from his horse and draw his weapons -he is a decent rider, but fighting with two swords in a very athletic manner is best done on the ground. He also uses the time to take a quick look around to identify the leader (Observe +6, TN 15 - the bandits all look the same, only his manners would give him away).


11 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+6

With no obvious leader in sight, the ranger simply closes ranks with Galwenion and attack the nearest opponent.

Is that the leader?

(Unlikely) No, and...

The leader is apparently not even involved in the fight at the moment. I have several rival ideas why this would be the case, so let’s take a prompt.

Abandon / Enemies

Hmm, seems he has decided to cut and run in the face of professional opposition - quite probably to warm his master.

14 = 1[d6]+5[d6]+8

14 = 5[d6]+5[d6]+4

11 = 1[d6]+3[d6]+7

12 = 3[d6]+2[d6]+7

Eriathorn whirls around, both blades flashing, striking at the two archers who attacked Galwenion - they feebly try to parry this with the swords they are drawn, but they are no match for the ranger. Both get wounded as steel cuts through their leather coats.
They don’t get to roll - both need their second action to change weapons. They have health 8, so they drop out of their current health level, even with armour 2.

Theolin meanwhile gallops on, intending to run his attacker through with his spear.

(Spear +8, charge +1, TN 11)

14 = 3[d6]+2[d6]+9

22 = 6[d6]+5[d6]+2[d6]+9

Theolin buries his spear deeply in the shoulder of his attacker, throwing him back onto his behind. With a proper war lance, that archer would breath his last, the rider thinks with quiet satisfaction, wheeling his horse around to retrieve his weapon.

There is no question that the archer is knocked back - he drops three levels to wounded, even with the feeble all-purpose spear the Rider carries.

Can Theolin retrieve his spear?


(50/50) Yes +Event: Truce / A representative

With a quick twist and turn, Theolin pulls back his spear, frightening the prone man nearly to death as the iron-shod hooves of Nightfirn, Theolin’s big warhorse dance over his head. Finally noticing that their leader obviously has abandoned them, the remaining bandits quickly exchange glances, then on of them pulls out a handkerchief (with much good will it can be described as white) and calls out for a ceasefire. Eriathorn will certainly heed it, and Galwenion wanted not to fight at all, but to get quickly to the man on the road anyhow; Theolin, however, is in the grip of his battle fury and wheels his charger around again, ready to attack anew. The other two, by now used to this phenomenon, close ranks around him and try to talk him out of it, pointing out that the bandits are in the process of throwing down their weapons. Eriathorn quite wishes that Melea was here, as she usually has the best chances of bringing Theolin out of it, but she is still some way back with the caravan, and when a horseman is preparing to charge, you do not have much time.

Eriathorn has +6, Galwenion will help with +5, the TN is 15 (we decided on that number as realistic for two friends trying to influence him, rather to make it an opposed roll).

12 = 1[d6]+6[d6]+5

The helper rolls against TN-5, so he succeeds and gives Eriathorn +1 for his subsequent role.

The steady presence and quiet words of the elf help - the silverquick archer would never be so calm if there was any active enemy around.

15 = 3[d6]+5[d6]+7

Still, Eriathorn only barely manages to talk Theolin down - the horseman distrusts the sudden surrender. While he no longer attacks, he is still ready to do so at any moment’s notice, and he glowers fiercely at the bandits.
Meanwhile Galwenion bends over the unconscious man who was the bait, checking his condition carefully. Eriathorn calls for Melea - while all members of his party have at least basic first aid knowledge (you can’t be around Galwenion without learning at least the basics), only she has some proper training and will be far better at helping the man with the spear wound.
She approaches somewhat cautiously - Theolin’s glower is not really encouraging - but soon is doing her best for the downed man. The two with lesser sword cuts are left to their own comerades’ mercy, while the one speaking for the bandits talks to Eriathorn.

13 = 4[d6]+2[d6]+7

Care / Possessions

11 = 4[d6]+1[d6]+6

Melea is not skilled enough to improve her patient’s health immediately, but she manages to still the blood flow and packs the wound with herbs to ward off infection. She then turns to Theolin, repeating the process with his much lighter scratch.
Galwenion looks up, somewhat puzzled - he has found out a few things that seem rather particular: The man on the road is completely and very dangerously exhausted,but is clutching something wrapped in leather to his chest in a death grip.

Is he still alive?

(50/50) Yes

This requires more than just bandages - Galwenion closes his eyes to center himself, then motions Melea over. “Take care of his outward injuries”, he asks softly. “I will see what I can do to call back his spirits, which have already begun to depart.” The young woman nods and calls for the merchants in the caravan to set water to the boil and bring a board or something to transport the man.
Do the merchants want to help?

(50/50) Yes

The friendship of the road still holds and quickly the things Melea asked for are prepared. Relocating the man to a warm, comfortable waggon, using potions and bandages she has brought, she starts to treat the numerous small injuries the man has - consistent with running long and hard and stumbling often, breaking to hedges and wing exposed to the elements for too long.

Her TN is 25 (her speciality is illness, so not applicable), but the resources spend will give her a +5 bonus. Still, she will need all of her skill, and maybe even a bit of the power she holds within her.

17 = 1[d6]+5[d6]+11

(I will spend three courage to make the target number, representing the stubbornness in fighting back against death when the man’s breathing ceases, the gentle care she uses to bath his injuries and last, the little bit of grace she herself posesses).

25 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+18

Even with all these advantages, Galwenion has to expand much of his own grace (2 Courage for +6) to call the man back from the brink of death, and even then, he only manages to bring him back enough to stabilise him completely - no longer in danger of dying, but still incapacitated and only on the start of a long road of recovery. The elf slumps down wearily and takes the cup a concerned merchant hands him. “He will live”, he tells the man hoarsely, then closes his eyes and drinks.

Meanwhile outside:

Move towards goal

Oppress

Plans

Open / Tactics

Was using the exhausted man as bait the plan all along?

(50/50) No, and...

It appears that the bandits did not actually arrange the trap - rather, they found the man on the road themselves, but since the caravan came as they still were discussing what to do, they decided to use the opportunity.

Were they really fugitives?


No, but...

It also turns out that the story of them being fugitives from Lake Town was somewhat false - at least, their status of fugitives has nothing to do with the dragon or the fights, and more with the fact that Bard has banned them for looting, filching and similar crimes.

Is their leader one of them (or something different)?

(Likely) Yes, and... +Event: Dominate / Illusions

They only wanted to continue their way of life here, causing only minor harm, but it appears that since a few weeks, their leader has somehow changed and now seems to have further plans.
(Interesting! - I am not sure yet whether something masks as this leader or controls him, but the event certainly was a nice clue - even though I interpreted it as something happening somewhere else).
While the bandits do not mind the occasional crime, they never wanted it to become this bad, and being used for somebody else’s plan is very much not something they want. After all, they wanted to live free - otherwise they would have accepted Bard’s offer that they serve their time as guardsmen instead. So the are surprisingly willing to help investigate and end this manipulation of their leader - if they can get a promise to be allowed to live. Theolin, who is as good natured normally as he is fierce in battle, will agree to this, but the more cautious and stern Eriathorn stipulates that any man who has killed another will have only stand trial. The bandits have little to fear then if the trial is fair, but the ranger will have to work to convince them that they will not be summarily judged.

(Persuade +6 against TN 15, Thelion will help with +5) Their status and similar bonuses are used already to lower the target number - if they did not appear personally trustworthy and influential, they would not even be talking.

Theolin speaks first, assuring them in his still faintly accented Westron that if it is a question of opponents slain in battle, he will speak for them, and that to his knowledge, elves do not have any punishments then humans - and if all else fails, he will swear them in as soldiers of Rohan. Provided, of course, the accused in question are not cold-blooded murderers.

16 = 6[d6]+5[d6]+5

He not only succeeds, he is so convincing that he gives Eriathorn +2. It seems that some of the younger bandits, having now experienced a life on the road, are rather reconsidering their decision and could be persuaded to join up.

16 = 5[d6]+3[d6]+8

Eriathorn can not add much to the Rohirrim’s eloquence, but he guarantees with his word the fairness of the trial and that they will be judged comparable to the justice of men. The bandits, now convinced that this is the best way forward, give their word to behave and start to make camp - after all, the Waggons are already drawn up into a waggon fort, the injured need rest and here are many questions to be answered.[/i][/i]
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#3
(Next,I think it is time to flesh out the leader of the bandits)

Idealistic and scheming orator who is slightly weaker than you and whose motivation is to publicize industry and is focused on your contacts.

Hmmm, seems originally the leader (I miss a name generator here) was a kind of slightly muddled Robin Hood who for some reason has fixated on the apparent wealth of the elves). I will call him Frell the Stevedoer - he rebelled against lugging around riches for the master for barely enough to feed himself, so started on his life of protest by illegal means - in other circumstances he would probably have become a union leader).

But who is the man on the road?


Wicked and insane tradesman who is as strong as you and whose motivation is to patronize dreams and is focused on your rewards.

Didn’t expect that - seems the victim is not so much a victim after all. Insane clearly fits a person running until they drop, if they are not running for their lives. Patronise dreams sounds like drugs to me, and he certainly is greedy. But why was he running? What is he clutching in his hands?

Open / Inside

Pursue / Investment

Has he voluntarily taken his own drugs?

(50/50) No

Was he forced to do so?

(50/50) No

Has he been poisoned?

(50/50) No, but...

It seems he accidentally swallowed something that laced his mind open to nightmares and terror. Fleeing, he clutches to his chest all his money - irrationally seeing it as the most important thing to preserve. Where has he been last?

Dispute / Joy

Somebody seems to have disagreed with him about the drugs. Were they unawares of the dangers sofar?

(50/50) Yes

Unseemly and mysterious highwayman who is as strong as you and whose motivation is to overthrow distress and is focused on your enemy.

Okay, that is interesting. It seems some other outlaw decided to help the poor people who got hooked on the drugs and confronted the dealer. He probably did not get far by talking and did not want to outright kill the dealer, so he wanted to give him a bit of his own medicine, but accidentally overdosed a bit - probably because the man was not in his right mind to start with. This is certainly a story arc to explore later.

For now, all Melea and Galwenion can establish is that the man carries quite a large sum of money in a sack clutched to his chest (Galwenion huffs at that - carrying no water, but lugging around a heavy sack of gold pieces is a good recipe for disaster). Leaving his care to Melea, he goes outside to ask their Ranger whether he can track where the man came from.

With her intuition and occasional visions, is Melea careful enough to ask someone to stand guard over the dealer?

(50/50) Yes, but...

Oppress / Illusions

The young waggon driver she asks to sit with the man while she prepares some more potions takes her request not very seriously. He does not notice when the dealer briefly wakes up and grabs a scalpel.

Meanwhile outside:

Galwenion has made his request, and Eriathorn agrees - they will have to remain camped here for the night, but there is still enough time to at least check from which direction the man came. Theolin, who is not really one for tracking, agrees to stay here and keep an eye on things, Melea will watch their patient, but Galwenion, who welcomes the chance to walk amongst trees for a while, will accompany Eriathorn - he is weary, though, and will mostly keep in the background. Eriathorn searches for the tracks, but things are somewhat difficult since they are already nearly a day old and were not very strong to begin with (TN 15).

14 = 1[d6]+3[d6]+10

(I gave him +2 for his familiarity with the terrain)

Eriathorn manages to follow the tracks for a short while, but coming to more stony terrain, the tracks disappear and all his skills will not make them appear again.

(Admittedly, I am not all that unhappy about that result - while it was logical to pursue the tracks now, it would have left me with the decision which story arc to explore next. This way, they will first tackle the bandits leader. It is of course still open what the dealer does in the meanwhile).

Still, as they are already out there - both probably enjoy walking quietly through the wild for a while anyway - they will check whether the area is safe.

Is it safe?

(50/50) Yes, and...

Quite by chance they meet a hunting party returning to Rivendell.

Do the hunters have any interesting news?

(50/50) Yes, but...

Block / Advice

At that time

They have been attacked by bandits themselves - they are not really convinced that what the ones now with the caravan have told Eriathorn is true and are all for taking them back to Rivendell quickly. This time Galwenion is forced to actually speak as the noble that he is to convince them to calm down and not dishonour the agreement from the start.

He has +5 Persuade and gets an additional +2 for the deference he can command as a trusted emissary of Elrond (his order ability). Eriathorn will try to help with calm words and tactical considerations (Persuade +6). The elves are currently angry and upset, but not generally unreasonable, so I would put TN at 10.

16 = 6[d6]+4[d6]+6

17 = 2[d6]+5[d6]+10

Together, the friends argue so successfully that they not only manage to stop the hunters from taking the bandits along summarily, but also make them agree to take a message to Elrond instead. Eriathorn also asks about the location of the attack on the hunters, but apart from some more information, there is not much to be gained here at the moment. After two hours, Eriathorn and Galwenion come back to the camp.

That will hopefully keep the situation stable for a time, and Elrond will have a chance to research what little they know about the possession/blackmail/replacement of Frell. Has something happened at the caravan in the meanwhile?

(50/50) Yes

NPC positive

Return

Art

Activity / Enemies

It seems that the bandits now have decided to buy the goodwill of the merchants - they have offered to give back some art they liberated from a merchant a few days ago. Some of the merchants as well as a few bandits will go to retrieve the pieces.

Will Theolin go along?

(50/50) Yes, and...

The big Rohirrim even convinces Melea to come along, since she is the one who actually knows about art (and because he is convinced that she needs some fun after sitting with an unconscious man all the time). The young woman might not be very happy about it, but Theolin is hard to put off once he is convinced of something, and some fresh air does sound rather agreeable, so she will agree.

Do they retrieve the goods sucessfully?

(50/50) Yes, but...

While all our heroes are away, something happens at the caravan.

PC positive

Heal

A project

Hmm, it might not turn out all that positive in the end, but it appears that the drug dealer feels quite a lot better now (something the PCs wanted, so it is on the surface positive for them). I imagine the first thing he will ask for is something to drink and food, but what he really wants is his money and to get away. Can he manage to send out the guard to be alone in the waggon?

(50/50) No

Can he overpower the guard and take him hostage? Remember, the guard is lazy and not at all convinced that he should be here for security reasons, and the dealer already has nicked a scalpel.

(50/50) Yes, and...

Praise / Information

Unprepared, the guard quickly surrenders to the scalpel at his throat. Questioned, he admits where the dealer's money is - in the solid chest where the owner of the waggon keeps all his valuables. Is the dealer greedy enough to take what is not his?

(50/50) Yes, but...

As greedy as the man is, he is also still severly wounded and simply not able to carry all that gold.

Will he try anyway?

(50/50) No

Will the guard take a chance and try to get away while the dealer appears distracted?

(Unlikely) No

The dealer, who still has not told his name to anybody, puts as much gold as he can carry in the pockets of the merchant's second-best coat, then forces the guard out of the front of the wagon. The animals are already released from their traces, but he hopes that maybe he can find a horse for riding.

(50/50) No

Does somebody notice?

(50/50) No, and...

Nobody ever will - there is a very convenient hedge and some trees right next to tthe waggon - ideal for shelter, but also very handy when you want to get away unobtrusively. But what happens to the guard?

Cruelty / Art

I'm very much afraid the poor guard will have his throat slit cruelly, with the unwavering professionalism of an assassin, and is left slumping near the waggon while the dealer disappears into the woods.

Only a short while later, Theolin's party comes back with much good cheer, the stolen paintings safely in oilskins. Melea goes back to her patient, leaving the men to their celebrations and general expressions of camaraderie, only to find her patient and his guard gone. Unexpected, but not necessarily cause for alarm - perhaps he woke up and wanted to heed the call of nature outside? Naturally the guard would have to help him then. So she goes back out to ask around and, after nobody has seen them, search.

Are the others coming back by now?

(Likely) No

The people really good at finding stuff are still in the woods, so they have to do it the old-fashioned way. Take torches, walk around, call out ...
Does Melea find the body?


Yes +Event: Abandon / Tension

Despite all, she has not expected quite such a cruel outcome, so when she stumbles over the body of the guard, a shocked and frightened exclamation escapes her. Theolin hears and comes as quickly as he can, sword in hand and a very hard look on his face.

Do the others hear it as well?

(50/50) Yes, and...

Already quite close - they had hurried back from the moment they saw the torches moving around - Eriathorn and Galwenion start to run and burst seconds later through the hedge, tense and battle ready. Melea feels quite responsible - she has left the guard alone, after all, after insisting he be there in the first place. She is also not as used to death and gore as the other three, so she is understandably rather upset and needs to pull herself together first, before she can answer any questions. Galwenion, who is perhaps her best friend, guides her away from the spot and talks softly to her, giving her some perspective on what has happened - the other two will keep the merchants calm and secure the scene.

12 = 1[d6]+6[d6]+5

With willpower +4, one automatic success of Galwenion (Persuade +5 plus some bonuses) and a TN of 10, she manages to get herself back under control in reasonable time.

After a sign from Galwenion, Eriathorn comes over, but Melea can't tell him much more than what he has already learnt from the merchants. The ranger then gruffly calls for Theolin to secure the area and to do a head count, but before he leaves, for a moment he puts a comforting hand on Melea's shoulder. Galwenion tarries a moment longer, asking whether she really is alright again, but the scholar smiles (although still a bit wobbly) and promises to stick close to Theolin. Then the elf follows to where his friend already is crouched low, following barely visible footsteps into the dark (Tracking +8, TN 15 because of the dark).

18 = 6[d6]+4[d6]+8

Even now, Eriathorn can track the fleeing man quite well, and being in far better condition will likely catch up to him sooner or later, but what will he find at the end of the trail?

Abuse / The mundane

Is the man dead?

(50/50) No

Once more totally exhausted?

(Likely) Yes, but...

Transform / Illusions

The murder has pushed his mind finally completely over the brink - when he could not longer go on (as everybody expected), the man's mind was unwilling to accept this, so he now believes himself to be in a coach that will take him away. Galwenion, after taking a look at him, shakes his head; he can heal bodies, but he is no mind healer, and already he has spend much of his grace. The only thing he can recommend is taking the man back to Rivendell - although he is not sure whether to heal the man only to hand him over to the justice of men is the right thing to do. Eriathorn points out that it will be at least closure for the guard's relatives, and that unless Galwenion can be absolutely sure that the man is not just pretending, they will need somebody with more knowledge anyway. The other option would be to hand the man over to the enraged merchants immediately - something that might well lead to a lynching. Still, they need all their authority and arguments to calm down the merchants when they come back with the man.

They are not too far away from Rivendell - it makes sense to send Galwenion and Theolin, the two best riders, back with the madman immediately. Melea has agreed to prepare the guard for burial, so with not much else to do, Eriathorn finds a shovel and starts to dig a decent grave.
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#4
It is early afternoon the next day before the caravan can set off again. The group has decided to split from it - after all, they can travel faster that way and they know where the lair of Frell is. The reformed bandits will stay with the caravan, making sure that it gets safely out of the area - one even asks and gets the job of the murdered waggon driver. The heroes set out towards the ruin of the old watchtower, keeping away from the road that might be watched.

Does something happen on the way?

(50/50) No, and...

Arrive / Competition

They make very good time (they are all mounted on good horses and two of them know the area very well) and come close to the ruin at the same time as the cowardly former leader of the converted bandits.

Do they see him approach the ruin?

(50/50) Yes +Event: Desert / Leadership

From a nearby vantage point, they can see a person approaching the tower, but when he talks to somebody there, he seems dissatisfied by the answer.

Frell or his impersonator are no longer here - so now there will be a contest for the leadership - Will there be a fight?

(50/50) Yes

Somewhat to the confusion of the heroes, the two men come to blows - while some others appear to stand around and watch the spectacle quite tensely. Despite the danger, Eriathorn decides to try and get closer, hoping to hear what is being said. Galwenion points out that in the brush and bramble that covers the small hill, he still can blend in better, but Eriathorn counters that if something happens, an archer will be of better use and that sending an elf into a situation where the leader is obsessed with elves is not wise. Somewhat unexpectedly, Melea agrees with Eriathorn, but suggests that perhaps Galwenion could go half the distance and find a good position there - close enough to see and be able to react quickly. Theolin will stay with Melea and charge in as necessary to act as rescue if all else fails.

Both sneak the first bit without any problems, but the final approach towards the gates is more difficult. Eriathorn is alone now and carefully works his way up through the bushes that cover the steep hill on which the tower is set. Naturally, the approach most unlikely to be spotted even if somebody is keeping watch on the tower is the one with the most treacherous footing and the deepest brambles.

In the wilderness, Eriathorn sneaks at +7, the target number all in all is 15, I think.

14 = 1[d6]+6[d6]+7

That nearly went badly, but at the least moment the ranger throws himself flat on the ground, stabilizing a couple of stones whot threatend to roll down the hillside.

(I spend a point of Courage for +3 - I reset the courage for Melea and Galwanion again, by the way, when the act ended.)

Finally pressing himself to the side of the tower, he then listens closely to what is being said (or rather angrily shouted). Clearly, he hears about the absence of Frell and that the two men are fighting to establish who will have command while their leader is gone, but does he hear anything of interest besides this?

(50/50) No, and...

Adjourn / Emotions

Clearly the men fighting do not much care anyway - either he comes back, in which case the winner will either challange him or be second in command, or he doesn't.

So does the challenger win the fight?

(50/50) No

Negligence / Possessions

It seems that after loosing to the other bandit, the subchief does no longer wish to come back into the tower - he turns around and walks off, promising dire retribution.

Who is he, and who is the winner? (By the way, I tend to ignore the strength levels the UNE gives - usually I go with what fits the story best in my opinion.

Fickle and friendly scientist who is as strong as you and whose motivation is to communicate intelligence and is focused on your previous scene.

Wicked and scheming soldier who is as strong as you and whose motivation is to seek prosperity and is focused on your friends.

It seems the looser is actually the nicer guy - he wanted to get his information to his leader, while the other one sounds a lot nastier - fixated on elves like Frell, but without the Robin-Hood-ideology. Did he kill Frell?

(50/50) No, and...

Waste / Intrigues

Actually Frell's diappearance has nothing to do with him, despite what he might have planned, and he is less than thrilled about this - after all, the situation is becoming instable.

There is not much more Eriathorn can do here, but he is rather curious about where the the looser, who appears to be called Gellir, will go. But first he has to get down from this hill again ...

10 = 2[d6]+1[d6]+7

That goes nearly as badly as can be - stones move and he is forced to grab at the brambles. Do the guards notice?

(Likely) No, but...

Eriathorn's luck holds - the guards are too focused on the grumbling Gellir to realise that not all sounds are made by him. Still, he is scratched up pretty badly and has to endure some frinedly ribbing when he gets back. He only can stop it when he points out that Gellir gets away, but even then the elf cannot stop to just slightly grin in the most infuriating manner while he melts away to follow the subchief. Melea just sighs, points out that Eriathorn managed to learn quite a bit without anybody the wiser and starts to disinfect the more prominent cuts.

Galwenion smoothly glides through the woods, his sharp senses telling him where his prey is. Ocassionally he breaks of a twig to leave a trail the others can follow with the horses.

He sneaks at +8 in the woods, but can keep a much greater distance than a normal human can, so TN is 10.

17 = 3[d6]+6[d6]+8

Even a deer is startled as the elf suddenly appears before it.

It is time, I think, to establish a bit more about what is atually happening. Has Frell been only an impostor in the last couple of weeks?

(50/50) Yes

Is the real Frell still alive?

(Likely) No

Does the fake Frell keep up his changed appearance by magic?

(50/50) Yes

With this strength and intent, it is almost certainly black sorcery - Melea actually knows the spells that could achieve something like this. The question is, is the magic bound to an item?

(50/50) No

Is the fake Frell himself the caster?

(50/50) Yes, and...

Increase / Danger

It seems some rather powerful sorcerer has taken over the place of poor Frell - for what reasons remains to be determined.

Negligence / Illness

Does he perhaps blame the world or perhaps more particularly the elves for not taking enough care of him when he was or fell sick? What kind of sickness does he suffer from?

Transform / Extravagance

It sounds as if he has some kind of bipolar disorder, including violent mood swings and excesses - I think he blames the world for not supporting him in his excesses when he ran out of money or crossed the legal lines and then blames them for his destructive bouts afterwards. Right now he seems to be in a manic phase, though, since he needs money and nice things - not that he cares much where it comes from. How did he meet Frell?

Vengeance / Tactics

Apparently, he had actually drawn the attention of Frell with his lifestyle - I would think in a negative sense. Frell probably wanted to liberate some riches and got caught up in something deadly. The Frell that returned afterwards was already the fake.

Does Gellir know anything about where the fake Frell would go to, thought?


(Somewhat Unlikely) No, but...

I actually wanted to make that very unlikely - not sure whether it is a bug or I misclicked. In any case, Gellir has no idea where the fake Frell is, but he has another destination anyway.

Proceedings / A project

He is headed straight back to the caravan to see what is happening there. Given that he is actually a nice guy, he probably wants to see what happened to his men and possibly help them.

Quite soon, Galwenion notices that the man heads straight back to where he has come from - although the elf is has no clue why the man would do so, unless he wants to perhaps gather further information about something. Since walking all the way back to where the caravan has been, just to find out what the man actually wants, is pretty ineffective, Galwenion decides to ambush the man with his bow, letting loose a warning shot and then threatening the man into surrender.

His intimidate is +4, but a bow pointed at your back is worth at least +5. Gellir's willpower is not the best (0), but I will grant him +2 for motivation.

20 = 6[d6]+5[d6]+9

9 = 2[d6]+5[d6]+2

There was never a question of Gellir trying anything - he probably already was writing off his life when Galwenion finally steps out of the bush and bids him sit and wait for the others.

Is Gellir similarily minded to the rest of his group?

(Very Likely) Yes, and...

He actually seems quite glad when the elf tells him of what has happened, and begs to be included in the deal. He also willingly answers all the questions the others put to him, but apart from establishing the power structure within the bandits - there seem to be two rather different groups that Frell managed to keep under control somehow - he has not much more to report that they do not know from other sources.

Is there any interesting information hidden in some aside?

(50/50) No, but...

Punish / Business

Because

Gellir is more than willing to help the characters further - it seems that he was nearly ready to challenge the changed Frell head-on for becoming a traitor to their cause and no longer taking any care in planning their missions. When he fled from the fight at the caravan, he wanted to get help, but could not find any backup - the information he wanted to bring to his leader was not at all kindly meant but rather an accusation. It seems, after all that the only way forward is to either wait or break into Frell’s room to see whether there is any clue there. It is Melea who suddenly points out that they still have one clue - the attack on the Elven hunters.

Does Gellir know anything about that?

(50/50) No

Which is actually strange. One would expect that he at least knows that some group is operating in that area. They decide to investigate there, but first they go back to the caravan to deliver Gellir there - much to the joy of all assembled ex-bandits. The merchants simply shake their heads and carry on by now.
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#5
So after taking a meal with the merchants, the heroes set off again to where the elves have been attacked.

How is the landscape there?

Yieldingly / Disagreeable

For me that conjures the image of a rocky mountainside with lots of small brooks, lots of loose rubble and sparse fir trees, digging deep into the stone to hold fast against the unpleasant wind whipping over the harsh landscape. Why was the hunting party there?

Harm / Good

They wanted to investigate why some of the brooks are no longer carrying clear fresh water - instead, the water was now harming the animals in the hunting grounds further down. Did the elves mention that fact?

(50/50) No

It seems they were too angry about the bandits - Eriathorn probably thought they went there just to check that everything was in order, like he would have done.
Does Galwenion feel a change in the air? He is not the most attuned of elves, but this is his homeland. I am never quite sure what to roll for these tests, so I am going with different things for each character and situation. Galwenion would probably tap into his healing powers, feeling the sickness, so I’ll go with healing (+7) against TN 15.


13 = 5[d6]+1[d6]+7

There is something just outside his grasp that bothers him, but he cannot say what it is. Eriathorn has weather-Sense, which in Middle-Earth probably means that he can also pick up on strange things in the air (it makes the skill more useful, too), at +6.

12 = 2[d6]+4[d6]+6

While he can’t really feel anything wrong, he is not exactly sure that everything is fine either. Naturally cautious, he is on his guard anyway, even more so, when he notices that Galwenion looks around several times, a faint frown on his face. Theolin is neither particularly sensitive nor well acquainted with the landscape, so he will take his clues from Eriathorn, clutch his spear and shield more firmly and move to Melea’s other side. The landscape, with all that loose rubble, gets harder and harder for Nightfirn to safely navigate, so when it becomes clear that this will not change any time soon, he advises to stop and leave the horses in a safe spot, rather than risk them breaking their legs. The others agree - that is the one area where Theolin is the undoubted expert, and he would never be parted from Nightfirn if he did not think that having the horses around would be more of a hindrance than help. Eriathorn scouts for a save spot to leave them, this time with Theolin helping - the horseman wants to make sure that the spot is not only safe, but comfortable and hat the horses have a way to get back should their riders not return.

Eriathorn is good enough and knows the land, so I will take an automatic success - he finds a nice enough spot for the horses that meets Theolin’s standards, but there is nothing special about it. Nightfirn is trained for these situations, Galwenion can communicate with the other mounts, so their bridles are taken off and they are left to their own devices.
Melea meanwhile has had time to notice something - while she is not attuned to the land, she is attuned to magic and can sense power. As she is not actively casting a spell, I will go with insight (+7) though, and give her +2 affinity bonus for her magical powers.


16 = 2[d6]+5[d6]+9

Intuitively, she feels that things are not as they should be - the forces of nature are disturbed, and it seems to become worse where they are heading. After a moment of indecision, she touches Eriathorn’s arm and quietly tells him: “Let us be careful - something here is not right, and I think it is coming from where we are headed. I cannot tell what it is, but ... there seems to be something foul in the air.” The ranger is set to press her with questions - while he has gotten used to Melea’s strange flashes of intuition, he is also rather suspicious of them - but Galwenion stops him before he can speak, confessing: “I can feel it as well, though I was not sure before.” Theolin just shrugs and grumbles: “Well, whatever this foul thing is, it certainly has chosen the right landscape to be foul in. In all my life I have never seen a terrain less suited to moving over it.” Galwenion, amused despite his feelings, points out that oceans are usually considered even more of an obstacle, but Theolin counters that it is easy to build a boat, but nobody has devised anything to easily navigate rubble yet, and no, dwarves simply tunnelling under it do not count.

The two enter into a friendly squabble while Eriathorn moves up ahead, now fully on guard, trying to find any clue about what happened here while keeping an eye out for an ambush. Melea is quietly sticking with the two others, wishing she could help more and once again troubled by the things she still has not confessed to Eriathorn.

Is there an ambush waiting for them?

(Unlikely) No

Is there anything else of interest before they reach the place of attack?

(50/50) No

What is there to find at the place of attack?

Usurp / Magic

Is something perverting the natural magic of the water?

(Likely) Yes

What is it?

Break / Love

In contrast

Is it a body of somebody the sorcerer loved, but has now killed?

(Likely) Yes, and...

Carelessness / Travel

So the victim had travelled somewhere without the sorcerer’s explicit permission, perhaps talked a bit carelessly on the way, and when he got home, the sorcerer killed him in a fit of rage for that. So has perhaps somebody seen this person before?

(50/50) No +Event: Release / Legal matters

It seems not, but the person was away to deal with some legal matters, so perhaps there are some clues to that?

(Likely) Yes +Event: Communicate / Weather

The first thing Eriathorn actually spots are some papers that are tumbling in the wind, getting caught on stones and firs, then being swept on.

How fast does he spot them (Observe +6, +1 for wilderness, TN 10)?

12 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+7

The ranger spots them quickly enough, but not before they are already past an excellent spot to catch them. With a quick shout to his friends to stay put, he dashes after them.

He will have to run to get them (+5, +1 for wilderness) over rather challenging terrain (TN 15).

16 = 5[d6]+5[d6]+6

With a quick sprint that sends lots of rubble down into the valley, Eriathorn dashes after the papers and catches them the moment they eat tangled in another fir. The others are quite startled by this sudden and unexplained activity, and Theolin and Galwenion wipe out their weapons, ready for an attack, but settle down again when they see the ranger returning more calmly with some wet, crumpled papers in his hand. Spreading them out over some of the larger stones, they try to read them - Melea has already taken out her notebook and her small magnifying lense she uses to read very cramped script.

What’s in the papers?

Pursue / Competition

It seems our jealous sorcerer has started some legal proceedings to either harm or take something away from someone he sees as his competitor.

Release / Goals

Does it concern some kind of inheritance?

(50/50) No +Event: Haggle / Investment

Okay, so he seems to have been in business with somebody, and now he wants the other person out at presumably unfavourable terms to the other investor. Who is this other investor?

Shrewd and friendly expert who is as strong as you and whose motivation is to administer ghosts and is focused on your community.

It must be some sort of magical goal they had in mind, since the other is, if not a magical, at least interested in ghosts. I think they both formed a partnership to explore a place where ghosts are - probably a tomb or another ruined tower?

Majestically / Ancient

That sounds like one of the old fortresses of the second age - majestic even in ruins. It is probably rather inaccessible, though. Is it in the Midgewater Marshes?

(Likely) Yes, but...

Miserably / Smelly

[i]It is in the most miserable and smelly part, where nobody ever goes and even Eriathorn’s knowledge of the region fails. The other investor was likely the financier of the expedition.


Melea makes a note of all the information in the papers, then carefully folds them between dried leaves to preserve them. Meanwhile Eriathorn, gauging where the papers must have come from, sets out again to investigate.

I will have one drill down a bit more to find out that actually happened.

Did the bandits come up here simply to drop the body?


(Likely) Yes

Was the foul water caused by Frell’s body, then, who must have been murdered and disposed of some weeks prior?

(Likely) Yes

Are the bandits just dropping the bodies?

(50/50) Yes, but...

They are dropping them into a ravine - nearly as good as burying them. I imagine this is just under the lower end of a glacier, so they probably went up a bit further and dropped the bodies into the first fissure in the glacier proper - quite a good hiding place, actually, and probably their version of being respectful to the dead. Did they get rid of their current body before they met the elves?

(50/50) Yes, and...

Mistrust / Pain

To put it differently

They were quite glad about it - after all, he had been the favourite and they had occasionally suffered for it, so they were not unhappy that he is no longer around, but on the other hand, it was a vivid reminder of how unstable their master could be. They must have fleeced him before dropping him in, but discarded the papers as unimportant or they were told to bury the papers with him, but were careless. Was he the same as this other investor?

(50/50) No, but...

Decrease / Goals

He too was part of the consortium - probably not completely on the side of the sorcerer in all things either. Was the whole expedition a sham to get money?

(50/50) No +Event: Spy / Joy

No, there really is this place, and something is there that the sorcerer has seen there that he greatly wants. Back to our group of heroes:

Following Eriathorn, they carefully climb further towards the glacier. It is heavy going and especially Melea will have a difficult time, but she is stubborn and Theolin will always end when needed, so they will manage to get to the place where the hunting party was attacked without any further incidents. There they rest a moment while Eriathorn reads the signs, trying to track the way of the bandits directly from here.

( Tracking +8, +1 for wilderness, TN 10 for where the bandits went to (blood trail) and 15 for where they came from)

16 = 6[d6]+1[d6]+9

Eriathorn easily picks up the blood trail some wounded bandits left behind after the encounter - the elves on their horses had obviously decided to retreat instead of fighting an uphill battle in unfavourable terrain. But after some careful searching, the ranger also can discern where the bandits have come from. Motioning for his comrades to close up again, he tells them of his findings. As the trail the bandits have left on is comparatively simple to follow, Eriathorn suggests to first see where they have come from and what their business had been - more climbing up that hill, but nobody protests. Up here it starts to get very chilly, especially in the wind, and Theolin and especially Melea huddle into their cloaks, but Eriathorn sets them a pace that will soon warm them up again. Galwenion as usual looks completely oblivious to the harsh conditions. The closer they get to the foot of the glacier, the more uneasy Melea becomes, looking around as if expecting something to happen. The others pick up on that and grip their weapons more firmly, although Eriathorn tells her harshly to watch her footing.

Once they reach the actual glacier, the tracks become quite clear, but crossing the glacier is dangerous and exhausting. To see how well the heroes do, I would call for a strength roll against TN 15. They have a rating of 10, 8, 12 and 4 respectively.

20 = 4[d6]+6[d6]+10

I remembered that Galwenion actually walks on the snow, so I'll give him +5 - it is far easier if you do not have to pull your legs free all the time - and take the automatic success. Using his advantage, he will run up ahead anyway to keep a lookout, so helping the others is not an option for him anyway.

18 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+12

8 = 2[d6]+2[d6]+4

As expected, the tall Rohirrim has few problems navigating the snow, despite the fact that his weight makes him sink in up to his thighs. Eriathorn has even less trouble, easily moving about without seeming to tire at all. But poor Melea, who sometimes is up to her waist in the cold stuff and has to scramble more often than not, is soon exhausted. Eriathorn notices and lends a hand, but even that is not enough to keep her going for much longer. Deciding that he is pretty useless up here anyway, unless there will be a fight, Theolin offers himself as a packhorse - he will be slow, but with his spear to help him, he is reasonably certain that he can manage.

15 = 1[d6]+2[d6]+12

I think this is the point where I will use his special ability Favour of Fortune, which allows him one reroll per gaming session (Solo, I usually interpret that as per act).

20 = 6[d6]+2[d6]+12

It is not as easy as he had hoped, but Theolin manages even with the added burden of Melea clinging to his back. After half an hour, they reach the large fissure in the snow - fortunately Galwenion has already scouted and warned them of similar ones, so they reach it safely.

Is the fissure deeper than they can easily climb?

(Likely) Yes

Is the fissure deeper than they can climb with the help of their rope?

(Somewhat Likely) Yes

Is it at all possible to climb this thing?

(50/50) Yes, and...

Vengeance / Good

They have a much easier time of it than the bandits - at least one of them. Further up, Galwenion finds a spot where the edge has crumbled - a gentle slope impossible to walk on for anybody but an elf, but no challenge at all for him. They quickly discuss what to do, but there is not much alternative to Galwenion going down alone. Borrowing the spear off Theolin and handing his own bow to Eriathorn, the elf light-footedly sets out. As he progresses deeper into the fissure, the others (apart from Melea, who has stayed where the tracks ended, both to mark the spot and to leave Theolin free to move) follow on top.

Can they keep sight of the elf?

(50/50) Yes

They have to stay clear of the edge - after all, it would not do to make it crumble and bury their friend, but Theolin is tall and the fissure wide enough that he can keep an eye on Galwenion's progress. A wary Eriathorn has put an arrow to the elvish bow in his hand and keeps an eye out for danger - neither Theolin nor Melea have enough experience in these surroundings to be reliable lookouts. Not that Theolin is known for his powers of observation anyway, and Melea's lips are slowly turning blue. She has taken to leaning over the edge, though - her slight stature for once an asset - and calling out directions to the elf below.

Can Galwenion reach the point without significant problems?

(Unlikely) No, and...

Carelessness / Rumour

When the soft snow from the crumbled edge runs out, Galwenion has to dance from one foothold to the next - sometimes sucking in his belly to get through narrow points. They also realise that the sidewalls amplifies, distorts and reflects sounds to a degree that makes it nearly impossible to communicate with their friend, once he is deep in the fissure.

Can Galwenion get through with his leather armour?

(50/50) No, and...

Divide / The public

After trying in vain to get through a particularly tight spot, the elf comes back to the top and rather scandalises poor Melea by divesting himself of nearly all his clothing, only keeping his underwear, his knife and a pouch - even Eriathorn, who knows quite well that the elf is immune to the cold, argues that he should protect himself against sharp edges, Melea is blushing and not daring to say anything, while Theolin agrees with Eriathorn, but points out that the man undertaking the risk should be the one to decide what to wear for it. "Besides, he seems to be doing rather a good deed already by warming Melea up again!", as the horseman slyly points out, making the girl blush even more fiercely and quickly look away.

Once again Galwenion makes his way down to the tight spot. He has Acrobatics +5 (also a speciality and a host of bonuses for balancing, so I did not even bother to roll for that part) and without any hindrance by armour and gear, the TN should be a doable 10.

13 = 3[d6]+5[d6]+5

Sucking in his belly and contorting his head sideways, the elf squeezes through, only suffering a few minor scratches. The sight that greeds him is not a nice one.

Are there more than two bodies?

(50/50) No, and...

Is one of them still alive?

(50/50) No

So it is only one body here - they must have disposed of Frell in another spot. What can Galwenion tell about the corpse (Healing +7, TN 10)?

20 = 4[d6]+6[d6]+10

That is a superior success - after carefully examining the man and going through what's left of his clothing, the healer has a pretty good opinion of what has happened to the poor sod, but he also has found some clues as to who he was. How did he die?

Loyally / Poor

There are no fightmarks on him, but fingerprints around his throat - it seems he did not see the danger or chose not to defend himself until it was to late. The strangulation marks are too faint and clearly defined, however, to explain the death alone. The sunken eyes, skin that looks as if the man had already been three weeks dead, the feeling of ... absence - the elf shudders. If what he suspects is true, his murderer stole the life-force of this man. No wonder the water was fouled by this fell magic. For a moment he looks up, searching out Melea - he strongly suspects that their scribe would be able to verify his suspicions. But then he shakes his head - even if she could come down here or he could bring the body up, he would not wish her to have to investigate that possibility. Instead he turns back to the body, carefully sliding his hand into the man's pockets.

Gemstone

Is it a signet ring?

(50/50) No, but...

Carry / Military

The man seems to have been a former soldier, still carrying his old military dagger with its characteristic pommel.

Was he from around here?

(50/50) Yes

Is he human? - Rather late to ask that question, but better now than never.

(50/50) No

Dwarf?

(50/50) No, and...

Attach / Technology

Oh ... his leg is not quite right - his foot has been replaced with a crude piece of machinery. Galwenion fights down nausea at the sight. He has seen what orc surgeons (more butchers than healers) tend to do with any severely injured limb. Only the remarkable recuperative powers of the orcs allow them to survive the crude replacement jobs those surgeons are doing. Carefully the elf studies the features of the man again - he looks remarkably human, but now he can see the traces of orcish blood. Perhaps a halfork?

Is there anything else to find?

(50/50) No, and...

Struggle / Possessions

The frozen body has contorted in a way that makes it impossible to retrieve the dagger without first having to break several of the man's joints, so Galwenion lets be and hopes that his description of the pommel will be enough to identify the daggers origins. He looks around some more, sliding a hand under the body, then climbing over it to explore for a short way on the other side, but the site does not yield any further clues. The way up is as difficult as the way down, but at least this time, he knows what to expect.

12 = 1[d6]+6[d6]+5

Sucess - once again free of the tight spot, he lightly runs up the slope to be greeted at the top by Eriathorn with his clothes. While he quickly dresses himself, Galwenion quietly tells his friend of what he has found - this was probably the ranger's reason to wait for him here anyway. As suspicious as he sometimes is of Melea, he still wants to shield her, so he wants to hear the news first and then decide how to impart them. When he hears Galwenion's suspected cause of death, his mouth settles in a grim line, but he says nothing and guides his friend back to where the two others are waiting. Seeing that Melea is slowly succumbing to the cold, despite being partly sheltered from the wind by Theolin, he decides that explanations can wait until they are in more agreeable surroundings, and orders Theolin to take Melea down and make camp where the horses are - he and Galwenion will scout the region a bit more, than follow. Melea opens her mouth to protest - not so much because she wants to stay here, but more because she suspects that once again the others are trying to protect her from something disagreeable - but a sharp glance and a curt "Later!" from the ranger makes her subside. Theolin once more takes her on his back - Eriathorn gives him a grateful nod for his willingness to go with his orders and the uncomplicated way in which he handles his packhorse duties without making Melea balk at the help - and starts on the most direct way down into the valley.

22 = 4[d6]+6[d6]+12

He does not seem to mind his added burden any more downward than upward, joking that with his spear as a walking stick and something on his back, he rather feels like he was on a walking holiday.

Does anything of interest happen until they are back with the horses?

(Unlikely) No

Galwenion and Eriathorn meanwhile continue to explore the glacier, hoping for some additional clues - the first question the ranger wants answered is whether the bandits came roughly from the direction they disappeared to again.

Did they?

(Likely) Yes +Event: Mistrust / Opposition

Eriathorn begins to mistrust the whole situation - first the bandits attacked the elves, something one does not do lightly, even if the terrain puts them at a disadvantage, then they leave a trail that even the youngest of his people can read, even though they must now that the elves will return in greater force to deal with such a thread, and then it seems to lead straight back to where their lair is? That smells very much like a trap. Galwenion already has postulated that the sorcerer can steal a man's life force - how much more would he get if he manages to lay his hands on one of the fair folk?

Do they find any further tracks?

(Likely) Yes, but...

Heal / A burden

The fissure they deposited the last body in has closed?

(Likely) Yes

Eriathorn can make out other, older tracks, but they lead to another fissure that has recently caved in - whatever had been dumped in there is now buried under tons of snow. Someone will have to find out what it was sooner or later, but to do so, one needs equipment the two friends simply do not have at the moment, so they decide to leave that mystery for now.

Any other interesting stuff?

(50/50) Yes

Attach / Riches

Has this something to do with Frell?

(50/50) Yes +Event: Proceedings / The public

Has he somehow managed to leave some last clue?

(50/50) No +Event: Extravagance / A project

He really is dead, is he?

(Likely) Yes, and...

Antagonise / Victory

Before he was discovered and killed, Frell did indeed manage to steal something - something that not only gives a clue on what the sorcerer actually does and what his mad final goal is, but also is needed for this goal. (By now, I feel quite sorry for poor Frell - he seemed to have been a very interesting character.) That very much sounds like a book - probably quite a small and simple one, as most things of great power in Middle Earth are deceptively mundane. It must have fallen out of the dead man's pockets when they carried his body up for disposal - at some point the sorcerer must have realised that it was missing, though. Quite likely the cave-in was caused when the servants of the sorcerer searched the body and the surroundings, but obviously the book had already been blown off too far for them to find. Does one of our heroes find it? Eriathorn has Observe +6 and gets +2 since this certainly falls under his specialisation "spot", and further +2 for his "keen-eyed" edge. Galwenion has +5, is keen-eyed as well and can also discern details at a great distance, and he has also the elven sense for magic (certainly a factor for a potent magic book), so I would guess +6 for bonuses. TN I would set at 20 - spotting a small book is certainly difficult.

16 = 4[d6]+2[d6]+10

22 = 6[d6]+5[d6]+11

Suddenly Galwenion cries out and lightly runs to a spot between two large boulders where something has caugth his eye. Carefully he pulls out a small, book that has been rather ill used by the elements. Even he is not keen to stand around in the wind and read it, so after glancing at a page to make sure it is relevant, he puts it into the pouch he still carries and continues his search. Finding nothing new, however, the two heroes decide to stop and rejoin their comrades a short time later.

Down in the valley, Theolin in the meanwhile has made a fire and prepared some tea and hot food - while he only knows the rough and ready recipes of a soldier, he can be relied on to produce something edible under most circumstances. Melea, once she is thawed out a bit, helps him prepare the food and care for the animals before pulling out the legal papers again, studying them in greater detail.

Does she find any further clues?

(Unlikely) No

Once Eriathorn and Galwenion are back and everyone has eaten, they all grab some more tea and start to pool their information. Galwenion first describes what he has found.

Is the dagger from the guards of Bree?

(50/50) Yes

Eriathorn has no problems at all identifying it from the description - and it makes a certain amount of sense to send someone who presumably had one point held a position of trust in the watch of the city where you are trying to win a legal argument. So if all else fails they now have something to investigate further - but they agree that they will have to find out first whether there is a trap laid for anybody investigating the attack on the hunters. Eriathorn is quite glad now that they met the party and that the managed to convince them to let matters lay for the moment - otherwise some elves might already been riding right into the trap.
Galwenion then hands the book he found to Melea, but quietly requests that she only studies it when he is with her - somewhat to Eriathorn's surprise (of course he could not help but listen), Melea actually agrees.

Now what is the book actually all about?

Delay / Nature

It seems the sorcerer actually is fighting his own decay - using the life force of others to keep himself alive. After a few pages, Melea closes the book and excuses herself - this cuts too close for her to face without some preparation. Galwenion is already on his feet to follow, Eriathorn, sword in hand and angry, starts to do the same, but Theolin stops them - whatever that book has done to her, what she needs now is a guard who asks no questions while she calms down and an uncomplicated shoulder to cry on if necessary, in his opinion. The other two might not like it, but they can see the wisdom of Theolin's words. After the tall Rohirrim disappears in the bushes, softly calling out to Melea so she does not get startled (and has time to warn him in case he has totally misread the situation and she is heading a call of nature), Eriathorn cautiously picks up the book. Galwenion opens his mouth to say something, but a very sharp glance makes him subside again, only warning in a low voice: "Do not read out loud from it."

Is the book written in the dark tongue?

(Somewhat Likely) Yes, and...

Release / War

Eriathorn is somewhat startled when he recognises the language the elvish runes form - despite all experience, he had still hoped that this might not be quite as dark and twisted. Unlike Melea, who seems at home in every language they have encountered so far (although her fluency in the speech of the enemy is another point that unsettles Eriathorn), the ranger does only know enough to understand the basics (Black Speech +3), so he struggles somewhat to find out what the book is about (TN 10).

5 = 1[d6]+1[d6]+3

A one on both dice - that means a fumble. Well, even the strongest of Dunedain can get tricked …

The ranger follows the letters that seem to slightly sway before his eyes, trying to grasp the meaning behind them, and before he realises, he has started to whisper the words . Without warning, the book is forcefully pulled from his hands and Galwenion, suddenly a bright and commanding figure, commands: "Enough!"
The ranger is too honourable to be corrupted that easily by the enemy, so once the elf intervenes, he immediately snaps out of it, but the danger that the book represents and the few bits he had actually translated - something about using the slaying in war to augment your own life-force - has left him reeling and he nearly cuts Theolin's arm off in startled reaction when the Rohirrim and Melea burst back into the camp, alarmed by Galwenion’s sharps command. It takes a moment to establish to everyone's satisfaction that there is no immediate danger, but then Theolin naturally asks what actually had happened.

Melea, spotting the book dropped to the ground next to where Eriathorn has sat, does not ask any questions - instead, she picks up the book and, under Galwenion sharp eyes, who is more unsettled by the incident than he would like to admit, closes it and sets it down near the fire. Eriathorn, not one to hide his mistakes, meanwhile admits quietly: "I wanted to know what so upset Melea - but the book managed to trick me." "Tricked you ? No wonder she was upset by it!" Theolin looks as if he is considering simply kicking the book into the flames, but Galwenion puts a hand on his arm and reassures him: "There is no damage done - I stopped him before he could utter more than a few syllables. And while I am deeply sorry for causing Melea any pain, she actually is the one best equipped for dealing with these kind of things - naturally, with certain precautions like friends who will keep an eye on her."
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#6
Now comes a rather long bit of characterplay without any dice rolls at all. It resolves something that has been brewing for two adventures now, but is probably of less interest to people who are more interested in how the game mechanics are used. If you don’t feel like reading it, simply skip - I will give a brief summary in the next post.

——————————————————————————————————————

While the two men talk some more, Theolin asking and Galwenion explaining what to look out for and how to help, Melea refills the tea mugs and carries one over to Eriathorn, who has retreated into the shadows, unconsciously repeating Melea's own reaction.
"Are you alright?", she inquirers in her soft, southern accent, trying to look him into the eyes while handing him the mug.
"I am, thank you", he assures her. His first instinct is to look away, but he remembers that looking into his eyes is the first thing Galwenion has done as well, so he forces himself to hold her gaze.
"I had wondered why Galwenion had demanded that you should only read the book in his presence - and why you so readily agreed to it. Now I think I know", he says wrily, then takes a sip from the fresh tea, welcoming the warmth and clean taste.
"Am I usually so unreasonable that you are surprised when I submit to a concerned friend's reasonable request?", the girl inquires calmly, although Eriathorn can sense that his words have hurt her.
"I had not seen the book and had no reason to suppose that Galwenion would hand you so dangerous a thing", he reminds her softly. "To me, the request seemed rather strange then. Despite all your learning, you never gave me reason to believe that dark artefacts were within your expertise."
"They are not ... but ... well, magical books are, although I think Galwenion does not know that", Melea admits. Now that the time for confession is here, it is actually easier than she had thought - probably because Eriathorn looks much less stern and sure of himself than usual. "But ... he knows that I ... can do things. Did you never wonder how I was able to always find open doors?"
"I had supposed you to be a good lockpick", the ranger answers slowly, his mind trying to sort through all the little things that had never quite made sense around Melea. "You also could slip in and out of that village a while back without being recognised - I was pretty sure then that Elrond had made me take a sneakthief along. But ... I take it that is not what you are trying to tell me, is it?"
His tone is somewhat wry and humorous, and Melea is not sure whether the humour is real or of the gallows variety, but she will take what she will get.
"No, not a sneakthief - it is hardly thieving if you take what has been abandoned decades ago. I found some books in the ruins of my city and they taught me ... how to bend nature to my will."
She falls silent for a moment, shocked that she has put it so plainly. Eriathorn, too, is stunned - that sounds very much like sorcery, yet he can't get his mind to agree that quiet, gentle Melea is an evil sorceress. He looks up and searches out Galwenion's eyes - the elf answers with an encouraging nod and a gentle smile. Even his sometimes long-winded explanations must be finished by now, but neither he nor Theolin give any indication of wanting to join him, so Eriathorn strongly suspects that Galwenion is giving them time to talk - not that he minds. This conversation was past due, even though he still is not sure what to make of it.
"To bend nature?", he repeats, trying to keep his voice gentle and nonthreatening. "That sounds like sorcery."
"From a certain point on, it is", Melea agrees, sadly. "And that point ... it is not always easy to see. Lord Elrond stopped me before I could go too far, but ... not soon enough that I can claim to be innocent."
She has her head bowed now, waiting for his judgement, but Eriathorn needs a moment to take in what she has said. Knowing that doing nothing might cause her to believe him disapproving, on instinct he puts a hand onto her shoulder, staying her gently while he thinks.
"Lord Elrond would not have recommended you to me if he thought you would bring harm to this company - and I trust his judgement", he says slowly, feeling the truth of his words even as he says them. "But today I have learnt painfully how very easy it can be even for somebody trained to withstand the corruption of the Shadow to be tricked by it. I would ask that you will not attempt to use any of your powers without one of us - preferably Galwenion - present and that you allow the same precaution whenever you handle a book or artifact that has such powers."

Melea is silent for a moment, conscious of the gentle hand still on her shoulder, than agrees softly: "I will - I know the dangers and have no wish to fall prey to the Shadow. But ... there will be situations where what you ask might not be possible ... if you ever have any doubts and Galwenion agrees with you, then take me back to Lord Elrond, or, if that is not possible, make sure that I cannot harm anybody - by any means necessary to assure that."
She suddenly looks up, straight into his eyes, and he returns her gaze for a moment, studying the clear green depth and finding no trace of deceit, before nodding slightly. "I will."
Melea breaks his gaze and turns to return to the fire, but Eriathorn stays her for a moment longer.
„I will not ask you to deal with this book - I sense that it is more than the danger of it that has upset you, and even if it was only that ... Should we return to Rivendell? Elrond certainly will be more than willing to deal with this.“
Melea does not immediately refuse. Although all her instincts scream to explore the book herself, she has become wary of those instincts, so takes a moment to gauge her response carefully. Then she answers slowly: „No - I can cope. The book is dangerous to the unwary, certainly, but despite the abominations it describes, the ... force of the Shadow in it is not too strong. One can easily spot it for what it is, and I am experienced enough that it won’t manage to trick me. What made me uneasy was the subject, for quite another reason. Galwenion couldn’t know - otherwise he would have warned me. It will not be a hindrance now that I am better prepared.“
“Read only as much as you absolutely must now - the rest will wait until you are back in the comforts or Rivendell”, Eriathorn can’t help but caution nevertheless. “It might help to know what this sorcerer planned, but in the end, we need to stop him, not this ... ritual.”
He considers for a moment more, then counts out the questions he has, from a tactical point of view: Whether attacking the man while the spell is already wrought will harm others. Whether they need to be wary of disturbing anything, should they breech the sorcerer’s lair. Whether it is possible to sabotage the preparations. How to spot whether he has actually used it already and how to guard against the effects - and whether it is the same thing that has allowed him to steal the life of the Bree guard. It is a lengthy list, and while he lists it, he gently steers her back to the fire, where Theolin has looked at them more and more worriedly and impatiently. Once Melea is back, he immediately goes to her, enquiring whether she is alright and if there was anything he could do for her - taking her and the book straight back to Rivendell, no matter what the others said, included. Eriathorn can’t help but smile at that - the Rohirrim has never been all that comfortable around books, and dumping them at Elrond to sort out seems to become his favourite way to dealing with them.
Galwenion, probably thinking along similar lines, returns his smile, but he also raises a questioning eyebrow, his eyes pointedly going to Melea.
“She says you already know what she can do”, the ranger answers curtly. “She has agreed that it is a reasonable precaution that one of us keeps an eye on her when she uses her knowledge. For everything else, I must trust that Lord Elrond has his reasons.”
“I suspected”, the elf corrects gently. “For what it is worth, I can sense no foul in her. She was afraid to tell you - but it was her own fear, not the voice of the Shadow urging her to keep her powers hidden from you.”
The ranger sighs. “I had suspected her of being a thief”, he confessed to his friend in a wry voice. “I am not sure whether I am relieved or horrified to know what she truelly is.”
Galwenion laughs. “Considering that doors seem to be no challenge to her, I would probably have come to the same conclusion, had I not seen her call forth light out of nowhere once. I will keep an eye on her, and I think she will allow it. I sense that she is not unhappy to no longer carry that knowledge alone - Especially since you did neither scream at her, kick her out into the darkness, nor insisted on taking her straight back to Rivendell.”
“No, although Theolin seems to be doing just that at the moment - does he know?”
“No, I think not. She will likely tell him now, and it might trouble him, but he will trust your judgement, and if he has any fears, they will be for her, not of her. He will cope well enough.”
“He always does. The only thing to throw him off his stride seems to be the thought of being locked in a library”, Eriathorn agrees with fond mocking in his voice. “His practical nature seems also to have decided that whatever we want from that book is better gotten by daylight, and I can’t disagree there. Melea already has settled down - he probably has convinced her to sleep the night through. I will take the first watch, if you will take the second.”
Galwenion nods. “Nothing will stop Theolin from waking up early to care for the horses, but even though it seems not to bother him, he took an arrow in the shoulder. I will not wake him.”
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#7
Very long character play without any rolls at all, but I refuse to let the interactions of the characters be dictated by dice, and I got into writing. If you have skipped it, the important parts were that Melea has confessed to Eriathorn that she can do magic and they have decided not to go back to Rivendell, but to deal with the book themselves come morning..

Does something happen that night?


(50/50) No

Thankfully, the night passes without any disturbance. Theolin and Galwenion enliven their breakfast with a pointed discussion about not waking up certain party members to allow them to do their fair share of watch duty, but as usual the silver tongued elf has the last word. Then however comes the time to find out more about the ritual. Theolin, knowing he won’t be much help there, suggests they leave Melea in peace to do that, with Galwenion as company and guard, while he and Eriathorn have once more a look around and possibly find something for their cooking pot - they did not exactly bring a lot of rations. Eriathorn is undecided for a moment, but after a nod from Galwenion, he agrees.

Melea settles down, takes a deep breath and opens the book again, her notebook handy to record all the information Eriathorn requested.

She is as fluent in the dark tongue as the Ringwraiths, so no roll there, but I think both Lore: Magic and Insight are appropriate to avoid the traps and understand what is described in the book. She has +7 for both - let’s do Insight first to see how well she can spot the relevant information - TN is 15.

12 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+7

Not enough, but close enough to allow a retry.

Frustrated by the book, which is badly written and hides relevant information in asides and footnotes, she makes herself another mug of tea and starts again, this time keeping a careful index in her notebook.

12 = 2[d6]+5[d6]+7-2

Still not enough, but this time I decide to spend a point of courage, so that she will still suceed.j

Stubbornly determined, with the help of her index she then starts a third time, finally managing to reduce the cumbersome text down to its relevant facts.

[i]Now to assemble the clues into a proper understanding of the ritual and to draw deductions from it. That necessitates a good framework of magical knowledge. TN is only 10, though - these are fairly routine scholarly questions and she needs nothing to specific - although she will get more if she succeeds to a greater degree.


10 = 1[d6]+2[d6]+7

Her mind refuses to think about the cruel ritual dispassionately - she can piece together the basics, but that has to be enough.

She will have our test against corruption. Is the book a mild temptation (as stated before and as opposed to having some additional layer of evil neither elf nor scribe spotted)?

(50/50) Yes

So the TN is only 5 - with Willpower +4, I’ll take an automatic success. Let’s drill down into what she learned. Does the ritual require specifically death in battle?

(50/50) No

Does it require multiple death?

(50/50) Yes

Is there any other ingredient that is not trivial?

(50/50) No +Event: Oppress / Tension

Does this mean that one needs to be relaxed for the ritual to work?

(50/50) No

Does it mean that you need to be undisturbed to successfully cast the spell?

(50/50) No, and...

Is it something that is happening right now?

(50/50) Yes

Is he somehow powering up his henchmen who have to do the actual slaughtering?

(50/50) No

Not getting any closer there, so I will asssume that our mad sorcerer is madly dashing around his lair at the moment, doing unspeakable things because he barely can wait until the elves arrive and he can do his foul magic. Does this help the heroes?

(50/50) No

Well, he has not descended into slaughtering his own guards, at least. Can the ritual safely be stopped once it is started?

(50/50) Yes

Who is the most interesting target for him in the group?

Bleakly / Faded

Eriathorn, then - he is simply and scruffily dressed and tends to fade into the background or Into the surroundings when he is not actively doing something. It appears that the ritual leeches not only the life force from people, but is particularly effective if those people have honour - both Frell and the loyal guard had that, and the less honourable followers have been left in peace.

Is the ritual a big version of the death of the guard?

(Likely) Yes

Does it require close contact?

(Likely) Yes

Okay, so the victims must be dying by violence anyway - the sorcerer only hastens along the end. He needs to be near by - I would think the more people die, the farther away he can be from the individual, but he has to be somewhere within the death zone. Otherwise, disturbingly, it seems a very simple ritual. If things are that simple, there usually is a heavy price to pay, but it is not always obvious. Has the sorcere’s mind been stolen by the enemy and is he unwittingly working to bring Sauron back (like the ring, by always just tipping chances a bit)?

(Likely) Yes, but...

Usurp / Investment

Sauron might have miscalculated there. It seems the deeper the sorcerer fell into the trap, the more he gleefully gave in, not fighting the evil influence at all, just making sure that it was all in his own advantage. His jealousy was probably to great to allow any of this to benefit anybody else.
Melea is not able to find out all that, but she manages to learn that once they are in the company of the sorcerer, things are very dangerous, but as long as nobody is going to die there, they should be okay.
Do the two hunters find something for the pot?


(Likely) Yes, and...

Vengeance / The physical

At last

Since this is supposed to be positive, they find some Athelas as well. A tea brewed of these will strengthen their spirits for the coming day (resetting their courage), and it will also allow Galwenion to soak a few bandages and prepare a paste, should somebody get wounded. (Theolin never dropped out of his healthy wound level and got first aid - by the rules, he was okay after the first treatment, I only spun it out a bit for realism.)

Once all are back by the fire, Melea tells them what she has learnt. A glance between Galwenion and Eriathorn assures the ranger that all went well, and the fact that the sorcerer has to be present and can simply be killed to stop the ritual greatly reassures Theolin. After packing up, they set out to follow the tracks once more. They can’t leave their horses behind this time, but they leave them to pick their way on their own and walk. Eriathorn takes the lead, as usual, but Galwenion decides to once more go up to the glacier to make sure that the tracks in the snow really go in the same direction - even he can follow those. Pointing out that even for an elf, it is dangerous to be alone in such terrain, Theolin offers to go with him, something Eriathorn agrees with - not least because Galwenion has a well documented history of rushing in if there is an injured person about.
After the two set off, already squabbling about the merits of being big against being light in snowy conditions, Eriathorn, with Melea and the horses behind him, follow the tracks.

The tracks are older now, so I would set TN at 15 against Eriathorn’s accumulated +9.

15 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+9

He occasionally has to backtrack and search a bit, but all in all it is no big challenge for the experienced tracker. Are both sets of tracks convening?

(Likely) No, but...

Violate / Status quo

Okay, seems the retreating bandits decided to cut their loses and leave their master - the plan probably appeared a better idea before actually seeing what elvish arrows can do. The went only back far enough to meet a road, then sharpishly disappeared to the right. The evil sorcerer’s plan does not seem to have been very thought out - he has a goal, but his attempts to get it are not very professional. On the other hand, he is mad and in the grip of violent mood swings. Coherent plans are probably too much to expect.

Does Eriathorn realize that the bandits turned tail and ran before he has followed them too far?


(50/50) Yes

Well, they could try to catch them, but that would likely cost them a few days, and they first have to go back to find Galwenion and Theolin anyway, so Eriathorn turns to the direction where he judges the others will come down from the glacier. Galwenion can’t track, so he will take the best way down into the valley and search for Eriathorn there, once he looses the obvious snow tracks.

Are there any other bandits around?

(50/50) No

Is anybody else around?

(Somewhat Unlikely) No +Event: Heal / Wishes

In reasonable time, they meet up again, and since nobody is around, nobody noticed the whistles, lightsigns and calls the two groups use to locate each other. Walking around also allows Eriathorn to have a reasonable conversation with Melea, putting many small inexplicable things during their last adventures into context.
Galwenion and Theolin can point out the spot where they lost the tracks, but from there on it is up to Eriathorn’s expertise. The tracks are by now pretty old, but he takes his time, and after the initial stony bit, which they beat by a methodical search of the softer ground below, the terrain is favourable to keeping tracks.

TN 15 should do it, but it will be a slow process.

15 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+9

It takes much of the day, but finally they manage to track the bandits to the next way-point.

Here I pulled out one of my favourite tools for establishing a set of locations fitting together (basically the final dungeon, only that it is no dungeon). I often stack two lists, one for the larger area, then one for more detail. First, let’s get the flavour of the landscape.

Lazily / Rare

Seems the sorcerer has found one of the few pleasant spots in the mountains - a secluded, sheltered valley. And what flavour does his keep have?

Helpfully / Enormous

A large cavern system, probably an ancient dwarvish settlement. It offers several ways of entrance, if the heroes can find them, and is perhaps not the best stronghold, but it offers pleasant living quarters and some amenities that make it attractive to the sorcerer.

The region lists I created:
Location: Lookout point, valley entrance, lookout point, side valley, cave entrance, fissure, waterway, Special
Encounters: none, none, none, patrol, patrol, unrelated negative (U), corpse (U), unrelated positive
Objects: expected, expected, clue (U), herbs, clue (U), dwarfish artefact, waste disposal (U), Special

At some point Eriathorn will notice that they are running into an area of increased activity, but likely loose the actual tracks (it is one hospitable valley, but the surroundings are probably mostly hard stone). Once they reach that point, they will establish a base camp in a secluded, safe spot and Eriathorn will scout from there.


13 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+6[d6]

Lookout point, patrol, dwarfish artefacts

Hopelessly / Damaged

Eriathorn spots a place higher up on the mountain that promises a good view, so decides to head there first. Galwenion accompanies him, pointing out that if it is not a good idea for him to be alone, it is not a good idea for the ranger either. His sharp eyes will also soon be able to make out some kind modifications to the stone below the vantage point - a regular pattern of holes, and some places where the stone was smoothed out.

(Lore: History (Rhudaur) +6, TN 15)

12 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+6

Galwenion does not know of any specific settlement or installation here, but he knows that centuries back, dwarves worked the mountains in this region - men never did to a significant degree, and orcs and such would not craft such neat and regular features, so his best guess is that they are in the vicinity of some old dwarfish settlement.

Eriathorn is glad to know that - he will now keep his eyes open for other signs of dwarfish occupation. They make their way up the mountain carefully and wary, but not yet trying to hide.

Who spots whom first? How large is the patrol?

5 = 5[d6]

Is one bandit better than normal?

(50/50) No

Are they especially attentive?

(50/50) Yes

I would set their collective Observation (spot) at +6 then, and they get a further +2 for knowing the area. Eriathorn has +6, +2 since it is speciality and +2 for keen-sighted. He also gets +1 wilderness bonus, since this is mountain area, where he knows his way well. Whoever spots the other first has a chance to hide.

17 = 6[d6]+3[d6]+8

17 = 5[d6]+1[d6]+11

Uhm, they both spot each other at the same time? Let's jump into combat rounds - since they have no special with them, they will act as one body. Eriathorn has +3, Galwenion +4, the patrol +1.

FIRST ROUND

11 = 6[d6]+2[d6]+3

14 = 5[d6]+5[d6]+4

7 = 4[d6]+2[d6]+1

Five adversaries is a tall number, even for two experienced fighters, but they can't allow anybody to know that they are here - so without a second thought, Galwenion draws his bow, throws himself to the side (I declare a dodge action) and fires.

21 = 5[d6]+4[d6]+12

Their Defence is 11, so that counts as a superior success - not enough to get any extra damage or other effects, but it certainly is impressive and quick as lightning.

6 = 1[d6]+3[d6]+2

Not enough to seriously hurt - they have 8 points per wound level. Still, it is a start. Eriathorn pulls out his swords and rolls to the other side (his first two actions gone - I declare another dodge and he does not have quick-draw) and then lays into the nearest one. He attacks at +8 with his main and +4 with his off hand.

19 = 5[d6]+6[d6]+8

9 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+4

13 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+7

Only one sword hits, but it knocks the bandit severely, leaving him dazed. Now the bandits act - first they all draw their respective weapons - to keep things simple, they all will have weapons that do 2d6+4 damage, strength bonus included. They are bandits near their lair, not warriors, so they do not have any armour. Do they think they can cope with two opponents?

(50/50) Yes, and...

Bestow / Success

Despite the good start for the two heroes, the patrol does not think them that much of a threat - furthermore, if they bring some victims nearly dead from a fight, that will likely raise them in their master's favour. So instead of fleeing, they grin and attack - much to the relief of Eriathorn, who had already been making contingency plans in case one got away and warned his master. An archer is always a concern, but the fighter with the two swords seem to be able to inflict much more damage, so two turn to Galwenion while the remaining three face Eriathorn.

They attack at +4, the dazed man at +3.

6 = 1[d6]+1[d6]+4

12 = 4[d6]+4[d6]+4

10 = 4[d6]+2[d6]+4

9 = 1[d6]+4[d6]+4

10 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+3

Although one comes uncomfortably close, none of them manage to land any blows.

So the dodge actions were actually not needed this round.

ROUND TWO

10 = 4[d6]+3[d6]+3

14 = 6[d6]+4[d6]+4

5 = 3[d6]+1[d6]+1

Once again, the elf goes first - getting hit at with swords is not good for a bowman, so he drops his bow and draws his long knife (+7, 2d6+4), whirls around to get out away from one man (another dodge) and attacks the other.

12 = 4[d6]+1[d6]+7

10 = 5[d6]+1[d6]+4

The man takes a deep slash to the thigh, pushing him just into the Injured category (-3 on every test). Eriathorn, too, declares a dodge and tries to get himself more room to manoeuvre by taking on one of the men who had jumped to him last round.

11 = 1[d6]+2[d6]+8

That just barely hits ...

12 = 3[d6]+2[d6]+7

It does a decent amount of damage, though. Having now drawn blood from two opponents, he turns his double attack against the last one.

15 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+8

7 = 2[d6]+1[d6]+4

15 = 3[d6]+5[d6]+7

Once more only one sword connects, but the other bites deep into flesh.

The bandits now do their best to strike back - having realised that they are not as good as their opponents, they now opt for a concerted effort, concentrating their two actions into one attack each that is coordinated with their friends - I simply assume that after the first confusion, they manage that. They would have been easier to hit by that, but since they were hit anyway, it does not matter (I should have declared it first anyway, sorry - I notice that I have grown quite rusty with the combat rules).

First the two who want to hit the elf - both would get +1 for another fighter with them, but have -1 for having taken damage.


9 = 1[d6]+4[d6]+4

10 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+4

Actually, one of them was the more seriously wounded with -3 - nevermind. Even their concentrated effort is not enough to get the elf into serious trouble. The other three press Eriathorn - these really are only dazed, so they all actually get -1+2=+1 to their +4.

12 = 2[d6]+5[d6]+5

9 = 3[d6]+1[d6]+5

13 = 4[d6]+4[d6]+5

One does indeed manage to connect, but Eriathorn has declared a dodge, and he has the Order ability Evasion, allowing him to take the higher 2 of 3 dice for his swiftness test.

10 = 1[d6]+3[d6]+6[d6]

9 and 3 - not enough. I really need to increase his swiftness, but I always am reluctant to increase attributes in the course of the game. Let's see the damage.

7 = 1[d6]+2[d6]+4

Only his chainmail protect the ranger from a deep cut, but fortunately, he ends up with nothing more than a bruise.

(-5 for armour, 2 is well within his woundlevel of 12). They all gear up for the next round.

ROUND THREE

10 = 5[d6]+2[d6]+3

11 = 2[d6]+5[d6]+4

One of Galwenion's attackers is still undamaged (I think I fumbled that somewhere above).

3 = 1[d6]+1[d6]+1

Ironically, he stumbles over a rock and looses one action for this round - poor guy. The other is already acting at -3.

3 = 3[d6]+2[d6]-2

The three remaining ones are at -1.

8 = 2[d6]+6[d6]

9 = 6[d6]+3[d6]

5 = 1[d6]+4[d6]

The heroes barely manage to get their attacks in before their opponents. Guessing that his chances are better if he takes out the weaker opponent first, Galwenion declares a parry against the other one and lashes out with his knife.

10 = 2[d6]+1[d6]+7

Galwenion misses - a rare occurence for the elf, but then, his knifes are definitely not his favoured weapons. Eriathorn meanwhile addresses his opponents in a stern voice: "Surrender, and you may yet live!".

I'm making this a full combat action, with his intimidate +5 against their willpower 0. The battlefield isn't exactly the right place to convince someone with majesty, so Eriathorn will get no bonus for his specialisation.

9 = 2[d6]+2[d6]+5

8 = 2[d6]+6[d6]+0

Being adressed this sternly is certainly enough to give the a moments pause, but not enough to make them cower in fear - as an honourable fighter, Eriathorn will hold his other actions, though, until his opponents have decided what to do. Technically they are now cowered enough to get -2 for attacking him.

Do they stop fighting?


(50/50) No, and...

Excitement / Evil

One of them has a brilliant, if evil idea - the man with the swords is perhaps out of their league, but a concentrated attack on the elf will perhaps see him on the ground, and then they have a hostage! With a triumphant cry, he leads the charge.

That certainly wasn't what Eriathorn expected, so he must make a swiftness test against TN 10 to get his actions in before this happens.

8 = 1[d6]+4[d6]+3

An instant too late the ranger realises what is happening - he rushed after them, but can't reach them before the first one does his best to run through the elf with his sword.

14 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+4+3

Concentrating on the opponent already before him, even the lightening-quick elf is not able to dodge that sudden attack - especially since three others are right behind the first one, cutting off potential ways of getting out of the way.

14 = 1[d6]+6[d6]+1[d6]+6

(Strength attacker +2)

13 = 2[d6]+1[d6]+10

Strength test for Galwenion to see whether he is knocked prone:

14 = 3[d6]+3[d6]+8

Only by the Grace of the Valar Galwenion manages to keep on his feet as the sword is thrust into his side. His light elvish armour cannot protect him from a deep gash along his ribs.

(11 points of damage get through, dropping him to dazed).

Eriathorn now comes at the bandits like a fury, but they are committed to their action - even more so now that they see elvish blood on their comrade's sword.

12 = 2[d6]+2[d6]+8

15 = 3[d6]+5[d6]+7

The leader of the charge stumbles under the force of the ranger's attack, suffering a deep wound.

13 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+8

11 = 1[d6]+3[d6]+7

12 = 2[d6]+6[d6]+4

19 = 6[d6]+6[d6]+7

5 = 5[d6]

By now Eriathorn has caught up and unleashes a devastating double attack on the remaining bandits storming at Galwenion - one feels the long sword cut bitterly into his side, but he is still fortunate - his comrade, who had thought himself safer on the ranger’s off side is hit with such strength and precision that he falls down incapacitated.

Those who are not yet incapacitated still get their attack - and they are already committed to their coordinated charge.

9 = 5[d6]+2[d6]+4+3-5

11 = 4[d6]+5[d6]+4+3-5

8 = 1[d6]+3[d6]+4+3-3

They all miss - quite a bit of luck for the elf. The last man, still unharmed, is just picking himself up from his unfortunate encounter with a stone, sees the carnage around him, drops his weapon and turns around to run.

FOURTH ROUND

15 = 6[d6]+6[d6]+3

8 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+4-1

7 = 2[d6]+4[d6]+1

5 = 4[d6]+3[d6]+1-3

1 = 2[d6]+3[d6]+1-5

-2 = 1[d6]+1[d6]+1-5

2 = 2[d6]+6[d6]+1-7

5 = 5[d6]

Eriathorn is actually so fast to react that the others need a heartbeat to realise what he has done. Thundering "Stop!" at the fleeing man, he swipes out with both swords to free his way to Galwenion, intent on protecting his friend.

I declare a guard action, which is basically a parry action against an attack meant for somebody else. I choose the strongest still standing after I'm done - but first the intimidation attempt.

10 = 3[d6]+2[d6]+5

11 = 5[d6]+6[d6]

No - either the man is too panicked to hear or he fears the alternative more, but the man cannot be stopped from his flight with words alone.
Now for the attacks - I spread them out once again on the two I attacked last round.


15 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+8

11 = 3[d6]+4[d6]+4

14 = 5[d6]+2[d6]+7

15 = 4[d6]+4[d6]+7

Both fall down to the ground near dead. "Galwenion - he mustn't get away!", the ranger cries, twisting around to defend his friend against all that might disturb his aim. The elf nods and picks up his bow again, fitting an arrow and letting it fly.

22 = 5[d6]+5[d6]+12

I'm going to spend a point of courage here - it is only one away from an extraordinary success (I forgot to include Galwenion's -1 penalty in the roll) - to allow him to gain a special effect, namely to deal his opponent a crippeling wound.

The arrow sings through the air before embedding itself in the knee of the bandit, making his leg collapse under him.

10 = 6[d6]+2[d6]+2

Does the last semi-fit fighter really still want to attack?

(Unlikely) No

The last bandit standing looks for a short, frightened moment at Eriathorn's two swords, now weaving a deadly-edged pattern right before his face, then throws his weapon down and begs with a hoarse voice: "Please! I surrender!"

COMBAT ENDED

The aftermath takes some time - Galwenion dresses the wounds of those who fell under Eriathorn's swords, then cuts out the arrow that had brought the fleeing man down.

He does not try to heal them here, only to stabilise them enough to transport them, so he does roll at TN of 30 (for the highest wound level, which is near death) -10 for doing only to the most necessary things to make the men survive. He does not have all his gear and Eriathorn is busy signalling Theolin (he keeps a small polished metal bowl for that purpose), so he can't help either, but Galwenion is a surgeon and knows how to stop blood loss. I will also claim an affinity bonus for his knowledge of healing plants - he either has with him or can find something here that is good for packing the wounds temporarily - and lastly he will use his edge, even though it will greatly weary him.

21 = 1[d6]+6[d6]+14

9 = 3[d6]+5[d6]+1

No chance of managing the stamina test, so Galwenion now actually drops to weary (-4). He is already dazed from the wound (-1), so he is pretty much spend for the time being. Fortunately he bought the wounded bandits a bit of time, because right now he is in no condition to properly treat them.

Can the two others see Eriathorn's signal?


(Likely) Yes, and...

Violate / Tactics

Does anybody else notice?

(Unlikely) No, and...

Increase / The public

Theolin and Melea appeare soon after the signal was given - on their horses. That is a clear violation to the tactic Eriathorn has given out, but he cannot help but be thankful - it will make Galwenion's way back much easier, and they can also transport the two men who still hover near death and the man who can't walk.
Melea immediately hurries over to where Galwenion sits, but he declares himself fit enough to get down to the camp without immediate treatment. When Theolin simply holds out a hand to help him up and on his horse, he does not refuse, though. On Melea's soft question, Eriathorn claims not to need any attention and asks her to make sure that the two near death do not die on the way down. Theolin the ever-practical can see only one way to ensure that - Galwenion and Melea both will have to take one up before them, Eriathorn will have to cope with the one who is apart from his pierced knee still healthy, and he himself will put the last two on Nightfir and guide them down.

Once they have a plan, things are quickly sorted out, and soon they make their way to the camp again.

Does one of the prisoners cause trouble?

(Very Unlikely) No
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