One of the contributors on the yahoo group 'fan modules' has posted this idea, which I have copied across to here since it deals with the years 2941 - 2951 Third Age - thanks to tyrorides for submitting this.
WARNING LONG POST!!
The False Peace Campaign
The False Peace refers to the ten years between 2941 TA (the year in which the Hobbit is set and during which the White Council defeats Sauron as the Necromancer of Dol Guldur) and 2951 (the year in which Sauron openly reveals his return to Mordor and his identity by making Mt Doom belch clouds of ash).
There were seven of us at the beginning, two would leave before the end, three would join.
Román, our first GM, was a Tolkien geek through and through, who had his own website of Tolkien geekery and was a card carrying member of the STE (Spanish Tolkien Society). Though he obviously played no character as such, the NPC he used to herd us around during the first half of the campaign was an exercise in obscure Tolkien lore.
It was a centenarian hobbit rogue by the name of Hildifons Took. Now, if you google the name or have the LotR appendix handy, you can check that this is an extremely obscure canon character, a Took who left the Shire looking for adventures and never returned home. This ability to cleverly weave together obscure parts of canon and roleplaying was something that to be entirely honest I was quite envious at the time. It helped that Román was a really cool guy, though.
Javier was a MERP newb who first gained an interest in Lord of the Rings because of the Peter Jackson movies and being something of a Gimli fan decided to play a thoroughly classic dwarf warrior. His character had no meaningful backstory beyond being a dwarf and no name, so he was known to the other characters as Gruñon (this being the Spanish name for the Grumpy Dwarf).
Cristina was also new to MERP, but not new to roleplaying in general thanks to previous experience with D&D. Though the MERP mechanics weren't good for min-maxing, she still decided to play Elturion, a Noldo elf wizard (Noldor having seriously broken advantages stat-wise over those of other species). However, since MERP wizards really, really suck at low levels, as she discovered later, this character didn't last terribly long.
Haydee felt like being as un-Tolkien as she could get away with, so she rolled a female Haradrim channeler (shaman/healer) by the name of Amira. I cannot say that I much liked the 1001 nights style she tried to provide for Harad, but she really went all out with her character and particularly during the Umbar sidequest, so I was really cool with it by the end of the campaign.
Leovigildo, he of the exceedingly unfortunate name, convinced Román to let him play Haldan, a Gondorian paladin. Though the class didn't exist in any of the official MERP rulebooks, there was a remarkably well balanced homebrewed version (called Order of Rynd Aratoran) floating around the Internet and so Haldan was allowed. This allowing Internet stuff was the source of some serious hilarity a few months later.
Juan, Román's older brother, played a Rohirrim shield maiden called Leowyn, lifted straight from the corebook character examples. You could say that he wasn't too terribly invested in the game, but he was an overall cool guy who let us use the back room of the comic shop he worked at for a while.
Last and least of all, this humble narrator played a dunlending (those would be the Braveheart rejects that team up with Saruman in The Two Towers) bard, who I wrote to be the descendant of a character I had used in a previous campaign I had really liked. Initially, I had intended him to be the token evil (or hostile) party member, but soon enough Juan and myself started a running joke concerning the relationship between our characters that ended going to weird places.
I've been asked elsewhere to give some more detail about the characters themselves, so here it goes.
GRUÑON, DWARF WARRIOR
Would have been a pretty standard high STR/CON build (very high CON, which combined with some good rolls and dwarf racial advantages resulted in him eventually having a ton of hit points), if it hadn't been for one extremely high roll.
In MERP, you see, appeareance (meaning how beautiful your character is) was determined by a 1-100 roll and modified by CHA. Gruñon rolled very high and even after the dwarven CHA penalty ended with an appeareance value of 94 (90-100 being more or less movie star levels of attractiveness), which is possibly the highest I ever saw playing MERP for a dwarf character. The GM, of course, found it hilarious and made a point of having female NPCs hit on him with some regularity.
Other than this, the guy started with some rather good gear (+15 mace, which would be a +3 weapon in D&D; +10 to defense chain mail) and some serious money (silver, gold and some jewels overall equivalent to 100 gold coins, which is fifty times the starting money for first level characters). Also, no provided backstory, so the GM gave the player some broad strokes and we played with that.
ELTURION, NOLDO ELF MAGE
Have I mentioned that low level mages in MERP really, really sucked? Because they do.
They get somewhat better as they level up, but never go beyond decent (unless you happen to run with the Rolemaster expanded spell lists, since MERP lists cap at level 10). Rune reading and magic item usage skills don't really compensate and, for example, the character Elturion was restricted to two spells for the first level: Sleep V (can put to sleep five levels worth of enemies) and Projected Light (beam of light projected from hand, explicitly works as a flash-light).
Beyond the frankly limited magic, the character spoke roughly half a zillion languages from the start and in combat used a dagger that let him cast a water bolt once a day. His backstory presented him as a scholar going back home after visiting the libraries of Gondor, who was interested in the mostly lost lore of the ringsmiths of Eregion (purely intellectual reasons, honest).
Other than this, the most remarkable thing about Elturion was that a poor roll in the Appeareance score resulted in a rather ugly elf (App 37), even with the very high CHA bonus of elves in general (and Noldor in particular) accounted in. Lots of joking about this, considering the fabulously beautiful dwarf warrior and, in the end, the player decided to justify the appeareance through backstory by giving her wizard some ugly scarring as a result of getting caught in a fire as a kid.
AMIRA, HARADANETH ANIMIST
Rolled the maximum value in the AGI roll and then burned one "background option" bonus to bump it to 102, which is as high as it gets for PCs in MERP. High INT. Combined with a +15 bow she had, the character soon turned into the go-to member of the team in terms of delivering ranged pain, sometimes in combination with spells (she started with Calm I, which allowed her to prevent a single target from taking aggressive action for a minute).
The backstory provided was pretty interesting stuff, though. Harad, in the roleplaying game, was a rather complex territory that in spite of being generally hostile towards Gondor for much of its history, was not a realm of Sauron worshipping fanatics until the very end of the Third Age (with Sauron back in Mordor and ready to crush anyone willing to step out of line).
In this context, Amira was supposed to be a former street rat, turned low rank priest of a sect of followers of a local Moon goddess who having angered the Nazgul up in Minas Morgul with their pacifism got mostly wiped out. Amira essentially decided to try her luck with Gondorians, who might kill her, over the bunch of bastards actively trying to kill her. Player used the final background bonuses to buy high skill levels in First Aid, Dancing and Legerdemain to justify the backstory.
Also, the GM took the sect stuff and used for plot later.
HALDAN, DUNADAN PALADIN
There was nothing remarkable about the character in terms of stats or skills, but the backstory they (player and GM) cooked up to justify playing a paladin was pretty interesting.
As previously mentioned, the Rynd Aratoran (House of the Champions) was an original homebrewed concept for Middle Earth paladins by one Victor P. Arissa that got published at one point in a fan-written magazine. They are presented as a Gondor sponsored organization created in the early Third Age and effectively dismantled during the Balchoth invasion with the death of almost all its members during the battle of the Field of Celebrant, later restored by Aragorn upon his ascension to the throne.
Despite the timeframe, the GM allowed the player to run with it, painting the order as extremely diminished from its glory days (quaint in the eyes of most who even know about its existence), but still extant and respected to some degree by the authorities of Gondor as a reminder of the glories of times long past. Thanks to being a member of the Rynd Aratoran, the Haldan character was effectively a free agent of the Steward, legally allowed to ask for anything needed from either the local authorities or populace of Gondor to complete his missions, but unable to accept monetary compensation for his deeds.
Also, though potentially capable of using some limited magic, failure in the relevant rolls resulted in him starting the game magic-less.
LEOWYN, ROHIR WARRIOR
As noted before, this was a character provided as an example in the corebook, so there is not a whole lot to comment about. She was a somewhat unusual high STR/AGI build, with low CON (same hit points than the mage at the start, as a matter of fact), with high skill scores in Riding and some other stuff related to horses. Other than that, she had a horse and had a remarkably high appeareance value (92).
Her backstory painted her as a woman hunting the murderer of her love interest, who was supposed to be one of the escorts of the ambassador of Rohan in Minas Tirith. GM had a lot of fun with this. A lot.
ESTRECCA, DUNLENDING BARD
Estrecca, son and grandson of Estrecca, was less lucky than his ancestor of the same name (the previous character of the same name I had played). Average to bad rolls and the jack-of-all-trades nature of the bard class resulted in my character being a less than impressive party member (weak in terms of hit points, too), although I managed to get a few good moments.
Although as a bard I got some limited spellcasting (starting with Whisper, which let me project my whispers some distance away from myself), I also got some leather armor with defensive bonuses (this removed my spellcasting ability, but was a good decision that saved my character three times early on), as well as a flute that let me cast music to stun single enemies twice a day.
My backstory painted the character as a Gondor/Rohan hating jerk who was looking for those who had sacked the tomb of his ancestor (my previous character) and stolen his relics. This was an ongoing plot thread for much of the campaign and the GM wisely ensured that I wouldn't catch up with the tomb raiders until my character was of high enough level to get only minor benefits out of the recovered family treasures.
For reasons he never shared, Román really, really disliked the classic conceit of "party meets in a tavern, has adventures", so before we started he asked us whether we were willing to play with a split party for the first couple levels of the game, prior to the full party meeting and start of the main plot itself.
Though a bit unusual, we were tentatively cool with the idea and, as a result, effectively played two different adventures at the same time. In one hand, we had the dwarf, the elf and my asshole dunlending operating around the Gap of Rohan, while the paladin, the haradrim priestess and the shield maiden had their fun in southern Gondor.
START OF CAMPAIGN BACKGROUND
GAP OF ROHAN
The Gap of Rohan is the term used to describe the entire territory between the southern Misty Mountains and the northernmost peaks of the White Mountains.
Isengard in Nan Curunir, the Valley of the Wizard, is nominally a Gondorian stronghold that Saruman has been holding for the Stewards for a few centuries now, although few actual Gondorians have visited the place in the same period. Though Saruman hasn't started creating orc armies yet, Isengard is also home to several hundred servants (mostly men of diverse provenance, along with a handful of dwarves). South of Saruman's domain, Rohan's western borders are marked by the line of the rivers Isen and Adorn.
To the south-west of these rivers and north of the White Mountains extends the allegedly empty land that the Gondorians call Druwaith Iaur, which was once settled by strange wild men called Woses by the Rohirrim and Druedain by the people of Gondor. In fact, there are still fairly large numbers of wild men living in the territory, but a couple centuries of being hunted for sport by the horse-lords has made them exceedingly hostile towards any and all strangers. And this is, if anything, an understatement, since they are thought legendary by now because those who intrude in their territory are generally killed from ambush using poisoned darts.
North of the Isen, south of the Gwathló, west of Rohan, is the region known as Enedwaith. For three thousand years, this territory has existed halfway between the more civilized regions of northern Eriador and the Gondorian sphere of influence, in spite of which its dominant ethnic group (the Dunlendings) has always remained stubbornly independent and clinged to their rather primitive ways of life. Dunlendings are a superstitious, boisterous and quarrelsome lot, but can also be surprisingly welcoming to strangers. Also, for all that they envy and hate the forgoil (strawheads, which is their insulting name for Rohirrim), there has been more than a bit of intermingling over the generations and whenever there is not open conflict, there is quite a bit of trade between both groups.
Rohan, kingdom of the Eorlingas, starts east of the Isen. It is a land of prairies, dotted with small towns and smaller villages, where a proud people lives. A proud people that is starting to seriously resent the tax collection efforts of the not very well liked king, and nowhere is this sentiment as obvious as it is in West-march, where the people are mostly of mixed blood and traditionally shaky loyalties towards Edoras. Hoping to prevent a rebellion, or dunlending raiders being invited in by disgruntled vassals, the Second Marshall of the Riddermark has been reinforcing the garrisons of Helm's Deep and the Isen ford forts. This, in turn, has costed some serious money and some angry letters from the king, who really wants to know why his sweet, sweet tax money is being devoted to a military build-up during peacetime.
Harondor was traditionally Gondor's southernmost province. However, Gondor's claim has been disputed for centuries by the kingdoms of Near Harad and the corsairs of Umbar, resulting in the semi-desertic plateau being lightly populated. Settlements are few and far between these days and the people universally mistrustful of strangers, with the few remaining townships of somewhat respectable size huddling close to the Poros and the Harnen.
The eastern border of this land is marked by the Ephel Duath, Mordor's Mountains of Shadow, which even during Gondor's heyday were a dangerous place and nowadays house ever-increasing numbers of the inhuman members that form the hordes of the Dark Lord. Fortunately, people have long since learned to stay well away from the border of Mordor and with orcs having orders from the highest authority to avoid tipping Gondor about the real state of things in Sauron's stronghold there have been surprisingly few problems so far.
South of the Harnen begins the territory of Harad proper, divided once again in a myriad kingdoms since the great Coalition of Amrun suffered a crushing defeat at the Crossings of Poros, while attempting to invade southern Ithilien fifty nine years ago. Unlike previous clashes with Gondor, however, the Amrun War left a lasting hatred of the northern kingdom in the hearts of the people of Harad. As a result, trade circuits have since focused on the markets of Umbar, increasing the prosperity and influence of the Corsairs among the inland nations of Near Harad. Though the Council of Umbar does not yet feel strong enough to challenge Gondor directly, the time in which they will dare to renew the conflict with their old foe is not distant anymore.
North of the Poros is southern Ithilien, which was once Gondor's wealthiest and most populous region and is now an impoverished borderland. Though the Haudh in Gwanur (the tomb of the twin princes of Rohan that came to assist the south-kingdom against the Haradrim hordes) stands proud as testimony of Gondor's victory at the Poros, the province hasn't managed to recover from the loss of twenty thousand young men during that battle. Combined with the dark things that have started to crawl out of Morgul Valley, Ithilien's population keeps shrinking as people look for safer places to live in the other side of the Anduin.
This is almost, but not quite Middle Earth as you know it from the books and movies.
Cirdan the Shipwright, eldest of the elves of Middle Earth, remains lord of the Grey Havens and Lindon, busy as ever with the construction of ships for those of his kind who finally decide to abandon Middle Earth through the Straight Road.
Lorien is jointly ruled by Celeborn and Galadriel, where things are much the same as they will be in the time of the War of the Ring, except for the fact that the Lady's grand-daughter, Arwen Undomiel, currently lives in the Golden Forest and will remain there for the better part of a decade yet.
Rivendell, the domain of Elrond Half-Elven, has been for eleven years now the home of a woman called Gilraen and a young boy who is called Estel by the elves. Some years from now, the lord of Imladris will reveal this boy that he is in truth Aragorn, son of Arathorn, who shall one day be King of Arnor and Gondor.
In Mirkwood the Great, Thranduil Oropherion had hoped that the White Council's defeat of the Necromancer in the south of the Forest and the near-annihilation of the goblin host during the Battle of Five Armies would give his people an opportunity to reclaim some of the territory they had lost over the years to the things of the Shadow. He has since been disabused of the notion and, in spite of the best efforts of the elves, many evil things still lurk under the trees of the great northern forest.
Daín II Ironfoot (not a young dwarf anymore at 177, but vigorous as a youngster half his age) is King-Under-The-Mountain of the restored dwarven realm of Erebor, as well as Lord of the Iron Hills, making him the more or less undisputed sovereign of the Longbeard tribe and the most influential dwarf in western Middle Earth. Though the Lonely Mountain has not fully recovered yet from its long occupation by the dragon Smaug, hints of future splendour can already be glimpsed.
Smaller groups of Longbeards that do not directly answer to Daín dwell in the Grey Mountains or remain in the Blue Mountains, in the same halls in which Thorin Oakenshield lived his long exile, along with petty kingdoms of Broadbeams and Firebeards whose stubborn ancestors never left their homelands to join Durin's folk in Khazad-dum.
In the Shire, Fortinbras Took has been Thain for five years now and is starting his thirtieth year of rather unhappy marriage with Lalia Clayhanger. It is noteworthy that hobbits do not feel quite as safe in their lifestyle these days as they will a generation later, seeing that the Fell Winter of thirty three years ago with its horrific food shortages and white wolf invasion happened within living memory of pretty much every adult in the territory. However, a greater awareness of the possibility of hardship does not mean that hobbits are any more inclined to seek it out. Indeed, Bilbo Baggins and his "adventure" has been the talk of the Shire for over two years now.
Eriador remains largely empty and desolate, except for the Shire and the Bree-land. Tharbad, last great city of the northern lands, was ruined and abandoned after the floods that followed the Fell Winter. The Rangers of the North live in their hidden villages in the Angle of Rhudaur, still doing their ancestral duty to protect what was Arnor from the Shadow, although they have been effectively leaderless for over ten years now, ever since their captain Arathorn was killed by a goblin arrow that hit him in the eye.
In the Barrow Downs, evil spirits still haunt tombs that absolutely nobody has visited in centuries, while in the nearby Old Forest Tom Bombadil sings and laughs, as he waits for the stars to be right. Further to the south, the Dunlending clans remain in a permanent state of conflict with each other, combined with some raids that take the braver (and dumber) among them past the borders of Rohan.
Saruman the White has lived in Isengard for several centuries now and his neighbours generally know better than to annoy the master of Nan Curunir, for all that the wizard is nominally a vassal of Gondor (and won't openly declare otherwise for some years yet). Though he is not yet an agent of the Dark Lord and currently leads the White Council, Saruman covets for himself the power of the One Ring and has devoted no small amount of effort to find it over the last decades.
Rohan is ruled by old Fengel, son of Folcwine. His has been a long reign (fourty one years and counting) and one his people would like to end as soon as possible. Unlike his much beloved father, Fengel has been a notoriously greedy ruler with little in the way of achievements that may justify the heavy taxes he has set over the years, and his relations with the Marshals of the Mark have been so stormy at points that civil war has seemed a possibility. And though Gondor will do nothing to accelerate the end of Fengel's reign, they will be glad when he goes too, since his possitively mercenary approach to the old alliance disgusts the ruling Steward.
Turgon, the current Steward, is not particularly old by the standards of his bloodline (89 years old, currently), but he is not even remotely the same vigorous man he was when he ascended to his office thirty years ago. Though there has been no expansion under his rule, Gondor has enjoyed relative prosperity and peace, and a recovery of sorts has taken place in parts of the kingdom that were ravaged by plague or invasion in times past. Moreover, the line of succession seems safe for the time being: the Steward's son, Ecthelion, is an adult of 58 with a son, Denethor, of 14 years.
Other figures of note in Gondor include Angelimir, current prince of Dol Amroth, and Thengel, exiled prince of Rohan, who just last year married beatiful Morwen of Lossarnach, after gaining a great deal of honor and wealth in the service of the Steward (service which mostly involved combat against Umbarean corsairs and Haradrim raiders). Morwen has just realized that she is pregnant for a second time.
The child she carries will be born in eight months and his name will be Theoden.
Far to the north, the lake-town of Esgaroth has been rebuilt and the by now legendary hero Bard Dragon-slayer is trying to restore the city and kingdom of Dale, under the shadow of Erebor. There have been complications, but the dwarves are amenable and the enormous wealth he was given has done much to increase the activity of old, formerly lethargic trade routes that stretch as far as Dorwinion.
The Dark Tower is still a ruin, but other than that the Black Land is ready for the return of its master. For centuries now, Sauron has silently readied his old fortress-kingdom through his Ringwraiths and their fortress of Minas Morgul. In a few years, the Dark Lord will feel strong enough to restore his old seat of power and openly announce his presence to the world.
Adventure in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Learn more at our website: http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/the-one-ring/
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