"The Shadow over Wilderland" campaign AP -- SPOILERS

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gsecaur
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Re: "The Shadow over Wilderland" campaign AP -- SPOILERS

Post by gsecaur » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:43 pm

This is long, long overdue -- we played the session back in December 2017 -- but I'm inspired to resume my recaps by Agnot's recent thread and Rich H's updates to his own.

This is a really long one, since we ran through a ton of story in this session, and it concludes Rich's excellent "To Journey's End and the Eagles' Eyrie". As always, this is very spoiler-ful and should be avoided by those who may run through the scenario as players in the future.

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Session 4: To Journey's End (part 5) (May 4, T.A. 2946)

The characters:
Caranthir, an Elf of Mirkwood, Slayer
Gerold, a Man of Woodmen-town, Warden
Gylfir, a Man of the Beornings, Warden
Nali, a Dwarf of Erebor, Wanderer
Will, a Hobbit of Buckland, Wanderer


The strange old man rushes toward the party, waving his flaming brand. His hair is wild and white, and he wears only rags, his legs bare. He shouts as he runs, "You must wake them! Wake them!"

Caranthir challenges him to explain himself, but the stranger barely seems to comprehend the words. He waves the branch, and Gerold sees that it is coated in a tarry substance. He recalls that among the Woodmen there are cures which must be burned and inhaled like this. He meets the eyes of the old man, who has a moment of lucidity and tells Gerold, "They are under a spell." Gerold tells his friends to let the old men rouse the Dwarves, which he does by waving the branch near their nostrils so that they inhale the smoke.

"It isn't safe," mutters the man. "There is something in the forest."

The party, however, is in no condition to depart, and the rain continues to fall in a torrent. Some of the heroes are reluctant to leave, and others are reluctant to stay. Caranthir argues forcefully to return to their camp, get a good night's dry sleep in the shelter of the ruins, and leave in the morning. Now that they are aware of the threat, he reasons, they can resist it.

The hermit will hear none of it. "It isn't safe," he repeats. "Something is in the forest, and it is beyond you to face it. It isn't safe. Come!" He beckons them to follow him.

After more argument, the party decides to follow the old man, and he leads them into the dark woods. At least it's dry under the thick canopy of Mirkwood! Following the light of the still-burning branch, the party wends far into the gloom. They come to a massive tree, rounding it to find that it is dead and hollow, tilted at a sharp angle. The hermit climbs over a thick root and descends into darkness beneath the old bole. The company pauses, and finally Nali follows, the rest following him.

They arrive in a small room formed inside the roots of the dead tree, lit by pots of burning tallow and a cooking fire near one wall; a spit atop the fire roasts some kind of small game, a rabbit or squirrel. The hollow of the tree rises overhead, stuffed with thatch to keep out the rain and cold, except for a narrow chimney to let smoke escape. A pile of animal skins makes a rude bed and small carved wooden pots litter every surface. Gerold asks the old man's name, and he merely grunts, "Don't have a name. Don't need one. No one to call me by it. Those with a name have something to lose. No name."

Nali finds it easier to stand inside the hovel than the rest of the party, so while they crouch around the fire, he explores. The roots that lace the walls are carved, albeit crudely, with images of leering, monstrous faces. The Dwarf points this out to Gerold, who is reminded of the carvings inside Woodland Hall, the primary seat of his people. In fact, the style of all the handiwork found in the house suggests to Gerold that this hermit was once a Woodman.

While the rest of the party picks at the roasting meat, Gerold questions the old man, but finds such conversation maddeningly difficult. He does notice that the man's wrists and ankles show scars from shackles, and there are other telltale marks of ill-treatment by cruel hands. Surely those experiences contributed to his madness, but he is unable to unwilling to provide details when Gerold gently inquires. Finally the oldster tells Gerold that he has something for him, and climbs across the seated companions to fumble among some rags on a shelf, finally turning back to Gerold with a small, wrapped parcel.

"Take this," he rasps, "for I have held it too long. The Shadow lives inside of things, and it is not best to keep them close."

Gerold unwraps the heavy object, finding it to be a piece of a broken axe head. The edges are carved with Woodmen designs and writing that looks like the Old Words he has seen only in places or on objects of great antiquity. Slowly, the realization comes upon him, that this is a piece of Wolfbiter, an ancient heirloom of the Woodmen which was lost before Gerold was born. He hurriedly wraps it up and slips it inside his shirt.

Once the fellowship has rested well and the storm has broken, they climb up out of the house and the hermit points the way back to the Old Forest Road. Along the way, Gerold tells his companions about the axe head, and Balin enthusiastically declares that they simply must divert from the trail and go to Woodland Hall, so that Gerold may return the heirloom. Balin charges him with leading the fellowship there, along the hidden byways of the Woodmen.

Now the party is well west of the Mountains of Mirkwood, nearing the western gate of the Old Forest Road, and in territory that Woodmen might regard as safe and well-known, though to all others it is just as gloomy and spider-haunted as the rest of the forest. In days long ago, certain Woodmen argued that cutting a proper road through the forest would ease trade with their neighbors, while others argued that this would forfeit the natural defense of Mirkwood, which might be all that kept a foreign army from marching against them. In the end, a compromise was struck, where a straight stretch would be cleared for a distance of a few miles, and at the end subtle signs would instruct the traveler where to find the next such path. This meant that although goods could be transported faster, anyone wishing to use this network would still need a Woodman guide to interpret the signs. In the years since, these paths have been overgrown and are no longer maintained, but the forest is noticeably less dense and travel is certainly easier. As they march, Will leads the group in "Song of the Forest", a walking-song of the Shire. (This resulted in a few PCs gaining Inspiration dice.)

After a few days off the main road, occasionally meeting up with the Dusky River which connects the Woodman settlements, Gerold leads the company into the town of Woodland Hall, named for the massive hall atop a central hill. If the town were ever attacked, the hall is large enough that it could hold all the folk within its walls. The building is also known for the intricate carvings along every post and lintel, which tell the tale of the history of the Woodmen, dating back a thousand years or more. It is not uncommon to see pilgrims come to spend a season living in the hall, studying the history of their folk.

But Gerold's business is with Bregdan, chief of one of the families of Woodland Hall. He explains to his friends that the Woodmen don't have a king or leader, but that each family or clan defers to its eldest or wisest or bravest and follows that person's lead. When decisions are made by the entire community, a moot is held where each clan speaks for itself and a vote is taken to decide matters of import. It was Bregdan's family that wielded Wolfbiter when it was lost, so it is to them it must be returned.

Gerold knows the story, and shares it with his friends. This all happened some two-score years ago, when Bregdan was a boy and his father, Baldred, led the family. The eldest son was Bargrim, and he carried Wolfbiter as his father's heir and representative. One day Bargrim entered the wood with a group of friends, planning a long hunt, and he never returned. For decades, Baldred refused to name Bregdan as his new heir, insisting that Bargrim was alive and would return. Meanwhile, Bregdan strove to become the very best at everything that defines the Woodmen -- hunting, fighting, boating -- until finally, his dying father named him to lead the family.

Bregdan's son admits the group into the family hall, and they are asked to wait. They are offered meat and cheese, and strong Woodman cider. Before long, Bregdan appears, impatiently demanding to know what they want.

The company is careful to deliver the news gently -- they believe that they have found his long-lost brother and recovered a valued artefact, but all is not cause for cheer. If the hermit is Bargrim, then his mind is broken and he is likely beyond the point of returning to his family and living in peace. Nali stays quiet, but Gerold, Will, Caranthir, and especially Gylfir all participate in the conversation. Gylfir tells a stirring tale of brothers reunited after many years, which causes Bregdan's eyes to well up. (Gylfir spent Inspiration dice from singing, and achieved a Great Success on his Inspire test.)

The old Woodman thanks the heroes for this good news, and for returning such a treasured item. He has his son fetch a bag of silver, giving each companion a share (equal to 1 Treasure apiece), and invites them to enjoy the hospitality of his hall until they are ready to continue on their journey. He promises to speak well of Gerold at the next folk-moot (which raises Gerold's Standing by 1). Balin agrees to stay an extra three days to recover from the weariness of the road, but now that they are so close to the conclusion of their journey, he is eager to see it done.

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They return to the Old Forest Road and travel a few more days until they reach the western gate and emerge into the Vales of the Anduin. After so long within the dark gloom of the forest, the warm sun on their faces and soft grass beneath their feet speed their travel and restore their hope (but not their Hope, alas).

Now they make for Beorn's house, where Gylfir will make his report, Balin will invite Beorn to the Gathering of the Five Armies, and they will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Bear Lord. Near a small cluster of farmhouses, they encounter a tall, rangy Beorning with grey in his beard -- this is Merovech, one of the thanes of Beorn and an acquaintance of Gylfir. The two men greet one another cheerfully and share news of their travels, and Merovech advises that Beorn is eagerly awaiting Gylfir's news from Esgaroth. The fellowship decides to postpone a quick visit to Gylfir's own home, hurrying instead to Beorn's house.

After a day's pleasant walk through farmlands and meadows, they reach the ring of oaks which surround the great estate. Even from outside, the buzzing of bee-hives is heard, punctuated by joyfully barking dogs. They declare themselves at the gate and are allowed to pass, following the track up to Beorn's hall. Inside, word is passed that Gylfir has arrived and a runner goes to fetch Beorn, who enters the hall wiping dirt from his massive hands.

Most of the party have never met the giant skin-changer and know his name only from rumour and legend. He gets right to business: "Gylfir, what news have you for me?"

Gylfir relates his experience with Omund, son of Lomund, the new Master of Esgaroth. He shares that he believes Omund is sincere in his desire to help his people, and that he would be a more honest trading partner than the old Master. He presents the carved, wooden longboat which Master Omund gave him as a gift for Beorn.

"And why do you bring this old rascal to my hall again, after five long years?" He indicates Balin, with a hearty laugh, and the two clasp arms in greeting. Balin explains his mission and invites Beorn to attend the coming festival in Dale, which he agrees to consider.

News of the broader world is shared, and the fellowship tells Beorn of the Orcs they encountered in Mirkwood. This troubles him and a cloud darkens his face. He confides that he has heard of Orcs crossing his lands from Mirkwood, toward the west and the Misty Mountains. While some assert that the growing strength of the Free Peoples is driving the Orcs from their hiding places, Beorn fears that there is another power at work. "We are not so lucky, or so strong, I think."

He stands up, declaring, "These are worries for another day. For now, come and share my table." He claps his hands together once, and from various small side doors emerge sheep balancing bowls of fresh cream atop their woolly backs, followed by dogs walking on their hind legs and carrying pots of honey and platters of vegetables. Beorn himself eats only honey and cream, and no meat is offered to the fellowship. None of them have ever encountered such a meal!

The party spends the night in the hall, and in the morning they eat a breakfast very similar to the previous night's dinner, and are given parcels of honey-cakes to replenish their packs. Beorn blesses their journey and wishes Balin good health, finally telling Gylfir that he is pleased by his work (and raising his Standing by 1).

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The last leg of the journey takes the company from Beorn's house, south to the Old Ford, then north-west to the Eagles' Eyrie, where Balin will release them from their contracts. The land here is not quite so friendly as the farms of the Beornings, but still much easier than the road through Mirkwood. Nali leads them on a winding track for three days, around marshy pools and bogs, the grey haze of the Misty Mountains looming above.

On the morning of the fourth day, they reach tall, sheer columns of rock, rising like spears out of the foothills, into clear blue skies. Though it is wide open, this is effectively an impregnable fortress, the home of the Great Eagles, a place which the Elves call Amon Thyryr. If one is not a friend to the Eagles, there is only one way to reach the eyrie, and that is by climbing -- a perilous, treacherous undertaking. Balin indicates a large, flat rock only ten feet or so above the surrounding ground, and says that they must climb onto it. This is easily done, but upon reaching the top, the party sees great, long gouges in the rock, and everyone pictures the massive talons which made those marks.

Balin turns his face skyward and bellows, "Balin, son of Fundin, Friend of Gandalf the Grey and once companion of Thorin Oakenshield, calls upon the Eagles of Amon Thyryr, who I beseech to hear my request!"

There is silence for a bit, then a dark shape appears above the rocky columns, plummeting earthward. Wings spread wide and catch the morning sun, glinting golden and bright. A gigantic Eagle lands heavily on the rock, its talons tightening their grasp on the ledge, gouging further into the stone.

The creature regards each of the heroes with intelligent eyes, then speaks. “I am Landroval the Swift, brother to Gwaihir, the Wind Lord who is King of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains.

“I see there are Men of the Vale among you, yet they are not loosing their arrows upon me! This they have been known to do when I hunt for sheep or calf. Men seem yet to not understand that no creature can own another, and why does a sheep care who eats it in the end? But do not be concerned, for the Eagles bear your folk no real enmity. Apart from this delusion, you appear to be an otherwise decent folk!"

He turns to Caranthir and says, “Long has it been since my Lord and yours visited each other. I trust the King of the Woodland Realm is enjoying his prerogatives?” The Elf manages to stammer out an assent.

"Balin, son of Fundin, my lord and I carried you and your kin away from a fiery death once before. What debt could we possibly owe you, that you come here to make demands of us?"

Balin smiles faintly, saying, "I have an invitation for the Wind Lord, from the kings of Dale and Erebor. They wish to praise him for his part in the Battle of Five Armies, and solidify the bonds among our peoples."

Landroval looks again to the rest of the company. "And what of these? What do they have to say on the matter?"

Seeing that such a creature would not be impressed by any display of strength or arms, the companions opt for humility and soft words. This time, Caranthir -- realizing that kind words are not his strength -- is silent, but the remaining companions all contribute to the effort. Eventually, Landroval is convinced that their purpose is true and noble, and he says, “Balin, Son of Fundin, you may speak with Gwaihir and make your request. Come; take hold of my talons and do not let go!” Balin wraps his arms around Landroval's leg and the Great Eagle leaps into the air, beating against it with mighty wings. The gust nearly knocks the company off their feet.

They wait, sitting in the sun on the great, flat rock, trying not to imagine Balin committing some diplomatic error and being torn to pieces above them. They break out the honey-cakes and mead and enjoy an early lunch.

After an hour, Landroval returns with Balin, placing him again upon the rock. “Good health to you, Balin, and you all. Rest here and in safety and travel back to your lands when you see fit. I and my lord will see you again at Esgaroth, in the east, when the leaves of Mirkwood have turned golden brown and fallen from their boughs. Farewell!” Ascending into the heavens, he leaves the fellowship alone again.

Now Balin turns to the companions, declaring, "My friends, you have completed your obligations to me. Take this as final payment of your contract." He hands them each a small pouch of coins, the remainder that is owed to them. "We three will go now to the Easterly Inn, near the Forest Gate, before returning to Erebor through the Narrows of the north. I know you have your own matters to attend, but if you wish to accompany us on the return to Erebor, you would be welcome. We will depart on the first of September from the Easterly Inn. And should you find your own way, we will see you again at the Gathering in November!"

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Loremaster's notes: I was pleased with how this scenario wrapped up. There was no combat, which allowed us to accomplish a lot narrative-wise, and I thought the players did a great job of embodying their different personalities and the differences in their cultures. Both the Woodmen and the Beorning were able to accomplish things that elevated them within their societies.

The fellowship decided to split up for a few weeks, so each can attend to his own interests. Caranthir chose to remain at Amon Thyryr, to rest and meditate. He opened it as a Sanctuary for himself, which I allow the PCs to do individually rather than requiring the entire group to agree on it. (He wants to use the location's Heal Corruption undertaking in the future. He is not interested in developing his Craft or Song skills, which would make Heal Corruption difficult under ordinary circumstances, but at the Eagles' Eyrie no skill check is needed.) Gerold returned to Beorn's house, where he spent some time training Roderic. Gylfir returns to his own home, which is near Beorn's estate. Nali and Will also repaired to Beorn's house.

In a few weeks, the group reunites at Beorn's house and decides to travel south to attend a Midsummer festival at the town of Stanford, south of the Old Ford. That is our next adventure, The Theft of the Moon by zedturtle.
Last edited by gsecaur on Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Agnot
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Location: South Georgia

Re: "The Shadow over Wilderland" campaign AP -- SPOILERS

Post by Agnot » Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:58 pm

May I just say that this was a fantastic write-up! It's clear you pay a lot of attention to the details and that makes it that much better. Nothing seems glossed over. Each location, NPC's, event, and object have received a great a deal of thought. I hope your players enjoy and appreciate all of your hard work.

Like you, I've ditched the part of the rules that require the players to all spend a Fellowship Phase in the same location to open it as a Sanctuary. I want them to spread out and explore their own individual story-lines in their down time.

Again, well done.

gsecaur
Posts: 33
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 9:09 pm

Re: "The Shadow over Wilderland" campaign AP -- SPOILERS

Post by gsecaur » Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:30 pm

Thanks, Agnot. I enjoy your write-ups as well. I'm actually going to run your Black Arrow scenario to start the next year (though I don't know exactly when we'll get to play it, due to the way our group rotates games).

As I've mentioned in the preface to some of my previous write-ups, these are the summaries that I write for the benefit of my players, so that they can go back to refresh their memories of previous adventures, and so that we have a thorough record of the campaign once it's over. I know that some people aren't interested in reading this much detail, but I really do enjoy reading such summaries of other LMs' campaigns.

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Agnot
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Re: "The Shadow over Wilderland" campaign AP -- SPOILERS

Post by Agnot » Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:40 pm

gsecaur wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:30 pm

As I've mentioned in the preface to some of my previous write-ups, these are the summaries that I write for the benefit of my players, so that they can go back to refresh their memories of previous adventures, and so that we have a thorough record of the campaign once it's over. I know that some people aren't interested in reading this much detail, but I really do enjoy reading such summaries of other LMs' campaigns.
This is the primary reason I do it as well. I want a record to refer back to since there will be a ton of NPC's and such to keep track of as we progress through 30 years of campaign in Darkening of Mirkwood. But, I also enjoy reading other's posts, so I decided I'd share our experiences. It would also be cool to compile the write-ups into an epic narrative once its over. Now if I can only convince Jon Hodgson to complete a painting of our fellowship members. I think my catapult should be able to fire a wad of cash to Scotland. :D

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Rich H
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Re: "The Shadow over Wilderland" campaign AP -- SPOILERS

Post by Rich H » Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:39 am

gsecaur wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:43 pm
This is long, long overdue -- we played the session back in December 2017 -- but I'm inspired to resume my recaps by Agnot's recent thread and Rich H's updates to his own.

This is a really long one, since we ran through a ton of story in this session, and it concludes Rich's excellent "To Journey's End and the Eagles' Eyrie". As always, this is very spoiler-ful and should be avoided by those who may run through the scenario as players in the future.
That was a really great read and I'm glad you put the adventure to great use! Looks like you all really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. :)

Keep up the great work! /thumbsup
TOR resources thread: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=62
TOR miniatures thread: viewtopic.php?t=885

Fellowship of the Free Tale of Years: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8318

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