"In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

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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Red Haired Thor
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"In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Red Haired Thor » Thu May 10, 2018 2:28 am


I'm not sure how to really begin this kind of post, as I feel like I need to introduce myself. I've been a Lore-Master for The One Ring for some time now, running a Darkening of Mirkwood grand campaign for...I believe slightly over two years now, with some of my own additions thrown in, for a fellowship of currently five companions, though they started with four. Kullervo from these forums is one of the players in that game. Some of the players there are really knowledgeable about Tolkien's Middle-Earth, and while I cannot say we maintain true fidelity (as if such a thing were possible) I like to think we do a good job capturing the spirit of the world.

But this campaign journal is not about that game. I have seen a few APs of Darkening of Mirkwood, both on here and other sites like rpg.net. While no two campaigns are alike, I decided that instead of talking about the way my players dealt with the Tales of Wilderland, the war between the Viglundings and the Beorning, their adventures in the Black Tarn...I'll write about a different group.

The Fellowship of Silverton.

The Fellowship of Silverton
While the group for whom I run the Darkening of Mirkwood all have a decent knowledge of the world of Middle Earth as presented by the books or Tolkien's writings, the Fellowship of Silverton is more familiar with the movies than the novels. We used to play FFG's Edge of the Empire, but I had told our GM about The One Ring and it turns out, it is his second favorite fantasy world (The game we were originally playing should give you a clue to his first) and he really wanted to play TOR.

Our EotE game died when one of our players moved away, and we didn't play for a while, but we've recently started playing on Roll20 to overcome that barrier, and when we were tossing out ideas, I volunteered to run TOR and my old GM eagerly convinced the others to play.

Now, as I said, most of my players vision of Middle Earth is that of the movies, but they were on board. This was a new opportunity for me, since while I worked hard in Darkening not to create any dissonance with Tolkien's song, in this game I would allow myself to be a bit...looser with canon. Knowing these players tastes leaned more to a sandbox style of play, I came to the forums again to see what ideas I could scrounge. I wanted something that would be different from Darkening, since I didn't want to cover the same ground. When I stumbled on Otaku-sempai's Guide to Western Eriador and read about the more frontier-town, building up a region, I immediately thought it sounded fun and stole the concept (Like I said in another thread, good LMs borrow, great LMs steal ;)) and so...Let me introduce you to the player characters.

Grór, son of Ginar
Grór is a Wandering Merchant from those exiles of the Grey Mountains, but that doesn't satisfy him. The War of the Dwarves and Dragons saw the loss of his family's ancestral hold, the Manor of Silverton and its eponymous silver mine. His grandfather was lord of the Hall in those dark days and fought in the war, but was severely maimed for his efforts. Grór heard many tales from his grandfather of how they were homeless, penniless and starving in those early days. They were forced out of their lives as lordly silversmiths into a merchant's life, wandering from town to town, peddling their services and jewelry to pay their way. Raised on these stories, he's set out into the world with the intent of restoring Silverton Hall to it's former glory, whatever the cost.

Domarr spent his childhood in a Lake-Town orphanage that strove to train the children in various different vocations, but like many of the institutions during the rule of the Old Master there was often a certain...shady element to it. He had to develop his wits and skill with words alongside his blade to stay ahead. When King Bard killed the dragon and founded Dale, Domarr went to the new city to earn his fortune, meeting Grór, a merchant looking for work. He served as Grór's body guard for a time, enough that when Grór was invited to a party with some very important personalities of Dale and Erebor, Domarr was invited along as well.

Sargon is young by the standards of the First Children, and acts far more 'rebellious' than many of the Elves of the Mirkwood, much to the chagrin of his second cousin, Narniel. Sargon's parents died early in his life, so early that the elf was raised by his parent's cousins instead. No one ever told Sargon who his parents were, not even Narniel, who did not know herself. This lack of knowledge of his roots has driven Sargon away from the court, to explore the world around him and see if in his journeys he can uncover the truth himself.

The Premise
As I mentioned, I was inspired when I was reading Otaku-Sempai's guide and he was talking about the frontier town in the blue mountains. I've probably earned a lot of shadow points while mixing together the ideas for the campaign, because I also stole a few ideas I found on the forum here to create a holding system that my old GM, who plays Grór, loved and wanted to use. With a few retweakings (and a few more...and a few more...it's not quite finished yet), I created a system to deal with managing not just a holding but the development of a town. So they are leading a caravan out to the Grey Mountains Narrows to build a town in the unclaimed wilderness...and through their cunning and planning...they may even survive to see it grow.

Next up...The Caravan.
Last edited by Red Haired Thor on Thu May 10, 2018 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Red Haired Thor » Thu May 10, 2018 4:35 am

The Caravan
As an LM, I was presented with a conundrum when I saw I only had three players. Much of this game becomes more difficult without at least four players. One role would ALWAYS be uncovered during travel checks for hazards or camp activities. Sargon would have more difficulty managing being in the Rearward Stance I knew he adored (I had attempted to run a TOR campaign for Grór and Sargon's player shortly after Domarr's moved away, with a co-worker of Grór's, but that didn't last past two sessions. There Sargon was a Woodman archer). What should I do? I could make a fully fleshed out GMPC, but those never end well. I could just let them deal with the harshness of the world, but that wasn't what I was going for with this campaign.

The game we had first played as a group while we were in school together a few years back was Dungeon World, and that game had a very basic hireling system So with a little tweaking to the NPC rules, I came up with the idea of allowing the players to take certain adventurers along with them on their journeys. All these folks are traveling with the caravan and will have their own functions around the town of Silverton.

Without further ado...


Galdor: Galdor served as a raft-elf for many moons, hailing from the village of Celebannon along the Forest River. Even during the days prior the slaying of the dragon Smaug, when King Thranduil had kept his realm isolated, where none bar those named elf-friend were allowed passage, the raft-elves had contact with the Men of the Lake and some of their distant kin in Dorwinion. There is Avari blood in Galdor's veins, and he was never satisfied with just staying in the Elven King's Halls.

With the death of the dragon, the songs of the world call to him all the more strongly. Galdor seeks to travel across Arda, seeing what he can before his body fails him. This has put him at odds with the more conservative members of Thranduils court, and so he often spends more time in Esgaroth and Dale between his travels, offering his services as a guide or scout.

Hildegard of the South Quay: Born and raised in the ruins of Dale, in the South Quays before there WERE Quays, Hildegard has served in a variety of jobs throughout her life, though most have involved the use of a blade of some sort. She has been a criminal, an apprentice to the city guard, a warehouse guard for rich merchants in Lake-Town, and she has only just recently entered her twentieth year.

She is a sellsword, but she has her principles, having been brought out of the Quays by an old archer who helped turn her life around. She's willing to travel anywhere, lending her sword to the effort.

Runa: Runa's family were not the elite of Laketown; in fact, they were quite poor. When the Dragon fell into the lake, their fortunes started to change. While fishing one morning, Runa's father brought up a large gem, an emerald that had come loose from the coat of Smaug the Golden. It was worth a small fortune, once a buyer among the dwarves was found.

The excitement of the discovery and the reward that came with it enchanted Runa with the idea of finding more treasure. After all, the stories spoke of many hoards and stolen holds in the world. There might not be a yield as great as Erebor, but she was one woman, not a kingdom. Even a few ancient coins of gold would serve her well.

Varinn Waterhands: A Man of the Lake, Varinn had been a healer and a student of herb-lore since he was a young boy, though he is a young man no more. He trained in the halls of the healers of Woodmen-Town, before returning to Esgaroth to ply his trade in their hospital. When Dale was restored, he spent some time training the next generation in the Water House, but the big city life has begun to wear him out. Varinn's ready to travel again and set up shop in someplace less crowded than Dale or Esgaroth.

Helgi: The Leader of one of two families that Grór's cousin Grak convinced to go forth on an endeavor to settle down the roots of a new village, out somewhere in frontier of the Dalelands. Helgi was a laborer by trade, working to restore the city of Dale. Now, with the skills he's learned working on that great task, he's ready to put down roots on a land that he can call his own. He plans to build an inn when they settle, as many a village has flourished around an inn.

Erna: Helgi's wife, she's a mother of three and far less certain about this expedition than her husband. Not only are all her kids still young, the oldest being a boy of six years, her youngest is still nursing! She is the more sensible head between her and her husband, often offering the more dour or conservative opinions when asked.

Valdis: Valdis is the matriarch of the other family involved in this expedition, a mother of a pair of twin boys. A young widow of three years, she was once the wife of a guard of Lake-Town, but he perished in the defense of the Northern-March in a skirmish with a group of bandits, but she has survived. Two years later, she still remembers the horrors of the Dragon setting fire to the city around her. Yet she, survived. With the recent death of her parents and with not much wealth to her name, the Widow of Lomund has set off to set down roots elsewhere. Younger than Helgi and his wife by only a two years, her experiences have nonetheless tempered her so that she is more down-to-earth than the other family head, but she is not as reluctant as Erna. She has a way with horses, though most of her time is spent corralling her two boys.

Saxulf: Saxulf is one of the guards hired to travel with Helgi and Valdis and their families. He was once a member of the Bowman's Guild, though he got in one too many bar fights and injured his shoulder. He served under Captain Folkmarr, who was a follower of the Old Master of Lake-Town, but with his old Captain exiled and somewhere out in the wastes, Saxulf looks for work wherever he can take it.

Hakon, son of Helgi: Hakon is a six year old boy that is the oldest of the children, though he is a bit less outspoken than his daughter Helga. He is already training to be a carpenter and bricklayer like his dad, as well as most of the other chores involved in keeping the wagons up and running. When he can get away from his training, he likes to explore the wilderness around the wagons, catching frogs in the river or hunting birds and rabbits in the brush.

Helga, daughter of Helgi: Helga is the most like her father, in that she has big dreams and isn't afraid to talk about them...though she is only five. She already has expressed her interest in being a shieldmaiden of Silverton and jumps at any chance to do something adventurous. Probably because of her forceful personality, she likes spending time with Lodin, one of Valdis' son, who is far more timid.

Lifstan, son of Valdis: Lifstan has a fondness for animals, and 'helps' his mom with the horses, though at five years old, he more often than not doesn't help all that much. He often accompanies Hakon in going hunting for animals, not to hurt them, but just to catch them and let them go. He has a frog named Greenlegs that he caught himself.

Lodin, son of Valdis: A timid and quiet boy, but quite bright for his age, Lodin doesn't leave the camp very much unlike the other kids. Because of this, he has a lot of free time where the adults are too busy to pay him much mind and the other kids are off adventuring. Varinn has taught him letters so that he can read a little, and he spends most of his time practicing.


It is on their shoulders that the village near Silverton will be built, but the wilderness is a dangerous place. To travel from Dale to the Grey Mountain Narrows with wagons and horses and supplies a plenty makes for a slow and perilous trip, with the aid of brave and resourceful heroes.

Only they can guide the caravan down...

The Grey Mountain Narrows Trail: Prologue
Spring 2946
Grór's cousin, Grak, is throwing a private party at the Missing Scale in Dale to celebrate the opening of the Ravensgate. Among the guests in attendance are Bombur the Fat, Narniel of the Elven King's Halls, and Margöz of Dorwinion, ambassador to the Kingdom of Dale. Grak mentions to Grór how he's gathered some funds together to sponsor an expedition, though he doesn't particularly care where, and that Grór should rub elbows with some of the dignitaries he has gathered at this party to get one of them to sponsor him.

Narniel, an envoy of the King, had brought Sargon with her to keep him out of trouble back home, but she knew his restless spirit would make him antsy being stuck as an ambassador's retainer. With "permission" to be a free agent, Sargon caught the interest of Grór and Domarr and the three became quick friends. Grór told them both of his plan to reclaim his hold in the Grey Mountain Narrows and the other two, not having a strong preference for where the colony should be founded, swiftly agreed.

Having agreed on their destination, the party approached Bombur, who held great sway with King Dain and was well known to most. After a bit of convincing, where the Fellowship saw through Bombur's act of playing the fool, he agreed to get them the charter to establish their colony, and even pay for some additional caravaners to help ensure the safety of the wagons.

LM Notes: My goal with this was to get the party used to the ideas of having a Patron, who could give them boons and resources, but they would have to do certain things for them in return. Bombur didn't ask for much of them, just that they send taxes back to Erebor from the mine, in the way of silver. It also gave them practice with the Encounter system and a way for me to guide them in thinking outside of the box for traits and skill usage, as they ran out of skills they were good at quickly and had to use traits to get those needed successes.

On the topic of design, while I was pretty sure they were going to be going to the Grey Mountain Narrows, I wanted to give them the option of having the whole map available to them. Had they approached Margöz of Dorwinion, they would have found themselves dealing with adventures along the Sea of Rhun and the careful politics of this 'foreign' region, dealing with Easterlings and Avari and the complicated mercantile diplomacy. Narniel was an option as well, and she would have given them a charter and some magical items to establish a colony in the Mountains of Mirkwood, near the secret vineyards. You can probably guess what difficulties they would have faced there...

But in the end, they chose the Grey Mountains and to reclaim Silverton. Which led to...

The party rolled lore and did okay. Out of all the places in the Northern Dalelands, their maps included Strandburg and Edric's Town and so they planned their journey and drew out their course. After taking some time to go over their supplies and meet their fellow travelers, they were on the road, pursuing it with eager feet.

They were going on an adventure.

LM Notes: They did...okay on their lore checks, which meant of the four named towns in the Northern Dalelands, they knew of Strandburg and Edric's Town, but not of Castle Orlmond or Galford. As they are traveling with wagons, they made the sensible decision to keep to the beaten path for as long as they could.

Their rolls this session were okay, except for Sargon who consistently rolled Eyes of Sauron. Eventually we had him rejoin the Roll20 and reset the client and it seemed to help! But their rolls don't get much better... I considered naming them 'The Fellowship of the Unlucky', but Silverton has a nicer ring to it

I'll continue with their first leg of the journey in the next post, as this one is getting long.

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Agnot » Fri May 11, 2018 12:47 am

It sounds like y'all are off to an excellent start. It is an interesting premise for a campaign. I'm looking forward to reading more about it. I also like all of the detail you have put into the backstories of the hirelings. Very concise, but wonderfully descriptive backstories that leave a lot of room for growth.

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Red Haired Thor » Fri May 11, 2018 2:10 am

Thank you! I really liked the premise, and while this first adventure (it turns out two, but we'll get to that when the journal reaches that decision!) is mostly them reaching the area they chose to start their town, I hope to show off more of the town "management" aspects as we go along. Right now, they're busy making trade deals with the villages they meet along the way!

Anyway, onto the end of the first session!

The Grey Mountain Narrows Trail: Chapter One
Spring 2946

As the fellowship set off along the road, they spent their time talking to their caravan companions. Saxulf, the archer from Lake-town, challenged Sargon to a friendly bow contest, claiming to have heard that elves were good with their bows but he felt that the Men of the Lake could put up a good fight for the claim. Sargon agreed to the challenge and came out a head, splitting Saxulf's arrow right down the middle (a great success).

The travel through most of the northern Dalelands was uneventful for the first few days, as they passed the rolling hills coming alive in the early days of spring, with the flowers in early bloom. The road they were traveling on was still a bit rough from the winter frosts but it was well-maintained so traveling was easy. Traveling might have been easy, but their lodgings were lacking compared to those they found in Dale. Domarr was rather unsuccessful finding places for the caravan to camp, either stumbling upon sites filled with vermin or those lacking in shelter. Sargon at least kept them well fed.

During one of their nights in the open, Domarr noticed Saxulf off to the side while everyone else was having their dinner, a good bit of venison brought down by Sargon's arrows. Saxulf had a raven in his hand, before sending it off flying, a thread around its leg as it took off towards the north. The group pieced together that he was obviously sending a message to someone, and when they pressed him on it, Saxulf mentioned he had friends from the Bowmen's Guild during the old days, up in Edric's Town.

The fellowship weren't able to wring anything else out of the old archer, and he seemed to be telling the truth, so they let the matter drop. As they were settling in for bed, they heard barking in the distance.

LM Notes: They have had good rolls up to this part, but their Encounter with Saxulf did not yield them many successful rolls and they quickly exceeded his patience. Over the course of all of this, I had them make their Journey Role rolls, to give me a sense of how their adventure was going. Sargon had the best hunting and awareness among them, the other two lacking a bit in both of those skills, so they had Runa act as look out for them, though there was no attack that night.

Upon waking up the next morning, the fellowship found the horses were spooked and no matter what Valdis tried, they dug their feet into the ground, unwilling to move, as stubborn and stiff necked as a dwarf.

Gror, being a seasoned traveler and knowing the roads fairly well, also reckoned that horses being spooked on a well-maintained road meant that there was danger around. So the fellowship told the caravaners to stay put while they went to investigate. Not trusting Saxulf, they asked Hildegard to keep watch over the settlers, especially with three of the caravan's best fighters heading off to deal with whatever had spooked the horses.

Turns out, there was a pack of wolves pretty far south into the Dalelands, a group of four wolves, including one with brown fur and unique markings, clearly the alpha among them. The three try to ambush the wolves, though Gror and Domarr are not the stealthiest of people, Sargon was able to help them out and they got the drop on the pack. Opening with his spear, Domarr dealt a great blow to the Young Alpha, but it wasn't quite strong enough to pierce the hide.


The battle was a mess on both sides, but in the end, they managed to come out ahead, Domarr and Gror arguing over who got the final blow on the alpha as they made their way back.

LM Notes: I know that the Spear of King Bladorthin isn't considered the greatest, especially since Domarr is sword focused not spear, but he gets a surprising amount of use out of this spear. Sometimes you just need a Piercing weapon.

This was their first combat experience and as I go over the rolls, I forgot how many eyes turned up on the player's side. It's only balanced out by how many gandalfs the wolves rolled :roll: I used the enhancement system provided in Rivendell to make the alpha a bit tougher, making him a Greater Wild Wolf and Driven, so he could leap on the archer and just make himself a nuisance.

It worked very well, and I actually started using the enhancements more in my other game, to make fights against orcs feel a bit less same-y. As much as I didn't particularly like the Shadow of Mordor series, it's kind of fun to borrow from its Nemesis system and give named orcs amidst nameless mobs. So I really think that was a good addition to the rules! Well done, designers!

With the wolves no longer troubling the horses, the fellowship returns to the caravan, where the others have just about finished their breakfast, though they saved some food for the road so that the companions wouldn't go hungry. They learn from Lodin, Valdis's son, just what a halfling's breakfast entails and where the sport of golf came from as they are marching on the road, who had read it in his book. Helgi was getting antsy about the lost time so they didn't make many stops along the way.

Since it's getting dark as they pushed further to make up for lost time, they find the road passing through the lands of Orlmond, a Dalish lord whose banner Sargon recognizes. Tired and not wanting to have to deal with formal introductions, they pass up staying at the castle to instead stay at a farmstead, the wagons having room made for them, as the Fellowship works to earn their keep for the night. Gror, being a smith, does a lot of work fixing their tools while Domarr and Sargon TRY to earn their keep but just end up stumbling into trouble.

As they are sleeping during the night, Runa wakes them all, whispering: "I saw some people meeting on a hill, riding horses. Then they dispersed, but one of them rode back to the farmhouse...couldn't tell who it was."

LM Notes: I told you these were the Fellowship of the Unlucky. While Domarr can roll a good amount of sixes, he and Sargon rolled a lot of eyes, to the point where Sargon refreshed the roll20 client, thinking it must be rigged. Between the two of them, in seven rolls, they rolled four eyes. Also, the way I do the hirelings is that while I play them, I do not roll for them. Instead, I have one of the players roll, then factor in things like AL or complications and what not. So they rolled and succeeded with Runa, but didn't get an exceptional success.

Suspicious, Sargon went to check on the horses in the morning to see if any of the caravan's horses were tired, but they all looked well-rested. On a hunch, he went to check the farmer's horses and found that one of them was moving more slowly than the others while they were feeding.

The Fellowship discussed and came to the conclusion that they needed to watch Saxulf. So Domarr approached Helga and Lodin and asked them if they wanted to be heroes and warriors. Lodin was a bit shy in his answer, but Helga proudly exclaimed she was going to be a shieldmaiden of Silvahfish, before being quietly corrected by Lodin that Gror had called it Silverton. Domarr enlisted their help in keeping a watch on Saxulf and to let him know if they saw Saxulf doing anything suspicious.

While Domarr was with Lodin and Helga, Valdis was calling through for Lifstan, her other son, but he was nowhere to be found. Hakon, Helga's brother, mentioned that Lifstan went to 'hunt' by the river, to catch frogs. Sargon went to go look for him while Gror stayed to protect the caravan.

Upon arriving at the river, Sargon heard goblins speaking in their Black Speech dialect. The two had captured the boy and were arguing over who got to eat Lifstan's legs, but before they even had the chance to act, Sargon felled them both with his arrows. Lifstan was unhurt, though a bit shaken and Sargon brought him back to camp, where after making sure he was alright and safe, Valdis dragged him off by the ear for a stern talking to.

LM Notes: And that's where we had ended the first session! Gror had to leave since this one went long, which is why he stayed at the camp while Domarr and Sargon continued to play for a bit. Sargon really got to shine at the end with the goblins, which was part of why I had pushed to continue, since in the combat against the wolves, his luck had just been terrible. Yet in this combat, he succeeded at his stealth roll so he got to attack first, and in the opening volley, he got an injury on the goblin archer, who did not pass his check, before rolling an exceptional success on the other in the first round (since he had initiative) and very handedly winning that fight.

He seemed much more satisfied and in a better mood when we called it, so I think it was a good decision to push on, even it did make session run over a bit.

Next Chapter...The Great Boar Hunt of Strandburg!

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Otaku-sempai » Fri May 11, 2018 3:21 am

Red Haired Thor wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 2:28 am
The Premise
As I mentioned, I was inspired when I was reading Otaku-Sempai's guide and he was talking about the frontier town in the blue mountains. I've probably earned a lot of shadow points while mixing together the ideas for the campaign, because I also stole a few ideas I found on the forum here to create a holding system that my old GM, who plays Grór, loved and wanted to use. With a few retweakings (and a few more...and a few more...it's not quite finished yet), I created a system to deal with managing not just a holding but the development of a town. So they are leading a caravan out to the Grey Mountains Narrows to build a town in the unclaimed wilderness...and through their cunning and planning...they may even survive to see it grow.
You credit me with more than I deserve! My Anthorp is little more than a trading post on the bank of the River Lhûn, with some outbuildings, a cable ferry, and maybe a handful of homesteads nearby. Although, you mention the Blue Mountains, so I wonder if you mean my Dwarf-city of Hargrod located in the southern range? I gave that an ancient history, so it's a bit more than a small frontier town.

In any case, I'm glad you found it helpful. It seems that your game is off to a good start! ;)
"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he."

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Red Haired Thor » Fri May 11, 2018 3:46 am

I can't remember exactly, but I believe it was your description of a town on a mine with cats nearby. I remember people discussing the idea of a frontier, less ruined place that was a new town being built near a mine, like the boom-towns during our expansion period. It's been a while, I just remember the spark came from your thread. Like I mentioned, I've taken a LOT of influences, but that was most definitely the start of the idea.

But glad people are enjoying my write up!

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Otaku-sempai » Fri May 11, 2018 7:20 am

Well, I did put lions in the Blue Mountains (based on now extinct European lions). but if you remember mining then it was probably my Dwarven city you're thinking of (though I did suggest that there could be Men in East Lune panning for gold in the rivers; is that what you were thinking of?). But that's what Dwarves seem to do: delve a city at what started out as a major mining site (Moria, Erebor, etc.). I didn't mean to characterize it as a boom town (at least as it currently exists; maybe three thousand or so years earlier it would have been), but if it inspired you, that's terrific!
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"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he."

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Majestic » Fri May 11, 2018 8:16 pm

Great summary, Red Haired Thor. I enjoyed reading it!
Adventure Summaries for my long-running group (currently playing through The Darkening of Mirkwood/Mirkwood Campaign), and the Tale of Years for a second, lower-level group (in the same campaign).

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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Red Haired Thor » Sat May 12, 2018 12:51 am

The Grey Mountain Narrows Trail: Chapter Two
The Great Boar Hunt of Strandburg
Spring 2946

As the caravan continued on its journey north, they soon entered the lands of Lord Bryni of Strandburg, seeing his farmers working in the fields as they draw nearer to the town. Sargon, having spent much of his time the edges of the forest, had heard rumors of Lord Bryni and knew him to be a goodly lord, who was not afraid to interact with the common folk.

This information, while correct, had become slightly dated by the time the caravan was passing by Strandburg.

As they drew closer to the walls of the city, they came across a quarrel in the fields between a guard wearing the livery of Lord Bryni and a local farmer. The fellowship, still having lost some time from all their troubles, continued on the road towards the keep of wood and stone, where they were stopped by a pair of guards at the gate.

"A motley crew we have here, hmm?" The guard said. "The Lord Bryni requires a toll for those who will pass through here."

Gror took the lead for this, introducing himself as the Lord of Silverton, and carried himself with a noble air to him, that swiftly impressed the guards as their tune changed quite drastically.

With the caravan being watched by the guards for it and its travelers safety, the fellowship and Helgi entered the keep where they met the young Lord Bryni, dressed in his mail coat and his red cloak, carrying his sword at his side as though he were in a tent on the battlefield.


LM Notes: It was super hard to find a good picture of someone with a red cloak, in MAIL, that had dark hair. Plate was easy, but mail? And LONG hair? I had my friend (He plays a noldor in my other group) photoshop Pendragon's hair, and just yielded that it wasn't going to be long!

Bryni was quite cheerful and eager to speak with the fellowship, particularly Domarr whom he noted as bearing all the marks and manners of a warrior of fine breeding and standing, and Gror, who acted the part of the noble Dwarf-lord. He offered them his keep as hospitality and the generosity of his people, for which the Fellowship was most grateful.

In fact, so pleased to host them and hear of their adventures, he threw a feast for them. The nobles of his court were quite pleased. The peasantry...less thrilled. Particularly of hosting an elf as quiet and watchful as Sargon among the party, for the shade of the dark forest follows elves wherever they tread.

Sargon, after discussing it with Gror and Domarr, decided to retire to the wagons until the feast was in full swing, where Helga came rushing up to greet him.

"Lord Sargon, Lord Sargon!" The five year old "shield-maiden" cried. "You told me to keep an eye on Saxulf! I was following him, he didn't see me, but I saw him talking to a man! He had a cloak and a hood, so I din't see what he looked like."

Sargon, feeling a bit worried that the girl might be a bit TOO eager, told her she did good work, and to keep her eyes peeled, but not to rush head off into danger, sending her off to go play with the other kids. He heads to the market to try to catch Saxulf by himself, but there is a crowd still gathered there.

Meanwhile, Gror was working on making a gift for their host, while Domarr was sparring with Hildegard, putting on a show for the Bardings, but the swordswoman displayed impressive skill as she swiftly disarmed him at the end of their match, giving him some advice on his grip and stance.

LM Notes: I like to give them downtime where they can just tell me what they are doing, since I think it helps pace out the adventure and let the players digest what they've learned. So far they had started to piece together that the peasantry wasn't too happy with Bryni because he was very free with his purse, but not with them. They have no reason to dislike Bryni, and in fact, he has been nothing but gracious to them. Yet they were also worried what might happen to Silverton or the Caravan if they got too chummy with a lord who was losing favor with his peasants.

Domarr and Gror decide they want to learn more about their generous host while Sargon is looking for Saxulf. They head to the market and Gror offers his services to the people, showing off his skill with a hammer and anvil to the crowd as he tried to gather rumors about Lord Bryni. A farmer named Dag was willing to loosen his tongue.

"Lord Bryni? Ah, the glorious and grand hero!" Dag said, the sarcasm heavy. "Or at least he was. He'll tell you all about how he was in the battle of the five armies if you let him. But these days, he's gotten lazy and indulgent, and so has his wife, living on the sweat of our backbreaking work. Don't let anyone know you heard it from me. My wife works in the keep. It's the only way we manage to get by."

Domarr and Gror meet back up with Sargon and rejoin the caravan to find Saxulf has already returned before them. Before they can speak with him, a herald of Lord Bryni rides down to where they've stopped the wagons, carrying an invitation to join the lord on an afternoon hunt. The Fellowship accepts. Varinn wearily offers to go in case someone falls off their horse, and Saxulf joins them as well.

The Fellowship arrived to find Lord Bryni, dressed in his finest, and his lords gathered, along with a group of peasants to serve as their retinue. Gror noticed Dag was among the group, and there was a beautiful woman with fair blonde hair standing beside Bryni, her hand held in his: The Lady Frida of Strandburg.

"May Bema bless your arrows, my dear, and bring back a prize worthy of the tales of old."

"Never fear, my love. In my dreams, I saw a great boar, enough to feed the heroes of old. Today, we shall bring it back in a hunt so grand, the bards will sing tales of it in the Dragonslayer's Hall!"

With his wife's blessing and a promise made, Bryni let sound his horn as it carried across the valley. The hunt had begun!

While they were setting off behind Bryni, Dag rode up beside Sargon. He said he knew that elves were said to bring trouble, but Strandburg could use a little trouble. As he told Gror, his wife worked at the keep and the Lady Frida was often careless with her jewels. Bryni had raised taxes that year to pay for hunts like this, that did little but feed his romantic ideal. He asked if Sargon was up for a little "Garrick of Black-ing," and Sargon said he was certainly listening.

LM Notes: So here I wanted to introduce the system of misdeeds and show my players that shadow points aren't something to be scared of and avoided at all costs! So I offered to let Sargon play up the more classical "Robin Hood" side story, where he stole from Bryni's wife and returned it to the peasants. He would, of course, still get shadow for stealing, but it was less than I -could- have given him just to make it less of a stick in the future and not make it feel like I was limiting the players.

I also wanted to set up this idea of Garrick the Black as a local folk hero. Behind the scenes, if Dag should ever return, it will probably be in service to this 'Robin Hood-esque' figure, before the players encounter what Garrick is REALLY like and how they aren't as noble as they like to pretend.

The hunt went on, but Sargon is the one who comes across the tracks of a giant boar, as Bryni's dreams foretold. The elf hunter also came across tracks of a deer, which would make for a less dangerous, but less prestigious quarry.

The Fellowship, naturally, followed the boar's tracks.

LM Notes: If you ever tell your player's "you can choose option A, but it's harder, option B is probably a little easier," they will always ALWAYS pick option A.

Saxulf rides with them as they come across the boar, with the hunting party chasing after it and throwing their spears, but the Fellowship rode more swiftly and soon they had the boar cornered. They could hear the sound of the party behind them and know that if they wish to get the glory, they needed to kill this boar with haste.

The Boar of Strandburg was big, much bigger than they expected, but the heroes stood their ground even as it snarled and menaced them with its tusks. Given the disarray, Saxulf forwent his bow and drew his sword as the boar charged between the Fellowship. Domarr broke off one of the boar's tusks, only to find himself nearly gored on the other!

Saxulf pushed Domarr out of the way, much to the surprise of the Fellowship, as Sargon shot it with a piercing blow, finally bringing down the boar, but there was a problem. The Bardings of Strandburg were already suspicious of the elves and Gror was not sure how well they would take to being shown up by one.

LM Notes: And here my players learned the importance of called shots in taking down a larger beastie.

As Bryni rode up at the moments of the boar's last breath, he congratulates the hero, asking them who slew the beast. The Fellowship tell Bryni it was Saxulf who felled the boar and the Lake-town archer played along. Domarr recovered the tusk he had cut, but gave it to Bryni when the young lord asked if he could perhaps have the ivory to make a necklace for his fair wife, while Domarr kept the pelt, and the slayer graciously yielded his pride for that trade.

Upon returning, Domarr found that he had another problem. The Lady Frida of Strandburg was hanging off his arm, cooing about what a brave hunter he was, facing down such a terrifying beast as that giant boar. Domarr did his best to extricate himself without offending his host...though his attempt only made Frida want him more.

LM Notes: Rolled an eye on a courtesy check as he tried to gracefully leave without insulting her or overstepping his bounds. Ended up giving the implication he would be interested in seeing her later in the evening.

During the feast, while Gror and Domarr were entertaining the hall with their tales of prior adventures, Sargon slipped away and made his way to to Lady Frida's bedroom, making off with some of her bracelets. He returned, just as Gror had gotten Bryni to agree to a trade deal with Silverton, when they had settled it.

Domarr just silently drank as he avoided the Lady Frida's eyes.

LM Notes: And that was the end of the session! This post was a bit more of a narrative style, but I really liked the interactions they had with each other and the PCs in this one. I liked the idea of Lord Bryni being this more svelte Robert Baratheon-esque ruler who really did mean well, but just was so caught up in the romantic ideas he had that he and his wife were oblivious to the problems they were causing. The players didn't end up solving them, but that's okay, and maybe it will be a problem in a future adventure...who knows?

Domarr's player really started to play around with the combat options and try different called shots and stance options during the fight with the boar. When it came time to do the social encounter with Bryni, Gror had been paying attention to a lot of the subtle things about what Bryni liked and what interested him, so he came up with lots of non-social skills to use to try to make the rolls and interesting uses of his specialties. Sargon got some treasure, got the killing blow, and even though he earned shadow gave some of the Treasure to Dag.

Next chapter...They're off to the frontier of Dale, the cold and dangerous Edric's Town...

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Red Haired Thor
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Re: "In the Shadows of the Mountains" Campaign AP/Journal

Post by Red Haired Thor » Sat May 12, 2018 7:46 pm

The Grey Mountain Narrows Trail: Chapter Three
Spring 2946

With the hunt and the feast behind them, and Sargon and Domarr eager to get back on the road for different reasons, the caravan set off from Strandburg on the road to Edric's Town. The first of the spring harvest was being gathered by the farmers, but even though it was still spring, the nights grew cooler as they approached the mountains. They were no longer in the heart of the Dalelands, and the villages were fewer and far between, so the Fellowship scouted ahead for the caravan.

Domarr, as their scout, rode a bit ahead. The roads were well maintained and clear, good for the caravan, but there were few travelers, and those that he did spot where moving in large groups (much like their own caravan) and all were traveling with guards as they headed south towards Dale with their harvests. Most of the travelers were farmers, with a few men-at-arms around them.

The sky turns grey during their travels as the heavens open up, turning part of the road to mud and the wagon is slowed at several points, forcing them to lose a day of travel.

LM Notes: When calculating the distance, getting to Edric's Town from Dale during the spring only required 1 travel check, and while none rolled their eyes, I could see this adventure was already getting a bit long, for they were just NOW heading to Edric's town. They were trying to reach the Vales of Gundabad but they were starting to fill up their skill group points through clever use of their specialties and bonus dice!

So I decided to give them a hazard as an 'unavoidable' one rather than from rolling an Eye. They didn't seem to mind, since it was reasonable that weather would eventually turn against them.

Forced to stop early for the night, Domarr went to find a good place to make their camp. He found a hilltop though one not very steep. They had visibility of their own surroundings but any fire they lit would be seen from miles around them. Sargon went hunting in the rain, but a sound caught him off guard and when he turned to chase it, he lost his balance in the muck. He started to tumble down the hill towards the river and rocks, but he managed to grab onto steady rock and regain his footing, though looking far less graceful covered in the mud and returning to camp empty handed. Gror, grumbling over being hungry, pulled up his hood and started rummaging around for mushrooms to make a stew, while Saxulf went out to see if he could be more successful.

The fellowship didn't object to Saxulf going off on his own, for he had saved Domarr from a grievous injury in the boar hunt. Helgi, the caravan leader, did what he could to make the hilltop more secure for Gror to make a fire, arranging the wagons in a circle to block the view of the fire. Gror, having made quite a few fires in his day, also took the time to dig a firepit to aid in keeping themselves hidden.

Saxulf returned, empty handed. The storm had scared them off. The caravan had to make do with mushroom stew. Runa was once again chosen to keep lookout.

LM Notes: Gror rolled for her this time. He rolled well, but because of the storm, the TN was 18 and even with Runa's AL 3 bonus, she was only at a 16. It was about this time they started becoming...careless, one could say, though I would call it immersed roleplaying! Hehe...Regardless, Gror took off his coat of mail to sleep.

They all had to roll awareness in the middle of the night.

Sargon was woken from his light trance-like slumber by the sound of people moving around in the camp, sleeping in a tent with Galdor while Domarr and Gror snored in the other tent, undisturbed. Sargon raised his voice in alarm, giving a war cry as he stepped out of the tent with his bow in hand to wake the rest of the caravan.

Bandits had come within the wagons, attempting to be stealthy as they made off with all the supplies. Among them stood a warrior with a longsword, bearing a clasp on his cloak engraved with the mark of a captain of Lake-Town. Captain Folkmarr had come.

Captain Folkmarr gave the order to his men to take everyone out while they were groggy, but the Fellowship was quick to their feet. Hildegard and Helgi joined them while Valdis and the others were protecting the kids.

The outlaw archers let fire their arrows and one of them caught Gror, unarmored, while he peeked his head out of the camp. While in his mail, he might have shrugged it off, the wound was much worse in just his undershirt as it caught him in his gut. The arrows were flying and the Fellowship was on the defensive, as Domarr was forced to protect Gror while the dwarf struggled to get dressed for the fight.

Captain Folkmarr offered them the chance to surrender and to be allowed to live in exchange for their gold and food, but the Fellowship was not impressed with his threats, as backed up against the wall as they were. The battle was in full swing and while the Fellowship was still not guaranteed to win, neither were the bandits.

Captain Folkmarr swore as Domarr started to get an edge in their duel while Sargon harassed him with arrows. "Damn it, Saxulf, you said this would be an easy mark!" He shouted to one of his archers.

The Fellowship was enraged as one of the archer's hoods fell back, revealing it to be their fellow caravaner. A soldier's bond to his captain is something not so easily thrown away. Sargon started to bring down the other archer, while Domarr engaged the captain and Gror was fighting off the other bandits. Eventually, Domarr managed to bring the captain down, and the rest of the bandits, those still on their feet, scurried away. Domarr claimed his sword as a trophy.

Varinn emerged from the wagon to tend to their wounds, particularly Gror's, but he lacked the poultice on hand to fully tend to it.

LM Notes: Varinn has 3 dice, wasn't weary, and an AL +3 to heal. He rolled an Eye. The next day...he rolled another Eye, but I allowed a specialty to apply to treat Gror's wound. Like I said many times, these players roll so many eyes.

Sargon went to look for Runa, who was supposed to be keeping watch, and found her lying face down in the grass, alive but taken out by a blow to the head. Saxulf was moaning, arrows in him as the life started to fade from his eyes, while Hildegard kept watch over him. Helgi and Valdis led the children away from the battle sight to give them some air, but didn't stray too far from the wagons.

The fellowship asked Saxulf why he did it. He said Captain Folkmarr was like his brother, he wasn't going to say no. Gror pointed out they could have made him rich, far richer than being a petty bandit. Saxulf just shrugged and repeated that he did it for Folkmarr. For the company.

"Pitiful words," Sargon said. "Not even worth remembering."

Saxulf just laughed as his eyes grew dark, his life leaving him. The fight was over, and one of their own had proven to be a traitor. The Fellowship wondered what to do about the bodies, before deciding to drag them away from camp and give them shallow graves. They would not waste much time on them.

LM Notes: The combat was in a word: Chaotic. They were actually doing quite...badly in the beginning. I think I made the combat too hard with a few too many outlaw archers. Normally when I'm doing a battle where there are NPC allies of the players, I say they are fighting enemies off to the side.

Half-way through the battle here though, I had Hildegard of the South Quay come and start rolling to help clean up some of the enemies and give the Fellowship some breathing space. Captain Folkmarr was actually a lot harder in my numbers with I believe 3 dice in sword, but when the opening volley did a lot of damage to the party (since they were ambushed) I just lowered it down to 2 since it was favored anyway, and he had an AL of 4.

The party was pretty beat up, particularly Gror, but they emerged okay and Domarr stepped in the way multiple times to take hits for Gror, who was fellowship focus, so their hope wasn't too badly drained. I remember they wanted to hunt down the remaining bandits, but I warned them that shooting at the fleeing bandits once their leader was killed would net them SOME shadow since the battle was over, and they decided it wasn't worth it.

There was a gloomy air about the caravan as they continued on the road, Gror riding in the wagon as they kept changing his bandages while the children spent their time gathering herbs and flowers under Varrin's direction. The rain had stopped shortly after the sun rise and the wagons were able to continue forward albeit at a sluggish pace as the horses had to drag the wheels through the soft earth.

Soon, they came to the wooden palisade surrounding Edric's Town, supported by squat stone towers. The town was built against the Grey Mountains, with houses and buildings made of stone. Sargon once again knew of this village, having heard of it in his own travels. A prosperous mining town, but the mountains hide all sorts of foul creatures. The people are blunt and do not have much time for subtle words or social graces, especially their common folk.

The guards stopped the caravan and demanded they identify themselves. Sargon mentions they travelers who have taken down the bandit, Captain Folkmarr and some of his men. The guard on duty spit at the name, knowing of Folkmarr, but asking for proof to back up their claim. Domarr provides the captain's sword and the guards are appeased, opening the gates for the caravan, telling them there is space for the wagons in the yard outside the inn.

Gror is still quite woozy from his wound and rests at the inn with Varinn tending to him, where they notice a lot of people gathering to warm their bellies and drink after a day's work.

Sargon finds the people of Edric's Town far more welcoming than those of Strandburg and eager to speak to him, as they don't see many elves this close to the mountain. They tell him rumors of all these dwarf-holds of legends, abandoned and brimming with treasure in the hills of the Narrow, but that there are orcs and wolves that prowl and make the area unsafe. Gror asks who is in charge and they tell him Lady Sara is in charge, the widow of Old Man Edric.

When the Fellowship inquires more, they are met with a bit more somber mood as the folk tell them that Edric's Town is no place for a woman to be running, with the threat of wolves, orcs, and the dead about. The inn is abuzz with rumors of Lady Sara and the dangers of the Frost-Touched Dead, how she is always looking for volunteers to help join the guard but there are fewer every year.

Deciding that they should speak with the Lady in person and find out if she is truly unfit or if it is just the peasantry judging her against the specter of her husband, the Fellowship rests for the night before waking early to meet Lady Sara. They find her on the road, and introduce themselves. She is curt but polite in a somewhat cool way. When Gror says her husband was well respected among the dwarves, she gives a strained smile and says:

"Aye, that he was. And well liked among the people. If you were to ask them, he had the power to turn back the snow and bring forth the sun's rays."

She quickly apologizes for her unbecoming remark, and affirms the friendship of the dwarves is nothing to treat lightly, but that she has heavy burdens to carry. The town suffers from creatures raised from their own dead, bitten and scarred by the frost and given life by necromancy. Domarr, in particular, was moved by her plight.

LM Notes: Out of character, the players were discussing whether they had the time to help her. Gror was less eager, but Domarr pointed out that helping her was helping themselves, because if they didn't deal with the Frost-Touched Dead (which are bog soldiers from Rivendell, reskinned to fit the cold mountains), then they were likely going to find them on the road anyway. The party decided that it was both the best option for self-interest and for doing the right thing.

After some debate...the Fellowship agreed to head up the road towards the mountain to help cull some of these Frost-Touched Dead, and help give the people of Edric's Town faith.

LM Notes: And that was the end of the third session!

I don't usually get to use the zombie-like Bog Soldiers in my other game, as I have other creatures to throw at them but I've found undead just make for one of the most enticing enemies for players, even though they are more difficult...or perhaps that's why.

As for some of my campaign notes, the Frost-Touch Dead are created by a human necromancer, who calls himself the Koldún. He is going to be causing trouble, though whether he's the ultimate evil boss will be up to the players in terms of what order they deal with the threats. I don't want to give too much away about the Koldún just yet, but as of right now in this year, he is an independent villain who serves his own desires.

You can also notice that the players have started to really figure out what they want their characters to play at this point. Domarr is an honorable warrior, though I wouldn't call him chivalrous, who likes to collect his trophies and for better of for worse gets involved with noble women (Gror mentioned how he was probably trying to get in good with Lady Sara as part of his intentions), while Gror is more focused on recovering his old hold and is more self-interested, working to make trade deals and secure friends for that place. Sargon is the pragmatic one who is more interested in acting than talking.

After this session, when they decided to detour and deal with the dead right away, I decided that I was going to split this adventure into two, and allow a fellowship phase in between, as the undead would be a fourth session and they had only just now reached the Grey Mountains. I didn't want to have a climactic undead battle, followed by a rushed journey to the destination!

So next up...The Tomb of the Blackbraids!
Last edited by Red Haired Thor on Sun May 13, 2018 12:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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