MERP: Beware of Falling Statues

Feldenaith was gone. He left a note stuck to the wall with a dagger.

“Hello friends. It was lovely to meet you. The moving statues were a little disconcerting. The disappearing elves as well. MysElf I’m not sure. I wish you luck. I’m just a sailor on the Sea of Ruin. Give a shout at an appropriate tavern. You know, the ones that keep an EYE on you.”

And then there were three.

They turned to the closest door and continued to investigate. Tanuukkodol tried to read the Khuzdul script, but he failed, as did Athok and Throkkol. Fortunately, Grafarlig was able to discern its meaning and got the door open. Inside was an ancient armory, in which they found a pair of mithril greaves. Tanuukkodol claimed them. Bertram found a +15 Elvish longsword, of a type that was becoming familiar to the party. None of the party was very good with swords, so Bertram kept it until they could sell it.

There were also two chests, and an ancient book. The book was a Dwarven Book of the Dead, and listed thousands of Dwarvish names, some from the 2nd Age, some from the 3rd.  The party no longer had a thief, so they could not open the chests. Bertram tried persuading the chests to open, but could not, although he did sense that a presence somewhere approved of his efforts, a… bashful presence?

The party then descended to next level, where they found a beautiful sparkling cavern with a lake in the middle with clear water. Beautiful mermaids swam back and forth in it. The room was about 20 m. across, and circular, with another door and stairs on the other side. Tanuukkodol stared in wonder, while Grafarlig remained cautious on the steps. Bertram convinced Throkkol that one of the mermaids had given him the eye, and the foolish dwarf stuck his head in the water to say hi. Luckily, Tanuukkodol grabbed hold of his belt and was able to pull him out when the lovely mermaid turned into a vicious hag with shark’s teeth and tried to bite his head off.

The party was a bit stunned by this, to say the least. Tanuukkodol bandages Throkkol’s forehead. Two of the hags pulled themselves from the pool and began dragging themselves towards the party, but Tanuukkodol pierced their arms with arrows and then applied the finishing shots.

It was in this room that Bertram began to display a strange new power. Books, goblets, and canes appeared from nowhere and were thrown at the mermaids. Bertram’s powers continued through the evening. They seem to manifest in connection with his fear or bravery. When he is brave, the objects are hurled at the party’s enemies. When he acts cowardly, they are hurled at him.

Upon the death of their sisters, the mermaids in the pool screamed hateful things, as if summoning something from the deep. The party decided to move on.

Descending the stairs again, they find the next room is filled with tomatoes. Using his Plant Lore, Tanuukkodol learns that some are magical tomatoes, and then talks to them with Plant Tongues. They turn out to be paranoid tomatoes with psychoanalytic powers, and they advise Bertram (in Westron) to find his inner strength and confront his fears. Then the party wades through the tomatoes, avoiding harming the magical ones, and harvesting many of the normal ones. They are tasty.

Descending again, they find a very small room with a study in the middle. The desk is covered in paper, piled incredibly high. From the desk they heard the sound of someone scribbling, but his identity was obscured by the papers. Tanuukkodol tries a variety of languages and find the creature responds to Khuzdul. Approaching, Grafarlig is able to get the exhausted ancient dwarf to stop his scribbling.

Grafarlig tells him that they are looking for  ring of power wielded by Thaylor. He replies that, “Freedom is won by the blood of someone’s son.” The party still doesn’t know what that means.  He then tells them that the ring is below and that they have to know what they’re looking for. The Runkisden is built on the Ways, where the elves go to hide their homes and things. There is whirling swirling magic here. Thaylor thought to tame the Ways, making them take people where they want by thinking of what you are looking for. He seems to have succeeded, at least partially. The dwarf, who has forgotten his own name, describes to them in Westron the next room that will take them closer to their goal.

The party gives the dwarf a tomato in thanks. Then, thinking of the presence he felt earlier, Bertram leads the party forward, down the next set of stairs. They find a room full of treasure chests, ten of them. Bertram investigates while the rest of the party stays outside. Bertram discovers that the chests are sentient, and talks to the first one, called Bashful. Bashful was the presence he had felt earlier. He gets Bashful to yield the key to the ebony chest on the preceding level, then talks to Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Doc, and Generous. Dopey, Farty, and Grumpy are asleep and not talking, and he has been warned not to disturb Hatred. Sneezy sneezes all over him. Doc gives him some good advice and identifies Hatred. Happy spits up a big ruby. Generous gives gifts to each of the party, based on their desires. Bertram asks for the location of the ring of power, and Generous explains in Westron so that all know how to get to the next level (below the various odd rooms on this level). Generous warns that some others have already made it down there, so the party should be careful. He describes one with a leather gorget whose neck bleeds. Tanuukkodol recognizes this as the Siren that Drogo described wounding in Lest. Grafarlig asks for whatever and gets 56 s. Throkkol asks for a sandwich. Attok asks for the respect of those he cares for. Tanuukkodol asks for a new spell list, and receives three single-use scrolls from the Concealment Mastery spell list. They give Generous and Bashful tomatoes, and descend to the next level.

There is some natural stone there, and some shaped. In the first room there is a silver and gold accent wall, with seven statues in front of it. They are:

  1. Family man, woman, child
  2. Child caught running happily
  3. Young adult staring upward, short beard
  4. Courtship and holding hands of another young dwarf
  5. Same young dwarf at the bed of a dying dwarf – freedom comes from the blood of someone’s son
  6. Exhausted dwarf, aged and holding a cane
  7. Empty dais (nothing there)

Each has an inscription that appears when blood is rubbed on it (Bertram’s idea). They make clear that the statues are a series showing the passage of life.

The party goes into the right tunnel and there is another inscription on the wall, “Avoid Kindness.” In the corner of the next room is a statue of a young male dwarf, crying.  Bertram talks to it, disdainfully, and it begins to follow him.

A random group of goblins enters the room. The party sets up in its standard fighting formation, with the three dwarves in front, Tanuukkodol firing his bow over them, and Bertram hiding behind him. Tanuukodol kills the first goblin with three arrows to the torso in quick succession. Two goblins attack Grafarlig but miss. Grafarlig hits one in the torso. Tanuukodol kills that one with an arrow in the throat, and gives the other two arrows to the thigh. Grafarlig finishes that one, slicing him in half. Potted plants and things attack as well, thanks to Bertram’s new power.

The second wave of goblins miss Grafarlig but hit Throkkol. An elf in gray appears, teleporting to the rear of the party, going after Bertram. Bertram takes a deep hit to his shoulder from another one of those +15 Elven longswords, and is stunned for two rounds.  Tanuukodol shoots two arrows at the elf, grazing his throat the first time, while the Siren dodges most of the damage. In doing so, the elf moves directly into the second shot, which passes through the neck and kills him instantly. Tanuukodol then turns and fires his final arrow at a goblin in front of Grafarlig, doing massive damage to him. Grafarlig then slices him in half, finishing the job.

Throkkol then gets hit, hard. He staggers back with half hit points. Tanuukodol shoots the last goblin in the head twice, stunning him for two rounds and again Grafarlig delivers the coup de grace, hitting him in the hip.

Tanuukodol again does first aid on Throkkol, healing him for 20 points using the carpet moss. Bertram heals himself, curing only five hit points even with the carpet moss. Grafarlig finds 2 s. and 50 p. Tanuukkodol takes the +15 Elven longsword.

The kid’s statue is still following Bertram but then Grafarlig is nice to it and it starts attacking and biting her. She tries to push it back to its pedestal. When she cuts it on the leg it backs away and goes back to the dais.

In the next room, they find 4 statues of dwarves in the corners. There is a bigger and more impressive dwarf statue in the center. He doesn’t move smoothly though. He is either doing the robot or has a low bit rate. The party isn’t sure which. Tanuukkodol says, “that’s a big dwarf.” Bertram asks, “Would a large dwarf be a Regular?” There are several exits on the right, and one on the left at the rear. They also  hear a distance cadence, coming from deep underground. They try to guess the tune. “Where there’s a Whip?” “Down in the Dungeon?” “Big John?” They can’t, but they keep trying.

Grafarlig opens the right northern door, which opens into an ornate hallway that connects all three doors.  They close the door and exit out the south and turn right. There’s lots of corridors going off.  They find a room with very deep pits, with long dead dwarves posed (seated against the wall) watching the pits. The dwarves have rusted chain mail. The party moves on.

Three more elves in grey attack them, telporting into various locations in the party. Tanuukodol goes into overkill mode. He kills the one in front with three arrows, the last through his neck, leaving Grafarlig without a foe. She starts running down the looping corridor to attack the elf in the rear of the party.

Throkkol takes damage, as does Attok. Tanuukodol tells Bertram to duck and begins shooting the ones to the rear of the party. Tanuukodol kills the one next to Throkkol and then wounds the one behind Attok, stunning him for one round.  Next round he stuns it brutally for two more rounds. Grafarlig finally makes it around the loop and flanks the last one, slicing off his arm.

Searching, they find 3 more +15 Elf swords. And there’s something new. Bertram recognizes one of the elves, whom he doesn’t name, but whom he says, “was a good guy.” The party stops to learn more. They now notice that the elves look “hollow,” either as if they were controlled or possessed. Tanuukkodol feels less pleased by his role today as the slaughter hobo, and the party resolves to try to capture one in the future and see if he can be cured. Bertram’s elf is from Mirkwood and Bertram gathers his effects to return them, along with an ear (Tanuukkodol’s suggestion. It seemed like a good idea at the time.). Tanuukodol questioned if the elves were from Torumen’s elven enclave. Most Wood Elves in the region are. Was the Gardener gardening them?  And what did that mean?

The party finished out the level. The kid statue is still following them, and when they again enter the room of pits, they get tired of his presence. Grafarlig drops something down the pit, and Tanuukkodol angrily calls her “a fool of a Took.” The statue wants to hug Bertram, but Tanuukkodol tries to kick him into one of the deep pits. The statue avoids with a cunning backflip but fails to stick the landing. Grumpy, he sits down on the edge of the pit. Tanuukkodol goes around the pit and finishes the job. The party listens to the statue bouncing off various things as it falls. They then explored the hallway, which was covered with tapestries. There is water down at the end of the hallway, and more stairs. There is a cadence underneath everything, from the next level down. Grafarlig becomes worried about Sirens, and the party stuffs wool into their ears. And prepares to proceed down to the next level.

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NAVAH: The Yellow Men

Pongnam decided to leave Ian and return to King’s Rest and the company of his fellow living helmet. The party continued on and arrived at Blem. Sir Alexios swore fealty to Count Leonarde Polyngton, ruler of Braedt. They gained a point of reputation from being acknowledged as the first to travel through the Pass in over fifty years. No one yet knew (including the party) that Amidst had been slaughtered by the Slicers as a result.

At the tournament grounds, Josette and Ian solved the riddle of the 8 cheeses and became Novitiates in the Cheesemaker’s Guild, while Brendan and Sir Alexios tried to imagine what the Cheesemakers were after. They also met Adem, a local purveyor of misappropriated merchandise. John Saunde of Haern attempted to misappropriate Brendan’s golden chamberpot, but was caught and punch repeatedly in the privates by Ian, as is his wont. Ultimately, the pot was returned and John released, after which Sir Alexios sought him out as a possible member of his Thieve’s Guild.

Ian and Brendan both competed unsuccessfully in both the swordsmanship contest and in the archery contest, spending a great number of fortunae in the attempt.

REFEREE’S NOTE: The tournament was a disaster, as far as I was concerned. Huge amounts of time were spent creating the single elimination lists with the competitors from all over Braedt, and some from Martabus and Ruthven, but it was largely wasted effort as neither Ian nor Brendan won anything, except perhaps bragging rights for Brendan since he came in Fourth in the Swordsmanship contest (not easy with sixty-seven competitors!). Simulation, in this case, was much less fun than just winging it. 

The tournament was disrupted by an attack by a mob of Yellow Men, disease spewing demons that were chasing people from Lowtown. The party and the other heroes counterattacked, and after a few rounds found that the creatures could only be stopped by a head shot. After that, their numbers quickly diminished.

A second group attacking the Riverwalk was pursued by some of the competitors, while the knights of Lowtown rode out after a group headed for Plackton, the next town down the river. Riverwalk was cleansed, but the knights were defeated, as the group headed toward Plackton included a Yellow Man Lord. The lucky knights were given horrible diseases; the unlucky ones turned into Yellow Men.

 Back in town, the party learned that the first Yellow Man had been set on the town by Mahalakshmi Thakwraa, the sorceress of the Castle. Adem led Ian and Brendan into Hightown through one of the sewers, and from there they entered the Castle itself, finding Mahalakshmi in The Merchant’s Boot. It took a while, but eventually Ian appealed to her better side and she revealed that she had sold the truename of a Yellow Man to Abhimani Fressell, a competitor in the tournament. After attempting to abduct Mahalakshmi and being stopped by a local priest of the Harvester of Foes, Iabrowob Pudesay. Pudesay narrowed avoided another stabbing incident by Ian, who for some reason chose to buy him a beer instead. Of course, Ian also called the Harvester of Foes some naughty names and dared him to do anything about it, so that may make for an interesting adventure in the future.

Adem, Ian, and Brendan then rejoined the others outside the walls and found Fressell. After interrogating him increasingly aggressively, the party managed to get him to run screaming for help, despite the fact that Josette’s Telepathy indicated he knew nothing of the Yellow Man. Surrounded by 50 warriors there for the competition, Ian, Brendan, Josette, and Fressell were taken into custody and held in the Castle overnight for judgement by the Count in the morning. Adem claimed he didn’t know them, and thus escaped the same fate.

 

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NAVAH: Working on the City Generator again

We’re coming up on a county-wide tournament in the game, and I wanted to step it up a notch, generating the warriors for the full county, which includes 3 castles, 1 keep, 2 monasteries, 3 temples, 52 hamlets, 55 villages, 12 towns, and 2 cities. So we decided to create a county generator based on the old city generator. The program would generate all of those settlements at one shot, using the new systems we came up with this year. That means every character detailed, with stats, skills, personality, appearance, and equipment, including all significant others and children. We had to tweak the system a bit so that the full printout was easier to read. I had to create a CSV file with all of the settlement basic characteristics.

If we were going to generate a full county, I wanted to be sure that the data would last a while, so I updated the old Access database to fit the current system and our understanding of Navah.  I also decided to add a second magic system. The old one is now the civilized system of magic, the one taught in the Magical Colleges. The new one is the barbaric or wild system of magic learned in the wastes, the north, and the deep desert.

There are five new elementalist character types (Aeromancer, Hydromancer, Pyromancer, Electromancer, and Cryomancer, from most common to most rare). These folks are entranced by particular elements and are pretty antisocial. The Aeromancers or wind wizards can be found most often at sea, and are highly desired as crew. The Hydromancers are less common, but are welcomed in the river valleys, as they can control flooding. No one wants the Pyromancers or Electromancers around — those folks are nuts! And Cryomancers are like those two but are found only in the deep north, so are very rarely met. 

The sixth new mage is the Shaman, who is the more commonly encountered northern magician. The Shaman has an affinity with the earth, with the animals and the plants. 

Mages can cross-train in the northern and southern styles of magic, but few will have the opportunity to do so, and even fewer will have the desire. There isn’t much reason to do so. The South focuses on control and domination of the world, while the North focuses on approaching closer to nature and the elements. The approaches are fairly antagonistic.

Finally, the tavern generator we use is a great creativity tool but it requires the renaming of almost all generated taverns. For example, the Sign of the Bulbous Turkey is amusing but hardly a decent name. That might become Cock’s Crow or Harvest Dinner instead. The renaming of taverns was one reason behind moving to county-level data. I wanted to have the new tavern names in our full print of each town, and that was a drag to do individually. Instead, my programmer (my loving wife!) is creating a subprogram that will read in my old name/new name CSV file and rename the taverns county-wide. This is super important because when a character is an alcoholic or a glutton, the program lists his/her favorite tavern, and now that name will be accurate. I will so be able to do a sort for the regular patrons of each tavern, so when players walk into a tavern, I know who is there. We’ve been using that a while and it has been super helpful.

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MERP: In the Village of Nurundizikin

We learned today that Ugthug is an orc, while Bertram is a human. Ugthug is of the Toegunk tribe, and the orcs in the caverns are from the Snothammer tribe, which why he doesn’t mind attacking them.

Tonight Feldenaith joined us again. We stayed on the same level initially, attacking two orcs in an adjoining corridor. Feldenaith and Ugthug attacked first. Feldenaith took slight damage, but then managed to flank one. Ugthug splintered the leg of his opponent, and then Grafarlig split the skull of the other. Ugthug then smashed the skull of his enemy, and took an ear from each for his necklace of defeated foes.

The party then descended down a secret spiral stairway, arriving at the Village of Nurundizikin, surprisingly still the home of about seventy dwarves. Virgil is their leader, with Grumblebumble and Stumble his assistants. They live in peace and harmony, and are quite different from Atauk & Throckel. There is a herbalist, Helsalin, from whom Skyrunner purchases 4 doses of Moontumb, 3 doses of Slimy Gorkin, 2 doses of Stout Heart (he is searching for one more as they traverse the caverns), and 7 doses of Carpet Moss (all of this detailed in The Hands of the Healer supplement).

There is also Salvnar’s General Store, where Ugthug and Skyrunner buy some rabbit on a stick. Delicious! Feldenaith purchases a live rabbit and cuts its head off to please his demon blade, the Red Sword.  The rest of the party eyes this questioningly, but remains oblivious of the nature of the sword, which has begun to speak to Feldenaith in his head and urge him to commit greater atrocities.

We meet one female dwarf, Inniel Grunkledunkle. Her twin sister Nell is off exploring. Skyrunner chats up Inniel, who responds, and they spend a marvelous time talking while he is there. The party leaves the next day though, and travels downwards again, coming to a room with three Dwarven statues. One is belly laughing, one is untrustworthy, and one is crying. An inscription reads, “Console, Accuse, Empathize, and Continue.” The party solves this and moves on.

The party comes next to a pathway with doors. Skyrunner encourages Ugthug to break one down, and he rams it with his head, knocking himself out and turning back to Bertram. The party explains the situation to Bertram about Ugthug, and he is not pleased.

Feldenaith hears sounds from beyond another door, and opens that one. Beyond are four goblins and a slender man in cloth robes. Skyrunner and Feldenaith practice their archery. Feldenaith wounds one, and Skyrunner kills the slender mage with an arrow to the throat. Skyrunner then hits another in the side. Bertram tries a ploy that fails and he runs away, pursued by one of the orcs. Grafarlig then runs to the attack. Skyrunner switches to spear and shield, and spears the one chasing Bertram through the head. Feldenaith puts an arrow into another goblin’s left arm. Atauk kills one with a strike to the hip, and Skyrunner and Feldenaith shoot at the last one fleeing down the corridor. Skyrunner drops him with an arrow in his ankle, then runs up and puts a spear through each limb and the abdomen, before ending him with a spear to the eye. In this way, he sends his foe wounded and ineffectual to the Spirit World. Atauk and Throckel are taken aback by this savagery.

The party then comes to a large room with ten foot tall master carved statues of the Dwarven elders. There are glowing green gems in the wall. There are also four more slender mages in the room. Bertram tries a classic ploy, shouting, “Where can I find a bathroom?” but fails to succeed (the DM gave him a -70 on his roll).

One of the mages teleports to the rear of the party and attacks Atauk with a sword that he has somehow acquired in his teleport. Feldenaith attacks that one, hitting him in the face and stunning him for a round. Throckel then hits the mage as well, also stunning him. Skyrunner shoots one in the room in the head, stunning him.

In the next round, one of the mages in the room teleports out. Another tries, but fails. Feldenaith pierces his foe through the head, and his sword is happy, whispering, “Yesssssss!” Skyrunner peppers the same mage he hit earlier, hitting him in the right arm and twice in the torso. He is stunned again. Grafarlig is meanwhile charging across the room, trying to get close enough to use her axe. She hit him in the right leg, chopping it off. Skyrunner comes over to the downed mage he was fighting, and again, ritually kills him to affect his performance in the Spirit World.

Two of the mages have +10 longswords. One goes to Skyrunner, the other to Bertram.

Moving on, the party find a medical library in Khuzdul and Westron. They learn that once there were as many as 200,000 dwarves here, but within 200 years, three quarters of the population died off. Half way through that period, the population began leaving. Thaylor did not leave, however, but probably died in a battle with the orcs down below. One of the works is very recent and mentions that the green stones are inert, but that one should not touch them.

In the next room are animated statues, moving imperceptibly. These are again elders in commissioned poses. There are a number of dead bodies in the room, as if there was once a great fight here. The party finds nothing of great worth.

None of the party members are able to open the last door, so the party decides to descend to the next level at the next session.

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MERP: A Meeting in Dilgul

After some behind the scenes emails, the conflict between Drogo and Delcaran is resolved peacefully, and both go their separate ways. The party is reformed, with Grafarlig the dwarven warrior and Feldenaith the Dorwinian rogue to remain as the core of the new group.

Drogo & Grafarlig attend a gathering in the city of Dilgul, on the southern coast of the Rhûn Sea.  They attend to talk of matters concerning the rangers, but it turns out that the meeting is much more than that. Feldenaith is elsewhere.

The meeting has been called by Pallando the Soul Keeper wearing the sea-blue Robes of Aman, the iron Ring of Soul-taking, and the deep black Earring of Souls. His staff is of black yew. Known to the elves as Rómestamo, he is one of the two blue wizards who went to the east. He and his companion supported the Wômawas Drûs against the Shadow until TA 2400, when the ringwraith Komûl’s forces broke the empire and the forces of Light fled west to the plains. Allying with the Vorgani nomads and the Avari elves, they retook the empire in TA2656. He still dwells in the central plains, where he continues to teach those who are worthy.

Pallando has brought together the various factions that oppose Ellataria.  Ellataria, it seems, has been showing much more power than she should be able to, and it is suspected that she draws her power from Tol Sulereb, the dread isle in the Sea of Rhûn, a former fortress of Sauron. Pallando believes there is also power on the island that frightens Ellataria. He believes this power has a master palantir, and uses it to see her.

Following Pallando is Tanuukkodôl (aka. Skyrunner), a Tyran plainsman of Wômaw ancestry. Skilled in archery, spear, herb lore, and languages, he comes from the wooded hills of Y-Lústurangsur, northwest of Daldunair Lake.  Drogo and Tanuukkodôl both trained in magic under Pallando, though this is the first time they have met. In friendship, Drogo gives the tall nomad his Bow of Light. “This is more useful to you than to I,” he explains.

Cavalas, son of Cordram, is the oldest living ranger and is from Dilgul. Blind, gnarled, but surprisingly quick for all that. He’s also possessed of great natural power. He ‘s leading the movement against Oldahr, though it pains him. He wishes for the rangers to allow members of all races so long as they have the interests of the people at heart. In this, he is rebelling against Oldahr, the formal leader of the rangers. He has been convinced of the need for this change by Elias, another old ranger and former shipmate of the players. Elias himself is elsewhere occupied and is not attending this meeting. 

Skyrunner is impressed by the offer of Cavalas, and voices a desire to join. Cavalas welcomes his offer, especially since Skyrunner is recommended by Pallando himself.

Oldahr, son of Baradhros, an emissary from the remnants of the Numenorean rangers, comes from the southwest, from the city of Lest. Oldahr is a big, bald, thickly-built relic of a bygone age who is out-of-touch with his men and currently dealing with the mutiny of Cavalas. He holds some respect from the peoples of the area for having fought against the Children during the War of the Ring. He is a friend of Drogo but is disappointed in his recent choices. Oldahr thinks creating an interracial group of rangers is foolish, as it means recruiting from Easterling tribes that are, as he sees it, naturally barbaric.

Drogo announces that he is joining Cavalas, but that he is putting his entire fortune into funding both groups of rangers. As an initial offering, he will buy any ranger a suit of black ranger rigid leather.  Oldahr drops his head and shakes it sadly. Drogo does this not only to support the eastern rangers, but also to fight the Sirens, who share his teleporting ability. He also plans to use his ability to speak with birds to pass information back and forth with Oldahr. Finally, he has made arrangements with Cavalas to have two Eastern rangers man the ways on the isle of Faizal, to watch for the return of their enemies. Drogo occasionally teleports in relief forces and teleports out the guard.

From the west come  Atauk & Throckel, kin of Thralin, dwarven emissaries from Scarakikot (aka. Scari), a city that contains most of the dwarven presence in the Rhûnaer. They wish to seek Thraylor’s lost ring, one of the seven, to forestall its discovery by the followers of Ellataria. The ring is believed lost in Nurundizikin, the ancient dwarven city deep in the mountains. The city has been abandoned for many years since the dwarves dug too deep and brought up fantastic green diamonds that spread plague and death.  Atauk & Throckel shows signs of corruption, as they gleefully discuss breaking the fingers of Ellataria’s minions, teleporting humans invading Nurundizikin.

From the northwest comes Ena, daughter of Demetrios. She is an elven emissary from Taur Romen, the forest in the northeast corner of the Rhûnaer. This faction is the most mysterious, as the dark elves of Taur Romen are known to follow Demetrios, one of the last remaining sirens. He’s known as “the gardener,” although no one can say what he gardens. Ena suggests that her father, while uncaring of the world outside Taur Romen, knows paths that can reach Tol Sulereb. She welcomes those who would wish to learn more.

From the eastern shore of Rhûnaer comes Jahs a’ lynn, an Ohdriag woman who is known to run Syndicate operations in that region. She’s in her mid-forties, thin, and known to have a dry sense of humor. She’s also known to have both integrity and a merciless sense of justice. She runs trade east of Dilgul, though the commerce she manages is not as great as that of her ex-husband, Jason Hiergaard, the Dorwinion head of the Syndicate operations west of Dilgul. Jahs tells the group of Tia Barlen, who has been telling everyone that she knows of a way to get to Tol Sulereb. She is in the Elgayar, and has been getting money from someone. Jahs asks for help learning more about this.

A well-spoken man named Bertram comes the Anduin Valley, seeking the aid of Pallando, whom he has heard is a local healer. Bertram seeks a cure for his headaches and bouts of amnesia. Pallando speaks with him privately.

Winton Coldfoot, the self-deprecating hobbit mayor of Nabal island in the Mayzri archipelago, comes uninvited, assuming that his lack of invitation was an oversight. “Bah, I am no mayor,” he explains, “Everyone in Nabal Mayzri is an equal person who goes his or her own way, indeed!” He comes to offer aid, and to save them the bother of travelling through the dangerous Mayzri straits to find him. He has no doubt that everyone will appreciate his help, and perhaps donate an appropriate reward for his promised aid against this terrible threat. Coldfoot believes that this is clearly the best idea he has ever had. He also mentions that he has some opium wine. Bertram and Skyrunner each take a bottle for free. Bertram says he doesn’t have much money, so Coldfoot secretly replaces his lamp (which is not of high quality) with a better one, though he also pickpockets a few coins for his trouble. Skyrunner says he doesn’t have any money, by which he means he doesn’t have much. He never does.

Also present is a delegation from a man named Krenn, a Dorwinion merchant greatly worried by the recent fascination for Ellataria by Lord Windsor, who has become incredibly unwise with money. Krenn asks for aid in curing Lord Windsor. 

Winterfoot resolves to aid Lord Windsor, and Drogo accompanies him, hoping to learn more of the brain-freeing techniques he has seen Winterfoot use in the past.

Skyrunner doesn’t know anything about brain-freeing, so he offers to journey with the dwarves. Grafarlig and Bertram agree to accompany them.

When they enter Nurundizikin some weeks later, they find it inhabited by goblins. Atauk & Throckel charge ahead, supported by Skyrunner’s bow. Grafarlig acts as a rear guard, which proves wise as the two goblins in front are reinforced by three more, and another four behind Grafarlig. Bertram, who is telling the party how great they are doing, decides to flee for a storeroom, where he smashes his head. Atauk, Throckel, and Skyrunner as initially terrified as a muscular bad green berserker emerges from the room where Bertram went, but Skyrunner notes that the creature is wearing the ripped garments of Bertram and shouts, “Don’t attack him! I think it is Bertram!”

It is indeed Bertram’s alter-ego — his blackouts are now explained. The enraged creature, who later introduces himself as Ugthug, charges the goblins. After three in front have fallen, one runs away, pursued by a crazed Ugthug. As their screams echo down the corridor, Skyrunner switches to spear and shield and goes to Grafarlig’s aid. Together they kill three of the rear ambushers, and one runs away. After searching the bodies and meeting Ugthug, who has returned from beating his goblin to a pulp, they follow the fleeing rear goblin and discover a secret door that leads to a library (recent books, mostly human), a chest, and stairs down. Skyrunner tries to pick the chest, but breaks his lock picks, so he and Ugthug smash it open with one of the goblin’s broadswords. Inside they find a belt of white deer hide, with a cloud inlay on the bronze buckle. Skyrunner wears this. They also find a gold necklace with 14 small pale beryls (elf stones), with a black opal centerpiece. This they give to Grafarlig.

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Stric Evilknife, Team killing, and Violence

I don’t allow team-killing in my games, largely because of personal experience. In-Character (IC) trauma can lead to Out-of-Character (OOC) conflict, as Sarah Bowman writes about in her article on social conflict in role-playing communities I think it also comes from my desire to be part of the Fellowship of the Ring, or at least to be friends with the people I play with. 

My opinion on this was set back around 1980, when my brother was running a campaign for his friends. I joined as Orstanvar the Bold, a cider drinking good-natured ranger. Below is the sort of party he wanted to be part of.

Tavern Scene from Pit of the Oracle in Dragon magazine #37

Well, it soon became clear that Orstanvar was in the wrong party. The other guys kept killing each other “for fun.” So Orstanvar left, and I brought Stric Evilknife in instead.

Assassin orc by lestatbishopI described him as a half-orc cleric and everyone was happy to have him (clerics are always welcome in a party of fighters). Actually though, he was a half-orc assassin-cleric, neutral evil. Since the party was killing each other off, Stric showed them how to do it right. He proceeded to kill them all off, one by one, and they never suspected him a bit. He was the one guy whom everybody liked. When the last guy died, the dead character’s player was upset. He had finally rolled a great character, and he didn’t want to lose him. So I suggested, “Hey, why don’t we just pretend that didn’t happen, and all play good guys instead?” Stric left the party, Orstanvar returned, and the other got to keep their awesome new characters. And the party became a true fellowship and had some great adventures.

I was less noble when I first played my elven fighter/thief/mage, Celiwenello i Maldolen. Celiwenello stole from the party. He stole so much, in fact that he was leveling up 2-3 times as fast as everyone else. And they didn’t know it, at first. He was the party mapper and he kept track of things in a way that the rest of the party didn’t. I was pretty proud of his achievements, but really, he was being an ass and tearing the party apart. He got away with it, but as a result I’m extra leery when someone wants to do the same in my games.

Now for complete transparency, I should say that while I want the party to work together, and not steal or fight with each other, my campaigns are pretty bloody. That might be because of my desire to make them feel real (I’m a historian and martial artist) but perhaps also because deep I like that sort of thing (I hope not). But it does make me question myself as a gamer, a bit. But it is still me, and most others seem to like it. Not everyone though, and I can see their point. Maybe part of finding a group is also determining what you like and what you don’t. I’d love to know about others deal with this issue, by the way, so please comment if you have something meaningful to share.

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Middle Earth Collectible Card Game (MECCG) Index

At http://www.chrisvos.com/meuk/lackey/meccg/updatelist.txt, there is a list of the cards for MECCG, but they are not linked. Below is that same list (last updated Nov. 2, 2009), but in linkable format, so they are easier to go through. Enjoy! 

 

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