31 August 2023

Moria Kickstarted x30

Not that the Free League needs any additional support for this – the project (at the time that I’m writing this) has exceeded its funding goal more than 30 times over – but since I’m a Middle-earth fan and write about it regularly here, I thought that I would mention the Moria Kickstarter.

The Free League is coming out with versions for both The One Ring (2nd edition) and The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying. The latter game (LoTR) is a revised version of Cubicle 7’s earlier Adventures in Middle-earth system. That system is based upon 5th edition D&D, but helpfully introduces many “Middle-earthy” elements from TOR – and thankfully replaces entirely 5e’s standard “rest” and magic systems (among other things).

The TOR 2e version is called Moria: Through the Doors of Durin, whereas the LotR version is called Moria: Shadow of Khazad Dûm. (For some reason, different names are applied to all the books in the TOR and LotR lines, even though the non-rules contents are identical, as far as I can tell.)

The One Ring 2e looks interesting. I have the core rules and the introductory box set. (I also have the LotR versions.) Going forward, though, I plan to stick simply with the LotR 5e line, so I’ll be getting Moria: Shadow of Khazad Dûm. I don’t have any deep system-related reason for doing so. It’s just a matter of familiarity and convenience. I ran a great campaign using AiME a few years ago, so I know the system reasonably well, and am happy to stick with it for my Middle-earth gaming. (At least when I’m not using Against the Darkmaster to run my old MERP stuff. Oddly, Moria is one of the few ICE Middle-earth books that I don’t have in my collection.)

The TOR 2e books do have better covers than the LotR books for some reason…

23 August 2023

Against the Witch-King: The Heroes

Almarian of Arnor

Kin: Dúnadan (“High Man”).
Culture: City – Fornost.
Vocation: Champion.
Level: 1.

Stats: Brawn +15; Swiftness +15; Fortitude +15; Wits 0; Wisdom +5; Bearing +15.
Hit Points: 65.
Magic Points: 3.
Move: 15 meters.

Special Traits (Kin): 
- Imposing (+15 to Charisma skill).

- Ancient Heirloom (major): Orcspite (ancient spear of Númenor).
- Loyal Companion (minor): Seerwing (goshawk).

Spell Lores: Commanding Presence, Chanting, Weapon Mastery

Motivation: Defend the North against Angmar.
Nature: Protective of the weak.
Allegiance: Loyal to Arnor.

Of clear Númenorean lineage, Almarian has made it her duty to protect the free folk of Arnor who seek to go about their routine lives untroubled by the Shadow. She is well travelled and versed in the local customs of Arnor’s scattered settlements, as well the more complex mores of her home city, Fornost.
Tall, as is the way of the people of Westernesse, she carries the spear Orcspite, gifted to her by her father, who carried it before. Orcspite has a long history stretching back to end of the reign of Ar-Pharazôn. It was used by the Faithful in the campaigns waged against the Shadow in both the north and south of Middle-earth following the destruction of Númenor. 

Almarian knows that the Witch-King seeks Orcspite’s destruction and has reasons to believe that His servants are actively hunting for it now that it has passed to her keeping. Knowing there are agents of the Witch-King abroad in Fornost, she decided to take to the wilds to protect both herself and her legacy. For this reason, she harbours an innate distrust of strangers.
Almarian’s constant companion is her trained goshawk, Seerwing. As well as being adept at hunting and retrieving small game, Seerwing is also a keen-eyed scout, and Alamarian routinely sends her ahead when approaching an unknown area.

Thindparv is Almarian’s mother’s brother. Nenereth and Thindparv were once very close, but drifted apart over the years – perhaps due to Thindparv’s studies. Almarian hates to see this gulf between two people she loves and wants to try to heal the rift somehow – hence her return to Fornost. She also hopes that Thindparv can tell her some of the abilities of Orcspite, as her father was slain by Angmarim before he could pass this information to her.


Arpet Swimming Bear

Kin: Lossoth (“Man”).
Culture: Arctic.
Vocation: Animist.
Level: 1

Stats: Brawn +10; Swiftness 0; Fortitude +10; Wits +5; Wisdom +25; Bearing +10.
Hit Points: 50.
Magic Points: 4.
Move: 15 meters

Special Traits (Kin):
- Specialization (+10 to any one skill).

- Healer’s Hands (minor): +10 to Healer skill and Nature (when searching for herbs).
- Shapechanger (major): can transform (when bruised or with drive point) into polar bear.
- Stormcrow (minor): visions of trouble (+5 to Wisdom).

Spell Lores: Chanting, Detections, Healing, Illusions, Movement of Nature.

Motivation: Find the stolen horn of Mulkan (holy artifact).
Nature: My actions may seem inexplicable at first, but their meaning will reveal in time.
Allegiance: I exhibit spiritual love for my Shaman, Emkla, but secretly my feelings are stronger and more personal.

The brothers Arpet and Doffa are from the village of Mulkan, which is one of the few permanent settlements of the Lossoth (who refer to themselves as the “Ystävät Talven” in their own tongue; the people of Mulkan and the southern coast of the Forochel are of the “Lumimiehet” tribe). At Mulkan the men of the Forodwaith interact with the few Arthedain, Rivermen, Dwarves of the Ered Luin, and Elves of Lindon who journey so far north. In return for ivory and pelts, the Lossoth obtain steel and iron tools and weapons, rare herbs, and other "southern" goods.

Arpet is the assistant shaman to Emkla, the head shaman of Mulkan. (Most Lossoth shamans are women – Arpet was accepted as one given his obvious talents, especially his ability to shift into the form of a polar bear, clearly a gift from the Vala Araw.) A year ago, a holy relic of the tribe – a giant Narwhale horn, said to have been obtained by the founder of the village (also named Mulkan) centuries ago and blessed by the Spirits of the North – was stolen. Months later, in a dream Arpet saw the horn in the possession of a strange diminutive people with hairy feet who lived in a massive, strange-looking tree (a tree not found anywhere near the Ice Bay). 

From the Arthedan trader Beleg, who visits Mulkan every season, the shaman learned of the sage Thindparv. This scholar perhaps can provide information about the strange people the shaman saw in his dream, including hopefully their location. Beleg, a friend of Thindparv, has written something called “a letter of introduction” for the Lossoth brothers, so that they might be welcomed in Fornost.


Doffa of Mulkan

Kin: Lossoth (“Man”).
Culture: Arctic.
Vocation: Rogue.
Level: 1

Stats: Brawn +10, Swiftness +15, Fortitude +5, Wits +15, Wisdom +20, Bearing 0.
Hit Points: 55.
Magic Points: 0.
Move: 15 meters

Special Traits (Kin):
- Specialization (+10 to any one skill).

- Lovable Rogue (Major): +5 to Wits. May confuse sentient beings once/session.
- Unbreakable Bond (Minor): +10 on rolls when helping Arpet.
- Stormcrow (Minor): visions of trouble for Arpet; +5 to Wisdom.
- Geared for Adventure (Minor): superior spear, lockpick.

Motivation: My visions of Arpet and the dangers he will face drive me to travel with and protect him.
Nature: I am prone to distraction by my curiosity for the sights and sounds of the world beyond home.
Allegiance: I will bring the wealth and comforts of the south to my people so we can stop living in poverty.

The brothers Arpet and Doffa are from the village of Mulkan, which is one of the few permanent settlements of the Lossoth (who refer to themselves as the “Ystävät Talven” in their own tongue; the people of Mulkan and the southern coast of the Forochel are of the “Lumimiehet” tribe). At Mulkan the men of the Forodwaith interact with the few Arthedain, Rivermen, Dwarves of the Ered Luin, and Elves of Lindon who journey so far north. In return for ivory and pelts, the Lossoth obtain steel and iron tools and weapons, rare herbs, and other "southern" goods.

Doffa is no scholar or shaman but has long been fascinated by the tales of the southern lands told by the traders who visit Mulkan. Excited for the opportunity to see these realms, he readily agreed to accompany his brother on his quest for the lost Narwhale horn.


Celebrin “the Swift”

Kin: Sinda (“Silver”) Elf.
Culture: Noble.
Vocation: Champion.
Level: 1.

Stats: Brawn +5, Swiftness +30, Fortitude +10, Wits +15, Wisdom +5, Bearing +25.
Hit Points: 50.
Magic Points: 7.
Move: 20 meters.

Special Traits (Kin):
- Keen Sense: night vision, +10 to Perception.
- Immortal: ageless, immune to disease, +10 vs cold.
- Light footed: unaffected by terrain (and counts ½ for camping).
- Shipwright: +20 to rolls involving ships and shipcraft.
- Fair and Wise: + 10 to Charisma and Song & Tales skills.

- Fleet footed: +5 to Move Rate; travel 1.5 normal distance on foot.
- Gifted: +5 to Swiftness.
- Heroic Bloodline: use ½ action to Inspire allies within 6 meters: 
        +10 to Willpower saves or +5 to attack and defence (for round).

Spell Lores: Elven Lore, Spell Song, Chanting, Commanding Presence, Heroic Defence, Weapon Master.

Motivation: Solve the mystery of his visions of a lost elf warrior.
Nature: Inquisitive (uncover ancient lore and artifacts).
Allegiance: Círdan and Lindon.

Celebrin belongs to a noble Sindarin family. His great-grandfather was among the Teleri who settled in Nevrast rather than cross the sea to Aman. In the second century of the sun (First Age), Celebrin’s great-grandfather relocated to the hidden city of Gondolin. Both Celebrin’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother were slain when Morgoth’s hordes conquered the city. His grandfather, however, escaped to Círdan’s people in Falas and then the Isle of Balar. Celebrin’s grandfather later followed Círdan to Lindon after the destruction of Beleriand. In the mid-Second Age, Celebrin’s grandfather fell to orcish hordes during the War of the Elves and Sauron (1700 S. A.). Celebrin’s father relocated to the elf-haven of Edhellond for the rest of the age, and took part in the War of the Last Alliance. Afterwards, Celebrin’s father returned with Círdan to Mithlond. There, in 1800 of the Third Age, Celebrin’s father wed his mother. Celebrin was born a century later, and so is quite young (64) for a Sinda Elf. 

Fascinated by his father’s tales of the great works created in Lindon and Eregion during the Second Age, Celebrin is keen to uncover the ancient lore and artifacts of the Sindar and Noldor of Eriador. 

However, Celebrin’s immediate reason for travelling east is less benign. For the past year has been plagued with a vision during his reveries. He sees a great blond elf warrior wandering through a thick mist, possibly underwater. The warrior calls out for help in both Quenya and Sindarin, but to no avail. After a few moments the vision disappears. No one in Lindon can understand what this vision means. Following Círdan’s advice, Celebrin is travelling to Arthedain, and then possibly Rivendell, to try to solve this mystery.


Turuk Larr

Kin: Dwarf.
Culture: Weald (Blue Mountains).
Vocation: Sage.
Level: 1.

Stats: Brawn +10, Swiftness +0, Fortitude +15, Wits +20, Wisdom +15, Bearing +5.
Hit Points: 70.
Magic Points: 3.
Move: 15 meters.

Special Traits (Kin):
- Dark Sight (30m in dim light, 3m in darkness)
- Forgekin: +30 to save rolls vs heat & cold attacks.
- Forgekin: +30 to rolls to work/craft metals, stone, gems.
- Forgekin: Created metal items always of at least High Quality.
- Stoneborn: +20 to Nature & Wandering skills when underground.

- Loremaster (minor): +1 rank to Cultures; ask GM for lore when in new area.
- Battle Hardened (minor): +15 starting HP (maximum HP = 160). Scar over eye.
- Exceptional Training: Armour & Weapon Crafter (minor x2).
- Knows many languages: Sindarin, Quenya, Khuzdul, Westron, Adûnaic. 
Spell Lores: Detections, Lore of Nature, Sounds & Light.

Motivation: Find what artifact or power is keeping Angmar from conquering Nothva Rhaglaw.  
Nature: Atificer.
Allegiance: King of the Blue Mountains (Thrár).

Turuk hails from Nan-i-Naugrim in the northern Ered Luin (Blue Mountains). A member of Thrár’s ancient tribe, Turuk’s people once dwelt in the great halls of Belegost, one of the most splendid of the dwarvish realms of old. With the destruction of Beleriand at the end of the First Age, the surviving dwarves of Belegost and Nogrod settled in the eastern parts of the Ered Luin, where they have remained, diminished but undaunted, for some five thousand years now.

Unlike most of his fellows, Turuk is interested in, and friendly with, the other folk of Eriador, including even the Elves. He speaks numerous languages and is curious about almost everything, from history to craftsmanship. Skilled in working with metals, Turuk is a fine weaponsmith and armourer. And yet, as a scholar and crafter, is not especially apt at using either weapons or armour.

Worried about the growing might of Angmar, Turuk has learned about a strange ancient mannish settlement – Nothva Rhaglaw – that has endured since at least the middle of the Second Age. The region seems somehow unaffected by the Witch-King’s forces. And, according to Turuk’s research, also managed to survive the terrible war fought between Sauron and the Elves millennia ago. Yet Nothva Rhaglaw is strangely ignored by the “greater” peoples of Eriador, the Elves, Dwarves, and Dúnedain. Turuk has left the Nan-i-Naugrim to learn more about this curious place. His first stop is at the Arthedan seer Telemnar’s observatory. Having corresponded with Telemnar in recent months, Turuk believes that the seer may possess one of the few Arnorian treatises that discusses the history of Nothva Rhaglaw.


Edited (2024-02-23) to add Turuk Larr.

12 August 2023

Against the Witch-King – Adventure Index

As I usually do with the campaigns that I run, I’ve created "Master Page" with links to posts related to the Against the Witch-King adventures. I’ll update this as new relevant posts appear on my blog. 

[Some Nazgûl near Rivendell, by Angus McBride]

Campaign and Character Information 

Adventure Logs

Other related posts

[Edited on 2024-02-23. See comment below for more information.]

10 August 2023

Classic Fantasy Imperative coming soon

Above is the cover for the Design Mechanism’s forthcoming Classic Fantasy Imperative. (Classic Fantasy is a supplement for Mythras that gives the game a strong “first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” flavour, while retaining most of what makes Mythras a great system.) Classic Fantasy Imperative (CFI ) will be released under the “ORC” license, which was created in reaction to WotC’s (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to change the OGL back in January.

Here is Loz’s description of the book (from this post):  

Classic Fantasy Imperative is actually pretty extensive. It's a complete rule-set, but we have redacted some classes, races, spells, and other things from Classic Fantasy to retain the utility of the core book (and the upcoming Unearthed Companion). However, CFI does take characters up to Rank 5, and offers a great deal of material to allow you to see and play the game to its full extent without necessarily needing the Unearthed Companion or the core rules. What you won't find in CFI are extended spell descriptions, monster stats, additional classes or races, and a great deal of cool extended material.

Classic Fantasy Imperative has two aims: introduce new players to Mythras and d100 gaming using familiar tropes and concepts from D&D and Pathfinder; and give third party creators a solid, comprehensive, open system to build their own games, and merge Classic Fantasy and Mythras material with other ORC-powered sources (like the fresh edition of BRP). In short, we're opening up Mythras, and starting that journey with Classic Fantasy. Mythras Imperative will also be licensed under ORC too, to ensure full consistency across our range. However, the core rules - Mythras Core, CF core, will not be ORC. If people want to license material found in our full rulebooks, we'll still have the Mythras Gateway to allow access in much the same way we do now (although we'll be relaxing some of the conditions).

If you have Classic Fantasy and Mythras already, you don't need CFI - however, there's still enough material in there to provide old hands with some additional, free information. It also makes a great intro for new players, so it'll be worth picking up. The SRD and PDF versions (the latter will receive layout treatment; the former will be a Word document) will be free, so no reason for you not to have a copy. 

I have Classic Fantasy and think it’s very cool. I’m definitely getting CFI when it comes out. If I wasn’t already playing in a Mythras campaign (as a player, I’ve participated primarily in Mythras campaigns over the past dozen years), I’d be tempted to use Classic Fantasy for my next campaign. 

08 August 2023

I am the Darkmaster

I’m slowly working on a setting for a forthcoming Against the Darkmaster (VsD) campaign. The world is called Ukrasia and my focus will be on a northern island called Amarrah.

One thing that I decided for the setting is to have three “Darkmasters” from three different Ages of the world. I want these Darkmasters to be opposed to each other, in addition to the “free peoples.” However, only the most recent Darkmaster is active in the world at the time of the campaign (the others nonetheless have numerous followers and agents causing trouble).

Another goal that I have for the setting is that I want to make room in the world and provide rationales for the core VsD peoples – “kins” in VsD terminology (“races” in old-school parlance) – and monsters. Among the playable kins, in addition to the usual humans (and ersatz Dúnedain, “High Men”), halflings, dwarves, elves, and orcs, there are “wild folk” (human-ish woodland folk that resemble, I think, the Woses of Middle-earth) and “firbolgs” (giant-ish people with ram horns). The firbolgs are quite interesting, in that they suffer from a “Doom” because they turned against their Darkmaster in the dim past. In addition to the playable kins, there are “Dragonspawn” (humanoid dragon folk) that also need to be explained.

In order to make a place for the firbolgs – and the VsD versions of giants as well – I decided that the first Darkmaster will be a “High Jarl” of the Giants (once masters of the most powerful civilization in the world). This High Jarl also created the dragonspawn to serve as soldiers in the Giants’ war against the Elves. I thought that it would be cool to evoke Norse mythology and call the High Jarl “Ymir.” When I was looking at the entry on Ymir at Wikipedia, though, I noticed that an alternative name for Ymir is “Bláinn” – remarkably close to my first name, “Blain”!

The spirit of Gygax seized me, and I thought that it would be fun to use my three names (first, middle, and last) as the basis for all three of Ukrasia’s Darkmasters (just as many of the important characters’ names within the World of Greyhawk are plays on “Gygax,” including the mad wizard “Zagyg” of the original Castle Greyhawk).

This is only an initial draft, but below are my current ideas for the three Darkmasters of Ukrasia

The Chained Colossus of the Deep

High-Jarl of the Giants, Bláinn (Ymir), “The Master of Dragons.”
Bláinn has been chained to the bottom of the ocean for ~15,000 years. (According to legend, the Colossus’s writhing causes storms and great waves.)
Coveted Artifact: The Crystal Rods (five keys for the five chains that bind him to the ocean floor).
Lieutenants: Dragons, the “Dragon Kings” (human sorcerers?), Greater Giants.
Minions: Dragonspawn, Evil Men, Lesser Giants.
Spies: Snakes, Dragonlings (evil ‘pseudo-dragons’).

The Pale Queen of the Mists

Over-Queen of the Night, Everekka the Beautiful. (Name modified from “Everett.”)
Former leader of the genocidal “Night” (Star) Elves during the “Era of the Elves.”
Has been ensconced in her enchanted fastness on the Plane of Flux for ~ 3,700 years (since her defeat at the end of the Elvish Era).
Coveted Artifact: Unknown (if any).
Lieutenants: Night (Star) Elves and Unseelie. 
Minions: Dwergar, Orcs, Trolls.
Spies: Boggarts, Owls.

The Lich Autarch

Former Autarch of the Rylindar Imperium (the “High Man” empire), N’veldar the Arch-Lich. (Name modified from “Neufeld.”)
Greatly weakened after the theft of his staff and subsequent defeat at the end of the “First Age of Humanity” (the Age’s 2,550th year). 
(Only recently has the Autarch re-emerged, after the first millennium of the Second Age of Humanity.)
Coveted Artifact: The Blackfire Staff (drinks the souls of those slain; rumoured to be the only weapon that can truly slay N’veldar).
Lieutenants: Dark Knights, Dark Mages, and Vampires.
Minions: Evil Men, Ghouls, Undead Thralls.
Spies: Gorcrows, Ravens, Bats. 

The Autarch's primary servant on the Island of Amarrah
The Prince of Rooks (who dwells within the Black Rookery in the northeastern reach of the isle). 
The Prince and his lieutenants ride giant rooks.

So that’s it for now. I’ll post more about Ukrasia and Amarrah as my work progresses. 

[Credits: The top image is from the Against the Darkmaster core book. The picture of Ymir is from the musician Danheim's song of the same name. The final two pictures are from Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings movie.]

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).