Worst Lord of the Rings d20 Game Ever: Session 2

It has been a week since the party left Khazad-dum, now outfitted with mithril vests.  Following the Silverlode River through the deserted forest of Lothlorien, the party crosses the Anduin.  From there, they pass through the vale and enter the new elf ream of East Lorien, the southernmost region of Greenwood.  Greenwood (or Eryn Lasgalen) was the original name for Mirkwood, until the shadow of Sauron fell upon it and Men coined a new term for the region.

After the defeat of Sauron, his taint was cleansed from the forest by the power of the elves.  The forest was named Greenwood once again and the two most powerful elf-lords of the region divided up the wood amongst the victors.  King Thuranduil of the Woodland Realm took the northern lands, from the forest boundaries to the mountains.  The Beornings and woodmen were given the territory from the mountains to the forest narrows in the south, where Greenwood was at its shortest east to west.  Everything south of the narrows to the Brown Lands was granted to Lord Celeborn, who named his new realm East Lorien.

Celeborn’s wife, Galadriel, sailed into the west a few years after Sauron’s defeat.  While Celeborn remained in this wood for a time, he eventually grew weary and went to Rivendell to live with his grandsons (the sons of Elrond).  To rule over the new land in his stead, Celeborn appointed Lord Seron.  Who better to rule over the land than the elf who personally led the defense of Lothlorien against the forces of Sauron?

[This is some strange overlap between what Tolkien writes in the appendices and previous role-plays.  Seron is based on one of my friend’s characters.]

Under the rule of Seron, the elves of Lothlorien moved east to the new realm.  New Lorien, as it came to be called, grew in power at the expense of the old.  Over a century after the founding of New Lorien, Queen Arwen of Gondor entered Lothlorien after the death of her husband.  She entered a dead land, silent of song and the golden mallorn trees were in a state of eternal autumn.  It was in this desolate but still hauntingly beautiful place that she passed away.

The trees of New Lorien stand tall under the night sky as the party enters, arched over the road and stream that run beneath the spreading boughs.  A slight breeze, and the endless rustle of leaves that it brings, accompanies them.  Another day’s travel brings the party to Amon Galadhon, the capital of New Lorien.  Upon the hill that was once the foundation of Sauron’s fortress of Dol Guldur, the elves of New Lorien have constructed a city of trees.  It is here that the recovery from Sauron can best be seen in Middle-earth.

The party rests in the tranquil woods for a day before setting out once more.  The multitude of Men in the settlement catch the eyes of Bacon and Chipotle.  Even the most powerful of elf realms is not immune to the ever-increasing dominion of Men.  However, the woodmen and Beornings of Greenwood pose no threat.  In fact, their numbers are quite useful in containing the evils of the forest that continue to persist.

Chipotle’s party rests here for a few days before venturing deeper into the woods.  While the evil that polluted this wood and gave its cursed name of Mirkwood has long since been vanquished, Greenwood is still a foreboding place.  Spiders of all sizes still spin webs in the darker, inner region of the wood.  Orcs and other evils dwell in the Emyn-nu-Fuin, the mountain range in the middle of the forest overlooking the road.  These creatures occasionally venture out to prey on the traveling trader, ventures that have started to increase…

So why venture through such a dark and dank place?  Because the alternative route is not much safer.  Heading east out of the forest and into the Rhovanion plains would have swapped out the orcs and spiders for the more formidable Easterling tribes.  Word has reached the West of the Easterlings’ appetite for war, which has only be whetted by the sacking of Dorwinion.  The land of fine wines and the source of Chipotle’s income has come under control of the Easterling tribes.  Their warlord now turns his eye west but where will he strike next?  Greenwood?  Esgaroth?  Rohan?  Gondor?  The rebellious king of Adunabar?  Easterlings have been seen in all of these areas, not pillaging but scouting…

Not willing to take their chances with armor-plated Easterlings, Chipotle and his band head north towards the Old Forest Road.  His father, Bacon, is quiet during the trip but no one pays this any heed.  In fact, they may even appreciate his silence.  Bacon bucks many of the elven stereotypes.  Notably, he does not care for nature but rather wishes to tame it for himself, as if he was a Man.  He’s wished more than once to have encountered a bear so that he may have a suitable mount (because horses are too conventional).

He was so quiet, in fact, that a look into his eyes would have seen him in a sort of trance.  Bacon was not under hypnosis or anything but he was definitely, as the common tongue would say, “out of it.”  So out of it that when Chipotle spotted a giant spider web blocking their path on the fifth day out of East Lorien, Bacon ignored his son’s cries and walked straight into the web!  Eight spiders, each about the size of a domesticated house cat, swarm from the trees and towards the party as if on cue!  The spiders bite into some of the party, prompting fears of poison among Ser Lyndon and the barbaric Poe.

While the trio deal with the spiders, a larger one wraps Bacon in its strong, webbed bonds.  The remaining three party members deal with the spiders in time to see the large spider fleeing.  Ser Lyndon and Chipotle climb trees while Poe fires arrows at the spider.  This hampers its progress, as does a struggling Bacon.  Bacon finally snaps out of his coma, as well as his bonds!  However, he did not realize he was 30 feet above the ground and crashes to the forest floor with a thud, breaking some branches along the way.

[Justin was running late because he was playing the Munchkin card game.  I was originally content to DM his character until he got here but the players came up with the more colorful “coma” solution.  Once he arrived, he snapped out of not only his coma but also his webbed entanglement.  Of course, when he did so, he was quite a few floors above the forest ground and took some fall damage.  The point of this side story?  Never be late to a D&D session, as even your fellow players may decide to mess with you!]

With Bacon free of the spider’s grip, it does not take long for the beast to be felled by arrows.  Poe alone delivers most of the shots.  Ser Lyndon does not have a ranged weapon and the spider maneuvers from tree to tree, using the bark as cover.  Chipotle could help out but he refuses to fire.  His attempts to sneak attack the spider are thwarted as the spider is good at keeping itself out of range.  Eventually, though, Poe’s arrows penetrate the spider’s thick hide and it falls to the forest’s floor.

[Steve was having some really bad rolls this session.  At one point, he was so frustrated he decided not to attack.  When the players asked him why not, he told them, “Because no damage is better than crap damage.”]

Surprisingly enough, it is the only encounter the party has as they maneuver through the leaf-coated forest floor.  Another week’s worth of wary traveling and the party reaches the Old Forest Road.  The road is perhaps the longest in all of Middle-earth, being a continuation of the Great East-West Road.  It is possible to take follow this road from Greenwood all the way to Hobbiton.

However, the road does not prove to be any safer than the forest wilderness.  After a few days of travel, the party encounters a raiding party of orcs!  How orcs came to be nested in the mountains is unknown to the party.  They can not be possibly be descendents of those who survived the Battle of Five Armies, as all of those orcs were annihilated to the last.

Learning from their previous episode with the orcs of Gundabad, the party fights together and effectively dispatch the orcs with minimal difficulty.  Of the original group of ten, only one orc is alive.  He lies on the ground in a pool of his own foul blood, the wounds inflicted upon him by Po not severe enough to slay him.  Remembering his own near-death encounter with the orcs, Po rolls the orc over and goes to lift up his tunic…

…only to be stopped by the two elves of the party!  Although orcs are a long racial enemy of all the Free Peoples, the elves see to it that a foul act such as sexual assault should not be inflicted upon even the most foul of beings.  Or, at least, that’s what they should have said.  Bacon and Chipotle restrain Po and instead, insist that it would be a wonderful idea to have the orc enslaved as a pack mule instead!  An argument ensues and is only ended when Ser Lindon takes matters into his own hand.  He grips his sword and with a single stroke, swiftly mercy-kills the orc.

[Now you know why I’m billing this as the worst Lord of the Rings role-play ever.  As a DM, I don’t mind the players having certain creative latitude but I had to really draw the line at attempted rape on a orc that was bleeding out.  Steve and Justin were more than OK with this, either out of boredom or amusement, until I pressed them on the fact that they are elves!  Needless to say, this session didn’t end too well…  Gabe eventually stepping in actually started a running gag for this group.  If John wanted to do something to a prisoner, the prisoner would usually be killed before he could do anything to them…much to his consternation.]

There is a lot of conflict brewing amongst the party as they reach Laketown and prepare for their next adventure…

[I don’t have the notes for the next session but I do remember Gabe GM’d and I got to play…and the party nearly got killed by a troll, which is a fitting end to this campaign.  John was the only survivor and he played a session with Dustin that I GM’d.  The recollection of that is fuzzy but I do remember Po picking a fight with Rohirrim and finding out his army of Pokemon wouldn’t be so great.]

Worst Lord of the Rings d20 Game Ever: Character Creation & Session 1

This is the first Lord of the Rings d20 session I ran way back during junior year of college at EMU.  I wrote the recap and sent it to a friend to read during downtime/the flight home while he was in another country.  Since this friend had not kept in touch while traversing the Middle-East, it felt appropriate to punish him by having some players and myself bastardize one of his favorite series of books and movies.  One might think the ridiculousness is overstated but after reading the paragraphs about Steve and Justin’s characters…if you’re a Lord of the Rings (whether it be of the books or the movies), you’ll probably agree.

So, who’s responsible for this mess?  The guilty parties and how they contributed to this awful mess are listed below…

This was JUSTIN‘s first D&D session.  The first (and only) character he created was a 2,492 year old Sindarin elf ranger named Bacon.  He, at least, had the decency not to have his character’s name actually be Bacon.  Instead, it was a nickname given to his character because of an unfortunate accident regarding the breakfast item.  He did not, however, extend this courtesy to his weapons.  He dual-wielded a longsword (named Bacon) and a dagger (named cheddar).  Bacon also worshiped Gandalf to the point that Justin had him as his deity on his character sheet.

With such impressive characteristic, Bacon did find love in Middle-Earth.  He managed to court and bed a lovely Elf maiden, who must have came to her senses shortly afterwards for she is no longer relevant to this story.  Their union produced STEVE‘s character, another Sindarin Elf with an embarrassing name:  Chipotle.  Despite being named after a dried jalapeno pepper (which wouldn’t have been native to Middle-Earth), Chipotle established himself as a prominent spice trader in the lands around Dale and Greenwood.  He used this money not only to fund his trade empire but also to protect himself from the evils of Middle-Earth in the form of hired help.  However, Chipotle is a fiscal cheapskate and the quality of said help is rather dubious…

Chipotle had hired two Men, the first being played by JOHN.  John’s character was Po, a barbarian prince of Dunland from tribe Dingleberry.  Despite the perception that a barbarian should be uncultured and thus, unintelligent, Poe is actually the 2nd smartest person in the party, due to two others having a NEGATIVE Intelligence score.  Despite this, he tends to get confused rather easily.  This leads to him raging and swinging at the nearest object (whether it be friend, foe or inanimate) with his axe.  Po’s in-game goal was to find out how to breed orcs so that tribe Dingleberry could overrun the rest of Dunland, Rohan and (eventually) all of Middle-earth with his army of cleverly-named Pokemon.

The other hired henchman was named Ser Lindon, a mysterious Dunedain Fighter, who was role-played by GABE.  Gabe’s character was very similar to Alistair from Dragon Age in both story and play-style.  Both men were bastard sons of noble men who had the potential to claim noble positions of power via blood but chose not to initially.  Both also specialize in sword and shield, using their defensive abilities to aid the party and have their main offense consist of shield-bashing.  In Gabe’s defense, he was, out of all of us, the only one to take this whole affair seriously.  His name does not have a Sindarin root but that’s small crime compared to some of the other travesties committed here.  Gabe is only guilty by association here, which is more than can be said about…

ME…I’m guilty because I consented to all of this.  Everything that happened in character creation and during the sessions was met with my approval.  If J.R.R. Tolkien could rise as a zombie to bite one person from this group for the crime of defacing his life’s work, he would choose me.

Despite being billed as the “worst role-play ever,” the first session wasn’t too bad.  The write-up of that session is below, with anything in brackets being DM commentary/context/snark.

Chipotle’s merchant activities have led him and his hired help to the reclaimed dwarven lands of Mount Gundabad.  The elves refer to it as Nogoth Ainamar, Sindarin for “dwarf holy home.”  And, indeed, Gundabad is a holy site for the dwarves.  This mountain is said to have been the birthplace of Durin the Deathless, the first dwarf forged from stone by Aule the Smith.  Durin awoke under Gundabad before moving south to establish the great Dwarrowdelf of Khazad-dum (Moria).

While the dwarves are a powerful race, they have had considerable trouble keeping their homelands.  The discovery of a Balrog in Khazad-dum locked the dwarves out of their greatest mansion for centuries.  A similar incident occurred in Erebor with Smaug the Dragon, although the Lonely Mountain was reclaimed much sooner.  Gundabad was no exception and had been captured by Sauron’s orcs sometime after the forging of the Rings of Power.

For the next 5,000 years, the dwarves warred with the orcs to reclaim the mountains.  The orcs firmly entrenched themselves in the mountain, polluting the holy home of the dwarves with their filth.  It was from here that the goblin king, Bolg, mustered his forces.  He would take part (and be slain) in the Battle of the Five Armies.  While many of Bolg’s kin died in that battle, the orcs were fortified enough to fend off any dwarf attempts to retake the mountain.  It was not until the first century of the Fourth Age when an alliance of Men under the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor/Arnor and Dwarves retook Gundabad for the West.  While the dwarves were once again residents in their ancestral home, they still contend with orcs who are too deeply entrenched in the mountain to be rid of.  Some evils are too well-established to be extinguished.

The day begins in the main dwarven hall, Aina Tham.  Merchant stalls line the stone streets, Chipotle’s spices being just one of many offers for dwarven residents to indulge themselves in.  However, spices are a definite favorite among the dwarves.  Dwarves love to eat red meat and spices are one way to keep their favorite food fresh.  Chipotle has had a very profitable week.  His stall is also located in a excellent position, as it is only a short walk away from the hammer and anvil said to have been used by Aule to forge the dwarf race.

This normal day is soon interrupted by a band of orcs!  The orcs ride Wargs, allowing them to cover a great distance and provide an advantage very similar to the one cavalry has against infantry.  As such, while the local dwarf wardens fight valiantly, they are soon overwhelmed.  The riders either trample, maul or cut down the guards with their foul blades and beasts!  Innocent civilian, however, are snatched by burlier, stronger orcs and begin a hasty retreat deep into the mountain!

It is in the midst of this chaos that the party enters our tale.   One of the wargs rushes past Chipotle’s stall.  The warg ignores them and its rider snatches up a dwarf.  On its way back, however, one of Chipotle’s hired men steps in the way.  Poe readies his axe and after two swift, powerful chops, he stops the warg in his tracks.  Chipotle and another man, Ser Lindon, land blows that fell the warg.  However, the orc rider lands on his feet as his mount hits the stone floor.  Still carrying the dwarf, he evades a swing from Poe and runs towards the city gates on foot.

The goblin does not get far.  Bacon has climbed up the stalls to oversee the fight and contribute with his bow.  His elven grace allows him to hop from stall to stall and shoot an arrow in the orc’s knee.  While the orc limps towards the city gates, he’s taken to the ground by Ser Lindon.  Lindon runs at full speed and knocks the orcs down with his shield.  Any attempts to question the orc are futile, as the vile thing only curses at his enemies in a black tongue unknown to any.  Poe silences the orc with an axe to the head.  Dwarf reinforcements arrive quickly and the Orcs retreat, but not without a decent number of civilians.

As the four clean themselves up, they are approached by an armored dwarf.  She saw the party stepping in to assist and asked for their assistance in tracking down the orc base.  Why are the orcs taking dwarf prisoners?  Where are these captives being taken?  What are the goblins doing with them?  She seeks the answers to these questions and any aid from the Free Peoples is welcomed.  As a ranger, Bacon has some tracking skills that will prove useful.  Although she doubts his validity (who wouldn’t with a name like that?), the dwarf will take any assistance in whichever form it appears and is named.  She hands the party a map, although notes that the orcs are probably hidden deep in the mountain in uncharted territory.

[The map used for reference can be found here]

The party immediately sets off, as the tracks will be harder to follow on the stone floor with each passing moment.  Chipotle stays behind to tend to his merchant business while his father leads the expedition.  Only Bacon, Poe and Lindon head out of the city gates and into the deep recesses of the mountain.  After all, a small party can cover more distance discreetly than a large task force.  [Player Crime #1 – Splitting the Party]

A few hours of tracking unsettled dust and warg droppings leads Bacon and the Men towards a passage.  The path is hidden in the dark and not found on the dwarf map, but it does lead downward into a trench.  The dwarves would most likely have mapped the trench from a bridge spanning the chasm, although none would have dared venture into the place itself.  Dwarven reports of torch-bearing columns indicate the presence of orcs and how frequently traveled the place is.

Now, having owned the mountain, one would think the dwarves would have ventured into the chasm or have found a way there.  The truth is dwarf expansion has been a long, grueling fight.  Clearing the levels near the surface has proven difficult and those are the top priority, as dwarves need to trade with outsiders for food.  The deeper levels of the mountain contain mining goods but are crawling with orcs and deeper evils.  The memory of delving too deeply for mithril in Moria still burns in the minds of the dwarves.

The party ventures down the stairs into the chasm, encountering a small goblin patrol along the way.  One of the orcs is slain by Ser Lindon when the foul creatures ventures ahead of his brethren.  The other two goblins run off and are disregarded by the party.  Unknown to the three at the time, the two orcs would reach an encampment where the dwarf prisoners were being kept in two day’s time.  Having seen an elf and two men venture down in to (what used to be) a secret path, the testimony of the orcs would have had the orcs preparing to retreat deeper into the mountains.

As those orcs were making use of uncharted tunnels to navigate back, the party traveled along the chasm highway.  Bacon finds numerous things odd with this highway, his wisdom countering his poor intelligence.  For one, the tracks only lead in one direction, a strange quality in a highway.  Two, the road is deathly quiet.  The lack of activity makes the players restless and the night’s rest is a fitful sleep in the middle of the road.  There were lines of rock overlooking the road that could have been hidden the party but the road was chosen for its line of sight.

Some activity the next morning sends the PCs scrambling as a war band of orcs are heading south towards their location.  They manage to see the orcs in the distance but time spent deliberating squander any opportunity that could have been better spent positioning for a sneak attack.  The party does manage to climb up the rock slides, Poe clambering up the left while Lindon and Bacon occupy the right.  However, there is no hiding from the nose of a warg.  Eight of the orcs are regular foot-soldier cannon fodder.  The ninth, who is presumably the chief, is riding a warg.  Two of the orcs accompany the warg-riding leader towards Poe’s position.  The remaining ones head towards Lindon and Bacon.

Poe strikes first as he attacks the chief with his great-sword.  Hoping that the death of the leader will make the warg uncontrollable (attacking the other orcs), Poe avoids the teeth of the warg and fells the chief with two blows.  On the other side of the chasm, fortunes are just as good.  Lindon occupies the attention of the orcs, who are picked off by Bacon’s elven bow.  Lindon fells a few with his sword, knocking them to the ground with his shield before administering the killing blow.  [It was at this point that Justin said, “Well, these guys aren’t that scary.”]

Poe continues to attract the attention of the warg, exchanging misses with each other.  The two orcs, who stayed out of the chief’s fight with this man, join the fray with the fall of their leader.  Poe fights valiantly but the stamina of a warg is hard to overcome.  Poe is wrestled to the ground and the beast’s teeth tear into his flesh.  The pain sends Poe into a rage and with his new-found strength, he frees himself of the warg.

Ser Lindon hears Poe’s pain and comes to his aid, leaving two orcs who fall to Bacon’s bow.  He crosses the road and climbs up the rocks, hewing the two orcs with his sword.  However, the warg leaves both of the Men lying in pools of their own blood.  The warg is drenched in its own and makes it way towards the elf but falls victim to its arrows.  With two men down and in the need of healing, Bacon mind-links with his son and tells him to lead the dwarves down here.  Chipotle arrives with reinforcements six hours later, the time filled with unease and dread for Bacon as he watches the chasm road.

[I wasn’t trying to kill them but (A) that encounter was designed with 4 players in mind and Steve not being there really hurt, (B) they had let two orcs go earlier, which really should have gone back to bite them and (C) there was no way I could have someone help them out because there were no dwarves around.]

[After the dwarves arrived and healed up the party with liquor, there was a lot of debate over what to do post-encounter:  Gabe wanted to finish the quest, whereas John wanted to leave.  John was pretty pissed about the whole near-death experience and the fact that Steve had not accompanied the party.  Justin was pretty nonchalant, not sure if he was careless, bored or tired.  His brother, Joel, stepped in for the last few minutes.  Steve stepped in and, figuring the chasm was a straight road that would lead the dwarves to the orc prison camp, the party decided to leave Gundabad.]

[They did stay long enough to see two dwarves in tattered clothes marching side by side with a band of orcs.  The players did not care at all but if they had, they would have seen this as an opportunity to rescue some captives.  Instead, the prisoner dwarves would fight with the orcs when the rescue attempt was sprung!  If the players had journeyed further, they would have found that the orcs had been capturing dwarves on orders of a powerful magician.  The magician was seeking to cross-breed those dwarves with goblins to create a really nasty type of uruk-dwarf, a prototype of which would have attacked the party earlier.  Think about how nasty Saruman’s Uruk-Hai, the result of cross-breeded men and goblins, were in the movies/books.  Now replace “men” with “dwarf”…)

[Anyway, the dwarves of Gundabad thanked the party for their assistance and rewarded them with either +1 weapons forged at the Aina Tham anvil or with a +1 mithril chain shirt from Moria.  Since the players did not finish the quest, they had to choose between one or the other.  It was pretty humorous to see Steve choose the +1 weapon, whereas everyone else who had a near-death experience chose the armor…]

[By the way, I mentioned this was the 1st session because, yes, there is MORE of this idiocy!  Next time:  the party journeys to Laketown via Mirkwood.  That session features…sleepwalking Bacon!  Steve deciding not to attack because no damage is better than crap damage!  And John attempting to rape an orc, being stopped by Bacon and Chipotle, who then want to make it a slave!  J.R.R. Tolkien continues to roll in his grave as the worst LOTR role-play ever continues!]