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!]

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