Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Road Goes Ever On - Let's Play Journeys In Middle-Earth (Part 1)

Part 1:  Setting up for the Journey

Hello folks.  Biggs here, and I'm going to be taking a bit of a detour through Tolkien's mind a bit in FFG's The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth.  

What Is This?

Journeys in Middle-Earth is a new FFG game that was just released on April 18th, 2019 - out now!  We'll be taking the journey together, with you folks giving me advice as we go, and me running the campaign and trying to explain the rules and strategy as we go.

This game requires an App to play that you can either run off of your PC through Steam, or through your smart phone through the app store.  I'll be running it on the PC because it's easier to record.

While the app does most of the heavy lifting, making this a game of you (and friends) vs the board (and the app), there's still quite a bit of stuff I'll need to do outside the app to keep track of what is going on.  And the app is very good about keeping track of things, but where the Heros and Enemies are on the map, current card and effect status, and things of that nature need to be run on the PC.

Throughout the articles you may see thing in italics.  These are quotes from game material.

As we continue, near the end of an article I might ask for audience feedback.  Post on our Facebook page, in the comments here, or on the LP Thread in the FFG forums to vote on what I should be doing.

Our Journey - Bones of Arnor:

Ancient kingdoms once spanned the realm of Arnor, kingdoms that now lay in ruin.  The Free People who still inhabit these lands are scattered, simple, and few.  Beyond their poorly patrolled borders, an unknown darkness gathers, and only a small band of ostracized Rangers have taken notice of the threat.

Halbarad, captain of the northern watch, requests your aid.  A shadow is within the borders, forces gather outside the Rangers' reach, and tales of unquieted dead begin to circulate anew.

Spooky!  But what brave souls will attempt to quell the threat.  That is what you, the reader will help me determine next.  I'll be taking 3 party members along on this journey - any more and it'll be more than I can reasonably handle on my own.  

Potential Heros:

So, who can we take along?  Again, we're looking at bringing 3 total party members.

The Dunedain of the North were nearly destroyed.  Although their number is few, they continue to watch and guard the lands that were once their kingdom.  At their head is their Chieftain, Aragorn, descendant of Isildur, a Man destined for greatness.

The prophecies and lineage serve him little in this time, however.  Bloodlines cannot stop a foe's blade, and songs of future glory do not feed one's people.  Though years of peace and prosperity may come, these are no such years.  Now is a time of trials, hardship, and survival.  New dangers threaten the North in ever greater numbers, and darker years are yet to come.

Suggested Start - Role: Captain - Items: Sword, Banner, Travel Garb

If you're reading this, chances are you know who Aragorn is.  This is still Strider Aragorn though, he's not the Returned King yet.

Aragorn is good at making himself and others better.  His special ability means he'll always be pulling 3 cards at the start of the round, giving us better odds at getting cards we need, and setting up successes we REALLY need.  His own cards build on this, with cards that focus on his exploration, or switch the skill check to his best stat, Wisdom.  Other benefits include cards that let him either guarantee hits or block damage taken.

Drawbacks include not really having an amazing offensive stat - Might is probably his best bet for a Sword, or Wit if we want him using a Dagger.  But those are merely "average" at 3, while Agility and Spirit are a weak 2.

If we take him, it's because we want someone who's going to be generally good, and making all the rest of our guys better, so long as we stick together!

As a Ranger of the North, Beravor knows the hidden roads of Middle-earth, through the barren hills, tangled wood, and unquieted ruins.  These secret paths are her frequent course, gifting both safety and speed through otherwise perilous lands.

Nothing can cause this Ranger to stray but the call for aid from the imperiled, whether ally or stranger - and no matter the cause, no matter the danger, she is ready for the fight.  In a time when the dark expanse between the lands of the Free Peoples is ever growing, the swiftness, knowledge, and valour of Beravor are coveted qualities that many will soon require.

Suggested Start - Role: Pathfinder - Items: Staff and Travel Garb

Welcome Beravor, "generic Ranger who isn't Aragorn".  If you're wondering who she is you'll have to ask a bigger Tolkien grog than me, because a quick google search gives us... FFG and articles about this game.  I am not sure if she's a minor character or a "Raider-Class Corvette" style FFG creation, but either way it doesn't matter.

She's generally good at everything (pay no attention to her "Wit" score).  While she has no "4" in any skill, her skill cards are basically designed around two things: getting more cards and converting inspiration.  She's pretty good and we can build her to be pretty much whatever we need her to be since her special ability is focused on keywords that 3 of the classes use a lot of.  She's also pretty good at just heading off on her own and doing her own thing if we need that.

The bad is that she's just not great at any particular thing, and we're going to be forced to burn cards to make sure she succeeds at what she needs to do.  She can get separated from the group, because she's good at going out on her own, and find herself completely out of her depth.

If we take her, it's because we want a swiss army knife - someone who can fill whatever role we need her to, even if we don't know what that is yet.

Not many years ago, Bilbo traveled East from the Shire and it changed him forever.  He is not entirely different, still enjoying warm food, polite company, uninterrupted rest, and holes in the ground that contain neither Goblins nor Dragon - nor riddling, murderous creatures, for that matter.

At his core, however, something has altered.  He is now a wanderer, burglar, warrior, and, though he dare not tell his neighbors, adventurer.  He has sprung into action and fled for his life.  He has sheathed a bloodied blade, flown with Eagles, and stood atop the wealth of kingdoms.  That Tookish part, now awoken, does not easily lay back to rest.  It may be time for another adventure.

Suggested Start - Role: Burglar - Items: Dagger and Cloak

That's right, it's the star of The Hobbit himself, Bilbo Baggens.  How many party members can claim to have stared down a dragon?  That's right, just Bilbo.

Bilbo has the strongest wit, and has an insane ability to generate successes through inspiration.  His skill cards not only give him more inspiration, but also let him change tests to his best skill - Wit.  He's also got the highest fear threshold and maximum inspiration of any of the characters.  Basically, to play Bilbo is to be cheating your way to success.

The downside is he has no Strength, no Wisdom, and almost no Damage Threshold.  If you're not constantly hiding, and thus avoiding damage, you're gonna get mulched pretty quick.  Bilbo is really, really going to want to be a Burglar.

Pick him if you value experience and a prestigious resume.  Also if you want a near constant Burglar.

Born in the great port city of Mithlond, Elena has watched for years as hosts of her kin take to the sea, retreating towards the Undying Lands.  Even the population of her own city begins to dwindle, with the Elves of every age and vocation, save the shipwrights, disappearing westward.

Nothing remains for her in these forsaken lands but the beauty of this fading.  As the blazing glory of the setting sun or the climactic splendor of a final chorus, so is the passing of the Elves.  Having gathered the stories and songs of those who fled west, Elena now sets out to seek the tales of those who remain and perhaps, if she is fortunate, partake in one of her own.

Suggested Start - Role: Musician - Items: Dagger, Harp, and Cloak

If Beravor is "Generic Ranger" than Elena is "Generic Elf".  Is she someone in the collection of Tolkien works?  Google says "FFG articles!"

She has very high Spirit, and decent Wit and Wisdom, as well as a respectable amount of Fear Threshold, even if her Damage Threshold is a bit low.  She excels at working together with a group though, with her special ability handing others inspiration, and two of her skill cards letting her heal the party.

With all that in mind, she isn't going to be an offensive powerhouse if she runs into trouble.  The best weapon for her is a dagger, and Might / Agility are both weak.  Don't split her from the party!

We should bring her along if we think we'll need someone who can keep everyone else going.

Gimli, son of Glóin, descendant of Durin the Deathless, long burned for adventure beyond his exile-home in Ered Luin.  When Glóin joined a company traveling east to reclaim the forfeited Kingdom Under the Mountain, Gimli could not join their number.  Now, however, being of a respectable age, Gimli is ready to release his ferocity and expertise upon his foes.

Like any Dwarf, a passion churns within to deliver retribution on the vile Orcs that dwell in the darkness beneath the earth.  One need not travel below to find them now, however, and so Gimli waits, restless, for the first call for deliverance from, or war against, the rising darkness.

Suggested Start - Role: Guardian - Items: Battle Axe and Ring Mail

You know Gimli.  He is not yet ready to be tossed.  He gave Frodo his axe.  He befriended an Elf.  But this is before the Fellowship of the Ring.

He is a beast who will rip his way through whatever foe you point him at.  Might and Spirit are high, meaning he will probably be able to resist any attack against him that doesn't involve Agility.  Also he can bank a card from an attack, so you're almost guaranteed a success to resist counterattacks, if he doesn't just chump a foe outright.  His damage threshold is also higher than usual.  His skill cards are mostly about murdering things, and "Fury" may be the best skill card in the game for that.

But... if he's got to do anything at all with Agility, things don't go so well.  Or Wisdom, or Wit.  His Fear threshold is low, though he's probably not taking too much fear damage.  Also his max inspiration is hilariously low.  Basically he crushes things, but if he has to do... well... anything else it doesn't go so well.  Sometimes we don't need to fight, or shouldn't fight, if we want to win.

Take him if you want a beat stick.  Leave him if you are worried his single minded focus will hurt our ultimate goals.

Where many Elves of Mirkwood are skilled, Legolas excels with bow and blade, perceiving what others cannot and moving without impediment or trace.  Nonetheless, as son to the king of the Woodland Realm, much of Legolas' life is overshadowed by the grandeur of his father, even as the kingdom shrinks before the darkness in the South.

Where once the borders of Mirkwood were revered, now Orcs, Dwarves, and even stranger folk called Hobbits travel.  The world is in motion, fueled by a spreading darkness.  Whether at home or abroad, Legolas stands ready to lend his superior talent and skill in the fight against the rising evil.

Suggested Start - Role: Hunter - Items: Great Bow and Cloak

You should know who Legolas is, the famed blacksmith who joined Captain Jack Sparrow in his quest to end the curse of the Black Pearl's crew, and rescue the governour's daughter.

Anyway, Legolas is our Ranged Attack monster to compliment Gimli's Close and Personal attack monster.  He's very, very good at Agility, can move out of fights without getting hit, has a decent fear threshold, and his skill cards let him do things like shoot someone 2 spaces away, test Agility instead of whatever crap skill you were going to use, or do more actions.

However, his Might is abysmal, his damage threshold is low, and his Spirit is equally poor so he really doesn't like to do things like hanging out underground.  And there's a lot of stuff we'll have to do in "Darkness".

Take him if you want to murder things in a slightly different, non-Gimli way.  Leave him if you're worried about bringing someone the breaks in a stiff breeze, and is more afraid of the dark than Shaggy and Scoobie.

That's our intrepid heroes folks!  Now what I need from you, the reader, a vote on the following:

 - Which Three Party Members will comprise our Party


 - A Name for the Party

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