Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Road Goes Ever On - Let's Play Journeys in Middle-earth (Part 3)


This is gonna be a long one.

Let's get ready for our first adventure!

Part 3:  Adventure #1:  A Shadow in Eriador

Somewhere amid this maze of dark thickets and steep gullies, the band of thieves now hides.  Your direction is informed by a set of tracks from two days ago, and you can only guess the location of the thieves' lair.

: Right then!  Let's get on with it, shall we?

If you cannot locate and enter the hideout by dark, the trail may be altogether lost.

Scouting is one of the key mechanics for our heros to actually accomplish things with their skills.  To scout "X", the player draws "X" cards from the top of their skill deck, and looks at them.  They can then prepare one of those cards in their play space, and put the remaining cards face down on either the top or the bottom of the deck.  This gives you an interesting way of playing the odds - your deck has 4 successes in it.  If you draw one, do you ready it and lower the total number of successes you might draw, but give yourself a powerful skill?  Or do you set it on the top, knowing the first check you make will have one guarantee success?


 Legolas draws his "Lead the Charge" Captain success card, and a Basic Skill that gives him a success for Wisdom tests.  I decide since there aren't any enemies around, he'd be better having the guaranteed success.

Same thing for Gimli, but he gets Agility for his basic card.  His Guardian card goes to the top.

Bilbo is a different case.  Because his special ability lets him gain an inspiration when he interacts with a token, but only if his top card is an inspiration result, we keep the "Time of Need" card on the top and take one of his success cards, his Bilbo specific "The Tookish Part".  It lets him hide, or lets him change the type of a test to cunning.  Probably worth it.

Well, except for this.
Pausing to tighten your boots and adjust the weight of your gear, you take a breath before continuing on.
We've got our first test, and because it's not an interact action Bilbo is taking, we're just gonna waste our creative use of scouting.

We're testing Spirit:1 - and Legolas has a skill of 2, Gimli a skill of 4, and Bilbo a skill of 3.   Legolas draws the first 2 cards of his deck, one of which we already know is a success.  He winds up with 2 success results, so he passes!  Gimli draws the top 4 (the top one we know is a success), and gets 2 total successes to pass.  Finally Bilbo draws the top 3, and the last one off the top is a single success.  Fortunately, you just need to meet the target number, which is 1.  So Bilbo passes as well.

:  All set to go on another adventure!

All of our characters get 1 inspiration as a result of this test.  This will be helpful in future tests, as you can use it convert inspiration results into successes.

:  Look!  There is a small group of men loitering around a tomb.  Could they be the thieves we seek?
:  Already on it!
It doesn't matter what order our heros activate in, so Gimli will go first.  Imagine, if you will, a dwarf jogging up towards a group of rough looking humans doing some questionable activities.

You note the garb mimics that of Breelanders, but their accents are varied - these are not merely local riffraff.  You pause and consider what is your best approach.

:  Step away from the tomb, or else!

A woman steps forward, foreign tattoos up her arms and across her face.  "You lost?" she quips snarling at your threat.

Usually Gimli is the go-to for Might based checks, but we've already done a check right at the start of the round, and he's already drawn 2 of his 4 successes.  He's out of wind while shouting out his threat, but still a heavily armed Dwarf.  (1 success)

The group is ready to stand their ground, though their resolve is shaken.  "Someone was sure to come after us eventually," the woman growls, drawing her sword.  As you suspected these are the thieves you seek!

We have a new objective - defeat the bandits!  Gimli is tired of running up to them however, and can't hit them yet.  Travel, Interact, and Attack are the three types of Actions you can do, and Gimli has already Traveled (moving up to 2 spaces) and Interacted (with the person token to trigger this enemy spawn).

On to Legolas's activation.  He starts by using his starting Captain card - Well Prepared - which lets him and nearby hero Scout 2, and Gimli is still nearby.  Legolas draws his Elf inate card - Immortality, while Gimli gets his very best card, Fury.  This spending of Well Prepared isn't an action, fortunately.

:  Want to keep a running count?

With his Great Bow, Legolas is able to hit enemies in adjacent spaces, which the Ruffians are.

His attack is pretty good, and with a bit of inspiration takes down one of the Ruffians with his arrows, but we get a glimpse of our first flaw card - Legolas is "Uncertain", hesitating as his second arrow doesn't quite find the mark.

He decides to try again...

But with no more inspiration, he's not able to make it.

The Ruffian is wounded, but will live.

Bilbo, meanwhile, decides he needs to talk to a hobbit nearby.  He's not as good in a fight, after all.  The hobbit has a particularly tough riddle for him.

Bilbo's interaction triggers his special ability, and the top card is an inspiration result.  He now has 2 inspiration banked to test the riddle... and gets one success and enough inspiration results to build it up to 3 total successes!

: I think I know this one.  It's a leaf!
She tells you the riddle, and after careful consideration you venture a guess.  She claps her hands in delight.  "That's it!  Well done, you.  That riddle has been told in my family for generations."

Solving the Riddle has given us a bit of Lore!  Lore is important as it'll let us upgrade our items in between adventures.  We'll get most of our lore from completing our main quest, but we can pick up more from exploring every nook and cranny.

Bilbo discards "The Tookish Part" after the test to hide.  Any card with Hide on it can be burned following a test to gain the "Hidden" effect.  While "Hidden" if you are attacked, you immediately discard it and cancel all damage from the attack (but not fear).  If you attack someone, you can voluntarily discard it to add an extra success to your test.

And good thing he did too.  With his actions over the Shadow Phase beings, and starts with the remaining ruffian who isn't really interested in trying to fight off an angry Dwarf or a bow wielding Elf.  A small hobbit though is just the right size.  He can easily move over to Bilbo and attack.

: Oh dear.

A ruffian strikes two swords together with a frightening clang.

Bilbo isn't particularly good at Wisdom, so his 2 to negate fails.  "Hidden" goes away preventing the damage, but he still suffers 1 fear.

When you suffer damage or fear, you do so face up (unless it specifies Face Down) and resolve what the card says.  In this case, the card forces Bilbo to suffer 2 face down fear, and to discard the card.  Not the end of the world.

The shadow deepens, though hope yet endures.

Threat increases at the end of the Shadow Phase, and does so as follows:  2 for each hero (so the lowest it will ever go up is 6), 1 for each unexplored map tile (we have 2) and 1 for each threat token on the board (we haven't seen these yet).

When threat reaches certain milestones, things happen.  Usually bad things.  When it reaches the maximum, we lose.

After that though, we get to rally, which means everyone gets to Scout 2 again.  Legolas being the biggest beneficiary of this:

With Eagle Eye, he can shoot from 2 spaces away instead of just one.  And he might as well make the most of it.  He moves into the unexplored area...

A ridge of bleached crags separate two pristine lakes, perfect for fishing.

When you explore an area, you take the exploration token, and flip it around to add an inspiration to that hero.  Removing a potential threat, and gaining something useful for doing so!

Now with some inspiration, he lines up his shot at the Ruffian.

*thunk* : That's two!

Sudden movement draws your eye.  To your surprise, a goblin breaks cover and sprints away, disappearing into a wall of brambles.  You follow with haste and find, beyond the thicket, a wide valley dotted with a few ruins, but no sign of the creature.

And there's our Lore from story completion.

What has drawn such a creature here, far beyond the reach of any Orc stronghold?  Its armor bears resemblance to that of Mount Gram, but far to the north does that mountain stand.  A dark alliance has been formed, indeed, for such a creature to be summoned here.

We have a new goal, which is to find tracks that will lead us to the Goblin's lair.  We will need 3 total, and exploration and interaction with search tokens is the way to accomplish this task!

And we've got a lot of exploring left to do.  Legolas has rushed ahead to scout another area before we turn things over to the rest of the group.

: I thought I saw something interesting to the North, where we first started.

Bilbo investigates a stone carving.  The carving is a lineage, unknown to you, and written in an all-but-forgotten script.  You note the names for later study.

Gimli comes across a goblin that is ducking into a dark hole in the ground.  He considers following it but...

:  Nope.  Screw that.  Probably only one way in or out anyway.

You collapse the dark hole in the ground so that the creature cannot use it again, whatever its purpose.

: Probably doesn't count, you're still at 0.

With no enemies on the board, we head right into Shadow Phase by increasing the threat.

That's 6 for heros and 3 for the unexplored areas.

That is enough to increase threat past the first threshold.

Gimli would normally get pelted with arrows here, but he luckily had an agility success card prepared, and top decked a success.  Everyone else was fine.

Unfortunately he was standing in the middle of where the arrows were coming from. 

: Just means they're closer to my sword!

We also find out that Bilbo's problem is that he tends to be Late.

Bilbo chooses to go first, and skirts around the whole mess of ruffians, then deploys one of his cooler tricks as a Pathfinder.

"Paths Unseen" let you Sprint 1 or move one space without it actually being an action.  Sprint is good just all by itself, but with this card you take one of your other heros and put them into that space.  You can use that to teleport someone across the map in a pinch, or to move someone out of a cluster of enemies.  In this case I just use it to move Legolas up so that he was closer to things on his turn.

It's a very, very good card.

Bilbo investigates the Eagles Nest on that spot.

You know eagles to be the foes of Orcs and Goblins and other dark things, and thus perhaps friend enough to you.  The eagles stops raking spear-sized talons against the crags when she spies you below.  "Hello, land-walker!" she says.  "Come nearer!  I could use the aid of a creature of your rabbit-like stature."

What could go wrong?  I've dealt with Eagles before.

Bilbo approaches to assist.

The eagle has made deep furrows in the ridge around a narrow alcove, too deep for her to reach with either talon or beak.  You can make out several small birds huddling deep within.  "I carry an important letter from Rivendell.  These swallows seized the letter-case while I fed and hid it in there."  You have heard of small creatures serving the purposes of dark masters.

You dart your hand into the alcove and grasp for anything that feels out of place.  Small beaks peck at your fingers, but finally you grasp a leather case, which you easily steal away from the birds.

The eagle graciously accepts the letter-case, which you help to sling about her neck.  "Thank you, land-walker," she says.  "I am called Alatrenar, a trusted messenger of the Great Eagles.  This is an important missive to have been entrusted to my wings, and I will not forget this favor."  Alatrenar agrees to carry you a short distance while your paths remain the same, then bids you farewell on your journey before her great wings lift her into the air to continue her own mission.

Bilbo moves yet onward, exploring the spaces to the north.

Legolas time!

He starts by shooting at the Ruffians harassing Gimli.

:  Three.
He then uses his Legolas specific card that allows him to sprint, to go investigate a token Bilbo is sitting on - it's a tall tree that would serve very well for a lookout post for either the thieves, or our heros:

You cast your gaze deeper into the wild.  Perhaps the remaining thieves and their allies from Mount Gram are hiding in those hills.

That is a lot of places we haven't looked yet.  

You compare the information you have discovered with what you already know of the region.  Seeing no obvious signs of the lair, you begin to surmise where the lair may be and continue your hunt.

Gimli mashes another of the Ruffians and easily handles the counter attack.  He then decides he needs to get exploring as that's a lot of potential threat that could be brought against the party.

:  That's one.  On the board.  You lot can handle the last one right?  I think there's something over here.

And elderly crow, perched in the shadow of a dying elm, watches you with malicious intelligence.  Its incessant cries grow louder and shriller, until it erupts into flight and streaks over your head, followed by the cries of more dangerous foes!

We've reached another threat threshold, and this time it has spawned an elite enemy.  Elites are a bit different than regular foes, as they have bonuses to them, and can counter attack multiple times, though the first counter still exhausts them.

These are Orc Marauders.

 Legolas doesn't care about that though.

There's a cask over here to examine.

You examine the cask and find it marked with a white hand, almost obscuring a legend that reads simply, "Westfarthing."  The satchel contains a long clay pipe.

Not an easy one to pass for an elf, but Legolas succeeds.

The cask and the pipe have been here a long time, obviously forgotten.  You take the pipe and load the satchel with pipe-weed for the cask.

: Bilbo, didn't you say you left your pipe at home?

The Old Pipe is our first trinket!  Bilbo takes it as he's nearby.  It lets the user expend it to prepare an additional skill when you scout if no enemies are nearby.  Too bad enemies are nearby.

Gimli examines a thicket for clues...

You step into the thicket, and the Orc inside stumbles back, caught in the tangle of branches.  With a flash of steel, it lashes out, then breaks away, leaving a hint as to the direction of the lair.

It has dropped its knife, however, and you pick it up for inspection.  The dark, brittle metal is the cheap craft of Mount Gram.  Why and how are these creatures so far from their vile and distant home?

: Why indeed?  We need to find that lair!

With the clues gathered and the enemies you have faced, you begin to fear that this is no lair of exiles and lowlifes.  What you are closing in on is the stronghold of the enemy, fledgling though it may be.  Your fears, unfortunately, have proved true - a darker purpose and master is being served here.

Bilbo moves down to the bottom of the map, to explore, and finds a single area worth searching.  That is all anyone has time for though, as the enemies prepare to strike!

The remaining ruffian closes in Bilbo, who has wandered back around into its range.  It doesn't do much though.

The elite on the other hand puts some damage onto Legolas.

Bilbo prepares to explore but first the final Ruffian needs to be finished off.  He flashes his dagger...

And it finds flesh!

Another tree to climb, but with some inspiration, Bilbo has no trouble making it up to the top.

He spots the location of the where the enemy lair must be, far, far to the north near Gimli's location...

At last you have located the hidden lair of your enemy, nestled in an old ruin.  Faint silhouettes of Orc sentries dot its high, ruined towers, and you see more movement within.  Aware of your nearness, they scramble to ready a defense.  For you all that remains is to devise a way in without their notice before these defenses are prepared.

:  I found them!  Gimli!  Just to the north of you!

: Oh I see them all right lad.  Two!

Gimli moves up and drops one of the hunters, and gets it into melee range.  This random orc riffraff won't be trouble for long.

And as it turns out Gimli is just a bit unlucky.  Misfortune is his weakness card.

This duo though...

: Making my way to you.  Four.

Okay, maybe they won't be too big of a threat.  That does bring up the Shadow Phase though, and night is coming fast...

One marauder moves forward to deal with Gimli.

As the last sliver of the setting sun dips out of sight, a long hungry howl sweeps across the valley.  The feeling of being watched intensifies.  Surely no ordinary thieves would be so allied with the darkness.

And another elite Marauder pops up.

: Come on lads, rally to me!

With Bilbo and Legolas moving up to him, Gimli leads the others in clearing out the Orcs as they charge in.

: That's one more!  Three!

: And make it five for me.
But even as they reduce their foes numbers, they still haven't made progress towards the enemy lair.

The last light of day dissipates before the murky darkness of night.  The shadows teem with the glint of eyes, there one moment and gone the next.  If you delay much longer, the thieves will slip from your grasp entirely.

Darkness is trouble.  Every turn that a hero ends in darkness, they suffer 2 fear, with a Spirit negate.  This isn't horrible for a 4 Spirit monster like Gimli, but for an Elf like Legolas, with 2 Spirit, it can add up quickly.

Also we have two Wargs joining the party, and one is Elite.

Gimli takes out one of the remaining orcs.

: Four!

While Legolas aces the other.

: Six.

The enemy's lair is hidden within an old ruin.  All that remains is to devise a way in without their notice.

It will be up to Bilbo to find a way in...

While the Wargs are upon us!  They bear down on Gimli, nearly knocking him down, and spinning him around...

And another Warg appears in the distance...  Though he won't matter if we can finish things here.  The threat is almost maxed out and another Shadow Phase will end our adventure in a failure.

: Just do your thing, Bilbo.  I've got this.

Gimli attacks both Wargs that are in the lair's space, and eats their counter attacks.  With them exhausted, Bilbo won't provoke an attack if he tries to find his way in!

:  I suppose they don't count.

And he's just the hobbit for the job...

Slipping past the last patrol, you find a way into the structure without raising an alarm.

: Any particular reason the Wargs are yelping at something just out front?  Must be nothing.

We've beaten the first adventure!  The next one is going to be more of a brawl, with us breaking into the lair to confront the bandits.

We'll find out how our heros do next time!

Kill Count:

:  +6

: +4

: +1

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