April 28, 2012

One Ring - House Rule notions

As was discussed in my last blog post, our Loremaster for One Ring has chosen to implement a few house rules to the game.  Several prospective changes were proposed, discussed amongst the group both before and after, with some kept and some not.  Those of you that know me from various Star Wars message boards (particularly the HoloNet or D20 Radio) will know that I largely seem unable to avoid tinkering with the rules of any RPG for very long.  So even though I'm not running a One Ring game, why should that natural tendency be suppressed?  So, that said, here's some notions that our group came up with to tinker with the rules for One Ring.

House Rule #1: New Weapon and Weapon Skill: Slings
Rationale: This actually cropped up during character creation, as Mirabella's player didn't see her Hobbit as being an archer but also wanted her to be good at throwing things.  There's been a few takes on slings as weapons, but the GM wound up basing his take off a version offered by a chap under the handle of "Voidstate," and does the same damage as a short bow but has a lower Injury difficulty, making it easier for armored foes to avoid being wounded, though this is offset by it having no Encumbrance value to speak off and a largely limitless supply of ammo.  The weapon itself is covered under the Slings skill, and the GM permitted Mira to swap out  Bows for Slings.
In Play: Since Mira has yet to even get a threat of a critical hit with her sling, the lower Injury difficulty hasn't really meant much, though apparently she's got less range with her sling than if she had taken up a short bow, not that range really plays much of a part in One Ring.
Outcome: Here to stay, at least as long as Mirabella's a part of the Company.

House Rule #2: Endurance = Base value + Heart score + Body score
Rationale: The GM felt that character "hit points" were a tad on the low side, and that the Body score was something of a dump stat.  Personally, I've seen over on Cubicle 7's One Ring board the house rule of reducing a hero's starting Fatigue score (pretty much the weight of all carried gear) by their Body score as a means of giving Body more value, but our group felt that would step too much on the toes of any Dwarf PCs, as they already get a break on their starting fatigue as their racial perk, to say nothing of most Dwarf backgrounds already providing a pretty healthy Body score.
In Play: Since the fighter-types (Brander and Bruni) had decent Body scores, a few extra points of Endurance helped, particularly for Bruni who took a few more hits than anyone else due to a slightly lower Parry value compared to Brander or Rory, who get by with a stout shield and a high Wits score respectively.  And given the prior fight with the swamp troll, we all agreed that having a slight buffer was a good thing.
Outcome: We're keeping this one.

House Rule #3: Add Body score to base weapon damage
Rationale: Again, a way to make Body mean something outside of certain Common skill checks.
In Play: Frankly, the heroes were doing way more damage than they should have, particularly Brander and Bruni, who were able to kill a swamp dweller on just a basic success on our attack rolls, something neither of us was having trouble with achieving, turning what was meant to be a tough encounter into a veritable cake walk for the party.
Outcome: Kicked to the curb.  We may revisit this in some fashion or another, as the GM would like how strong/burly a character is have some impact on their damage output, but that might just be a hold-over from D&D that needs to be let go.

House Rule #4: Making the Healing skill more useful to recovering lost Endurance.
Rationale: Mostly from the group's perspective that barring Wounds (which can take a bloody long time to heal if you've got a high Endurance total), the Healing skill in One Ring really isn't all that useful.  So, the GM proposed that at the end of a combat encounter, if the heroes are able and willing to take a "short rest," then a PC can attempt a TN 14 Healing check. On a basic success, one patient (including the one making the check) recovers Endurance equal to the healer's Wits.  A great success lets the healer treat up to three patients, while an extraordinary success lets the healer treat a number of patients equal to their Heart score.
In Play: This only cropped up once, as Mira wanted to do what she could for the minor scrapes and scars that Balin, Bruni, and Brander had suffered at the claws of the marsh-dwellers, but given she has a pretty high Heart score (one of, if not the highest in the group I think), that meant we all recovered quite a bit of Endurance on top of what we'd get from a normal recovery; this resulted in Brander being fully healed up after the short rest.
Outcome: We still want Healing to be of more use, but the initial implementation was just a bit too good.  We're going to try a different take for next time we play, this one being that instead of the degrees of success determining how many folks you heal, they determine how much Endurance is regained, starting with 2 on a simple success, 4 on a great success, and 6 on an extraordinary success, and that you can only tend to one patient per roll, though we're not quite sure on how many rolls would be permitted during a post-combat short rest.

House Rule #5: Reduce Experience and Advancement Point costs by half.
Rationale: From what I've read and how the GM feels about level advancement in level-based games, we both agreed that character progression in One Ring can take a long time.  So, to facilitate more rapid character growth, the GM opted to cut the listed costs in half (rounded up where necessary).  This was spurred by the fact that we've really only garnered about 12 Advancement Points and 5 Experience Points, so there's not much we can do with our points other than save them up.
In Play: During our third session's Fellowship Phase, we actually started to see some development with our characters, particularly in our common skills.  Brander is now better at calling upon his force of personality as well as Ranger-type traits such as stealth and looking for clues, and is a tad wiser than he was prior to this adventure, netting him a Virtue due to increasing his Wisdom rank.
Outcome: We're doubtless going to see our characters advance a lot faster, than they might under the usual progression, so it's just as well that the GM also instituted a "can't raise a skill or trait more than one step per Fellowship Phase" rule, thought that might already be in the books.  But since we each have a taste for "instant gratification" when it comes to games with point-based advancement, we're cool with that so long as the GM is.

House Rule #6: Armor reducing Endurance loss from enemy attacks
Rationale: This sparked up from Grimbald's (now Bruni's) player about how armor was generally useless unless the enemy scored a "critical hit," and that unless you were decked out in heavy armor, a lot of crits would still result in wounds.  So, we agreed to try out a house rule that any Endurance loss you suffered from an enemy attack was reduced by the number of success dice of protection your armor provided.  So Brander in his leather corselet (which provides 2 success dice on Injury tests) would suffer two less points of lost Endurance when struck by a goblin's sword.
In Play: This was part of why Bruni, in spite of getting mobbed by marsh dwellers, wasn't taken out in spite of starting low on Endurance, as his mail shirt simply absorbed so much of the damage they were dealing.  Even Brander (was still hurting from the swamp troll fight) wasn't hurt much.
Outcome: While we do agree that armor could stand to be a tad more useful, going the route of "damage reduction" isn't for us, particularly if the GM had chosen to let it apply to the bad guys as well, as that would result in combat slowing down quite a bit, especially against a very heavily armored foe or one with truckloads of Endurance, or worse yet a foe with both.

House Rule #7: Increased Injury TN from a great or extraordinary success
Rationale: Rather than simply going with "more successes equals more Endurance loss," C7 forum member cheeplives offered the idea of rather than adding your Body score to the damage dealt when you get a great or extraordinary success, you could instead increase the Injury TN of your attack by +2 (great success) or +4 (extraordinary success).  Granted, you first have to roll well enough on your Feat die to possibly wound your target, but it would provide a better chance to injure a well-armored foe.
In Play: This actually showed up in our previous session against the swamp troll, with the GM allowing me to put the extraordinary success I rolled to better use, as the troll still had plenty of Endurance and the fight was starting to drag on, giving Brander better odds of ending the fight right then and there.
Outcome: This one is also a keeper.  So thanks to cheeplives for this one.

House Rule #8: Special Training during Fellowship Phase
Rationale: As you might recall, I mentioned that there wasn't many uses for Treasure (the method that One Ring uses to track accumulated wealth).  However, cheeplives struck again with the optional undertaking that permits a character to raise a single Common or Weapon skill, paying in Treasure points rather than Advancement or Experience points to reflect the costs of finding a suitable teacher and/or training facilities.  Cheeplives set the costs a bit higher than our GM, who opted for New Level x4 for Common Skills and New Level x8 for Weapon Skills.
In Play: None of us are wealthy enough to really take advantage of this, but it is nice to know that the option is out there.
Outcome: As yet to be determined.

So there you have it, eight House Rules that our group considered and (for the most part) tried out.  Maybe you'll find something of interest in the above, maybe not.  There's also a thread with various house rules on the Cubicle 7 forums to be found here for further reading if you are so inclined:

April 26, 2012

One Ring: Marsh Bell, Part 2

So this past Saturday, we finished up Marsh Bell, the intro-adventure included in the Loremaster's Book for The One Ring. As with last time, spoilers abound, so consider yourself fore-warned.

When we'd left off, the Company had defeated a swamp troll, but at the cost of one of their number, the Beorning Slayer Grimbald falling into shadow.

The survivors took the time to at least build a cairn out of what rocks and debris we could find for the fallen warrior before taking a brief rest for the night to recover the Endurance lost from fighting the troll, with Mirabella helping to treat the nasty injury that her cousin Rory had gotten during the troll fight from an errant swipe.

One thing I'd not really touched on before was how healing in The One Ring works. Unlike a lot of other recent RPGs, the Healing skill has fairly limited usage, and the primary means of recover is time and rest. If you don't have a Wound (pretty much a nasty hit that hampers your effectiveness, you can recover pretty quickly, while an untreated Wound means you heal at a snail's pace, and a treated Wound only heals slightly faster. One Wound means you're badly hurt, two Wounds means you're unconscious. Wounded and out of Endurance means you're at risk of dying (but at least you've got 12 hours for help so long as a baddie doesn't get a chance to finish you off). Getting a second wound and being reduced to Zero Endurance (what happened to Grimbald) means your hero has now joined the choir invisible. So getting banged up in this game can be a big deal, something our group discussed after the fact and plan to address via a house rule (to be discussed later in a post).

Come the morning, with one less hero, we proceed to follow the trail (such as it is) of Balin and his traveling companion. After an hour or so, we enter very dark and dismal (even for this portion of Mirkwood) copse of trees, only entering this portion of the forest as we'd found a wrecked Laketown boat not too dissimilar from the one we'd used, only the dwarves must have attempted to go further along than we had. As we continued the search, we found not only dwarf-tracks, but various bones of differing ages, past victims of the dark things that lurk within Mirkwood. It was Caranlas' sharp elf-eyes and memory of tales that enabled him to spot and recognize the threat of the sinister gallows-weed, a tree-hanging plant that coils itself around the necks of the unwary before pulling them up to strangle them. So warned, the Company managed to avoid the deadly vines, with Brander and Rory occasionally slashing at errant vines that got too close.

After some time, the dwarfs' trail lead to a wide pool of dark water, with prominent ruins suggesting a town of some sort once stood at this spot, though it had long been claimed by the swamp. The cawing of crows in the treetops helped to set an eerie mood, particular after Caranlas spotted one of the carrion eaters feasting upon an eye. Before we could really discuss how next to proceed, the slow and soft ringing of a bell can be heard. The menfolk are unaffected, but little Mira succumbs to some enchantment, and moves to enter the pool. Brander is easily able to prevent the Hobbit lass from entering the dark waters, and as Caranlas listens to the sound, can detect an ancient magic in the ringing of the bell, though why only Mirabella was affected he cannot say, though Rory suggests she always had a great fondness for music and song, and maybe that might be a factor. The elf does what he can to snap Mira out of her trance while Brander and Rory check for signs of where the dwarves had gone, but it is clear their tracks end at the pool.

With no other choice but to proceed, Brander carefully wades into the pool, with Rory close-by and Caranlas' bow at the ready. Searching the pool, the young Barding finds an underwater opening that only requires the briefest of dives to reach, though how long you'd have to hold your breath he can't quite tell. In a sing-song voice, Mira cites a lyric she heard as a child back in the Shire, about traveling over the muck and under the waters where sunken halls be found, and she finally comes out of the trance that the ringing of the bell put her under. It's clear that this was the path the dwarves took, though the Company is skeptical that they entered of their own free will, particularly given that Mira would have dove in regardless of danger had she not been stopped.

Taking point, Brander went first, followed by Rory, then Mira, and finally Caranlas. Only Brander had no trouble due to his upbringing in the wilds and on the shores of Long Lake, with the other three needing a few moments to catch their breaths. Entering into a flooded chamber, the Company set out to slowly and carefully explore, with dim lighting provided by the sun through cracks in the ancient stone roof. The first room we entered appeared to be a main cellar with a surprisingly high ceiling and a small alcove at the far end with a rope hanging from the ceiling. There are several options to further explore, and Rory's idea of splitting up to cover more ground is quickly shot down. Sword and shield at the ready, Brander checks the first two exits on the right, finding what appear to be disgusting sleeping quarters of some wretched thing; not even goblins would abide such rampant filth he concludes. However the third exit is a decorated archway with stairs that lead down a few feet and ending in a stout door defaced with claw marks. Brander tries to budge the door, but finds it is quite secure, gaining only a sore shoulder for his efforts. Shrugging, he turns to rejoin the others only to be stopped when a gruff yet worried voice asks who's there.

Surprised, Brander answers with his name, and that they were sent to find the dwarves Balin and friend, and the human's words bring Caranlas and Mira closer, leaving Rory to keep lookout for any of the inhabitants. The door opens, and a voice informs the Company that they are Balin and Bruni, son of Beli (new character for Grimbald's player). They have been trapped here for close to five days as far as they can reckon by the passing of the sun, and their meager provisions have long since run out. When asked why they simply haven't left, Bruni answers that they've tried, but the foul things that live here kept them from making their escape, to say nothing of the foul enchantment of the bell that drew them here in the first place.

Sadly, as this discussion is occurring, Rory's curiosity gets the better of him, and he decides to "take a quick peek" down an twisting and tight (or at least it would be for non-Hobbits) tunnel that soon ends in a wooden gate of dubious worth, with a thick and putrid stench filling his nose. Rory finds the locks on the gate quite simple to undo, and with barely a creak looks inside to see a huge pile of looted treasures, though its gleam is muted by a layer of muck. Rory debates trying to snag some, but figures he best not tarry and with a sigh heads back as quick as he can.

Balin and Bruni, informed that the Company was sent by Gloin, are quite eager to return to Laketown with the heroes, agreeing that attempting the Old Road was not the best path to take, with the older dwarf remarking that short cuts make for long delays. Bruni does inquire about a box that Balin had left for safe-keeping, and is openly relieved to learn that the heroes have both recovered it and left it unopened. Balin explains that box contains a gift meant for the King of the Eagles, and asks that it be returned, something Mira does gladly. It is then that Caranlas notices their look out has gone missing, but also hears scraping and shuffling sounds from several different directions. Though Bruni is weary with hunger and fatigue, he hefts his two-handed axe as best he is able while Balin informs the heroes that those are the sounds of the dwellers of the marsh. Deciding they need to leave and quickly, the Company makes for the flooded chamber and the passageway out, spotting Rory just as he exits the twisting tunnel. Mira prepares to scold him, but Brander and Caranlas both note that there is no time, as a dozen or so twisted mockeries of menfolk come shuffling out of the unexplored passages. Caranlas and Mira waste no time in letting fly with arrow and stone, the elf slaying one of the foul things outright while Mira dazes her target. Weapons in hand, Brander, Gimli, and Rory engage more of the foul things, with Brander's sword and Bruni's axe easily hewing their targets in twain while Rory finishes off the beast that his cousin injured just moments before. The monsters respond, raking with their claws at the three heroes in front, but can find no purchase on Brander's stout shield or Bruni's stiff armor, while Rory is simply to quick and nimble to be stuck. Hearing the sounds of more marsh dwellers, the Company know they can ill-afford to stay and fight it out. Caranlas spots one of the monsters heading for the rope hanging from the ceiling in the alcove across from them, and quickly shots the creature dead, informing the others of his suspicion the rope is tied to the bell that bewitched Mira and the dwarves. Noting this, the heroes hew into the monsters as Mira sings a brief song to embolden the heroes' spirits, a song that indeed seems to put fire back into the younger dwarf, as Bruni mows two of the marsh dwellers down with a broad sweep of his axe (he rolled a Gandalf rune and got an extraordinary success, which the GM permitted to let him take down two foes at once) even as Rory cut the innards loose of another while Brander sliced open the face of a fourth. The two of the remaining marsh dwellers attempt to claw and bite at Bruni, but the dwarf only suffers minor scrapes, while the third leaves itself wide open as it tries to lunge past Brander's shield.

With the aim for which his kind are known, Caranlas unleashes two arrows in rapid succession, cutting the rope at point well above what a slow moving beast such as these marsh dwellers could possibly leap and thus preventing them from being subjected once again to the bell's enchantment. Balin picks up a rock and hurls it, but has no success in that endeavor while Mira makes her way towards the flooded room, pausing only to hurl a stone from her sling at the marsh dweller that tried to attack Brander, catching the monster in the eye and downing it instantly. After a quick backward glance and a grin at his little friend, Brander engages one of the two marsh dwellers remaining and easily cuts it down before Bruni cuts down the last with a single blow from his axe. Knowing they've no time to linger, the Company quickly makes for the flooded room and the underwater tunnel. Knowing the difficulty she had before, Brander tucks little Mira under one arm and dives into the dark waters, swimming as fast as he is able for the other side of the tunnel and freedom. Once the Hobbit girl is safe, he then does his best to aid the others, prompting Bruni to cry "watch the beard!" as the young Dalelander attempts to heave the younger dwarf out of the waters, while Caranlas and Rory each help Balin through. Noting that the sun has begun its gradual descent into the horizon, Balin voices the very real concern that the marsh dwellers might give pursuit, causing the Company to agree to make as much haste as possible away from this place and back the way the came.

The rest of the journey is relatively peaceful, with the closest thing to excitement being a sudden rainstorm that left the heroes quite drenched, but they eventually return to Laketown with the two dwarves. Gloin is overjoyed to see his friend Balin returned home, as well as his cousins' nephew Bruni. As promised, he grants the heroes a princely sum, especially as the Eagle King's gift was also returned. Having had his first real taste of adventure, Bruni is intent to experience more, and after several days in the company of the others, asks if he might join them. There's a mild stink about the presence of a Wood Elf, but Bruni is willing to give the elf the benefit of the doubt, having not been a "guest of the Elfking." The heroes decide that they will each remain in and around Laketown, enjoying some well-earned comforts.

Treasure and wealth in The One Ring is handled in a very abstract manner, especially compared to fantasy games such as D&D and Warhammer Fantasy RP (1st and 2nd editions at least). Instead of counting out coins or magical items, characters track their relative wealth by something called Treasure Points, which represents coins and jewels and other valuable trinkets they've either collected or been rewarded with. There's not much you can really spend them on, other than raising your standard of living for a few months or your status with your culture (though that option is fairly expensive). Our reward for completing this adventure was 5 Treasure Points. A nice bankroll, but not much for us to officially spend it on, though the GM did offer a couple house-rule suggestions to bear in mind.

And that concluded the Marsh Bell for us, with each of us opting to take our Fellowship/Rest Phase in Esgaroth. The GM had tried out a few house rules, and for the most part we're keeping them. But this post has gone on long enough, so I'll save the house rule stuff for tomorrow.

April 19, 2012

Hunger Games of Potterthrones

Just a bit of an update as to what I've been up to of late.

Gamingwise, things have been a tad on the quiet side, so I've kept myself amused in other perfectly legal ways.

The first of these is finally taking the advice that Oldscool and Schbudda of the Small But Vicious podcast (dedicated to Warhammer Fantasy RPG in all its forms) when I was a guest host for the Bretonnia episode way back in the day to pick up and read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Though to be fair, what really got me to start reading the series was catching a few snippets of the HBO series. It looked good from the bits I saw, and I knew that I had picked up the first four books in paperback back when Borders was going out-of-business. So, I cracked open Game of Thrones. And so far, I've generally been enjoying it, particularly the chapters from Jon Snow's POV (as he is probably my favorite character so far) and anything where Tyrion shows up. Frankly, I'm not that far into the book (only been reading a couple chapters a night), but I'm eager to read more of the series, though I've been advised to be too cautious about who I get attached to seeing as how Mr. Martin has apparently adopted a "Anyone Can Die" mindset.

Other recent doings was going to see The Hunger Games last night as the usual Star Wars NJO game got called on short notice due to a sick GM (spring cold). I've not read the book, which I've heard from several friends and co-workers is quite good, but I found the movie very enjoyable, and unlike what one person said, had no problem following along with the plot. I'm kind of glad that they apparently toned down the level of violence (less showing of gore and more implication thereof): then again I've always preferred the "old school horror" approach of letting the audience imagine the gore rather than rubbing their face in it. I at least appreciated the fact that they didn't glam up the kids except when it make sense, such as when they're being presented to the jaded citizens of the Capitol (whose appearance looks as though Ziggy Stardust and Lada Gaga were hired to do the design work). I know there's three books, but even if they don't make the rest of them into movies (though I strongly doubt that), Hunger Games stood on its own well-enough for my tastes, and I'll probably buy the DVD when it comes out.

Lastly, for those of you who are fans of Harry Potter, I would hope that by now you're aware that Pottermore has been opened to the general public. Apparently it's still in Beta mode, as according to my friend Nateal (aka @HotPinkJoysticks on Twitter) you can only access Philosopher's Stone/Book 1 so far. And rather than bore you here with a rambling attempt at a review, I'll just simply link to a very good review that Nateal wrote for Word of the Nerd instead.


It's a fun site, though for me the main draw is all the background material, with my top faves so far being the in-setting discussion of wands, including the traits of the wood and magical creature substance each is made with. I've not gotten to the Sorting yet, but it was very interesting that I wound up with a wand of alder wood with a unicorn core, fourteen and a half inches long and "surprisingly swishy" according to the description. If you do sign-up, you can find me at KeyPatronus8930, though so far there's not much in the way of social networking in the site, but perhaps that will change as time rolls on and more content is added.

The other thing I've been working is actually an old project from many, many years ago (close to decade in fact), and revolves around a series of Star Wars fan-fic I wrote that served as a back-story and early adventuring synopsis of my on-line namesake, Donovan Morningfire. I initially wrote it as five "chapter/episodes" broken up by the protagonist's age, but have opted to simply roll the entire thing into one massive story, though I may still divide the sections after I'm done. So far I've finished with the first three episodes, and will shortly be moving onto the fourth episode fairly soon. It's been fun revisiting those old stories, though I've found they were dire need of added polish, with some sections getting pretty heavily revised compared to the earlier versions I did. I've no idea when I'll have this finished, so it'll be done when its done.

Anyway, that's been my weeks in geekery since my last post. From what I hear, for Saturday or One Ring group is going get together to polish off the rest of Marsh Bell, with the GM possibly implementing a couple of house rules based off what he's seen on the Cubicle 7 forums, so I'll keep ya posted as to what happens there.

Catch ya on the flip side.

Update: Went through the sorting on Pottemore, which began with an neat little video clip from JK Rowling. And true to form for just about every online Sorting I've tried over the years, I got Sorted into Gryffindor.

So, maybe I'm a lion (courtesy of The Black Mages)

April 9, 2012

One Ring: The Marsh Bell, Part One

My Saturday night group played our second session of the One Ring this past Saturday, kicking of the "Marsh Bell" adventure from the back of the Loremaster's Guide. Needless to say there will be some mild spoilers ahead.

Our band of would be adventerur were each in Esgaroth, each of us kind of doing our own thing. As it happened, Rory Hornblower heard through his uncle Mungo (a Hobbit that had left the Shire years before Bilbo to indulge his queer sense of wanderlust) that Gloin, one of the surviving members of Thorin's Company from the Battle of Five Armies, was seeking to hire a group of adventurers, and was offering a princely sum for success in the endeavor. Rory discussed the idea with Mirabella Bracegirdle about showing up and offering their services, though Mira felt they'd have better luck if they brought some stouter folk along with them, which lead to the wee folk getting word to the rest of us about the prospect of adventure and riches. Brander was doing a bit of restocking before heading out once more into the wilds on his self-appointed patrols, and had no qualms about assisting the Hobbits.

We got our first task of One Ring's Interaction system, used to handle social contests with plot-critical NPCs. We had to make a good impression on Gloin, which Mirabella did by nominating herself the party spokesperson as her Hobbit-sense suggested that Gloin was a busy and gruff man, and would have little time to waste on elaborate pleasantries, but she was very polite, even when Gloin seemed skeptical that a pair of Hobbits would be much help, though Rory did posit that "Uncle Bilbo" had been of much help to Thorin's company, and that the aid of Hobbits should not be so quickly overlooked, a remark that got the somber Dwarf to chuckle in admiration of the Hobbit's boldness.

Suitably impressed, Gloin explained that two of his fellow Dwarves, one of whom was his cousin Balin, had left on an errand for King Dain Ironfoot to deliver a formal invitation to the King of the Eagles for a celebration marking the 5th anniversary of the Battle of Five Armies, but Gloin had received troubling news that the two Dwarves had not arrived, though he did not say how he knew this. We agreed to the request, figuring that those interested in such matters could haggle over payment after the dwarves were brought safely back to Esgaroth. Gloin provided us with a rough map that marked the path Balin planed to take as well as arranging for us to make use of a pair of long boats to speed us on our way. As it was late in the day, we opted to get a night's rest and head out in the morning.

And so came another round of One Ring's Journey system. In addition to the assigning of roles (Guide, Scout, Look-out, and Hunter), each character is required to make a Lore check when planning the Company's route, with the best roll of the group used, but each failure adding a day. The GM gave us a bit of a break as our path was pretty much laid-out, but Caranlas (whose main specialty is Lore and rolled an extraordinary success) was able to plan a route that would be less wearisome for the less hardy members of the Company, even in spite of some less than helpful advice from Grimbald (who blew his Lore check).

So the next morning, off we set, traveling down the Running River with what should be a four day trek until we reached the Long Marshes on the edge of Mirkwood near the Old Forest Road. We did managed a brief stop-over at a small port village, where the Hobbits proved to be quite entertaining with a rendition of some Hobbit folk songs for the villagers, though Caranlas also proved some skill in that realm by reciting a tale dating from the Second Age regarding the valor of the Men against the fell powers of The Enemy. In exchange, we were introduced to the village's wise man, an ancient walnut of a Lake-man named Nerulf, who seemed a bit out of sorts but recited an old rhyme he'd learned as a child regarding the marshes, that "if south you dare to go, into the marshes then take heed, lightly should you tread, and fear the gallows-weed," though he couldn't really offer much of an explanation. The next three days were uneventful, and we reached the edge of the Long Marshes at the edge of Mirkwood, where even Caranlas, who called the woods home for most of his long life, admitted the unsettling nature of the woods, yet in spite of the oppressive nature of the place, we were able to move forward, though Grimbald seemed the most disturbed.

In game terms, the Long Marshes and Mirkwood are considered "Shadow Lands," meaning that we needed to make Corruption tests to resist the insidious nature of such blighted places. They're not anywhere near Mordor level of bad, but the portion of Mirkwood we were traveling through was not a happy place. Allegedly we should have been rolling once per day, but the GM only called for one roll upon entering the Marshes, which was probably just as well to prevent us from either racking up a lot of Shadow points or burning Hope, since we're still pretty much starting level heroes.

We did have a duece of a time navigating the Marshes, as we stuck to the river as long as possible, and it fell upon Brander to steer the boat through the many river-paths, though he performed admirably. Caranlas' keen elf-senses learned that we were being shadowed, though he couldn't be certain by whom. We were able to pick up a sign of Balin's trail, though before we could get very far, the Company was accosted by a scouting party of Wood Elves, who had been the ones trailing us since we'd entered the Long Marshes.

This lead to another Interaction test, this time with the Elf leader, who was quite unhelpful, particularly when Grimbald plainly stated why we were in the marshes in the first place, but Caranlas was at least able to convince the scouting band that we were no threat to the Elves, and so they agreed to leave us in peace. It was here that Brander's Ranger-training proved itself, as I was easily able to pick up Balin's exact trail, which in turn lead to a campsite that only recently seen use. Taking a look around, we were able to confirm that while the dwarves had indeed set up the camp, they had not slept there. Rory, being the inquisitive soul that he was, managed to find tucked within a rotten stump a small box, an ivory jewel cass with intricately carven images of regal-looking birds. Caranlas, upon checking the stump, found Dwarf-runes which suggested a protective enchantment, one perhaps to keep would-be thieves from finding the locked box, which he and Brander agreed was likely meant to be a gift to the Eagles, and though Rory wanted to see what was inside, Mira convinced him to leave it be, as stealing from the very dwarves they'd been asked to find wasn't the sort of thing a sensible Hobbit did, and with a fair bit of reluctance Rory gave the box over to Caranlas for safe-keeping.

Being very late in the day, the Company decided they'd camp here for the night, though the Elf was very wary, saying that the trees whispered of a threat nearby, though more the would not say. We soon learned what that threat was when Mira went to see about finding some potable water and passed too close to a lake of stagnant water. She was just barely able to avoid being snatched up by a large arm, and her scream brought the rest of us quickly to the scene to find a monstrous brute emerging from the lake, intent on turning the halfing lass into a late night snack.

I figure this was a planned combat encounter in the module, as nobody had seriously failed any of their Travel checks to avoid fatigue. And it though it was five against one, it was not an easy fight. Apparently this was a swamp troll, and it was able to withstand one heck of a beating, as Brander and Grimbald were mostly left to hack away at the monster, with Rory focusing on keeping his cousin Mira safe from the beast while Caranlas hung back and peppered the thing with arrows.

A note about combat in One Ring. Most opponents tend to drop when either their Endurance is reduced to zero or they suffer a Wound. Trolls apparently don't drop anywhere near that easily, as we had to Wound the thing twice, which was made a bit more difficult by the fact it had a high Armor rating (representing it's thick hide) and the GM was rolling well against each Piercing Blow the Elf made, as he chose to attack every other round to use the option to aim and get an automatic Piercing Blow with his bow. Grimbald kept to a Forward Stance, literally focused on just hitting this thing and doing as much damage as he could, which came back to bite him as the troll soon realized that he was doing the most damage with his long-handled axe (even if he never once managed a Piercing Blow, he still managed a great success on each attack, doing a lot of damage) and was also the easiest to hit. I went with an Open Stance, not hitting as often but also being a lot harder for the troll to hit in turn, even after it grabbed a stout tree branch to use as a club. Caranlas did managed to score a Wound in the fourth round, but then the troll responded by grabbing it's club and squashing Grimbald, who was already wounded from the opening round, got Wounded again and reduced to zero Endurance (the GM rolled a great success for loads of damage and triggered a Piercing Blow, which even with a Hope Point the Beorning was unable to save against). This was enough to incite Brander to hew into the monster, and I scored the second Wound needed to slay the beast, slashing it's throat open with my sword after it failed to flatten him with its club.

And that was pretty much where we ended the session, with the heroes taking the time to bury the brave Beorning's remains and Caranlas offering an ancient blessing to help shepherd our ally's spirit to the West. Brander had a few bruises as did Rory, so we definitely needed some time to rest and recover, but our journey was not that much more difficult with the lose of one of our Company.