10: Session 4 – The Tomb of Tarmalania
And now for the next session of my slantwise Hobbit, taking out heroes metaphorically from Beorn's hall through the Mirkwood spiders
Players are, as always, asked to read no further.
If the PCs have made it this far they are at the Slate Hills (unless things really went off the rails at Brinder’s Gate, in which case the GM is on their own!), the condition on which they enter that location has a big effect on their initial reaction. The extended conflict of Lineage has a starting TN below.
If the PCs defeated the Draugen, resupplied at Brinder’s Gate, outwitted the Goblin ambush and enter in full regalia it’s a Lineage 5. They’ve suffered no setbacks so far and are exactly what the dwarves expected.
If the PCs miraculously appear out of the stream, bourn by the magic of the Naiads it’s Lineage 10. They might be soaking wet and minimally outfitted but by heaven they just arrived by magic and that counts for something.
If the PCs were captured, have just what they could carry out in the escape and have been fighting their way down the road it’s Lineage 15. They might be battered and ill equipped but courage counts for something.
If the PCs were re-captured by the Goblins they have to be rescued by a Dwarvish raiding party after a couple of weeks (perhaps orchestrated by a PC escapee). Getting a positive reaction then is Lineage 20. It takes a lot to overcome the “if you’re so tough how some we had to rescue you?”
If successful the PCs are feted, allowed to rest, are resupplied properly and have a chance to gather more information. Basically this success will wipe out a lot of their accumulated travails.
If they fail the PCs are less gently housed, and have the option of either leaving quickly with inadequate gear (+5 TN going on several tests forward due to lack of rest and bad gear) and no information or being told that they must stay until the Dwarf Prince’s Bombur’s birthday in a few months – after that their situation will be discussed further. By discussed further we mean another TN 15 Lineage challenge for the Dwarves to not find another pretext to keep them there another month, and then another. The PCs can always leave but until they get a Lineage 15 they’re not leaving with suitable gear and will have just wasted time. And time is against them, as the time of the prophecy is approaching.
(Why are the Dwarves doing this? Politics for one part – Dwalin the Dwarf Lord wants to be seen to have a human prince around at his beck and call during the ceremonies – and fear for the other. If the PCs came in in decent order but lost the contest Dwalin wants them around to help with the Goblins. If they came in in disarray and lost the contest Dwalin is finding a pretext to keep them from going or making sure they never reach the giants if they leave for fear of riling things up.)
Succeed or fail in the Lineage check the PCs will be able to trade information on the Goblins. They know that Zelor the large is in charge there (unless the PCs killed him!), and that Zegor the canny has made his way as deep as the sheltered dales. Dwalin knows that Zelor was/is accumulating troops from points north, and that Zegor hasn’t been seen in some time. If the PCs succeeded in the Lineage check Dwalin takes them into his confidence and reveals his fear that Zegor also made his way west, and has found a way to spirit goblins down the Tarmalanian river and along the Great Canal at considerable speed. He might also be able to bring giants. Dwalin suspects Zegor is hoping to clear a space in Grey Mountains for the Giants, letting them extend their shadow even further, and as such extend the space where Goblins can act unfettered. Dire tidings indeed. Dwalin wants to find and eliminate Zegor, but is willing to let the PCs pursue their larger prophecy in hopes that it will turn the tide.
Eventually the PCs make it to the plains. If they haven’t been delayed they have a pretty clear time of it, but if they have been delayed the weather turns poor along the trip, forcing some Athletics (Survival) TN 5 rolls. If one of the PCs scores 10 then they can protect 2 others; 15 protects 8 others. Failure gives a +5 TN on future actions until healed and rested.
This is a harsh, driving rain that turns to icy sleet. An Athletics (Horseman) or Warcraft (Mounted Combat) 15 is also needed to get the horses down the icy slopes without losing some (miss = 1 horse, by 5 equals 3, by 10 = 9), which might well do for their resupply trip 9and return them to traveling with limited rations!)
Once on the plains they have to make their way to Lost Umbral, with a very likely side trip into the ruins of Tarmalania can enter the family tomb and rescue a lost sword, Varangan. Before they can get there they have to see the ruins of several towns, knocked flat and stripped bare. What settlements there are exist far away from the roads, as if the giants and goblins make sure that the humans don’t even think about growing around the remnants of their old empire. The plains are still lush and fertile, but the farms that used to dot it are gone. The PCs do cross several lines of horse tracks, making it clear that humans are still riding around here, and see that their cattle (shaggy, longhorn beasts) have gone fertal and cross the plains in herds.
Along the way they are accosted by a band of horse-riding raiders who (unless they are spotted and driven off first) will find a likely spot for an ambush (where there is a copse between them and the road for minimal cover) and do a ride by attack to try to scatter the company. This initiates a TN 15 extended conflict, but if the raiders lose the first exchange (which they should) they just flee. The raiders also flee if their TN ever drops below 10. If the raiders somehow win they take the party captive (save any escapees) and I’ll have to ad hoc a rescue scene, or skip to the end of the session. If the PCs are able to capture and question any of them they learn that their chief, Agarwaen the Red, leads a band of raiders in the ruins of Tarmalania, numbering more than 80 men.
Once the players reach Tarmalania it is an Education (Mapreading or Pathfinding) 10 to locate the tomb based on the map on the back of the chancellor’s amulet. Once they’re there the spot is covered with rubble from collapsed buildings, requiring an Athletics 15 to clear it. Once cleared the path through requires a Burglary 5 to execute without mishap mostly due to the damage the giants did. Once at the bottom, however, things are different and opening the central tomb takes a TN 15 Burglary (Lockpicking) roll. Once inside there is the corpse of the last king to die in Tarmalania, armed with Varangan, the blade of the royal family. His spirit will arise and attack anyone other than the heir. That is an extended Lineage (Courage) contest with a starting TN of 20. Or if someone can see spirits the they can try that with a Lineage TN of 15.
Also inside the tomb are some suits of heavy armor if people (or their company) want to armor up.
Shortly after they leave the tomb the party is again attacked by Agarwaen the Red and his troops. Said troops are base 81 strong and skilled with mounted combat strong so they have a TN of 30. The PCs, on the other hand, should have their lead fighter outfitted with a magical blade (and may have a second if they still have the wavecutter) and armored and mounted. This actually works out to good odds. These raiders are nasty, unkept, ill-bred people and there is no shame in breaking them. (These are the spider equivalents)
Even if they lose they are taken prisoner at the end of the session, with promises of evil deaths, and will then be rescued at the start of next session.