7: Session 1 – A Long Planned Party
As discussed earlier the session pattern that best captures in the Hobbit (and what we’ll be using this campaign) is Exposition / Travel / Encounter / Escape. I'm also going to start putting the adventures behind the fold - while the players played this one I expect them to be on good behavior and not read the rest of this month.
I’m leaving a lot of the details of lost Tarmalania for the players to flesh out during the character creation process that will take up the start of the first session. I don’t know if Tarmalania is a human, elvish or dwarvish city, but note how the campaign frame has that not really matter – it’s a destroyed city and that’s what matters.
In any event, the following exposition will come out during the character creation process: 99 years ago the city of Tarmalania was destroyed by giants, who sacked it, scattered its armies, ripped down its walls, stole its treasures and then returned to the mountains. From there they engage in occasional raiding and, more importantly, destroy any human community of more than 10 buildings to prevent the formation of any political entity that might raise troops to challenge them. As such the lands around their mountains are not completely lawless but they are close. The giants leave goblin communities unmolested and as such there are several goblin outposts on and inside the giant’s mountains.
Over the last century the legend has grown that if all of the five magical blades of Tarmalania can be collected that will give their wielders the power to overthrow the giants. Two of those blades have been recovered and are held by human chieftains in the plains. One of the player characters (likely one of the high education archetypes, but a lot depends on who is playing what – given the players I’d rather give the exposition through one of the older players) reveals to his fellows that he has tracked down information on the location of the other three swords.
Twenty years ago Ergrim, son of Eron (perhaps one of the PCs ancestors) was captured by goblins and forced to work in one of their mines. He managed to lead an escape of fellow prisoners while making a delivery of goods to the goblin’s giant overlords, in this case Nosnra the Mighty. In the escape Ergrim and his fellows saw the three missing Tarlamanian swords in a corner of Nosnra’s storeroom. The swords were immediately identifiable, but also out of reach and the escapees had too little time. Ergrim was able to recover just one of them from the storeroom along with one other artifact – the medallion of the Tarmalanian chamberlain – before leading his fellows in an escape.
Unfortunately the noble Ergrim was not able to complete the escape himself: he had to turn and hold off goblin hordes at a pass, buying time for his companions to escape the mountains. He did so with the Tarmalnain blade, passing the chamberlain’s medallion to another escapee to remove it from the giant’s reach. This man, a simple herdsman named Thom, did so – staying in hiding until the last minute to see his leader fight Nosnra himself; Egrim severed the two of the giant’s fingers with the enchanted blade before falling under Nosnra’s morning star. With a heavy heart the herdsman fled back to his people.
The PC who is sharing the tale located this Thom two years ago and the man handed over to him the medallion and a hand crafted map of the path they took to escape the mountains. A path, if reversed, will lead this company to Nosnra’s home, storerooms, and lost Tarmalanian swords. The swords that, if recovered, will allow the final defeat of the giants. The only question then is if the company has the courage to take this action.
The GM should provide them with a rough map of the country between where they are and the mountains under the giant’s control, showing a sizable distance north and south of the target in addition to a map of the actual path through the giant’s mountains. The first map is more important right now because it reveals the types of obstacles in the way: from their current location to the city of Treemast, taking a boat along the coastline to a logging community further north, across the logging trails to the dwarvish community in the Slate Hills, across the slate hills to the plains in the giant’s shadow, across the plains into the giant’s mountains, and finally through the mountains to Nosnra’s hall.
The company makes their way from their current location to the west. Their travels through the settled lands show how things move from the bucolic comfort of their current location into somewhat harder circumstances. The path they intended to take, which was perfectly safe just five years ago, has signs of falling into disuse. A 20 Education roll will reveal that the isolated inn on this route burned down under dark circumstances a year ago and therefore people are using an alternate route. They can opt to stay in the partially burned out inn and if they do nothing will happen to them; it’s just imagery.
Except for one thing: it’s clear that the stable door was kicked down during the fire and that at least one horse escaped the blaze (and at least one didn’t, which is best described by having someone look into the burned out stables and then look away). This is there as a bit of misdirection for later
The path takes them to the bog edge of the lake and then down the coastline to city of Treemast; it is along that path that they encounter a problem: the Nökken. As twilight approaches – preferably while at least one of the PCs are off collecting firewood – they spy in the distance a beautiful white horse on the path. While it is clearly of a proud lineage it also has clearly seen some better days and has been living rough for some time. It’s also docile letting people approach it. It will gladly let someone mount it, or will dance away into the bog, whichever the GM thinks is more likely to get someone into the water.
If the PCs completely ignore the horse, or raise arms against it, it trots off into the bog.
Once someone is on its back it will run for a nearby island in the bog, with no real chance of jumping off if someone comes after it (albeit while it still looks innocent or in chasing their friend) they will discover that the bog is much deeper than it looks – while the horse is on the surface, it is actually 10-15 feet deep of weedy water. Worse, there are things down there that will grab people, pull them under and drag them out to the fog shrouded island. Anyone touching the water has to win an Athletics test against target 20 to avoid being dragged out to the water. Any company members will lose this pretty much right away. Anyone on the island finds that it is littered with stuff, as if dozens of people over the years have fallen prey to these creatures, but while there are clothes and boots and the like there aren’t any bones or other human remnants. Those are all gone.
Anyone still on the road after the original confusion and kidnapping will be attacked by the three Nokken, who come halfway out of the lake as dark creatures with pale eyes and ropes made of vines that they use to capture people and drag them in and out to the lake. The TN to resist is a 15, and can now be made with Athletics or Warcraft. While the PCs can fight off the ropes they can’t really attack the Nokken without getting in the water in which case the TN goes back up to 20 and the Nokken will flee after a bit. If the Pcs flee the Nokken will let them go, heading back to the island to taunt the captives with mournful violin music. This gives the free PCs a chance to recover and plan. When the return they should be able to isolate one Nokken as the other two are guarding the captives at first, which reduces the TNs by 5, making everything easier.
There is a way to defeat the Nokken with Education (TN15), which is knowing that if you throw something of pure iron (steel doesn’t cut it) into the water the Nokken will flee from it, and if you strike them with pure iron it acts as a magic weapon (-5 on the TN). The PCs can either drive off or destroy the Nokken with this tactic if they ask about possible weaknesses. If there is a wizard in the party Water Lore will let them split or part the bog or do some other wizardry to dissipate the creatures with a TN 15. Someone with a third eye might also (TN 10) spy a binding enchantment on the island, explaining why the Nokken are here at all, and a Wizard might break that (or if the sword in the island is drawn and claimed the Nokken will also disperse)
Once the Nokken are gone the bog returns to its normal depth, making it much easier to recover the lost comrades. The island itself is full of things that the PCs might claim for their trip; though much of it has long been exposed to the elements they can claim to find anything they think they want to carry of waterproof or metal goods. There is also a single magical sword buried up to its hilt in the center of the island. As of now its provenance is unknown (Education 25 to get it, but we’ll deal with that next session). If this were really the Hobbit there would be a magic sword for each PC, but that’s 5 magic swords, so too much to justify.