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MERP: Dawn of the Fourth Age Session 5

This is part of an ongoing campaign. You can find the other sessions over on the sidebar.

10 Norui F.A. 15

The fellowship had asked the Stablemaster if they could get a set of backup horses to allow them to travel to Tharbad faster. The Stablemaster returned and told them that not only had king Eomer allowed their request for more horses after learning of Sindawe's help, but he had asked to meet them personally.

During their meeting, Eomer confided in them that he hoped that they could help him with another problem. He was having issues arising out of a feud between Cenril, the Marshal of Westfold, and Feoril, the Warden of the Gap. Three years ago, Aerol, Cenril's cousin, killed Teomod, Feoril's nephew, in a fight over a horse. Cenril, always stubborn and cheap, refused to pay weregild to Teomod's family, claiming that Teomod had started the fight. Feoril, always one to hold a grudge, caught Aerol in the open right before last winter set in, and had him killed. There has been minor conflict between both clans all winter, but no further deaths. Eomer is worried that the conflict could grow with the Spring.

He is somewhat limited in his ability to respond. Both of the men are his distant cousins and he wants to prevent open conflict that could lead to civil war, but any intervention on his part could cause them to lose face, or make it seem like he was taking sides. He hopes, that as agents of Rohan's closest ally, the fellowship can act as a sort of neutral arbitrator to resolve the issue. In order to help them, he provides 200 gold for them to use to meet the death payments requested by each family. He warns them that they will need to be circumspect in using it, it will not be possible to just ride in and pay everyone off at this point. There is too much pride involved. 

Cenril holds Helm's Deep as his fortress, but can currently be found at Grimsdale. Grimsdale is just south and east of the Gap, in the foothills of the White Mountains. Cenril is there to meet with the chiefs of his high steadings now that the passes are clear of snow. Feoril should be at Dol Baran, his hilltop fort to the north of the Gap. The fellowship gathered its provisions and set out for Grimsdale.

17 Norui F.A. 15

They find Grimsdale to be little more than a fortified longhouse with a wood palisade. The fort is held by a man named Grimborn. The fellowship heads straight for the longhouse after passing through the gate, and they find Cenril, Grimborn, and two others eating in the common room. They approach and introduce themselves.

In turn, they are introduced to Eadlith, Cenril's daughter, and Ulfur, her lieutenant. Cenril has convened this group to discuss the failure of two of his high steading chiefs to report in. He invites the fellowship to sit in on the discussion because the advice and counsel of Gondor is always welcome. Cenril and Grimborn seem to be convinced that Feoril sent his men to raid the steadings and this is the opening shot in an escalation. Ulfur is convinced that the steadings have fallen victim to Dunlending attack, he suspects that they will be especially aggressive this summer. After some arguing between Grimborn and Ulfur, Cenril decides that it does not matter in the short term whether the attack came from Feoril or Dunlendings, his next move is to summon his riders to investigate. He orders Grimborn to issue the orders. Grimborn states they can be ready to go in a week.

The fellowship offers to leave now to investigate the steadings and Eadlith and Ulfur volunteer to accompany them. Cenril approves this plan and they head up the mountain to the first steading.

18 Norui F.A. 15

On the way to the first steading, they learn that Ulfur's family was killed during a Dunlending raid when he was a child. 

When they reached the first steading they found that it had been completely torn down. The longhouse and the palisade had been knocked over, and there were tracks from a troll-sized creature. They found several bodies under the collapsed longhouse, but nowhere near the 18 people who should have been living here. They tried to follow the tracks, but lost the trail after a short way on the rocky ground.

The second steading was also heavily damaged, though not completely torn down. The gate had been battered open, and one end was torn off the longhouse. There were troll tracks here as well. They found bodies that ad been chewed by wolves. As they were investigating the ruins, they were attacked by a pack of wolves. 

The fight with the wolves was brutal, with Sindawe and Leowyn both being reduced to less than zero concussion hits. They managed to beat the wolves by carefully managing the stuns inflicted on the wolves to enable the characters with lower offensive bonuses to hit them.

After the fight with the wolves, they started looking for a place to rest. Sindawe and Leowyn had suffered significant concussion hit loss, and Elyanis had injured her ankle while trying to climb on to the roof of the longhouse. 

As they headed out of the south gate of the steading, they were faced with a group of Dunlendings barring the road. The leader, Imhar Far-Reach, claimed that the Dunlending steadings had also been attacked by the troll and they were hunting it. Ulfur grew angry and claimed that the Dunlendings were known to work with trolls and that this was clearly a trap. Eadlith seemed unsure at first, but the characters managed to convince her that the Dunlendings were not a threat and were potential allies against the troll.

They camped, with the Dunlendings, to heal their wounds.

Thoughts on MERP

One big difference this week was that one of the players, Scott, has been adding the critical charts to the existing MERP functionality in Roll20. Most attacks now also display their critical result. This is a huge help and significantly cuts down on the amount of time I spend looking at charts. Scott sounds interested in maybe pursuing Roll20 coding as a possible revenue stream. Reach out to me on twitter if you are interested in contacting him with work.

Some of the content in this week's game comes from the excellent One Ring Rohan sourcebooks. I am really glad to see that the tradition of high quality Middle Earth sourcebooks continued with this rule set.

This week drove home again that MERP combat is fundamentally different than Dungeons and Dragons combat. Concussion hits are not hit points, and are not the be all end all of character health. The critical results, like Elyanis's injury, can force the players to adjust their tactics mid fight. Stun management is also very important. It is easier to hit a stunned enemy, so the higher Offensive Bonus characters can get monsters in a position where it is possible for lower OB characters to land big crits.

In fact, I leaned into this and house-ruled that stunned characters do not have any Defensive Bonus, instead of the reduced DB dictated by the rules. I decided to do this for several reasons:

  1. It is quicker. I avoid having to do the math of a reduced DB. It also speeds up the fights.
  2. It hits both characters and their foes equally. So it doesn't unbalance things.
  3. It enhances the tactical options and makes the fight more interesting.
To counterbalance this, I changed the way stun stacking works. A target is effected by whatever the highest stun critical on it is, the stun rounds do not add. So if a monster is stunned for two rounds and then again for one, it is stunned for two rounds. Targets can still be stun locked if they get stunned on future rounds while stunned, but I don't have to keep track of adding stun rounds. So if a target is stunned for three rounds on round one and then stunned for another three rounds on round two, I would count the three rounds from round two, not round one. Stunning that target for one round on round two would have no effect.


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