Year Zero World Building creates campaign settings using Free League’s RPGs. This month features a return to Middle-earth via The One Ring Second Edition and a look at spider lore that just might uncover the webs they spin to cover Eriador in darkness.
Thanks to Free League for sending me RPGs to help write these articles. As a frequent customer of their kickstarters, pre-orders, and webstore I really appreciate their customer service and attention to detail coupled with amazingly written and supported RPGs.
The One Ring can be played by Player-heroes wandering from local landmark to local landmark, gathering treasure and overcoming Shadow. It can also be run with an epic campaign of ongoing adventures.
In this campaign, Shelob was not the final spawn of Ungoliant, but was instead the mightiest of four spawn. The other three have remained hidden, likely in Mirkwood, but growing in power and planning to seize northwestern Middle-earth and turn it into a web-covered haunted land of gnawing hunger and terror, much like Ered Gorgoroth from the First Age. The Player-heroes stumble on this plot and must decide what to do about it.
Last month’s column included stats for great spiders, monstrous water spiders, and a trio of Shelob’s siblings: Damhan, bloated and stinking; Prycop, frenzied and skittering; and Ragnu, berserk and bristling. This month rounds out the spiders with stats on the smaller ettercop.
ETTERCOP Sinister, Vicious
ATTRIBUTE LEVEL 3
COMBAT PROFICIENCIES: Fangs 3 (3/14, Pierce), Webs 3 (—, Seize)
FELL ABILITIES: Fear of Fire. The creature loses 1 Hate at the start of each round it is engaged in close combat with an adversary wielding a torch or other sort of burning item.
Great Leap. Spend 1 Hate to attack any Player-hero, in any combat stance, including Rearward.
Poison. If an attack results in a Wound, the target is also poisoned (grievous Endurance loss; see The One Ring, page 134, for the effects of poison).
Snake-like Speed. When targeted by an attack, spend 1 Hate to make the attack Ill-favoured.
The Player-heroes can gather lore on these spiders from Elrond or Saruman (and Beorn if the Player-heroes cross the Misty Mountains). Information on Elrond can be found in the Loremaster’s Screen & Rivendell Compendium and for Saruman in Ruins of the Lost Realm (RotLR). Beorn is well detailed in the first edition of The One Ring.
Shelob’s siblings all slipped through the Misty Mountains, summoned out of deep lairs in Mirkwood by a dark shadow growing in Eriador. Ragnu slipped by Isengard. A Council with Arcinyas the healer, Saruman’s agent, yields the following. If the Player-heroes will deliver a letter to Elrond (the first mission in Dark Designs of Isengard on page 43 of RotLR Arcinyas will impart that Ragnu has a variety of poisons beyond the normal killing kind of all spiders. Arcinyas very much wants a sample. He doesn’t know what each poison does, but he is sure he heard rumors that Arvedui, Last King knew much of spiders and was Elven-wise. If the Records of the Last King (core page 198) could be found, the Player-heroes might learn the perils of all of Ragnu’s poisons and perhaps some antidotes.
Prycop skittered past Rivendell, leaving nearly no trace. With a successful Council, Elrond can let the Player-heroes know that the monster seemed to have command of a Dark Spell of hiding and killed with violence beyond even that of normal spiders. He has heard that the throne in the Throne Room of Arvedui (core page 197) may allow a glimpse into overcoming a Dark Spell-like Prycop wields and maybe an insight into how to fight her. If the Player-heroes haven’t thought of it, Elrond also thinks talking to Beorn would be a good idea since he lives close to Mirkwood.
Beorn is hard to find and convince to talk. Werewolves have been stalking the Beornings, and bringing in a few heads would set up a Council. Damhan passed by the Beornings, and her stink and a few spider followers still linger. He believes the Dome of Sight (core page 196) pinpoints the exact location she is going to next. Her stink triggered a connection to her that led Beorn to a vision about the Dome and how to track her to her final destination. This information is the first concrete clue of where to go to actually find one of the three.
The journey to see Saruman and Elrond might be combined into one adventure. Maybe a chance encounter with marauding Orcs would liven things up. The quest to talk to Beorn might not even occur to the Player-heroes until they see Elrond. That journey could be an entire adventure with Spiders and Werewolves, making the trek even more dangerous.
Once all the lore they can find has been gathered, the Player-heroes can next head to Fornost Erain (core page 196). The quests to the Dome of Sight, the Throne Room of Aredui, and the Records of the Last King could easily be an entire adventure. The random events for Ruins and Broken Stones (core 197) can add a bit of flavor to each quest.
Many forces of Shadow prowl Fornost Erain. Southerner Raiders led by a Champion could stand between the Player-heroes and the Dome. Orc Guards working with an Orc-chieftain might make securing the Throne Room difficult. And finally, fell spirits of fallen followers of the Witch-King guard the Records: Fell Wraiths led by a Barrow-wight.
For all of these adventures, Treasure needs to be created. Adventuring in Middle-earth (core page 207) is also good to consult. Finally, the Loremaster must decide whether to use the Eye of Mordor (core page 169). Maybe while traveling to each Loremaster this rule is not invoked. But when the first journey to Fornost Erain begins, it might be time for the Eye to start searching.
Next month the lairs of each spider are detailed with plenty of options for Loremasters to customize them to their liking.
Picture credit: Pixabay
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