Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tales from Wilderland - A Review

Tales from Wilderland contains seven adventures that sends your Fellowship all over the Wilderland region of Middle-earth.  These adventures can be played separately or linked together to form a longish campaign that escalates to a big finale.  I enjoyed all of the individual adventures, they are varied and interesting and work well together.  The first four can be played separately if you want and only the last three need to be played together.  The book is 160 pages long, has a softcover and is full color inside.  The adventures here are much more fleshed out and complete compared to The Darkening of Mirkwood which are more like adventure ideas.  More after the break!
The Easterly Inn
Before you go any further there are SPOILERS ahead!  Do not proceed if you plan on playing through these adventurers as a player!  You have been warned!

Here are the seven adventures in the order they appear in the book;

Don't Leave the Path - The heroes rescue a merchant in need and journey from Lake-Town into Mirkwood.  They meet the Elves, some spiders, an old Hermit and a strange creature as old as the woods.  This is a pretty straight forward adventure that gets the PC's tromping through Mirkwood which leads to them discovering why Mirkwood is a place to be feared.

Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbits - Emerging on the western side of Mirkwood the heroes discover the Easterly Inn, an new inn run by Hobbits from the Shire.  They become embroiled in an adventure to locate a lost caravan during which they fight off a wight, survive a desperate battle against a horde of Orcs and journey deep into the Goblin tunnels to save a captured Hobbit.  I like this adventure, the PC's are out in the wild searching for a lost caravan and end up involved in some desperate fights.  It ends with a jaunt into the Goblin tunnels and requires the players to think quick on their feet to save the poor little Hobbit.

Kinstrife & Dark Tidings - The PC's happening upon two dead Beornings starts an adventure that follows the heroes to Beorn's residence and then on a chase to track down a murderer.  The heroes find him in league (or is he?) with a band of outlaws and they must get him out so they can return him to Beorn for justice.  Once they have him in their possession they find out the outlaws are planning on attacking the Beornings and the heroes must save the day!  The adventure ends with a mighty battle and then a trial with the PC's speaking for or against the murderer.  There are some good role-playing opportunities here, overall a solid adventure!

Irime of the House Gil-Galad
Those Who Tarry No Longer - The PC's encounter a group of Elves along the edge of Mirkwood forest, this group includes Legolas who is escorting Irime of the House Gil-Galad to the High Pass.  Harried by Orcs they ask the heroes to to escort the lady while they hunt down the Orcs packs.  As the fellowship travels Irime recalls bits and pieces of history that she experienced long, long ago.  The heroes come under attack from a group of Orcs and are saved by the Eagles (gotta love those Eagles!).  Once back on the road the party is drawn into a dream state as Irime wrestles with a spirit in the darkness.  The players find themselves thrust back hundreds of years, living as men of a different age.  They come under attack and are captured by forces of the Necromancer where they are subjected to sickness, betrayal and death.  Little do they know that this dream state is the spirits way of attempting to break their spirits and the choices they make in this dream may have an outcome on Irime's battle with the spirit.  This is an interesting adventure, its very different and would take a mature and experienced Loremaster and players to really make it sing.  Its a neat idea, I've read that some players really like it while others find it confusing and lackluster.  I think it all comes down to the Loremaster on this one!

A Darkness in the Marshes -  The following three adventures are linked together to bring the campaign to a close.  This adventure sees the heroes meeting with the wizard Radagast, he sends them on a mission to find out what is causing the stirring up of evil spirits and recent attacks by Orcs all across Wilderland.  The fellowship travels to the Mountain Hall where they gain some information and help to defend against an incursion of goblins.  Armed with this new information they head south across the marshes to the Dwimmerhorn where they discover a secret weapon and plot by the Enemy.  Fleeing across the marshes they are hunted by packs of Orcs and return to the Mountain Hall where once again they come under attack.  Another solid adventure that has the PC's tromping all over Wilderland.  There are some good role-playing opportunities at Rhosgobel and the Mountain Hall and lots of action once they are out in the field.
The Crossing of Celduin - THIS IS SPARTA!  This is the story of how 300 oiled and chiseled Spartan warriors held back the Persian hoards at the battle of Thermopylae, oh wait wrong story.  The heroes are back in Dale/Lake-town for the five year celebration of the Battle of the Five Armies.  They get to complete in the festivities at Riddle-games, Song-contests, games of chance and the Archery, Strength and Riding contests.  Last but not least is The Melee, a brutal free for all with only one winner!  Its almost like the Middle-earth Olympics!  Que the theme music!

Anyway, someone poisons all of the warriors at the gathering and then word arrives that an Orc army is on the march from Southern Mirkwood.  The characters get to interact with the Grey Pilgrim before heading out to try and delay said army at the town of Celduin, they only place that the Orcs can cross the river.  It's your small Fellowship and the poor townies defending the only bridge that crosses the river against a large force of nassty, nassty Orcs.  I guess my Sparta reference earlier in the piece is somewhat applicable.  How long the party holds out helps to determine how well the Free Peoples fair against this Orc incursion.  This is definitely the most war-like scenario out of the bunch.  There's some nice role-playing opportunities at the Middle-earth Olympics at the beginning of the scenario and then a few more once the heroes reach Celduin where they need to try and convince the locals to help out in the defense of their town.  From there on out its going to be battle, battle, battle with the heroes taking charge of and preparing the defenses and then holding out against wave after wave of the enemy.  It's definitely different in feel from the previous scenarios which is nice but I have a feeling it would be a dice fest towards the end!

The Watch on the Heath -The final scenario in the book!  We are in the home-stretch!  The Fellowship is back in Dale after the battle against the Orcs when they are summoned by King Dain under the Mountain.  The heroes are told that information has been stolen from the Chamber of Records by an NPC that showed up in a previous adventure (I won't name names, I don't want to give to much away).  This information is regarding an abandoned Dwarven Watchtower in the wastelands north of Erebor.  King Dain asks them to seek out information and find out what is going on.  This adventure involves a journey through the wasteland and then a final confrontation with some big baddies which culminates in a tough battle for the PC's.  Its a solid adventure that brings about a satisfying conclusion.  I won't give away any more details here as I don't want to ruin the big finale.

This is a fantastic product and a really nice set of adventures.  Jon Hodgson again does a large amount of the art in the book, his work really sells this new vision of Middle-earth for me.  While not as epic as the The Darkening of Mirkwood (nor is it quite as long) this book is much more complete and ready to play as the adventures are fully fleshed out.  This is a great starting place (after the starter scenario The Marsh Bell in the core rule-book) to get your Fellowship up and running.  Pick this book up, its great!

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