Warning: This report will spoil the adventure. I will also include my thoughts as the GM. (The aim of this report is to make it useful to other GMs who want to run this scenario for their group.)
[Spoilers for 'Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit']The characters are:
- Gain, the Dwarf scholar;
- Merian, the Hobbit wanderer;
- Asgard, the Beorning scholar; and
- Grigori, the Hobbit treasure-hunter.
After being paid by Baldor, the party packed up and went south, and after a day of travel they found The Easterly Inn. Lots of good roleplaying here while meeting Dody the Hobbit innkeeper, and it was fun to see the players unwind after the long trip. Agatha, Dody's wife, prepared rooms for them -- and there was some hilarity when she assumed that the two Hobbits in the party, Grigory and Merian, were a couple and put them in the Hobbit hole with the queen sized bed... They decided not to correct her and make do with it. Gain and Asgard would share a normal room.
The Hobbits were also offered a bath, which they gladly took. (Agatha didn't bother asking the Dwarf and Beorning, because they're rough folk who won't know how to appreciate a bath...)
Then, after the copious dinner ("...and this is your second main dish..."), there was some time to chat up the other patrons. Talk of Goblins on the High Pass over the Misty Mountains seemed to make Dody the innkeeper, quite nervous!
As the other patrons left or went to sleep, Dody befriended the heroes with just the right beverage, and then asked their assistance in finding his brother Dinodas ('Dindy') who had gone to Bree to buy provisions and additional finger bowls. With talk about Goblins at the High Pass, Dody was worried and wanted capable fellows like the heroes to see if they could find him. Gain the Dwarf needed some convincing to help, but with the promise that the group could set up a small trading post within the inn's compound, he saw the light and they decided to set off the next morning -- somewhere between elevenses and lunch.
Their route to the Old Ford took them along Beorn's house, and the group decided to pay their respects to him (and to get his permission to come back with their trade goods). Merian the Hobbit managed an Extraordinary Success on her Courtesy roll, and Asgard the Beorning's Awe roll also helped to make the local population take to the group. They spoke Beorn only briefly, and were allowed to sleep in one of the barns.
(Oddly enough, meeting Beorn and staying there for the night is a plot point only in the next scenario, so I had not prepared for this. But looking at the map, it's really obvious that player heroes would go there at this moment -- even if only to enquire as to Goblin activity or Hobbit trade caravans. It would have been better if the scenario provided some guidance for this. Sure, I can improvise (and I did), but still.)
The next day, they traveled on towards the Old Ford. the party paid the toll to cross the Ford and asked the guards about the trade caravan led by a Hobbit, but they had not seen Dody's caravan come back from the west. After one day of travel westwards from the Old Ford, the group found a grassy knoll -- much drier than the swampy surroundings, and judging from the traces of camp fires, a popular spot to spend the night. And so the group camped out.
During the first watch, Shanker approached the fire. Asgard the Beorning, who was on watch, saw him coming (thanks in part to the perception bonus from his newly acquired 'Brother to Bears') and hailed him. Asgard was satisfied that Shanker did not intend to harm the group. Shanker joined them at the fire and started smoking his pipe, which woke up Grigory the Hobbit. Shanker told them he had used the diversion the caravan created to slip by the goblin watchers unnoticed, and he was pretty proud of that cunning trick. They did not much like the way Shanker spoke of the caravan nor the fact that he did not warn them, but they left it at that. During her watch, Merian the Hobbit used her knowledge of herbology to created a scented powder from her herb stores to sprinkle over Shanker's feet and in his boots, to counter the smell...
The next morning, Grigory made breakfast (but not for Shanker), and when he told them again about the caravan, Merian told him she was not impressed with the way he handled that. He just shrugged, got up and with a theatrical bow was on his way to the east.
During the second day, Gain the Dwarf let his raven scout ahead in search for the caravan. Towards the end of the day, the raven returned to him to tell about the ruins of an old town that seemed like a likely camping spot, and that's where the group ended up. The town square was a popular camping spot: open and with enough space, and close to a small river for water. Everybody (except Asgard -- even Gain made his Awareness roll by getting a Gandalf rune!) felt uneasy in the town square, so Grigory scouted a different spot, and he found the remains of the inn -- the flagstones under the hearth would make a good spot for their campfire.
(And they'll return here in the fourth scenario when escorting the Elf, so that'll be cool!)
Wanting to know more about what was so 'wrong' about that place, the group scouted the river-side. Grigory got an extraordinary success, and he spotted something glinting in the mud. But after his unlucky episode with the Thing in the Well in Mirkwood, he was unwilling to go near anything that was glittering in mud. The raven was sent to check it out from above, and he reported seeing gems or silver.
Merian and Gain went to check it out, with Grigory and Asgard providing ranged cover. After poking around in the mud, Merian found the remains of the warrior that was killed by the Wight, as well as a silver torc set with three glittering jewels -- worth 3 Treasure Points. (And big enough for her to wear as a crown...) When she took it to the rest of the group, Grigory felt a pang of jealousy...
That night, they felt a menacing presence somewhere by the river (again with some great Awareness rolls), but as the night progressed, it faded.
(With the last of its victims being dug up, there was nothing to keep the Wight bound to this place. And the party needs to camp here again during the fourth scenario too, which they would be unwilling to do if there were still ghosts around.)
The next morning, they set off early: only one more day to get to the High Pass! Early in the afternoon they spot a wounded pony, with a goblin arrow sticking out of it's behind! They catch the pony, remove the arrow and leave it to roam the area. Perhaps they'll find it when they return, perhaps not.
Then, towards dusk, they find Dinodas' trade caravan! It's holed up at a ringfort on top of a hill, with a big fire in the middle for light. Dindy is frantic and useless, and his guards are either inexperienced or wounded from a poisoned Goblin arrow... They are alarmed when the heroes appear seemingly out of nowhere, but is relieved when they turn out to be friendlies, and especially when they are friendlies sent out to assist them! The caravan guards post themselves at the north entrance to the fort, and the party will take care of the southern end. Grigory sits in the middle, ready to offer supporting fire with his bow to either side, when necessary. After the Orc leader's challenge and the group's defiant roar in return, combat begins!
At first, the group cuts through the 8 Goblin Archers without too much problem. Gain the Dwarf thought of a new combat task: taunt, a sort of inverse intimidate. When in an Open stance, he rolled for Inspire to get the opposition to target him -- his chainmail and shield make him hard to hit.
Asgard the Beorning also made good use of the intimidate task, and even managed to score an extraordinary success when confronting the second wave, sending all four Goblin Archers fleeing in terror, leaving only the Orc Soldier. But after he got Wounded from a lucky Goblin knife, his effectiveness decreased markedly... He did manage to Wound two Goblins, the only character to do so in this fight.
Merian the Hobbit, who is the most courteous and popular character in the group, turned into a blood-craving maniac... again. I don't know what it is with her and fights, but she kept tearing into the Goblins in forward stance, with great effect. She also assisted Grigory the Hobbit when a Goblin sneaked past the allies and attacked him. Together, they offed the gob before it could do damage.
Meanwhile, the allies kept the north entrance relatively secure, and even managed to kill an Orc in the second round!
As the fourth wave was already marching up the path, Grigory the Hobbit kept close to the fire and provided covering fire with his bow. He kept an eye out on how things were going with the caravan guards who stood their ground at the north end -- luckily, no-one died and they did a good job in keeping the ringfort secure! Asgard the Beorning even managed to wound an Orc (his second this fight), but it was Merian the Hobbit who turned out to be the MVP of the battle -- like so many battles before. She went all-out on the Goblins, but then she got wounded by a lucky Goblin... This put Gain the Dwarf in a murderous rage (Merian is his Fellowship Focus), so he went beserk on that Goblin. This left him open to attacks (and that opportunity was seized!), so he cooled off really quickly!
Meanwhile, Grigory heard some scratching noises coming from a pile of stones in the middle of the fort. ("Quick of Hearing" and a Great Success on an Awareness roll will do that to you!) He flicked a burning branch from the pyre into the hole under the stones, and the scratching stopped -- but when the wood went out, the scratchings returned. This time, Grigory enlisted the help of the terrified Dindy to throw burning material down the hole and to keep it burning. Dindy, happy to have something to do to keep his mind off the terrible things that could happen -- even something that would help! -- then threw handsfull of tinder and wood from smashed-up crates in the hole. That fire kept the Goblins who would otherwise abduct him, at bay!
Again, a good roll and quick thinking ensured that my players did not get to experience a part of the scenario!
Then, just as there was still a single Orc of the fourth wave standing, Ubhurz climbed the low wall of the ringfort and announced his presence by bellowing a challenge! Gain sprinted to him and kept him occupied, while Asgard and Merian finished off the remaining Orc. (They both went for Forward stances to maximise their chances, and their gamble paid off.) Then they assisted Gain in his fight against Ubhurz. He proved no match to the combined might of the party: in the second round, he went down and the fight was won!
(The fight doesn't seem that hard to me. With careful management of who takes which stance, the group was able to whittle away the opposition without getting into a pile of Goblins. Having both Merian and Asgard wounded was just the result of a few lucky rolls, not because the attack was overwhelming.)
After the battle, Iwgar wanted to move towards the valley as soon as possible, but the party insisted on treating Asgard and Merian first, and making some relaxing tea! Iwgar soon found out that he was no match for three very insistent Hobbits... Then, as dawn was breaking, they set off to the valley, and managed to reach the Inn unmolested!
(Again, officially you'd have to do Travel rolls here as well. But there's no dramatic reason to do so, so I skipped those.
I'm kind-of sad that we missed pursuing the abducted Dindy through the caves -- that would have been fun. But Grigory did excellent work to keep the goblins out of the ringfort. So again, a chunk of the scenario prevented by roleplaying and good rolls, which is not so bad after all. I might use the cave expedition in a later scenario.)
We're having a Fellowship Phase at the Easterly Inn. All the heroes will use that time for the "Open New Sanctuary" phase. I'll have them spend some Treasure to buy materials to build their own trading post on the grounds of the Inn. And of course there will be time to advance the characters. Asgard's player will be rebuilding him into a Slayer -- because that's what his role in the party is. And Grigory's player will be absent for two months due to work obligations, so Grigory will man the store while the rest goes out adventuring!