The Awakening of the Wyrms is a role playing campaign set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the early years of the 4th Age. Using locations and creatures from Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) this alternative history involves the awakening of the Dragons of the Withered Heath and the subsequent havoc they wreak on the north.
The narrative has been created by extrapolating on pre-existing ideas formulated by others: specifically Tolkien; the game-developers at Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.) in their RPG, Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP); and the awesome Queen of Shadows plot-line by Anders Blixt (https://gondica.wordpress.com/). This 4th age campaign also includes some ideas from a wonderful PBEM chronicle “The War for Mount Gundabad” by Scott Metz (http://www.geocities.ws/scott_metz/), describing adventurers involved in besieging Mount Gundabad.
Familiarity with the works of Tolkien and I.C.E.’s Middle Earth Role Playing will make following the ‘Wyrms’ narrative easier. However, MERP familiarity is not essential if you can presuppose that there are items of power hidden in Middle Earth and other Dragons quietly residing in the Withered Heath.
On that note be advised that I have also taken liberties with the Tolkien canon in that the free folk do not live happily-ever-after in the 4th age. Astute Tokienites will note other heresies but I hope they can bear with me and/or insert their own alternate narrative workarounds. Also note that the Queen of Shadows Campaign is set in FA 151 whereas this outline starts at approximately FA 30 to make use of familiar characters from Lord of the Rings. A few name changes should easily convert this narrative to a later time.
A powerful Evil Noldo Mind Mage is scheming to gain control of North West Middle Earth. She acquires the two lost Palantiri of Forochel. Using the Palantir the Mage learns of an ancient evil relic of Morgoth within Mount Gundabad. Her spies also discover a valley in the Grey Mountains that has a Dragon repelling enchantment. The Sorceress uses the Palantir to guide the Orcs of Gundabad in effective raids upon the free folk of northern Eriador and Rhovanion. These raids eventually provoke a response…
Gondor and Rohan send armies north on a twin pronged assault on Gundabad. Troops from realms across the north are sent to assist in the coordinated purging of the Goblin fortress.
The Sorceress journeys to Gundabad ahead of converging armies. She steals the relic of Morgoth and flees east to the Dragon resistant valley. Using powerful magicks, the relic, and the Palantir, the Enchantress manages to relocate the valley’s dweomer so it is over the Withered Heath. She drives the awoken Dragons south and west into inhabited lands.
The allied armies are drawing up outside Gundabad when the Dragons attack! Mighty deeds and terrible losses ensue: folk across the north endure upheaval as populations relocate or fortify against the scourge of the Wyrms.
Using this campaign:
The campaign can be played during the progress of these events in an attempt by players to prevent the sorceress unleashing the Dragons, or limiting the outcome. Alternately the Campaign can be played after these events as the world comes to terms with the new order and aligns forces to counter (or take advantage of) the ravages of the Wyrms.
Middle Earth role-playing supplements offer most of the statistics and details of adversaries and locations mentioned herein, however the narrative is easy to adapt to most RPG rule sets.
Major campaign suppositions:
- 2 Arnorian Palantiri lost with King Arvedui in Third Age 1975 in the Ice Bay of Forochel can be recovered (cf MERP Rangers of the North, Arnor – The Land).
- The mountain valley of Uthrael Beoac (cf MERP The Grey Mountains) is suspiciously uninhabited by Dragons. I have extrapolated that the Wind Thrones, built in the valley by the Edain in the 1st Age, project a magical field that repels Dragons.
- The evil gem, the Ulûkai of Morgoth (cf MERP Mount Gundabad) channels the presence of the great enemy and as such can be used to rouse Dragons from their languid state.
- The existence of Aelindur, an evil Noldo mage able to manipulate minds and use powerful artefacts. She is Sauron’s Daughter and thus half Maia as per the Queen of Shadows campaign. Unlike Blixt’s Queen, she has two children who are also powerful mages.
If you can swallow these suppositions then please proceed to the narrative immediately below and/or go to the summarised timeline in Resources/ideas for 4th Age games
1-Awakening of the Wyrms -The Legacy of the Enemy
Aelindur, a very powerful Elvish mage and daughter of Annatar/Sauron, is trying to upset the balance of Fourth Age power. Born to Celebrimbor’s sister in second Age Eregion, Aelindur eventually was brought to the shores of Nurnen in Mordor. She was tutored personally by Sauron and mastered sorcery and herb lore. Over the centuries she became skilled at behind-the-scenes manoeuvring and ran many of Mordor’s spy rings. She is a supremely talented enchantress with a speciality in mind manipulating magicks. Aelindur has birthed at least two immortal children over the ages. Her Half Elf daughter Calindel, sired by a Black Numenorean, has followed in her mother’s footsteps as a powerful sorceress. Her son Fytaris, a fey and feral hybrid Half Elf/Half Orc, was sired by an Uruk Hai at Sauron’s insistence. He too has mastered the magical arts and is also a deadly assassin.
After the fall of Barad-dur at the end of the 3rd age, Aelindur left the province of Nurn and drifted westward into Gondor, contacting and reactivating old spies. Aelindur now lives near a small fishing village at the mouth of the Gwathlo. From an unassuming cottage she operates a large spy network, making alliances with realms hostile to Gondor throughout Middle Earth.
Her contacts in Minas Tirith informed Aelindur of the discovery of the lost Arnorian Palantiri in the Ice bay of Forochel. She dispatched minions who successfully intercept the recovery mission and steal the priceless orbs. As one of the most powerful Elves left in Middle Earth and being half Maia, Aelindur quickly masters the seeing stones. Gondorian seers detect the use of the Palantiri and begin to glimpse some of what she is looking at. Aelindur is careful to shade her face from view and only King Elessar can wrest control of her Palantir away. The Shadow Queen merely resumes use when he is absent. Her two children, both powerful evil mages, are trained in the Palantir’s use. The King puts minds to work on tracking down this sorceress, whilst pondering her interest in the north.
Aelindur sees opportunities in the Grey Mountains. Her Half Orc son, Fytaris, is sent as an emissary to Mount Gundabad with the smaller stone. Aelindur has also recently learned, via an informant in Aradhrynd (Thranduil’s Halls), that the vale of Uthrael Beoac, high in the Ered Mithrin, contains ancient thrones that project a Dragon repelling aura. Calindel, the Shadow Queen’s daughter, is sent to investigate the Wind Thrones.
Fytaris is able to ingratiate himself with the wary rulers of Gundabad. His skill with a blade, orkish heritage and sorcerous talents serve him well in the mountain. Via the Palantiri, Aelindur advises the Goblin King, the Ashdurbûk of Gundabad, on likely targets for raids. The Goblins of the Misty Mountains begin uncanny strikes at settlements in the Anduin Vales and Arthedain. Warg riders even raid as far afield as Dale and Celebannon. These successes establish Fytaris as a trusted advisor in Gundabad politics.
Reports begin to reach Gondor of the increasing Goblin attacks. Visiting emissaries and factions in the court begin to agitate for action: namely a military expedition to the north, possibly to besiege Gundabad and/or Goblin Gate. Some of these agitators are the Sons of Denethor, a secretly dissatisfied faction in Gondorian politics and part of a cult Aelindur has fostered over the last few decades. This cult has grown in Gondor and Umbar and focusses on human desire for Elf-like immortality. It is similar to the ideas which brought down Numenor but now also heralds the arrival of the Moon Queen who can prolong life. Aelindur plans to use these people to help put her on the throne after a sequence of disasters befall the West, notably: decimating the Gondorian army; assassinating the royal line; and instigating rebellions in Dunland, Umbar and Harad.
Using the Palantir, Aelindur searches out likely Dragon lairs around the Withered Heath. Over many months she remotely guides several exploration teams in an attempt to convince the Dragons to attack the free peoples. The brave teams approach several Dragons Aelindur deems viable prospects: Throkmaw, Bairanax and Itangast. Only Bairanax seems interested and only versus his hated foes, the Beornings. The other teams are eaten. Aelindur notes the general sluggishness of the beasts and realises they must be roused. The sorceress puts the Dragon idea on hold and withdraws the remaining team to Sarn Goriwing (a fortress in the Mountains of Mirkwood) via Esgaroth.
The sorceress continues to use the Palantir to coordinate with Gundabad’s Ashdurbûk and High Priest. Her son Fytaris notices the Ashdurbûk’s uncanny control of the Goblin legions and senses an unusually strong source of evil in the Orc fortress. Aelindur reads the Goblin ruler’s mind and discovers that Gundabad has harboured a great secret. The Ulûkai, Morgoth’s Gem, a very powerful 1st age relic, resides there.
Goblins raids are further guided by Aelindur: the Firing of Lorien (part of the forest is burnt in a raid and many Elves are ambushed as the Orcs feign retreat); Rivendell is probed; Archet in Breeland is attacked by Warg riders; and precise raiding interrupts trade along the Great East road on either side of the mountains. This eventually prompts a response from the united free peoples…
The Conference of Rivendell is held. Delegations from Ered Luin, Arthedain, Lorien, Dale, Laketown, Erebor, Aradhrynd, Rohan and Gondor all attend, along with individuals from Beorning & Woodmen communities and even Bree and the Shire. These emissaries from the free folk assemble and decide on a concerted strategy to eradicate the Goblins.
The North is to be armed. Eriador and Rhovanion will contribute to the purging of the mountains. Small way-station forts are to be built at locations along the Great East road: Midgewater, Oiolad, Mitheithel Bridge, Tirthon (mid Rhudaur), either side of the High Pass, Anduin ford, Woods-edge, Mid-Mirk. The wooden forts are constructed by Arthedain, the Dwarfs, Beornings and Woodmen. Intelligence from Rivendell and Lorien indicates the bulk of the attackers are coming from Gundabad. A major strike against the mountain is also planned for spring of the next year.
Meanwhile Aelindur receives word from the exploration team led by Calindel. Her daughter was sent months ago to investigate the Grey Mountain vale of Uthrael Beoac. The explorers ascended Cirith Himminond and entered the hidden valley. Through sorcery
they placated the Werewolf and Warg pack that dwells there and after careful investigation unlocked the secret of the Thryn Suel (Wind Thrones). The Edain built magical thrones that amplify area affect dweomers: specifically weather control and Dragon repulsion! Aelindur suspects that using a Palantir in conjunction with the Thrones will allow the repulsion field to be moved to a different location. If this fails she will personally visit Bairanax and ‘convince’ him to assail the free peoples.
Aelindur soon hears of the results of the Conference of Rivendell and the planned attack on Mount Gundabad. She decides it is time to throw the dice. The Queen of the Shadows will journey to the Orc fortress. She hopes to steal Morgoth’s Gem and use it to rouse the Dragons and then activate the Thryn Suel to attempt to move the Dragons south.
Continued in Part 2