Yes, there are problems that need addressing with the Awakening of the Wyrms 4th age campaign…
- Why didn’t Sauron call forth the Dragons in the Third Age? Well, he never positioned a Palantir at Gundabad so never discovered the Ulûkai (Morgoths Gem). He also never discovered the secret of Uthrael Beoac. Perhaps he also was not keen on using Dragons as they were such a loose cannon that could not be trusted without a legion of Balrogs to police them?
- Why Uthrael Beoac? It always fascinated me that I.C.E. (in their Northern Mirkwood and Grey Mountains campaign books) set up this classic adventure location and then never detail it. The internet has few a few fleeting expansions on the little detail MERP provided: see the Middle-earth Role Playing Wiki (http://merp.wikia.com/wiki/Uthrael_Beoac). This valley seems to have been habitable, despite being high in the Grey Mountains, and there are ruins, tombs, stone circles etc but no Dragons actually live in there. Suspicious. Hence I have extrapolated that the Wind Thrones moderate the weather and repel Dragons. The original Edain protected themselves from the Wyrms but it was Orcs cutting the pass access and Werewolves entering the valley that drove them out. Itangast does have Sulthol (the Wind Helm) in his hoard but I will assume this was plundered from another visitor to Uthrael Beoac in the distant past.
- Aelindor needs a lot of items! A Palantir (or two), a Vampire Cloak, Morgoth’s Gem and the Wind Thrones seem like a lot of relics to have in the tool kit? Yep- item use is fairly integral to LotR so I am running with it. The Mount Gundabad (ICE, MERP) item list is an amazing grab bag of goodies in one location for the upwardly mobile dark lord. It also has the obvious (but unused) solution for Aelindor – the modest Dragon Helm (+40% to charm a Dragon) on the Captain of the Drake Gate. I liked the irony that, despite all her achievements, Aelindur never finds out about this “lesser item”. Feel free to tweak the story to use the Dragon Helm instead of my convoluted Wind Throne set up. I just preferred the larger idea of a Dragon ‘migration’ as opposed to one worm at a time dribbling down to the south.
- Can a Palantir actually be used to position the Dragon repulsion ward? Can the ward even be moved from the valley? I envision the Thrones to be magical emplacements, like Amon Hen, giving a powerful user scrying ability across the valley (some 35 miles long) thus allowing the ward to be sighted in. This ability combined with a Palantir should make for a very powerful combo. The Thrones are charged up at each equinox by stone circles in the valley: enchanted faceted crystals are placed atop a central sarsen stone and reflect light to the Thrones. The user in the ‘hot seat’ mentally sights the ward across the valley (or elsewhere with the Palantir). OK, I am drawing a magical, mumbo-jumbo long bow here. Palantiri also typically needed to be oriented properly to be used. Aelindur was trained by Sauron, possibly even in Palantir use. She is a 4000+ year old Noldo-half Maia and a kick ass sorcerer in her own right. She can do it.
- Why are the Dragons so killable? Lowly Fourth age Elves, Dwarfs and Humans seem to be dropping Wyrms relatively easily! These Drakes are not the huge primary brood of Angband but generally lesser Dragons that have been absent from the nurturing hand and influence of their creator Morgoth for thousands of years. Smaug, as portrayed in the recent films, is considerably larger than the Dragons of MERP, the largest of which is only 30 metres long. Dragons also have personalities that affect their judgement. Angurth hates Dwarfs and Bairanax hates the Beijabar leading them both into ill -considered close combats. Some mighty lords and heroes still dwell in Middle Earth at this time and in this very region. Celeborn and Thranduil are truly ancient beings, probably with experience fighting Dragons, and are no doubt kitted out with enchanted weaponry and other items. There would be other unnamed Elvish warriors with similar lethal abilities- imagine how deadly an army of these nimble fiends would be. Along with the Elves, the Great Eagles also fought Dragons in the First Age. No doubt a coordinated flock could do so again, albeit at great risk. The Beorning capacity to transform into giant bears is another very powerful counter if able to come to grips in sufficient numbers. Lastly note that these Dragons are attacking armies and/or fortresses that are ready to fight. Throw enough spears and eventually some will hit their mark.
- Why don’t the Dragons immediately return to their coveted hoards in the Grey Mountains? Some Dragons do return and some transfer their stash from the old lairs to new ones. I suspect that the repulsion ward combined with the aura of Morgoth (from the Ulûkai) turns some off the idea. Also after eons of inactivity the Wyrms are rediscovering their strength and this, more than loot, is a powerful turn on. Remember Smaug’s glee at town baiting – he was actually enjoying himself. It is awake time for the Dragons now!
Additonal information/ GM’s notes here: Resources/ideas for 4th Age games