In the Trollshaws. Ep01.

So I’m back into MERP, but this time with another twist. I might be using parts of the Harnmaster Campaign tables.
For the Oracle, I will be using a modified MUNE/RECLUSE Hack, similar to the one I used in my Dash Kile episode.
I’ll follow up on my rule of player driven game. So I have three premade characters, which according to the MERP game, have the following motivations.

Leowyn: Rohirim shield maiden. She wants to find her lover’s murderer.
Camthalion: Sindarin archer. He wants to find what happened to his missing twin brother.
Dwalin: He wants to recover a magic hammer, as a life-debt to a fellow dwarf.

Now I could try to run a dialogue for these and see who persuades the other, but instead I’ll go with some metagaming here. If these three characters were played by three different players, it would be the players discussing what they would want to do next. So, in terms of where they are and how I want the adventure to go forward, I’ll choose Dwalin’s objective as the party objective.
Some more details for the reader: The hammer was lost in the fray on a fight with Hill Trolls in the Coldfells. Bain, the dwarf to whom Dwalin owes his life, believes the hammer is in a troll lair somewhere in Rhudaur.

Here comes the meta knowledge. There is a sample adventure in the MERP core rulebook, regarding the Trollshaws in Rhudaur. Maybe I can combine the two. I’ll have the party move north to Rhudaur in search for the hammer, and then they will visit the inn where they will learn about the sample adventure. That is if the Oracle and the random encounter rolls allow it…

I’ll start off by using the Connections from BOLD, to create an overlay for some interesting discussions between the part members.
I roll the following:

action gerund subject
impart avoiding allies
ponder divulging a love
scrutinize avoiding a posession

Continuing from the previous session the month is Hithui, the location is the Inhyrst keep in north Eriador. The party is in the inn, having breakfast.

Q: Is everything as expected?
A: Yes

I’ll get some information from donjon to generate the Inn.
The inn is called the Hero and Flask.
Location: On Iron Side, southwest of an outcrop of carved stone. The street outside is strewn with debris from a broken barrel.
Description: The inn is a simple wooden shack, with a single salvaged stone wall and only a few crude tables and benches. Accomodations consist of a single large room with wooden cots. The inn is unusually noisy, as a company of dwarven miners sings drinking songs.
Innkeeper: The innkeeper is a timid female human named Finde. She has an identical twin, who works opposite shifts.

I’ll stop here since the rest of the information might or might not become relevant.

Dwalin clears his throat as if to make an announcement. Then, with as much seriousness as a dwarf can muster, which is a lot, he speaks to his companions.
“I saw how you fought those goblins in the tower. I could use your skills in my quest. We… we make a good team together, wouldn’t you say?”
“And what exactly is your quest, master dwarf?” Camthalion asks.
“I’m seeking a legendary hammer. It’s said to have slain a Dragon! I believe it’s a bit to the north of here. In Rhudaur, and have reason to believe it’s… in a troll lair.” Dwalin answers anxiously.
“In a troll lair?” Leowyn asks astounded. “I mean, sure we made short work of those goblins, but trolls aren’t to be toyed with.”
Dwalin stresses himself. “Help me with this and we shall split any other reward.”
Camthalion shakes his head. “No. Not good enough. In addition, you will help us in our quests.” He sends a side look to Leowyn, who averts her gaze and looks to the floor. “I’m sure that a Rohirim shield maiden wouldn’t be so far from home if there was no reason? right?”
“You are correct Camthalion.” She quickly changes the subject and turns to Dwalin. “We split the other rewards and you help us afterwards.”
“Alright. Seems fair.” Dwalin agrees.
The party pays rent and breakfast and sets off towards Rhudaur.

Now here I believe that Dwalin managed to ‘impart avoiding allies’. He spoke of his quest (impart), but avoided the part of how it was a life debt to his ally and friend Bain. One connection complete! There should be some bonus Experience Points here.

So, as I have said in the past, MERP is a game of serious bookkeeping. Let’s see how much did b&b cost.
3 light meals (18 tin pieces) and 3 poor lodgings (3 copper pieces) for a total of 4 cp and 8 tp

So I’ll start having a party pool. They had earned 10 sp and 12 cp in the last adventure. This leaves them with 10 sp, 7 cp and 2 tp.

Weather: Standard temperate weather. 30F = -1C. It’s cold!

Q: Is Rhudaur far away?
A: No, and, it’s very close
I’ll call it and say it’s one day’s ride. (8 hours, slow ride=30 miles). They can probably walk it within one day if they walk for 12 hours. Leòwyn has a horse but since the other two walk, I’m taking their speed as the lowest.
So I’ll use the Harnmaster Encounter tables.

First Watch: Day: No Encounter
Second Watch: Day: No Encounter
Third Watch: Night: Encounter
So it’s Night and Lawless. It’s a Forester: Camping/Seeking Lodgings/etc.
I roll 1d100 on the friendlyness: 46: He’s distant.

I’ll go with the flow here.

The long winter night has caught up to the company as they still are on the road. Far in the distance they can see some glimmering lights, and they hope it’s an Inn for travelers like them.
As they drag their cold freezing feet, suddenly a figure jumps in from the woods right onto the road.
It’s a sturdy man, with a hatchet resting on his shoulder and a bow worn along his chest.
For a moment noone speaks. The sudden event has caught them all by surprise. They eye each other carefully.
“I’m heading to the inn” The man finally says.
“So are we.” Leowyn replies. “Will there be any trouble?” She asks as she slowly rests her hand on her sword hilt.

I’ll roll on the Interaction and Influence Table. They just want to avoid any combat, but things are tense. Yet the other side doesn’t have the advantage so, I’ll give a +30 Routine Bonus.
50+30=80: Partial Success. Your audience is still listening.
11+30=41: Failure.
So, they won’t walk together, but there is no fight either.

“Move on, move on and keep your hands where I can see them” the man says.
The party grumbles, and they feel uneasy walking forward with the man behind them, but he doesn’t immediately follow. He leaves a safe distance between them and then starts walking in a slow pace.
Soon, the lights are closer, and the walls of an inn are distinct to the fair night vision of the dwarf and the elf. Leowyn only sees it when she comes much closer.

I realized that when I rolled on the Highway Encounter tables and got the Reroll on Wilderness/Rural result, I should have chosen Wilderness, but instead rolled at 50/50 and got Rural, hence the roll on the Rural table and the forester. Retrospectively, the Wilderness result would fit better, but maybe to the south of the inn, Rhudaur is Rural instead of Wilderness, so that would make some sense. Anyhow, when the group starts searching around in the Trollshaws it’s going to be Wilderness fullly.

The inn stands on the eastern bank of the river.
“That’s Mitheithel. The waters are cold through the entire year, but it never freezes.” Camthalion tells his group.
“The Last Inn”. Leowyn reads out loud the sign at the inn entrance. She guides her horse to the stable, while her other two companions get inside.

Q: Is everything as expected?
A: Yes, and, it’s business as usual.

A young man comes quickly toward Leowyn. “Go inside ma’am. I’ll take care of your horse. It’s very cold to stay outside. Warm yourself by the fire. Have some mead. My mother makes the best mead in Rhudaur.”
Leowyn smiles softly. “Take good care of her.” She says, as she gives the reins to the young man.
Inside, the fire is burning, and several guests are spread around the common room and bar.
As Camthalion and Dwalin head towards the bar, followed by Leowyn, the innkeeper turns to them. “Rubb Grumm. Food and lodging?”
“Yes, get us some warm meals. We’ll be seated near the fire if possible. We’d also like to arrange for some accommodations with separate bedding.” Dwalin tells the innkeeper.
“Get yourself seated, and we’ll come to you shortly. Something to drink? Mead perhaps?” Rubb adds.
“A pint will be good.” Leowyn replies before Dwalin gets a chance.

So, the adventure states that the first time traveller will notice a gloom in the air. Since my question ‘if everything is as expected, was a ‘Yes, And’ I’ll consider this readily available information, and not roll Perception or something similar.

A younger woman, probably Rubb’s daughter, from the resemblance, serves them the mead, as soon as they are seated. Her eyes are throbbing.
Leowyn asks. “Are you alright?”
“Haven’t you heard?” she asks. “Of course not, how should you? You just arrived. My brother, Leddon has gone missing a week now, in the trollshaws.” She sobs.
Dwalin just looks at her. He knows trolls rarely mean good news.
She composes herself. “Forgive me. My name is Minna. You look like you can handle yourselves. If you care to, my parents are giving a reward if you find my brother. 2 gold pieces.”
At the sound of gold, Dwalin’s eyes shine. “That’s a fair amount. How would we know who your brother is?”
“He… he has a distinctive ring made of bone, carved in the shape of a calf rearing in its hind legs. And… and a birth mark on his hind leg. I hope you can find him.” She answers, as soon as her mother yells at her to get back to work.

Okay, now I want to see if there are any of the regulars at the inn.
So, there are Turlin, Goldang and Grepp. Maybe other people are around as well.

“We should ask around to see if we can learn anything more about this Leddon fellow. Who knows, maybe if trolls have gotten him, maybe he has seen my hammer!” Dwalin proposes. “But.. let’s have some food in our stomachs first.”

So, I’ll roll on the Interaction table, once for each one of them to see if they can gather any more information.
Leowyn: 77
Camthalion: 45
Dwalin: 35
I’ll apply their Presence Bonus and give an additional +20 for an Easy task.
Since there is no generic skill to gather rumors or anything, and I don’t think their missing Influence skill fits the bill, I won’t apply the -25 penalty for not having the respective skill.
So, considering the above, only Leowyn succeeded, having a partial success at 50%.

With that in mind, I’ll give the group knowledge of the generic rumours and about Grepp the drunkard.

At the end of the night, they have filled their bellies and set up in a room on the 2nd floor.
“What did you find out?” Dwalin asks.
“It’s dangerous. Hill trolls are wandering south from the Ettenmoors. People are disappearing every now and then. I believe Leddon is just another one of many. Hillmen and Orcs regularly patrol the forest. I think we’re in the last safe place in this part of the land.” Leowyn tells them.
“Anything else?” Dwalin asks.
“Yes, my ears caught a conversation with allegations from a man named Grepp. He said can procure a map to the castle where bizarre lights have been seen lately. He says there is a lot of treasure to be found there.” Leowyn adds.
“Then let’s get the map!” Dwalin said!
“He… seemed quite drunk, and also asked for 1 gold piece to sell the map.” Leowyn cuts him off.
“Maybe we should find this Leddon fellow first.” Camthalion adds. We’ll have helped this torn family and also get a nice reward to set us up for this map. “What do you say?”
Dwalin and Leowyn nod.

Leowyn doesn’t sleep easily through the night.
As Dwalin snores heavily, Camthalion turns to her.
“What bothers you? Us elves are light sleepers, but given how tired we are, I’d expect you to sleep as heavily as our dwarf friend over here.”
“I’m thinking about my lost love. Argulf. I miss him” Leowyn says, still looking outside the window.
Camthalion doesn’t speak, to allow her to finish her story.
“He was murdered, in Gondor. I will find his murderer and bring justice for Argulf.” She adds.
“This road has led you away from Gondor though.” Camthalion points out.
“I know. Orc raids blocked my passage and I had to flee north. That’s when I met you. Maybe with the strength of our number, once we’re finished in Rhudaur, you will help me.” Leowyn replies.
Camthalion nods. “You seem honorable. I will be glad to join you.”

So now, I’m scratching off the second connection from BOLD. ponder divulging a love.
Only one is left.

Some bookkeeping for the gold spent.

The party pool is at 10 sp, 7 cp and 2 tp, and they drunk a pint of mead (5 tp), 3 normal meals (1 cp each), 3 lodgings with separate bedding (2 cp each), and the stable at 2 tp. The cost total is at 9 cp and 7 tp. This leaves them with 9 sp, 7 cp and 5 tp.

Q: Does anything happen during the night (UL)
A: No, and the night goes on very quiet

So we head off to the Trollshaws to scout for troll lairs for the legendary dragon slaying hammer and Leddon.
But before that, Leowyn must buy some rations
She will buy 1wk worth of trail rations, which cost 1bp.
And I realize I have missed the bronze piece in the economy
So I’m correcting the values from yesterday, and removing the additional 1bp for the 1 week of trail rations
The party pool is at 9sp, 8bp 7cp and 5tp

Dwalin; Tracking: 41+11: 52: Failure. May not try again in the same area in the same day.
Encounters in the first watch:
Activity: -10 (Forest) +25 (Hostile): Roll: 67
Avoidance: +30 (Actively Searching for Something): Roll: 90
No Encounter
2nd watch:
Activity: Roll: 26
Avoidance: Roll: 62
No Encounter

They will set up camp
3rd watch: 86-51=+35: sighting by another group
I will roll up Harnmaster’s encounter tables here: Tracks/Spore/Sounds/etc: I choose Sounds: Mutiny/Dissent/Argument/etc.
Q: Is it an Orc patrol fighting each other?
A: Yes, but, they have seen the party
Q: Are they many?
A: No, and it’s only 2 of them (weak).
Q: Who is standing watch?
A: Leowyn

orcs

After a whole day in the winter, searching for troll tracks without success, the party finally camps at dusk. Leowyn takes the first watch.
The night progresses uneventfully, until suddenly, a ruckus grabs her attention. Rough, wild, barbaric language reaches her ears. She wakes up her companions, just in time, to see two orcs, their blades gleaming in the night, their eyes staring at them.

Q: How do the orcs react?
A: 10: Unfavorably to the characters

The orcs yell something in their language, and charge at the group.

Q: Distance?
A: 60′-300’= 1d6*50’= 60′ Oh crap
Q: Does Dwalin wear his armour?
A: No+Intervention: Advance plot: A hill troll from the group that caught Leddon heard the fuss and is heading this way.

So, in MERP, sequencing is fixed
So, first goes Camthalion, he shoots his bow. Since the bow wasn’t loaded, he suffers a -35 to OB. Range is Short. Roll: 64+48 (OB)+10(IB)-25(Orc DB)-35=62: 0 Damage
Orc1 Moves 60′
Orc2 Moves 60′
Dwalin Holds
Leowyn Holds
Camthalion Moves 10′ back.

Camthalion shoots again: Fumble: 23: Fumble ammunition: Lose this round. -50 to activity next round.
Orc1 attacks Dwalin: 91+35(OB)+5(IB)-30(DB)=101: 15C: Minor Forearm Wound. +4 hits. 2 hits per round. Stunned 1 round.
Orc2 attacks Leowyn: 34+35(OB)-5(IB)-40(DB)=24: 0 Damage
Dwalin: Stunned
Leowyn attacks Orc2: 98+60+38(OB)+15(IB)-25(DB)=186: 30E: Blow to Upper Leg. +8 hits. 2 hits per round. Orc2 is dead due to hit points loss.

Camthalion Loads his bow.
Orc1 attacks Dwalin: 55+35(OB)+5(IB)-30(DB)= 65: 0 Damage
Dwalin attacks Orc1: 95+51(OB)+15(IB)-25(DB)=136: 21E: 100: Blow to Jaw. Drives bone into brain. Dies instantly.

Despite the obvious noise, Dwalin had no time to don his armor. The enemy is too close. He grabbed his mace and his shield, while Camthalion grabs his bow and quiver. In a hurry, Camthalion shoots an arrow and misses. Within moments the orcs are breathing down their necks. Camthalion steps back a few feet and tries once more to hit the enemy, illuminated by the moonlight and the weak camp fire, and misses again. One orc is locked in combat with Dwalin. It’s scimitar finds his forearm and delivers a nasty gash, causing some serious bleeding. Dwalin can’t counter as the pain has gotten him stunned. The other orc tries to attack Leowyn, but the shield maiden blocks with her shield and slashes at him back, thrusting at its leg, a serious wound, bringing the orc down.
Camthalion takes a moment to load his bow now, as the Orc tries again to hit Dwalin. Dwalin, has recovered, and with fury blocks the scimitar with his shield, ducks, and brings his mace up in a circular motion, hitting the orc straight in the face with such strength, that the orc drops down dead at once.

It’s time for the intervention.
The hill troll appears from: NW

troll

A huge moan is heard, and three branches from the tree fall, as a towering figure appears in their rear. In all the fuss, they didn’t pay heed to their surroundings.

Camthalion shoots his bow at the Hill Troll: 96+91+48(OB)+10(IB)-20(DB)= 225: 26E: 66: Fine Leg Strike. +18 hits. 5 hits per round. -20 to activity. Stunned 3 rounds.
Dwalin Moves 40′
Leowyn Moves 40′
Hill Troll is Stunned (2).

Camthalion Loads his bow.
Dwalin attacks Hill Troll: 62+51(OB)+15(IB)-28(OB)-20(DB): 80: 4 Damage.
Leowyn attacks Hill Troll: 98+67+38(OB)+15(IB)-20(DB): 198: 22E: 68: Fine Leg Strike. +18 hits. 5 hits per round. -20 to activity. Stunned 3 rounds.
Hill Troll is Stunned (4).

Camthalion shoots his bow at the Hill Troll: 73+48(OB)+10(IB)-20(DB): 111: 13B: +10 Hits.
The Hill Troll is down!

‘A Troll!’ Leowyn shouts. Camthalion has his bow ready. He aims, and with skill, the arrow pierces the troll’s hide, in the right leg, hitting a tendon. The troll screams out in pain. Who could think such creatures could feel pain.
Leowyn and Dwalin were about to flee, but seeing Camthalion’s hit and how the troll is disoriented, they close up on both sides.
Camthalion takes another arrow from his quiver.
Dwalin tries to hit the creature, but his mace barely manages to bruise it. Leowyn has positioned herself to its flank, and while the troll is busy countering Dwalin, she slashes at the troll’s other leg. The hack is strong, and the troll screams once more. Black blood pouring from both its legs.
Camthalion shoots another arrow, which finds the troll in its chest. The creature tries to grab itself from the tree next to it, but its wounds are too many, and it falls to the ground.

Need to calculate EXP.
For the Orc1:
Dwalin: 242

For the Orc2:
Leowyn: 200

For the Hill Troll:
Camthalion: 600
Dwalin: 0
Leowyn: 150

Dwalin is wounded at 15 Hit Points.

The company looks at each other, in disbelief. Orcs they had met before, but it’s the first time they faced a troll.
They apply a quick bandage and compress to Dwalin’s forearm.
“It’s too many hours to daybreak.” Leowyn says.
“The forest is dangerous, but we can’t risk finding a new campsite at this time of the night.” Camthalion counters.
“Let’s search our foes for signs of Leddon. Maybe you can scout a bit before we go to sleep again.” Dwalin proposes.
“Alright. Let me try to provide some aid to you first.” Camthalion says.

Camthalion casts Heal: 96: RR(-55-70): Success: 10 HP healed!
Risk Factor: 76: No Risk

Q: Is there a sign of Leddon? (UL)
A: No, and, the troll doesn’t carry anything but a huge club

“Maybe we can follow the troll’s tracks in the morning. It won’t be hard to do. Maybe we’ll find its lair.” Dwalin proposes after their search comes up in vain.
“Rest now child of the mountains.” Leowyn tell him.

4th Watch: 105/87: +18: No encounter
5th Watch: 47/28: +19: No encounter
6th Watch: 27/106: -: No encounter

Dwalin has healed 12 more HP. He’s at 37 HP.

The group is following the Hill Troll’s Tracks: I declare a +30 Routine Difficulty, and also there is a +20 bonus since the scout is looking for a specific thing. 18+50+11: 79: Partial success: You gain some information but you’re not aware that you missed something. You may not try again for 1 hour.
1 hour later: 13+50+11: 74: Failure: You may not try again for 1 day.
So the group missed the tracks.

I’ll end my session here.

The rest of the Experience for the session:
Camthalion: 100 for Spellcasting

Idea Points: 646. I’ll split it in half between Dwalin and Leowyn for using the BOLD connections. They get 323 each.

Each party member also gets 15+24= 39 Experience points due to travelling.
Adding up the experience points from the previous adventure, I have the following totals:

Name Experience Points
Camthalion 1548 EP
Leowyn 1337 EP
Dwalin 1219 EP

I’m quite partial to the resolution mechanics of MERP. I’m not quite happy with them. Lots of rolls, and results are quite meh. I’ll keep on to it, but on the back of my mind I have the possibility of converting to Harnmaster (and Mythras last after Harnmaster).
Further delving into d100, it is evident that the rolls aren’t that robust as in D6 with the dice pools probability curves. Modifiers play a huge role here, and even then nothing is guaranteed.
I was so lucky against the troll, but couldn’t follow some simple tracks.
Since these games are old-school (not even OSR) there is no player currency. No success at a cost. You fail – the end. You can try again tomorrow. Until then, keep rolling to see if you survive the Trollshaws.
But that fight! I was certain a TPK was imminent, but Camthalion showed his prowess as an archer. In general, both against the orcs and the troll I was quite lucky.
I noticed I made a mistake on my encounter against the orcs. The activity detected by the MERP table had to be an animal/beast, so since the Harnmaster table wasn’t contradictory I should have had animals fighting each other.
All in all, it moves slowly, is crunchy, but since I am in a similar mood right now, I enjoy the process. With summer holidays closing in, I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue my adventure soon, since it’s not digital friendly, but I’ll be coming back to it later on.

Now to the side tools. Using miniatures and quick battle-hex-map was very refreshing. So much faster than theater of the mind, when you have the right tools available. Using the hex grid also helped a lot with distances. I took the liberty of not asking how far away the troll was, and I just added it to the edge of the map. Another added bonus.
With regards to the BOLD connections. I like the way I have implemented them in solo gaming. It’s meta, but it makes me create bonds within the party. And it’s a nice way to give some additional experience as rewards.