The Last King
Campaign Introduction Doc
Campaign Introduction Document
This is the text of the original Campaign Intro Document, just to have it preserved here in case something happens. This version won’t include the character info or glossary, as it’d be redundant given the other entries.
It is the beginning of the year 1940 of the Third Age of Middle-Earth, approximately one thousand years before the events of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Though the Wise maintain a wary vigil against Sauron’s return, evil has not been eliminated, and the Shadow spreads once more. In two thousand years, Sauron has not forgotten by whose hand his treasure was taken from him, nor the humiliation he suffered at the hands of Ar-Pharazôn. For now, he bides his time… and waits.
In the North of Middle-Earth, the last remnant of the Kingdom of Arnor nurses its strength; disease and the slow weight of years threatens to finish the work begun by the servants of Angmar and its Witch-King. The heirs of Numenor slowly dwindle in number, a once-great people now barely able to maintain the peace of their realm. Arnor remains a beacon of hope, but beyond its borders, the days are growing dark.
Characters from all four races are allowed. They will, however, need to have some reason to not only work for Arnor, but at the time of the campaign’s beginning, to be already in the service of Arnor. They will be helping to patrol the eastern border along the Weather Hills with a small company of Men, and so characters should at least be reasonably comfortable in the wild – in other words, desk-jockeys will have a bit of a hard time of it. Spellcasters should, to preserve the flavor of the setting, be kept to the more subtle Orders: minstrels or lore-masters, not magicians. This would, indeed, mean that lore-masters should be of a more robust sort, and not simply scholars. The company is known as the Wardens of the Emyn Weyr, and is based in Ost Ardulin, on the northern shore of Nen Harn, a small lake northwest of the Weather Hills. It is led by Arvedui, Prince and Captain of Arnor, King Araphant’s only son and heir, and his cousins Hurin and Huor.
At the end of the First Age, when Morgoth the Great Enemy was overthrown by the armies of Valinor, the survivors of the Three Houses of Men who had aided the Eldar in their struggles were rewarded for their loyalty with an island realm to the west of Middle-Earth. Elros, brother of Elrond, having chosen to be accounted among the Edain, became the first King of this new realm, called Numenor, taking the name Tar-Minyatur.
During the second millennium of the Second Age, Sauron gained entry into the Noldorin realm of Eregion by assuming fair guise and offering gifts of wisdom and secret teachings to the elven-smiths of that land. Under his tutelage, many Rings of Power were crafted, and in addition to numerous lesser rings, the elven-smiths created with his direct aid sixteen rings of such potency that they could extend the lives of mortal races. But greatest among the smiths of Eregion was Celebrimbor. Grandson of Feanor, the creator of the Silmarils, Celebrimbor mistrusted Annatar (the name Sauron gave for himself), and crafted on his own three rings, whose powers lay not in dominion or avarice, but in healing the hurts of the world. But though Sauron touched them not, still were they crafted with the secrets he had brought to the Noldor. And so, when he returned to Orodruin to forge his One Ring, they too were held under its sway, and so Celebrimbor snatched the ring from his finger, and knew he was betrayed.
Sauron soon returned to Eregion in might, demanding the elves turn over to him the Rings that he had helped create. And when they refused, his legions drove forward, destroying all in their path. Eregion was destroyed, and the Seven and the Nine were taken, but though Celebrimbor himself fell defending the forges, already had he sent the Three away in secret (to Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Cirdan, as was learned after the War of the Ring). The Eldar of Eregion fled, following Elrond Half-Elven north, eventually founding the refuge of Imladris, and the doors of Khazad-dûm were shut.
When he learned of the destruction of Eregion, Gil-galad sent ships west, to ask for aid from Numenor, and Tar-Minastir the King sent a fleet in reply. With his aid Lindon was kept secure. Though the might of the elves was enough, barely, to hold fast against the Dark Lord in Lindon, Rivendell, and the woodlands of Rhovanion, elsewhere during the Black Years his shadow fell across all who dwelt in Middle-Earth.
Nor did all remain well in Numenor: As the Age wore on, Kings came to power who cared more for their own lives than for their faithfulness. Jealous of the immortal lives of the Eldar, they hardened their hearts, and those of many of their people, against the elves, and persecuted those who clung to the old loyalties. Many of the Numenoreans who would not forsake their ancient allegiances set sail, calling themselves the ‘elendili’, or ‘faithful’, and established communities along the western shores of Middle-Earth. In time, Sauron’s forces drew near even to these, and he took for himself the title of ‘King of Men’, and declared that he would drive the Numenoreans back into the sea.
And so word came back to Numenor of Sauron’s attacks, and even unto the ears of Ar-Pharazôn the King. Though Ar-Pharazôn had no love for the elves or those who remained loyal to them, he was above all else a proud man, and when he heard of Sauron’s claims and his purpose, his pride was stirred, and he ordered the mobilization of a vast force. Thus would he achieve his aims: both to demonstrate the power and glory of Numenor, and to humble Sauron for his claim as ‘King of Men’, for he felt none should claim that title save the King of Numenor himself.
Great was the host of the Numenoreans when they landed on the shores of Middle-Earth, and the forces of Mordor could not withstand them. Though launched for arrogant reasons, even two thousand years later the descendants of Numenor speak with pride of the War of Sauron and the Men of the Sea, for in that war the valour and honour of Numenor was first displayed to Middle-Earth. Even the greatest foe of the Age could not defeat them… at least, not through force of arms.
Onward marched the Numenoreans, routing the forces of Darkness before them, until the King stood before the gates of the Black Land. There he demanded that Sauron come forth and surrender himself to Ar-Pharazôn, Lord of the Earth. Then to the great surprise of many, Sauron came, and knelt, and offered himself up as hostage and servant to the King. But it is known now that even this was part of his cunning design.
Having defeated Sauron, the King returned with all his might to Numenor, and with him took his prisoner, that all his people might see his triumph. But Sauron offered the King his aid, and counsel, and for a time all his counsels seemed good, and true. And so through faithful service he earned release from bondage, and within a few short years, his voice was most trusted in the King’s ears.
The poison of his malice worked slowly, and over the next fifty years, he turned the King and his followers from their trust in the Valar toward the worship of the Dark. Playing on the long-lived Numenoreans’ fear of death, he promised them that if they gave their loyalty to Melkor the Great, then when they had proven themselves truly worthy, he would free them from the shadow of death. In one task after another, he turned those who called themselves the King’s Men, but the elendili remained steadfast, though their worry mounted with each new scheme.
Finally, Sauron ordered that the White Tree of Numenor be chopped down. A gift from the elves to Elros Tar-Minyatur, it had been prophesied that fate of the Tree was bound irrevocably to the line of Kings. Knowing the prophecy, and learning of Sauron’s order through the King, Isildur, son of Elendil, snuck past the guards barring entry to the compound of the Tree, and plucked a single fruit from its branches. Wounded as he made his escape, he nevertheless managed to slip away, hiding upon one of the ships of his grandfather, Amandil, Lord of Andunie, himself a descendant of the fourth King, Tar-Elendil.
When Sauron learned of the theft, he grew furious, and ordered the tree immediately chopped down and burned upon the altar to Melkor that he had convinced the King to raise. At the same time, he pushed the King to make war upon the Valar themselves, saying that they had stolen the birthright of Men from them; that the Valar were immortal because they held the Undying Lands, and that the Men of Numenor were not permitted to sail westward toward Valinor because the Valar feared that the Numenoreans would seize control of those lands, and become immortal themselves.
The armada raised by the King dwarfed even the force that had humbled Sauron, and they soon set sail into the West. Fearing the wrath of Valar, Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anarion, gathered up those they could among the Faithful aboard nine ships and fled, sailing eastward toward Middle-Earth. As the King set foot upon Aman, their fears were realized. The very foundations of Arda shook, and the world was changed. Valinor and Eressea were removed, and the seas bent backward to meet themselves. New lands were made and put into the new seas, so that a sailing ship could go in a straight line and find itself back where it began. And in the changing of the world, the island of Numenor sank beneath the waves, never yet rising again.
Traveling eastward, the ships of Elendil and his sons were swept apart by a gigantic wave, and scattered to the north and south of Middle-Earth. There, with others of the Numenoreans who had fled the King’s wrath sooner, they established the Realms in Exile; Elendil ruling Arnor in the north, while his sons held the joint rule of Gondor between them in the south. Sauron, his physical form destroyed during the downfall of Numenor, returned to Mordor and took up his Ring again, gathering his armies.
In time, the Dark Lord renewed his assault, taking the city of Minas Ithil by force. Isildur fled north to bring word to Elendil, while Anarion held the defenses of Osgiliath, barring the passages of the river. Elendil took counsel with Gil-galad, and the armies of Arnor and Lindon marshaled for war in what has come to be called the Last Alliance of Men and Elves. Marching east to Rivendell, the combined armies added Elrond’s forces to their number, and continued south to lift the siege of Gondor.
With the coming of the armies of the Last Alliance, Sauron’s forces were again driven back, and Gondor’s armies joined with those newly-come out of the north. Driving deep into Mordor, they laid siege to the Barad-dur, the Dark Tower of Sauron. In that war, many mighty warriors of both kindred were lost; Elendil was killed, and Anarion his son, and Gil-galad and Oropher were slain, but in the end they had the mastery, and Sauron was thrown down into ruin.
Isildur committed the rule of the southern kingdom to Meneldil, his nephew, and after a time set out to return north to take up the rule of Arnor. But his march north was ambushed near the Gladden Fields, and none escaped save a single warrior, charged by Isildur to carry the shards of Narsil, sword of Elendil, to Rivendell where Valandil, Isildur’s youngest son was fostered. Valandil then took up the High Kingship, his brothers slain alongside their father at Gladden.
With the fall of Sauron, and the deaths of Gil-galad, Elendil, and Anarion, the Second Age is held to have ended in its 3441st year. The new year thus heralded the beginning of the Third Age, and Isildur’s death occurred on Oct 4, TA 2.
For a time, Arnor prospered, but after Earendur, the eighth King, the rule of Arnor was divided amongst his sons, and in their dissension the land was split into three smaller kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. Arthedain was in the northwest and included the land between Baranduin (Brandywine) and the Ered Lune, and the land north of the Great Road as far east as the Weather Hills. Rhudaur was in the northeast, between the Ettenmoors, the Weather Hills, and the Misty Mountains, and included the land between the rivers Mitheithel (Hoarwell) and Bruinen (Loudwater). Cardolan, the southern kingdom, occupied the triangle formed by the Brandywine, Greyflood (the river below the merge of the Hoarwell, Loudwater, and the Glanduin of Hollin), and the Great Road.
Within four centuries, the line of Elendil had failed in Rhudaur and Cardolan, though the Dunedain of Cardolan took another of their number to be their Prince, while in Rhudaur, the Dunedain were few, and power passed into the hands of chieftains of the hill-men. Meanwhile, evil things had begun to multiply once more in the mountains, and during the reign of King Malvegil a dark sorcerer arose in the northern land of Angmar, and was hailed as the Witch-King of that people.
When Malvegil’s son, King Argeleb took the throne, he asserted once more a claim to Lordship over all of Arnor. In Rhudaur this claim was resisted, and when Arthedain made to fortify the Weather Hills in TA 1356, the hill-folk attacked with aid from Angmar. In the sudden onrush of war, Argeleb was slain, but his son, Arveleg, with aid from Cardolan and Lindon, was able to drive the enemy back from the Weather Hills, which he then held with some force. At the same time, orcs and evil men out of Angmar and Rhudaur controlled the passes of the Ettenmoors and Trollshaws, and laid siege to Rivendell.
In TA 1409, a great force came out of Angmar to surround and besiege Weathertop. The Dunedain of Cardolan were forced to retreat and seek shelter among the mounds of Tyrn Gorthad (the barrow-downs), which had long been held as sacred. During these battles, the last prince of Cardolan met his end, Argeleb was slain, and the Tower of Amon Sul destroyed, and Rhudaur fell fully under the control of Angmar and its Witch-King. But the palantir of Amon Sul was saved, and borne back to Fornost, and with aid from Cirdan, Araphor son of Argeleb was able to repel the enemy from Fornost, though he himself was not yet come to his full manhood.
With Angmar’s attention turned westward, Elrond was able to bring aid across the mountains from Laurelindórinan, and lift the siege of Rivendell. With the joining of the armies of Rivendell with those of Lindon and Arthedain, Angmar was subdued at last, and though there have been small skirmishes and incidents with the hill-men, there has been no return as yet to open war.
In TA 1601, many of the periannath, the halflings, who had migrated westward into Arnor during the Third Age were granted a region of land west of Baranduin, and settled there. Three decades later, the Great Plague swept north after devastating the lands of Gondor, and much of Eriador was left desolate. The last of the Dunedain of Cardolan perished during the plague, as did many residents of Arthedain and the Shire. Since then, the people of Arnor have been slowly recovering in relative peace.
Beneath the southern peaks of the Misty Mountains sits the great city of the dwarves, Khazad-dûm. Known to the humans as ‘the Dwarrow-delf’ (‘delving of the dwarves’), and to the elves as Hadhodrond (an attempt to render ‘Khazad-dûm’ into sounds more pleasing to the elvish ear), Khazad-dûm is the largest and most powerful of the dwarven cities. It is the ancestral home of the Longbeards, the dwarven clan descended from Durin. Six times, the heir to Durin’s throne has so resembled the great progenitor that he has borne his ancestor’s name. Legend claims such a thing will happen only once more, before the race of the dwarves fails.
For now, however, Durin VI is King Under the Mountains, and his wealth and power are themselves fodder for legends. For it is only here, in the mines of Khazad-dûm, that truesilver, bright as silver, but harder than the finest steel, can be found. Called mithril by the elves, the metal is prized beyond compare in the outside world, and items crafted of it command sums that defy belief.
The dwarven strongholds a player may be familiar with, such as Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) and the Iron Hills, have not been established yet. These locations will be colonized after the fall of Khazad-dûm during the last millennium of the Third Age. The mines of the Ered Luin (the Blue Mountains, where Thorin & Co. established themselves after the coming of Smaug, and from whence they launched their expedition) do exist, being the remnants of the great dwarven realms of Belegost and Nogrod, which were both destroyed in the tumults that ended the First Age. These small mining centers are variously worked by different clans of dwarves. The Longbeards have not established any control over the area, though they will do so south of the Gulf of Lune eventually (after the fall of both Khazad-dûm and Erebor).
Potential Interests or Hooks:
Dwarven characters in Arnor will be far from home. For most of the dwarves likely to be played, ‘home’ will probably be Khazad-dûm itself, or a mining community in the Misty Mountains or the Blue. One potential item of interest to such a wayward dwarf is Mount Gundabad. A great city of the dwarves during of the First Age, Gundabad is situated in the northern Misty Mountains, near the beginnings of the Grey Mountains and the Mountains of Angmar. Although a powerful stronghold, Gundabad fell to orcs out of Angband and Thangorodrim, and has remained in the hands of these creatures ever since. For many dwarves of this time, Gundabad is viewed in the same way that Khazad-dûm itself will be by the War of the Ring: an heirloom of the dwarves despoiled and defiled by the orcs, awaiting the day when the Khazad will return to reclaim what is theirs.
Though not as strong as in Gil-galad’s day, the Firstborn are more numerous than they will be during the War of the Ring. It is in this final millennium of the Third Age that many of their number will choose to leave Middle-Earth and set sail for Valinor.
West of the peaks of the Ered Luin, Lindon remains the strongest of the elven realms, at least numerically. From the Grey Havens, Cirdan the Shipwright leads both the sindar of Harlindon (South Lindon), and the remnant of Gil-galad’s noldorin followers in Forlindon (North Lindon), on opposite sides of the Gulf of Lune. Without a doubt the eldest of the remaining Eldar in Middle-Earth, Cirdan is accounted by all to be among the most knowledgeable of the Wise. He is not, however, a great warrior or military leader. Instead, he devotes his energies to the stewardship of his followers, and the crafting of the White Ships that bear the elves of Middle-Earth along the Straight Road, into the West.
Nestled in a sheltered vale at the base of the Misty Mountains, the refuge of Imladris (Rivendell) is the only other great stronghold of the Eldar remaining in Eriador. Founded after the fall of Eregion by Elrond Half-Elven, Imladris has not the numbers of the Firstborn that live in Lindon, but at this point in history, many of the greatest names remaining among them reside here: Elrond, his wife Celebrian, their children Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen, as well as elf-lords such as Glorfindel, Celeborn, and the lady Galadriel, among others. At this time, Rivendell is very much a center of elven culture, and a great repository of lore and wisdom. It is also one of the few sources of real military power in eastern Eriador, having subdued Angmar alongside the forces of Lindon and Arnor three centuries earlier.
Situated between the rivers Anduin and Celebrant (Silverlode) south of the eastern gate of Khazad-dûm, Laurelindórinan (the Land of the Valley of Singing Gold) is the elven realm that will come to be known as Lothlorien (the Dreamflower). Primarily peopled by Nandorin silvan elves, Lorinand (the Golden Valley), as it is also known, is also home to a smaller number of Sindar who fled eastward during the First Age to escape the turmoil and ruin of Doriath. During the Second Age it took in a number of Noldorin exiles from the ruin of Eregion, but is still ruled by its Sindarin King, Amroth, whose father Amdir was killed during the assault on Mordor during the War of the Last Alliance.
North-east of Laurelindórinan, across the vales of Anduin, stands the ancient vastness of Mirkwood. Once called Greenwood the Great, the forest has not been untouched by the darkening years. Amon Lanc (Bald Hill), the former capital of the Woodland Realm, has been taken and corrupted by an evil power called the Necromancer, and Thranduil, the Sindarin king of the silvan elves of Mirkwood, has withdrawn his people north of the Mountains of Mirkwood, shielding them behind the Forest River while continuing to try to recover their strength. During the War of the Last Alliance, Thranduil’s father, King Oropher, led his strength south to assist Gil-galad on the plains of Dagorlad, and there the greater part of their number perished. Since then, Thranduil’s people have been a wary and cautious folk, slow to reveal themselves to those they do not already trust.
Added to these populations of the Eldar are those known as the Wandering Companies. Comprised of members of all three kindreds of the elves (Noldor, Sindar, and Nandor), the Wandering Companies are just that: small groups of elves across Eriador that maintain no permanent dwelling, but instead roam between several short-term locales.
Potential Interests or Hooks:
The elves are either very easy or very difficult to work into this campaign, depending almost entirely on how the character’s background is crafted. Elves of Lindon, Rivendell, or the Wandering Companies can quite easily have close ties with the Dunedain of Arnor and be already assisting them with the protection of their borders (what’s a decade or so to an immortal?). Elves of Lorinand and Mirkwood, however, might take a bit more effort to get hooked up into the specific locale of the campaign. Which is not to say they’re not allowed, only that some early elements might need some tweaking in order to really tie them in.
West of the Baranduin is a countryside of green, rolling hills and cool, shady woodlands. For three and a half centuries, this has been the home of the perrianath, the halflings, and they call it ‘The Shire’. Settled in the year 1601 by enterprising Harfoots from the area around Bree, the Shire and its inhabitants seem of little consequence to the Great Powers of Middle-Earth. Neither the Shadow, nor the great Kings among men and elves give much thought to these ‘hobbits’ at all, save perhaps the wizard Mithrandir.
The hobbits of the Shire are much as they will be in Bilbo and Frodo’s time: comfortable tradesmen and farmers who seek nothing more from the world than to enjoy a mug of good beer in peace after a hard day’s work. They are, however, somewhat less domesticated: their quiet lives have not been without some exposure to banditry and lawlessness, and many of the more-recently arrived families of the Stoors from the south tell stirring family legends of valour and fear upon the road.
Nor have the hobbits yet forgotten that the Shire was granted to them by the King of Arnor, and that they remain his subjects. Though they maintain no standing army, there remain enough among them skilled with bows that at need, they can be called upon to send a company or more of archers.
The Shire itself is still a more wild, less tamed area as well. Some of the major towns of Bilbo’s time already exist, such as Michel Delving and Tuckborough, but others are still very much in their embryonic stages at best. Woodyhall has not yet been settled, and Waymeet is little more than a small inn at a crossroads between Michel Delving and Hobbiton-by-Water. Hobbiton-by-Water, in fact, is actually between the locations of Hobbiton and Bywater at the War of the Ring. In the intervening millennium, the village will grow very large, until plague and harder times end up leaving the more sparsely-populated ends of the village intact, while the densely-packed center will be quickly decimated, giving rise to the two separate villages of Bilbo’s time.
The region is also organized into informal clan regions, most of which will be largely meaningless by the end of the Third Age, such as the Hornblower country, or Boffin lands. The Tookland, centered around Tuckborough, will be one of the few exceptions, as the area will remain primarily settled by Tooks, even as most of the other families spread out and mix.
Buckland, the territory east of the Brandywine that borders the Old Forest, has not yet been colonized, and the Forest itself extends a little farther west. The family which will rename itself ‘Brandybuck’ when they re-cross Brandywine, is at this point one of many simply named ‘Harfoot’. An influential family among the Stoor-blooded farmers of the Marish, they are led by Bucca Harfoot, who has a reputation for being fair-minded and loyal to his friends. In future days, his descendents will hearken back to his example, first taking the surname ‘Oldbuck’ before finally leaving the Marish to establish Buckland.
The formal responsibilities of the Shire-folk to the Crown are few. When Marcho and Blanco Fallohide were granted leave to settle the area, they were charged with maintaining the Great Bridge of Stonebows (the Brandywine Bridge), and other bridges and roads within the territory, aiding the King’s messengers, and acknowledging his Lordship. Nothing else has ever been asked of the hobbits, and other than one or two unusual individuals who have left home to serve the King, both groups have largely left one another alone.
Potential Interests or Hooks:
Arnor’s their home, too. There are all sorts of reasons they could be helping to defend it. Perhaps they’re eager to see more of the world than the Shire. Perhaps they dream of glory and honours won in battle. Just about any reason a farm boy goes into the army can be adapted.
Arnor is a country of Men. Though small numbers of elves and dwarves reside in or pass through the Kingdom, and a region has been granted to the halflings, the strength and traditions of Arnor are those of the Men of Westernesse, the Numenoreans. Much of the information about Arnor is contained in the history section above, but some important information remains:
When the Kingdom was divided among the sons of King Earendur, Amlaith, first kind of Arthedain, removed the capital from Annúminas, which by then was already declining in population, to Fornost.
In addition to Fornost, there are a number of settlements throughout Arnor, including Bree-town at the crossroads of the Great Road running east-west and the King’s Road, which extends from the gates of Fornost south through Tharbad and on into Gondor.
East of Fornost at the northern end of the Weather Hills, the fortress of Ost Ardulin stands overlooking the shore of Nen Harn. From this stronghold, patrols watch the eastern border, guarding against attack from the hill-men of Rhudaur.
North of Ost Ardulin lies the town of Dolindir, nestled safely in the hills dividing the farmlands of the Kingsfields from the plains of Nan Amlug. Ruled by Lord Belegund Thindhed, Dolindir is both a hidden staging-ground and refuge against the threat of attack from the northeast, as Nan Amlug forms the bordermarch between Arnor and the witch-realm of Angmar.
West of Dolindir, on the northern edge of the Kingsfields, stands Ost Galumar, the largest of the Northern Forts. Commanded by Captain Urthel Erhendion, Ost Galumar is the main garrison for the northern armies, and its position astride a high hilltop, combined with large stores of grain and other supplies, should allow it to survive long against a siege.
Turning south again, the gate-towers of Duintham overlook the fords in the Runold, the swift-flowing stream that flows south from the northern highlands to feed Nen Harn. Duintham is suited only to housing a small force, and is only the very last line of defense in the Kingsfields. Should Ost Galumar and Duintham fall, the path to the settlements of Annundir and the deep interior of Arnor would lie open to the enemy.