Saturday, June 16, 2012

Calenhad, a Beacon of Gondor - a review of a sourcebook for a great fortified tower in Middle-earth

Calenhad is one of seven beacons that stand along the northern border of Gondor in Middle-earth. When danger was at hand, huge fires were lit to serve as an alarm. This book portrays the beacons as border fortresses.
A closer look at the beautiful, evocative cover image by David and Elissa Martin.
This is a good, solid product. The fortress, with its walls and towers, seems well-designed and realistic, something which is not as common as you would think in RPG supplements.

One level of the beacon tower.
This is more of a site than an adventure, making it particularly adaptable and useful. Someone running a Middle-earth-based game could use it as a good example of a Gondorian fort.

Notes are provided to use it as exactly what it is: one of the beacon towers of Gondor. This latter use may provide limited possibilities for adventure, depending on the time period of the campaign being run. After all, it is located in the interior of Gondor at its height, and on the border of its great ally in later times. As mentioned, though, it could easily be placed somewhere closer to adventure with just a change of the name. The players could be facing hordes of Orcs in no time.
Like this guy.

A nearby town that supports and is defended by the fortress of Calenhad.
It could also be used in a setting other than Middle-earth; it would fit easily into any RPG setting with a vaguely medieval background.
An early, simple signal platform where Calenhad would stand in later centuries.

It could be used as a waypoint for adventurers, the last safe spot before proceeding into dangerous territory, or as an enemy fort that needs to be taken. It also looks like a good example of the kind of stronghold a player character in a game like MERP or D&D might end up building or taking control of when they achieve a certain status or level of power, especially since various stages of development of the place are shown.
As Gondor's power increased, so, too, did it strengthen its communications network, replacing more vulnerable platforms with towers.
Overall, this is a very useful RPG supplement, versatile and well-designed. The artwork is outstanding, some of the very best done for the Middle-earth Roleplaying line.

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