Saturday, June 16, 2012

Havens of Gondor - The Land of Belfalas: the chivalrous heart of the bulwark of Middle-earth.

It is a land of knights and gleaming port cities, Elf havens and beautiful towers. There is a tinge of the Arthurian to the region. Should Sauron conquer Minas Tirith, this region would be the last bastion for good in Gondor. It is Dor-en-Ernil, anchored by the great port city of Dol Amroth. This is a land of princes with Elf-blood in their veins, the home of noble Prince Imrahil, who led Gondor for a brief, perilous time, Minas Tirith had neither king nor steward.

Much of this material is extrapolated from what Tolkien wrote, as he didn't go into as much depth in detailing it as other areas. Still, the authors do a good job of staying true to the feel of Middle-earth. This fiefdom is a good contrast to Minas Tirith. The princes of Dol Amroth and their subjects have not been exposed to the increasing darkness flowing out of Mordor, which has come to cast a pall over the great bastion of Gondor in the East. There is still hope in Dor-en-Ernil, but if Minas Tirith falls, hope will not long remain.
Knights of Dol Amroth
At first blush, this may not seem the most obvious place for adventurers. However, it's been seen that Sauron's influence is subtle, and can manifest as smugglers, bandits, and court intrigue. In addition, the region is an obvious jumping-off point for maritime adventure, with the fallen Numenoreans of Umbar always poised to cause mayhem on the seas and coasts.

There are layouts and overviews of Dol Amroth, home of some of Gondor's mightiest knights; the elf port of Edhellond; Linhir, a Gondorian port; a coastal tower; and a Dunlending mountain village. A rundown of Dunadan culture is included, as well as character studies of various Gondorian and elven characters.

The ecology and climate is discussed, and random encounter charts are included, as is true of all Middle-earth Roleplaying game books. Naturally enough, given its location, this region has a lot of sea-based encounters, from manta rays to pirates. Inland, bandits and smugglers trouble travelers, while patrols seek to keep the roads safe - and I would imagine doing a good job, given that this is one of the safest, most stable areas in Middle-earth.

These books are generally well-detailed, giving a gamemaster a lot of material to work with in creating a believable backdrop for adventures, and this book is no exception. If court intrigue and chivalry are of interest to one's players, this would make a good addition to one's gaming library. Perfect for a Middle-earth-based game, with a bit of work the information could be used for other settings and games, too, if one is so inclined.

Peter Fenlon's maps are once again phenomenal. These are some of his most detailed and beautiful. Towers, cities, harbors, and countryside are all uniformly good and evocative.

The Belfalas region of Gondor; Dol Amroth and Edhellond lie near to each other in the central Western portion of the map, which I had to scan in two parts.
 There are also several ships illustrated, since Dol Amroth is one of Gondor's great ports. First, the city itself.

Now, the ships.

Havens of Gondor covers what may be the last unsullied realm of Men in Middle-earth. As such, it may be the last place where a glimpse of fallen Numenor can be had, or at least an echo of that mighty culture. This has some fascinating potential for players to have their characters delve into a place where time has stood almost as still as in the immortal lands of Lorien or Rivendell.
They may appear effete, but they have yet to truly pass into decadence in Dol Amroth.

Loremasters in Dol Amroth still study teachings of the Elves.
In some ways, Dor-en-Ernil harkens back to the Elder Days of Middle-earth, with a highly civilized culture of Men living in proximity to High Elves...that is, if one assumes that Edhellond is still home to Elves by the time of the War of the Ring. I like to think that it is, a small enclave of Elven mariners that lingers still, the furthest East and South of their folk, visiting their kin to the West in the Grey Havens, their numbers gradually diminishing as some slip away into the Uttermost West each year.
An Elven swan-ship from Edhellond, underway to the West...whether just a visit to the Grey Havens, or to the Blessed Lands themselves, who can say?
After the fall of Sauron, King Elessar, once known as Aragorn, reestablishes the northern kingdom of Arnor, creating the Reunited Kingdom. The relative density of the population in Dor-en-Ernil would make it a good place from which to draw colonists to repopulate the kingdom of the North, rebuilding the great cities of Fornost Erain and Annuminas. Dol Amroth's chivalrous knights and princes would leap at the chance to claim old territories and create new ones, rooting out remnants of Sauron's forces from the wilds of Rhudaur, protecting the borders of the Hobbit Shire and Bree-land, and driving out the shadowy denizens of the Barrow-downs and clearing lost Cardolan. Arthedain's great cities would rise again, echoing the untouched towers of Dol Amroth.
The Sea-Ward Tower of Dol Amroth.

But what if Sauron didn't fall? What if Minas Tirith was overwhelmed? Then Dor-en-Ernil would be left to stave off the forces of Mordor. It would be doomed, of course, but it would be the site of a last desperate struggle. This could make for a memorable game campaign, as the player's characters fight a hopeless battle, with Sauron's armies rolling West until they reach the Sea.
Havens of Gondor is a pivotal place in Middle-earth, full of potential. It's a bastion of good, a home to heroes. It seems deceptively placid, but stands poised to help rekindle a great civilization to the North and South, and rebuild in the East. This would be a great base for adventurers, and is a good example to show them of what can be lost should Sauron's plans come to fruition.

1 comment:

  1. It appears I have come to the end of my MERP Dark Dimension re-read. Very enjoyable stuff - a month of Middle Earth musings for my work mornings.

    This was an interesting one to end on, as given its location in Middle Earth, I almost feel I've journeyed from one end of it to the other and ended here, waiting for a ship berth.

    Those ship schematics are great.

    So much of these MERPS have rich material that can be dropped into other settings with only mild alterations, as you noted along the way. I'm kind of amazed at the wealth of material. For something that's very popular (LOTR) few people / sites really have delved into it all like this.

    Between reading all the books and these posts, I can safely say my desire to play D&D is at the highest level it perhaps ever has been.