Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weathertop, the Tower of the Wind - a review of a sourcebook for Weathertop as it was, and as it may be again

Weathertop is an iconic location in Middle-earth. In The Lord of the Rings movies, it is a ruin; in the book, it is barely even that, little more than a ring of broken stone overgrown with grass. In this product, it is shown at its height as an important fortress and observation post for the northern Dunedain kingdom of Arnor, and later Arthedain. It became a bone of contention among the three kingdoms that resulted from the fragmentation of Arnor, as the fortress was located where the borders of Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur met.
Map of Middle-earth showing the fractured northern kingdom of Arnor.

Amon Sul was home to one of the palantir, or seeing-stones, until the evil kingdom of Angmar destroyed the fortress. The palantir was saved, though later lost, but the tower remained broken for nearly a millennium and a half. It would be rebuilt in the early Fourth Age by King Elessar, formerly known as Aragorn, as he reestablished the northern kingdom of Arnor.
A closer look at the cover image.
Weathertop or Amon Sul, the Tower of the Wind, is the subject of another in the "Fortresses of Middle-earth" series produced for the Middle-earth Roleplaying game. This is more of a site than an adventure. That is, there is no overarching plot. The tower and attendant structures are detailed and populated, and some notes are given for how it might be used.

The fortress at different stages of its history.
There was something both grand mysterious about Amon Sul, or Weathertop as it was mostly known in latter days. Even bereft of its tower and fortress, it was a defensible place, with a breathtaking view of the surrounding lands. It was a natural place to get the lay of the land and look for danger to avoid, but it also drew the attention of those who would do harm. Gandalf fought the Ringwraiths here, who later returned to attack Aragorn and the Hobbits. You'd think Gandalf and Aragorn both would have seen that coming. Still, it must have been hard to resist the thought of getting such a good look at their surroundings. Plus, the history of the place must have an allure, especially for Aragorn, who was heir to the kingdom to which Weathertop once belonged.

It must have been a splendid place in its heyday, and this book tends to reinforce that idea. The cover is a complete extrapolation, but an attractive one. In some ways, this book's version of Amon Sul seems more humble than I imagined it would be. It's a fine place as presented, but given the impressive fortresses of Isengard and Minas Tirith, one would think Weathertop, home to a palantir and one of the most important strongholds in the region, would have been more imposing. Regardless, the Weathertop we have here is arresting.

As presented, the tower would require that the game be played either long before the time of the book and movies, or a bit after. However, there is nothing to prevent this fortress being renamed and placed elsewhere as an example of Gondorian martial construction. It would also work really well in a game set during the early Fourth Age, a base for adventurers to foray out to help tame the wilderness that will become part of the Reunited Kingdom. Weathertop and Calenhad, another in the "Fortresses of Middle-earth" series, are similar in all these regards. It (and Calenhad) could also be used in an entirely different setting, unrelated to Middle-earth. It could fit well in any setting with a high fantasy/vaguely medieval feel, and the game statistics can be used as a guideline for adapting the fortress to other games.

Especially one that features knightly characters.

This is a remarkably useful product that with a little thought can be used for a wide variety of games and settings. Need a strong tower or lookout point somewhere in your game world? This may well fit that need.

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