First up is Phantom of the Northern Marches.
Daniel Horne is one of my favorite fantasy artists, and he did - and still does, I think - quite a bit of roleplaying game work, including some great Dragon Magazine covers. One of them is one of my favorite D&D images, ever.
Nowadays he seems to be concentrating on classic monster paintings and sculptures. Regardless, I've never seen a bad painting by him. He didn't do a lot of work for MERP (Middle-earth Roleplaying), but what he did was striking.
|Ridorthu has simple tastes, apparently.|
Phantom of the Northern Marches has three main adventures:
The Phantom of the Woods: The folk of Novtha Raglaw are puzzled and unsettled by tales of missing shepherds and strange lights in the woods. Now, a hunter has turned up dead. Could this be the work of barrow-wights, or forces of the Witch-king? Or some other dastardly villain?
The Riddle of Ridorthu: Farms in the area of Novtha Rhaglaw have had livestock come up missing. Huge footprints have been found. Strange sounds in the night seem to come from an invisible source. Shepherding seems to be a hazardous job in Novtha Rhaglaw, as yet another poor sap of that profession is found knocked senseless. So what's going on? It's up to the players and their characters to find out.
Gerse's Bane: A dragon rampages throughout the area. A classic fantasy game scenario, this could spell the end of the player's characters if they aren't careful and don't manage to enlist some aid...could tales of an ancient warrior hold the clue to the dragon's defeat?
Next, let's look at Trolls of the Misty Mountains.
Yep, another Daniel Horne cover. What's aggravating is that Iron Crown Enteprises (ICE), publisher of MERP, chose to do some of these covers as semi-wrap-arounds, with about a third of the image continued on the back cover. While this makes for a nice, almost letterboxed look, it's tough to scan and even tougher to post the two parts side-by-side here on blogger.
|Trolls aren't the most observant creatures.|
The Adventure of Duildin Hill involves farmers approaching the characters of the players to help them get rid of trolls raiding their farms. Guess where the trolls live? It's a fairly straightforward mission, but there are a few complications that may not be too much of a surprise. Still, it's an adventure in the classic mold.
Adventure at the Village of Garkash is another classic, and is also straightforward. An orc village has a bridge that lies right on the route for the road the player characters are scouting. It may seem uncomplicated, but the orcs have a few surprises to spring.
Adventure at Maes Fao is set in a forbidding gorge on the path of the proposed road. The player characters end up searching for an ancient artifact, an heirloom of the last king of Rhudaur. They aren't the only ones, though; the Dark Lord's reach is long, and his agents seem everywhere. There are trolls, yes, but they may only be tools of more calculating villains.
Trolls of the Misty Mountains is a pretty good mini-campaign for characters still learning to be heroes.
Haunted Ruins of the Dunlendings is, technically, not set in Eriador, but was more intended to be set somewhere near the Paths of the Dead in the White Mountains of Gondor. Still, as is stated in the book itself, it can be set just about anywhere Dunlendings live or once lived. This includes the Southern Misty Mountains.
This time, the wraparound cover is by Gail B. McIntosh, who did other MERP covers, including Hillmen of the Trollshaws. This cover is exceptional, also evoking a fairytale feel, reminding me a bit of Victorian-era illustrations by artists like Anne Anderson.
|The Miller's Daughter by Anne Anderson|
As with the other two books I've discussed in this post, this one has three adventures.
Adventure at Minas Anghen involves the tower of a Seer, or wise woman. The trade road that runs near the tower has become a dangerous place, with passing merchants often ambushed and robbed or slain. Rooting out the bandits and discovering the fate of the Seer and her tower draws the player characters to the area.
There are some nifty maps and schematics in this book, and Minas Anghen is the subject of some of the better ones.
|Side view of Minas Anghen|
Adventure at the Seven Stones (Setmaenen) is set at a site sacred to the Dunlendings, a stone dome with surrounding standing stones. A cursed artifact has made the place unclean, and the site has been closed off until the Dunlendings have made right the Oathbreaking, which is where they betrayed oaths they made to Gondor and the Elves. By the way - this curse was only lifted when Aragorn called on the Dead Men of Dunharrow to fulfill their Oaths, and help smash Umbar and rescue Minas Tirith. So, this adventure may be more or less interesting depending on the time period in which it is used.
This adventure also has some nifty pics, the best of which is this one:
Adventure at Hogo Tarosvan deals with a site where the cursed dead were buried in cliffside caves, a forgotten village, and a fertile valley. This particular adventure is especially spooky, but is also more wide-ranging, both in territory and theme. The writers manage to evoke a feeling of evil that is not exactly that of Sauron, but is dreaded nonetheless. This one also has some interesting pictures.