This is a place that will draw the attention of any adventurer in Middle-earth. The foes of the Dark Lord, and those who would do his bidding, will both find much to attract them. It is a raucous place, with the energy of a frontier town, and the decadence of a civilization in decline, corrupted by long years of being a waystation for those who travel to the haunted lands of Middle-earth.
|Southern Mirkwood and the lands beyond; Strayhold lies in the southeastern quarter of the map, just beyond the "thumb" of Mirkwood sticking out below the East Bight.|
Besides extensive descriptions of the people and places of Strayhold, the book also contains several adventures, three of which are the main focus of the book. Excursion to the City of Strays involves the player characters being hired to acquire a book from a bookseller in the "beggars quarter" part of the town. This is primarily a MacGuffin to get the characters into the town and get a good dose of the two-fisted, fun side of the place. Raid on the Clan-Hall of Rogues has the player's characters asked by some good folk to recover a horn sacred to them from the titular location - the thieves' guild, in other words. The Castle of Leardinoth has no less a personage than Gandalf the Grey himself(!) enlisting the player characters to take down the evil wizard who rules over Strayhold. This will be no easy task, even taking into account that it requires having fun storming the castle; the wizard was trained by no less a personage than the Necromancer himself(!!) In addition, there are a few adventure ideas to keep the player characters busy in the town.
All in all, Brigands of Mirkwood is a solid little book in the Middle-earth Roleplaying line from Iron Crown Enterprises. The Angus McBride cover is dynamic, and the maps, especially the always-impressive regional map by Peter Fenlon, are colorful and evocative. The book gets close to the line between what I think Middle-earth "feels" like and what it doesn't "feel" like, and, I think, straddles that line a bit. Still, the designers did a pretty decent job extrapolating how such a location would come to be and continue to exist in Middle-earth, without resorting to anything truly outlandish.