Realm Guard sample mission: Trouble In the High Pass

A sample mission, written with a first-time GM and/or convention setting in mind.

Note: [I’m talking to you, GM! Don’t read bracketed sections to the players. This is for your information.]

Mission: Trouble In the High Pass

[This mission is designed for 3-4 players. If you have 3 players, it is advised that you leave Waestorn out of the band.]

Having come south to pay homage to the newly-crowned King Elessar Telcontar (Aragorn, son of Arathorn), your band has stayed for a day in the Old Guesthouse Inn within the first tier of Minas Tirith. On the morning of the second day, a runner is sent to the inn, summoning you to meet with the king in the Tower of Ecthalion.

The king is seated behind an elegant desk within the pristine tower, at the highest point in the city. Behind him are the twin thrones of the Steward and, raised high by many steps, the throne of the king. A page stands nearby, ready to go forth and serve any purpose his liege asks of him. An older man in robes stands at the king’s shoulder, sheaves of parchment in his old hands.

As you enter, the king stands and smiles fiercely at you. It seems he is pleased to be freed, if only momentarily from the routine of rulership. “My brothers! welcome! It has been too long since we have met.” He greets you as kinsmen and beckons you to him.

Though joyful at your presence, he settles into matters straight away. “I know you have come idly, my friends, but I have need of your skills. Rumor has come to me that the High Pass crossing of the Misty Mountains has become hazardous. The Beornings know the area well. There is one who lives at the Carrock, near the Old Ford. Seek him out and learn what you may. Go with my blessings, and those of the Reunited Realms of Gondor and Arnor.”

Now that you’ve heard your task, check the Goal for your character. You may keep the Goal of the sample character or change it. Those Goals are:

Athanir: I will keep a close watch on Melanor and guard him against danger.
Melanor: I will prove to my brethren that I can be trusted with accomplishing our mission from the king.
Erathal: I will determine whether goblins (Orcs) are behind the troubles within the pass.
Waestorn: I will visit my sister in Rhosgobel, near Carrock, and bring her news from the south.

You set out from Minas Tirith, bidding the White City goodbye. It is the early spring and though it is warm now in the south where you are, farther north, in Rhovanion near the Misty Mountains, there is still some snow upon the ground and the rivers run cold from recent thaws.

First Task: Find the Way to Carrock
Pathfinder vs Spring Nature 6

[Regardless of whether they succeeded or failed, continue reading on. If they failed, tell them that a twist in the story will be happening soon.]

You’ve been traveling for two weeks through lowlands and over wooded hills and are now just south of the Gladden River where it meets with Anduin, the Great River. It’s getting quite late into the night. As you are looking to settle in for the remainder of the night, you spy a fire up ahead and hear voices. You come upon three boatmen (Men) on the banks of the Anduin, their small cog drawn onto the shore. One’s arm is badly injured. Another is dead, his body covered with a bit of sailcloth.

[What happened is up to you, GM. I suggest a simple accident on board their ship: a boom broke loose and struck one in the head while another raised his arm in time to avoid a similar fate, though his arm was broken.]

[This is a chance to allow Erathal to use Healer (Ob 3), if he so wishes. Another - or all of them - may speak moving words over the body of the dead boatman – using Nature via the Grief descriptor (Ob 2). Allow this to happen before the next bit. Apply Tired or Angry as a result of any failures.]

The three remaining boatmen gladly invite you to camp with them that night.

Twist (Enemy): Into the Stew!

[This only comes into play if they failed the Pathfinder test above.]

As you’re making ready to camp, you hear shuddering boot steps and rumbling laughter behind you. Out of the trees a short distance away, two torogs (“Hobbit”-style trolls) emerge, their bulk framed in starlight shining from the clear sky.

[It ought to be explained to the group that this is the twist resulting in failing the Pathfinder test. It isn’t random!]

“Ah!” one laughs. “Some real fare to toss in tha stew pot!”

“They do look mighty tasty, them,” says the other, hoisting a few filthy sacks. “Let’s chase 'em down!” With gleams in their beady eyes, the 14-foot-tall trolls come bounding towards the shore, intent on snatching up the boatmen and yourselves.

[A chase conflict would work best here, and impress upon the players the power of the trolls should they opt to stand their ground. Either a fight or chase works. Regardless, the goal of the torogs is: Grab all the Men and stick 'em in sacks for our cookpot!]

insert Torog stat block here, in the PDF version

[Tell the players to set their sights high in terms of their goal. If they opt for a chase, “Getting away” won’t be good enough. Encourage them to add more to it: “Get away from the trolls, with the boatmen in tow, and keep the trolls looking til the sun rises up and turns them to stone.” Shoot high for interesting compromises!]

[On that note, remember to be inventive with compromises here. The trolls have an advantage because they can use their Nature (Capturing) for, I would say, Attack and Feint actions during the conflict and Scout for Defend and Maneuver. None of the Rangers should die from this conflict, though the same may not be true for the boatmen! I would advise starting with conditions as a first ‘tier’ of a compromise (Tired, as well as Injured, if it’s a major compromise), then have some of the boatmen captured, and so on. Build from there, remembering the rules for compromises on p. 115-116.]

[Allow the players a chance, after the outcome of the conflict with the trolls, to get closure on the rest of the night/morning and what occurs with the boatmen. Then carry on.]

Second Task: . . .Harnbad the Beorning
The remainder of the journey passes swiftly. You’ve passed through a number of small villages and are approaching Rhosgobel, a larger village renowned as once being home to Radagast the Brown. The buildings are of gray river stone and the rooves of clay tile. People pause in their activities and peer up at you as you walk along the hard-packed dirt streets.

[Here is an opportunity for Waestorn, if he is in the group, to accomplish his goal, if he opts to. If he is not among the band, carry on!]

You continue onwards, having gathered from villagers that there is, indeed, a Beorning who lives near Carrock, just a ways farther north along Anduin, the Great River. His name is Harnbad.

After a few more hours trekking, as the afternoon sun begins to sink behind the Misty Mountains in the west, you see a modest and clean cabin set amongst a loose copses of trees, under the shadow of a massive finger of stone (the Carrock) on an island of land in the midst of the Great River. Numerous animals, from horses and sheep to deer and birds, meander about the cabin and seem to watch you.

As you approach, a massive, bearded man steps from the trees near the cabin and tells you to stop and explain yourselves.

[Being independent and wary of strangers, invoking the name of the King will do little to humble or impress Harnbad. Ultimately, it will come down to:]

“I’ve no interest in Rangers, nor their ways,” says Harnbad. “Why should I help in your meddling in lands far from your own?”

[Orator or Persuader vs Beorning Nature 7 (invokes the Distrustful descriptor)

[I would not recommend another conflict here, as one may develop as a result of their dealings with Harnbad… Set clear intentions for both sides.]

[If the party fails this test, there are two options. 1) If the party used a fight conflict with the trolls instead of doing a chase, apply conditions to them (Strained for the primary speaker and Angry for the rest) due to the rigors of convincing the obstinate Harnbad. 2) If they used a chase conflict with the trolls, interrupt the parley with a fight conflict… Orcs are on the scene!]

[For the fight conflict twist, use the twist below.]

If Persuader/Orator was successful:

Harnbad says, “Very well, I will aid you. I see you as true-hearted folk, if queer to these parts. Come inside and make yourselves comfortable by the hearth. I have tasks yet I must do ere night is fully upon us. I will join you soon.”

Harnbad returns within an hour and settles down by the fire. He pours you drinks and places bread, a crock of fresh butter and a jar of honey before you. Over supper, he tells you that travelers have, indeed, been having problems. Goblin activities seem heightened, and he has seen the Great Eagles of the mountains soaring high in the air. He would not be surprised if goblins were behind the hazards in the pass, but his duty is to his animals and the lands around Carrock, not to go wandering into the lands of others.

Twist (Orcs): Skewer ‘Em an’ Tan Their Hides, Boys!
As you’re attempting to persuade Harnbad of your good intentions and need, there is a raucous howling from the west! A dozen goblins are headed towards the trees around the Beorning’s homestead. Harnbad snarls bestially and races to the animals gathered outside his home. They seem to listen to him and he goes into the trees with them. As he disappears from view, you swear you hear the bellowing challenges of a bear and fearful squealing and howling.

A dozen more jeering goblins with torches and clanging weapons are coming towards you, splashing through the shallow waters of the Great River towards the Carrock.

insert Moria Orc stat block here, in the PDF version

[Here’s how we use goblins (Moria Orcs): As per the stat block note, 1 stat block is actually 4 goblins. So, with a dozen of them, there are only 3 individuals, so to speak or 1 team. Individually, they are so easily overcome by the might of the Rangers that they are not worth noting. Only together do they become courageous enough to strike at travelers.]

After they’re dealt with, Harnbad emerges from the woods with a few cuts and bruises.

Harnbad says: “Well, well. I see the tales are true and you Rangers have no love of Orcs and their kind. I will aid you in what small ways I can. Come inside and make yourselves comfortable by the hearth. I have tasks yet I must do ere night is fully upon us. I will join you soon.”

Harnbad returns within an hour and settles down by the fire. He pours you drinks and places bread, a crock of fresh butter and a jar of honey before you. Over supper, he tells you that travelers have, indeed, been having problems. Goblin activities seem heightened, and he has seen the Great Eagles of the mountains soaring high in the air. He would not be surprised if goblins were behind the hazards in the pass, but his duty is to his animals and the lands around Carrock, not to go wandering into the lands of others.

[He’ll allow anyone to user Healer to help tend his injuries.]

[The GM’s Turn ends here. The Players’ Turn begins!]

[Explain that they are now in control and may direct the story in whichever way is sensible. If time allows, it may be entertaining to play out an evening of banter with Harnbad over a few minutes. Advise the players that they have 1 free check to spend, as well as any others earned during the GM’s Turn. They can use those checks to recover from conditions, help each other recover from conditions, or to drive the story in whatever direction they like. For instance, Erathal might want to do a Scout test to determine if those Orcs were from the Misty Mountains and are, in some way, connected to the problems in High Pass. It’s up to them! Remind them of their Goals and tell them they can take actions to accomplish them.]

Continuing the Adventure
There is an easy follow-up adventure to this: Investigate the High Pass and sort out the problem there. For interest’s sake, I suggest an escort mission that parallels that: Three dwarves crossing the Old Ford can be seen the next morning. They are from Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) and are bound for Bree. They are heading west towards the High Pass with a wagonload of goods.

This allows for lots of room for Goals, as they can be related to the Dwarves, their fellow Rangers or the High Pass.

Very briefly, I suggest using the following hazards for a follow-up mission: Scout to ensure the roadway is clear (Ob 6) up to and into the pass, with a weather twist: late spring snows batter the band and the Dwarves as they wind up the narrow pass. Hazard #2: A bridge in the pass may be down, or there was a rockslide in the winter that now blocks the way. Twist: Enemy (Orcs) or maybe bandits! (Men), with failure resulting in a condition(s).

Happy adventuring! I’ll post sample characters (or this whole chapter of the PDF with mission + characters separately) soon.

Edit: Sorry, should have mentioned: looking for any feedback. I’ll say up-front that I’m a huge fan of this mission structure and content, and where it can lead. Happy to hear any feedback, though, if some things are too repetitive or more could be added/stuff taken out. Working on the sample band of Rangers now.

Wow! Nice work! I love how you’re putting up notes for the GM at a convention setting. I think that may be the ideal way of turning people’s heads around at this kind of game.

Just one newbie-related comment, and this regards the Conflict mechanism. I think there needs to be a small break in the story to let the newbie players breathe and get more “settled in” with the basic mechanics and roleplaying opportunities before they get possibly bogged down and confused with a Conflict.

And another comment on convention-setting structure. I’m wondering if it is possible for this single-cycle GM-turn / Player-turn to be turned into two: GM / Player / Awards / GM / Player / Awards.

I know you have the followup adventures listed at the end, but it may help the players see what “Player Checks are all about” if they have a “trial” Player phase in the middle of the session. (Essentially to have them notice that they need to use those traits to generate checks.)

This may mean that you would have the two tasks split into the two cycles. This may lead to having some small-and-easy task added to the first cycle, and perhaps you can have a FINAL CONFLICT at the end of the second cycle that would vary on success or fail of the second cycle’s task.

Hmm… I actually thought I had quite a bit worked in there prior to the first conflict. There’s the roleplaying possible with King Elessar, the Pathfinder test, the roleplaying and test possibilities with the boatmen. Can’t do too much more without not playing the game, to be honest. Conflicts are an integral part of the game, and a really fun part.

I don’t mean to be disparaging, Storm, but I feel the same about the GMT/PT sequence as I do about the conflict mechanics. I don’t expect new players to get everything right away. I don’t think any of us has. :slight_smile: The idea is to expose them to the entire game, with its various rules, and get them interested. And to just have fun.

Also, this is a sample mission for anyone to play, not only for a convention. That includes MG players. I just tried to make a little extra room for convention gaming with the notations to be more inclusive.

You make a good point, though: I should probably put a note in there that the second twist should only be used if plenty of time allows. Otherwise, apply a condition and let the players test-drive the Players’ Turn. I just don’t want to complicate the write-up by saying “if you’re at a convention…” and having multiple paths within one mission.


I like that idea. Ultimately, I may have to make two sample missions: one as a regular sample mission, and the same one tweaked as a convention sample mission.

Sample mission PDF in my sig now and also here. May have to beg Storn and see if he wouldn’t mind doing 4 really rough sketches for the sample characters.

One quite question about the first task: Find the way to the Carrock.

In the text, it’s listed as a versus test: Pathfinder vs. Spring Nature 6.

In most other examples of similar tasks I’ve seen (the first test MG’s “Deliver the Mail” springs to mind), the Spring nature of 6 is the Ob*, rather than the dice used on a versus test.

The reason I ask is probably pretty obvious: a Ob6 test is a LOT harder than a vs. text against Nature 6.

(* I should instead say that, in Deliver the Mail, the Ob is 6, not that it’s 6 because it’s Spring. I have no idea if Luke got the Ob from Spring’s rating, or if the Ob just cumulative Factors, and ended up 6 by accident.)

Ah, good catch, doycet! You’re right and that’s how I meant it. Must have been in another RPG mode when I wrote that “vs” in there.

It ought to read “Pathfinder test, Ob 6 (obstacle from Spring, Nature 6).” No “vs.”

I’ll change it once I get home later tonight.

Cool Rafe; glad I could help.

While you’re poking around, you might want to double check the way you describe a 0 and 7 Nature in the text. I think it’s backwards – it says that 7 is a wildman and 0 is someone ready to settle down, and I think it’s the other way 'round.

Really? Is that in v1.3? I thought I’d fixed that. :mad: I’ll double-check that, as well.

Ahh, nope: you fixed it in 1.3: please to be ignoring me.

Heh It wouldn’t surprise me, though. I seriously messed that up a few times. I had the scale descriptions backwards… then I inverted “increase”/“decrease” in the effects text… oi.