Darkening of Mirkwood
The Darkening of Mirkwood is finally out! It’s been in the pipeline for a very long time, and I’m ecstatic to see it released. I took Francesco’s outline and notes from The One Ring’s Loremaster’s Guide, and expanded them into a thirty-year adventure modelled on the classic Great Pendragon Campaign. It may be the best adventure I’ve written so far; I’m certainly extremely happy with it.
It corrects one unavoidable issue with the GPG – the ending isn’t set. The Arthurian saga demands that Arthur perish fighting at Camlann, and be taken away to Avalon. The fate of the Woodmen of Mirkwood, though, is left unanswered by Tolkien, so I was able to put much more weight on the player characters’ decisions. There are significant NPCs running around the adventure – one adventure has both Saruman and the Nazgul, and another starts off with the PCs being sent to apprehend Gandalf – but they’re never the deciding factor in how the campaign resolves.
There are some sections that I’m very gratified to see in the final product. The melancholic ending, for example – the campaign inevitably ends in a defeat, although the PCs’ actions determine whether it’s a temporary setback for the Free Peoples, or a complete victory for the Enemy. The opportunities for player characters to take on mythical roles, or to retire and take on new character types who arose from previous events in the campaign. The very, very careful references to the earlier Ages of Middle-Earth. The absolutely stunning artwork.
Thirty years have passed since the company first met in Wilderland. Thirty times have the black leaves fallen in the wild wood. A lifetime, as the short-lived Northmen reckon time; a brief spell for the immortal Elves. This final year is an opportunity for the surviving companions, if any, to reflect on their deeds and even lay down their burdens. Characters who helped Prince Bain in earlier adventures can retire to the safety of Dale. Others may prefer to continue adventuring outside Mirkwood.
The forest itself lies under a dark shadow. The Woodmen, if they still endure, are few in number. Radagast remains in his cottage at Rhosgobel, where he has lived for many years, but his absences grow longer and longer as he wanders the forest. Some rumours claim he goes to visit the River-maidens, other stories say he travels through the wood in the shape of a bird or a fox.
In the south, the Messenger of Mordor leaves Dol Guldur. The Ringwraith is recalled to Barad-Dûr, to report to Sauron. What tidings does he bring the Dark Lord on his Dark Throne? Does the Nazgûl tell that the north is weak and divided, or does he speak of heroes that drove back the Shadow from the wood?
Other minds, other hands, working the same black soil, growing their own cuttings of Tolkien’s great tree.