Apologies for the confusion I‘ve caused with my misunderstanding of the rules. We had to re-do characters a bit, but there were no major changes except for the Ranger, whose Parry went from 23 down to 19.
Then vacation time and other stuff happened and there was some delay, but now we‘ve finally managed to get the next session on the road.
So after a few days of rest in Bree, the fellowship journeyed north towards Fornost. There was only one encounter on the way which resulted in a little detour. When they finally reached the once grand and royal city they found the ruins gloomy and foreboding. The sky was perpetually overcast in the colour of ash and the air was unusually chill. It was already afternoon when they arrived, but the companions agreed that they wouldn’t spend more time here than absolutely necessary and proceeded to comb through the king’s castle right away. The elf felt the presence of many tormented spirits here, but he used a magical success and appeased them with the light of the Eldar. Their whispering voices led him to a forgotten armoury where he found a green war banner with a staff that was much too short for humans. Confident that they had made progress in their quest the companions decided to set up camp finally, as the sun was already setting. Suddenly, while setting up his tent the hobbit was attacked by something that seemed to be an undead horror at first glance, but luckily revealed itself as the ranger Talandil, guardian of Fornost, when the other companions came running.
I did play Talandil as somewhat unhinged as he had spent considerable time in a corrupted place. His intentions were good, but his choice of words and actions was rather poor. He tried to scare the player-heroes away from this dangerous place and since they would rather not comply, I finally got to use the rules for Councils. It was their goal to convince Talandil that they were competent enough to leave them alone, which was quite reasonable actually. We managed to get through the council without any major hiccups. There was just some debate among the players about who got to use which skill, as there was some overlap among the characters, but they were able to settle that peacefully and eventually succeeded in convincing Talandil that a fellow ranger and an elf were certainly capable of protecting their travel companions.
All players declared afterwards that they were fine with the new rules, even though the „one roll per skill“ felt a bit odd when multiple characters with ranks in the same skills were present. One player told me that he preferred the clearly defined goal and time limit over the old rules, as he felt I had ended some Social Encounters in the past too arbitrarily to his liking.
Personal Notes: I still feel a bit constrained having to go for a set goal but Councils feel more of a challenge now than Social Encounters did, and I like that. The new transparency makes sure that players know what’s at stake and can help to reel GMs in that stick more to their script than player actions. The „one roll per skill“ rule has the potential to cause some nasty arguments in less cooperative groups, however. I think I will make each player declare a general strategy for his character at the start of the Council in the future, so other players will know what skills they intent to use beforehand.
After a night of troubled dreams and a corruption test that everyone failed, they set out to explore Fornost some more. Thanks to a ranger’s cunning and a hobbit‘s nose for secrets, they made good progress and discovered the ruins of barracks in the afternoon, where they found a room that had been furnished with small beds and from which they recovered the remains of rusted weapons fit for the hands of hobbits. Yet when they left the place in good spirits, they were suddenly attacked by a large number of goblins with some wolves as support. I did want to test their combat performance against overwhelming numbers of easy foes, but this proved to be a really big problem. The attackers were goblins from Carn-Dum with hatred against rangers and elves, and this quickly proved fatal. With favoured attack rolls I promptly rolled a couple of eyes against the ranger, while he was very unlucky with his protection rolls and so he went out cold right at the beginning. The elf could not engage in ranged combat, and so the two best fighters were disabled. The remaining player-heroes fought desperately, but could not turn the tide for quite some time. It looked like this might end in a TPK, but luckily the elf eventually went on the offence and used a magical success for intimidation. Suddenly, rays of light pierced the dark clouds overhead and bathed the battlefield in a brightness the goblins couldn’t bear. They fled howling into the ruins, furious that victory had been snatched from their claws after all. The companions limbed back to their encampment.
Personal notes: I’m still a bit shocked that I had misjudged the opponents’ strength so much. I guess this is partially because I am used to our Mirkwood campaign where everyone has 4 ranks in their respective weapon skills. On the other hand, hatred has become stronger than before and it‘s another challenge entirely when you have to unlearn one system in order to adopt a new one. I have to look out for similar pitfalls in the future. All in all, adversaries seem reasonably challenging to me but I guess I will need some time to fully adjust to the changes.
One of my players remains unconvinced of the new rules, one is in favour of them and the other two are on the fence with “some stuff I like, some I don’t”.