All That Glitters

by Anders Blixt


This campaign outline was intended for ICE’s recent Gondor modules, but was excluded due to lack of space. It deals with a gold-rush located in the Harondorian foothills of Ephel Dúath. The Gamemaster may choose any campaign date between 1641 (just after Adûnaphel’s departure from Lugarlûr) and 1944 (before the upheavals caused by the Second Wainrider War depopulate Harondor).

It is also possible to relocate the campaign to other uncivilized Gondorian mountain areas: the Anfalas or Drúwaith Iaur foothills of western Ered Nimrais or the Misty Mountains of Enedwaith. However, the Gamemaster must then on his own substitute the Southron locals with the relevant natives (usually Daen tribes) and modify several other details of the text.



The Malduin Gold Rush
Suddenly the rumour is all over Gondor: gold has been found in the Ephel Dúath foothills at the sources of the Malduin creek. Adventurous individuals journey to that Harondorian area to make their fortunes; turning it into an ill-administred and turbulent place for about five years (after which the gold is depleted). This is the background for some adventures involving the PCs’ attempts to strike it rich in a lawless land.

The Malduin Area
The Ephel Dúath foothills are low and undulating. Their soil is poor, discouraging farming. It rains occasionally during the winters, but the summers are hot and dry. The hills are covered by hardy grasses with occasional thorny shrubberies and copses of olive trees and Jerusalem pines. The fauna is fairly varied and you can find deer, goats and many other animals. They are hunted by panthers, wolves and lions. Narrow streams flow from the Ephel Dúath through the foothills, gradually merging to creeks which finally converge in the mighty Harnen river.

The Malduin (S. "Gold river", a name obviously acquired after the discovery of the gold—before, it had no name on Gondorian maps) is one of these creeks, originating about one hundred miles west of the source of the Harnen. It and some of its tributaries contain auriferous sand, which can be washed from the water by the traditional manual process. The streams are rarely more than two feet deep and six feet wide while the Malduin itself is equally shallow, but up to twenty feet wide.

The Common Gold-washers
Gold offers an irresistible lure for many, especially for the poor who see an opportunity to escape what they see as a dreary life. However, dreams of wealth usually turn out to be just dreams. Very few gold-washers are lucky enough to become wealthy. Most just spend some tough years in the hills and then return home as poor as when they arrived—unless they join the really unlucky ones in shallow graves outside the hill encampments.

The average gold-washer is a sturdy farmer lad from the Anduin vale or Belfalas. He heard the tales of gold in Harondor, spent his savings equipping himself and trekked the long way to the Malduin. He arrived a bit naïve but soon learnt the basic skills of his new trade and the need to work long hours in the burning sun to avoid starvation. He also learnt of the necessity of cooperation. A lone man has slim chances of survival in a place where there are no effective authorities. The common gold-washers—jokingly calling themselves otters, since they work in the streams—band together for mutual benefit, building fortified encampments and jointly maintaining some semblance of law and order. It is important for them to properly delineate land claims and to find methods of settling conflicts without resorting to violence. The otters have for those purposes adapted the legal traditions of Gondor to a set of common law regulations suiting their needs.

There is a sprinkling of non-Gondorians among the otters: Donân from nearby north Harondor, Eredrim from Anfalas, Northmen from Rhovanion, Easterlings from Khand (unpopular among the Westerners), and a closely-knit group of adventurous young Dwarves from Moria.

A Typical Encampment
The gold-washers prefer to live in sturdy canvas tents, which are easy to transport from one location to another. An ordinary encampment has a population of 20 to 100. It is encircled by a log palisade to keep scavenging animals and unwanted visitors out. Inside, the encampment is divided into different sections for tents, for cooking, for latrines, and for keeping pack animals. Waggons must be parked outside the palisade. Usually, the only joint facilities in the encampment are the latrines and the stable, both arranged to improve the general hygienic standard.

The Artisans and the Entrepreneurs
The people that really make money out of the gold rush are those that provide the otters with vital goods and services—like tools, beer, and women—at exorbitant rates, the pricing being by traditional methods of supply and demand.

In an encampment there is always a steady need for black-smiths, wain-wrights, tent-makers, and tailors to maintain and repair the gold-washers’ possessions. Due to the generally inflated price levels, a skilled artisan is able to charge twice or thrice as much as in the Anduin vale cities. However, his costs are equally inflated. Often, an artisan is a part-time gold-washer as well. Since he provides essential services while usually being a fully integrated member of the gold-washer community, the artisan is generally accepted by the otters.

The otters are able to provide much of their own food by hunting and cultivating small garden plots inside the encampments. However, the common man’s skills are not enough to bring about some items, such as good beer or spices. (Perhaps the services of women fall into this category as well.) The entrepreneurs supplying such merchandise earn well, and are often the subjects of the otters’ dislike and envy, forcing them to employ body-guards for protection. Many entrepreneurs are criminals from Pelargir or Minas Anor, sent here by their bosses to make a quick profit.

The Strongmen
Another group of winners are those individuals who, with the help of their henchmen, exclude others from rich areas and let their underlings exploit their gold with the most sophisticated methods available. Since the only local Gondorian authority is led by a corrupt man, Tuor the Warden, the strongmen are able to run most of their businesses unhindered as long as they grease his palm suitably. However, Tuor does not accept too blatant a criminal behaviour, so even the strongmen have to clothe their activities with fig-leaves of legality.

The Gondorian Presence

Tuor the Warden
Harondor’s Governor have taken some measures to monitor the situation at the Malduin and to try to curb the worst disregard for law and order. He has organized the Malduin area as a separate hundred of the East District, appointing Tuor, an officer of the Harondor Rangers as its warden and judge. Tuor received a company of fifty soldiers to assist him in his less than envious task.

Tuor accepted his mission with dark pleasure in his heart, since he realized that this was good chance to make a small fortune through corruption. Being the only permanent representative of Gondor east of the Road, there is nobody to oversee him and discover that he accepts bribes. However, he is not stupid, so he is careful to maintain a surface of respectability and honesty. The best way of satisfying those that bribe him while keeping an aura of credibility is to be elsewhere when something critical happens and to bias the judicial process by an excessive use of petty technicalities to achieve the desired results. Already after one year as warden, Tuor is thoroughly disliked by the otters, but they cannot accuse him of any substantial wrong-doings. Most of their complaints against entrepreneurs and strongmen founder on technicalities, while their opponents are far more successful when they bring their cases to the warden’s judgement.

The Warden’s Soldiers
The Harondor Rangers is a light infantry regiment recruited from the rural districts of western Harondor. It has been trained for independent anti-bandit operations in the territory’s wilderness. Its soldiers are skilled frontiersmen which is why they were chosen to accompany Tuor on his mission.

Fifty soldiers cannot keep complete control of several thousand gold-washers scattered in dozens of wilderness encampment. Their main task is to prevent outbreaks of anarchy and banditry, tasks that they so far have managed well. However, they have occasionally been ordered to enforce Tuor’s unjust decisions against otters. This has caused a lot of resentment among the common gold-washers who no longer fraternize with the soldiers. The two groups become more and more estranged.

The soldiers really dislike going against their countrymen. They think that their main task is to fight raiders, bandits and Orcs, not to evict ordinary gold-washers from disputed land. There is a growing disapproval with Tuor’s policies, though none yet suspect him of taking bribes.

The Southron Natives
Many local Southrons disapprove of the influx of greedy foreigners who—intentionally and unintentionally—disrupt their traditional way of life. Some natives also want the gold for them-selves since they see themselves as the "property holders" of the area (even though it was the Gondorians who found the auriferous sand). For these reasons there is much Southron banditry and the gold-washers’ encampments face intermittent raids. The new-comers have learned the hard way to always travel in well-armed groups.

On the other hand, a lot of Southrons earn money by selling supplies to the gold-washers. There is a steady demand for wheat flour, spices, hides and cloth, goods that the natives produce themselves and exchange for gold at a good rate. The precious metal is then used to buy tools and weapons from the Gondorian villages in western Harondor.

Hence there is no united Southron front against the gold-washers. Instead, there has already been strife among the natives when antagonistic groups have tried to settle their conflicts by force. (This is fortunate for the Gondorians; should the natives unite, the new-comers would not have a chance of surviving in the foothills.) So far, no Gondorian knows of these incidents, since there is so little communication between the two ethnic groups.

The Ephel Dúath Orcs
There are some Orc tribes stalking the Ephel Dúath. However, their number is small at this time so raids on Mannish dwellings are very rare. The Orcs have a healthy respect for the Southrons, whose hunters have displayed an unusual skill in tracking and ambushing their raiding parties.

The Orcs have little information on the events in the foothills and do not understand why there is such a sudden influx of Gondorians. Occasionally, a group attacks an otter encampment to steal food and weaponry, but there is no organized warfare due to the absence of a strong leader to take command over the squabbling tribes.

The Player Characters
Various occupations and pursuits suitable for player characters in this environment, ranging from ordinary gold-washers to artisans providing useful services to mercenary guards. The two latter categories can more easily move around in the Malduin area in search of employment; hence, these may be more preferable pursuits for the PCs.

Searching For Gold
A gold-washer is a stationary person, spending long and boring days sifting sand in the stream where he has staked his claim. He serches for small nuggets that have been eroded out the Ephel Dúath rock and transported by water down-stream. The nuggets are, small weighing just a few grams, and pretty hard to spot unless one possesses the proper experience.

It is suggested that the Gamemaster uses the following simple method to determine how much gold a player character discover during a day in the stream. Since this is a fairly boring task, it should be burdened by too much arithmetics.

The Formula For Success
Roll 1D10. Subtract 6 if the stream is of poor quality, 4 if the stream is a good one. Subtract another 2 if the character has worked less than a month as a gold-washer.

The result is the amount of gold, measured in grams (28 grams Å 1 oz), that the gold-washer has found. If the final result is zero or negative, too bad, you did not find any gold today.

If you roll a 10, roll again and add the result; if you roll another 10, roll again, etc (it is an openended series of rolls, making it possible though, extremely unlikely, to find quite big lumps of gold).

Example: The experienced Boromir, who has staked a section of poor quality stream, works hard a sunny day; his player rolls 10, and hence rolls again, another 10, and again, 7, giving 27-6 (poor quality stream) = 21 grams. Boromir really struck it lucky when he found a gold lump weighing about 3/4 ounce.

His buddy Dior in the adjacent stake is less lucky; his player rolling a 4, giving a zero result. No nuggets found today. However, he expects Boromir to make a small celebration with his buddies tonight.


The Seven Swordsmen

A Tale of Savagery and Sabotage
Arthad is a local strongman, originally a crime-lord from Pelargir. He claims a large rich area for his henchmen. However, it already contained some otter encampments, including one exclusively Dwarven—and their inhabitants showed no inclination of moving out. The conflict between the otters and Arthad’s henchmen gradually escalate. Eventually the boss sends for seven notorious mercenaries from Pelargir, giving them the task of cleaning the area from its unwanted occupants.

The players, living or staying in one of the encampments, face the choice between fighting the injustice or leaving. Their fellow otters are tough frontiersmen, but not warriors. The seven mercenaries are competent and merciless and plan to kill or scare away the undesirable otters with terror, leaving false clues implicating Southrons as the perpetrators. The swordsmen’s presence is initially unknown, but the players have the opportunity of uncovering the true story behind the fearsome events. However, putting them permanently out of action will be a major accomplishment.

Day 1
The seven swordsmen arrive by foot in the area and establish as small hidden camp in a copse some distance from the disputed area. After sunset, the mercenaries’ spokesman Arn walk to Arthad’s camp to discuss the strongman’s plans.

Day 2
From dawn till after sunset, the mercenaries scout the area to learn what it looks like and how their adversaries work and live.

Day 3–4
A few hours after sunset, the mercenaries capture two otters, who are performing maintenance on their waggons, from the PCs’ encampment. The prisoners are brought to a secluded spot by the mercenaries, interrogated brutally and the situation in the encampment and its surroundings and then killed and buried in hidden graves. The kidnapping is executed with no obvious traces, so the victims’ friends are unable to find out what has really happened. The culprits are skilled woodsmen and know how to hide their movements. This is a part of the mercenaries’ plan to strike terror in the otters’ hearts, since an unknown foe is always more frightening than a known one.

The disappearances are discovered after a few hours but nobody is able to understand what exactly has happened.

Day 4
During day 4, the mercenaries stalk some otters who work alone and kill and rob three, one of which is Qualin the Dwarf. (None of the victims belong to the PCs’ encampment.) The Northmen do not leave any genuine clues to who did it. Instead, at one murder site they drop a typical Southron dagger. However, currently no Southron tribes are closer than thirty miles away which makes the lead a bit mysterious.

The rumour of the killings spreads like wildfire in the area. The stories become more and more distorted and frightening as they travel by word of mouth. Soon a lot of otters are convinced that their are stalked by Southron vampires and other terrible creatures.

Day 5 Onwards
The mercenaries continue their terror campaign, killing and robbing gold-washers. Since nobody dares working alone, the killers have to deal with groups of two and three adversaries, but that pose no major problems. Fear spreads among the otters and many prepare to depart for other areas. The Dwarves get angry and decide to hole up in their encampment, while trying to find out who killed their friend.

If the players do not successfully deal with the mercenaries, the area will after two weeks be empty of gold-washers, apart from the stubborn Dwarves. Arthad’s henchmen will gradually take over the abandoned encampments, while the mercenaries depart from the area. The crimelord has then achieved his plans.

While all this goes on, the Warden and his men will be on patrol in another part of his hundred. He has been bribed to stay away for at least three weeks.

The NPCs

Arthad
A few years ago, Arthad was a minor crime-lord in Pelargir, running smuggling operations. However, the law were eventually to catch up with him. He was tipped off by a contact in the city administration, terminated his operations, and departed with his henchmen from Pelargir before the city guard was able to strike. Arthad decided that a sojourn in the wilderness could be a good idea. He had heard of the Malduin goldrush and of Tuor the Warden, so he realized that this would be a good opportunity.

Arthad and his henchmen arrived to the Malduin about a year ago, claiming a potentially rewarding area and building an encampment there. He quickly discovered Tuor’s corruption and started to bribe the Warden to further his interest. The strongman covets the neighbours’ claims and tries to find ways of expelling the local otters. However, mainly due to the stubborn Dwarves, Arthad’s plans have not progressed. To remedy that, he has sent for some assistance from Pelargir, thinking that what he cannot get by bribes and threats he can get by brute force.

The Seven Mercenaries
The notorious seven are Northmen—Hrafn, Arn, Leifr, Eirikr, Gunnar, Olafr, and Inge—originating from the upper Anduin valley judging from their native language. Today, no tribe would admit that they once belonged to it, so they must have been banished for some unusually heinous reason. The seven are skilled woodsmen and fighters, with lots of experience of killing Misty Mountain Orcs and Mirkwood beasts. They all look like the archetypal Northman: tall, muscular, blond and blue-eyed.

The seven have lived for some time in Pelargir, earning their living as swords for hire in the local Underworld. The city authorities know that they are crooks, but have had a hard time pinning anything on them, since those that are about to witness against them in court usually disappear without a trace. The Northmen are a competent bunch of crooks, who rarely act rashly.

Now the mercenaries have come to Malduin on Arthad’s invitation to terrorize certain settlements and scare off their inhabitants. The Northmen arrived in secrecy, establishing a small camouflaged camp in the wilderness. Their spokesman, Arn, visited Arthad’s settlement during a night to get instructions and receive part of their wages. Then they initiated their terror campaign.

If the camp is discovered by outsiders, the Northmen will kill them if that seems to be a good option. Otherwise, they will pretend to be newly arrived goldwashers, who are looking for a good place to start working. They have been very careful to not leave any clues that point towards their camp.

The PCs’ Fellow Otters
There are 31 NPCs sharing encampment with the players. It is not possible to provide information for all of them, but they all share some basic traits: stubbornness, professional competence, rugged physiques, honesty to each other, and well-equipped. However, none of the NPCs are experienced warriors. Most come from the Anduin vale, but it is possible to introduce individuals from more distant countries.

The Dwarves
There are a group of Naugrim gold-washers in the disputed area: twelve close friends and relatives from Moria—Borin, Khorin, Thorin, Qualin, Nóin, Dóin, Gíli, Tíli, Zimli, Báin, Láin, and Rurin—who all belong to Durin’s House and are very proud of their ancestry. They are all young adults by Dwarven standards and of adventurous dispositions. When they heard of the gold deposits in the Malduin, they decided that a visit there would be an interesting and rewarding experience. Their elders were not too keen on the idea, eventually but let the youngsters go.

The Dwarves have built their own encampment, actually a stone house they built themselves, at a stream that they have staked out as their own. The neighbouring otters were originally a bit suspicious of the Naugrim, but quickly realized that the newcomers were honourable and hard-working individuals. The Dwarves used their skills to select a good area to exploit; their gold-washing operation has been unusually successful so far.

The Dwarves get along well with the neighbours, since they have been treated well by the otters. On the other hand, they are very angry with Arthad who offered them what they considered to be a trifling sum to move elsewhere in the region. Unknowingly, Arthad insulted the Dwarves and they have vowed not to give in to his demands even though they may have to fight to defend their claim.

The Settings

The Disputed Area
Arthad wishes to assume control over an area of approximately ten by five miles with two converging creeks: the Malduin and a tributary. His encampment is located at its northern edge. The area contains five other encampments, one of which belonging to the Dwarven gold-washers, located at or near a stream.

The PCs’ Home Encampment
The characters live in a small encampment with 31 members. It consists of eight huts and hovels, four canvas tents, three storage shacks, and a palisade. Its gold-washers get along fairly well together (a troublemaker would soon discover that he had no buddies and quickly depart). Their claims are spread over a large area with the most distant about two miles away. Some of the otters work in small teams while other and loners that prefer the solitude of the wilderness.

Arthad’s Encampment
Arthad is a man who likes everything well organized and his henchmen know that. They have built a small village, fortified by a well designed earthen wall and dry moat with an unusually military look. That is not so remarkable, since the designer and construction boss was Hador, a former officer of Gondor’s army who was dishonourably discharged for misdemeanours and recruited by Arthad. He is now responsible for the encampment’s security and defense.

The crime lord was smart enough to bring a lot of cash and useful supplies with his expedition, so he has had no problems keeping his men in a good mood. The local prostitutes have agreed to visit to the encampment regularly. Arthad also has an arrangement in which his underlings pay him a significant part of the gold they find in return for food, lodgings, and protection. The henchmen are loyal, though a bit bored. Arthad’s plans of gradually taking over all of the Malduin and strike it really rich fill them with anticipation. They believe that this is their greatest opportunity ever to make big money.

The henchmen are mostly rogues and robbers from Pelargir. Some have joined the gang after it came to the Malduin, hearing of the crime lord and believing that they would be better off joining his rough but well-run operation. When the adventure starts, Arthad has 41 henchmen plus the lieutenants Hador and Forweg, the latter serving as an unusually brutal chief enforcer.

The Task

Starting the Players
The players enter the adventure when they learn of the disappearance of two men from their camp the night between day 3 and 4. They should be encouraged to look into the matter.

Aids
The players mostly have to rely on their wits. After the murder of Qualin, the Dwarves are prepared to offer whatever help they can to avenge their kinsman.

Obstacles
Initially, the players’ obstacle is the seven mercenaries. They are formidable opponents and will kill without compunction. If they continue the dispute with Arthad, they will encounter other of his henchmen as well.

Rewards
The players can keep what they can take from the mercenaries (such as armour and arms of reasonably good quality) and other foes. If the Dwarves are presented with clear evidence that the seven swordsmen are responsible for Qualin’s death and that the Dwarf has been avenged, they reward the players with a heavy purse.

Encounters

Finding and Facing the Murderers
The players have to act on their own initiative to find out what is going on and to neutralize the perpetrators. The Gamemaster must let their actions influence the progress of the adventure and for that reason it is difficult to state exactly how events will develop. The players have some obvious strategies.

One is to closely investigate of the murder sites to track the coming and going of the murderers. A very skilled tracker may be able to find some clue proving that the perpetrators were in fact not Southron. For instance, he may discover boot-print that definitely not originated from the sandal-using Haradrim.

It is also possibly to try to find the two otters who disappeared during the evening of day 3. If the players find their graves and exhume the corpses, they will see that the men were tortured before they died.

The most dangerous but also potentially most rewarding strategy is "counter-stalking", when the players monitor the otters’ gold-washing, perhaps using one of their number as a "bait", looking for suspect activities. The PC stalkers must be very good woodsmen to be able to surprise any of the Northmen, but if they succeed, they will have revealed the true culprits.

Even if the players succeed in identifying the murderers, they cannot immediately find out why they are here or who hired them. A captured mercenary will no break easily and talk. A prisoner may be recognized by someone who has lived in Pelargir, but to investigate that further, the characters need to travel thither. Arthad’s lieutenant Forweg went to Pelargir two months ago to hire the mercenaries. In that city there are some witnesses at the Black Squid inn who saw the notorious criminals meet for a discussion.

In the Malduin area, there is only one event that connects the mercenaries to Arthad: Arn’s visit to his encampment late day 1. His arrival was witnessed by several of Arthad’s henchmen. They do not know why he came or that he had his friends nearby. However, they know who he is, since he is a well-known man in the Pelargir underworld. However, to find out about this, the players have to make one of Arthad’s henchmen talk, which is not easy. Capture and interrogation is a crude method, and more subtle approaches could avoid attracting Arthad’s ire.

If the Northmen realize that their cover has been blown, they will immediately abort their operation and depart from the area. Arthad has hired them to kill people, but they will not recklessly risk their own lives for gold.

Talking to the Dwarves
The Dwarves are willing to discuss Qualin’s death with the players, if convinced that this is a serious effort to solve the murder. They will speak openly of their general situation and, if asked, explain their bad relations to Arthad. However, they have very little information on the Qualin’s death apart from the obvious: where he was found, how he had died (a deep gash in the neck), and what had been stolen from him (his gold purse). They have no knowledge of the Northmen.

The Dwarves have not been deterred from gold-washing by their kinsman’s death. However, now they work in groups of four and are well-armed. This has made the Northmen reluctant to attack them, preferring instead the less formidable Mannish otters.

If the players decide that they need some armed might as support in an expected confrontation, the Dwarves are willing, even insistent, to help. This could prove an essential reinforcement since the eleven Dwarves are competent and well-equipped fighters, though they are not particularly proficient in stealth skills.

Ending Arthad’s Operation
If the players gather very good evidence of Arthad’s conspiracy, they may try to take the matter to Tuor for a due legal procedure. The Warden is reluctant to reveal his corruption by ignoring information obviouly incriminating Arthad. However, before the matter has been dealt with legally, the players may encounter even more trouble with Arthad’s other henchmen, since the crimelord does not back down easily.

The best method of defeating the strongman may perhaps be an attack on his camp by a united force of gold-washers; after all, Tuor and his men are elsewhere for three weeks. Arthad is not willing to risk his life to pursue his greedy plot.

Copyright©1998 Anders Blixt