There is Always Hope
Dark Shadows in the City of Bandit-Mage
Sauron, the Dark Lord, has retreated from Dol Goldur and has decided to begin preparations for his final war. After retreating to Mordor in secrecy, he has begun to quietly dispatch some of his minions to key locations within Middle Earth to prepare for his attack on the forces of good.
One Nazgûl, named Khamûl, was sent to the caves of Tar Arpithrion, the legendary “City of the Bandit-Mage” in the Northern Wastelands. There he is to build a secret lair using the old, ancient, tunnels to plot and plan while remaining hidden.
The adventure starts in Dale in 1496, where the King, Bard the Bowman, hosts a Council of the North. The Council is discussing issues affecting his newborn Kingdom.
One item on the agenda is the rumours of Wargs being seen to the north. Word has spread back that, when hunted, they retreat to the low hills and caves of the legendary area known as The City of the Bandit-Mage (Taras Arpithrion).
The City of the Bandit-Mage is not, in fact a city at all. The small hills and series of caves were once believed to be home to a mysterious thief that threatened to steal gold from the Dwarves at the Lonely Mountain centuries ago. The thief, whose identity was never discovered, was caught in the act of burgling the vaults of Ereborn and escaped north. He was tracked to the wasteland caves but seemed to disappear. Because of his ability to outwit his Dwarven pursuers they decided he must be a mage and the low-lying hills and caves were forever known as “The City of the Bandit-Mage”. The elves of Mirkwood soon adopted the moniker and referred to it as Taras Arpithrion (city of thief wizardry).
The caves of Taras Arpithrion are thousands of years old, and were originally built in first age as part of Morgoth’s plans against the Valar. No one, even Sauron himself, knows their full history or how deep they go.
It is assumed the characters, looking for glory and a chance to kill wargs and perhaps worse, will agree to lead a company of brave heroes to Taras Arpithrion and investigate further.
The master of the Taras Arpithrion outpust is the Nazgûl Khamûl. At this point he spends most of his time in his evil mercurial chamber endlessly casting spells to summon the evil creatures of the area to secretly seek him out.
The day to day activities of the outpost is held by a dangerous Orc captain who commands a small host of associated goblins, wargs, and other vile creatures.
The plan is to build a headquarters for a host of evil creatures to pounce on Erabor and Dale once Sauron is ready to begin his war. A small army of orcs and goblins (and worse), will eventually gather in the various caves while any other vile creature Khamûl can influence will hide in shadows close by.
The Nazgûl has already found weak-willed confederates in Dale – one of whom is on the king’s Northern Council.
Variation of Challenge
A fair amount of minion 1-hit goblins
Some big ugly wargs – some with riding goblins
Some larger tougher Orcs
Likely a small dragon/wyrm
Some definite undead (some sort of wight?)
Natural monsters – not under Nazgûl control (centipedes? spiders? oozes?)
Khamûl the Nazgûl
There will be rumor tables to start out
Some allies – perhaps some competitors not chosen for the group that wish to head out anyway to prove themselves
Exploring the Wastelands and the Dungeons of Tar Arpithion
Secret letter (showing a spy is in Dale)
Map (showing the entrances)
Visions provided by an ally in Dale before they head out
One item of treasure is Glowing sword identifying Nazgûl
Improvement, experience, destroy evil
Orc-captain had been building a HQ
Ringwraith is behind everything
Need a room where range weapons do not work
Build a trap that, once discovered, can be used by the characters
Goblins are the “vanilla” encounter
Orc Captain is the final fight – the wraith will escape to a second level – which will be barred to the adventurers for now
One entrance (main and secret)
Second level – escape for wraith – not yet accessible
Skill checks for Awareness, Craft, Stealth, Hunting, Lore (especially Shadow lore)
Some random selection