I found it simultaneously easy and hard to create a character for an epic The One Ring campaign. The easy bit is fleshing out a rich backstory with the wealth of flavourful hooks provided in the rulebook.
The hard bits are deciding where to start, and then how to customise your character as they advance, picking options from the myriad of delicious choices available.
The core revised rules present a range of cultures (such as Dwarves, Elves and a variety of human groups), each elaborated with a selection of half a dozen possible backgrounds that serve as seeds for developing a character idea.
Regardless of culture, each character has a calling – scholar, slayer, treasure hunter, wanderer or warden – that represents a drive that is strong enough to entice them to leave home and follow an adventurous path. These go beyond old-school classes, perhaps most interestingly in the way they each are linked to a particular type of weakness that could befall a corrupted character.
For the long-form campaign that we started last summer, I was interested in exploring a character that was dedicated to a cause, rather than fickle or fluid in their morality. Someone whose social prowess may have been neglected in pursuit of their noble goals. Their Calling to leave their homeland may have been out of duty rather than personal ambitions. In the historical context of the setting, I was thinking of someone motivated to prevent a recurrence of the grievous threats that Middle Earth had faced under the Necromancer.
And so became Míriel, Elf Warden of Mirkwood.
Culture: Elf of Mirkwood
Background: Memory of Suffering (Elusive, Quick of Hearing)
Calling: Warden (Shadow Weakness: Lure of Power)
Combining these ingredients, I started building a picture of Míriel’s recent history, up to the start of the campaign in the year 2946. Since the retreat of Sauron five years earlier, she had been deployed as somewhat of a sleeper agent, with a watching brief to monitor the ebb and flow of dark forces scattered across Southern Mirkwood. She had observed the rising banner of Mogdred as well as the various non-human terrors, horrors and nuisances that are beginning to grow in strength. She regularly travelled back to the Great Hall of Thranduil to report developments and concerns, to debrief and refresh objectives, and, of course, to restock. She made this journey usually twice a year, and each season since the Battle of the Five Armies she has noticed the increasingly fading aura of the Elven Road as the power of the dark forces encroaches further north.
Míriel is very much a covert operative, resigned to a solitary life, and more than a little angsty about the troubles stirring. Hooking up with the rest of the Fellowship was always going to be a bit awkward for her, but the camaraderie is something she is eager for. Sometimes, perhaps a bit too eager.
After three seasons of play, Míriel has evolved in ways that I hadn’t entirely expected in response to the narrative.
The Fellowship has faced a myriad of dangers, and she has increasingly fallen back on her Song custom to try to restore Hope and motivate her companions. Having spent 5 years on her own, she’s not had a huge amount of feedback on her talents in this area. Suffice to say, early attempts have not always been successful (or well received).
Having said that, the last season in particular has been hugely inspirational. The group has faced and bested terrible foes – including two Great Spiders, the fabled Werewolf of Mirkwood, a Wight King, an Orc army and Nazgul. Míriel’s skill in recounting the sagas of the Fellowship of Good Riddance (as they have become known) are honing as each winter passes, and she composed a powerful Song of Victory to give resolve to her allies.
A lot of the action has been in Mirkwood. Míriel has seen it change dramatically over the last few years, and has developed an acute connection with the place. She’s learnt the art of communing with nature’s Speakers – talking with trees, listening to the rivers, reading the rocks, whispering with the wind. This has been hugely valuable on a few occasions, and as she practices more, her Insight and Riddle skills have become sharpened.
The Fellowship has faced a lot of mortal danger, and, as we know, have just about survived to tell the tales. Míriel is not much good in a melee, but her skill with a Woodland Bow has necessarily honed. She is deadly with her Fell and Stinging arrows.
It’s hard to say what the future will bring for Míriel. She has a fine track record in covert operations which may need to be exploited further to help the group evade greater challenges more indirectly. There’s no doubt the dangers the party face are getting more perilous. She will likely need more Confidence to raise the Hope she’ll need to draw upon as they strive to stem the rise of the forces of Shadow.
But whatever occurs, Míriel is still a dedicated Warden Elf of Mirkwood. No danger is too great for the company of the Fellowship of Good Riddance.