Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – The First Journey

The point of this series – a play review for Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-earth for 5e – has been covered here, making my character, a Hobbit Scholar, has been discussed here, the character backstories ran here, and John McGuire shares the backstory for his character, Finn of Gondor, here, so with this column let’s get into the first meeting, the first job, and the first Journey where I discuss some of the Journey mechanics that AiME adds to the existing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition system (labeled “FIRST JOURNEY” if you wish to skip ahead).

Our Loremaster is Mike and our fellowship consists of:

  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood (often shortened to Gwynn). An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Player: Rebecca
  • Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith, son of Hoin. A mute dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian). Player: Stephen
  • Finn of Gondor. A 17-year-old human Wanderer (read, Ranger) with several possible backstories. Player: John McGuire (Tessera Guild)
  • Robgud Clarfield (often shortened to Rob). A Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). Player: Egg Embry (Tessera Guild)

Despite using this image, the journey we’re on is from the mind of our Loremaster, Mike, and not taken from Cubicle 7’s work.




The story opens five years after the Battle of the Five Armies with our characters, largely unknown to each other, arrived in Esgaroth (Lake-town) for various reasons when Mike (Loremaster/DM) has Gwynn enter the inn. The cliche start to any campaign.

To understand the dynamic of this scene let me share that we’re playing online via Google Hangouts. Upon entering the busy serving room, Gwynnestri spots Kort, the mute dwarf that saved her life. She goes over to “speak” to him when the challenge of playing a mute character online comes up. If you’ve ever had a speech delayed, or mute, individual in your life, you know that communication is paying attention to subtle, and not so subtle, body language. To Stephen’s credit, he worked to create Kort in that space. However, what would be easy to bounce off of and react to if we were playing around a table becomes a concentration challenge online. Until you click on his window at the bottom of the screen, Hangouts cycles around to whoever is talking, which is not the mute character. If you don’t have his screen up, you lose the nuance of his performance and small moments when his character is “speaking”. However, keeping his window up all of the time means you lose out on the visuals of the other players and, especially, the Loremaster who screen shares maps to help with visualizing the settings. It’s a minor issue, but an impact to our play.

If you’ve roleplayed or written a novel/script before, you know that first scene, that first interaction, really sets the tone of your character. Rebecca decided to play Gwynnestri like no elf in Tolkien’s world, instead playing a take-no-guff heavy in the vain of a non-evil version of Marton Csokas’ Quinn from Into the Badlands (a show she’s never seen), or Stephen Amell’s season one Green Arrow from Arrow (not the Oliver character, but the violence-is-solution Arrow). Why did she go that route? Stick with me on this, my dice rolls for D&D combat can be summed up in the term, “apocalyptic”. As I’ve hinted, if my character had an oar, he’d miss water in the ocean. Prior to this campaign, every time Rebecca played a D&D character, it was a butcher. Lowest result? 19 with max damage. You know that player, they don’t participate in group combat, instead they lead the slaughter of wings of great wyrms while the rest of the party stays out of their way. My rolls are bad, but her rolls are the counter, they’re amazing. As such, she can play the violent hero because the dice let her stand tall.

Jolly Blackburn (Kenzer & Co) and Kevin Siembieda (Palladium Books) have *the* character talk. Used with permission from Jolly.



Rebecca and I played a D&D Adventure League game at Momo Con 2018. We were both 1st level but half of the group (8ish players) were 4th level and the encounters were a bit heavier for us. I, of course, missed everything. Rebecca was playing a 1st level halfling rogue. Her rogue killed… half or three-quarters of the monsters we encountered by herself. The 4th level characters had to defer to her. My session was: “Hey, this is my third CRIT failure in a row… I’m out of weapons to break or drop…” Her session was: “… and you rolled *another* NAT 20! With max damage! That’s another dead lizardfolk! There’s only a dozen left, do you want to charge by yourself or wait for the other players to join the fight? You’ll charge on ahead? Ok. Oh, another NAT 20. Should we just roll damage for fun?”

END INTERLUDE (Hopefully the relevance of the above Jolly/Kevin meme is clear.)


Back to surly Gwynnestri meeting mute Kort. It was the first scene of the campaign and one character is meant to be angry, the other quiet, and the scene was dying like casting Tyler Mane’s Sabertooth as Hamlet talking to Teller (of Penn &…) as Yorick. To save it, Mike interjected Robgud Clarfield, Hobbit, who I’d decided to assign a terrible English drawl. The accent I’m affecting is like someone based their English-English on the early punk singing voice of Billie Joe Armstrong when he was influenced by Brit punk but still from California. Shortest individual in the room, I play Rob as the sun rising in the morning on a world of good possibilities. While my counterparts… do not. So there’s a third Shakespearean character and it’s like English Pee Wee Herman. It turns out, that combination of characters was not meant to have deep philosophical talks so the deus ex machina… er, nobleman’s agent enters to offer us a chance to apply for a job.


NOTE: I should have stated this earlier, this is an original campaign and NOT a pre-made module. This is all from the head of our Loremaster, Mike. So, despite using the Mirkwood Campaign image above, this is not taken from that (so far as I know. I haven’t read the campaign book so I can approach this fresh).



We arrive at the noble home of Lord Haldeer. During the job offer we meet, and are paired with, Finn of Gondor, John’s character, a quiet 17-year-old done up in armor. The lord asks us to travel to Sadaphsan to search his ancestral family castle for heirlooms so he might learn more of his family’s history and why they moved from there to Lake-town hundreds of years gone by. We’re offered 1,000 silver pennies (is that a lot in AiME? I cannot say… yet) each for a trek of 150 to 175 miles. In terms of hooks, it’s not as hokey as finding a map leading to a dungeon and treasure, but it’s close. We pack a month-and-a-half’s worth of supplies and head out from Esgaroth along the river into Mirkwood.


Our first Journey is from Lake-town to the Hall of the Elven King of Mirkwood to gain said King’s permission to travel through the whole of said realm to the foothills to the north. If you’ve read the Adventures in Middle-earth rules, you’ll know that a big difference between Dungeons & Dragons 5e and AiME is the Journey System. Unlike 5e, AiME has a specific set of phases for travel. These phases, and a change to the Long Rest system that we’ll cover in another post, create a palatable difference between 5e and AiME. In a Journey, there are four jobs that must be done during travel – Guide, Hunter, Look-out, and Scout – that have to be filled and rolled for at different points during the trip. We assigned the roles as follows:

  • Kort, the Hushed, a Slayer, was assigned the Hunter position.
  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood, Treasure Hunter, ended up as our Scout.
  • Robgud Clarfield, a Hobbit Scholar, ended up as the Guide.
  • Finn of Gondor, a 17-year-old human, took the Look-out assignment.

Thus begins the first Journey. The Loremaster determines the Journey’s Peril Rating based on how difficult the terrain should be. Then the Guide (my character) rolls a d12 plus modifiers against the Embarkation Table. I rolled the maximum, which was a red letter day for me! We got Auspicious Beginnings, which made the journey easy. As well, we received a bonus on our next roll for the Journey Events Table, and Advantage on our first roll once we encountered something related to said table.

For the Journey Events Table, the Loremaster rolls a d12 and adds modifiers. In this case, we reached the middle result, The Wonders of Middle-earth, which gave us a chance to remove a level or Exhaustion or gain one. However, since the journey had been light, this had no impact on us. That said, we rolled well and gained a +1 to our Guide’s Arrival Roll.

For our encounter, we ran into an elven guard. Gwynn, being the elf, was put forward to talk to him. She did and then rolled her Persuasion with Advantage. The result was high and the elven guard turned out to be Adabeuond, who was Gwynnestri’s friend, and he guided us right in where we saw the majesty of the elven realm. No exhaustion, no problems.

For the Arrival Roll… well, we did not get to the Arrival Roll. Why did we skip the Arrival Roll? Learning a new system can cause that kind of challenge, you just miss certain rules.

Regardless, our first Journey was complete. Using AiME’s Journey rules was a smashing success to the point that we had no idea what we were in for with the second Journey. Just none at all… [Next Friday]



Cubicle 7 is taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

Logo taken from Bundle of Holding’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for D&D 5e offering.



Read my anti-clickbait clickbait article: “Everything We Know About the LORD OF THE RINGS Prequel So Far“! Guaranteed to be clickbait-tastic!


Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – Character Backstories

Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e Bundle of Holding (here) ends January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST! This article is going up during its final hours. If you have not joined in, now’s the time!

Ends January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST


NOTE: This is my third article and my goal was to get through the character backstories and to the first journey. However, I’m over my word limit for this week so the first journey will be next week. Sorry about my poor planning.

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of torture and mutilation.



I’ve given my initial reasons for writing a play review of Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth (for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition), I’ve touched on my character creation for the campaign, that leaves the character backstories to wrap up setup (at least, I hope so).

Our fellowship consists of:

  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood (often shortened to Gwynn). An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Player: Rebecca
  • Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith, son of Hoin. A dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian). Player: Stephen
  • Finn of Gondor. His class has not been revealed yet, but he’s a 17-year-old human. Player: John McGuire (Tessera Guild)
  • Robgud Clarfield (often shortened to Rob). A Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). Player: Egg Embry (Tessera Guild)



Thanks to Jolly Blackburn of Kenzer & Co for the picture.

Finn of Gondor’s backstory is… well, John hasn’t shared it yet. His character is young and human. [Sharing some website information, the first two Adventures in Middle-Earth articles (here and here) are the highest viewed pieces for the Tessera Guild for the past few weeks. As such, I think I’m going to pressure John to write his character’s backstory for his column next week. Wish me luck!]

[UPDATE: John wrote up the backstory for Finn of Gondor here.]

For the backstories of Gwynnestri of Mirkwood and Kort, son of Korith, son of Hoin, both were present at the Battle of the Five Armies (end of The Hobbit), and share lightly linked backstories.

Gwynnestri was a soldier in the elven army sent to help the humans of Dale to siege the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

Kort’s purpose for being there was meant to be in opposition. When word arrived from Thorin II Oakenshield of his desperate situation, his relative, Dáin II Ironfoot of the Iron Hill Dwarves, prepared an army to intervene. In our campaign, before he set out he sent a small group of dwarven scouts to get the lay of the land and make contact with Thorin II. Included in this group was Kort, son of Korith, son of Hoin. As the scouts came ready for the elves and humans, they did not expect the army of goblins and wargs. Most of the scouts were killed while Kort and a few others were captured. The orcs tortured the dwarves to learn what was coming. None broke. As the goblin army was being routed, Kort’s torturer cut out Kort’s tongue, leaving the dwarf to bleed out. But Kort did not. Instead, he freed himself, killed some retreating orcs, including some that were surrounding Gwynnestri, which resulted in saving her, the original enemy’s, life. In the aftermath of the battle, he learned that Thorin II perished. Kort, horribly mutilated, took the news to heart feeling that his failure to reach the Lonely Mountain and serve with Thorin’s company in the battle led to his death. After that, Kort has not been seen in the civilized world until Gwynn encounters him at the inn.

NOTE: Like many 1st-level D&D character backstories, Kort’s would have left him at a level greater than 1st, but he, I guess, learned nothing from all of that so he’s still 1st-level. Such is D&D.

Robgud Clarfield, an offshoot of the Byhills, Hobbit Scholar. Instead of being given to the right fine Hobbit calling of farming and communal interests, Robgud cultivated a particular trade in herbs and curatives and the lore of nature, yet without formal education. Naturally, that left his kin having to defend him against gossip accusing him of being a snake oil peddler, that there was more of Mordor than medicine to his ministrations. True, his doctorings might avail a mischievous stomach, a limb broken in twine, or some of the worst of the gout, but his poultices could smell less of the dung of the big folk’s world and more of the pleasant fragrances of the Shire. Right, now, he could be neater about it, and not offer to help the big folk or, worse, talk of them moving into the Shire. Of course, the Clarfields are from the very limits of the East Farthing and known to conduct a bit of business among the big folk of Bree. The Clarfield family reputation give them to be an unsavory lot for their mingling, and so a son that knows their ways is but to be expected. Rumors have it that Robgud spent time among the Eregionians and learned their particular methods from several of their kind or, possibly, from the elves. Regardless of the facts, either story makes him an embarrassment to the Clarfields, and even more so to all decent Hobbit folk. Robgud’s father and family patriarch, Cefil Clarfield, determined to remove the stain his son’s affairs place on the Clarfield name, and apprenticed him into a most unsavory profession, traveling agent, a mesh mash bit of business entailing travel beyond the Shire’s borders to conduct any number of transactions that no self-respecting, simple Hobbit would willing take up. Cefil Clarfield is only too happy to put his son to backpack and road so the family, and the Shire, might reap some benefit from a starry-eyed Hobbit scholar.

Why is a Hobbit of the Shire like Rodgud Clarfield so far from home, having taken up at Esgaroth? In the aftermath of the resurrection of Bilbo Baggins and the litigation therein (ending of The Hobbit), some here-to-fore unrecovered funds from Biblo’s adventures needed to be secured and returned to Bag End for disbursement. To be clear, Robgud is employed as a temporary agent of the estate, and was assigned this job via messenger never having met either party involved in order to act in a neutral capacity. Upon execution of his duties, his contract is complete and, as the campaign opens, Robgud has dispatched said sums for home and is, at the moment, without employ in Lake-town.

Background: Emissary of Your People


Next week… The characters meet up, get their first adventure, and do their first journey…



Interested in trying out Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e? You can get most of the books as PDFs through Bundle of Holding (here) until January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST. The price for Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, Rhovanion Region Guide, The Road Goes Ever On, Loremaster’s Guide, Wilderland Adventures, and the Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster Screen is not likely to get cheaper than what BoH and Cubicle 7 have it for there.

As well, Cubicle 7 has started taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

Logo taken from Bundle of Holding’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for D&D 5e offering.

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

Three Gaming Kickstarters You Need To Back (by May 24th, 2017)

Ever want to role-play a western? Want to make your 5e fighters even more lethal? Got a board game idea and you just need the pieces to get it started? If that’s the case, Kickstarter has a game and two game aids that end by Wednesday May 24th that are begging for your attention! The countdown is on!

The White Box


3) The White Box: A Game Design Workshop-in-a-Box by Gameplaywright
Ends on Wednesday, May 17 2017 9:00 PM EDT.

Who wants to build a better board game? Or any board game? Need the components and some pointers from the professionals? The White Box is the product for you. Get the parts you need to build your game, a book of professional essays on the subject of game-making, and make it happen!

My write up of this product is here and the link to the Kickstarter campaign is here.

Fifth Edition Fighter Folio


2) Fifth Edition Fighter Folio & Condition Cards by Total Party Kill Games
Ends on Monday, May 22 2017 12:59 AM EDT.

Want to make your 5e fighter the best they can be? Want to use ideas from a company called Total Party Kill Games that strives to live up to their name? The Fifth Edition Fighter Folio & Condition Cards are for you! I am proud that I had the chance to contribute some ideas to this product and I can’t wait to read them in print!

My write up of the folio is here and the campaign is here.


1) Aces & Eights: Reloaded by Kenzer & Company
Ends on Wednesday, May 24 2017 12:00 AM EDT.

Want to role-play in an alternate history wild west? Want to “relive the glory days of the ‘West that never was’?” Aces & Eights: Reloaded is the second edition and 10th anniversary edition “of the world’s best selling, state-of-the-art, game-of-the-year wild west role playing game”. This isn’t just the game of western shootouts, this is the game of the 1800s with all professions open to you. This is the game could answer how the west was won.

For those looking to add a wanna-lancer, vanity press RPG credit to their resume, this campaign has several options to immortalize your NPC in a supplement or the main book. You can create an original Woman With No Name and have her live out countless stories across the wild west from the tabletops of gamers everywhere.

You can reach the Kickstarter campaign here.

Aces & Eights Reloaded




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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by: