Contest: Bree-land Investigators

2015-fellowship-event

I am a fortunate bear; living in a city with a thriving board game and card game scene has definite advantages. The Austin Lord of the Rings LCG group was able to participate in two separate Fellowship events, one yesterday and another from which I have just returned. Caleb and Matt are only improving in their scenario design skills. Murder at the Prancing Pony is one of the best scenarios in the game, certainly among the best of the Gen Con and Fellowship decks.

Some players expressed skepticism about a murder-mystery themed quest set in Middle-earth. It’s one bear’s humble opinion, but after playing the scenario a few times I think that it fits the theme of Tolkien’s writings just fine. Bill Ferny features fairly prominently in the quest, especially depending on the which Hideout the Suspect ends up using, so its not as if the cast of characters are solely FFG creations. It is plain to see the inspiration that this quest takes from the Bree-based chapters in The Fellowship of the Ring, and this connection is appreciated.

Bill-FernyWhat really makes this quest shine is the dynamic nature of the 5 different suspects, 5 hideouts, and the way that they interact with the rest of the encounter cards. Like all of the best quests, Murder at the Prancing Pony is a devilishly intricate puzzle. It rewards clever use of location control effects Thror’s Map, Distant Stars and West Road Traveler. Likewise, engagement effects like ally Mablung, Westfold Outrider and Tactics Aragorn can all be instrumental in dealing with the wily brigands and other ne’er-do-wells hanging about Bree.

Legolas-alt-artAs great as this quest is, availability of Fellowship events is limited by their very nature. Some areas don’t have big enough LCG scenes to support Fellowship events. In other cases, stores with excellent sales of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game simply choose not to run a Fellowship event. I’m not sure if it’s because of the cooperative nature or the game, the fact that many play the game solo, or simply because stores put more focus on high profile games like Magic and Netrunner. In any case, there are less Fellowship events than the popularity of the game actually warrants.

With that in mind, we at the Hall of Beorn are always looking for ways that we can give back to the community. I am happy to find myself with an extra copy of the quest, including an exclusive play mat and alternate art Legolas. It is time for another contest, with the winner receiving these highly desirable items.

The rules of this contest are simple. Design a custom card related to this quest. Hall of Beorn Card Search has full spoilers for those who aren’t yet familiar with this scenario, but the card that you design does not have to directly reference these cards. What I’m looking for is something that fits in with the theme of heroes helping Barliman Butterbur by unraveling the mystery of the Murder at the Prancing Pony. Entrants are encouraged to use Strange Eons to design their cards and they can either link to those images directly in the comments or email them to me and I will post them here myself. The last day for entries will be midnight on Monday, November 30th. The winner will get their free copy of the quest, the alternate art card, and the play mat – via special Eagle delivery anywhere in the world.

Best of luck, and happy investigating!

investigating bear

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28 Responses to Contest: Bree-land Investigators

  1. Vardaen says:

    Awesome, love custom card contests, and a chance for a kit! Thanks Beorn for running this.

  2. Beorn says:

    Good Cop and Bad Copy by Niklas Bloch:

  3. Beorn says:

    Danfer Pickthorn, Drotho Mugwort and Half-pint Speakeasy by Patrick Baur:

    • Kjeld says:

      A bit of backstory for this trio of cards:

      These cards tie together a new story for the dark days of Bree, and fill in a missing archetype—black markets and scoundrels—in the character of the town as it down-spirals toward being a “wretched hive of scum and villainy”. The new Suspect and Hideout I have created draw on the lore of the Bree-land hobbits to imagine how villainy might manifest in the Little Folk. At the same time, in homage to the Professor’s consistent belief in the possibility for courage and heroism latent in even the most quiet and retiring of folk, I present an objective ally Shirriff, building as well on the new trait spoiled for the Dream-chaser cycle. This adventure offers a near-endless possibility for replay and custom content, and I hope you enjoy my small contribution!

      Half-pint Speakeasy: Pipe-weed is as much a fixture of Bree-land as the Shire. “The Bree hobbits claim to be the first actual smokers of the pipe-weed… And certainly it was from Bree that the art of smoking the genuine pipe-weed spread in recent centuries.” Upon returning at long last to The Prancing Pony, Gandalf calls for pipe-weed from Butterbur. “Well, if you’d called for anything else, I’d have been happier,” says the innkeeper. “That’s just a thing that we’re short of… There’s none to be had from the Shire these days.” With the coming of Sharkey bringing “trouble in a mean way”, it is easy to imagine that the supply of pipe-weed, especially the most highly prized varieties such as Longbottom Leaf or Southfarthing weed, was steeply curtailed. After all, Saruman had promised as much to Merry when the fallen wizard met the returning company in the Misty Mountain foothills north of Isen. “Long may your land be short of leaf!” he cursed. So with Half-pint Speakeasy, I have imagined in the LotR LCG context the type of black market establishment that may have specialized in moving the rare goods, at least to those with the proper pass-code. This is just the sort of seedy hide-away—I imagine it as a hasty conversion of an abandoned (perhaps stolen) hobbit hole—where a suspect on the lam might lie low. And to reflect the high-stakes, high-risk atmosphere of such a place, the mechanics on the speak-easy reflect games of chance—guess wrong and you pay in blood!

      Drotho Mugwort: The role of Sackville-Bagginses, whose greed for Bag End caused no shortage of grief to Bilbo and Frodo, reminds us that not all hobbits are good-hearted folks. As the good professor surmised, “Some, doubtless, were no better than tramps, ready to dig a hole in any bank and stay only as long as it suited them.” Drotho is conceived to embody precisely this sort of shifting, rootless aspect of the darker side of the halflings. A black-sheep among his family (distantly related to the Sackvilled-Bagginses, perhaps), Drotho looked upon the hard times that fell upon Bree-land and its surrounds not with resignation, but as a sterling opportunity for profit. With a fast wit and faster hands, he ascended quickly through the swelling ranks of the gambling-sort of ruffian drawn to Bree during these dark days. He could often be found spinning a coin at a back table in the Half-pint Speakeasy, always ready to take a wager. Some even whispered that Drotho himself may have had a hand in the “abandonment” of the hole after the death of its original hobbit owner, one Tom Pickthorn. Such whispers, though, and their owners, never seemed to stick around very long. Not that Drotho himself ever deigns to get his hands dirty, but there is something sinister lurking behind those jesting eyes, some hidden menace cloaked each time he offers his signature proposition, “Care to make a bet?”

      Danfer Pickthorn: Following the loss of his ancestral home and the death of his father, Tom, under mysterious circumstances, Danfer Pickthorn set forth to do something about the influx of gangrels “full o’ thievery and mischief”. Taking on the mantle of Shirriff, he has joined the ranks of the few brave and worthy Folk, Big and Little, willing to stand up to the robbers and worse that plague the once-peaceful Bree-land. In particular, Danfer keeps a close and suspicious eye on Drotho, “a true blackguard, that one, if ever there has been” he once warned Barliman. Under his watch (and not infrequently his club), the streets of Bree are just a bit safer, and the villains step just a bit more carefully… Mechanics-wise, I conceived Danfer as a way to ease the pain of a rapidly filling staging area that can easily overwhelm the players in this quest. Seeing him hit the staging area should be a small breath of relief to the players, as not only does he provide a frequently much-needed boost of willpower, he also can be discarded at will to remove a pesky location or enemy from the staging area—avoiding the nasty travel and “when engages” of most encounter cards. In this regard, his addition softens the difficulty for frustrated players who want to enjoy the full encounter without quite resorting to easy mode.

  4. Beorn says:

    Pippin by Dirk Meijer

  5. Beorn says:

    Bree-land Eavesdropper, Dangerous Pursuit, and Bribe by Xardas Xardas:

  6. Beorn says:

    Blown Cover, Faithless Conspirator and Streets of Bree by Kevin Crooks:

  7. Beorn says:

    Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Gene Moore:

  8. facecheck says:

    Actually a very tricky challenge to come up with cards that give the feeling of solving a murder that don’t swing it too much in favour of the heroes. In the end I settled for a mini expansion.

    The enemies in this quest are not the main difficulty but the ever rising threat is the main danger. As the cliche goes, most murders are solved in the first 48 hours as after that the trail goes cold so I really upped the threat a bit. Probably a few more of these should be gold but it’s all a thought exercise anyway 🙂

    I have added 4 locations, 3 enemies and 2 treacheries to keep the percentages almost the same and give players the same chance of investigating as the main deck already does.

    First up is the Auction House – http://i.imgur.com/8IjsCqq.jpg
    I should have perhaps considered making it more of a location where players would spend time investigating, thus the raising of the threat, but the thought of bidding threat to complete the location quicker was also befitting of an auction so I left it as it was.

    Then we have The Forsaken Inn – http://i.imgur.com/x6AnEWJ.jpg
    The Forsaken Inn was a little way outside Bree, between it and Rivendale. I wanted to give the impression that one or two members of the party was chasing down a lead at this remote location but if left it becomes this niggling thought at the back of the characters’ minds. Once investigated though you could rule out something with certainty and thin the investigation deck a little.

    Last 2 locations are The Greenway – http://i.imgur.com/2rdKXoo.jpg
    This is the road in to Bree from Gondor. It’s an open stretch of road and I wanted to make it so enemies could ambush the players and gain a small advantage from it or could use it to make their escape.
    A few of these cards make the enemies a little tougher.

    First of the enemies is Mr. Mugwort – http://i.imgur.com/Mn4e0PY.jpg
    You may remember him as being the character who sees Frodo disappear and tells people that he vanished in front of his eyes. I didn’t want him to be an enemy as such so he’s quite hard to engage but his watchful presence is always looking over your shoulder and him telling others what you are up to lets word reach the murderer so might be easier for them to get away.

    The other 2 enemies you may recall from another set, the Squint-Eyed Southerner – http://i.imgur.com/KXgfXtF.jpg
    I’ve kept the stats exactly the same but given him a “Bree” related ability as he is believed to have set the Fellowship’s horses free in the middle of the night.

    The the quest deck is rounded out by 2 Shirriff cards – http://i.imgur.com/AtJ95nR.jpg
    You yourself are not above suspicion and the local Shirriff hauls away one of your heros who doesn’t appear as keen to solve the mystery.
    Spending a little time clearing the issue up at the station though has you back out solving the case.

    So, that was the thoughts behind it. I also took the chance to create a couple of Bree allies, Nob and Bob.

    Bob – http://i.imgur.com/emPfvf2.jpg
    Bob only had a very small part but Tom Bombadil sent the horses back to Bree once he realised what was going on and Bob looked after them. He can be quite useful in a variety of situations but he’s an almost direct counter to this version of the Squint-Eyed Southerner and can give a big resource advantage to a full party of 4 players using his ability, perhaps n conjunction with someone like Eowyn.

    Nob – http://i.imgur.com/9qxo97E.jpg
    A bit more of a part in the books, Nob was the one who staged the beds to look like the Hobbits were in them before the Nazgul came and stabbed the beds. As such you can take advantage of Nob’s forethought and do the same but the time it takes to avoid those enemies means the enemies forces grow ever stronger.

    And that’s it.

    Like I said, doesn’t quite hit the mark with every card but I very much enjoyed making these and it was a cool competition.

    Beorn, maybe you could embed the images?

  9. Beorn says:

    Enemy Informant and Make Contact by John Michel:

    • John Michel says:

      Quick explanation of this concept…

      My goal was to create a card (or set) with obvious advantage and synergy with the Prancing Pony scenario, but with broad appeal for others as well. I like simple cards that create deep interactions, so I also wanted to avoid overly wordy text boxes.

      This pair would function exactly like the Ranger Summons/Ranger of the North, with the exception that Enemy Informant counts as an enemy and not an ally. This allows a back-door means of placing quick progress on player-immune active locations or the quest if needed. His shadow effect may negate an attack unexpectedly, easing the threat of additional or out-of-phase attacks by enemies. The major balancing factor of this combo is unpredictability. You will never be able to predict exactly when your sleeper agent will pay off or in what way. If revealed, he will still be a loose end and will hinder your quest in whatever way he can as any other enemy. However, without the inclusion of the surge keyword, he is a very manageable threat in an otherwise more dangerous environment. He’s certainly worth the humble cost to Leadership to recruit, if he can report back in time.

      The reason to include this combo in the Leadership sphere is to represent the influence needed to summon external resources (in the case of the Rangers), or turn weak-willed enemies to your own purposes.

  10. Beorn says:

    A Well Thrown Apple and Nob by CJ McEachron:

  11. Beorn says:

    Guard Duty by Ira Fay:

  12. Beorn says:

    Barliman Butterbur, Bill Ferny’s Papers, Blind Alley, Costly Investigation, False Lead, More Houses, Opportunist, and Squint Eyed Conspirator by Vardaen:

    • Vardaen says:

      Thank for posting. Here are some concepts behind the cards. I figured an expansion to the quest was sort of more in order than a bunch of player cards.

      1 – Blind Ally – The heroes end up down the wrong road and fall pray to the enemies machinations wasting time on the investigation.

      2 – More Houses – Bree is good sized, its more stuff to search, just another house hence the surge. Players have to work their way through as many of them as they can during the investigation.

      3 – Squint Eyed Conspirator – Is this the same Southron we see in the books working with Ferny? Perhaps he is, is he a suspect himself? But don’t cross him or he could put a dagger in your back.

      4 – Opportunist – Just someone taking advantage of the chaos the suspect is causing in Bree for his own ends.

      5 – Costly Investigation – It takes resources sometimes to get people to talk.

      6 – False Lead – Hunting down the wrong lead can really doom you. But once you figure it out you can get back on track. So it attaches to the active location as a condition.

      7 – Bill Ferny’s Papers – Even if he didn’t do it, he knows someone who knows someone that knows who did. His notes could prove critical in solving this crime taking you 1 step closer to the end.

      8 – Barliman! – The old bartender can keep an eye open for you, and save your bacon with a well timed report, but you can’t count on him to be alert enough to remember to do it more than once.

  13. Beorn says:

    Nosy Took by Yannick Grams:

  14. jodudeit says:

    Suspicious Bystander:

  15. Beorn says:

    Beorning Muscle and Clever Hobbits by Chad Garlinghouse:

  16. Beorn says:

    Confession and Helpful Urchin by Mitja Bosnic:

  17. Chad says:

    Beorning Muscle is meant to represent the Heroes making a mistake and naming the wrong suspect. The mistaken suspect is naturally ticked off and comes at you, furious. Luckily, one of your true friends knows how to pack a punch.
    Combat Action: Deal X damage to a Suspect engaged with any player, where X is the printed attack of a Beorning character you control.
    This card is a Combat Action, so it can be played before an attack to finish off a weakened suspect, or can help the characters deal enough damage in one round to knock him out. It is never a bad thing to be friends with a Beorning!

    Clever Hobbits is meant to represent the skills and sneakiness of hobbits, especially when they work together.
    Attach to a Hobbit Hero. Limit 1 per Hero. Action: After a non-unique location is explored increase the Investigate value by X, where X is 1 less than the number of Clever Hobbits in play.
    I imagine if a group of hobbits wanted to find some dirt on someone they could easily eavesdrop and sneak in and out of places undetected to gather information. The more hobbits you have working together, the more intel you should collect. In this scenario the Investigate keyword is priority #1, so any boost is huge. I had to make sure this boost was not game-breaking. There are 6 different hobbit heroes, so in-theory, you could get a +5 Investigate boost in a 2 player game. More likely it will be a +1 boost from the player who brings hobbits to the Prancing Pony by having two of these in play. The earlier this boost can be obtained, the more impact Clever Hobbits will have on the game.

  18. Beorn says:

    Inside Knowledge, Sneaky Halfling and Undercover by Eemeli Tomberg:

  19. Beorn says:

    A Shadowy Figure and Hostages by Philippe Kavanagh:

  20. Beorn says:

    Breeland Investigator, Emyn Beraid Pilgrim, Hinder if I May, and Ready for Anything by Sean McHugh:

    • Flink says:

      I’ll add my design diary as well. I wanted one card for each sphere and to address what appeared to be the chief challenges of this quest: exploring a lot of locations, investigating the killer, strong unique enemies, and being Taken by Surprise. I also wanted to make sure that the cards would have some applicability outside this specific quest.

      I thought of the Breeland Investigator as something of the Watson to the Northern Tracker’s Holmes, who I figured would be a key detective on this case. Together they can burn through locations looking for clues. The Investigator also facilitates Middle-Earth’s Greatest Detective: Glorfindel’s Horse. I limited it to while questing, so the extra progress wasn’t too over the top, but that is while most location management takes place. (Although, this quest is more in line with Legolas’s brand of exploration rather than that of The Ridermark’s Finest. Beating up a ruffian and finding information makes more sense than a horse investigating an old manor.)

      For the Emyn Beraid Pilgrim I specifically used the more awkward phrasing “a number of cards” and “increase that number by one” so it won’t mess up cards that only look at the top card of a deck. The foresight of the Eldar can make your investigation go a little faster. Outside the Investigation, the Pilgrim’s knowledge of the seeing-stone of Elostirion can boost scrying efforts or make your stargazing a little better as well. As Gildor Inglorion was himself a pilgrim to Emyn Beraid, they work together as well.

      Hinder if I May does what Tactics events do, make enemies regret engaging you. Even if the enemy ends up being immune to player card effects, it won’t be immune to boosting your own attack/defense. The cost may be a little low, but I think that to be usable, an event has to be fairly cheap these days. Unseen Strike and Khazad! Khazad! are both free but only boost one stat. Behind Strong Walls costs 1 but it’s primarily a readying effect. Durin’s Song and Halfling Determination are limited in who it can apply to but apply to all three stats. It think the limit to unique enemies balances out the low cost here.

      And finally, you can’t be Taken By Surprise if you are Ready for Anything. When an enemy jumps out of nowhere an engages you, your defender can be ready for it. In addition to mitigating Taken By Surprise, it can help when an enemy engages directly from the encounter deck or a shadow effect does that annoying “engages the next player and makes another attack” thing. You could also set up some shenanigans with pulling an enemy engaged with another player, and Tactics Aragorn would certainly get good use out of this, but I don’t think it would be broken. I mistyped the cost on this one, it was supposed to cost 1. Even with the healing and defense boost, it isn’t as reliable as Heir of Mardil so it shouldn’t cost more.

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