Leaf and Land
Who are you and what do you want?” they
shouted, leaping to their feet and groping for
weapons. “Thorin son of Thráin son of Thrór
King under the Mountain!” said the Dwarf in a
loud voice, and he looked it, in spite of his torn
clothes and draggled hood.
Adventurers meet many travellers and wanderers along the road, and may visit foreign courts and realms if their adventuring takes them far enough from their homelands. Whenever they deal with strangers, they should exercise some caution, as theirs is a trade considered peculiar or even dangerous by the common folk, and their arrival is often met with fear and suspicion. Even when meeting other enemies of the Enemy, heroes should watch their tongues and be mindful of their manners, as even trusty friends can be quick to anger in days of doubt.
The success or failure of a company’s quest can often depend on the people the adventurers meet along the way. There are many powerful individuals who at first appear to be simple denizens of the Wild, whose help or counsel could prove invaluable, and many cunning foes who are best avoided can at first appear friendly. Adventurers must soon learn that not all that glitters is gold, and all that is gold does not glitter…
"Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him. Yet so little faith and trust do we find now in the world beyond… that we dare not by our own trust endanger our land. We live now upon an island amid many perils, and our hands are more often upon the bowstring than upon the harp."
Travellers and adventurers are the exception and not the rule in Middle-earth. Few folk ever travel far from their place of birth, and know of other lands and other peoples by distant rumor and nothing more – assuming they’ve heard of them at all. The Shire-Hobbits, for example, have no dealings with Men other than the Bree-Folk, while in Rohan, the peoples of Wilderland are little trusted and Hobbits are figures out of legend.
The chart below represents the general way the cultures of the various Free Folk regard one another in the year 2946 of the Third Age.
For example, the Beornings are none too fond of the Dwarves of Erebor and the feeling is mutual. While the Dwarves certainly respect all that Beorn did for their kind, they find his followers a bit uncouth and a little too greedy for their tastes. The Beornings, in turn, think the Dwarves value stone and metal more than people, charging them extra accordingly for safe passage through their lands. If a company of heroes with one or two prominent Dwarven members helped clear the Old Forest Road through Mirkwood and started helping the Beornings with their troubles occasionally, that “Askance” will soon slide to “Neutral” and perhaps even “Friendly” with a few years of hard work. On the other hand, while the folk of the Woodland Realm appreciate King Bard’s heroism, the logging of various groups of Barding outlaws along their borders, has made them eye their eastern neighbors somewhat warily. If the Bowman does nothing, the Elves of Mirkwood may begin to regard Bardings in a very poor light.
The listed attitudes are the default starting points for any social interactions that heroes may engage in with NPCs at the start of a campaign, but the actions of heroes can (and should!) change these entries.
Favored – Members of this culture are viewed in the best possible light. Simple requests are readily granted, and even more complex appeals will be strongly considered.
Friendly – Members of this culture are openly welcomed and treated fairly. Simple requests are positively considered and more difficult favors are quite possible.
Neutral – Members of this culture are viewed impartially. Simple requests may be granted, difficult ones are, more often than not, dismissed.
Askance – Members of this culture are considered somewhat suspect. Simple requests may be, reluctantly, granted, but without exceedingly compelling reasons, anything else will be rejected out of hand.
Mistrust – Members of this culture are actively doubted or the cultures in question have a long or troubled history. All but the simplest or most desperate requests are seen as an attempt to trick or insult, or the words of a beggar.
Unknown – Members of this culture are simply unknown or never heard of.
Changes that have occurred recently in Middle-earth are already reflected on the table. For example, the Bardings regard Hobbits of the Shire in a Friendly way, whereas in general, Hobbits of the Shire know nothing about Bardings. This is due to the actions of the remarkable Mr. Bilbo Baggins, who pitted wits against the Dragon Smaug, and gave King Bard the Arkenstone of Thráin, with which to bargain for peace with Thorin Oakenshield.
Songs about Mr. Baggins’ deeds are sung throughout Wilderland and Bardings, at present, regard Hobbits in a very positive light. Most Hobbits, for their part, have no idea what a “Barding” is, or where such a creature may be found.
The attitude of an individual being intimidated generally drops off the chart from “Mistrust” to “Hostile”. Note that use of the Intimidation skill can be a Misdeed (violent threat) causing whoever attempts it to gain one automatic Shadow point, whether successful or not.
Even when you’re trying to intimidate a villain “for the greater good”, you are still embracing the ways of Mordor…
Seeking an Audience
When meeting someone for the first time, especially one of the great, powerful or wise, it is well to go about it in the proper way.
One member of the company must make an Intelligence (Traditions) check at DC 15 to introduce the group. Depending on circumstances, a hero’s culture, Standard of Living and reputation can all influence how they are received.
For example, a wealthy lord is unlikely to have much time for a penniless bowman, and a Dwarven master-smith may not be willing to meet with a company containing several Wood-elf warriors at all.
The result of this check determines the other person’s initial reaction. If the check succeeds, use the table matching the non-player character’s attitude towards that culture. If the check fails, then in this social encounter only, treat the non-player character’s attitude as being one step lower. Treat Unknown and Askance as occupying the same ‘rung’ – in either case, the attitude caused by a failed check is Mistrustful.
For example, a Woodman visits King Bard in Lake-town. Cross-referencing ‘Barding’ and ‘Woodmen’ on the table gives a starting attitude of Neutral. However, the unfortunate Woodman fails his Intelligence (traditions) check and so Bard looks Askance at this boorish barbarian from the wild forest.
Mixed Companies: If there is a mix of cultures in the company, then use the attitude of the spokesman – the Player-hero who makes the initial Intelligence (Traditions) roll.
Should the Player-heroes make a request of the non-player character, use the NPCs’ current attitude to determine the DC.