Leaf and Land
The Fellowship Phase
"When winter first begins to bite and stones
crack in the frosty night,
when pools are black and trees are bare,
’tis evil in the Wild to fare."
Heroes are not always busy navigating deep caverns, fighting back the Shadow, or fleeing from dangers beyond their ability to face. Even the most eager of adventurers need some time to rest and enjoy what life has to offer, spending days practicing a craft, reading a good book, or even writing one.
Whether it is spent in the pursuit of a noble goal, or simply resting comfortably to recover energy before setting out on the road once again, the time Player-heroes pass when not adventuring is called the Fellowship phase. (The time they spend out travelling, fighting foes and adventuring is called, simply, the Adventuring phase.)
How a Fellow ship Phase Works
A Fellowship phase is a session of play driven by the players’ choices. While during the Adventuring phase, players usually react to the Loremaster’s storytelling, during a Fellowship phase they get to elaborate upon their Player-heroes’ stories and ambitions. The Loremaster is the final judge regarding the interpretation of the rules, but is invited to sit back and follow what the players have to say about their characters.
A Fellowship phase marks the conclusion of the current Adventuring phase, and as such ideally takes place at the end of a gaming session.
The Passing of Years
The default pacing of gameplay for Adventures in Middle-earth sees a group of Player-heroes take part in one adventure per year of game time. If this pace is kept, then a Fellowship phase can also be used as a milestone to mark the end of one year of game time and the beginning of the following one.
On average, a Fellowship phase marking the passing of a year should represent a pause from adventuring lasting for approximately an entire season.
Three months are enough for any Player-hero to return home from any location in Wilderland and leave them some time to be among his family and folk. Moreover, spending the colder months of a year as a Fellowship phase is a natural choice, as it will leave the warmer seasons open for the following Adventuring phase: a life in the Wild is an unforgiving one, and adventurers prefer to have a roof over their heads when the wind is howling and the land is buried in snow…
Lengthy Quests: If the company are on some epic quest that takes them from one end of Wilderland to another, then gameplay may not break down neatly into distinct individual adventures. In that case, consider running a Fellowship phase whenever any Player-hero gains a level.
Structure & Location
A Fellowship phase lasts from a few days to one full season of game time, depending on the Loremaster’s structuring of the game. At the beginning of a Fellowship phase, the players must choose whether the company retires somewhere to spend the phase as a group or if they temporarily disband and each character returns home alone.
Once they are set upon a decision, they start taking individual turns to tell the Loremaster and the other players what they are going to do and where they are going to do it.
The players are free to spend the phase at any place they have already visited during the game. The Adventurer’s Map comes in useful here, especially if the players have updated the information on it and kept track of their journeys.
The route bringing the company or each individual player-hero to their chosen destination is considered to take place ‘off stage’ without Travel checks and Journey Events, unless the Loremaster or the players have a mind to play out the details. For the sake of veracity, Players should generally choose a place within a reasonable distance from the area where they were adventuring during the recent sessions of play, also taking into consideration how long the Fellowship phase is going to last and where and when they have agreed to meet up afterwards.
The Company Retires to a Sanctuary
After a successful (or perhaps unsuccessful!) season of adventure, a company may decide to head to the closest Sanctuary, or may even find their adventure ends in a Sanctuary, where they chose to remain.
Player-heroes in a Sanctuary dedicate their time to telling tales, listening to stories, eating good food and resting well. They may make new friends, and learn more about the world around them.
Rest and Recovery
At the beginning of the Fellowship phase, all player-heroes normally recover all their expended Hit Dice, all of their hit points, and remove all exhaustion. However, if a character is suffering from an unusual condition (poisoned, wounded by a dreadful weapon, under a curse, five levels of exhaustion), then that character recovers only half their expended Hit Dice, half their lost hit points, and removes only two levels of exhaustion. Further healing can be obtained with the Recovery undertaking.
Players are invited to exercise their creativity and find new and exciting ways to spend a Fellowship phase. Often, players need look no further than the recently concluded Adventuring phase, as the story that was just completed might have provided several leads worth following, like a new friendship to consolidate or a new sanctuary to be granted access to. Any activity that could have a lasting impact on the character can be considered an undertaking.
Normally, a player is allowed to choose one single activity for their character to undertake. A longer Fellowship phase might allow for up to two undertakings instead. If the Loremaster agrees, in the case of a longer pause a player can choose up to two different Fellowship phase undertakings (the player cannot choose to repeat the same activity twice).
"Good," said Gandalf, "it is mending fast. You will soon be sound again. Elrond has cured you; he has tended you for days, ever since you were brought in."
Seriously worn heroes may need more rest and recovery than others. Heroes with high levels of exhaustion, or some conditions, such as Blinded or Deafened, can take time to heal from, as can some types of lingering injury and damage caused by certain poisons. A character so afflicted can take a Fellowship phase to recover by seeking care and advice from learned healers, visiting certain mystical places or perhaps even by simply lying in a cozy bed while someone brings soup.
At the end of such a Fellowship phase, all exhaustion levels are removed, all Hit Dice and hit points are recovered, and one condition is healed.
"Go to the armories of the Citadel", he said, "and get you there the livery and gear of the Tower."
Some Cultural Virtues offer a chance to change, improve or expand on how they work if a character spends an undertaking learning how to further utilize them. See the description of the Cultural Virtue for more about how this works.
Gain New Trait
Indeed, within a week, they were quite recovered, fitted out in fine cloth of their proper colors, with beards combed and trimmed, and proud steps.
A Player-hero might choose to change something fundamental about them and alter their distinctive feature, specialty, hope or source of despair. Such changes can arise from events during the Adventuring phase or a player-hero deciding the time has come to alter their perception of the world. This is a major undertaking requiring much soul searching, seeking the advice of the wise and making a concerted effort to make a lasting change to who they are.
No check is needed to complete this undertaking; the player announces this is how they are spending the Fellowship phase, and at the end the change has occurred. The Loremaster should judge whether or not the change is viable, but should be lenient in allowing the player to direct their character’s evolution.
It should be noted that even if Una the Unforgiving has chosen to change her Vengeful nature to embrace a more Honorable way of life, not everyone in Middle-earth will know, or even believe, that a change has occurred.
Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.
Heroes feel the burden of the Shadow weigh heavily upon their shoulders long after their adventures are over. Their minds remain bent on dark thoughts, and visions haunt them in their dreams, if not even during their waking hours.
Those who fight the encroaching darkness can work on removing the taint of corruption within themselves. Player-heroes belonging to different cultures resort to different methods to get rid of corruption: Dwarves usually turn to the forge to burn their frustration smiting the red iron on the anvil; Hobbits dedicate themselves to a beloved activity, like gardening, painting or writing a diary; and Elves and Men generally create, play or recite poems and songs.
A Player-hero wishing to remove their corruption must make a DC 13 Wisdom (Insight) ability check. If successful, they remove 2 Shadow points. If their ability check results in a total of 25 or more, they remove 4 Shadow points. Permanent Shadow points gained when suffering from a bout of madness can never be healed. Player-heroes attempting to heal corruption in a Sanctuary make their ability check with advantage.
If it suits a Player-hero’s personality, the Loremaster may allow the substitution of another ability, like a Charisma check with a musical instrument or a Strength test with blacksmithing tools.
"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find one."
A patron is usually a renowned or powerful personality, who may from time to time offer a company a purpose to go adventuring, often providing support of various kinds and counsel. Player-heroes may choose to meet a patron when they are spending their Fellowship phase in the location where the individual is to be found, if the patron is available for a meeting, in order to request their support or advice.
Figures worthy of being called patrons are often major characters in Middle-earth; the Loremaster has more details about how to go about gaining them as patrons.
"Hidden somewhere ahead of us is the fair valley of Rivendell, where Elrond lives in the Last Homely House."
In order to open a settlement as a Sanctuary, the company must already have established friendly relations with the residents and any leaders there during the Adventuring phase. Having done so, the whole party can spend a Fellowship phase at the settlement together meeting the residents and firmly establishing their welcome. From that point on, Player-heroes may treat the settlement as a Sanctuary, allowing them to take especially effective long rests there (see above), as well as restoring certain special abilities. The Loremaster's Guide has more information on Sanctuaries.
"I name you Elf-Friend; and may the stars shine upon the end of your road."
Most cultures grant a title to heroes, giving somewhat unkempt adventurers a bit more respectability in exchange for expectations of aid as needed. A Player-hero who has performed appropriately valiant deeds during the Adventuring phase may, with the Loremaster’s permission, choose the Receive Title undertaking.
Generally, a Player-hero will be granted a title by their own culture based on deeds performed and in recognition of a native child rising in the world. However, a foreign culture might also grant a title to a Player-hero who has performed grand heroics on their behalf. Over time, a character may eventually receive various titles from several different cultures.
There are benefits as well as costs to having a title. First, Player-heroes with a title are regarded better by individuals from the culture that gave them the title than others of their people by two steps along the Cultural Attitudes Table in the Audiences wiki.
For example, the Men of the Lake don’t know their “cousins” across Mirkwood well and regard the Woodmen in a Neutral way. If a Woodman was named a Burgess – he, specifically (and unsurprisingly) is regarded as a Favored individual in social settings by the folk of Esgaroth.
Second, the Player-hero is granted either land or a dwelling in the community. The size and features of the land or house are proportionate to the character’s Standard of Living. Such a tract of land serves as a Sanctuary and also generates a modest 50 silver pennies a year in pocketable profits. This money is often in the form of crops or trade goods and the like, and the character must spend their Fellowship phase or pass by during the Adventuring phase to collect it. Uncollected money remains at the holding until retrieved.
…they pondered the storied and figured maps and books of lore that were in the House of Elrond.
There is much history and ancient lore in Middle-earth. The Player-hero may consult moldy manuscripts, private libraries or the minds of the Wise to search for an answer to a specific question. After completing this undertaking, the Player-hero may make a DC 15 Intelligence (History), (Nature) or (Lore) or (Riddle) ability check with advantage.
If the check succeeds, the Loremaster will answer three of the player’s questions concerning a topic related to the skill used. If the check fails, the Player-hero will still learn three things, but one or two will prove false, cryptic or misleading.