The Rhovanion Region Guide is a setting guide for Adventures in Middle-Earth by Cubicle 7. It covers the areas between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood and Mirkwood itself.
It is the companion volume for the Mirkwood Campaign, but is also useful for the Wilderland Adventures book or if you run your own campaign in the same area.
It does not cover Dale, Laketown and the Lonely Mountain. It also omits Lorien and Moria, which could be considered part of that area.
Overall, it is a very useful and well written supplement, and I think they hit the right level of detail, compared to e.g Forgotten Realms or Earthdawn products I’ve read. They provide ideas for plots and interesting locations, but don’t go into so much detail that you feel constrained by it.
The artwork is – as always in Cubicle 7 products – great. And they display their usual excellent sense of the setting and the mood it conveys. It feels like the Middle-Earth Tolkien invented.
The book is divided into three main sections:
- the Lands of the River
- the Greatest of the Forests
- New Adversaries.
The two first sections begins with a historic overview of the area and then describes the different sub-regions in some detail – probably over 4-5 pages on average. The descriptions follow the same layout and contains: an overview, Wildlife, Inhabitants, Notable Characters and Notable Places. Quite self-explanatory.
The final section on adversaries has 16 monsters or named beings, from the lowly forest goblins to the three mighty Children of Shelob that dwell in the Heart of Mirkwood.
It also contains a two new Cultures player’s can pick: Wayward Elves and Wild Hobbits.
Furthermore, there are many new Fellowship Undertakings that are unique to a location and Sanctuaries that can be opened. For example, you can go Hunting Grim Hawks with the Riverfolk or Study with the Lampmaker of Thranduril’s court. I think they are quite evocative, and really exploits the Fellowship Phase system well.
The organization of the book makes it very easy to use, when you are preparing your adventure, because it is divided into quite small areas and with the right amount of details for each area. That is a key feature in a book like this. It also has a nice index.
I think there is a general flaw with some of the named monsters and renowned NPC’s, like Thranduil. They tend to be bit underwhelming. It is as if there hasn’t gone that much creativity into making them memorable or interesting foes. For example, Thranduil’s Legendary Actions are that he can re-use his parry reaction or attack again with his bow or spear. Is that really the best they could come up with? And only one of the three major spiders is more than just a big bag of hit points with web and poison (the third one is pretty cool though).
One potential criticism
I think your perspective of the book may change a bit, depending on whether you intend to use this book on its own, or with the Mirkwood Campaign.
If you don’t have the Mirkwood Campaign, you may find it annoying that they often hint at more plot developments described in the campaign book, or that things like stats on the Nazgûl are in the campaign book, despite the fact that Dol Guldur is described in this setting book. Things like that, can make it seem like they are trying a bit too hard to push people to also buy the Mirkwood Campaign.
I will review the campaign book as soon as I’m done reading it…
What is missing from this book?
Not much, really.
- I would have liked more maps of adventuring locations, particularly if I was running the Mirkwood Campaign. There are maps of the ‘good’ settlements like Beorn’s House and Rhosgobel, but not of Tyrant’s Hill or any of the ‘dungeons’ like The Lost Watchtower, which they players are likely to visit. That would have been useful.
- I was surprise that it didn’t contain any Wonderous Artefacts or Legendary Weapons or Armour as part of the lore and plot hooks. I would have liked just a couple as examples and adventuring hooks.
What stood out to me?
- The easy organization and layout.
- When the lore is mixed with some of the dramatic stories (often fleshed out in the Mirkwood Campaign) there are some very compelling adventuring seeds.
- There is a page on Beorn and his story-line, or fate, if you will. It really asks some interesting questions and helps the Loremaster on a delicate topic: how do you deal with the life and death of one of the iconic characters of Tolkien’s world?
What do I find particularly useful?
- I’ve already used the book to prepare for my Adventures in Wilderland campaign, the map of the Hall of the Elven King, would especially have been handy, if the players had gotten access. I anticipate that will use the information on the settlements that my players are likely to visit and NPC’s they can meet a lot.
- I will also use the history and monsters for a couple of side-treks, to maintain the flow and keep things interesting.
- For the first adventure, which takes place in Mirkwood, I’ve used the descriptions of the landscapes and what trees and wildlife are found there. It can be a challenge for me to vary my descriptions, and this book is a good help to mix things up.
Why should you buy this book?
- You are running the Mirkwood Campaign
- You are running Wilderland Adventures, and you would like to get more help
- You will run a campaign or part of a campaign in the area
- You want more information about the Beorning and Woodmen cultures for your players
- You enjoy reading about Middle-Earth
Why should you consider another product?
- Your game is focused on another region
- You enjoy crafting these details yourself, for a unique campaign, based on Tolkien’s writings.