First Age: Living Among The Outlaws
Working on First Age is definitely a rewarding experience, although each expansion always takes a bit longer to complete than I would like. Thankfully, though, the second pack in the Doom Mastered cycle has reached its draft stage and will now be moving onto playtesting. I like to always give a bit of a preview of what is coming before its actual release and that is what I’ll be doing today. The next quest is titled Among the Outlaws and follows Turin Turambar on the next step of his tragic journey. This time around, our scenario follows Turin’s experiences living with an outlaw band after leaving Doriath (following a fight with one of the king’s advisers that led to that adviser being chased naked through the woods to his death!). These outlaws are a rugged band of hardened men known as the Gaurwaith, or “wolf-men”, because they prey on the nearby woodmen, leading vicious raids for supplies and food. Taking on the role of the heroes, you will be forced to become part of this outlaw band out of necessity just as Turin did. Will you side with the Gaurwaith in their depredations or will you stand against them in the name of what is right? Either choice is perilous. Supporting the Gaurwaith may be the easier path in some ways, but could come at the price of your soul, while choosing to confront them in the name of the woodmen may come at the price of your very life!
I was very excited to design this scenario as it’s completely different than any other situation or scenario we’ve seen so far in the game. The heroes we control have always been unequivocally on the side of good, even if they have been sometimes misled by shady characters (I’m looking at you, Saruman!). However, as described in The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin, Turin found himself among those who committed evil acts as a matter of course, and ultimately tolerated them until being forced to choose. This is then a quest where you actually start out on the side of the “bad guys” but eventually have to make a choice to follow the righteous path. Obviously, this made for a tough design dilemma. How do you reflect this moral conflict and thorny questions of loyalty in a card game?
The central mechanic of the quest revolves around the Fellowship With The Outlaws objective. This objective tracks your relationship with the Gaurwaith. Progress is placed on it as you join the outlaws in their raids (along with corruption on your characters) and nefarious acts against the woodmen. Damage is placed on it as you sabotage their efforts in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. The main way that damage is earned here is by questing unsuccessfully. Since questing represents the success of various outlaw actions, questing unsuccessfully means that the outcomes of such actions are not favorable. In a sense, then, there are times when you will purposely quest unsuccessfully as you seek to thwart the Gaurwaith (this marks the first quest where you actively seek to fail the quest!), however doing so comes at the prices of losing their respect and adding to their unease with you. Since you still gain threat from questing unsuccessfully, there is added danger from standing against the outlaws as well. Overall, the idea behind this scenario is that you will have to walk a fine balance. If you stand too boldly, too soon against your supposed fellows, you may find yourself cut down ruthlessly. On the other hand, if you simply join the outlaws in their dubious pursuits without question, corruption will quickly pile up on your characters until they are lost to an evil way forever.
To add another layer to the question of loyalty, you start the game with two objective allies: Androg and Forweg. These outlaws are your comrades at first, but when you finally reveal yourself as an outright foe to their goals, they will be flipped to their enemy sides. You will ultimately have to defeat them through force of will or force of arms in order to take control of the band, saving yourself and hopefully setting them on a higher path.
Of course, there will be some new player cards in Among the Outlaws as well, in addition to the new quest. The Gaurwaith trait will pop up once more on player cards as the ransom keyword and outlaw synergy is developed, while Turin will receive another Name attachment. However, in addition to these thematic cards focusing around Turin’s story, I also wanted to take a look at cards from the First Age “core” to see what holes needed to be filled and what cards could use some more love. In particular, Beren is a huge character in the lore, but he was a bit overshadowed by Luthien in the original First Age set. With that in mind, I’ve included a couple of cards to help Beren rise to his reputation, while developing what is hopefully a satisfying synergy with Luthien.
Look for Among the Outlaws to hopefully be released in about a month’s time, featuring a new scenario, new players cards, and all-new boons and burdens for the Doom Mastered campaign. Until then, I am putting out the call for playtesting help once more! If you are interested in helping out, please shoot an e-mail to email@example.com. Most playtesting is done through OCTGN, but if you want to print and play with the cards instead, that will also be an option. Thanks as always for your help and a big, hearty thanks to those who continue to play my First Age material!