Barad Cam
A high level MERP adventure
By Andy Warner

Barad Cam (roughly translated as 'Tower of the Fist') is a ruined fortification on the banks of the Bruinen, near En Egladil. (The ruin can be seen on the official MERP maps. It is on the East bank of the Bruinen just south of the right angle turn the river makes south of the East Road, where a north/south tributary joins the main river. It is between two clumps of trees, west of some low hills). It is an area of forest and scrub over low hills, with many old tracks and trails, though no real habitation survives. Orcs and Trolls roam in the dark hours, but are not common. The fortress houses an important artifact and is guarded by ancient Dwarven machinations. Whilst the weather is clear and fine now, thunder rumbles to the north, and lightning plays on the horizon. The river could become a torrent in just a few hours....

 

The Entry Level
(15ft above ground level)
All that is left of Barad Cam is a small ruined keep standing on a rocky outcrop on the banks of the river. Its walls are broken and its tower has fallen leaving debris and rubble clothed in ivy, creepers and vines. The ravages of time have almost completed the destruction men set out to do. Built to an old plan, the main entry to the keep is up a ramp to the first floor, some 15 feet above ground level. Stairs lead down to the basement storage area (A), and up into the ruins of what were the keeps upper levels (A1). The upper stair ends abruptly after about 20 ft, but could be used to climb into a watching place with good vantage points. There are no rooms or real structure above the first level and any activity is prone to accident as the walls are now unsafe. There is a good view over the surrounding area, down to the river. The main level provides some protection from the elements, and is quite defensible though the rubble and overgrowth may hamper activity. There is nothing else of interest here.
The Main Rooms
(at just below ground level)
The steps descend about 20 ft down to the basement level and are easily cleared of debris. They lead into dark, dank fetid rooms within the thick keep walls, at a level just a few feet below the level of the ground outside. Even so, within the thick, windowless walls, the debris is damp and smells of mold and decay. There are four rooms that may have been used for storage, though nothing remains to tell exactly what went on here. One room is small and the remains of a heavy door hint at its former use as prison cell or something similar. Careful investigation will reveal a well crafted concealed door (B) in one of the walls, though its opening mechanism may prove to be illusive, the main parts having long since rusted away. The door and stair behind are situated within a buttress and are hinted at by the bulge in the outer wall, though overgrowth may make this feature difficult to notice. The stairs lead down about 30 ft into the sub subterranian rooms that were carved out of some existing caverns in an age long passed.

The first hidden Deep
(40 to 50 ft below ground level)

The steps are trapped (t) about half way down using a common Dwarven technique. One step is simply an inch or so higher than the rest. Whilst this does not in itself harm anyone passing, and will probably not be noticed on a descent, it works brilliantly to trip those not aware of its presence climbing the stair, especially in flight or panic (Note, this really works well and is a technique used in some of the Medieval castles of England - e.g. Penhew Castle in South Wales) The passages and rooms are very damp here, with water lying in shallow pools in some places. There is a pungent smell that can becomes nauseating nearer the blocked passage (C) from the Troll lair below. There is a room (z) behind a pair of large, heavy brass bound oak doors, which have warped and split with time. The brass fittings are corroded but hold firm. With continued effort you should allow access. The room has a similar pair of doors opposite, a low stone plinth on one wall, the use of which is unclear and an intriguing set of four brass levers protruding from brass lined slots in the opposite wall. Any attempt to move these is futile as they have corroded long ago. They once controlled the opening of the sluices and portcullis below and the access to the secret compartments in the catacombs.

 

The doors lead to a rubble filled passage with steps descending (C). There are a few more pools of cold still water here and the dirt is wet rather than damp. The other area is interesting as it houses two statues of dwarven warriors. One is Durin the Deathless (y) and the other Angcam of Barad Cam (x). They are about twice life-size and are adorned in real armour and clasp real weapons, though all are corroded and seized with the exception of the sword Angcam is wielding, which although it appears useless and tarnished, is in fact a well made weapon that has withstood all that time could throw at it, being made of superior high steel (+15). It is about the size of a normal hand and a half (bastard) sword, and could be used as such. These two statues are Dwarven Automatons placed to guard the real treasure hidden nearby. A careful eye might spot an oily sheen in places around the base of the statues, especially around some of the joints and the small plinths they stand on. Angcam faces a wall where an inscription in old Cirith runes can be made out whilst Durin faces the open corridor.

Ring Rist

Forged of Fire in ways of Light,
where Dark shall never come,
The One that cuts to deepest core,
the Evil is Undone.

From Rivers fast came quenching thirst
to hiss and spit and boil,
In Deepest Fires the Naugrim smiths
worked in Endless toil.

Ring Rist was forged that Eve of Death
to Rally and to Fight,
That which had gone, has come again,
a Dark and Evil Might.

A Blade so Bright and filled with Light,
And forged of living Rock,
A Blade that Glows where Coldness flows,
To fight and Never stop

The alcove concealed behind the runic facade contains the treasure of Barad Cam, the named blade 'Ring Rist' (see below). It sits upon a beautiful crystal stand and shines and glints dimly, with its own beautiful light. (If the troll is within 30 ft, it will glow slightly with a pale blue, baleful light, getting brighter as the troll gets closer). Access to the alcove can be gained by manipulation of the carved runes. Some can be pressed in, and if done in the correct order, the alcove will be revealed. The word OPEN needs to be spelled out, one letter from each verse. Of course, any failed attempt to retrieve the blade causes the Automatons to grind into life with terrible rending, scraping and grating noises that themselves should be enough to scare the daylights out of any Hobbit in the party. They are slow and cumbersome after so many years in this damp place, but they still work, swinging their weapons in great sweeping arcs. Ancient Dwarven magics and mechanics power them still and they will follow thieves as far as they can, until their power runs out. (Remember any escape up the trapped stair may slow the party enough for an attack or two). The secret compartment (s) in a side room contains vials of oil, remnants of rags, a set of tools all corroded into one messy lump and a 'service manual' detailing the workings of the automatons. This concealed compartment may be located by the dribble of oil that has escaped and marked the stonework in that area. The manual is all but useless, but careful investigation will reveal how to disable the things, and should also hint that there is magic involved. If disabling is carried out, Durins statue will be totally useless, but Angcams will still retain some function and will start to move, grating and squealing as metal and stone are forced against each other until mechanisms fail and the thing goes still.

The lower catacombs
(at river level)

The blocked passage at (C) can be opened with a few hours work, but there is risk of further collapse, which may injure the party, or trap some of them unless precautions are taken. The doors can be used as pit props, or wood from the thickets outside may be used. It leads to the lower levels that served as riverside access to the keep via a great valve (O), sealed and concealed in a small cavern in the rock face below the keep. The whole place is inundated when when the river rises in the spring and winter floods, and water has reached as high as the pervious level (hence the puddles and general dampness) this year. With the weather warming, and storms to the north, the threat is not over yet, and a flash flood could cause problems if the party are not careful, especially if they do not shore up the damaged stairs properly and become trapped. The area has a defensive portcullis, which is in place and keeps the current occupants (a large and fearsome troll) from entering the keep itself. The troll will be resident here several days a month when prowling this part of his territory. If the party are not capable of taking on a troll, then don't have it at home. The place stinks of carrion and is littered with bones, carcasses and the fetid trappings of a troll lair. He has smashed open the concealed door leading to the four rooms and uses the area as latrine and larder. Anyone entering this area will be prone to disease and, if they have open wounds, they may become infected. The other concealed room can be located because the flow of water from the room through cracks and gaps as the floods subsided has left tell tale patterns in the slimy mud. It contains the remnants of an armoury mostly useless and corroded, but with the possibility of some items of superior or magical quality, to suit the level of your campaign.

 

Ring Rist
( suggested details for a high level campaign.)

+20 'Holy Blade',
+30 vs 'Dark' creatures (eg Trolls, Uruk Hai, Balrogs),
+50 verses Undead (eg Wraiths, Nazgul)
Longsword, made of 'living rock' (Laen?)
Glows near Evil things, including trolls, Uruk, etc, bursts into living flame when close to Undead.
Undead may sense its presence.
Has any spell like powers from any spell lists that you decree, in keeping with your game.

In our game, the players never got the sword - they were too late and it found its way into Moria. This could be a game turning item, so use it wisely. If you do grant it to the players, then it is highly likely they will become the focus of the bad guys plots and devices........

 

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This adventure was part of a long running campaign. We have many resources in our archive, and are working on several adventures at present. If you find this item useful, you may wish to visit the legendgames site for more resources.

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