Welcome to another “Spin Cycle” blog post! If you aren’t familiar with my previous entries on re-purposing MERP products for Shadow World you can find my take on the Court of Ardor HERE, HERE and HERE.
As stated, this entry will look at the MERP adventure module “Thieves of Tharbad” and how the material could be spun into the SW Setting. There are similarities between ICE’s Middle Earth products and the later Shadow World series so it can be easy to grab one of these modules for adventure ideas, maps and layouts.
Thieves of Tharbad (ToT) is only 34 pages but it starts with a great Angus McBride cover of some nefarious goings-on in the harbor and docks. It’s another great McBride picture that captures the kinetic energy of action and story with great use of lighting and shadows.
The table of contents reveals the familiar ICE book format: Intro, Lands, Inhabitants, Politics & Power, the city of Tharbad, Adventures and then the various tables. For those that want to grab quick to use adventure material, much of the into, history and background can be ignored. One of the “complications” of re-using MERP material is the flavor of Middle Earth names. ICE did a fantastic job leveraging Tolkiens language and naming conventions, but they are obviously different than the names and language words in Shadow World.
The real “meat & potatoes” is the city map, floor plans and adventure material. The city map is color with color codes for various professions and businesses. It’s typical of ICE and a great map for a city adventure. Again, some of the map names are very ME but can be overlooked.
The city material, maps and floor plans take up 9 pages so there is some good material. There are around 100 businesses identified with descriptions of varying length. This is more than enough for a GM to have a ready to run mid size city. There are detailed floor plans for the House of Healing, Embassy, a typical Row House, and a Merchant Home and Shop. No taverns though!
Adventures. The first adventure is called “The Extortion Ring and is almost 4 pages in length. It includes several floorplans as well. It’s a good adventure plot with the opportunity to expand it as needed. The second adventure is “Theft of the Tiara” and involves a theft and recovery of a valuable object. Part of the adventure takes place in the sewers and a basic map of the sewer system is included! The real gem is the “water fortress”:
It’s nice to have artwork like this to add the adventure. The third adventure has the players deal with a smuggling ring, and the fourth short adventure involves bandits in the wilderness.
A quick review of the charts indicates that most NPCs average between 4th and 7th lvl. There is a 20th lvl Fighter, a 14th lvl Mage and a 12th lvl Bard. The rest of the PC’s are much lower level. My sense is that Tharbad would be great for starting characters up to around 6-7th lvl as is.
All in all, Thieves of Tharbad is a great resource to use as a city to base the players, several good adventures and of course the framework to add even more plot and intrigue.
You can drop Tharbad onto most any area of Shadow World, but I use it for the city of Arakin on the eastern shore of the Sea of Votania (Haestra, Emer I).
3 thoughts on “Shadow World Spin Cycle: Thieves of Tharbad”
I’m amused that so far you’ve managed to pick two of the MERP supplements I don’t own – and I have a lot!
I’d say this was their best MERP module in terms of product. There is plenty of scope to build further adventures but enough detail to play out of the book.
I find reverse engineering to Middle Earth can take ages as glossing a ME name doesn’t always cut it. It’s the motivations and politics (and a more restricted beastary) that seem to need complete rewrites even when the kernel of the plot is good. Having said that there is also my nerdy side that wants to add my own flavour and details, which doesn’t help.
I have a feeling that some of the Fortresses of Middle-earth series could probably be adapted without too much difficulty.