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. and the MERP adventure module “Thieves of Tharbad”
Today we are going to be looking at Umbar: Haven of the Corsairs. Like The Court of Ardor, Umbar was one of the first MERP products put out by I.C.E. and like Court of Ardor fits very easily into Shadow World. Cover art is by Gail Mcintosh–I always like this art for representing my idea of Rolemaster combat: gritty, dangerous (they never have much armor on!) and this is cool because it’s on a boat that’s tilting!
So why is Umbar such a useful module and a good fit for Shadow World?
- Strip away the Middle Earth material and you have great adventure content. The city of Umbar with city maps, sewer maps, tavern maps, 6 city towers of various “Captains”, info on the Wizard Guild, smugglers, merchants, Thieves Guild, City Milita, healers, Armorers Guild, Dark Religion and ships and sailors. Plus there layouts for 6 small castle/keeps that are great drop in plans for any adventure. This is classic RPG material. The Middle Earth info is just window dressing.
- Where does this fit into Shadow World? Plasidar. There isn’t much material on Plasidar in the Jaiman source book but a few data points:
Piracy along the Melurian Straits is on the rise…..the lords of Plasidar, and the Xooba raiders all increase activities.
Generally considered a ‘wild land’ filled with thieves
and pirates, Plasidar most likely is not quite as bad as it is
made out to be.
The Duke of Plasidar….is an Elven merchant-lord who
commands an impressive fleet.
Gûl is the capital city of Plasidar and certainly Umbar is a good stand in for the port city. Umbar has the 6 “Captains of the Havens” while Plasidar has it’s Sea Captain “Lords”. Umbar has Corsairs, Black Numenoreans and Haradrim raiders, (plus smugglers and merchants) while Plasidar has thieves, pirates, raiders and merchants. All in all, a pretty good fit! Given that the new updated Jaiman source book is complete and unlikely to be revised again, using Umbar fills in a fairly large chunk of southern Jaimain that’s close to other important areas: Lethys, Nomikos, and across the sea from Emer and Eidolon.
Since this isn’t meant to be a straight up product review, I’m going to skip down to page 11 where the content starts becoming usable for Shadow World.
3.1. There are 6 Captains the rule the city, each has their own fleet, tower in the city and castle with liege lord outside the city. The names themselves are “Tolkien” style, but dropping the accents, and putting in apostrophes convert to “Shadow World” style. Each lord gets a paragraph with a good description to flesh them out as NPC’s. The Lords are in the 20-25th lvl range, so they make great higher level bosses. There are also stats and info on each lords Chief Captain; these NPC’s are 10-13th lvl.
4.0. City of Umbar. Like most ICE products, Umbar has great color maps with building color coded as well for Alchemists, Lay Healers, Mentalists, Magicians, Herbalists and other professions. Umbar is pre-MERP so all the RM classes are used in these early products. Another bonus for Shadow World use.
There are layouts and information on two taverns, The Drunken Goose and The Red Sunset. These are perfect hang-outs, meeting places and starting points for a group of adventurers.
5.1. Describes the 6 city towers of each lord. There are floorplans and layout keys and are perfect for a thieving expedition.
8.0 Organizations. Several pages are dedicated to city organizations that the players could interact with or even belong to: The Wizards Guild, Smugglers, Merchants and Merchant Houses, Thieves Guild, City Guard, Healers and Healing Orders, Ships and Sailors, Armorers Guild and a Dark Cult. There are stats for key NPC’s of each, some building or lair layouts and certainly enough information to easily build adventures.
10. Castles of Umbar.
Umbar contains the layouts and keys for 6 keeps, each controlled by one of the lords. Nearby are farmlands and villages that support each keep and the city.
Finally there are the usual and useful summary charts for NPC’s, master military chart, herbs, key people, magic items and some supplementary adventure info.
Umbar is a fantastic “mid-size” campaign module that easily fills in the blanks of Plasidar. The format is easily understood by SW and ICE players, the art work is cool and the stats are straight Rolemaster. The additional info on ships is a great bonus for ocean adventuring, pirates and smuggling scenarios.
While Umbar is OOP, there are multiple online sources for usable PDFs. Check it out and enjoy!