Only in Middle-Earth can you get an entire module out of an inn without it feeling like a cheat, but even here I’m pushing it. Rivendell may be where great decisions are made and Elrond wields the mightiest elven ring, but it isn’t the masterpiece it deserves to be. Yet I can’t think of a way it could have possibly been done as outstanding as the Lorien module. Unlike the ethereal Golden Wood or the transcendent Grey Havens, Rivendell is rooted in a simplicity so pure it’s almost banal. It makes me regret even more that ICE never got around to the Grey Havens module it promised in the ’90s. I would have much preferred Mithlond over Imladris, and to see Angus McBride wrestle with more ineffable visions in his cover art. But I digress.
The vale surrounding Rivendell is a pocket paradise, as it functions according to Elrond’s command of the ring. Its powers are completely detailed, and I was so obsessed with the elven rings as a teen that I reworked the properties in more Gygaxian terms (and I always translated MERP statistics into D&D terms anyway). So as I had it, a competent wielder of Vilya could control weather or cause hallucinatory terrain in a 10-mile radius, in line with its primary ability to conceal and protect; heal, exorcise, and restore, fitting its secondary focus on healing; and also fly, create air, gust of wind, and either control winds or cause tornado once/day, per its tertiary relationship with the element of air; plus some generic bonuses common to all the elven rings. Vilya was a definite highlight for me, so much that I entertained scenarios of self-serving characters infiltrating Rivendell to wrest the artifact from Elrond as if that were remotely plausible. Imladris, by rights, is a place of respite, healing, and counsel.
The inn is home to the northern rangers as much as the elves, and of course the seat of the Wise. Stats and bios are provided for many elves besides Elrond: Arwen, Glorfindel, Elladan and Ellrohir, Gildor, more. The surrounding culture of Rhudaur is briefly revisited, and the module works perfectly in tandem with Hillmen of the Trollshaws, and there are suggested adventures involving spying for Elrond in the region. It’s also perched on the doorstep of Goblin-Gate for any who want to depart hobbit-wise into the Misty Mountains. As neither an open colony like the Grey Havens, nor a secluded realm like Lorien, Rivendell is hidden yet accessible, but on a small scale to make just finding it a major task, and this is probably the kind of scenario I’d run, with enemies hot on the PCs’ heels a la “Flight to the Ford”.
The layouts treat fans of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to architectural details so often imagined: Bilbo’s suite on the second floor, Frodo’s room of recovery on the third, Saruman’s guest state suite, the dining hall supported by majestic wood vaults and filled with tapestries and chandeliers, the hall of fire, Elrond’s library (one of the most extensive of Middle-Earth, second only to that of Annuminas), and of course the council chambers where the fate of the One Ring was decided. While some gamers would call all of this a wasted indulgence, it’s a treat to Tolkien fans, though I have to admit there’s something about this kind of approach that overdoes things a bit. I’m sincerely fond of Rivendell, but you’ll never hear me rhapsodizing about it.
History & Culture Rating: 3
Maps & Layouts Rating: 3
Next up: Goblin-Gate and Eagles’ Eyrie.