Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Palantíri

Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three,
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.

— from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Palantírion: The Fellowship of the Palantíri was played using Decipher’s Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game (way back in 2006!). It is set during the Fourth Age shortly after the War of the Ring. Fellowship of the Palantíri was intended to be the first of a three-parter at a time in which my gaming group rotated GMing responsibilities (and systems) every one to two months. However, due to one thing or another, we never got around to finishing the whole Palantírion.

Prior to starting the first session, I wrote the character introductions after consulting with each of the players. Each session was preceded by an e-mailed chapter opener to whet the appetite. Then after we played, I wrote up the summary. My goal was to make the whole thing very evocative of Tolkien, so I scoured The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion for ideas and for language. The character introductions in particular are styled heavily upon scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring, borrowing some of Tolkien’s wording quite closely.

There’s no audio for this game, but I’ve enjoyed reliving it through rereading it during the posting process. I hope you do, too.

For a bit of context on palantirs, here is an excerpt from The Two Towers:

“What is it about—the seven stars and seven stones?”

“About the palantíri of the Kings of Old,” said Gandalf.

“And what are they?”

“The name meant that which looks far away. The Orthanc-stone was one.”

“No,” said Gandalf. “Nor by Saruman. It is beyond his art, and beyond Sauron’s too. The palantíri came from beyond Westernesse, from Eldamar. The Noldor made them. Fëanor himself, maybe, wrought them, in days so long ago that the time cannot be measured in years…. We had not yet given thought to the fate of the palantíri of Gondor in its ruinous wars. By Men they were almost forgotten. Even in Gondor they were a secret known only to a few; in Arnor they were remembered only in a rhyme of lore among the Dúnedain.”

“What did the Men of old use them for?” asked Pippin, delighted and astonished at getting answers to so many questions, and wondering how long it would last.

“To see far off, and to converse in thought with one another,” said Gandalf. “In that way they long guarded and united the realm of Gondor. They set up Stones at Minas Anor, and at Minas Ithil, and at Orthanc in the ring of Isengard. The chief and master of these was under the Dome of Stars at Osgiliath before its ruin. The three others were far away in the North. In the house of Elrond it is told that they were at Annúminas, and Amon Sûl, and Elendil’s Stone was on the Tower Hills that look towards Mithlond in the Gulf of Lune where the grey ships lie.

“Each palantír replied to each, but all those in Gondor were ever open to the view of Osgiliath. Now it appears that, as the rock of Orthanc has withstood the storms of time, so there the palantír of that tower has remained. But alone it could do nothing but see small images of things far off and days remote. Very useful, no doubt, that was to Saruman; yet it seems that he was not content. Further and further abroad he gazed, until he cast his gaze upon Barad-dûr. Then he was caught!

“Who knows where the lost Stones of Arnor and Gondor now lie, buried, or drowned deep? But one at least Sauron must have obtained and mastered to his purposes. I guess that it was the Ithil-stone, for he took Minas Ithil long ago and turned it into an evil place: Minas Morgul, it has become.

“Easy it is now to guess how quickly the roving eye of Saruman was trapped and held; and how ever since he has been persuaded from afar, and daunted when persuasion would not serve. The biter bit, the hawk under the eagle’s foot, the spider in a steel web! How long, I wonder, has he been constrained to come often to his glass for inspection and instruction, and the Orthanc-stone so bent towards Barad-dûr that, if any save a will of adamant now looks into it, it will bear his mind and sight swiftly thither? And how it draws one to itself! Have I not felt it? Even now my heart desires to test my will upon it, to see if I could not wrench it from him and turn it where I would—to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!” He sighed and fell silent.

— from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien