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The players will be starting in the city of Tharbad in the realm of Cardolan. The current year is TA 1635. To give you a feeling of the setting, the last northern kingdom of the Dunedain (Aragornís direct ancestors), Arthedain, is still going strong. Cardolan is suffering from a lack of leadership at the moment and is on the brink of collapse. Tharbad is run by a corrupt chamberlain and there is no king. A handful of noble houses run the lands surrounding Tharbad, but some parts of Cardolan have broken away and declared independence of a sort.

To the north, the kingdom of Arthedain still holds out against the Witch King of Angmar (heís the scary Nazgul who ends up dying at the hands of Eowyn and Merry in about 2300 years). King Argeleb II rules Arthedain. Further up, Angmar is ruled by the Witch King whose sole purpose is the destruction of the Dunedain.

To the east, Moria is still the greatest dwarven city (they havenít dug up the Balrog yet) and engages in steady trade with Tharbad. Between Moria and Tharbad lie the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil where all the rings of power save the One were made by the elves over 3400 years ago. Ost-in-Edhil is said to be haunted and shunned by most. The dwarves have cleared the road to Moria, but it runs right through the ruins.

To the northeast, the Dunedain kingdom of Rhudaur has collapsed and is now run by petty warlords of lesser stock. Most Dunedain have been run out of Rhudaur by the Hillmen and Dunael and the Witch King holds sway there.

The Barrow Mounds have not yet been haunted (that is just starting now).

Rivendell is ruled by Elrond and remains hidden to the Witch King (and Sauron).

Lothlorien is ruled by King Amroth (Galadriel has not taken over yet... at the moment, she lives with the elves near Dol Amroth with Celeborn).

Gondor is ruled by King Telemnor, having recently taken over from his deceased father Minardil. Rumor has it he is ill though. Plague has been sweeping through Gondor for a few months and the Dunedain are dying in droves. Lesser men are dying too, but in fewer numbers for some unknown reason.

Rohan does not exist yet... it is still part of Gondor. The Rohirrimís ancestors are currently living to the north between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood.

Further east, the Lonely Mountain has not yet been exploited by the dwarves and Smaug is still lurking in the Grey Mountains.

Gandalf wanders the lands lending council where he may. Saruman has not yet been corrupted.

The One Ring is still somewhere at the bottom of the Anduin River.

And now, the first signs of plague are being seen in Tharbad.
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