A quick note of explanation: Lately I’ve been spending quite a bit of time playing Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, a recently released open-world hack-and-slash game. Based in the Tolkien Legendarium but sharing only the most tenuous of connections with anything in the Lord of the Rings books or movies (basically a cameo appearance by Gollum and that’s pretty much it,) you play as Talion, a Ranger of Gondor whose family was murdered by the Black Hand of Sauron, aided by the wraith Celebrimbor, an undead Elven prince with a bone to pick with Sauron, and you wander around Mordor causing all sorts of chaos among the local Uruk population as you seek your revenge. The Uruks are far from a united force though, and they frequently get into power struggles among themselves and seek to gain power and advance within their own ranks, and by killing you (Celebrimbor’s presence makes you technically immortal, but you can still be killed by the enemy, which they’ll definitely brag about if they see you again afterward) can earn them promotions and cause them to gain power. Eventually you gain a power that allows you to mind-control the Uruks and make them fight on your side.
All in all, it’s pretty fun to play, but it occurs to me as I go about my business decimating the Uruk hordes that they tend to plan things out very well, and make a number of strategic blunders along the way.
From: Black Hand
To: All Warchiefs; All Captains
RE: Gravewalker mitigation strategies
I’d say that I hope this letter finds you well, but given recent events, there’s a good chance this letter will find you dead. Well, whichever one of you miserable rats happens to still be alive to read this, pay attention. Over the past week the Gravewalker has slain fifteen captains (in particular, it seems that Muzglob Deathbringer met his end a mere three minutes after being promoted to Captain), four Warchiefs and the Hammer of Sauron. Naturally, these types of results are unacceptable if we intend to overthrow the Kingdoms of Men and bring forth the reign of the Dark Lord upon all the land. And besides that, do you realize just how annoying it is when I try to go out for my morning walk and find the severed head of Lûgdash the Humiliator sitting on my front porch? Perhaps you too would wish to find out what it’s like to wake up to an entire pack of Caragors snarling outside your window. I’m sure it can be arranged (and probably will be when you least expect it.)
Normally, my response to such incompetence would be to mercilessly slay all of you shrakh and let the Black Númenóreans handle this, but the Dark Lord tends to frown upon the wholesale slaughter of his own forces, so unfortunately I have no choice but to spare the lot of you. That said, there’s going to be some changes around here. The following new policies will be made effective immediately:
- Should one of you scrubs encounter the Gravewalker in battle, do not kill him; instead, bring him to your Warchief alive. I am aware of the power and glory that will come to any Uruk brave enough to slay the Gravewalker in battle. In fact, I see that the late Captain Gûndza Iron Arm managed to slay the Gravewalker three different times last week before being relieved of his head the fourth time around. I know you’re all just a bunch of miserable rats with the intelligence of a dead Warg, but can’t a single one of you maggots figure out the simple fact that there’s something wrong if you keep killing off the Ranger and he keeps coming back for his revenge ten minutes later?
- All vegetation within the borders of Mordor shall be removed. In particular, shrubbery in and near Uruk strongholds must be removed immediately. Yesterday I walked by a bush near Durthang and found twelve dead Uruks and a Caragor in it. You would think that someone would figure out that something’s not right by the time three or four of their best friends were lying next to the bush with their throats slit, but apparently you idiots keep wandering over one at a time and getting disemboweled while a group of soldiers sits around twiddling their thumbs 50 feet away, none the wiser. I’d say you idiots should just not pay attention to random sounds coming out of the shrubbery, but I know you’re all too stupid for that. So henceforth, if you absolutely must investigate some random sound, do not take less than three Uruks with you. Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to get one of the archers to fire a few arrows at it too.
- Speaking of the archers, lately they seem to be particularly prone to getting thrown from their watchtowers with giant stab wounds in their chests, and none of you shrakh seem to be able to figure out where the heck any of them are coming from. There’s Gravewalker footprints all over the walls of Durthang Keep, but none of the Uruks there except for Zogdûsh the Slaughterer can remember seeing anything, and he’s currently got an Elven arrow clean through his eye and sticking out the back of his skull. Can’t some of you filthy rats be bothered to actually look up every once in a while? Oh, and if you decided to hang around a watchtower after finding one of said archers on the ground, don’t blame me if you get disemboweled by a falling Gravewalker.
- Effective immediately, new fire safety protocols will be put into effect in all Uruk camps. Due to numerous incidents of campfire explosions resulting in multiple casualties, all campfires shall now be contained within iron enclosures with solid side walls, thus preventing them from being detonated by random arrows. Seriously, how the heck does a single arrow cause a campfire to explode into a ball of flaming death anyway? Blasted elves…
- By the same token, all grog supplies are now to be stored securely behind blast-proof locked doors, and only small quantities are to be removed at any given time as directed by your captains. It seems anytime someone keeps the stuff out in the open it either ends up poisoned or blows up. Either way, the stuff kills a bunch of you shrakh off in a hurry. And which one of you thought it was a good idea for all of you to get addicted to drinking foul stuff that explodes in a disastrous fireball if you so much as look at it funny?
- No Morgai Fly infestations near Uruk camps are to be tolerated, and all nests are to be removed immediately, since the Gravewalker seems to be all too fond of knocking them down and sending the surrounding Uruks into a blind panic. The same goes for Caragor bait. Seriously, I will soon be having words with whichever one of you maggots decided it was a good idea to keep that stuff around in heavily populated strongholds.
- Furthermore, there will be no more imprisonment of Caragors in cages within Uruk camps. It’s bad enough seeing how many Uruks fall prey to random Caragor attacks out on the plains of Udûn, there’s absolutely no good reason for you to be sticking those blasted things in flimsy cages that fly open the minute the Gravewalker hits ’em with a single arrow. In the unlikely event that you maggots need to put a Caragor into a cage, said cage will need to be placed well away from the camp, and the door will be reinforced with additional iron plating over the locks. Better yet, just stop messing around with Caragors in the first place, you miserable filth.
In the meantime, we will soon be starting construction of some proper fortifications within Southern Udûn. I don’t know exactly what it is about you Uruks and decrepit old ruins, but I swear, if all you shrakh would have just put aside all your petty squabbles and just build a proper fort with some good solid impossible-to-climb walls and big heavy doors you can actually close whenever some Ranger decides to show up and cause trouble, then we could have all conquered Gondor by now. The Talons of the Black Hand will be sent to provide appropriate motivation to ensure completion of this project in a timely manner. I swear, if I wasn’t here to keep you maggots in line, you would have all betrayed me by now or something heinous like that. It’s bad enough that the Gravewalker managed to blow up my lovely Gorthaur from right under your wretched noses, but screw this one up and you shrakh will all suffer more than you can possibly imagine.
I wonder if Sauraman has these kind of problems? For that matter, I wonder if Sauraman is hiring?
-The Black Hand
P.S. If you happen to be the Gravewalker reading this, then die in a fire.