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Author Topic: D&D 3rd edition campaign in Beleriand
Halion
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You could say my 'Tolkien time' (which takes up a large part of my spare-time) this summer has been divided into 3 parts: reading, role-playing in Tolkien's world, and message boards. I'm 'active' on at least 5 boards so there really hasn't been much time for MT, if anyone has been wondering why I haven't been around much lately. But now I would like to take advantage of the Fantasy Games forum and discuss the role-playing possibilites of the world portrayed in Tolkien's works.

I'm not a very experienced role-player; my first session was about 10 years ago and I became something of a fantasy fan, and I was playing frequently for some time. But I don't remember what the game was called, and already after a couple of years we weren't playing anymore, because of school and other RL activities I guess.

Then some years later, I started playing again, but this time with a group with some people I hadn't played with before, and I experienced my first D&D session. Everyone got really motivated again, and I thought the Game Master and his campaign was good and 'fresh'. But only after a couple of months school interfered again, and I had my second break from role-playing.

Then after some time, when school got easier again, I made some new friends, and they happened to be into Rolemaster. Because the rules and their idea of a good campaign seemed interesting to me, I joined them, and we did have a couple of good shorter campaigns. But then I started to notice that many of them were so called power players, and the games were kind of combat-centered, and they weren't much into the role-playing aspects of the game. After some time I grew tired of the whole thing, and they had to play without me. Then when D&D 3rd edition came out, I think they started playing with those rules instead.

Somewhere around that time I became a Tolkien fan, and ever since it's been the only fantasy world that I've really been interested in. So my friends always got a negative answer when they asked me to return to play in their very un-Tolkienesque campaigns and world. But somehow my interest in role-playing always remained, and when they asked me again last year, I came up with the idea that I would be willing to come back if we used Tolkien's world instead. Most of the group had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (at least) several years ago, and they had all seen the current films and liked them, so they were interested.

But things didn't really start rolling before this May or June, when I told them I was ready to start coming up with how to change the races, spells, etc. to be more in line with Tolkien (which I cared much more about than the others). We also decided that I would be the one creating the campaigns, while another guy would be the Game Master, because I didn't have any GM experience of D&D (we would both have a Player Character too). And after a couple of weeks I had instead of just changing the standard D&D races come up with stats and other rules for all the 'races' that were active in First Age Beleriand, which was the setting I chose, because I thought I have the most detailed knowledge of that Age.

But unfortunately, because of all the 'rules' I had to think about too, I was in a real hurry to come up with something playable for our first campaign, so at least story-wise it was far from good. But this was I think also partly because the setting was Eastern Beleriand (because I found it most the logical geographical setting for the PC group) in the year 473 (one year after the Nirnaeth, because I wanted to have all the 'races' 'active' and I didn't want anyone to feel safe in the wild [] ), so I think there was less 'background' to build upon than it would have been in the West.

In short, the PCs met each other in the Ered Luin and got a mission to save a family of Dwarves that had been kidnapped by Easterlings. But on the way north the PCs encountered some surprises, and the plot deviated somewhat, so some of our sessions have been enjoyable, but mostly it's been about travelling from one point to another, where something happens (often a battle), and not much happens between the points.

Fortunately, the campaign has now nearly come to it's conclusion; there is probably only enough 'material' left to play for one night, and I think that night will be this weekend. So now I've started thinking about what the next (second) campaign should be about, and that's where this thread comes in.

One thing that would help getting that special Tolkien feel (which has been missing in the first campaign) into the game is to let the PCs meet famous characters from the stories. But I would like to stay as close to Tolkien as possible, and at least not let the PCs change 'history', even if it would be very hard for them to do that. (I guess I have too much respect for Tolkien's imaginary historical period.) So I want to be very careful with the setting; the PCs should only have a chance to meet characters that are alive at the time, for example.

But it would be very boring if the PCs wouldn't be able to be a part of history; they should feel that they are able to affect it. So I would like to have the PCs fill some holes, so to speak (not change history but add to it), and in some way at least experience some of the bigger events. And according to the time line, perhaps the next big event coming up is the sojourn of Túrin in Doriath.

I begun to think more closely about the setting and possible campaign, and told the GM (who seems to have forgot almost everything in The Silmarillion) about Túrin, and especially about his 'incident' with Saeros. And he really liked that scene, and started to remember things, and now he would like to include the scene in some kind of Túrin or Doriath campaign and let the PCs experience it, and possibly get to know Túrin before or after the 'incident'.

But I'm still not sure if the campaign should concentrate on Doriath or Túrin (or perhaps even someone else in Doriath?). If the campaign only took place inside the Girdle I think it would be hard to come up with something exciting, so perhaps a better alternative would be to have the PCs follow Túrin after the Saeros incident and perhaps become outlaws with him, but I think that would be too much tampering with the story; all the outlaws are supposed to be Men, and we have two Dwarves and two Elves (one Noldo and one Avar) in the party... Mîm talks about 'the proud ones from over the Sea', how would he feel if one were to enter his home?

Perhaps another approach would be to build the campaign around important NPCs. For a Doriath setting, Tolkien already provides these interesting characters, along with my suggestions for race and classes for some:

Epic NPCs
Túrin Male Hadorian Fighter/Barbarian
Beleg Male Sinda Ranger/Fighter
Celeborn Male Teler Fighter/Mariner
Galadriel Female Ñoldo Sorcerer/Fighter
Thingol Male Sinda? Fighter
Melian Female Ainu (in Elf-form) Cleric

Non-epic NPCs
Mablung Male Sinda Fighter/Ranger
Saeros Male Nando Bard/Fighter
Nellas Female Sinda Rogue?
Malgalad?
Oropher?
Thranduil?
Ithilbor?

I have of course still these basic questions to come up with an answer for:

How and where do the PCs come together?
Why do they go to Doriath?
How do they manage to get through the Girdle?

This is probably already a too long-winded post, and I have to save something for future posts too, so I'd better end it now, in the usual way:

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Suggestions?

[ 02-17-2007, 07:24 AM: Message edited by: Halion ]

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Fabian
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This is cool.

If you're looking for suggestions, perhaps you should build the campaign more around Beleg - just personal preference. The characters could help him find Turin after the "incident" and perhaps join him from there.

I'm not sure wether I would consider Turin a barbarian.

From: Sweden, land of... err... stuff. | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Halion
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quote:
This is cool.
Thank you!
quote:
If you're looking for suggestions, perhaps you should build the campaign more around Beleg - just personal preference. The characters could help him find Turin after the "incident" and perhaps join him from there.
Thanks for the suggestion, but as I said, I don't really want to change the story too much; Beleg was alone at least when the outlaws captured him. But maybe the PCs could be with him before that and then disappear for some reason?
quote:
I'm not sure wether I would consider Turin a barbarian.
I was in a hurry when I came up with those suggestions, but in the case of Túrin, I was thinking about giving him at least a couple of Barbarian levels because of the statement in the Narn that Túrin 'could be sudden and fierce' and also of course because of his behaviour when he returned to Dor-lómin and his 'taste' for tactics in Nargothrond. Also, he was 'trained in the wild to wariness', but I wouldn't consider him a Ranger.

[ 08-20-2003, 12:30 PM: Message edited by: Maerbenn ]

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Fabian
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They could split up.

It wouldn't make sense for them to break up into one big group and one consisting of only one guy though, and breaking up the players would be tricky.
Maybe it is a bad idea.

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Halion
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For the NPCs, The Laurenendôrian suggests making more use of the Expert class, possibly for characters like Celeborn and Thingol who are military commanders, because the Expert class is more skill-based rather than feat-based. What do you guys think about that?
quote:
They could split up.

It wouldn't make sense for them to break up into one big group and one consisting of only one guy though, and breaking up the players would be tricky.
Maybe it is a bad idea.

Well, perhaps Beleg could tell the PCs that he's willing to 'sacrifice' himself, because it's not really the PCs' business, or they chould make up a plan if something would go wrong. But it's 'dangerous' for the story; what if the PCs got the idea to attack the outlaws or something? []
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Fabian
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I should read up on Turin, this would probably be easier if I had the story fresh in memory, but it's been almost a year since I read the Silm, and now a friend borrowed it.

quote:
How do they manage to get through the Girdle?
Thay need to be invited or let in somehow... They obviously couldn't just breach it.

I'd sugest somehow to have one of the PC's have an old friend in Doriath. Perhaps even one of the major NPC's.

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Halion
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quote:
I should read up on Turin, this would probably be easier if I had the story fresh in memory, but it's been almost a year since I read the Silm, and now a friend borrowed it.
Don't forget the Narn. Too bad you need The Silmarillion to get all parts of the story.
quote:
Thay need to be invited or let in somehow... They obviously couldn't just breach it.
I was actually thinking about having the PCs get lost in the Girdle, and then let Beleg or Mablung save them, but perhaps it would resemble the entry of Túrin too much.
quote:
I'd sugest somehow to have one of the PC's have an old friend in Doriath. Perhaps even one of the major NPC's.
That is another way of doing it. But one problem is that there is no Sinda PC. (As I said, one of the PCs is of the Noldor and comes from Nargothrond, so she could perhaps belong to Finarfin's House, whose members Thingol perhaps could let in, but that's a bit far-fetched.) Maybe I should come up with several ways, and then let the PCs 'decide', depending on how lost they get and in what directions they happen to stumble? []
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Maerbenn, you've hit upon something that always bothered me about role-playing in Middle-earth. Back when I had the time to play, we had several adventures on Middle-earth, which we considered another plane, as Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms were on individual planes as well. It is extremely difficult for a Tolkien fan to have interesting role-playing experiences in Tolkien's world, in my opinion. Sure, the quest to kill Smaug would make a fun adventure, but Bilbo is the one that is supposed to go on the adventure, not your Halfling character imaginatively named Drogo Brandybuck. See my point? Good luck, but I think this is tough to do.
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Halion
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Yes Thorin, I see your point. As I said, I want the PCs to 'fill some holes', not change history but add to it. One such 'hole' is how Maedhros got to know that Dior has the Silmaril in Doriath, for example. (Thanks for the idea, Nimruzir! [] )

Also, when Mablung meets Túrin at the end of the Narn, he tells Túrin that he 'learned from wanderers in the land that the Black Sword of Nargothrond had appeared there [in Brethil] again, and the Orcs shunned its borders as death'. So perhaps the PCs could be those wanderers. []

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Dark Lord Andúril
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Good evening.

I mayself have DM'd a campaign under the rules of the Lotr RPG, and I have also thouroughly enjoyed it. However, I chose a 4th age campaign, concerning the fall of Gundabad. Now, you are under quite different storyline restrictions than I was. If you would like my honest opinion, I think that you should be wary of concerning your characters with big events that could affect the future history of Beleriand. I know that this could be taxing for you, because you want your characters to have some influence in the world, but in my experience you have to choose between letting them have influence, and letting them change history.

It all really depends on what you want to do. If you are willing to sacrifice having a altered history, then you will be able to involve your characters in more grandeure storylines. However, if you are adament that the characters should keep to history then you are much more restricted.

I would advise you to get a balance between these two states so you can keep to the theme of Tolkien, without your characters feeling that they actually have no influence over the world that they are playing in.

Andúril

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".... but why is the rum gone?"

This is not advertising! Don't you dare click on this link to my forum... ;)

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Tevesh Szat
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I tend to prep my characters so they get 'in-character' beforehand. That will effect their playing, and will also make it obvious of what they want to do.

Oh, so you're Bob the Adventurer. Well, Bob, why'd you choose to use a Long Sword over a Bastard Sword? Who trained you in your profincies? How are your parents? Or your siblings? Do they have a career in adventuring? Did little Joe steal your toy horse when you were young, and caused you to be a little greedy bugger?

Before you know it, it'll come pouring out. Now, this is playing to an extreme, but it gets people thinking and acting appriopriately. For example, I know a PC who was a 'poor child' and loved the feel of Fur clothes, so whenever treasure gets divided, the Wolfskin Cloak and Beaverhide Gloves go to them. Sure, logically a person would like some gold coins, but with a past, they act like a person, not the player.

Do this for any NPCs, if they join the party.

Also, I am not a Tolkien buff, so I don't much about history. But I can tell you that having Gandalf appear, if he's alive or whatnot would always be quite the surprise.

Also, don't use Spellcomponents or Spellbooks, only use Staves. And as soon as that Staff is broken or taken away, a mage can only use basic spells(Level 1), if at all. This is shown during a lot of Tolkien's work, the Mages flinging their staves about.

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Dingalen
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It has been a long time since my last post - and a lot has happened since then. For instance Peter Jackson's "The Two Towers" has changed the image millions of people envision Middle Earth. Decipher's LordoftheRings-Roleplaying game has been picking up steam, but still its popularity is nowhere as close to being "the" Middle Earth Roleplaying game that Rolemaster has been. Although, I just want to point out to those who are considering to give it a try: It is GOOD. Far better than I would have imagined. The game mechanics are of course not as sophisticated and elaborate as D&D or Rolemaster, but they work. And since they support the style and atmosphere most people associate with the Lord of the Rings (movies), it is far more rewarding to play it with a group of luke-warm Tolkien-fans, than trying to tweak D&D or RM into some semblance of Middle Earth and hope for the players'active cooperation, i.e. them behaving in style to the setting.

But to the point - and to my advice to Maerbenn for his project:
I think, you are making it very difficult for yourself. But we grow with tasks we tackle - so what the heck!
A) You want to maintain Tolkien's storyline without compromise while still planning to bring your characters in contact with major figures like Turin, Beleg, Melian and involve them in key eventsof the mythology. And this is only possible, if you reduce your group to mere spectators in the great event instead of active participants. If your group is willing to cope with that, than that would be fine, but it seriously infringes with everbody's "suspension of disbelief".
B) You want to modify the new D&D to the first age middle earth setting. Basically the new D&D is a very player driven, combat oriented and high power level system with a still quite rigid character class and character level system. If you really want to maintain your high standards, it will not do to just adjust the races and race modifications - you have to check skills, feats, spells, magic items and level advancement for their appropriateness to your campaign. You might have to omit a lot of overly spectacular spells, feats and magic items - and (to keep your spell casters happy) replace them with equally usefull as well as atmospherically fitting new ones. Even worse - if you are not a D&D expert of your group, your GM pal has to do it for you - and always according to your idea of the setting!
C) My all time favorite: Power levels of NPCs! As you plan to introduce major figures of the mythology into the campaign, you have to give them statistics, so your GM has something to play them on. But how powerful is e.g. Beleg in comparison to Turin? Or Mablung? Or Glaurung? And even worse: As soon as you put them down to numbers (Level, Attacks, Damage, Hit Points, Character Class) you have to take care, that these numbers do not estrange to yourself the mythological persona you want to portray. My advice here is to not design Turin as 10th level fighter, 8th level Ranger/Barbarian, but to keep the Turin in mind, that you have imagined from the Narn-i-nin-Hurin & play him like that (no character class, no level, some combat statistics, if you really want to put him in a fight (rather avoid that) - keep the emphasis on the description of his appearance, bearing, his manner of speech!
Do not overexert yourself with converting the great figures - you will have enough trouble with assigning fitting statistics to NPCs your players REALLY have to deal with - like orks, wargs, elven rangers of the court of Thingol, vampires of Sauron, werewolves, etc.

As for the setting: If you are REALLY uncompromising about every aspect of the history, you definitely have to forget playing on epic scale. No players facing off against Sauron Gorthaur, Carcharoth, Draugluin or Glaurung. No fights side by side with Turin, Turgond or Finarfin. "Filling in the gaps" of history is a nice idea.

My proposal would be, to set-up your group as spies & scouts into hostile territory (Angband, Thangorodrim, Dor-Lomin) with assignments like retrieving information about the enemy, freeing minor captives (like captured elves from the Nirnaeth, oppressed human slaves, dwarves etc.) and guerilla warfare against orcs, trolls, wargs, vampires and werewolves. The advantage is, that these landscapes are wast & wild & desolate enough to make the deeds of even a very powerful group rather inconsicuous and ultimately inconsequential to the greater picture. And it offers the opportunity for the players to meet the great figures of the mythology to supply them with tactical and strategical information, maybe even before major events in history. After all: Spies & Scouts are almost never mentioned in history books - even in the Silmarilion, the knowledge e.g. the sons of Feanor or Thingol have (or do not not have) about Morgoth and his troups is never really explained. They are just "wary" or "foolish" "before the Enemy".

[ 09-10-2003, 08:36 AM: Message edited by: Dingalen ]

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Halion
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Dark Lord Andúril wrote:
quote:
I know that this could be taxing for you, because you want your characters to have some influence in the world, but in my experience you have to choose between letting them have influence, and letting them change history.
I would like to let them have influence, but not change history.  -

Tevesh Szat, thank you very much for your advice.

Dingalen wrote:
quote:
It has been a long time since my last post - and a lot has happened since then. For instance Peter Jackson's "The Two Towers" has changed the image millions of people envision Middle Earth. Decipher's LordoftheRings-Roleplaying game has been picking up steam, but still its popularity is nowhere as close to being "the" Middle Earth Roleplaying game that Rolemaster has been. Although, I just want to point out to those who are considering to give it a try: It is GOOD. Far better than I would have imagined. The game mechanics are of course not as sophisticated and elaborate as D&D or Rolemaster, but they work. And since they support the style and atmosphere most people associate with the Lord of the Rings (movies), it is far more rewarding to play it with a group of luke-warm Tolkien-fans, than trying to tweak D&D or RM into some semblance of Middle Earth and hope for the players'active cooperation, i.e. them behaving in style to the setting.
Welcome back, Dingalen. I have actually thought about using Decipher's rules, which we have never played with, but as I said (?), the other players aren't willing to learn any new rules completely from scratch. They don't care much about the style and atmosphere, but I want the game to 'feel' like Tolkien's stories about the First Age, not like Peter Jackson's film production.
quote:
A) You want to maintain Tolkien's storyline without compromise while still planning to bring your characters in contact with major figures like Turin, Beleg, Melian and involve them in key eventsof the mythology. And this is only possible, if you reduce your group to mere spectators in the great event instead of active participants. If your group is willing to cope with that, than that would be fine, but it seriously infringes with everbody's "suspension of disbelief".
My group is not willing to cope with that.  - I would like to indirectly involve the players in major events by letting them 'fill' possible plot-holes and flesh out the story. I think my task is to find these holes and somehow try to connect them with a story-line that fills them. But perhaps it is impossible, at least it seems to be very hard.  -
quote:
B) You want to modify the new D&D to the first age middle earth setting. Basically the new D&D is a very player driven, combat oriented and high power level system with a still quite rigid character class and character level system. If you really want to maintain your high standards, it will not do to just adjust the races and race modifications - you have to check skills, feats, spells, magic items and level advancement for their appropriateness to your campaign. You might have to omit a lot of overly spectacular spells, feats and magic items - and (to keep your spell casters happy) replace them with equally usefull as well as atmospherically fitting new ones. Even worse - if you are not a D&D expert of your group, your GM pal has to do it for you - and always according to your idea of the setting!
I have done a lot of that work already. I have assembled most of my rules modifications here. Perhaps I should have mentioned it already in the first post.  - But you mentioned skills and feats too. Are you thinking of any particular ones that would need to be modified or rejected?

[ 09-19-2003, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: Maerbenn ]

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Dingalen
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I saw, that you went through the spells with the red pen. The only way to get D&D in line with Middle Earth, I am afraid - but how did your group take that? Decided to drop playing socerors, wizards & bards and keeping to clerics, rangers and druids. (I saw, that these professions are noticeably less affected by your adjustments.) Still. Classical "Lightning bolt", Earthquake and "Fireball" are still on the list. Do you feel confident, that players having access to such showy destruction magic will not endanger the atmosphere of your setting? In no narration in the Silmarillion is any elf or human or dwarf testified to cast lightning, throw fire or cause the earth to shake.

Skills: The basic D&D skills are commonly applicable. Except maybe for specialy skills like *scry* (but that is still in the spirit of middle earth) and *use magic item* (which suggests a far more scientific / mechanical use of magic, than Prof. Tolkien implied). t might help to add or diversify certain skills (like *diplomacy*, *bluff*, *knowledge arcana*, *knowledge history*, *animal handling*, *wilderness*, languages and reading/writing) to provide more detailed interaction with the cultural, natural, historical and magical background of middle earth. After all, this setting lives even more than others from the atmosphere it associates. And you have to definitely exploit that, by giving the players interactive possibilities to get more out of this background. This is the best way to steer the group away from hack-n-slash monster bashing. There needs more to explore in your setting, than to see how many hit points a "dragon of Morgoth" has. And with the help of Tolkien, you can provide complex diplomatic relations between the factions (Between the sons of Feanor, the dwarves, the different tribes of humans, Thingol, etc.) or
the difficulties of survival in hostile (morgothic) territory - foraging, orientation, avoiding detection and finding pathways and passes. (Look to which trouble Turin went with Min to procure a safe hide-out for his band.)

Feats: The basic D&D feats are rather unproblematic (some of the wizard/sorceror feats might loose potency with the omission of large portions of the spell list). If your players stick with them, expectno problems from that side. You can even motivate players to come up with middle earth suitable feats like the ability to learn the language of certain animals, read the signs of the valar in e.g. the weather, identifying creatures of the Enemy by smell, sound, tracks, etc.
Just abilities, that contribute to intensify the atmosphere.
The situation can get tricky, if the players would like to introduce special feats from Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Dragon Lance or Plane Scape (Setting) or prestige classes. These feats were designed for definitely un-Middle Eath settings and need to be checked.

"Filling the gaps of history."
I wish, I could help you with that. Acting as messengers between Thingol & Melian and the sons of Feanor - or between Turgond and the tribe of Hurin would give good opportunity to keep the group inside events. Scouting missions or border guard for Mablung would be another idea. Plus that you could take desriptions from the Silmarilion to flesh out the setting!
But it all depends, how much "action" the players need to remain entertained. Endless conversations with NPC's tend to give most D&D players itchy sword hands. The emphasis in role playing is on the action of the players. What they are willing do do as much as they ENJOY to do. Always kaving to go as game master against their intuitive course of action will estrange them more from the story line. They have a vision of middle earth, too. And it is most rewarding to work with it and to expand it in the courseof the game. But they need their fun - so if the want to kill monsters, than you have to give them space to do so. preferably, where it does not affect history - border clashes with orcish forays and missions into the territoryof the enemy provide ample opportunity for that.

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Dark Lord Andúril
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If you achieve that Maerbenn, then you will be very fortunate to have PC's who ask as you expect them to. I would however, advise you not to force their actions. That will only annoy them.
From: In Imladris I dwell... | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Fabian
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That's quite a revision you've given the rules.
I do have a few questions about them...

You would allow Winter wolves?

Why can only noldor have True seeing? I could mention a few noldor who were pretty much blind to how thing really are

Also, on the Valar.
Nienna didn't get a nickname, unless I'm misstaken, she was called "the weeper"
And I'd probably say that Oromë's favoured weapon was some kind of spear or bow.

[ 11-05-2003, 10:11 AM: Message edited by: Fabian ]

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Halion
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*always had in mind to answer this*
quote:
You would allow Winter wolves?
I thought of the white wolves when including them, but I have to admit that I had not realized that they can breathe ice. So I suppose that they were not very appropriate. []
quote:
Why can only noldor have True seeing? I could mention a few noldor who were pretty much blind to how thing really are
I was thinking of this line when I came up with that:
quote:
‘... And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.’

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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You've done a lot of work on this, based upon your website. I do have 2 quick questions regarding the Cleric domains:
1) Why can't the Noldor use Mandos?
2) Why would you call Melkor's alignment neutral-evil? It's been a long time since I've played, but I would have thought him to be more chaotic evil.

Side note: Back in the day, I always bought MERP modules for the info and maps but used AD&D rules.

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Snöwdog
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MERP info & maps, with AD&D rules! Priceless! [] [] []
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