Bree-Land Region Guide: A Review
  • Bree-Land Region Guide: A Review


    In the Lord of the Rings the quaint little town of Bree marked the place where a dangerous journey grew into a true adventure. Now, with the Bree-Land Region Guide it can easily play the same role for the Adventures in Middle-Earth, framing the party’s first few steps from humdrum civilisation into dangerous wilds.


    While the setting book is probably most useful for low-level heroes, however, that doesn’t mean that things are easy. Bree may lack the mighty lords and sweeping battles found elsewhere in the setting, but it does an incredible job of blurring the mundane and fantastical in a style that is both thrilling and frustrating – though in a good way.

    The reason for this oddly charming irritation is woven through the first half of the Bree-Land Region Guide, which is dedicated to laying out the various places and people found in the area. It’s a quiet stretch of woods and fields, home to the Prancing Pony inn and a handful of small villages whose inhabitants usually come across as a kind of medieval homeowners’ association, more concerned with outsiders stealing chickens than distant orc legions.

    Indeed, parties will often find that the most challenging parts of their adventures revolve around convincing local leaders that the threats on their borders are actually real. If you were playing a game of regular D&D this kind of reaction would probably get annoying ten minutes into the first session, but when set against the low-magic background of Middle-Earth it fits wonderfully.

    Dealing with tricksy and suspicious locals is a prevailing theme throughout the second half of the book too. It lays out a trio of inter-linked adventures that can either be run alone or woven into a short campaign that should get the players from level one to level five.

    The first of these – bearing the gruesome title of Old Bones and Skin - is a delightfully Tolkien-esque mix of magical maps, ancient treasures and terrible monsters. It takes the bold move of having the players’ first likely foe come in the form of an ancient, cunning troll that could probably destroy the low-level party in an open combat. This forces them to think on their feet and look for options beyond brute force.

    Careful planning and the use of wits over weapons also play and important role in the second adventure, in which the party launch a murder investigation and get tangled up with a magical ring. Running free-form investigations in RPGs can always be a tricky prospect, however, and it’s very easy for this one to get messy.

    Information about the suspects covers a half-dozen pages, several vital clues are likely to come from them overhearing the DM talking to themselves and, as it’s written, the text assumes that the party is much more passive and cautious than most tables I’ve met. The ideas are solid, but the adventure is hard to recommend whole-heartedly.

    But does that apply to the book as a whole? Well, in all honesty the Bree-Land Region Guide can be a hard sell if you’re already deep in a campaign and looking to for places to send adventurers. At the same time, the patronising, parochial approach of the Bree-folk can also be a bit of an acquired taste, especially if you’re after a more traditional high-fantasy vibe.

    However, if you’ve yet to start off a campaign of Adventures in Middle-Earth and want somewhere to get players rolling, or if you simply want to add some depth to your world the it’s is a great purchase. More than that, it really does occupy a wonderful niche that typifies the peaceful slices of homely life that Tolkien loved to include in his creations. It reminds us that heroes aren’t just found in grand halls, and that quiet cottages and neat little hobbit-holes are worth protecting just as much as any castle.

    This article was contributed by Richard Jansen-Parkes (Winghorn) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
    Comments 33 Comments
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      LotR is a jewel, a master work of the fantasy, but as RPG is a world too closed to can add new things, and I like to mix thing from different sources.

      * Have you thought about as would be a canon sequel? I read something like "the return of the shadow" but it was a project couldn't be ended.
    1. JPL's Avatar
      JPL -
      I have a number of products for this game, both original and d20 flavor, and I honestly don't know how anyone plays it "right." The source material seems to demand a stately, elegiac tone, which I have never seen a group of gamers maintain. Having detailed rules for "walking" and "asking for help" is source-appropriate, but it's a strange fit if you're used to the typical D&D adventure. The selection of character options and adversaries and STUFF seems extremely narrow. And most importantly, like a lot of licensed properties . . . there's a Chosen One, and you ain't him.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by JPL View Post
      I have a number of products for this game, both original and d20 flavor, and I honestly don't know how anyone plays it "right." The source material seems to demand a stately, elegiac tone, which I have never seen a group of gamers maintain. Having detailed rules for "walking" and "asking for help" is source-appropriate, but it's a strange fit if you're used to the typical D&D adventure. The selection of character options and adversaries and STUFF seems extremely narrow. And most importantly, like a lot of licensed properties . . . there's a Chosen One, and you ain't him.
      Agreed. I ran this last summer for several sessions, in an attempt to get the Mirkwood campaign going, and it did not work for me or my group. We tried to establish the right vibe, as we saw it (and we're all fans, with knowledge to varying degrees, including one player with a tattoo of something elven on her wrist), and it just never worked. Dreary, plodding, and sparse: that's how the Wilderland Adventures felt, and when we started to push into the story foundations for Mirkwood the game just faded away - we had to take a short break for life, and when we reconvened we agreed that it was not working and not interesting. I think ME is a better story to be read, rather than an RPG to be played.

      That side, thank you for introducing me to a new word: elegiac. I often receive compliments about my vocabulary, but that was a new one on me!
    1. JPL's Avatar
      JPL -
      You're welcome. Good solid word.

      I've been hip-deep in the Pendragon system for the past month or so, and I think maybe that has some of the same problems.

      Maybe one way to make this work is a different wizard (aren't there some Blue Wizards who just kinda wandered off to the West?), a different Ring (there's all kinds of magic rings unaccounted for, right?), and a different Fellowship. If you gotta start in the same place, fine, but just walk in the opposite direction and see what's over there. If it all somehow affects the later adventures of Bilbo et al, fine, but you're not out there to be someone else's damn prequel.
    1. JPL's Avatar
      JPL -
      Or you could go the other route and have the campaign take place about an hour behind LOTR. The PCs got a late start and keep showing up shortly after Gandalf or Aragorn do something cool and important.
    1. Paragon Lost's Avatar
      Paragon Lost -
      Any one know of a release date? When I've checked on their website it's been rather vague and this article didn't mention one either.
    1. Tyler Do'Urden -
      (aren't there some Blue Wizards who just kinda wandered off to the West?)

      Like all the wizards, they came from the West, and wandered into the East.

      Lots of distant mysterious lands there... the old ICE MERP tried to fill in those gaps, and some huge maps of the world beyond Middle Earth can be found with a quick search...
    1. Enevhar Aldarion's Avatar
      Enevhar Aldarion -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paragon Lost View Post
      Any one know of a release date? When I've checked on their website it's been rather vague and this article didn't mention one either.
      Physical is still in pre-order status, I think, but the PDF is available now if you pre-order the physical book.
    1. Ghost2020 -
      Quote Originally Posted by lyle.spade View Post
      Agreed. I ran this last summer for several sessions, in an attempt to get the Mirkwood campaign going, and it did not work for me or my group. We tried to establish the right vibe, as we saw it (and we're all fans, with knowledge to varying degrees, including one player with a tattoo of something elven on her wrist), and it just never worked. Dreary, plodding, and sparse: that's how the Wilderland Adventures felt, and when we started to push into the story foundations for Mirkwood the game just faded away - we had to take a short break for life, and when we reconvened we agreed that it was not working and not interesting. I think ME is a better story to be read, rather than an RPG to be played.

      That side, thank you for introducing me to a new word: elegiac. I often receive compliments about my vocabulary, but that was a new one on me!
      Same here for the vocabulary word! Much appreciated!

      I have the core books for Adventures in Middle Earth and the Wilderland Adventures. They're gorgeous books, without a doubt. Although the cover art for the Player's book is weird. We have Gandalf...but yeah...why? No other covers have specific LotR/Hobbit characters?

      I'm in the same boat regarding this setting. I love the movies and books but I just don't think this is a hook for my group, for the same reasons - too narrow of focus, maintaining the tone, and the licensing issue of 'you exist in some other hero's world'.
    1. Elfcrusher's Avatar
      Elfcrusher -
      Quote Originally Posted by JPL View Post
      Having detailed rules for "walking" and "asking for help" is source-appropriate...
      I was perplexed at what rules you were referring to, until I realized you must be referring to the sub-systems for journeys and social encounters.

      That's a little like calling combat "detailed rules for 'arguing'".

      For un-initiated readers, NO you don't have detailed rules for walking across a room. Nor are there detailed rules for asking a question.

      If, however, you want to make a multi-day journey, or approach a suspicious stranger and ask for something they might be unwilling to give, then...yes...it's more involved than making a single Survival or Persuade roll.

      It's funny that so many threads bemoan the fact that social and exploration pillars are never as interesting as combat. Along comes a game that tries to address that, and people complain.
    1. JPL's Avatar
      JPL -
      Quote Originally Posted by Elfcrusher View Post
      I was perplexed at what rules you were referring to, until I realized you must be referring to the sub-systems for journeys and social encounters.

      That's a little like calling combat "detailed rules for 'arguing'".

      For un-initiated readers, NO you don't have detailed rules for walking across a room. Nor are there detailed rules for asking a question.

      If, however, you want to make a multi-day journey, or approach a suspicious stranger and ask for something they might be unwilling to give, then...yes...it's more involved than making a single Survival or Persuade roll.

      It's funny that so many threads bemoan the fact that social and exploration pillars are never as interesting as combat. Along comes a game that tries to address that, and people complain.
      Didn't mean to imply that there were rules for walking across the room. And I'm not really complaining. The rules for journeys and seeking audiences with the powerful both appear well-written and source-material-appropriate.

      My comment was simply that these are not topics which appear to need a lot of additional rules support in the typical D&D game, and I guess I question whether there are really groups out there who are into this kind of thing (as opposed to just appreciating the rules as well-written and source-material appropriate).

      And that's part of my larger point that I have a hard time wrapping my head around a successful AIME game. Like a lot of RPGs, I really appreciate what they're going for . . . I just can't imagine a group of people getting together to play the whole Darkening of the Mirkwood campaign, four hours a week for two years, y'know?
    1. zedturtle's Avatar
      zedturtle -
      Quote Originally Posted by JPL View Post
      And that's part of my larger point that I have a hard time wrapping my head around a successful AIME game. Like a lot of RPGs, I really appreciate what they're going for . . . I just can't imagine a group of people getting together to play the whole Darkening of the Mirkwood campaign, four hours a week for two years, y'know?
      It's not quite at the level you're talking about (since it's Wilderland Adventures and not the Mirkwood Campaign) but Arvan Eleron's got 41 days of (streamed) play under his belt: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...1B2zrPgZmIfs3L

      And, one of his players has started a new stream (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/394950299) with a new group, which seem to be enjoying themselves (https://twitter.com/FrostFrmFire/sta...00835681636358).
    1. jmucchiello's Avatar
      jmucchiello -
      I'm not a LotR fan. (It's a slow plodding story.) But in any case, why would you set the story anywhere near the time of the Fellowship? Set the story 20 or 100 years later. Just because Gandalf says the magic is going away doesn't mean it's gone in a snap. There will be foes to vanquish in the times to come. And this way you are not playing in Frodo's story. You're the heroes of the next age.
    1. Paragon Lost's Avatar
      Paragon Lost -
      Quote Originally Posted by Enevhar Aldarion View Post
      Physical is still in pre-order status, I think, but the PDF is available now if you pre-order the physical book.
      Thanks for the information.
    1. KentDT's Avatar
      KentDT -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmucchiello View Post
      I'm not a LotR fan. (It's a slow plodding story.) But in any case, why would you set the story anywhere near the time of the Fellowship? Set the story 20 or 100 years later. Just because Gandalf says the magic is going away doesn't mean it's gone in a snap. There will be foes to vanquish in the times to come. And this way you are not playing in Frodo's story. You're the heroes of the next age.
      It's not. It's set 5 years after the events of The Hobbit.
      And when did Gandalf say "the magic is going away"?
      Tolkien did kind of start a sequel (it's in one of the Histories of Middle Earth books) but he got depressed and gave up on it. I read it awhile back but I remember one of the premises being the Minas Tirith teenagers idealizing orcs and doing terrorist things. Rather prescient but I can understand why it depressed him. At any rate, it might make an interesting setting for this-nobody says you have to follow along with the designers and set it between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.
    1. KentDT's Avatar
      KentDT -
      Quote Originally Posted by Paragon Lost View Post
      Thanks for the information.
      I pre-ordered and just received the physical copy in Japan last week. I'd imagine that if you oder it direct from them, it's in stock now and can be sent right away. Their web-site tends to be a little out of date.
    1. Augreth's Avatar
      Augreth -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmucchiello View Post
      I'm not a LotR fan. (It's a slow plodding story.) But in any case, why would you set the story anywhere near the time of the Fellowship? Set the story 20 or 100 years later. Just because Gandalf says the magic is going away doesn't mean it's gone in a snap. There will be foes to vanquish in the times to come. And this way you are not playing in Frodo's story. You're the heroes of the next age.
      Agreed! After the movies came out there was a game called „LotR - the 4th Age“ that set the story in that time. It was a pretty good game, essentially a d20 game played with 2d6. Unfortunately the only time I ran it was the worst session I ever played, but it was totally my fault. One of those evenings that teach a DM how not to run a game
    1. oriaxx77's Avatar
      oriaxx77 -
      Lotr is an apocalyptic, low magic setting where you play in a darkening world where a dark god will eventually enslave you.
      You fight to have moments in the light and you know that you cannot win. You cannot play it like any other kind of D&D (Ravenloft included) because you do not have that kind of high magic. You need to deal with people and make connections in the game.
      It is one of the darkest setting I ever played in. Almost every race suspicious to each other, you cannot trust strangers, demons of the past will take you soul etc... You cannot play it like Forgotten Realms where you have magic and orc waiters etc..
      And one more thing, the characters know very little about middle earth. This will give the DM a lot of freedom. E.g. you can play the Kingdom of Ghouls Lotr style etc...
    1. jmucchiello's Avatar
      jmucchiello -
      Quote Originally Posted by KentDT View Post
      It's not. It's set 5 years after the events of The Hobbit.
      So the great heroes are yet to come? LotR is more than 5 years after the Hobbit, right?

      And when did Gandalf say "the magic is going away"?
      The old Bakshi cartoon. At the end he points out that hobbits are getting taller and the elves are vanishing. It implies that magic is also going away.

      And in the books, the implication is that when all the elves sail away much of the magic goes with them.
    1. pemerton's Avatar
      pemerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by JPL View Post
      I've been hip-deep in the Pendragon system for the past month or so, and I think maybe that has some of the same problems.
      A bit OT but I would strongly recommend Prince Valiant. I know Greg Stafford thought of Pendragon as his masterpiece, but personally I think Prince Valiant has all the virtues of Pendragon (ie Arthurian themes, jousts, courtship, etc) but a better system.

      It could probably work for Middle Earth also, now I think about it.
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