Capturing the "feel" of Tolkien.

The declinism is relatively easy to do using the same techniques as Tolkien, because it's a feature of the wider world and not the PCs or gameplay. The greater past is represented by artefacts, architecture, and a handful of immortal or long-lived beings like Elrond, Galadriel, and the balrog. Evil is in the ascendancy. Areas built by or once occupied by the forces of good have either fallen - Mines of Moria, Isengard, Minas Morgul - or are abandoned - the border marked by the Argonath.

The scene from the movie where they pass the Argonath was, for me, the most powerful and resonant.
 
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dave2008

Legend
The declinism is relatively easy to do using the same techniques as Tolkien, because it's a feature of the wider world and not the PCs or gameplay. The greater past is represented by artefacts, architecture, and a handful of immortal or long-lived beings like Elrond, Galadriel, and the balrog. Evil is in the ascendancy. Areas built by or once occupied by the forces of good have either fallen - Isengard, Minas Morgul - or are abandoned - the border marked by the Argonath.

The scene from the movie where they pass the Argonath was, for me, the most powerful and resonant.
I think that it is hard to capture that "feel" in a one shot campaign. @Reynard mentioned getting something like this when he ran a multi-generational campaign. That was going to be my suggestion, but he/she has already done that. Though I was thinking you would need to do it over 3 generations probably.
 

Eilathen

Explorer
I don't agree with that for much the same reason you don't need to have read The Silmarillion to understand The Lord of the Rings.
Depends heavily on your definition of "understand". If you have read The Silmarillion, you understand a lot more than without it, just by having read it.
For example in many of the songs or poems that are strewn through out tLotR there are references to things of the First and/or Second Age of ME.

If you just mean "you get a complete story to follow in tLotR", I kind of agree.
 

dave2008

Legend
We don't need to play out the mythic past, just see its effects in the present.
OK, that is not what I was talking about exactly.

I think that to get the sense of the growing "shadow" it helps to carry out a campaign through several generations. That why can see the subtle effects grow over time, creating a real sense of growing and inevitable dread. I think that is hard to get in just a one character campaign arc. I guess it can be done, but it cheapens it somewhat IMO. Of course I could be completely wrong, I've never done it myself, it was just what popped in my mind from the OP.
 
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pemerton

Legend
That is the part of the TOR and AiME that I don't like and doesn't feel like Tolkein to me. When I read the books I don't get the sense of the Shadow affecting everyone. It definitely comes into play for some, but it never felt pervasive to me in the books. That mechanic just rubs me the wrong way.
I love Tor, but agree with what you are saying. We actually altered the rules to make shadow points easier to get rid of, if they accumulated just from travelling through areas like Mirkwood. We ruled gaining more permanent corruption requires committing evil deeds or succumbing to powerful dark artifacts.

The books are about heroic characters, and there is despair and anxiety, of course, but no sense that anybody was actually becoming corrupt. Frodo is an exception because he was carrying the ring. Boromir stumbled, but ultimately won out morally through his sacrifice. There is no indication that anyone else was pick up shadow points by stumbling across dragon gold or travelling through corrupted lands.
Interesting! This is making me feel happier with the Doom Pool approach, together iwth Emotional Stress, that I'm using in Cortex+ Heroic.

As far as the books, I found them very long-winded, meandering, and sometimes hard to follow.
I'm with you on the Lord of the Rings trilogy
And this is heresy!

(OK, I'll concede that there are bits that fall short of literary brilliance; I'd put the Old Forest sequence at the forefront there. And a lot of sentimentality. But stil . . . )

I guess when I think of the book and movies the major instances of despiar/ shadow infection involve the One Ring. That is essential to story of the Lord of the Rings, but not to playing a game in Middle Earth IMO.
There is despair beyond the effects of the ring (at least in any strict sense). Theoden nearly succubms. Denethor does. Sam comes close after the encounter with Shelob.

I think the principle "moral"/emotional axis for LotR is hope vs despair. This is also a recurring theme in the Silmarillion.
 

dave2008

Legend
There is despair beyond the effects of the ring (at least in any strict sense). Theoden nearly succubms. Denethor does. Sam comes close after the encounter with Shelob.

I think the principle "moral"/emotional axis for LotR is hope vs despair. This is also a recurring theme in the Silmarillion.
I didn't say there wasn't other areas of dread; however, particularly when you consider the main characters, the doom/shadow/despair revolves around the ring. From my perspective Saruman and Theoden (and possible Denethor) are being directly attacked, that is different than succumbing to an overall dread / shadow. Maybe it was there, I read the book 30+ years ago. I just don't remember feeling that way when I read it.
 

pemerton

Legend
From my perspective Saruman and Theoden (and possible Denethor) are being directly attacked, that is different than succumbing to an overall dread / shadow.
Fair enough. This isn't a distinction I'd draw myself.

The scene from the movie where they pass the Argonath was, for me, the most powerful and resonant.
Absolutely!

I'm not following your analogy, can you clarify?
We don't need to play out the mythic past, just see its effects in the present.
I think that to get the sense of the growing "shadow" it helps to carry out a campaign through several generations. That why can see the subtle effects grow over time, creating a real sense of growing and inevitable dread. I think that is hard to get in just a one character campaign arc.
I think there are devices that can be used to do this in a single campaign. Similar to the method that JRRT uses: the situation for the PCs starts out as "normal", and then shadow, the weight of history, etc is revealed and stepped upo through play.
 
Having the bones of the past showing through the crust of the earth isn't a super complex idea. I use it a lot in many different fantasy settings. The characters in LotR are constantly travelling over, past, and through ruins and monuments to a fallen past, a past most of the characters have no clue about. Interestingly, these form the backdrop for many of the key sequences in the books. From the trolls, to Weathertop, to Rivendell, to Moria, to the breaking of the fellowship, etc the characters are often making their most important decisions literally surrounded by the past. Tolkien provides just enough pinholes via songs, legends, and exposition for the reader to catch a glimpse of this epic and fallen past. That translates pretty directly to the table top. It can also serve to make characters who are keepers of songs and lore far more interesting to play and have at the table. With the right players I'd like to let a lot of that world building fall to them, playing a game like Dungeon World for example.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
LOTR works so well because it starts with a quatuor of unskilled and unlikely heroes - Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin. They are wide-eyed and mostly clueless about the world outside the Shire. They are the main cast. Everyone else are NPCs that help them along the way.

So the emulate that, you can't play in the LOTR setting, unless you can find players who have never read the novels or watched the movies. You need virgin minds to replicate the wide-eyes and clueless aspects. Secondly, the players must accept to play unskilled and unlikely heroes that will mostly remain the same (no XPs) during the whole saga, except for a few magical items along the way. They will survive on their wits, by choosing the right NPCs, fleeing when necessary and a bit of luck or courage at important junctures.

That is how I would do it.
The hobbits definitely gain new skills and knowledge. They "level up" in some way.
The idea that the other members of the fellowship are NPCs is, IMO, a bit silly.
 
The thread also isn't about using the LotR setting specifically, but more about replicating the feel of LotR in general. I'd agree that the characters other than the Hobbits don't need to be NPCs.
 

Reynard

Legend
The thread also isn't about using the LotR setting specifically, but more about replicating the feel of LotR in general. I'd agree that the characters other than the Hobbits don't need to be NPCs.
Someone once suggested that each pair of hobbits was actually played by one player. I kind of like that idea.

Another thing it suggests is that it is okay to throw out PC to PC power balance when trying to capture that feel. Even taking out the hobbits and assuming Gandalf is an NPC (which I wouldn't but many do) the other characters are not really on par. Aragorn is demonstrably superior to Boromir in almost every way, and Legolas is better than everyone but Gandalf.
 

pemerton

Legend
Having the bones of the past showing through the crust of the earth isn't a super complex idea. I use it a lot in many different fantasy settings. The characters in LotR are constantly travelling over, past, and through ruins and monuments to a fallen past, a past most of the characters have no clue about. Interestingly, these form the backdrop for many of the key sequences in the books. From the trolls, to Weathertop, to Rivendell, to Moria, to the breaking of the fellowship, etc the characters are often making their most important decisions literally surrounded by the past. Tolkien provides just enough pinholes via songs, legends, and exposition for the reader to catch a glimpse of this epic and fallen past. That translates pretty directly to the table top. It can also serve to make characters who are keepers of songs and lore far more interesting to play and have at the table. With the right players I'd like to let a lot of that world building fall to them, playing a game like Dungeon World for example.
This sort of thing was quite a feature of my 4e D&D play (not because I'm a genius; because JRRT was a genius). And consistently with what you say, the wizard/invoker "loremaster" PC continually played an important role.

Another thing it suggests is that it is okay to throw out PC to PC power balance when trying to capture that feel. Even taking out the hobbits and assuming Gandalf is an NPC (which I wouldn't but many do) the other characters are not really on par. Aragorn is demonstrably superior to Boromir in almost every way, and Legolas is better than everyone but Gandalf.
In my Cortex+ Heroic version, linked upthread, Gandalf is a PC. Balance is quite the thing in Cortex+ that it is in (say) D&D, but Gandalf was noticably strong when his player chose to play him less like Gandalf and more like Saruman (ie freely exerting his power somewhat heedless of consequences).
 

Reynard

Legend
In my Cortex+ Heroic version, linked upthread, Gandalf is a PC. Balance is quite the thing in Cortex+ that it is in (say) D&D, but Gandalf was noticably strong when his player chose to play him less like Gandalf and more like Saruman (ie freely exerting his power somewhat heedless of consequences).
In my current listening to Fellowship, I was amused by the fact that while travelling through the wild Gandalf was very careful about even the smallest magics because using his power meant being a glaring beacon in the wild "Gandalf is here!" But in Moria, once they are under attack, he just starts blasting. That, I think, is a great way to "balance" such characters: consequences.
 

pemerton

Legend
In my current listening to Fellowship, I was amused by the fact that while travelling through the wild Gandalf was very careful about even the smallest magics because using his power meant being a glaring beacon in the wild "Gandalf is here!" But in Moria, once they are under attack, he just starts blasting. That, I think, is a great way to "balance" such characters: consequences.
In our game, Gandalf used fiery blasts from Narya, plus Glamdring, to drive of Nazgul. But once the party got to Forochel, orcs from Angmar had already carried off the (newly rediscovered) Palantir of Annuminas. In mechanical terms, the Doom Pool had come to include 2d12, which I spent to end the scene. And that Doom Pool size was in part due to the feature I mentioned above, of "flashy" use of Narya increasing the rate of Doom Pool growth.
 

Reynard

Legend
In our game, Gandalf used fiery blasts from Narya, plus Glamdring, to drive of Nazgul. But once the party got to Forochel, orcs from Angmar had already carried off the (newly rediscovered) Palantir of Annuminas. In mechanical terms, the Doom Pool had come to include 2d12, which I spent to end the scene. And that Doom Pool size was in part due to the feature I mentioned above, of "flashy" use of Narya increasing the rate of Doom Pool growth.
I tend to prefer more "traditional" RPGs, although I do like some narrative mechanics. So I would lean toward a mechanic that has direct, measurable (though not necessarily immediate) consequences. "Whenever you (Gandalf) cast a spell, roll a 1d6. If you you roll equal to or lower than the spell level plus 1, you have alerted any enemies with spell level plus 1 miles of your location, and twice that distance of your presence and direction." Something like that anyway. Now it is a choice, not only for Gandalf's player but for the rest of the party. DO they ask him to blast those wolves coming into the camp or do they try and fight them off by more mundane means to avoid bringing something even worse?
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
"Whenever you (Gandalf) cast a spell, roll a 1d6. If you you roll equal to or lower than the spell level plus 1, you have alerted any enemies with spell level plus 1 miles of your location, and twice that distance of your presence and direction." Something like that anyway.
I might also say that use of Narya in any flashy way is an auto-alert right to Sauron. There's a reason the elves keep them hidden and use them with subtlety.
 
I'll counter with the the thought that I really, really, don't want a mechanic that precise for whom might be alerted at what distance by what use of magic. The idea that the use of magic might attract the wrong sort of attention is an awesome narrative tool, and I don't want it sullied with numbers, if you get my meaning. I'd much rather use it as, to use some loose PtbA terminology, a harbinger of future trouble move, or even a harder immediate trouble happens kind of move. In both cases I'd want to use it either flat out in the case of immoderate use, or even better, in a case of failed but moderate use, probably with some sort of countdown clock.

What I don't want, or need, is a blast template. That's too cut and dried for me. Maybe a closer, lesser evil notices, or maybe the necromancer in the far heart of his dark empire does, who knows what might happen. I don't want to constrain a tool as cool as this with anything as plebian as a range. A rough guide might be in order, maybe, but the first time someone tries to calculate how many miles they are from Minas Morgul before they crack off a magic missile I've done something wrong IMO.
 

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