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Middle Earth/LotR RPGing using Cortex+ Heroic

pemerton

Legend
A few years ago I started a Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy mini-campaign, using my own hack of Marvel Heroic RP inspired by the Cortex+ Hacker's Guide.

I've now had the idea of using Heroic Fantasy to do Middle Earth/LotR. For translating JRRT into RPGing my main inspiration is Burning Wheel's elves and dwarves, but I'm also taking some inspiration from The One Ring (read bits of it, but probably never going to play it on account of seeming rather fiddly).

I think the Doom Pool (renamed Shadow Pool?) is a natural device for handling that aspect of Middle Earth RPGing - ie the growing weight and dread of the shadow. I think that Scene Distinctions would have to play a very big role in using this system for Middle Earth - so that a lot of the action in Action Scenes would be about overcoming Scene Distinctions - eg if you're travelling through Mirkwood you don't make it out until you eliminate the Thick Forest All About Scene Disintction - and these would always potentially be changing into Complications (like Lost in Mirkwood). And some of those Disinctions would need to have actions associated with them (there are models of this, mechanically, in some of the MHRP materia;). For instance, with Thick Forest All About the Doom Pool might make an area attack action adding the Scend Distinction to the pool at the top of each action order, to inflict physical stress - representing the exhaustion of travelling through Mirkwood.

Obviously items would in many cases be, or perhaps add to, Power Sets, but I haven't written any up yet.

At this stage I have written up the elf PC - file attached. The idea of the third power set is taken from Doctor Strange - Essence of the Earth is a source of stunts as much as basic pool dice. There is a lot of adding to the Doom Pool, which seems appropriate for when the Noldor leave Rivendell or Lorien to perform mighty deeds.

As I write up other PCs and/or have other ideas for it I'll post them in this thread. I'm envisaging a dwarf, a dunadan/ranger, and Gandalf.
 

Attachments

  • Noldor.pdf
    288.4 KB · Views: 79

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pemerton

Legend
Here's Gandalf the Grey - perhaps a bit more effective overall than the elf, though not as strong in combat because having no durability or reflexes for defence.

EDIT: As per the post below, a change to the name of the reroll SFX.
 

Attachments

  • Mithrandir.pdf
    282.7 KB · Views: 66
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pemerton

Legend
Here's a Ranger of the North, though with no milestones as yet - it's my bed time! I drew heavily on The Punisher's datafile to help with this one.

EDIT: I revised the file to change Return Unlooked For from physical to mental or emotional stress. A bit weaker but a better fit, I think.
 

Attachments

  • Ranger.pdf
    276.1 KB · Views: 62
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pemerton

Legend
Here is the Ranger of the North with milestones, and also twos SFX renamed: Honed Awareness to "Will you aid me or thwart me?" - because that's one of my favourite lines from Aragorn (when he meets the Riders early in Book 3); and Resourceful to Foresighted (because that's the cultural blessing for rangers in The One Ring Rivendell supplement, and seems fitting).
 

Attachments

  • Ranger.pdf
    281.6 KB · Views: 52

pemerton

Legend
Probably the affiliations should be renamed - Alone, Companion, Company or perhaps Fellowship - but from the point of view of game play the existing labels are familiar to my group at least (and I didn't think of rewriting my character template until this morning!).
 

pemerton

Legend
Here's a dwarven traveller. This actually turned out to be the hardest to get into (what I hope is) a satisfactory state, even though I had a template to start from (the troll in our early Heroic Fantasy campaign).

I think this character can be effective, but may be quite tricky to play.
 

Attachments

  • Khazad.pdf
    284.8 KB · Views: 53

pemerton

Legend
I think the starting Doom Pool for this game should be 2d8 - d8 because high stakes, but not yet catastrophic; but not 3 or 4 because not yet global in scale (contrast, say, the War of the Ring) let alone cosmic in scale (which would be, say, the assault of the Valar on Morgoth at the end of the First Age).

Once the players choose their PCs, they need to set out (probably from Imladris) on their mission. That is something we would need to work out as a group, but I would like it to involve Weather Top and maybe the mountains, because I think they have good potential for Scene Distinctions. Dol Guldur could also be good - I've only seen two of the three Hobbit movies, but one of them - the second, I think - had some good scenes with Gandalf in ancient tombs and in Dol Guldur.

I need to stat up some orcs, wolves and Nazgul and think a bit more about those sites..
 

Arilyn

Hero
These are great. Thanks for posting. Since I can't dash off to Australia and join your group, this is an idea I'm definitely going to steal. 😁
 


pemerton

Legend
Here is a write-up for Nazgul - it's generic but with a couple of notes for Adunaphel and Khamul. (I'm using the old ICE MERP names for the Nazgul other than Khaumul and the Witch-King, because I'm familiar with them from MERP books and the old Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG.)

They aren't weak but not overwhelmingly strong either, which fits Gandalf's remark (in Book 2) that "on foot even Glorfindel or Aragon together could not withstand all the Nine at once."

(EDITed to better respect the system's Mental Assault/Mind Control differentiation.)
 

Attachments

  • Nazgul.pdf
    261.1 KB · Views: 49
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Awesome stuff!

As I mentioned in our prior conversation, your project should show very well how, in a TTRPG that is up to the task, Hobbits can quite happily sit alongside Aragorn, Legolas, who can quite happily sit alongside Gandalf, because it’s about situation framing and leveraging the narrative potency of various thematic resources and relationships (while an individual dice to the pool will be more muted).

As I also mentioned, I think that, for LotR, you may want to strongly consider checking out the Smallville part of the Hacker's Guide and subbing out Affiliations and Distinctions (what separates characters from each other) for Relationships and Values (what binds people to one another and brings them together or drives them apart).

The Growth Pool and "Rewriting Statements" (about Values and Relationships) is rather kindred to "Reflection" in Dogs, which works quite well for LotR.

I think you can get away with 4 Values instead of the stock 6 for LotR. I'm thinking:

Hope
Ambition
Community
Power

The four of those would quite nicely make for a focused LotR game.
 

pemerton

Legend
@Manbearcat, I've been working on a scenario outline and so haven't had time to properly read and digest you post yet - it's bedtime again for me. But here is a sketch of how I might do a journey to Ost-in-Edhil. I haven't played it (obviously!) and haven't crunched the maths very hard, so I'm not quite sure how easy/hard it is.

And in spoilers, even though I don't think anyone else from my group is reading this (but if they are, please exercise self-control!

What's missing so far is a NPC like Wormtongue or Saruman who specialises in imposing Mental stress. Maybe someone like that is hanging out in the ruins!
 

Attachments

  • Ruins of Ost-in-Edhil.pdf
    281.8 KB · Views: 65

pemerton

Legend
double post - I'll put something more meaningful in here later.

I revised one SFX label for Gandalf - rereading the relevant part of Appendix B I realised that it is Cirdan, not Gandalf, who "saw further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth". So the reroll power is now "Something else at work", which is a phrase found in ch 2 of Book 1 when Gandalf is explaining that it was not "the design of the Ring-maker" that led to Bilbo finding the ring - rather, Bilbo and therefore Frodo was "meant to have it".
 
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pemerton

Legend
I've become a bit obsessed with my PC builds: I've got one of Gandalf's Distinctions as "A Wizard is Never Late", which is from the film rather than the book - so I wanted to put in something comparable from the book, and opted for Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. So this version of Gandalf has a new SFX - Subtle and quick to anger.

Elves in Burning Wheel have an ability called Deeds of Grief, and so this version has a like-named SFX. And to go with that addition I changed the Grief Limit to Tears Unnumbered.

I haven't done any more scenario outline yet, but have been thinking a bit about Weathertop, palantiri and also what a lesser ring might be like if one turned up in or around Ost-in-Edhil.
 

Attachments

  • Mithrandir.pdf
    284 KB · Views: 46
  • Noldor.pdf
    290.4 KB · Views: 47

pemerton

Legend
I spent today's train commute writing up another possible opponent.

(EDITed to better respect the system's Mental Assault/Mind Control differentiation. Nazguls upthread have also been edited with this in mind.)
 

Attachments

  • Saruman.pdf
    266.8 KB · Views: 44
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pemerton

Legend
And here's something to be hunted for in Ost-in-Edhil itself. It's meant to be balanced so that it can be added as an extra Power Set without the result being too overpowered.
 

Attachments

  • Lesser Ring.pdf
    259.7 KB · Views: 42


pemerton

Legend
No actual play post yet written - but some of the players in my group were curious about what a Hobbit would look like, so here it is. Small-ish numbers, but quite a few SFX.

(I didn't immediately build a Hobbit because my own inclination is that Hobbits are "perspective" characters for LotR and so when you're RPing Middle Earth rather than reading about it they become redundant.)
 

Attachments

  • Hobbit.pdf
    287.9 KB · Views: 39

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