Middle Earth/LotR RPGing using Cortex+ Heroic

pemerton

Legend
I re-read the Moria chapters of Fellowship (and then also had a look at the troll passage at the end of The Black Gate Opens) and wrote up an Orc Chieftain and a Troll:
 

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pemerton

Legend
There's another current LotR roleplaying thread. I posted something there that I thought I should repost in this thread:

In the session that we played I ran an action scene in which one of the Scene Distinctions was Uncertain Of What to do Next, and as the scene unfolded the player of the ranger declared actions that succeeded in eliminating that Distinction, meaning that he was then able to dictate to the table what the next step was. That was a nice alternative to (say) a BW Duel of Wits - the uncertainy being more about the situation than a disagreement between two characters - and I felt it emulated some of those parts of LotR where Aragorn in particular can see the range of options but is unsure what is the right choice of next action.
 

pemerton

Legend
Here are some more bits of actual play mostly cut-and-pasted from the other thread:

I started the session at Rivendell and got each player to establish a reason for leaving. The ranger had heard of orcs re-entering Angmar; Gandalf had hear rumours of a palantir discovered in the north.

A Doom Pool die was spent to have a second Nazgul turn up - Adunaphel joined Khamul (I was using the ICE identities for the Nazgul). Just as in LotR, so in the game, we didn't need to investigate the precise causal mechanism whereby the shadow's influence operates.

Gandalf used fiery blasts from Narya, plus Glamdring, to drive off the 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. The rules of Cortex+ Heroic enable the GM to spend 2d12 from the Doom Pool to end the scene. Which is what I did.

The growth of the Doom Pool is something that is managed mechanically. The size of the Doom Pool was in part due to the Limit on Narya The enemy seeks it ("unless you are performing a recovery action you must spend 1 PP to include a Narya power in a pool, in which case both 1s and 2s on your dice count as opportunities"). So Gandalf cutting loose with Narya increased the rate of Doom Pool growth.

What worked about all this, I felt, was that Gandalf was able to drive off Nazgul - which seems right - but that in doing so, he alerted the shadow to his presence which therefore stepped up its efforts (ie the orcs carry off the palantir). Spending 2d12 to end the scene gave the growth of the shadow a concrete meaning (ie a group of orcs carrying the palantir south).

I already mentioned what came next - the situation being one of uncertainty and the ranger resolving the doubt (mechanically, by eliminating the salient Scene Distinction). The group therefore set off in pursuit of the orcs. In this pursuit Gandalf used his magic to reach out to the palantir and infuence it to slow the orcs and sow dissension among them. This succeeded. (It also reminded me of Gandalf tricking the trolls in The Hobbit.)

I don't know how The One Ring handles this sort of thing, but I feel that a system that works in terms of scenes, - for pacing, for effects, for consequences - is probably better for producing LotR-ish action than one that is based more on range of effect, causal immediacy in consequences, etc.
 

pemerton

Legend
So, having been reading the Lorien chapers of Book 2, I had a go at writing up Galadriel. I used my existing Noldor elf as a starting point. I went for Team as her weakest affiliation, because when she was allied with the sons of Feanor she helped lead the Noldor to disaster, and I went with Buddy as her strongest beause, together with Celeborn, she kept Lorien safe from the shadow for the whole Third Age.

I'm not entirely happy with what I've written up, but equally I don't think it's terrible. I haven't written any Milestones because I'm thinking of her as a NPC/ally rather than a PC.
 

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chaochou

Adventurer
I don't know how The One Ring handles this sort of thing, but I feel that a system that works in terms of scenes, - for pacing, for effects, for consequences - is probably better for producing LotR-ish action...
The One Ring is set up very traditionally - the GM creates one or more 'adventures' and the players are expected to contrive reasons for each their characters to involve themselves.
 

pemerton

Legend
The One Ring is set up very traditionally - the GM creates one or more 'adventures' and the players are expected to contrive reasons for each their characters to involve themselves.
That makes me think maybe I wouldn't enjoy it too much.

I know that it seems to have a fairly trditional approach to PC building - race (culture) with sub-specialisations + class (can't remember it's techincal term at the moment).

I've tried to read it's resolution systems but have never got all the way through. It seemed to have quite a few moving parts.
 

chaochou

Adventurer
That makes me think maybe I wouldn't enjoy it too much.
In it's structure, no, probably not :)

It's micro-systems are quite Tolkien-y... for example, characters have Hope and Shadow. If their hope drops below their shadow they get miserable... etc. There are structured rules for travel, which results in fatigue, which can increase Shadow or reduce hope, etc

But the game is structured around the GM presenting the characters with 'adventures' that s/he has chosen for them to resolve. Here's what is says about 'What does the Loremaster do?':

The One Ring said:
The Loremaster will involve elements of the adventure's plot as appropriate. These can be triggered either in response to player actions - for example, confronting a thief may lead the villain revealing information which leads to the next part of the adventure - or by a timeline of events, for example such as the Loremaster deciding that Orcs will raid the settlement the players are staying in just after midnight on the third night of their stay.
Player input is limited to triggering the next scripted element of the 'adventure' or responding to pre-scripted elements. At no point does the system suggest the players should be choosing the purpose of their characters.
 

pemerton

Legend
Here's what is says about 'What does the Loremaster do?':

<snip rules extract>

Player input is limited to triggering the next scripted element of the 'adventure' or responding to pre-scripted elements. At no point does the system suggest the players should be choosing the purpose of their characters.
That doesn't sound that appealing to me. I'm not sure how much more LotRing my goup is going to do - particularly given current situation! - but I think at this stage we'll stick to this Cortex+ version, which probably has a bit more life left in it.
 

pemerton

Legend
Over the past few weeks I've reread chapters 3 through 10 of Book II ie from leaving Rivendell to the Breaking of the Fellowship. In this post, I want to outline how I think the post-Moria sequence, up to the arrival at Parth Galen, could be thought of in Cortex+ Heroic terms.

What's the point? Partly to relieve boredom while stuck at home during the virus crisis! But also to show how I think this LotR-via-Cortex+ could work.

Here's my starting premise: that the final scene in Moria - in which the PCs have had some trouble finding their way to the eastern gates of Moria, are being chased and shot at by orcs, and have a Balrog pursuing them - ends with the GM spending 2d12 from the Doom Pool.

To help explain this a bit more, here are some brief thoughts about the Moria stuff that leads up to that final scene. First, Gandalf separates from the others to try and hold the door in the Chamber of Mazarbul. The declared action is to impose a Held Door complication on the orcs and trolls - the attempt fails, and the GM inflicts physical stress on Gandalf (ie he is hurled down the stair) and spends a die from the Doom Pool to rejoin the PCs. Somewhere around here, the GM also spends a die from the Doom Pool to establishe a Scene Complication - A Balrog is Come - which if not eliminatd by the end of the Scene allows a check using the Doom Pool to inflict emotional stress on all the PCs.

I think doing the Balrog as a complication with a SFX, rather than as a character, better fits the way the scene plays out.

The fiery fissure in the Second Hall is a Scene Distinction created by spending a d8 from the Doom Pool; that it's between the PCs and the orcs is a Complication created by one of the players, which the GM then eliminates by having trolls attack it (in the fiction they lay slabs across the fissure). I think in this last action sequence the GM uses the orcs to add to the Doom Pool (ie their shooting of arrows is mere colour), which grows the Doom Pool to 2d12.

When the GM spends those dice, the agreed resolution is that Gandalf is sacrificed but the other PCs escape without suffering further stress or trauma beyond the emotional stress from the Balrog is Come scene complication.

I think playing all this out could be quite exciting, but would also be frustrating for the players as the Doom Pool mounts and they seem unable to overcome the growing pressure the GM is bringing to bear. I think at the end of it - after dice have been spent to introduce the extra orcs and trolls, and the Balrog, as well as the other expenditures described above, the Doom Pool is then very low. This helps explain how the rest of Book II plays out in a way that puts the PCs under relatively little pressure until the very end.

Here are those ensuing scenes as I envisage them:

* Transition scene by the Dimril waters - this is mostly a recovery scene, though Aragorn's player spend a PP to create a Knowledge of Lothlorien resource. Maybe ditto for Legolas. Frodo and Sam's players each give a PP to Aragorn to add his Healing specialty to their checks. (The fact that this happens only after they start walking is mere colour, that follows from Aragorn's player being the first to declare an action and narrating the company moving off as part of that.) The GM narrates Gollum's padding feet - that's also just colour at this point, maybe accompanying a Doom Pool growth resulting from Frodo's recovery check. Legolas's Nimrodel song might be a recovery action based on Performance speciality.

* Action scene meeting the elves of Lorien. The goal here is to eliminate a Suspcious Elves Scene Distinction, without which the PCs can't pass through the enchanted wood. Maybe the GM introduces a Pursuing Orcs Scene Complication that makes those checks harder; or maybe a player introduces a Warning of Orcs Asset to make those checks easier. Aragorn's player helps recuce the Distinction by agreeing that all the PCs be blindfolded - depending on details this might also have involved checks vs Gimli or Legolas to inflict some Emotional or Mental stress. At the end one of the players - Frodo's or Aragorn's establishes the Cerin Amroth asset which is used to support some sort of recovery action, or maybe to persuade the GM that the scene has ended so successfully that some sort of persistent asset can be carried forward. Or maybe it satisfies a Milestone and earns XP.

* Transition scene in Lorien. Most of the PCs recover in this scene. For Gimli and Legolas, the fiction around this - given that they're mostly recovering Mental and/or Emotional stress - is their growing friendship. The meeting with Celeborn and Galadriel is colour that supports this.

The Mirror of Galadriel is interesting. I think it's best seen as Resource creation - based on a Social specialty for Sam and maybe the same for Frodo, or perhaps a Lore specialty in his case. For Sam, the Resource is something like Renewed Resolve because he's seen the harm that will come to The Shire and is resolved to first go with Frodo and then return to deal with that. And for Frodo it's something like Knowledge of the Rings - both the enemy and Galadriel's ring of power.

Another way of looking at this is that Frodo's player does not spend a PP to create a Resource but rather rolls against the Doom Pool to create an Asset. This would then introduce an element of real risk when he offers the ring to Galadriel. But clearly it all works out well for Frodo's player with no Doom Pool growth, because Galadriel does not succumb to temptation.

The end of this transition scene is the gift of boats, cloaks and various items. I think the boats are best scene as a Scene Distinction for the next (action) Scene - Elven Boats. That is, they're purely GM-side.

At this point the cloaks are pure fiction, but establish an unlockable - 5 XP to gain an Elven Cloak power trait with the Invisibility power (at d8) and the Gear limit.

The other gifts vary. I think the belts for Boromir, Merry and Pippin are mere colour. Likewise the hair for Gimili. Of course these could be fictional premises for later action declarations to establish the favour of Lorien (eg as an asset, or to reduce a complication).

Legolas's player spends XP to upgrade his Weapon power - the gift of the bow. Aragorn fulfills a Milestone and gains the Elfstone. Sam's gift is a 5 or 10 XP unlockable to restore ruin to the Shire. And Frodo spends 10 XP to gain a new power set, Phial of Galadriel, which is Light Control D6, has the Elbereth Gilthoniel SFX to add a D6 and step up the effect die when using the power to inflict a complication on a creature of shadow, and has the Gear Limit and the Limit A light in dark places, when all other lights go out which means that it may only be used to create light, not to reduce or eliminate it.

* Action scene to sail down the Great River. This scene has the Elven Boats Scene Distinction - which can both underpin action declarations by the PCs but also be used or targetted by the GM. If the Distinction is eliminated then of course the PCs can't keep travelling down the river! There is a Many Days to the Falls of Rauros Scene Distinction which has to be eliminated by the players to comlete their journey. And I think Enemies on the East Bank or something similar as the third Scene Distinction.

I think somewhere in here the GM also introduces the Log with Eyes Scene Complication, that is used to make it harder for the PCs to avoid physical stress (in the fiction, they need to keep watch) and makes it harder to avoid attacks from enemies (in the fiction, Gollum might be informing on the PCs' movements).

After the first Action Sequence, the GM spends a D6 from the Doom Pool to turn the Enemies Distinction into an actual mob of orcs. These orcs don't just shoot their arrows to grow the Doom Pool - they inflict Physical Stress via area attack! They also have a SFX that allows them to call in a flying Nazgul - probably by stepping up an asset that they create. Legolas's player eliminates this asset by shooting it out of the sky with his mighty shot in the dark. (Perhaps the GM also introduced a D6 Darkness Scene Complication.)

The rapids of Sarn Gebir are probably a high Scene Complication, which then the PCs eliminate via their portage strategy. (Perhaps a Portage-way Asset helps here, together with Boromir's Enhanced Strength.)

The Scene ends with the Many Days Distinction eliminated (the action is to steer around Tol Brandir to the west bank), and the PCs arrival (in the fiction) at Parth Galen.

I think this then runs straight into another Action Scene, which begins with Frodo's player trying to create an asset by going off alone to think. But I won't try and analyse all that then happens in this post.
 

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