Tell me about your Adventures in Middle-Earth experiences, please

Azgulor

Adventurer
As per the title. My impression of 5e is that for all efforts to flatten the math and other changes, it's just as over-saturated with magic as ever. In some cases, it seems to be moreso with things like bards being 9th-level casters and a magic-infused option for almost every class. If my admittedly limited analysis, is off-base, that's fine but a topic for a different thread.

I do find Adventures in Middle-Earth intriguing, however. So, I'm curious as to how well it emulates the source material and differentiates itself from standard 5e.
 

HawaiiSteveO

Explorer
I recently bought the books and have been reviewing them with great anticipation for my next campaign.

What is your current awareness of what's offered in the book(s)?

There are some pretty big differences from 'standard' 5E

- 6 custom classes that reflect the feel of ME (replacing all classes in PHB) Scholar, Slayer, Treasure Hunter (aka burglar :),) Wanderer, Warden, and Warrior.
- Cultures replace standard PHB choices (Bardings, Beornings, Dunedain, Riders of Rohan, etc) not a Tiefling or Dragonborn to be seen.
- "little in the way of blatant, showy magic"
- new backgrounds and equipment that reflect ME, cultural Virtues replace Feats as ways to customize characters
- no alignment, PC's are considered 'good' but can collect Shadow points for misdeeds, anguish, visiting blighted places, and of course tainted magic!
 
Last edited:

Yaarel

Adventurer
Be cautious about Adventures In Middle Earth player classes.

The AIME nonmagic classes are solid, and comparable to their 5e class equivalents. For example, the warrior class functions in combat as well as the fighter does.

However, the quasi-magic classes are less worthwhile. The scholar class ( ≈ wizard) and the warden class (≈ bard), essentially have their spells removed, and in the place of spells is ... moreorless nothing.

For this reason, you might want to remove the scholar and the warden from the list of player character classes, and treat them more like 3e NPC classes. (Alternatively, adopt a gaming style that mostly resolves conflicts without combat, so combat becomes less important.)



If you want players to be viable spell caster classes, then allow one or several 5e half-caster classes.

Seriously, a 5e paladin built as a Dexterity fighter is excellent to represent a playable Gandalf vibe.
• Spells, no spellbook
• Dual weapon wielding
• Light armor
• Spiritual horse
• Healing
• Combating fiends
• Turning wraiths
• Protection spells
• Fiery smites, Flamestrike
• Party face
• Morale
• Divination
• Good (arguably Gandalf is Lawful Good)

Etcetera, etcetera.



Probably add as player options, the 5e paladin, and the trickster rogue, and the setting is good to go. Also consider ranger if ok with a more magical Aragon vibe.
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
If you're looking purely at combat math, then Yaarel's comment about class balance is accurate. However, if you're playing the AiME game as intended - using the Middle Earth setting and the Mirkwood campaign - then the Scholar and Warden come into their own.

I've been GMing the game for a little while now and it's important to note that, for most official adventures released, combat is a last-resort. Most encounters are best resolved through negotiation, stealth and avoidance. In the first module of Wilderland Adventures, for example, there is no combat encounter that can't be avoided through skill checks or player agency. Most of the other adventures are the same. Hence, the PC's ability to chuck a fireball or swing a blade is largely irrelevant.

By contrast, the critical and deadly part of the rules is Corruption and Journeys.

A vast number of things can give you Shadow points. Unlike a game like Star Wars, Corruption in AiME is not necessarily related to "bad choices". You can gain Shadow points by traveling through hostile terrain... fighting a particularly evil monster... witnessing the death of a friend... or simply being caught in bad weather. Anything that makes you tired and miserable and frightened can give you Shadow points. When your Shadow points exceed your Wisdom, you may gain a point of Permanent Shadow (then your counter re-sets). If this happens once, it's a warning. If it happens twice, you start gaining permanent mechanical penalties to your PC, and if it happens four times... you become an NPC.

In our very first session, the party Slayer (barbarian) gained 8 Shadow points; 5 points through bad luck, and 3 points through a bad choice. So, depending on the module, they can rack up fast. The Scholar is the only AiME class that has proficiency in Wisdom saves, and this is one of the critical balancing factors for the class. Most Corruption checks allow a Wisdom save to avoid gaining Shadow, so the Scholar is streets ahead of other classes in resisting eventual degradation. Further, during the Fellowship phase, you gain the option to remove some Shadow points - with an Insight check. So, Scholars gain Shadow slower and tend to remove it easier than any other class.

The second key advantage of the Scholar is that they are masters of healing. No other class, with the exception of the Warden, has much in the way of healing capability. In AiME, long rests are generally only available in Sanctuaries. Most campaigns start with a single Sanctuary (e.g. Laketown) and it takes an action in the Fellowship phase to open a new Sanctuary. Further, the time-scale of the game is much-extended. The official Mirkwood campaign runs for 30 years, and the recommended pace is one adventure per year. The Fellowship phase is completed after each adventure.

So, what does that mean? If you get injured, you're in a ton of trouble. You've got your Hit Dice. Once those are burned, there's nothing else. There are no healing potions, no friendly clerics, and no long rests until the Fellowship Phase (i.e. the adventure is complete!). The Scholar and the Warden become force multipliers. Both bring heaps of additional healing to the table, which keeps the rest of the party in the adventure.

Then there's the Journey phase. Most adventures require Journeys, and they can be savage. Random events occur, and many are very bad for the party. Unless you have strong wilderness skills (Survival, Perception, etc), there's a solid chance you'll run into events that either add Shadow or cause exhaustion levels. Perhaps even multiple exhaustion levels. Why is exhaustion so bad in AiME? See above - you can't just do the D&D thing of taking a day off for a long rest. In a month-long foot-slog across Mirkwood, you might get unlucky and gain 3 levels of exhaustion. None of it can be removed until you get to the other side. And then you run into a pack of orcs...

Finally, there's the Audience phase. Audiences are where you deal with notable NPCs, and this is the source of 80%+ of all the treasure in AiME. Usually, you get nothing when looting bodies (...except maybe a Shadow point for grave-robbing), and there aren't many dragon hoards around. However, patrons will often reward you. Sometimes, the reward is in gold or land... and sometimes it's in the form of aid to make your next Journey that much easier. Guess what helps in Audiences? Hint - it's not paladin smites, or magic missiles. Once more, the Scholar and the Warden shine.

The bottom line is that if you are using the AiME player's guidebook to run a low-powered regular D&D campaign, then the classes are going to be unbalanced. If you can long rest at will, and most treasure is gained from chests and bodies, and exhaustion is a minor inconvenience, and you aren't using the AiME Journey and Corruption rules, then the Scholar, Warden and Wanderer classes are all under-powered. This just leaves you with the Slayer (barbarian), Treasure Hunter (rogue) and Warrior (fighter). So, you're not really gaining anything over just playing regular D&D and restricting the class choice.

However, if you play the full AiME as intended, there is much more balance. My group prioritized the Scholar and Warden classes after learning how the game plays, and they have no regrets.
 
Last edited:

Lancelot

Adventurer
Thanks for that Lancelot...now I want to play this game even more.
It's a good game, but it's not for the faint-of-heart.

Some people think of Lord of the Rings as fighting balrogs, slaughtering orcs on the battlefield, and romancing elf maidens. They quibble about whether Gandalf was actually only a 6th level wizard, and whether Aragorn is a ranger or a fighter or even a paladin, while missing the whole point.

This is what LotR is all about: the "hero" goes on a grueling journey where he achieves no victory in battle, suffers continual misery and weariness, never meets a romantic interest, incurs terrible wounds that will plague him for the rest of his life, never turns out to be of special lineage, doesn't ride or befriend a dragon, goes back home to a nation/people that don't even understand or value his accomplishments, and ultimately... wearying of life... departs from most of his friends forever. Plenty has been written about it being an allegory for the World War I experience (the terrible losses, horror of combat, industrialization of warfare, disconnection when returning home after months or years away).

AiME captures that vibe pretty well. Journeys are often grim affairs. You have to be playing with a group who accept that some sessions they'll be playing with disadvantage on all their skill checks (and maybe even attack rolls) due to exhaustion. They also have to accept that accumulated bad weather, rough terrain and frightening encounters could break or even kill their characters through corruption.

Combats are not to be sought out, and bodies aren't meant to be looted. How many times in the LotR books or movies can you recall the heroes actively trying to attack foes? They're mostly playing defense, or being forced into confrontation when there is no other option. From memory: hobbits flee black riders, party hides from crows, party flees from watcher-in-water, party forced to fight attackers at Balin's tomb, party flees goblin reinforcements, Gandalf fights rearguard action against balrog, party flees Moria, party tries to flee orcs on Amon Hen, etc.

Some creatures are literally unkillable. In the Mirkwood campaign, there are creatures that you simply *cannot* beat by normal means. And, without getting into spoilers, the general theme of the official campaign is: "Things are bad... then they get worse". When I read the final adventure in the Mirkwood campaign book, I was slightly stunned at how audacious it is. There's... hmm... it's not about fighting and defeating Demogorgon or Strahd von Zarovich (or Sauron, or a dragon, for that matter). Can't really say more, but it's absolutely not the typical D&D campaign ending.

A number of the official adventures feature foes that are intentionally not level-balanced. The players need to quickly figure out what is beatable, and what isn't. If they get into some fights, they're absolutely going to die.

There are virtually no magic items, and little way to spend gold - so no real motivation for looting and spelunking either. The true motivation is to hold back the Shadow, save your friends, try and keep the islands of light (towns, villages) alive as long as possible in the face of overwhelming darkness. And the darkness IS overwhelming. You're keeping the lights going as long as possible, but they WILL fail. Friends WILL die, and allied towns WILL fall. The best outcome is simply to limit the losses.

Now, that's all very attractive to me as a DM (...as a break for "regular" D&D, which I also thoroughly enjoy). But my players have a hard time with it. The player who gained 8 Shadow points in one session was shaking his head at the end. I have another player who is still looting every body they come across, and is continually surprised that random bandits aren't carrying gold. Two of them complained that a troll was so hard to kill (and managed to kill one of their characters in return), and how it was level-inappropriate for the party.

They're slowly coming around to how the game and the setting works, but I personally think it's only a matter of time before they mutiny and we're back to D&D. If nothing else, some of the later modules in either the Mirkwood Campaign or Wilderlands Adventures will probably break them. The rules and the setting are *not* simply a down-powered version of D&D; they subvert many of the core expectations of D&D. And, in some ways, it can be tough for a regular D&D group to adapt.

I'm loving it as a change-of-pace, though. It models the setting very well indeed (kudos to Cubicle 7), and much better than most of those 3e re-skins that were prevalent back in the early days of the OGL. This isn't just a lazy collection of new classes and cultures that are vaguely Tolkien-like; AiME is a more fundamental change to the underlying way the game is played.

Or, at least, it is if you're playing it according to the DM guidance and the setting-specific rules. If you decide to house-rule it so that long rests are easily achievable, corruption is less prevalent, and goblins carry a handful of silver each... then you can make the official modules play much more like regular D&D. And if that works better for your table, go for it. :)
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I only got to play it a few sessions, but I really like a lot of parts of it. Lancelot describes it excellently. It does not play like traditional D&D at all, and if you force it to by changing or ignorning the rules, then you’ll run into that class imbalance mentioned earlier. But if you play it like it’s actualy written, then Lancelot is spot on. Every class is important, and corruption is extremely important. Really makes you think of other ways to resolve encounters other than combat. Because healing is much, mush slower, if you approach combat the same as you do in a D&D game, your PCs won’t last long.

Honestly, if you prefer a low magic setting, it’s great. Well, it’s great anyway, but it’s different than what you’re used to.
 
Last edited:

HawaiiSteveO

Explorer
Thanks for all the great info!

As a DM, I'm totally into it and would love the dramatic change of pace. I'm not certain 1-2 of my players will go for it though...

I'd want to stay faithful to the source material, and not start adding stuff to try to please everyone and dilute the setting.

I must admit that part of the attraction is spellcasters are sometimes a pain in the can! I don't always like the weird directions high magic campaigns seem to take. That being said, there are optional rules in the Loremasters Guide to allow for a more traditional D&D flavor - less flashy spell lists etc.
 
Last edited:

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
[MENTION=80342]morris[/MENTION], want to share your experiences DMing AiME?

Also, what do you think about [MENTION=30022]Lancelot[/MENTION]'s two long descriptions? It may explain some of the differences your players were feeling.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Really cool to hear some actual play experiences. I purchased the AiME pdfs but haven't played so it's interesting to hear how they differ from my take after just reading.

In a nutshell, my feeling after reading was that the campaign rules are really cool (Journey, Audience, Shadow) but that the classes are lackluster, especially the magic "replacement" characters. I was also disappointed that not only was there no alternate, low-magic casting system, there was no magic system at all!

My biggest surprise reading the above posts was the role the Warden and Loremaster play in an actual LotR campaign. Coming from my D&D/5E "bias", I would avoid those classes like the plague because they look really boring on paper, especially in combat. The Loremaster has literally no abilities related to combat. It's refreshing to hear they serve an important role in a LotR campaign but I'm still skeptical. I don't think neglecting an entire pillar is a good design choice for a class.

That said, this thread definitely has me wanting to take another look at how everything ties together from a campaign standpoint.
 

JonnyP71

Explorer
I genuinely think it is better than 5E - or rather is better than '5E is becoming', as the drip drip drip of bloat is underway and risks tainting 5E for me. The only criticisms I have read of AiME pertain to the perceived class imbalance, and as has already been said, that only has an impact if you go into it with the expectation of the ratio of combat to the other gaming pillars being similar to 'typical' 5E.

That is not the intention of AiME, AiME is The One Ring using 5E mechanics, typically even 2 combat encounters in a 6 hour session of The One Ring is considered high, so those expectations need to be applied to AiME. The Warden and Scholar play just fine using this intended playstyle.

AiME is not for everyone - if you want magic and crash bang wallop from your gaming look elsewhere. But if you want a beautifully crafted conversion of core 5E mechanics, a genuine low magic feel, a RP heavy gaming experience, and presentation to die for, then AiME is for you.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I admire how AIME repurposes the 5e core rules to craft a unique setting (with a distinctive playstyle), as a stand-alone game.

I feel 5e should have done something similar. Have setting-neutral core rules. Make a separate stand-alone game using the Forgotten Realms setting book. Then the players who want this setting wouldnt need to worry about any rules ‘drift’ that changes the feeling of the setting. And the players who want the Dark Sun setting book would have their own dedicated stand-alone game.

And all of us are playing D&D 5e core, as this neutral core continues to update various rules options.
 

Count_Zero

Explorer
From a narrative level - how hard would it be to take some old MERP adventures and adapt them to Adventures in Middle Earth - not mechanically (I know that bit is going to require a total overhaul), just in terms of narrative structure?
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
From a narrative level - how hard would it be to take some old MERP adventures and adapt them to Adventures in Middle Earth - not mechanically (I know that bit is going to require a total overhaul), just in terms of narrative structure?
Pretty hard, in my opinion. I've got nearly every MERP/Rolemaster module and supplement released, but it's worlds apart from AiME's approach. Let's take some random examples...

Firstly, forget anything based outside the traditional settings of Hobbit and LotR. Sea of Rhun? Warlords of Harad? Court of Ardor? Nope. You'd need to create a bunch of new cultures for all of those (cultures = D&D races). And, because nearly all virtues (virtues = D&D feats) are culture-specific, you'd need to create a bunch of new feats. And armor/weapons. And monsters, because there aren't sand-wyrms and demons-beyond-the-pale and a whole bunch of other stuff appearing in those modules. You could use D&D equivalents, but you have to be careful - remember that the party has no access to magic weapons or spells, and long rests are very hard to come by.

But most DMs love building stuff from the ground up, so this might appeal. I've seen at least one DM adapt an entire Witchking-era Angmar setting, so that's cool if you've got the time.

Speaking of which... AiME is specifically set post-Hobbit / pre-LotR, so you immediately run into problems with MERP's timeline. Sauron is not at Dol Guldur, which is a deserted (?) ruin. Angmar and Arnor (Arthedain, Rhudaur, Cardolan) are already long-fallen. Tharbad is a ruin, Umbar is in decline, Minas Ithil is Minas Morgul, Thieves' Hold doesn't exist, etc.

Also, supplements like Court of Ardor and Southern Mirkwood are problematic due to the assumed power level and capabilities of the protagonists. AiME is a low-power setting. A single werewolf shows up, and it's a multi-adventure campaign-dominating event. Compare this with a bunch of corrupted Noldor lords and their massive citadels and armies, dealing with demons, communicating with magical Tarot cards (shades of Nine Princes in Amber), and attempting to put out the sun using the jewels of Ungoliant. But enough about the Court of Ardor, which was always one of the stranger entries in the MERP/Rolemaster line.

So, how about some of the more modest modules: Hillmen of the Trollshaws, or Assassins of Dol Amroth, perhaps? Yeah, maybe these could be mined for story ideas. But it's still a tricky business. MERP didn't model the Tolkien feel particularly well, in my opinion. You've got sprawling keyed dungeons, and small hordes of enemies, and treasure chests with x2 PP Multipliers and +15 longswords. It still runs with many of the base D&D assumptions, because that was the style of the time.

Even stripping out the loot and the magic and most of the combat encounters, you have two frequent narrative problems with MERP adventures. Firstly, many of them are quite happy to send the party into mysterious and untraveled locations. It's the classic "explore the unknown" driver from D&D. AiME characters, by contrast, tend to dread the unknown. If you wander into Shadow Lands (e.g. Southern Mirkwood, Mount Gundabad, the Mines of Moria), you're rolling Corruption checks by the bucket-load. Most AiME adventures occur on the fringes of the points-of-light. A journey into unknown areas is rare and very dangerous; you'd want to use these as the spice in your dish, rather than the main course.

Secondly, you'd want to use multiple MERP supplements. In classic D&D style, your typical MERP adventure assumes there is tons of excitement within spitting distance of (say) Bree. An AiME campaign needs a bigger setting than that to use the Journey rules. This is consistent with the flava of The Hobbit and LoTR, which are all about the journey. Most AiME sessions should see the party moving at least 20-50 miles (bearing in mind that the campaign timeline assumes an average of 1 adventure per year). That's not conducive to grabbing a single MERP module and trying to convert it.

...

My preferred approach is to use the official material (which is of outstanding quality), supplemented by re-tooled modules from old Dragon and Dungeon magazines. I specifically look for smaller adventures that are wilderness-based with few combat encounters, at least one notable NPC, and an interesting story hook.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I've run a couple of sessions of AiME and completely agree with Lancelot.

Also I highly recommend the Eaves of Mirkwood product. It's a great little adventure that highlights the differences between 5e and AiME. It comes with a beautiful and useful GM screen, and contains alternate rules for the Scholar and Warden that give minor but much appreciated combat boosts.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I've run a couple of sessions of AiME and completely agree with Lancelot.

Also I highly recommend the Eaves of Mirkwood product. It's a great little adventure that highlights the differences between 5e and AiME. It comes with a beautiful and useful GM screen, and contains alternate rules for the Scholar and Warden that give minor but much appreciated combat boosts.

Agreed. In fact, I'd suggest using all of ToR supplement material with it. That's what I did when I DM'd it (Tales from Wilderland), and it wasn't too difficult to convert over. And it gives you a ton of material you can use.
 

Jester David

Adventurer
I was a little underwhelmed by AiME myself.
As others have stated, it's very low combat. But the One Ring does that style already. I think I would have preferred the 5e version to be more like the movies and leaving the book-heavy game to be The One Ring to allow more styles of play and more ways of engaging in Tolkien's world.
5e has a very combat heavy chassis, and a lot of classes don't get much in the way of features apart from kicking ass. You really need an aware group that is okay with that style of game, or they're going to pick a fight and be disappointed by the result.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I emphasize noncombat resolution in my modern urban setting.

But how does that style work for players in AIME? If there is only one combat, say, per session, what are the characters doing with their time?

I am imagining the team in the middle of a forest, or in the middle of a hamlet of 10 farms, and my mind is going blank about (interesting) noncombat stuff to do.
 

Advertisement

Top