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

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
The campaigns/adventures as written rely a lot on Unwinnable fights/saved by Deus Ex Machina tropes. While I dont mind it and my players love those epic moments, its good to keep and mind that a group that is used to be able to engage every fight with a distinct possibility of victory will be confused in some chapters.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
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.
I actually prefer that AiME adds a little more too combat because there are fewer combats than in a 5e game.

Still I've had 2-3 combats per session in AiME which is actually my preferred sweet spot.

The campaigns/adventures as written rely a lot on Unwinnable fights/saved by Deus Ex Machina tropes. While I dont mind it and my players love those epic moments, its good to keep and mind that a group that is used to be able to engage every fight with a distinct possibility of victory will be confused in some chapters.
Very true.

It's meant to emulate Tolkien after all who was all about a darkening world with glimmers of hope and "eucatastrophes".

I feel that in AiME (and TOR) you are not a hero for winning the fight, but a hero for choosing to fight even when all hope seems lost.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I actually prefer that AiME adds a little more too combat because there are fewer combats than in a 5e game.

Still I've had 2-3 combats per session in AiME which is actually my preferred sweet spot.



Very true.

It's meant to emulate Tolkien after all who was all about a darkening world with glimmers of hope and "eucatastrophes".

I feel that in AiME (and TOR) you are not a hero for winning the fight, but a hero for choosing to fight even when all hope seems lost.
Exact. I like this feel. I think players feel more heroic when they dont resort to violence as their go-to in every situations. OTOH, I know some of my players at the table will end up in tears and some will call BS when faced with such odds. Its really a matter of assumptions and having a good Session 0 before play.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Exact. I like this feel. I think players feel more heroic when they dont resort to violence as their go-to in every situations. OTOH, I know some of my players at the table will end up in tears and some will call BS when faced with such odds. Its really a matter of assumptions and having a good Session 0 before play.
The biggest adjustment for my players was not effing with the townsfolk. That will rack you up some shadow points.

It has been cool to see encounters that favor stealth over combat like the spiders in Don't Leave the Path. My players had great roles and pulled it off flawlessly, but if you screw it up it becomes VERY difficult really fast.

Or combats where they just have to do enough damage to an unbeatable foe to scare them off like the Thing in the Well in the same adventure. Or where it seems overwhelming but you just have to kill the BBEG like the Battle at the Ringfort.

But my players' favorite by far was feasting, smoking, and riddling with the dwarves in Eaves of Mirkwood.

So far I think the game has got a nice variety of encounters for something that is mechanically quite simple when compared with 5e.
 
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ART!

Explorer
Finding this thread really useful!

I've been reading through PDFs of the two core AiME books, and I really like what they've done. I'm tempted to buy the physical books because the art and design are so good - they'd be lovely books to hold and use. I actually had the slipcase edition at one point, but sold it (still shrink-wrapped!) for much-needed money at the time.

I've been running 5E for a year and a half now, and would like to get the PCs to 20th level before wrapping up. After that, my main idea right now for what to run after that is AiME, but of course I want to make things difficult for myself and set it around the death of Isildur. It's just that I started watching the FOTR movie and during that opening sequence thought "now wait a minute, what if...".

I know I'd have to whip new cultures with the existing ones as models, likewise with virtues, etc. But I've run Hobbit/LOTR-era games before and don't want to go there again. The Last Alliance era is removed enough to really be it's own thing, but still has that familiarity from the movies. And it would still be "D&D" mechanically, so I'm not likely to lose any players - they're a good bunch, but I know that something too different will probably lose me some players.

I imagine the PCs being part of Isildur's retinue or what have you - or after the battle and the death of their own lords they join up with Isildur's forces. I would probably start the game a couple-few years before the big battle. They prove themselves there and wind up being a useful team for him. They'd have to deal with Isildur's increasing obsession with the ring. They are with him at the Gladden Fields when Isildur is slain.

I want to play with some what-ifs: how much of Sauron does Isildur cut off? Does Isildur die on his way back to Arnor?
 

Schmoe

Explorer
This thread has convinced me that I need to buy the AiME rules. Thanks for the awesome, evocative descriptions of gameplay. I love the concept of concretely different phases of an adventure such as Journey, Fellowship, etc.
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
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?
Here's my experience...

Firstly, in a 4-hour session, my group usually does about 2-3 combat encounters with AiME. One of these is usually something fairly trivial, which may drain some of their resources but probably isn't going to be a threat. The other 1-2 encounters are likely to be more meaty. As noted above, it's possible that some of these combats are intentionally unwinnable - but it's possible the party don't initially know that.

So, what are they doing in the 60% of their time when they're not fighting?

1) Audience Phase. The Audience phase is more structured than D&D. In the official modules, there's usually a half-page explaining the NPC's motivations, and the conversational gambits that the party might take that adjust the final roll, and then a table of rewards based on success. To give an example, the party meets with Bob the Dwarf. Their first decision is "who will do the introduction"? This is a skill check based on cultural affinity. Maybe not a good idea to get the elf PC to say hello, because dwarves are a bit negative towards elves. The Introduction sets the initial DC. Then, what do the players actually say? Do they appeal to Bob's greed (+2), show respect for dwarven culture (+1), appeal to his sense of charity (-1), or mention that they've recently snuck inside a dwarven tomb (-2)? Then there's the final check. Which skill will the party use? Traditions, Persuasions, Riddles? Based on the outcome, all sorts of things could happen. Fail, and Bob might tell them to shove off. Succeed, and he might give them some info. Succeed by 3-4 points, and he'll offer them a reward. Succeed by 5+, and he might accompany them. This all sounds complex, but it's clearly laid out in the modules. It makes the key NPC interactions a lot more meaty. I've seen audiences going 15+ minutes (in real time), rather than just "I talk to the dude, and get a Persuasion roll of 15".... in part, because so much hinges on a successful outcome.

2) Journey Phase. This is a really meaty bit of the adventure. You pick everyone's role (Hunter, Lookout, Scout, Guide). You roll for the departure, which has flavour text and mechanical results. Then for events. Then for the arrival. The base rules contain copious descriptions of every event, which are like mini-encounters. However, most supplements have additional events flavoured to the specific module. Wilderland Adventures (for example) is a collection of 6-7 linked modules, but it saves a dozen pages at the back of the book for customizing the random journey events to each of the modules. Events usually aren't combats, but there are still decisions to be made. They have a lot of flavour for the GM to read out, then the PCs are usually either interacting with NPCs, making decisions on how to deal with the event, then rolling skill checks. The Journey phase could take up to an hour of play if there are, say, 3 events to resolve.

3) The Adventuring Phase. Just because the system is combat-light and dungeon-light, doesn't mean there isn't a ton of detail. Rescuing a missing person from a goblin lair? There's still a 15-room map of the lair with descriptions, but it's just not the D&D method of scattering monsters through all the rooms with trapped chests. It'll still take time to explore, but all the goblins are centralized in the feast hall and the party's challenge is: how do we get the prisoner out from underneath their noses? Maybe we use disguises, or challenge the leader to a riddle-contest, or do a shock-and-awe attack then run for our lives. For most major encounters, the modules include a lot of detail on possible gambits to resolve withou combat, including suggested skill checks and options.

4) The Fellowship Phase. There are real decisions to be made here as well. This is your Downtime (in D&D terms), but it has much more mechanical benefit. If you only get one choice after each adventure, how does your PC spend it? Shopping for a particularly fine sword in the markets of Laketown, exploring for healing herbs in the marshes, opening up a new Sanctuary (allowing long rests and other options), trying to remove some of your accumulated Shadow points...? The choices start easy, but get tougher over time as more options become available.

All told, there's plenty of mechanical meat in the published adventures to keep the players active. It's not a case of the module assuming that your group are just "roleplaying" in between the fights (...although more power to you if they are). They have a bunch of "gaming" decisions to make, more so than normal D&D, and these impact things such as their reward, their exhaustion levels, their Shadow points, their Virtue and equipment gains, and their ability to avoid dangerous fights.

...

And this is the fourth mega-post I've made on the game, and I'm super-conscious that I'm starting to sound like a shill. So, some attempt at counter-balance.

Firstly, I got into the game late. I've never played The One Ring (which is the game that AiME is based on). I really didn't know what it was all about, took a chance on the rules, and was very impressed by it all. Primarily because it's *different* to 5e. It is NOT better, in my opinion. Just different. I'll be going back to 5e after playing a full AiME campaign, because I thoroughly enjoy D&D. And then maybe we'll return to AiME again periodically in the future.

Secondly, my love of the game isn't entirely shared by my players. Most of my guys are super-reluctant to play anything other than traditional D&D with the multi-classing and the spells (oh, by the way: no multi-classing in AiME!). It took some pressure from me to get them to give it a go. They're enjoying it, but primarily as a change rather than a fix. None of us see 5e D&D as "broken"... and AiME is not going to appeal to all groups. As I've mentioned previously, you need a strong "social contract" with your players that they're going to be engaging with a system that has very little magic, sometimes-unwinnable combats, and an emphasis on skill checks, negotiation, and a long-term planning. Also, while it lacks an alignment system, you'll need to play like heroes to avoid punishing Shadow penalties. And, also, be prepared for some real downer endings to some of the adventures. :)
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
Actually, one final comment for anyone who is planning to get into AiME. I was initially unsure what everything was, in terms of released books. Here's how it works...

The Players Guide is the PH, and the Loremaster's Guide is a combination DMG and (abbreviated) Monster Manual. You need both of these.

I'd say the next-most important purchase (if you're new to the setting) is Wilderland Adventures. This is a 6-7 module Adventure Path, running up to about 7th level. Gives you a good feel for how a campaign runs, and how a module should "feel".

Eaves of Mirkwood is a good intro module (along with GM screen), but it's pretty brief. We're talking a single-session 1st level module. Nice, but as a very experienced 5e DM, I didn't find it essential.

Mirkwood Campaign is, basically, a skeleton structure on how to extend the 1st-7th level AP of Wilderland Adventures into a 30-year, up-to-15th-level campaign. It's not complete modules (due to space limitations), but it gives you 25-30 outlines for adventures that you can flesh out. These outlines include mechanical details: the stats for key NPCs or monsters, skill checks, etc. It's extremely good, although it does draw on some material from...

...the Rhovanion Region Guide. This is your gazzeteer for the setting; your Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, if you will. My advice is that if you're only planning to run a "short" campaign (10-or-so sessions; up to 7th level), you only need Wilderland Adventures. But if you want to go deep into the setting and run a "long" campaign, you want both the Mirkwood Campaign and the Rhovanion Region Guide.

There's a map pack called the Road Goes Ever On which has a few optional rules, but this is non-essential and nice-to-have. Purchase if you're a completionist. There are good maps already available in the other books above.

Finally, Cubicle 7 is starting to release the hardback manuals for regions west of the Misty Mountains: Rivendell, Bree, Shire, etc. I think this is an entirely different campaign to the Mirkwood campaign, and I personally don't know a lot about it yet. I know that it's the AiME version of material released for TOR (The One Ring), but I've never played that game. Beside, the already-released Mirkwood stuff above will keep my group going for many months.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
A question for those that use the rules and campaign: do you think the Wilderland Adventures and/or Mirkwood campaign could be converted to regular FR? If so, would you rather set it in:
A) Silver Marches, with Silverymoon as Laketown substitute or,
B) The Dalelands with Arabel-as-Laketown?

I have a table with mostly new players who are not big fans of Tolkien-esque fantasy and this thread made me think that they would probably love those adventures, but I'm not sure if they would like playing in Middle-Earth (maybe, I dont know for sure, they dont care for magic most of the time)
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
A question for those that use the rules and campaign: do you think the Wilderland Adventures and/or Mirkwood campaign could be converted to regular FR? If so, would you rather set it in:
A) Silver Marches, with Silverymoon as Laketown substitute or,
B) The Dalelands with Arabel-as-Laketown?

I have a table with mostly new players who are not big fans of Tolkien-esque fantasy and this thread made me think that they would probably love those adventures, but I'm not sure if they would like playing in Middle-Earth (maybe, I dont know for sure, they dont care for magic most of the time)
Yikes. It'd be tough, I think.

Here are just a few of the challenges when converting to FR:

1) 90% of the campaign and the modules are set outside Laketown; e.g. once the party leaves Laketown at the start of their adventures, they might not be back for 4 years and 6 PC levels. During that time, they're living in small settlements and farmsteads. The important thing isn't finding a substitute for Laketown; it's finding an area that substitutes for Mirkwood. I'm guessing you're thinking Cormanthor or the High Forest? Whichever you choose, it needs to be considered a deadly location that nobody goes into by choice. You'd need a Dol Guldur substitute: maybe Hellgate Keep, or Myth Drannor (assuming still fallen). You'd also need some orc-infested mountains, which shouldn't be too hard. If your FR campaign has a demon-infested Myth Drannor, I'd go Dalelands. If not, then it'd probably need to be High Forest (i.e. Hellgate)... but a much more deadly and corruptive High Forest than I'm used to.

2) The campaign assumes that Laketown/Dale/Erebor/Elvenking are the major bastions of light, and they're all in close proximity. The journeys in the modules and campaigns assume that there are no other major settlements larger than small rustic towns for 400 miles or more. Once you cross Mirkwood to the west side, you could spend years away from a prosperous city. Wilderland really is the edge of civilization, which makes it a bit tricky to set it somewhere in the north. There are civilized nations everywhere, and you never really feel like you're skirting the unknown. In AiME, nobody is going to be visiting Waterdeep or Baldur's Gate to reprovision. It might be interesting to set it in Chult, and replace goblins with batiri. Chult feels a lot more borderlands. And the jungles have tons of giant spiders, which is also rather convenient... although there aren't very many giant snakes or yuan-ti in AiME.

3) The gods play no part in AiME. There are no temples, no priests, no divine intervention, no religious politics. There are only five wizards, and only three of them (Gandalf, Radagast, and pre-corruption Saruman) might ever be encountered. That messes with a lot of FR expectations and flavour. Depending on the era, I guess you could convert the Istari to Khelben Arunsen, Elminster and... hmm... Alustriel? Elminster would probably fill the role of Radagast, curiously, because the campaign assumes he's local, living in a village, and watching over the nearby forest. The other two are from "far away", and very rarely encountered.

4) Perhaps the biggest challenge is that a lot of the modules and campaign events are explictly tied to certain Tolkien-esque creatures and thematic expectations. Even if you convert them to FR, it's still going to seem like Tolkien-esque fantasy. If your players are fairly sophisticated, they may be a bit curious why there are so many encounters with orcs/trolls/spiders/etc... and not many drow. But it goes deeper than that: the modules and the campaign touch on themes like the inevitable triumph of the shadow, the waning of the elves, the fracturing of civilizations. I guess the elvish thing is fine if your FR campaign is doing the retreat to Evermeet, but the darkening of the land is a tougher sell. FR is pretty resilient; it gets blown up on the regular, and never really seems much the worse for wear. Also, there are always potent counter-balancing forces of Good (Harpers, wizards, Purple Dragon knights, etc). The AiME campaign doesn't have this. The forces of Good in AiME are outgunned, even the toughest goodly NPC (e.g. Beorn) is no match for a half-dozen trolls, and things are going to get ugly.

The key thing is that AiME is low magic... and also, to some extent, low fantasy. Your average settlement is 98% human (except for, specifically, Erebor and the Halls of the Elvenking). There are virtually no spells or magic items. An adventure might see you fighting nothing other than human bandits and wolves. There are no global empires, and no major metropolises (metropoli?). Yes, there are orcs and giant spiders and trolls... but a truly supernatural creature like a vampire or a werewolf might be the *only one of it's kind* in the entire setting.

Still, if you're going to give it a go, start with Wilderland Adventures. It's a neat little adventure path, running through to 7th-or-so level. The modules are mostly self-contained, and they show design elements that are not common in D&D (e.g. encounters that have to be resolved without combat, creatures that cannot be killed by mundane methods, outcomes that are determined by how the players treat people or help them overcome despair). I found them very interesting.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
The description by @Lancelot made me think of the ‘pillars’ of D&D. There are four, really five, pillars of the game.

• Audience/Social
• Journey/Exploration
• Adventure/Situation (?) Emergency (?) Exigency (?) (combat or noncombat)
• Fellowship/Downtime

Fellowship/Downtime is an important pillar. It is where the setting and how the character fits into it come to life. Backgrounds, bonds of families, friends, organizations, and places, the challenges of politics, research, lair-building, the pursuit of goals and ambitions, happen most during downtime.

A fifth pillar of the game is character building, at creation and while leveling. DM worldbuilding probably belongs to this character building pillar, as well.

• Character building

Perhaps ‘the 4+1 pillars’.



What seems to make AIME distinctive in feel is, the four pillars detail descriptions of the characters and places for all of these pillars, and presents formal challenges to overcome for each, often resolving without combat.
 
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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
The description by @Lancelot made me think of the ‘pillars’ of D&D. There are four, really five, pillars of the game.

• Audience/Social
• Journey/Exploration
• Adventure/Situation (?) Emergency (?) Exigency (?) (combat or noncombat)
• Fellowship/Downtime

Fellowship/Downtime is an important pillar. It is where the setting and how the character fits into it come to life. Backgrounds, bonds of families, friends, organizations, and places, the challenges of politics, research, lair-building, the pursuit of goals and ambitions, happen most during downtime.

A fifth pillar of the game is character building, at creation and while leveling. DM worldbuilding probably belongs to this character building pillar, as well.

• Character building

Perhaps ‘the 4+1 pillars’.



What seems to make AIME distinctive in feel is, the four pillars detail descriptions of the characters and places for all of these pillars, and presents formal challenges to overcome for each, often resolving without combat.
The thing I love the most in AiME, to continue on your idea, is the concept of Phases. We see so much angst on the assumption of 5-6 encounters/day in normal D&D that when you go with the idea of Adventure phase instead of day, its make more sense and flows more naturally.
 

JPL

Explorer
My secret dream is to get a bunch of players together for a AiME one-shot, hand out the setting-appropriate pregen characters, play a little LOTR soundtrack with a Christopher Lee monologue to set the mood, and then five minutes into the adventure . . . modrons, and lots of them.
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
Wow. Thanks to everyone for the feedback, especially the detailed responses/analysis. Very intriguing stuff and definitely worth a further look. Thanks!
 

Gadget

Explorer
Finding this thread really useful!

I've been reading through PDFs of the two core AiME books, and I really like what they've done. I'm tempted to buy the physical books because the art and design are so good - they'd be lovely books to hold and use. I actually had the slipcase edition at one point, but sold it (still shrink-wrapped!) for much-needed money at the time.

I've been running 5E for a year and a half now, and would like to get the PCs to 20th level before wrapping up. After that, my main idea right now for what to run after that is AiME, but of course I want to make things difficult for myself and set it around the death of Isildur. It's just that I started watching the FOTR movie and during that opening sequence thought "now wait a minute, what if...".

I know I'd have to whip new cultures with the existing ones as models, likewise with virtues, etc. But I've run Hobbit/LOTR-era games before and don't want to go there again. The Last Alliance era is removed enough to really be it's own thing, but still has that familiarity from the movies. And it would still be "D&D" mechanically, so I'm not likely to lose any players - they're a good bunch, but I know that something too different will probably lose me some players.

I imagine the PCs being part of Isildur's retinue or what have you - or after the battle and the death of their own lords they join up with Isildur's forces. I would probably start the game a couple-few years before the big battle. They prove themselves there and wind up being a useful team for him. They'd have to deal with Isildur's increasing obsession with the ring. They are with him at the Gladden Fields when Isildur is slain.

I want to play with some what-ifs: how much of Sauron does Isildur cut off? Does Isildur die on his way back to Arnor?
Sorry for the late reply, I just looked at these questions. Of course, you are not beholden to follow the established lore, but Isuldur's last battle is described in Unfinished Tales, and he was indeed traveling back to Anor after settling things in the South. There were no survivors, except for Isildur's esquire, who was sent away early in the battle, iirc. As for how much of Sauron Isildur cuts off, just the finger with the Ring. Unlike the movie portrayal, It seems that Isildur, Elendil, Gil-galad, Elrond, & Cirdan engaged in a Battle Royal with Sauron, in which Gil-galad & Elendil perished and Isuldur struck Sauron his death blow. The impression I always got is that Isildur cut the Ring off the defeated Sauron with his foot on his enemy's neck.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Sorry for the late reply, I just looked at these questions. Of course, you are not beholden to follow the established lore, but Isuldur's last battle is described in Unfinished Tales, and he was indeed traveling back to Anor after settling things in the South. There were no survivors, except for Isildur's esquire, who was sent away early in the battle, iirc. As for how much of Sauron Isildur cuts off, just the finger with the Ring. Unlike the movie portrayal, It seems that Isildur, Elendil, Gil-galad, Elrond, & Cirdan engaged in a Battle Royal with Sauron, in which Gil-galad & Elendil perished and Isuldur struck Sauron his death blow. The impression I always got is that Isildur cut the Ring off the defeated Sauron with his foot on his enemy's neck.
I know Cirdan, Elrond, and Isildur were present against the battle with Sauron, but I thought only Gil-Galad and Elendil went toe to toe with him. They won but died in the struggle.

I don't know if Isildur had his boot on the enemy's neck. On his wrist seems more practical for cutting of a ring :D
 
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ART!

Explorer
Sorry for the late reply, I just looked at these questions. Of course, you are not beholden to follow the established lore, but Isuldur's last battle is described in Unfinished Tales, and he was indeed traveling back to Anor after settling things in the South. There were no survivors, except for Isildur's esquire, who was sent away early in the battle, iirc. As for how much of Sauron Isildur cuts off, just the finger with the Ring. Unlike the movie portrayal, It seems that Isildur, Elendil, Gil-galad, Elrond, & Cirdan engaged in a Battle Royal with Sauron, in which Gil-galad & Elendil perished and Isuldur struck Sauron his death blow. The impression I always got is that Isildur cut the Ring off the defeated Sauron with his foot on his enemy's neck.
Thanks for that. I'm in the early stages of thinking about the setting/era and what I can and want to change or allow the PCs - sorry, PHs! :) - to change. I have Unfinished Tales, so I might crack that open tonight.

One of the things I want to explore is Isildur's mental/moral state as those 2-3 years progress, giving the PHs increasingly unusual orders, missions, etc.

The Gladden Fields could go a number of ways:

1. PHs die, Isildur dies, things unfold as written
2. PHs mostly survive, but break from Isildur, and must figure out how to stop his descent into shadow
3. PHs mostly survive, remain in Isildur's service, but must deal with his descent.
4. Isildur dies, PHs live, and they have the ring.

Just spitballing. I should maybe start a new thread.
 

Majinine

Villager
Just started reading AiME and for the most part like what I've seen. However, I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts regarding character balance. For example the Dunedain culture from first glance simply seems more powerful with four Ability score increases and two Skill proficiencies.
 

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