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

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The impression I got from several people who have played the 5e game and the actual One Ring game is that the One Ring game works better for this genre than the 5e version, and that it might be best to just play the One Ring itself if you want to adventure in Middle Earth.
The thing is, I don’t specifically want to adventure in Middle Earth. But I do want to capture Tolkien’s mood and themes in my D&D game.
 

zedturtle

Explorer
The thing is, I don’t specifically want to adventure in Middle Earth. But I do want to capture Tolkien’s mood and themes in my D&D game.
Fair enough. We've had several folks who used the rules for their own worlds or another setting where they felt it was a good match. You're probably already familiar with this, but the Player's Guide gives you everything you need for the PCs and most of the rules you'll want to use. However, the Loremaster's Guide gives you an extended version of Audiences that has proved very popular, a complete mechanical breakdown of the Journey tables so that you can make your own, and a lot of neat powers for lower-magic monsters, terrain effects in combat and building magical items that scale with the PC. Other resource guides give you other tools, but they'll be of less importance to you than someone who's setting the game in Middle-earth.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Fair enough. We've had several folks who used the rules for their own worlds or another setting where they felt it was a good match. You're probably already familiar with this, but the Player's Guide gives you everything you need for the PCs and most of the rules you'll want to use. However, the Loremaster's Guide gives you an extended version of Audiences that has proved very popular, a complete mechanical breakdown of the Journey tables so that you can make your own, and a lot of neat powers for lower-magic monsters, terrain effects in combat and building magical items that scale with the PC. Other resource guides give you other tools, but they'll be of less importance to you than someone who's setting the game in Middle-earth.
Excellent! Yeah, I just purchased a copy of the player’s guide and the loremaster’s guide and I’m working through the PDFs. Definitely liking what I’m seeing so far.
 
We quit after a few sessions, missing a little the typical D&D magic level.

The rules and books are nicely done, capturing the Tolkien feel, mostly balanced, only the slayer (=barbarian) class is a little OP in a world with mostly weapon damage.
Playing some classes really require to be mainly a role-playing guy, not so combat focussed.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
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. :)
Thank you for such an excellent summary of the game. As a DM is sounds delightful. But I think the jarring change of pace would be too much for my D&D players.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
We quit after a few sessions, missing a little the typical D&D magic level.

The rules and books are nicely done, capturing the Tolkien feel, mostly balanced, only the slayer (=barbarian) class is a little OP in a world with mostly weapon damage.
Playing some classes really require to be mainly a role-playing guy, not so combat focussed.
An excellent warning.

While the Slayer can really make you feel like Turin Turambar, it still also makes you Turin Turambar. So as a GM it helps to be prepared to deal with a nearly unkillable hero.

Poison, fire, and nets have all been useful tools for the Orcs and Goblins I've thrown at my party.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
The impression I got from several people who have played the 5e game and the actual One Ring game is that the One Ring game works better for this genre than the 5e version, and that it might be best to just play the One Ring itself if you want to adventure in Middle Earth.
I'm a Tolkien fan, and I've played both games. I do think that if you really want the full Tolkien experience, especially for a long campaign, TOR is the way to go. But AiME still gets a lot of the way there, so if you want to have an occasional game or do a few one-shots without having to learn a new system from scratch, or if your players are more casual Tolkien fans than hardcore ones, it's not a bad option at all.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
So from what I’ve read so far, I really like the ideas in here, such as the travel phase/adventure phase/fellowship phase breakdown, the audience system, the approach to cultures/races, and the low-magic. But the execution of most of these subsystems is a bit too complex for my taste. I think what I will end up doing is mining AIME for ideas, rather than running it as-written.
 

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