Valar in the game

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Havard
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Valar in the game

Post by Havard » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:55 pm

Tolkien had alot of ideas for his Gods or Valar early on, but from what I understand, his Catholic background made him uneasy about this material and lead to him toning down these aspects in his novels. Religion plays such an important part in the lives of humans in our world, both presently and in the past, so it seems strange that there is hardly any mention of such things in the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. There are apparently no temples in Middle Earth either.

How would you use the Valar in a Middle Earth game then? Do characters follow specific Valar? Would they pray to them in dire need etc?


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Re: Valar in the game

Post by agathokles » Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:36 pm

I'd keep to Tolkien's style -- so, no overt religion or cult of the Valar, except for Morgoth and later Sauron.

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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Dave L » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:23 pm

Valar are not gods - if you read the Silmarillion's creation narrative you will see that they are the equivalent of archangels, with others such as Saruman and Gandalf being of a lesser order of angels. Eru, the One, is the creator. They are seen as regents, representatives of Eru responsible for overseeing the world.

The elves do sing a hymn of praise to Elbereth Gilthoniel (Varda), but it is a song of remembrance rather than worship.

I am sure the Valar would have informed the elves of the existence of the creator, But I'm not at all surprised there are few references to religion in LotR. Tolkien had the whole history of Middle Earth in his mind as he was writing, but his purpose was specifically to recount "The war of the ring". He wasn't writing for gamers. :)

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Re: Valar in the game

Post by rabindranath72 » Fri Dec 25, 2015 6:39 pm

Only as invocations, like one might invoke a saint or protector spirit or some such. In his letters, Tolkien is quite clear about "worship" being limited only to the servants of the Shadow. Even Numenoreans had no concept of worship.

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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Falconer » Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:23 am

"worship" being limited only to the servants of the Shadow
That’s typical for an adventure game, though, isn’t it? You’re likely to call on your deity’s name just as characters in LotR cry out “Elbereth” (and successfully turn undead or create light or whatever). You’re likely to find horrible temples of evil where foul rituals are performed, but I doubt you’ll ever participate in an equivalent good ritual in a good temple. As with magic, religion in Tolkien is just more subtle than it generally is in D&D.
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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Hugin » Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:47 am

Very helpful thoughts, folks. Thanks. As I never actually thought about this subject in Tolkien's works, I was kind of surprised by it, including the fact that I never noticed it before.

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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Falconer » Wed Dec 30, 2015 6:46 pm

Understanding that we are not necessarily talking about formal worship, but rather what entities various populations may typically call upon for aid or otherwise relate to, here is my list:
  • Elves – the Valar
  • Men of Light – Ilúvatar
  • Men of Twilight – Béma, and other crypto-Valar
  • Men of Darkness – Melkor, and Sauron and other fallen spirits
  • Dwarves – ancestors, especially the original Fathers, i.e., Durin and Mótsognir
  • Hobbits – Lor’ (crypto-Ilúvatar), plus minor local nature spirits, i.e., Farmer Maggot, Tom Bombadil, and Goldberry
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Re: Valar in the game

Post by rabindranath72 » Thu Dec 31, 2015 9:54 am

Falconer wrote:
"worship" being limited only to the servants of the Shadow
That’s typical for an adventure game, though, isn’t it? You’re likely to call on your deity’s name just as characters in LotR cry out “Elbereth” (and successfully turn undead or create light or whatever). You’re likely to find horrible temples of evil where foul rituals are performed, but I doubt you’ll ever participate in an equivalent good ritual in a good temple. As with magic, religion in Tolkien is just more subtle than it generally is in D&D.
Yeah but in Middle-earth these invocations wouldn't (usually) work, or at least wouldn't work reliably as a D&D cleric does when casting a spell. The people of the world would know that (usually) no real help or effect would come.

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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Falconer » Thu Dec 31, 2015 3:11 pm

It’s no different in Dragonlance. *shrug*
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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Falconer » Thu Dec 31, 2015 4:06 pm

Anyway, *are* there any examples in Tolkien’s writings of prayer not being heard? Whenever the characters call on Ulmo or Tom Bombadil or Elbereth or Eärendil, something happens.
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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Havard » Fri Jan 01, 2016 1:42 pm

Falconer wrote:Understanding that we are not necessarily talking about formal worship, but rather what entities various populations may typically call upon for aid or otherwise relate to, here is my list:
  • Elves – the Valar
  • Men of Light – Ilúvatar
  • Men of Twilight – Béma, and other crypto-Valar
  • Men of Darkness – Melkor, and Sauron and other fallen spirits
  • Dwarves – ancestors, especially the original Fathers, i.e., Durin and Mótsognir
  • Hobbits – Lor’ (crypto-Ilúvatar), plus minor local nature spirits, i.e., Farmer Maggot, Tom Bombadil, and Goldberry
Nice list! Would not Aulë also be among those honored by the Dwarves?

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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Falconer » Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:49 pm

Yeah, they call him Mahal. They also seem to know about Mandos. But, for some reason I thought it would be more interesting to emphasize Durin and the Fathers.
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Re: Valar in the game

Post by Tolwen » Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:11 pm

Havard wrote:
Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:55 pm
How would you use the Valar in a Middle Earth game then? Do characters follow specific Valar? Would they pray to them in dire need etc?
That's a good question and one you can take on from different directions. here I'll focus on the perspective of the lore derived from Tolkien, as this is usually my base to extrapolate further work upon. There are likely other approaches or priorities though :)

As already said, Tolkien's final vision on the Valar can be best compared to the status of angels in judeo-christian mythology. Eru is comparable to the omniscient and almighty god of the same myth. The greatest of the Ainur who descended into the world created by the Great Song were later called Valar, while the lesser ones were called Maiar. The difference is one of quantity though and not quality. The Valar are simply mightier (and more wise) than the Maiar, but from the same race and ontologic status.
From the latter they are also of the same status as the Elves or Men - as created beings.
Now the role of the Valar (and their Maia servants) in Arda was to prepare the world and make it habitable for Elves and Men, for whom this would be their natural home. Thus their role might best be described as caretakers.
In the First Age (after the Elves awoke), they made war against Melkor (later called Morgoth) to protect the Elves from his influence and bring them to safety. But the Elves were not forced but invited - and roughly half of them refused this invitation.
This event highlights the role of the Valar with respect to Eru's Children (Elves, Men & Dwarves): They were not allowed to guide or rule the Children through a display of their power or majesty. The Children were to take care of their own affairs.
Later, the role of the Valar in the affairs of the Children (and their struggle against the dark Lords) became increasingly passive: First they took the field against Melkor themselves (see above), later they only sent their host with Maiar as the highest ranking participants (in the war that finally overthrew Morgoth) and finally in the Third Age they sent a handful of Maiar (the wizards; disguised as old men) to guide the resistance against Sauron rather than lend firepower to blast him away.
This should be kept in mind when thinking about the Valar. in the Third Age they only observed the events of Middle-earth and did not intervene actively. At the most they might subtly lend some support by sending a favourable wind so that the relieving fleet arrives in time - something that could be wholly by chance or natural as well.

And as already said - the Free People do not possess any temples or organized religion as such. This is reserved for the bad guys who use their evil religion as a tool to help them in controlling and manipulating their servants. In Númenor the closest thing to a temple was the hallow at the top of the Meneltarma, where the king alone was allowed to call upon Eru on the three highest festival days of the year. Thus the Númenóreans had only one "priest" - their king. During the rest of the year, they had no formalised spiritual contact to the One - but they revered the Valar as servants of Eru, guardians and caretakers of the world. And like the Elves they called on them for aid in dire straits - just like a christian might call for the aid/support of a saint in a difficult situation.

So overall, from a tolkiensitic perspective, the Valar would be almost non-existent in a campaign in the Third Age due to their adherence to Eru's non-intervention commandment (it's not their job to solve the problems of the Children for them). As outlined above, some extremely subtle or indirect support might be imaginable, but that can always be attributed to a natural cause or pure chance as well.

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