What should ME adventures be about?

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What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Havard » Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:25 pm

A D&D dungeon crawl would feel a bit out of place in the Middle Earth. Not the dungeons and caverns themselves of course, but I would expect a Middle Earth dungeon to be different than your average D&D one. What do you think about when designing Middle Earth adventures? Should they all involve an epic backdrop?

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by BlackBat242 » Tue Dec 22, 2015 12:11 pm

Not at all.

I've always loathed the "EPIC ADVENTURES, EACH ONE MORE EPIC THAN THE ONE BEFORE!!!!" rut.

A well-crafted personal story/adventure is usually much more satisfying and relatable, as EPIC adventures tend much more to be time-table/railroad-influenced, to make sure the PCs do what they have to do when they have to do it, and go where they need to go in order to do it or else everything falls apart.

A smaller story-setting means the PCs can have more flexibility about what/where/when, and the PCs can slowly over time learn more about the "big picture" - you only really need to start creating big story ideas after the PCs reach around 7th level or higher (maybe 5th & up, depending on your preference).
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by agathokles » Tue Dec 22, 2015 1:13 pm

I agree with the above. ME adventures, especially those set in the Third or Fourth Age should start small, only growing to the "epic" journey when the endgame grows near.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Sturm » Wed Dec 23, 2015 10:55 am

There is also an article on Rpg.net about this:
http://www.rpg.net/columns/oneshot/oneshot25.phtml

Seems to contain some sound advice...

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Big Mac » Tue May 31, 2016 5:55 pm

Havard wrote:A D&D dungeon crawl would feel a bit out of place in the Middle Earth. Not the dungeons and caverns themselves of course, but I would expect a Middle Earth dungeon to be different than your average D&D one.
There are actually some pretty good depictions of Middle-earth dungeon crawls in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. I would say that the thing they all have in common is that they all have more than one entrance and exit and the PCs can pass into them in one place, in order to get somewhere else.

There are also large open areas, under the ground, with the PCs travelling through places that feel as open as cathedrals.
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Havard » Tue May 31, 2016 7:01 pm

Big Mac wrote:There are actually some pretty good depictions of Middle-earth dungeon crawls in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. I would say that the thing they all have in common is that they all have more than one entrance and exit and the PCs can pass into them in one place, in order to get somewhere else.

There are also large open areas, under the ground, with the PCs travelling through places that feel as open as cathedrals.
Exploring underground areas is very much in the spirit of middle earth. Going from door to door in a dungeon complex, killing a monster in each room and taking their treasure D&D style, might feel less like Middle Earth.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:42 pm

Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:There are actually some pretty good depictions of Middle-earth dungeon crawls in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. I would say that the thing they all have in common is that they all have more than one entrance and exit and the PCs can pass into them in one place, in order to get somewhere else.

There are also large open areas, under the ground, with the PCs travelling through places that feel as open as cathedrals.
Exploring underground areas is very much in the spirit of middle earth. Going from door to door in a dungeon complex, killing a monster in each room and taking their treasure D&D style, might feel less like Middle Earth.
In the movies, the characters seem to spend a lot more time running away underground, than killing monsters and taking their stuff. I don't recall that vibe when I read the novels.
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Havard » Mon Jun 06, 2016 8:54 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:There are actually some pretty good depictions of Middle-earth dungeon crawls in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. I would say that the thing they all have in common is that they all have more than one entrance and exit and the PCs can pass into them in one place, in order to get somewhere else.

There are also large open areas, under the ground, with the PCs travelling through places that feel as open as cathedrals.
Exploring underground areas is very much in the spirit of middle earth. Going from door to door in a dungeon complex, killing a monster in each room and taking their treasure D&D style, might feel less like Middle Earth.
In the movies, the characters seem to spend a lot more time running away underground, than killing monsters and taking their stuff. I don't recall that vibe when I read the novels.
Even though there are differences between the movies and the novels, I would say neither fit exactly into D&D style dungeon crawling.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by The Dark » Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:12 pm

Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:There are actually some pretty good depictions of Middle-earth dungeon crawls in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. I would say that the thing they all have in common is that they all have more than one entrance and exit and the PCs can pass into them in one place, in order to get somewhere else.

There are also large open areas, under the ground, with the PCs travelling through places that feel as open as cathedrals.
Exploring underground areas is very much in the spirit of middle earth. Going from door to door in a dungeon complex, killing a monster in each room and taking their treasure D&D style, might feel less like Middle Earth.
In the movies, the characters seem to spend a lot more time running away underground, than killing monsters and taking their stuff. I don't recall that vibe when I read the novels.
Even though there are differences between the movies and the novels, I would say neither fit exactly into D&D style dungeon crawling.

-Havard
I think it depends on which edition. 1e and (especially) Basic, with their emphasis on GP = XP, were very much a "grab the loot and get out" style of dungeon exploration. Bilbo's Arkenstone Raid would be a perfect early D&D style dungeon expedition - he got the best loot and got out without combat. Later editions have been more combat-oriented, and thus less aligned with the style of LotR.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Hugin » Fri Jun 17, 2016 5:12 pm

The Dark wrote:I think it depends on which edition. 1e and (especially) Basic, with their emphasis on GP = XP, were very much a "grab the loot and get out" style of dungeon exploration. Bilbo's Arkenstone Raid would be a perfect early D&D style dungeon expedition - he got the best loot and got out without combat. Later editions have been more combat-oriented, and thus less aligned with the style of LotR.
That's an interesting observation that I never thought of before, but it does make a certain amount of sense.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jun 18, 2016 11:31 pm

Hugin wrote:
The Dark wrote:I think it depends on which edition. 1e and (especially) Basic, with their emphasis on GP = XP, were very much a "grab the loot and get out" style of dungeon exploration. Bilbo's Arkenstone Raid would be a perfect early D&D style dungeon expedition - he got the best loot and got out without combat. Later editions have been more combat-oriented, and thus less aligned with the style of LotR.
That's an interesting observation that I never thought of before, but it does make a certain amount of sense.
Great point.

Here is where I think that a "combat focus" is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, with people assuming that D&D is supposed to be about combat, creating characters with combat in mind and then trying to use the abilities they spent time planning for.

I actually think that players can play with another style (including a LotR style) with any edition of the D&D rules. There may be some areas where the fit is a bit suboptimal, but if the players play the way that they think the world should work and the GM plays the monsters and NPCs the same way, any sort of combat-bias that theoretically plays against the themes of a campaign setting would give the NPCs and monsters as many disadvantages as the PCs.

I think a lot of this comes down to the players all agreeing to have the same sort of game. If most of the players decide they want to sneak around in the Mines of Moria, and one player wants to kill the balrog and win XP they are going to bring the balrog down on the entire party and either cause a TPK or somehow get the balrog to die.
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by genghisdon » Sat Aug 13, 2016 5:46 pm

Havard wrote:A D&D dungeon crawl would feel a bit out of place in the Middle Earth. Not the dungeons and caverns themselves of course, but I would expect a Middle Earth dungeon to be different than your average D&D one. What do you think about when designing Middle Earth adventures? Should they all involve an epic backdrop?

-Havard
seems pretty open to me; almost standard D&D, although there will be a difference in that at least some characters will have motivations to do adventure X. War appears to be a common theme, or at least backdrop. If that supplies the epic, that's epic then. Beyond that, there certainly are dungeon crawls, hex crawls, lair raiding, etc.

I'd start from the PC's even more than usual (which I tend to do already more than many). Dwarves will have places & treasures to try & reclaim or foes to avenge themselves on; etc.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by rmckee78 » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:11 am

The first true RPG I played was MERP (had to dodge the Satanic Panic thing and Tolkien was considered safe in my house). Prior to that, my friends and I were using the rules for game books to make our own adventures. Because of this, I don't think I ever really though about what the games rules were about back in the day. I am not sure that many people were really thinking about that kind of stuff back then, and MERP's rules were not clearly about anything in the way that D&D was about getting gold out of the dungeon.

That said, MERP's source books strongly implied what the adventures could be about. No, not the sample adventures presented. MERP source books were chock full of history and details. I think that is what a Middle Earth adventure should be about, discovering the history of a place, uncovering its ancient mysteries, uncovering what was lost. I think that is what I would give XP for in a Middle Earth game that was set in a dungeon.

Another strong theme from the books (and movies) is journeys. These don't have to be epic journeys, just hard and somewhere the characters have never been before. This is another thing I would give XP for in a Middle Earth game.

One thing that recent Middle Earth RPGs have done that I like is the idea that characters only go on one or two adventures a year, so downtime activities are baked in to the game.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Big Mac » Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:04 pm

rmckee78 wrote:One thing that recent Middle Earth RPGs have done that I like is the idea that characters only go on one or two adventures a year, so downtime activities are baked in to the game.
That sounds like a good idea.

I think I saw something about the dungeons of Blackmoor only being open for a few weeks every year. And I think that certain regions of the real-world are hard to cross at certain times because of snow, monsoons or floods. So I can imagine various ways to back up what you say.

And, if the PCs only go on adventures once or twice per year, you can explain away any time spent learning new skills or abilities as part of that downtime.
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by The Dark » Mon Dec 26, 2016 1:33 am

Big Mac wrote:
rmckee78 wrote:One thing that recent Middle Earth RPGs have done that I like is the idea that characters only go on one or two adventures a year, so downtime activities are baked in to the game.
That sounds like a good idea.

I think I saw something about the dungeons of Blackmoor only being open for a few weeks every year. And I think that certain regions of the real-world are hard to cross at certain times because of snow, monsoons or floods. So I can imagine various ways to back up what you say.

And, if the PCs only go on adventures once or twice per year, you can explain away any time spent learning new skills or abilities as part of that downtime.
The dungeon of Dwimmermount has some similar ideas, where there are various ways in, but they require either specialized knowledge or a particular time of year to enter. The back door to the Lonely Mountain had something similar in The Hobbit, so it fits from both a game side of things and the lore.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Tolwen » Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:11 pm

IMO TOR does a good job of (I can't comment on AME) one aspect of "typical" Middle-earth adventures (if you will call them such): That is the emphasis of the LotR's & Hobbit's main narrative themes. These are friendship, honesty and decency - together with an intrinsic motivation to help those in need against an (overwhelming) evil. The result may not always be a glorious victory, but you (as a character) has made a (small) contribution to staying the advance of the Shadow a bit, preserving or saving fair things (or people). In addition to this, its rules integrate travel as a narrative and mechanical element of the game beyond simple random encounters.
It is set in the late Third Age (in the era between the Hobbit and LotR), beginning in the year 2946. It works excellent in this setting and under these conditions. It is designed as a "genre" game rather than a "generic" one. It shall represent a highly focussed aspect at the expense of a more general useability in other settings.
MERP OTOH is a highly generic game. Take away its Middle-earth terminology (and leave the rules as they are), and you have a standard High Fantasy game system (e.g. toned-down RM) with zero specifically developed rules or mechanics (as core parts) to represent the unique setting.

Another aspect that MERP focussed on is the more history-orientated approach with its default TA 1640 setting. Personally I like this setting (not the rule approach!) much better than the TOR-style (which may become repetitive, depending on your preferences and players). IMO this works better in another era than that of Aragorn & Co. My personal favorite is the first half of the 15th century TA (including the Second Northern war and Gondor's Kin-strife). Here one essential TOR element (the strong and overpowering Shadow) is almost completely absent and the focus is more on the actions of humans versus other humans. In this respect, ICE's Kin-strife campaign book is the quintessential textbook for such an approach. It is much more gray-shaded than the usual black-and-white pattern of the TOR approach and with less certainty who is good and who is bad (if someone is really wholly the one or the other).
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Tolwen » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:09 am

Big Mac wrote:
Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:04 pm
rmckee78 wrote:One thing that recent Middle Earth RPGs have done that I like is the idea that characters only go on one or two adventures a year, so downtime activities are baked in to the game.
That sounds like a good idea.
[snip]
And, if the PCs only go on adventures once or twice per year, you can explain away any time spent learning new skills or abilities as part of that downtime.
And apart from the mechanical aspects it serves as time to be spent with your family and loved ones. In TOR (and AME) the characters are supposed to be still rooted in their home societies, to which they regularly return to keep up their social life, regenerate (not only physically but also emotionally) and generally be a (useful) part of a regular human/elf/dwarf/hobbit society. The old RPG cliché of a group of homeless soldiers of fortune that adventure year-round and live in inns etc. has been consciously dropped in TOR & AME. In the context of Middle-earth this is a very wise and appropriate decision IMO.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by BlackBat242 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:23 am

Yes, that does seem more like a Middle-Earth game should be - the PCs are representatives (official or otherwise) of their home lands, towns, and peoples - not rootless wanderers!

To be good representatives, they need to return home regularly, so as to bring back their views of the world outside their lands, and to learn what their people want to be done about what is happening "out there".
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Falconer » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:31 pm

I dunno. Obviously there are characters in Tolkien which return home regularly between adventures, but I wouldn’t say it’s THE CORRECT model.

Gandalf absolutely is a rootless wanderer.

Túrin (in his adult career) was based in Doriath; then he joined up a roving band of outlaws, which he later headquartered on Amon Rûdh; then he was later based in Nargothrond; after which he did go to Dor-lómin to find his home, but it was taken over by Easterlings; and finally he was based in Brethil.

Beren’s homeland of Dorthonion was also taken over by baddies; his main epic basically begins and ends in Doriath, but it certainly isn’t “home” in the beginning, and he doesn’t return there between adventures. After the climax of the story he relocates to Ossiriand.

In Frodo’s tale, of course, we see the Shire at the beginning and end of the story. He doesn’t return there in-between.
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Tolwen » Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:06 pm

Falconer wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:31 pm
I dunno. Obviously there are characters in Tolkien which return home regularly between adventures, but I wouldn’t say it’s THE CORRECT model.

Gandalf absolutely is a rootless wanderer.

Túrin (in his adult career) was based in Doriath; then he joined up a roving band of outlaws, which he later headquartered on Amon Rûdh; then he was later based in Nargothrond; after which he did go to Dor-lómin to find his home, but it was taken over by Easterlings; and finally he was based in Brethil.

Beren’s homeland of Dorthonion was also taken over by baddies; his main epic basically begins and ends in Doriath, but it certainly isn’t “home” in the beginning, and he doesn’t return there between adventures. After the climax of the story he relocates to Ossiriand.

In Frodo’s tale, of course, we see the Shire at the beginning and end of the story. He doesn’t return there in-between.
There is not *the* correct model as such, but there some that fit better to the general tone than others. And TOR's is IMO of the former compared to the standard model of adventuring parties in classic RPG's.
Gandalf has no real "family" as such, so this doesn't count (but he certainly had a number of sanctuaries; see below for more on them). And with Túrin it took a bad end anyway - a prime example (in TOR mechanical terms) how the Shadow wears a character down (and plays on his inherent flaws like Túrin's pride).

And the "return to home" is not the only thing in this context (I mentioned an abbreviated version). You (as the group or individuals) may (and will) have so-called "sanctuaries" (mostly through friendship with influential/powerful NPC's who offer the characters his home as a place to rest and spend time) in which you can also take a Fellowship Phase to recuperate and do the "off-screen" things.
These phases can be spent either in such a sanctuary or at home. At home you can do essentially the same things as in a sanctuary but your home offers one or two more options (it is thus a bit more valuable in mechanical terms).
Generally the game assumes (as a rule of thumb) that you return home about once a year (usually for the winter season) to care for your social life there - though this is not mandatory! The main effect of not spending time at home is that your social status there decreases when you spend Fellowship Phases abroad (you're either thought to be dead/missing or thought of as someone not caring for his people - as possible examples beside more). This fits to Túrin quite well who certainly had some trouble with his social status "at home" ;)

The duration and placement of Fellowship Phases is not fixed and depends heavily on the circumstances of the campaign. Here the GM's judgement is called upon. They are in order if you have finished either a significant part (e.g. a chapter) of the adventure or when the adventure is finished (of whatever outcome).

For the LotR, you may think of Tom Bombadil's house, Rivendell or Lórien as sanctuaries for the group/travellers, whereas the Prancing Pony for example is "just" normal lodging during the adventuring phase.

In Frodo's case, the assumptions fits as well, as he returns home about a year after his quest starts - in November right before the winter season. And the Fellowship Phases spent abroad definitely decrease his standing/status at home (which he has to rebuild after his return).

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Falconer » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:22 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I’m not too familiar with TOR, but a lot of what you’re saying reminds me a lot of MECCG, and in some ways of Pendragon. It might be neat to run a TOR-style campaign that was truly multi-generational, starting much earlier in the TA, and planning it out so that each quest skipped a generation to the previous party’s children or grandchildren. Epic!

Sometimes, though, I think a straight D&D-style rob-the-Barrows/Mines story that just has Middle-earth as window-dressing is A-OK.
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Tolwen » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:40 am

Falconer wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:22 pm
I’m not too familiar with TOR, but a lot of what you’re saying reminds me a lot of MECCG, and in some ways of Pendragon.
The designer (Francesco Nepitello) said from the beginning that Pendragon was his major influence design-wise and how he admired its approach to a genre-game (and how it influenced him) for a very specific and clearly defined setting (being an Arthurian knight in that case - and neither a Lady, a Saxon, Pict, Commoner or Wizard/Witch - who also exist in that world). This is reflected in TOR's very narrow focus as well. It is meant to be a genre game creating a setting as near as possible to the main themes of the Hobbit and LotR - and not the other aspects of Middle-earth that exist as well. These are friend- and comradeship, an intrinsic motivation to help and support the Free People against the Shadow, the social aspects of adventuring, travelling as an integral part of the adventure and the manifold aspects of the Shadow threatening everyone. You are meant to play people like Bilbo, Frodo, Aragorn etc. and not a band of roving mercenaries who hire their services to whomever needs them. The rules are carefully crafted towards these ends.
This is important to keep in mind when judging the game and whether it fits your needs. It is meant to be a highly specific part of that world - and not more. And IMO it excels in this part and naturally cedes other aspects of the setting for this purpose.

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Havard » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:21 pm

Very interesting. I always thought a Pendragon/Middle Earth mash up would make for a very cool game.

For the record, I am also not looking fir a one true way of running ME adventures. However, I do think many players are expecting a game set in ME to feel different from a game set in the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk. It looks like TOR will help design that type of adventures. Even if I end up using a different ruleset, it does seem like TOR is a good resource to mine for ideas. :)

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Tolwen
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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Tolwen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:31 pm

Havard wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:21 pm
It looks like TOR will help design that type of adventures. Even if I end up using a different ruleset, it does seem like TOR is a good resource to mine for ideas. :)
Definitely - I've been doing this as well already ;)
IMO it adds a lot of depth. Personally I prefer an approach where the rules support, encourage and honour such "tolkienesque" themes and styles but do not hinder or prevent more neutral-orientated characters - or indeed even mercenaries types who do not care for people in trouble but only for their personal profit (like most classical groups do IMHO ;) )

It just crossed my mind how the difference between such a "Tolkien-style group" or game/adventure and a traditional D&D group can be described in a nutshell:
When the Hobbits are rescued from the Barrow-wight and Tom brings out all the tresure and piles it up on the mound, all the participants take only one piece per person (or it is selected for them) and leave the rest for other finders and good folk to make use of. The treasure is somehow hexed and if you would take everything for yourself, the spell would not be broken and another wight would occupy the barrow (or the same would re-form later). This is something no one of them would like to have (Tom explains the mechanics to them in brief words). And it's been greedy to grab lots of gold - something that decent folk don't do.
A typical D&D group (at least from my experience) would haul away everything (or at least as much as they can carry) and not care too much about the consequences regarding a possible return of the monster (by then they're long gone anyway and they may be even hired a second time to defeat it again...) or decency, as long as you can buy something with the treasure and/or get XP from it

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Re: What should ME adventures be about?

Post by Sturm » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:02 am

Indeed it would be interesting to run a ME game with non-aligned characters. Probably they will be forced to side at some point, because the setting is explicitly divided between good and evil.

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