posted by Capfalcon Original SA post

While I'm sure you were all waiting for me to come back and finish up Dungeon Crawl Classics, it's... well, the rest of it was pretty much all spells, and I'm not going to plow through that huge amount of dry text to try and find something interesting. So, next up, we're going to go with a game that isn't talked about nearly enough.

So, first off, I love this game. It's honestly the only game I've ever played that made feel like I was playing a hero in Middle Earth. Keep that in mind. You're not a blacksmith, or a merchant, or random villager number two. You may do some of those things to pass downtime, but you are a straight up, no foolin', "if by life or death I can save you, I will" Hero from the word go. And you know what?


I can't say I've ever been impressed by games that claim let you make any "character that lives in the world of your favorite IP!" Because, well, I don't care about if the game can let me make some anonymous merchant, because I'm never going to play that.

I play Unknown Armies to play crazy wizards in the modern world.
I play Pendragon to play knights going off on adventures with their knight bros to gain glory.
And I play The One Ring when I want to go on some epic journeys against perilous odds.

With that said, I think it's got... well... some problems . Obviously, I think the game is still well worth playing, but I'd be remiss if I don't point them out, which I will when I get to them. But, we're going to start out in the first book of the Boxed set: The Adventurer's Book.

Chapter 1: Introduction

...He knew how evil and danger had grown and thriven in the Wild, since the dragons had driven men from the lands, and the Goblins had spread in Secret after the battle of the Mines of Moria.

The "campaign time" for the game is to start in the year 2946. Which for people who aren't big Tolkien nerds (including me) is five years after the Battle of Five Armies at the end of the Hobbit. Ever since decided to take a permanent nap under the Long Lake and the got served eviction papers by the Wizard's Council, The Wilderlands have become a much nicer place. Of course, considering that the Wilderlands had two separate dudes that could wreck entire cities and consider that a decent warm up for the day, the place still is pretty shitty. On the other hand, , , and have been pretty unhappy that no one was doing anything about the big dudes that were making their lives shitty, but they couldn't be arsed to make the first move because years of not doing anything had kind of made it the style of the time. However, once the Battle of Five Armies happened, people began to see that actually doing things tended to work out a whole lot better than sitting on your ass and hoping that things get better. Now, when bad things happen, different cultures actually talk to each other to figure out what's best to do.

Crazy, huh?

Now, in the first book, there's six playable cultures. Yes, cultures, not races. A man from Dale is a whole lot different than one of the Woodmen. They'll get a better description when we get to them in the Character Creation Section. But, for now, you've got:

Barding: Follower of King Bard of Dale. They're a prosperous city of men who tend to prize archery and forge skill.
Woodmen of Wilderlands: Follower of Radagast the Brown Wizard. Canny Survivalists who have an affinity for dogs and the woods.
Beorning: Follower of Beorn, the Shapeshifter of Carrock. They're tough as nails fighters with an afinity for animals, especially bears.
Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain: Follower of King Dain under the Mountain. Rich as fuck dwarves with strong backs and skill in the most brutal weapons.
Elf of Mirkwood: Follower of Tharanduil the Elvenking. Elves who are mad as hell and not going to let the Shadow worm its way into their beloved forest anymore. They also really like the dark. Go figure.
Hobbit of the Shire: Follower of... well... Bilbo and his stories, to be honest. Small, stout-hearted folk from the west with a penchant for finding themselves on roads they weren't planning on walking down.

After that, the book talks about the Shadow. The thing that everyone tells stories about to their little ones to make them go to sleep. Two thousand years ago, the Shadow decided to set up shop in Greenwood the Great. If that name doesn't sound familiar, it's probably because you know it better as Mirkwood. Yeah... the council probably should have gotten a move on with that whole eviction notice thing. So, anyway, the Necromancer has been shown the door, but he's lived there longer than even some Elves remember. The trees, the animals, even the air and water of the deepest parts of the wood are tainted, and it will take years to cleanse the taint. And, even then, "only if the Shadow is kept at bay." (In the book, there is actually flashing text pointing to this sentence saying "THIS MEANS YOU, HEROES.")

-How to Play-

The Loremaster (One Ring speak for GM) and the Player Heroes (See what I mean? Sure sounds better than PCs to me.) are going to play an Adventuring Phase followed by a Fellowship Phase. Adventuring Phase is what you'd expect, running across the world, fighting orcs, etc. The Fellowship phase is what you do when you're taking a break and not doing adventures. Mandating this may sound a little forced, but the book breaks it up and shows the Hobbit as it would be in a TOR campaign:

Adventure 1: Hobbiton to Rivendel, with the Fellowship Phase being guests of Elrond.
Adventure 2: Rivendel to the House of Beorn, with the Fellowship Phase being guests of Beorn.
Adventure 2: House of Beorn to Lake Town, with the Fellowship Phase getting ready for the expedition to Smaug's Lair.
Adventure 2: Exploring the Lonely Mountain and the Battle of Five Armies, with the Fellowship Phase seeing everyone home safely.

The rest of the chapter is talking about Narrative and Game time (i.e. an hour of game can be a day or a year, depending what happens), a glossery of terms we haven't really gotten to yet, and the dice. The dice are mostly a dicepool, with a single twist. You roll a d12 that goes from 1 to 10, with the other two having either an Eye of Sauron or the Gandalf "G" rune. Eye is auto fail, "G" is auto succeed. For every point in the appropriate skill, you roll an additional d6, with every 6 making your success better than normal.

Next time, Character Creation. If anyone wants me to make a character of a particular culture, just let me know.


posted by Capfalcon Original SA post

We'll make the Beorning ( ) for now, and a Hobbit( ) later. Gotta have some comparison for all these numbers, after all.

Chapter 2: Characters

-Hero Creation-
...He had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by: his old life lay behind in the mists, dark adenture lay in front.

All right, let's start with our Beorning.

A few years after the Battle of Five Armies, Beorn stopped being a hermit and decided to unite the lone warriors and hunters into a single group. People joined up with him partially because because Beorn is a crazy awesome badass and partially because the Wilderlands are pretty dangerous, so having a safe place to crash in exchange for some work is a pretty good deal. Beorn's people are self sufficient, but they aren't really wealthy. This is brought across as them having a Martial Standard of Living. However, Beorn's been thinking about charging a safe passage toll for every crossing through their lands, which could easily bump them up to a Prosperous Standard of Living. However, this would probably irritate anyone who wants goods or services from the West, raising all sorts of tension in the rest of the Wilderlands. Seriously, I love this book. Almost every page gives me an idea for an adventure.

Anyway, every culture gets a particular cultural blessing, and Beornings are Furious, which means if we're ever wounded in battle, we ignore the penaltiese from being weary or miserable for the rest of the fight. As those penalties really, really suck, that's a pretty nice blessing. Of course, being wounded is dangerous, so it's not something you want to hope for.

We get a host of skills just for being a Beorning, including very high Awe, Insight, and Awareness. Awe is a strange combination of intimidation and generating... well... awe in onlookers. Insight is a more traditional "Sense Motive" skill, allowing you to get a decent feel for people you meet, and Awarenesss seeing small or hidden things unexpectedly. For example, it helps you avoid ambushes or see small tracks left behind.

Now, we also get two special traits to pick. All cultures have two of their own, each background gives another two, and finally your Calling (your core reason for going on adventures) gives you a final one. These are sort of like FATE aspects, only chosen from a list. However, it is mentioned that the GM and player could come up with custom traits. These traits work in three ways:

1. Automatic Success. You say you have this trait, and the GM can give you a simple success. Examples include someone who is keen eyed noticing tracks (but following them would almost certainly be rolled), a woodwright opening a barrel without damaging what's inside or destroying the barrel, etc. The GM is encouraged to use their judgement here, but to be generous with simple matters.

2. Unforeseen Actions. Sometimes, the GM just says how things are going down. "The Goblins are too far away." "The water is too rough for your boat." Etc. One of the examples includes the GM saying one of the goblins was faking dead, and when you get far away he starts running. One of the players says, "Hey, I'm cautious, so I would have been keeping an eye on them. Can I get an awareness roll to see if I noticed him faking it?"

This one is kind of... eh... I kind of feel it's a bit antagonistic towards the GM and the Players to invoke this one a lot, because the GM feels like a dick since the player is essentially saying "Hey, you're kind of hosing us here." In my experience, this one doesn't tend to come up too much, but that's just my group.

3. Experience Points. One of the way to get Advancement Experience points is to take an action that strongly reflects your traits. While this is a bit harder for, say, woodwrights, most people are going to end up with some more practical adventuring traits. Basically, succeeding in actions that bring up your character's notable traits give you experience points.

Right. Where where we again? Oh, yeah. Traits. So, Beornings get to pick from a few different traits. We're going to go with Beast-Lore and Mountaineer. Since our guy has lived in the wild since forever, he's going to know his way around animals, and he's going to be comfortable with climbing the nearby mountains.

Next up, we pick a background. This gives us our basic attributes, favored skills, and some more traits.

Attributes are what you add to your die roll when you spend Hope. If you're using a favored skill, you add your favored attribute value instead. They also decide your Encumbrance and your hope score. Unlike other games, Encumbrance is a big fucking deal here. The whole combat system is a tradeoff between the heavier war gear giving better numbers and pluses, but making you more tired and thus more likely to get wounded or become weary.

So, we're going to pick the Child of Two Folks. One of our parents was from Mirkwood and the other was a mountain-dweller. This gives a high Body and Heart but low Wits. Consequently, we end up with a lot of Endurance and Hope, in addition to hitting like a truck, but we're pretty short on Parry. To offset our poor parry, we'll probably end up getting some heavy armor later. We also get Insight as a favored skill. We're going to be total bosses at judging people.

The next two traits from our background we pick are Hardened and Grim. We're a mountain survivalists who's lived off on their own for years. We're not some pansy from the cities.

The last major choice we need to make is why we're adventuring. What's our calling? Not a job, but our rasion d'etre . We're going to be a Warden. We've lived in the wild forever, and we're going to make damn sure that the Shadow won't take a single inch more. This gives us our final trait, Shadow lore. In addition, we've got a shadow weakness. Yep, everyone's got something in their heart the lust for, and we want power. Power to protect the things we love from the Shadow, granted, but the Shadow can work with that. The Shadow can give us power beyond our wildest dreams, and it would only cost us our soul.

The last major choice we're going to make is whether we're going to start with two Valor or two Wisdom. I'm not gonna lie. The Valor and Wisdom rewards are probably my favorite part of this game, so I'm going to leave it to a post of its own. For now, we're going to choose if we know secret Beorning Lore or if we've been gifted with special War Gear for our valor in battle. I'm going to give us a bit more Valor for now, but all the Beorning secrets are totally awesome, and I'm going to go through all of them later. For now, we get a giant slaying spear that that does an extra four damage to anyone who's bigger than us. For reference, we have 30 endurance, and we're about as endurancey as players are going to come. Monsters may be a little tougher, but this isn't DnD. HP inflation isn't really a thing. We're going to have 30 endurance for pretty much our entire adventuring career.

Name: Evoric the Black

Culture: Beorning Standard of Living: Martial
Cultural blessing: Furious
Calling: Warden Shadow weakness: Lure of Power
Specialties: Beast-lore, Mountaineer, Shadow-lore
Distinctive features: Grim, Hardened
Body : 6 Heart : 6 Wits : 2
Body (favoured) : 9 Heart (favoured) : 7 Wits (favoured) : 4

-Common Skills- -Weapon Skills- -Rewards- : Giant-slaying Spear
-Virtues- :
-Gear- Endurance : 30 Starting Endurance : 30 Fatigue from Encumbrance : 18 Fatigue from Travel : 0 Total Fatigue : 18
Hope : 14 Starting Hope : 14 Temporary Shadow : 0 Permanent Shadow : 0 Total Shadow : 0
Armour : 3 Headgear : 1
Parry : 2 Shield : 0
Damage : 0 Ranged : 0
Wisdom : 1 Valour : 2

Hero Creation

posted by Capfalcon Original SA post

Chapter 2: Characters

-Hero Creation-
...He had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by: his old life lay behind in the mists, dark adenture lay in front.

All right, let's start with our game's iconic Hobbit, Trotter.

Say hello, Trotter! No, don't bother to get up.

So, Hobbits. Everyone knows about Hobbits, right? Little folk who live in a pleasant corner of the world, love the way things are and don't want anything to change, wouldn't dream of doing anything unrespectable, like, say adventuring, for example?

Well, of course, that's not quite right. There are hobbits who hear Bilbo's stories and dream about ancient dragon gold, elven forest cities, and dwarven mountain halls. It's just that no one likes talking about them. At least until they get back with carts full of gold and strange friends willing to lend a helping hand. Then EVERYONE is more than happy to have them back and remind them how they've always been the best of friends.

Now, like last time, each culture has a virtue, and Hobbits are no exception. Hobbits live a simple life, and they take great joy in it. In game terms, this means the Fellowship rating of the party is normally equal to the number of party members, Hobbits count for two. Fellowship is how the party recovers hope, one of the most important resources in adventuring. In addition, Hobbits can reroll their wisdom checks. Individually, these are ok, but getting both of them is pretty good. Wisdom is used to resist the Shadow's corruption, so Hobbits are mechanically the best in the game at resisting corruption. A nice touch.

Hobbits' starting skills are much what you'd expect. They start out as pretty much the best in the game at sneaking, with 3 Stealth and a Stealth as a favored skill. Lots of social skills, with a two in Song and Riddle and a three in courtesy. Also, Hobbits get two traits, and they're all awesome. We'll take Smoking and Storytelling. Being knowledgeable about pipeweed and smoking as actually an awesome way to make introductions and is used as an example on how to start conversations in at least half of the adventures I've read.

The thread appeared to want a melee hobbit. We'll have our hobbit bro start out with a 2 favored ranks short sword. We'll go with the well-rounded attribute spread 4 Body, 5 Heart, 5 Wits. As the stereotypical wanderer hobbit, he'll take Adventurous and Nimble traits.

Now Trotter looks like he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. But he's still a Hobbit, and Hobbits are sensible people. None of the Slayer's all consuming vengeance or the Warden's selfless sacrifice. No, Trotter just wants to see the world. He's going to be a Wanderer! He'll know a lot of Folk Lore. The Wanderer's shadow weakness, the one point where he's very vulnerable to the Shadow's influence, is the Wandering-Madness. We'll go over the Corruptions the Shadow can inflict on heroes later, but they're pretty cool.

Now, we picked Valor last time for our Beorning and got a piece of War Gear. This time we'll pick Wisdom as our starting stat and gain a cultural virtue. Since we're planning on mixing it up in melee, we'll go with Small Folk. We're very good at using our size to our advantage, and anytime we fight something that is larger than us (Read: Not Goblins) we get to use our Favored Wits score as our parry score, which we use to avoid getting hit. An extra 3 to that score is pretty big, easily one of the largest single boosts you'll get to your parry score.


Culture: Hobbit of the Shire Standard of Living: Prosperous
Cultural blessing: Hobbit-sense
Calling: Wanderer Shadow weakness: Wandering-madness
Specialties: Smoking, Story-telling, Folk-lore
Distinctive features: Adventurous, Nimble
Body : 4 Heart : 5 Wits : 5
Body (favoured) : 6 Heart (favoured) : 6 Wits (favoured) : 8

-Common Skills- -Weapon Skills- -Rewards- :
-Virtues- : Small Folk
-Gear- Endurance : 21 Starting Endurance : 21 Fatigue from Encumbrance : 2 Fatigue from Travel : 0 Total Fatigue : 2
Hope : 17 Starting Hope : 17 Temporary Shadow : 0 Permanent Shadow : 0 Total Shadow : 0
Armour : 0 Headgear : 0
Parry : 5 Shield : 0
Damage : 0 Ranged : 0
Wisdom : 2 Valour : 1
Experience : 0 Total Experience : 0
Fellowship : 0 Advancement : 0 Treasure : 0 Standing : 0