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interests / / [Stars and Stripes] Less magical, but still enchanting: Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bends Dungeons & Dragons rules to fit Tolkien’s world

o [Stars and Stripes] Less magical, but still enchanting: Lord of the Rings RoleplKyonshi

[Stars and Stripes] Less magical, but still enchanting: Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bends Dungeons & Dragons rules to fit Tolkien’s world


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From: (Kyonshi)
Subject: [Stars_and_Stripes]_Less_magical,_but_still_enchanting:_Lord_of_the_Rings_Roleplaying_bends_Dungeons_&_Dragons_rules_to_fit_Tolkien’s_world
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2024 12:08:10 +0100
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 by: Kyonshi - Thu, 1 Feb 2024 11:08 UTC


Less magical, but still enchanting: Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bends
Dungeons & Dragons rules to fit Tolkien’s world
By Brian Bowers
Stars and Stripes • January 19, 2024

Many think of Dungeons & Dragons as a tabletop roleplaying version of
J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

However, Frodo never pulled out a Wand of Magic Missiles to blast an
orc. And Aragorn never worried about being enveloped by a quivering
Gelatinous Cube. There isn’t all that much magic in “The Lord of the
Rings” – at least not like the arcane spectacles players expect when
playing D&D. And the wicked beasties populating Middle-earth are a lot
less diverse than those contained in the D&D “Monster Manual.”

For those looking for a fantasy world a lot closer to Tolkien’s
Middle-earth, Free League Publishing has created The One Ring and The
Lord of the Rings Roleplaying. The two games are basically the same, but
LOTR Roleplaying relies on rules for D&D’s fifth edition – a format
that’s popular for its accessibility and focus on fun.

Since I’m most familiar with D&D 5e system, I opted to give that version
a shot.

The 5e rules are so thoroughly integrated into the game’s format that
the core rulebook doesn’t even cover points that are the same. That
means, for example, that the rulebook doesn’t cover combat except to
direct players toward the rules in the D&D “Player’s Handbook.” However,
don’t think that you will need to plunk down another $50 for the D&D
handbook. The basic 5e rules are available for free to download on PDF
from the website of D&D’s creators, Wizards of the Coast.

The Lord of the Rings core rulebook focuses on differences between the
freewheeling nature of D&D and the sort of gameplay necessary for a
world that’s closer to that in Tolkien’s works.

The differences include seemingly small things, like redefining what
constitutes a long rest and what skills are available to characters. But
each brings the game more in line with Tolkien’s world. For example,
D&D’s “arcana” and “religion” skills have been eliminated because they
aren’t relevant and “explore,” “hunting” and “travel” have been added to
reflect the skills needed by long-distance travelers.

Other changes are more significant.

The game whittles the number of character races down to human, elf,
hobbit and dwarf – eliminating dragonborn, gnomes, devilish Tieflings,
catlike Tabaxi and a slew of others. Humanity is divided into three
branches – Rangers, men of Bree and Bardings, each with its own
characteristics and bonuses.

The game also reworks adventures’ job titles – referred to them as
“callings” rather than “classes.” The fighter callings are: captain,
think of Boromir; champion, a standard fighter; and warden, think of
Aragorn and the ranger class in traditional D&D. The rogue class has
become the treasure hunter calling. And elements of the bard and monk,
along with a hint of roguishness, appear in the messenger calling.

Gone are clerics and sorcerers, since Tolkien never mentioned priests
and only a handful of extremely powerful wizards – like Gandalf –
inhabited Middle-earth. All of D&D’s magic-using classes are replaced by
the calling of scholar, which can focus on either lore or healing.
Instead of casting powerful spells – hurling fireballs or raising fallen
comrades from the dead – characters perform “crafts” that can influence
the course of the action in more subtle ways. Crafts enable characters
to heal, communicate with animals, boost weapon skills, read runes and
more. Unfortunately, there are only eight basic crafts to choose from
instead of the scores of spells in D&D.

When characters reach a new level, they gain rewards – such as new
weapons or armor – and can select from a list of their culture’s
virtues, which boost certain skills and abilities.

In addition to recasting the nature of gameplay, the game adds several
mechanics that bring things into line with the narrative flow of both
“The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” It places a greater emphasis
on the journey to the adventure site. Mishaps or boons that occur during
the trip can affect the party’s status and health before they even face
their first Orc. This explains the addition of the journey-related skills.

And in a nod to the many meetings between the Fellowship of the Ring and
powerful kings, councils, stewards and wizards, the game includes
mechanics covering such interactions. This involves a series of dice
rolls weighted by the party’s status and the seriousness of the matter
being discussed.

One of the most significant new mechanics involves the looming evil that
seeks to dominate Middle-earth. Players will frequently acquire Shadow
Points. Perhaps they greedily picked up treasure that had been tainted
by Orcish hands or stupidly killed an innocent villager. These actions
generate Shadow Points, which can eventually lead to a bout of madness.
Think of Gollum, or even Boromir’s breakdown when he tried to take the
One Ring from Frodo. There’s also the problem of Sauron’s ever-watching
eye. Certain deeds – good or bad – can draw his attention and cause
problems for the party.

Another addition is the presence of patrons – figures who impart advice
or present quest opportunities. They also grant certain bonuses to the
party. Most patrons are familiar to Tolkien fans, including the
adventurer Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, the dwarf Balin and the
mysterious and mischievous Tom Bombadil.

Finally, the game features a Fellowship Phase at the end of each
adventure. During this time, the party gathers to recuperate and
undertake special tasks. The best example of this in Tolkien’s books is
the sojourn at Rivendell after Frodo was wounded.

During the Fellowship Phase, characters are able to remove some Shadow
Points, meet with their patron, gather information, study magical items
or bolster the fellowship and gain Fellowship points. These points can
be spent to gain advantage on various dice rolls during the adventure.
Advantage lets you roll the die twice and use the best score.

However, the game is not a retelling of “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the
Rings.” Its action is set between the two works. Smaug the dragon has
been eliminated and the surrounding region is thriving. Sauron is
reemerging as a shadowy threat, but his armies are not yet marshalling.

To help players and their “Loremaster” immerse themselves in this world,
the core rulebook outlines the people, places, enemies and lore of

These are expanded upon in additional volumes titled “Ruins of Eriador,”
“Tales of Eriador” and “Shire Adventures,” for those who prefer the
pint-size hobbits. These well organized and pleasingly illustrated
volumes contain additional background information as well as adventures
that are ready to play.

But you can only go so far by reading and comparing rule books. That’s
where my friends and family came in handy.

I acted as Loremaster for two different groups of players, leading them
through an adventure featured in the core rule book. It revolved around
cutthroat brigands, soggy ghouls, skulking dwarves and a noble wraith in
a ruined city cursed by the infamous Witch-king of Angmar.

Although as Loremaster, I had to do quite a bit of study to familiarize
myself with the new format, the players discovered that the reliance on
5e rules made the transition very quick and smooth.

As could be expected, one of the elven scholars grumbled a wee bit about
stepping back into a bard-like supporting role in combat, but even he
gave the overall package glowing reviews. The champions, wardens and
treasure hunters were all pleased with the new abilities – and with the
relative lack of magic, which permitted them to focus on combat without
having to worry about being blindsided by a powerful spell.

In fact, most felt the loss of magic was balanced by the abilities
gained across the board. For example, one of the hobbit treasure hunters
reveled in his use – and probably abuse – of a rule allowing him to move
in combat without provoking opportunity attacks. This permitted him to
flit across the battlefield dealing deadly sneak attacks almost at will.

But the whole reason to play this game is to immerse yourself in
Tolkien’s world. That too was a success. Bumping into Bilbo Baggins,
drinking ale at the Prancing Pony in Bree and fighting familiar foes
brought Middle-earth to life.

In addition, the players thoroughly enjoyed the well-constructed
adventure, which provided ample opportunities for action and
interaction. They said this – as well as the game’s unique rules –
encouraged actual roleplaying rather than just enduring a string of
shallow skirmishes.

They embraced it all and are planning their return for more adventure in

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interests / / [Stars and Stripes] Less magical, but still enchanting: Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bends Dungeons & Dragons rules to fit Tolkien’s world


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