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Hi all.

One of my mates is a huge Burning Wheel fan, and has suggested that BW is a great way to tell the stories of Tolkien's Second Age - much better than any other RPG system. He thinks so because of the way that the system is designed around character motivations and how they deal with the success or failures of those (and not so much about skills, abilities, or magic). He then referenced CoC's insanity system as a good way to represent joy, sorrow, suffering, etc...

So, I thought I'd bring the question to here.

Could RQ do justice to the sorts of stories that Tolkien (and other good) authors write? Make the players really feel?

And. while I'm at it, how  would stats & skills look for the various races? Mostali would be a clean swap for stats, I suppose. As would most humans...

What would you do with magic?

It wouldn't be a Bronze Age any more (although, that's a bit irrelevant).

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I'm a HUGE Tolkien honk, so this is my take on the conversion points...

1. You'd have to find a way to convert the RQG emphasis on Runes to concepts more Tolkien-esque. Maybe binding their concepts to the Valar would work [Earth, Plant, Fertility bound to Yavanna, for example]. This would form the basis of your magic system.

2. As the power of the Shadow grows stronger, or in strongholds of the Shadow, you'd have to consider what the consequences of drawing the attention of Sauron might be.

3. Homelands would have to be set up. A Noldor Elf from Eregion is gonna have different skills than one from Lindon, after all.

4. You'd have to write a SHORT 'Intro to the [Whatever] Age' package, no more than 3 pages, that briefly discusses the history, the powers, the conflicts of the setting.

5. Starting equipment would be limited to Race /Culture of Origin, and many characters will feel this is unfair. It is. No matter how well crafted a Dunlending bow is simply not going to equal a Sindarin or Noldor one.

A key aspect of the Second Age is that Elves are still very powerful, the Numenoreans are reaching the height of their world-spanning powers, and the Dwarves are as yet undiminished, so there has to be some kind of bonus for those who choose not to play the Great Races. Maybe some bonus skill points or something.

6. You'll have to invent some kind of Morale mechanic with benefits and deficits. Much of Tolkien's morality play is taken up with how a society handles itself when Hope is hard to come by.

7. The Equipment lists will be important. Certainly every Numenorean won't start out with a magic sword, but the quality of their gear will seem magical in later eras. Some Mannish cultures will be in a Bronze or Iron Age technological level even as the Numenoreans have-tube hollow titanium bows as standard issue.

Anyway, those are the issues at the top of my head. I'm sure there's more. Keep us up to date on this project. I for one am VERY interested on what you develop!

 

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24 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

There is, of course, the small issue of magic.  It is available to the Valar, the Maiar, and major leaders.  Besides that it is rare indeed.  Even the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith seem more a herbalism and convalescence home, rather than a place of healing magics.

Well, remember that the Houses in Minas Tirith [which haven't even been founded yet - - Gondor doesn't exist until the very end of the Second Age] was as fallen an institution as any other in RotK. Gondor's colonists and Numenorean refugees were of a more physical 'practical' type than Arnor's. Arnoreans were more spiritual and mystical in temperament than Gondorians were, and therefore retained more magic and kept a stronger faith in the Valar.

This isn't altogether bad, btw. Had the Arnorean temperament been face-to-face with Mordor for 3500 years, Gondor might well have fallen.

Tolkien's analogy here is that wisdom and faith must... MUST... be combined with working physicality and the intelligent application of force for a people to prosper. Yes, Tolkien was an Imperialist in his own way. Not quite a 'Mountbatten' or 'Kipling' Imperialist, but a loyal subject of a strong and vibrant Crown nevertheless. Remember that the two key issues of his time were a] how to wisely rule the Empire and b] the defeat of fascism. These are the most important allegories and themes in his fiction.

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13 hours ago, svensson said:

Well, remember that the Houses in Minas Tirith [which haven't even been founded yet - - Gondor doesn't exist until the very end of the Second Age] was as fallen an institution as any other in RotK. Gondor's colonists and Numenorean refugees were of a more physical 'practical' type than Arnor's. Arnoreans were more spiritual and mystical in temperament than Gondorians were, and therefore retained more magic and kept a stronger faith in the Valar.

As I wrote, it is some of the leaders who have magic - in the First, Second or Third Ages.  "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer" et al.  

This applied to Gondor and Arnor alike.

 

13 hours ago, svensson said:

Tolkien's analogy here is that wisdom and faith must... MUST... be combined with working physicality and the intelligent application of force for a people to prosper. Yes, Tolkien was an Imperialist in his own way. Not quite a 'Mountbatten' or 'Kipling' Imperialist, but a loyal subject of a strong and vibrant Crown nevertheless. Remember that the two key issues of his time were a] how to wisely rule the Empire and b] the defeat of fascism. These are the most important allegories and themes in his fiction.

While a lot of the FotR was written during the war years it wasn't edited and published published until 1954.  By then fascism had been - at least temporarily - defeated in most nations.

The Empire had lost India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.  Nasser had overthrown the Egyptian government and was starting to threaten British interests in the Suez canal.  It was at war in Malaya and Kenya, with many other areas heading for independence.

Tolkien himself said that "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.", so it would be wise not to regard his writings as in any way allegorical.

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5 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

As I wrote, it is some of the leaders who have magic - in the First, Second or Third Ages.  "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer" et al.  

This applied to Gondor and Arnor alike.

And yet -- the one was more magical than the other.  So a game true to the setting would reflect that.

 

5 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

While a lot of the FotR was written during the war years it wasn't edited and published published until 1954.  By then fascism had been - at least temporarily - defeated in most nations.

The Empire had lost India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.  Nasser had overthrown the Egyptian government and was starting to threaten British interests in the Suez canal.  It was at war in Malaya and Kenya, with many other areas heading for independence.

Tolkien himself said that "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.", so it would be wise not to regard his writings as in any way allegorical.

While I dearly love JRRT, he was -- as are we all -- largely blind to his own biases and prejudices.  His formative years were formative -- they formed the adult )just as all of ours formed us).  None of this is to criticize the man, or try to paint him as evil in any way!  JRRT was largely, so far as I know, a good man; better than many, not so good as some.  All of us believe far more in our rationality than is supported by a rational examination of the facts vs. our opinions.  So when someone says there's "no allegory" in Middle-Earth lore... well.

Anyone who denies (for example) the fundamentally idealized-English-pastoral allegory of the Shire is going to have a steep hill to climb.  Tolkien himself admitted there were many "Dwarves-as-Jews" parallels in his work.  Eru Iluvitar as Yahweh, Morgoth as Lucifer, Valar as archangels, Maiar as lesser angels... it's Christianity all the way down, young man!

 

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20 hours ago, g33k said:

Anyone who denies (for example) the fundamentally idealized-English-pastoral allegory of the Shire is going to have a steep hill to climb.  Tolkien himself admitted there were many "Dwarves-as-Jews" parallels in his work.  Eru Iluvitar as Yahweh, Morgoth as Lucifer, Valar as archangels, Maiar as lesser angels... it's Christianity all the way down, young man

Not sure that Ali is a young man or a young christian minister for that matter, an old christian minister... well that is much more possible.

Also not sure this qualifies as allegory. It is very difficult to write what you do not know, not impossible, but difficult. So, why take the hard road and ignore the great scenes and characters... the plots and situations, all of those great seasonings and spices that make a legendary story! All right there, burnt into his synapses. What happened to this gentleman as the whole world around him literally was raised in the air and turned upside down around him and above him all to come crashing down as whistling willie came to visit is epic. And that was just his war history. ... Figuratively as well, as pastoral gave way to industrial, mores changed—possibly forever, religion and Empire entered new phases... the centre began to unravel. Oh where to begin. I figure when you decide to create thousands of years of history and myth—just to tell a bedtime tale to satisfy an insatiably curious young boy—it is better to not invent the thang "whole cloth".

Now, this is simply my take and you can weigh it with as many grains o' salt as ya wish, but I am willing to take one of my fave writers at his word... mostly... kinda...

Now JRRT's buddy, CSL... there was a self-confessed and widely acknowledged serial allegorist!

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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My main issue with the Tolkien setting is the strong hierarchy between the species/races. A Vanyar is more powerful both spiritually and physically than a Noldor. A Noldor is more powerful both spiritually and physically than a Teleri who went to the west. A Teleri that went to the west is more powerful than the ones who stayed (Sindar). A Sindar is more powerful than the rest of the elves. The same is true for Dunedain vs ordinary humans. The issues of balance between different Gloranthans cults would be even more pronounciated in a Middle-Earth setting. 

I would let powerful Dunedain and elves have access to spirit magic. And have the strongest elves (like Elrond, Gil-Galad and Galadriel) have access to some form of Rune Magic. But its much less magic in Middle-Earth than in Glorantha.

I actually prefer Mythras to RQG for a non-Gloranthan setting. Their weakest magic system "folk magic" is actually what I think Dunedain have access to. And ordinary elves have access to Animism.

 

Edited by Soccercalle
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49 minutes ago, Soccercalle said:

I actually prefer Mythras to RQG for a non-Gloranthan setting.

Agree with that. RQG and Glorantha are tightly coupled now which makes both sing but does make RQG less portable. That's fine. Mythras is a lovely system too and has a lot to like mechanically - I've played it in Babylon, Nostoi and Thennla.

More recently as I have been rediscovering Glorantha and RQG, I've pretty much found that most of the types of story I might want to discover or explore with another RPG (Conan, TOR, Symbaroum) I can do with RQG in Glorantha anyway. I'd still like to experiment with some other systems to see how they run and feel but the impetus to do so is less than it was.

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1 hour ago, RandomNumber said:

Agree with that. RQG and Glorantha are tightly coupled now which makes both sing but does make RQG less portable. That's fine. Mythras is a lovely system too and has a lot to like mechanically - I've played it in Babylon, Nostoi and Thennla.

More recently as I have been rediscovering Glorantha and RQG, I've pretty much found that most of the types of story I might want to discover or explore with another RPG (Conan, TOR, Symbaroum) I can do with RQG in Glorantha anyway. I'd still like to experiment with some other systems to see how they run and feel but the impetus to do so is less than it was.

There is always good old Big Gold Book BRP. It's not perfect but it covers a lot of what you might need. There is a fan made LOTR conversion, I am using it right now (with modifications, some aspects are a bit unbalanced).

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12 hours ago, g33k said:

Anyone who denies (for example) the fundamentally idealized-English-pastoral allegory of the Shire is going to have a steep hill to climb.  Tolkien himself admitted there were many "Dwarves-as-Jews" parallels in his work.  Eru Iluvitar as Yahweh, Morgoth as Lucifer, Valar as archangels, Maiar as lesser angels... it's Christianity all the way down, young man!

As Bill observes, youth is a thing of the past - I've inhabited Middle Earth since '73 and Glorantha since '79.  Parallelism is not the same thing as allegory.  Allegory is used to conceal one idea within another.  As you note, Tolkien's parallelisms are as subtle as a kick in the head - and therefore not allegory, since nothing is being concealed.

He was a man of his era and upbringing in South Africa, with his fear of sallow, slant eyed orcs, black trolls with staring white eyes and those who overthrow 'rightful' authority.  His opinion of industrialisation and communal farming is obvious - his detestation was for burgeoning communism, not fascism. 

All of this, overlaid with the horror of the trenches as Bill says.  I have read LotR perhaps 38 - 40 times, but the implicit racism makes it harder each time.

Incidentally, 'The Rings of Power' made an interesting contribution to Tolkien's inner debate over an implicitly evil race, with Galadriel in disagreement with Adar over the origin of the orcs.  The two views were both espoused by him at different times, as he found himself torn between the absolute power of Eru Iluvatar and whether Morgoth could corrupt creatures before their birth.  JRRT's racial understanding isn't simply Christian, but Roman Catholic in particular, and it was interesting to see theological theory debated on prime-time TV.

Edited by Ali the Helering
Clarification of two sentences
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On 10/1/2022 at 4:20 AM, Ali the Helering said:

There is, of course, the small issue of magic.  It is available to the Valar, the Maiar, and major leaders.  Besides that it is rare indeed.  Even the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith seem more a herbalism and convalescence home, rather than a place of healing magics.

Kinda. Just what constitutes "magic" is hard to pin down in Tolkien. Much of what the Elves do is considered to be magic by the hobbits and men. So in game terms a elven cloak,boots  or rope might be treated as magical or not. A similar case exists for Elven and Numenorean weapons that are know to be more effective against creatures of the Enemy, such as Glmabring or Sting. Much of what is considered as magical are items that are superior at what they are supposed to do, but aren;t specfically as being magical in the text. So we have some wiggle room there. An effect thast works like Bladesharp might be magical or it might be the result of a highly skilled smith making good crafting rolls.

 

Game system wise, you might want to consider using a more generic version of RQ/BRP as you base system, as RQG is more deeply entwined with Glorantha that other BRP games. I think RQ3, Stormbringer/Elric/Magic World, or BRP would all be easier to adapt to Middle Earth. 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Kinda. Just what constitutes "magic" is hard to pin down in Tolkien. Much of what the Elves do is considered to be magic by the hobbits and men. So in game terms a elven cloak,boots  or rope might be treated as magical or not. A similar case exists for Elven and Numenorean weapons that are know to be more effective against creatures of the Enemy, such as Glmabring or Sting. Much of what is considered as magical are items that are superior at what they are supposed to do, but aren;t specfically as being magical in the text. So we have some wiggle room there. An effect thast works like Bladesharp might be magical or it might be the result of a highly skilled smith making good crafting rolls.

Game system wise, you might want to consider using a more generic version of RQ/BRP as you base system, as RQG is more deeply entwined with Glorantha that other BRP games. I think RQ3, Stormbringer/Elric/Magic World, or BRP would all be easier to adapt to Middle Earth. 

There is a degree to which this reminds me of - horror warning - Mongoose's method of looking at the mass production of magical blades BUT it might nonetheless make sense.  If you want a more interesting approach, I would refer you to Land of Ninja and the ki abilities of crafters.

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On 10/1/2022 at 1:14 AM, Shiningbrow said:

One of my mates is a huge Burning Wheel fan, and has suggested that BW is a great way to tell the stories of Tolkien's Second Age - much better than any other RPG system. He thinks so because of the way that the system is designed around character motivations and how they deal with the success or failures of those (and not so much about skills, abilities, or magic). He then referenced CoC's insanity system as a good way to represent joy, sorrow, suffering, etc...

 

Have you seen Cubicle Seven's The One RIng? There is a characteristic I love called Shadow (IIRC) that is brought into play anytime one has to make a sketchy decision of import. Go the bad route and gain Shadow... Someone else has The One Ring now, but I can not imagine they would drop such a great mechanism. 

 

1 hour ago, Ali the Helering said:

All of this, overlaid with the horror of the trenches as Bill says.  I have read LotR perhaps 38 - 40 times, but the implicit racism makes it harder each time.

 

I have heard this before and am aware of it... Have not read the books in a millennium (well this millennium, anyway) so my last impressions are those movies and I should get them out of my head and get back to the world I knew. What you say here is what has kept me from doing so...

 

1 hour ago, Ali the Helering said:

I've inhabited Middle Earth since '73 and Glorantha since '79

Amazing '73 and '81 for me. 

Edited by Bill the barbarian
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4 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

There is a degree to which this reminds me of - horror warning - Mongoose's method of looking at the mass production of magical blades BUT it might nonetheless make sense.  If you want a more interesting approach, I would refer you to Land of Ninja and the ki abilities of crafters.

LOL! I think we are on the same page here. Ki Skills were something I was thinking about when I typed that text.

 

But basically my point is that a lot of what is considered to be magical in a generic FRPG sense, isn't specifically noted as such in Tolkien's works. Instead such items are noted as being of superior craftsmanship. RQ's Land of the Ninja's Ki skills isn't out of place for Middle Earth. Neither would be the Lineage rules for magic weapon as presented in Pendragon's Saxons!, where just being the weapon of a famous person adds to a weapon's effectiveness.

Probably because both approaches hack back to legendary items in Earth's history, all of which have some sort of backstory and not just something picked up at the local shop. 

Ki skills could also account for some of the superhuman abilities possessed by the Eldar. Legloas' archery skills, especially in the Peter Jackson films, could easily by explained in RQ terms via Ki skills (although the extremely long lifespan of elves could justify insanely high skill scores too.

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Fundamentally, I think, the BRP family of games runs toward being gritty, crunchy-simulationist via the skills mechanism.

Not every setting or genre IMHO actually wants that treatment in a RPG...
There's a  lot  to be said in favor of the narrative-focus RPG engines for some settings & genres.  "Shadow" seems really apt to LoTR settings, for example.  "Ring Lore" (a term straight from the pen of the master) is clearly well-represented as a %skill (since it's a "Lore"), but also clearly has a non-mechanical spiritual component.

I'm not convinced BRP is the right core engine for Middle Earth.  I think it needs some substantive extra mechanics -- "Shadow" is good, but more than that -- before it could be a smooth fit. 

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6 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Ki skills could also account for some of the superhuman abilities possessed by the Eldar. Legloas' archery skills, especially in the Peter Jackson films, could easily by explained in RQ terms via Ki skills (although the extremely long lifespan of elves could justify insanely high skill scores too.

Mongoose's heroic Feats would work as well.

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I think that the system "the One Ring" from Swedish Free League is a quite good engine for Middle-Earth RPGs. But I personally prefer the BRP systems in general. And I like that Glorantha is not a setting that is so much good vs evil. Its more magic in Glorantha than in Middle-Earth, but it is still much more realistic.

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@Shiningbrow

I certainly would avoid trying to convert RQG to Middle Earth, but if one wants to use a BRP system for Middle Earth then it is a good option, just not RQG.

I was doing all this almost a decade ago now with the BGB, before The One Ring rpg was published (or before I managed to  read it). So this is a bit of a blast from the past: 

These days  I would go with The One Ring (or AiME), but Mythras or OpenQuest can be easily used as well. They will need a fair bit of adapting to the setting, as Middle Earth is all about flavour, but it's not hard to do, it will be a small labour of love but it will play well. 

The Age of Shadow is also quite good, it's very cheap and can be adapted to Middle Earth pretty easily. It is a version of OpenQuest that is for high fantasy, very much in the Tolkien style, and for the price it is well worth checking out the cheap PDFs+PoD on Drivethru RPG

Edited by Mankcam
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4 hours ago, Soccercalle said:

I think that the system "the One Ring" from Swedish Free League is a quite good engine for Middle-Earth RPGs. But I personally prefer the BRP systems in general. And I like that Glorantha is not a setting that is so much good vs evil. Its more magic in Glorantha than in Middle-Earth, but it is still much more realistic.

Agreed. I've played TOR2e from Free League. The system has been designed with the setting in mind and does a very good job of it. It's also a beautiful product. If I wanted to play/run in Middle Earth I would go no further than this. I wouldn't use the TOR2e system elsewhere in the same way I would no longer use the RQG system for anything other than Glorantha. Fortunately, the gravitational pull of RQG/Glorantha is pretty strong.

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Its a bit old now, but you might also pick up some insights from Ambarquenta, found at The Heren Turambarion; and the Hall of Fire Fanzine, apparently gone from the inter webs, but the Internet Archive is your friend. You might also be able to find a fan conversion called Lord of the Rings Unisystem (never mind... found it... Now in WIKI format!).

For BRP, I'd use MagicWorld to get into things somewhat quickly. It can scratch the basic itches right up front. Or, as mentioned up thread, Age of Shadow is another good conversion.

On the other hand, if you really want to get into the weeds, and explore personal interactions and the influence of personality and bonds, I'd probably head right to Pendragon 4e. For ME, Personality Traits and Passions (or Bonds if you prefer) seem to fit really well. I would probably tone down Damage though, to /8 rather than /6. This would be some amount of work though, as you'd have to figure out Virtues for the communities. The basic magic system seems to be somewhat in line too, though I'm not sure I'd keep the dice pool needed to figure out latent natural MP to power things.

SDLeary

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2 hours ago, SDLeary said:

Its a bit old now, but you might also pick up some insights from Ambarquenta, found at The Heren Turambarion; and the Hall of Fire Fanzine, apparently gone from the inter webs, but the Internet Archive is your friend. You might also be able to find a fan conversion called Lord of the Rings Unisystem (never mind... found it... Now in WIKI format!).

Already have it/them, and have been looking over the last day or so... and for those reading - Decipher's LotR produced in conjunction with the movies (and the artwork is all from the Jackson trilogy).

Too bad the Hall of Fire didn't have an easier contents page for the first few, and I wish I had a good index of articles...

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Question is : why chose RuneQuest rather than any other BRP-based game out there ?

IMHO, the potential selling points of RQ as a system are :

-it's combat system. Do you want hit locations and localized Hit Points ? Do you want an initiative system that is more complex than just reverse DEX order ?

-its magic system(s). I'm not sure if it would suit Middle Earth very well. Spirit Magic as a basis for some character's semi-magical abilities might work, but IMHO it should not be as freely available as in Glorantha. I don't think devotion to the Valar should grant you spells as Runic Magic do. Sorcery might work, but I think latest version is too closely related to Glorantha.

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1 hour ago, Mugen said:

Question is : why chose RuneQuest rather than any other BRP-based game out there ?

This.  Reading through the responses, I found myself wondering: Why not King Arthur Pendragon instead?

  • Emphasis on heroic ideals and passion?  Check
  • Magic-infused world, but largely as backdrop?  Check
  • Definitive, cultural/regional stereotypes?  Check

Yes, these are all things that one can tease out of RQG, and if you prefer the combat mechanics of RQG to KAP, you might just want to.  But then, you might just want to 'port the Personality Traits mechanics from KAP, which aren't tied to world-specific mythology, over to any other BRP-based game that already features Passions and a cleaner-running combat engine.

That said, I can see someone looking at their copy of RQG and saying, "You know, I should be able to do something with this book, but I don't really get the setting..."  A lament not specific to RQG.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia
[Edit: I just noticed @SDLeary's post above, which I'd overlooked and which suggested much the same regarding Pendragon.]
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