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Thread: Time Periods for LotR Game

  1. #1
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    Time Periods for LotR Game

    I've been flipping through my LotR game and the LotR appendix, wondering about the possible time periods one would run a game in, if one wished to avoid setting a game in the late Third age. No idea if this is a game I'll be running (I'm spending the month of December brainstorming during our Christmas hiatus) but given my whole gaming group has loved the LotR movies and I'm a fan of the books (not an obsessive one I should note - I've yet to read the books outside of LotR and The Hobbit).

    As a brainstorming exercise, I'm trying to figure out a setting which will provide me as narrator with tons of inspiration for adventure. I imagine this is an exercise that would be of interest to any planning such a game, so I figured I'd go public in my brainstorming...

    The three periods I'm considering are...

    1970's of the Third Age

    A ton of big events happen here. This is where Angmar finally defeated the last remnants of Arnor and also just before Durin's Bane (the Balrog) paid Moria a visit. I can see lots of events for characters to get involved with - struggling to hold the tide until the forces of Gondor can arrive, negotiating with potential allies, saving the lives of Isiuldur's heirs, scouting missions into Angmar, etc.

    It is both a problem and a benefit that, as far as I know, there is little written about this period, beyond the Appendix (and some out of print ICE supplements which I don't have a prayer of obtaining). The Atlas of Middle Earth and LotR Appendix would seem, to me, to be the main resources for this. Any others anyone can thing of.


    Late Third Age

    This would be the period between the Battle of Five Armies and the War of the Ring. My first instinct was to set it in this era, but the more I consider it, the toughter time I am having finding inspiration. At first glance it seems a good time for adventure, but I'm having a tough time figuring out how to make the adventures resonate with meaning.

    However, the period does have advantages - it is the time of the films, which for most of my players, is their reference for Middle Earth. Possible sagas I can think of include battling evil in Mirkwood, setting up a colony in Moria (hmm, maybe not a good idea), seeking out lost Dwarf-holds, etc. But I dunno, it doesn't feel right. Anyone who wants to inspire me with this era, feel free to.


    Early Fourth Age

    While robbing a narrator of some cool resources, like Elrond, Galadriel, the Nazgul, etc., it also gives the most freedom. Aside from a few notes about the fates of the memebers of the Fellowship, I can't think of much written about this period. It is obvious that while it is one thing to declare a reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor, it is another thing to see it done in fact.

    Remnants of Sauron's forces would definitely like to see this reborn kingdom destroyed early on. I would think that places such as Mordor, Mirkwood, and Angmar would be logical places for bad guys to be based from. One of the Lost Wizards would be a logical Sauron/Saruman type bad guy - the mastermind behind the events.

    In addition, the reclaiming of Moria would seem to be an entire campaign unto itself, with some nice D&D elements for those who like such things.

    I thought there were more resources for this, but all I can find is what is in Appendix B of LotR - I'm almost certain I'm missing something else in the appendices.
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  2. #2
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    I'll be starting the Silmarillion for the first time next week (as soon as I finish ROTK) so I'll have more to comment on then.

    For the moment, though, I think an early Fourth age game would be fun, as would a pre-Hobbit/LOTR game, what would that be, early Third Age? I don't know Ages.

    I'll definitely be watching this thread for more ideas.

    Though it would be nice to get the LOTR boards up and running so that we don't clutter up the Trek boards. Hint, hint!

  3. #3
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    I always run in the Early Fourth Age.

    Setting it earlier locks history... no matter what the PCs do, history will have to unfold as it has been written, unless you set it so far from the locations in the book that there is almost no connenction. I've run an excellent campaign doing that, by exploring what the rest of teh Rangers were doing in the North during the War of the Ring.

    My best experiences have been with rebuilding Arnor, defeating left-over evils, and discovering lost lore after Saron's defeat.

    ""I thought there were more resources for this, but all I can find is what is in Appendix B of LotR - I'm almost certain I'm missing something else in the appendices.""

    I'd use the old ICE MERP resources. You can find them fairly cheap, and they distill information from all the various Tolkien works on a particular topic into one place... along with some reasonable extrapolation to fill out some areas.
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  4. #4
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    Personally, I've been leaning towards an early Fourth Age game as well. It may be the Age of Man, but I can interpret that however I want. Less elves is a given. But they will still be around, as will orcs, dwarves, and hobbits. They ain't going anywhere for a few thousand years, at least.

    If only I could think of a way to keep the Nazgul. I love those guys.

    My likely setting would be the North Kingdom of Arnor. I like the idea of evil returning to the land of Angmar. The LotR RPG mentioned this as an example campaign, with an idea towards one of the two unaccounted for wizards being behind it.

    Question - what official info is there on the Fourth Age? Any Tolkien scholars out there? Ditto that for the Fall of Arthedain, another interesting period in my opinion.
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  5. #5
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    Originally posted by Dan Stack
    If only I could think of a way to keep the Nazgul. I love those guys.
    Aaargh! What happens to them? I haven't finished ROTK yet. The lead Ringwraith just got killed by Merry and Eowyn...haven't heard about the others yet...

  6. #6
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    Sources for Fourth Age

    Originally posted by Dan Stack
    Personally, I've been leaning towards an early Fourth Age game as well. It may be the Age of Man, but I can interpret that however I want. Less elves is a given. But they will still be around, as will orcs, dwarves, and hobbits. They ain't going anywhere for a few thousand years, at least.

    If only I could think of a way to keep the Nazgul. I love those guys.

    My likely setting would be the North Kingdom of Arnor. I like the idea of evil returning to the land of Angmar. The LotR RPG mentioned this as an example campaign, with an idea towards one of the two unaccounted for wizards being behind it.

    Question - what official info is there on the Fourth Age? Any Tolkien scholars out there? Ditto that for the Fall of Arthedain, another interesting period in my opinion.
    Official info? Not much. Just what you mention in the appendices of RotK. There is some detail on the Istari in Unfinished Tales, as well as info which could help you to fill out some of the details of the War of the Ring, such as the Battles of the Fords of Isen and the Nazguls hunt for the ring. Also illuminating in Unfinished Tales are the parts on the Palantiri and the Quest of Erebor, as well as a fuller story of the relationship between Rohan and Gondor. The First Age and Second Age material isn't as immediately useful for a Fourth Age chronicle, but is still a great read nonetheless.

    The primary reason I chose to run my chronicle in the Fourth Age is because I have virtual free reign over the plots and characters and storylines. I plan to use what characters I can from Tolkien's stories, but for the most part I'm making up almost all of the NPCs.

    Sadly, the Nazgul aren't really an option in the Fourth Age, since with the fall of Sauron their only source of power is vanquished. However, that doesn't mean you can't use characters like the Mouth of Sauron (just say he survived!) or, like me, Gothmog, the Witch-King's chief lieutenant and commander of the forces of Sauron upon the Pelennor after the Witch-King's demise by the hand of Eowyn. Yep, I made him survive, too.

    Of course, there's always the two "blue wizards" who were off wandering in the East. They could have become corrupted by Sauron like Saruman, or they may have developed plans for conquest of their own.

    There are plenty of options for Fourth Age chronicles. The main difference between a Fourth Age chronicle and one set earlier is you don't have to worry about sticking to an established timeline and history. To me, that's an invaluable freedom.

    Cheers and good luck!

    Steve
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  7. #7
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    I had thought about running a campaign in the late third -- about 80 to 100 years before LOTR.
    "War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

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  8. #8
    I considered running a campaign set in the First Age, based around Menegroth and Doriath. A friend plans to begin his campaigm in the mid-Third Age, around the time of Arathorn II's death. The Fourth Age really does nothing for me.
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  9. #9
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    There's an awful lot of room for more history during the Second Age, too. Aside from the tale of Numenor, there's really not much detail in the histories. Might be fun to have the PCs in a Numenorean ship "boldly go" to explore Middle Earth. "A lonely quest... A shining land... known as Middle Earth."
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  10. #10
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    Well, I started my 'big' Lord of the Rings campaign tonight, with relatively decent results. My campaign is set in the First Age and, similarly to Michael, is based around Doriath (the realm of Elwe Thingol), with the PC's traveling around to try and gather information about what's going on in the world outside of Thingol's realm.

    Essentially, this campaign is going to be broken down into several story arcs, set in different time periods, giving the PC's (who are all Elves) the opportunity to play through the history of Middle-earth. It's something that I've always wanted to try, as I think that it will lend a greater meaning to the events of the War of the Ring and the transition of Middle-earth from a world of Elves to a world of Men.

    In a potential break from canon (Tolkien purists look away! ) I'm allowing for the possibility that the PC's might fill the roles of some of the major characters of the future (such as having a character who might create his own Elven refuge, ala Rivendell, or who might be a leader of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves). I'm trying to leave it all wide open for the players to feel that they aren't overly constrained by the written history of Middle-earth, so long as they abide by the stylistic codes of Middle-earth.

    Thus far, my group seems to be having a great deal of fun, and are optimistic that this campaign will have some potential to last (as most of our recent campaigns flop after an adventure or two, at best). As the Narrator, it's quite a bit of work, as I certainly don't know the First Age as well as I do the latter part of the Third Age, so I find that I'm often flipping through my Complete Guide to Middle-earth, as well as my Atlas of Middle-earth, to make sure that I've got things straight. Stilll, to see my group once again having genuine fun roleplaying makes me realize that it's definately worth all the effort.



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  11. #11
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    Fall of Arthedain

    I went through the Appendices last night, as well as my Atlas and my Fruit Punch stained copy of Rangers of the North (a nasty spill in the 1980's) and while I'm still not certain what game I'll be playing next year (heck, I'm not settled on LotR - something like Delta Green is still in the running) I found myself overwhelmed with inspiration for a game set in the fall of Arthedain and the foundation of the Rangers of the North. A huge event in the history of Middle Earth, yet one which next to nothing is written about.

    So here's my thought process...

    It seems clear to me that the forces of Angmar do not magically rise back up in 1973-74 to destroy Arthedain - I see a period of skirmishes, battles, etc. (I am interpreting dates to indicate the final thrust of the war took place in late '73 with Fornost falling in early '74). Therefore, it would seem reasonable to begin such a game around 1970. Characters can be Dunedain from either Arthedain or visitors from Gondor (with whom Arthedain has reestablished ties - heck they tried to claim the throne of Gondor); Elves; Dwarves from Khazad-Dum (Moria); or Hobbits from the Shire. One character should be a potential Ranger - either a noble or warrior. I would also allow one magician, but no more.

    The first few adventures would involve learning about the situation - scouting expeditions into Angmar, protecting villages, etc. The characters would start with no Advancements but I would give Advancements rapidly - one per adventure in this early stage, to represent the transition from inexperienced adventurers to reasonably competent heroes - about 4-6 Advancements. The finale of the first state would be defeating a plot which would keep Gondor busy - it is presumed the characters will succeed in this, which will be important so that Gondor can later arrive to crush Angmar. This would be like The Hobbit - prelude to the true tale. (After this, Advancements will slow down to a normal pace)

    After this would begin the fall of Arthedain. The first adventures would involve the relentless assault of the Witch-King, culminating in the fall of Fornost and the challenge of escaping as the Witch-King moves to occupy it. I would try to keep this short, as it is somewhat depressing. A minor victory I can see giving the characters would be saving the Shire from the forces of Angmar.

    The next stage would involve the counter-attack of Gondor and the Elves. The characters would most certainly want to participate in this - indeed I can see an adventure where the characters journey to Gondor in the hopes of giving as much advanced information they can as possible to Gondor. With forces of Angmar trying to stop them - as the characters will be reasonably experiences at this phase (perhaps 7 or so Advancements) I might have one of the Nazgul persue them. This would culminate with a series of battles involving the "liberation" of Arthedain (though there are few left to repopulate the land) and the drive into Angmar itself.

    The next stage of the chronicle would be about the organization of the Rangers - at least one PC would become a Ranger and the tales will focus around protecting the ruins of Arnor, including some preemption - preventing the legion of evil remaining in Angmar from reorganizaing. This could also involve gaining some allies - perhaps a visit to Moria around 1980, just in time for the Balrog to arrive - a mini-chronicle unto itself.

    For a finale to the saga, perhaps ten years after the fall of Arthedain, I can see discoving that the forces of Angmar are indeed reorganizing, behind a powerful force of evil - a wizard or dragon. Lacking in numbers, the characters must somehow destroy this evil if the Rangers are to survive and the line of Isildur to endure.
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  12. #12
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    Dan, I'd move to Hell itself or even to Massachussetts to play in that campaign.
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  13. #13
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    Originally posted by Greg Davis
    Essentially, this campaign is going to be broken down into several story arcs, set in different time periods, giving the PC's (who are all Elves) the opportunity to play through the history of Middle-earth. It's something that I've always wanted to try, as I think that it will lend a greater meaning to the events of the War of the Ring and the transition of Middle-earth from a world of Elves to a world of Men.
    How will you be handling the transition between the time periods? Will the characters simply be in stasis untill used again or will you advance the character's level/skill etc or just intense background/rp to span the time jumped?
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  14. #14
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    Originally posted by SIR SIG
    How will you be handling the transition between the time periods? Will the characters simply be in stasis untill used again or will you advance the character's level/skill etc or just intense background/rp to span the time jumped?
    Well, after having discussed the issue with my group, we decided that long periods of downtime would be covered by some updated background (to tell what the characters have been doing), and a small number of advancements. Obviously, as they progress more and more towards the later Ages, adventures will have to focus more and more on interaction and roleplaying than they will be able to focus on more mundane actions, such as combat. Still, my group likes that idea and are still relatively excited about it.

    Actually, we've started the campaign in full, with the PC's rounding out the group of heroes who join with Beren and Finrod to quest for the Simaril. Due to some ideas of the players (one of which hasn't read the Silmarillion, and another who hasn't read it in a decade or more), they have asked one of the sons of Feanor to come along, to try and bargin with Thingol for the Silmaril after Beren gives it to him. This allows for, in my mind, an interesting variation from standard Tolkien canon, and I'm pretty interested to see how things work out.

    It's always fun when the actions and words of a PC can make the rusty gears in the mind of a Narrator begin to turn...



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  15. #15
    Greg, you had exactly the same idea I did... an epic campaign spanning the ages of the world. In the First Age, the heroes would have filled roles similar to those you described as Thingol's eyes and ears outside Doriath. In the Second Age, they might fulfill the same function for Gil-galad, or they might move on to form one of the "eastern colonies"... Eregion or Lorien. In the Third Age, they would take part in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, help oppose the Witch-king of Angmar and the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, and perhaps at last sit upon the Council of the Wise.

    I planned to give one advancement for every century or so of downtime, although that was more a quick-and-dirty number than one arrived at after careful consideration. I expected to adjust it during play as I developed a better idea of the power level of the heroes over time. Ten or fifteen advances make the average hero capable of achieving a Challenging (TN 15) test on an average roll. With one or two Courage, even Difficult tests are achievable on an average roll after the aformentioned number of advancements. My thought was to give the heroes somewhere between ten and fifteen advancements per age, plus those earned during play.
    “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

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