Sunday, March 26, 2023

A Hobbit Inspired Campaign II

You can find the first part of A Hobbit Inspired Campaign here.

So, it's time to get away for OSR type games.  I mentioned the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game in the last post.  It is the only official Tolkien licensed RPG that I'm interested in at this point.  LOR was published by Iron Crown Enterprises in 1991 as a kind of simple introduction to roleplaying in Middle-Earth and as a lead in to their Middle-Earth Role Playing game.  And it, apparently, had its genesis in the "Middle-Earth Quest" choose your own adventure game books.  

LOR is a simple system that uses 2d6.  You roll, with appropriate modifiers, and attempt to equal or exceed a target number to succeed at a task.  In combat, you roll on a chart with appropriate modifiers to determine the outcome of an attack.  Characters have 12 Stats, 5 that I would call attributes (Strength, Agility, etc.), 6 skills and Defense, which doesn't seem to fit in either category.  These essentially act as modifiers to rolls.  You can play as a Hobbit, Elf, Half-Elf, Human or Dwarf and be a Scout, Warrior, Ranger or a Bard.  Gandalf is listed as a Human Bard, Thorin as a Dwarf Warrior and Bilbo as a Hobbit Scout to give three examples.  There are limitations though.  If you wanted to play a Hobbit you are limited to being a Scout and Dwarves are limited to being Warriors.

Magic is also limited as there are only 15 spells.  Some may not like this but I have heard that others think that it fits the feel of Middle-Earth well.  Spells include Shield, Charm Animal and Fire Bolt.

The boxed set included, besides the short rulebook, maps, pre-generated characters, cardboard character figures and an adventure.  Two further adventures were released before I.C.E. lost the rights to publish the games.  And all of their Tolkien related games.

Much to my surprise there have been several clones and homages to LOR.  In one way though, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise.  Just like many of the older games, the price of the LOR boxed set has seen a sharp rise on the second-hand market. On the other hand it is a somewhat obscure game so I was a little thrown to see not only one but multiple versions.

The first game I ran across was the Middle-Earth Adventure Game (MEAG).  It's listed as being published in 2002.  Which is only a couple of years after LOR went out of production.  But it didn't come to my attention until years later when I became aware of and interested in LOR.  It adheres pretty closely to LOR but does make some changes.  Mostly additions.  MEAG adds specializations, special abilities and negative traits.  

It also expands the number of spells and changes the way they are cast.  In LOR, when a Bard cast a spell, it costs the character Endurance, which for Bards starts at 30 or 35.  MEAG adds a mana pool.  It is only after the mana pool is depleted that spells affect Endurance.  MEAG also changes the Bard to the Mage/Scholar.

Another significant change is that they separated race and profession.  So a Hobbit can be any of the five professions (MEAG adds Rogue), not just a Scout as in the original game.  However, Hobbits are intrinsically less capable of using magic than others so there is that to take into account when choosing a profession.

Two other games based on LOR are Tales & Legends and Simple Fantasy AdventureTales & Legends follows MEAG pretty closely but cuts the professions to three: Warrior, Scout and Mage.  It adds a 80+ creature bestiary, which MEAG doesn't have.  And come to think of it, neither does LOR!  

I think my favorite version is Simple Fantasy Adventure.  It strips things down bringing it closer to LOR again.  It is simple and clearly explained.  Any race can be any class, as SFA calls them, so it does differ in that respect.  The spell list is pared down to the original.  It has a minuscule bestiary.  It's lean and mean.  I also prefer the formatting, which is much easier for me to read than MEAG, for example.

Now the beauty of all of these games is you can borrow from any of them and mix and match to your hearts content.  For example, I could take the bestiary from Tales & Legends and use it with the other games without any modification. (Unfortunately, Tales & Legends is a commercial product, albeit very low priced in PDF.)

How would these games work for a game emulating The Hobbit?  I think any of them would work excellently.  Though ostensibly sold as a "Lord of the Rings" game, LOR and its emulators fit the feel described in the articles well. The professions are tailored for Middle-Earth which will make it easy to slide into the The Hobbit 1937 setting.  The games are also rules-lite, which is definitely my preference.

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