Monday, March 14, 2016

An Official Lord of the Rings setting for D&D, and why I'm not exactly confident about it

Original panel from DM of the Rings webcomic

Geek Native Link

In recent news, Sophisticated Games and Cubicle 7 are teaming up to create a D&D-compatible game set in Middle-Earth. The latter company is known for creating the One Ring RPG, one of the more well-regarded interpretations of Tolkien's work into table-top format. One of its praises was that it intentionally departed from its earlier predecessors by shedding the "D&D in Middle Earth" mechanics MERP and Decipher were said to have, instead focusing on a band of heroes journeying together and making resisting corruption and despair by Sauron's influence an important mechanic.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but this latest news doesn't exactly strike me as a good move. The fact that I own and love The One Ring makes it all the more puzzling.

I get that deriving inspiration from Lord of the Rings was a big thing D&D did, even if Gary Gygax was not fond of the series itself. I get how aspects of its lore are borrowed. But truthfully I feel that the subculture's too wedded to Tolkien's work, trying too hard to ape their adventures, settings, and sessions on it.

The thing is, the Lord of the Rings has a specific design which doesn't translate very well into most campaigns. There's only 6 actual magic-users in all of Middle-Earth, and even the marveled elven artifacts aren't viewed as magic by their people. The Hobbit and the trilogy have been rather down to earth in their scale of power, and I notice from 5E's spell list that a lot of the world-shaking magic is still present. You still have goblins, intelligent spiders, and a few top-tier creatures like Smaug and the balrog, but the latter ones tend to be unique creatures.

Also, the One Ring's massive power is easily replicated by a level 2 spell with no hint of corruption in standard D&D.

There's not much information on the mechanics, and I may be proven wrong, but after seeing many people in the hobby trying to adopt the D&D engine to emulate a series of genre unsuitable for its mechanics, I can't help but be skeptical.

I guess what I'm saying is...why make a 5E Middle-Earth game when there's already a serviceable RPG for it?