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Year Zero World Building creates campaign settings using Free League’s RPGs. The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying takes The One Ring RPG 2E and converts it to Dungeons & Dragons 5E. I ran a year-long campaign using The One Ring, so seeing that Bible Baggins is 6th level is interesting, to say the least. I think a Loremaster (GM) kicking off a game in the Shire and taking a trip to Rivendell has everything needed to build their own unique version of Middle-earth.
Thanks to Free League for sending me RPGs to help in writing these articles. As a frequent customer of their kickstarters, pre-orders, and webstore I really appreciate their customer service and attention to detail. This The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bundle reflects the high quality: along with a sturdy GM screen, there are two well-made hardcovers, stitch bound, and with maps on the inside covers.
The bundle includes three products: The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying, Shire Adventures, and the Loremaster’s Screen and Rivendell Compendium. The chapter order, layout, and interior art matches closely to that of The One Ring. The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying is not complete; it requires access to the D&D 5E rules. Combat in particular, is not covered at all in the book.
Many new rules enhance the basics of 5E with enhanced rules for Councils (roleplaying), Journeys (exploration), Fellowship (downtime), and Patrons (NPC mentors), along with all new classes, magic items, and monsters. Heroic cultures like Hobbits of the Shire and Rangers of the North replace race. Classes are covered by six callings of levels one to ten: captain, champion, messenger, scholar, treasure hunter, and warden. D&D 5E monsters, races, classes, and spells are not a part of the setting or world, although you could likely pull in some of the monsters.
Loremasters have monster stats for creatures like evil men, orcs, trolls, and the undead. Magic items do not have the power level found in 5E and tend to help with skill checks and combat instead. In addition to adventure-building advice, rules for Landmarks are provided for Loremasters. Landmarks are smaller site-driven locations with a few schemes and troubles attached. There is also a poster map of northwest Middle-earth as of 2965 of the Third Age.
Shire Adventures includes a gazetteer with a map supported by five adventures across the settlement. The pre-generated Player-heroes include six Hobbits like Paladin Took and one additional surprise. The Loremaster’s Screen and Rivendell Compendium includes a Loremaster screen, coverage on Rivendell and the High Elves who dwell there, and a new culture for High Elves of Rivendell.
As a Loremaster, if I was running Middle-earth using 5E, I’d start in the Shire (Shire Adventures) either with the pre-generated Hobbits or with newly created Player-heroes. With a bit of work, the Loremaster can kick things off as a three-shot: an adventure in the Shire followed by a journey to Rivendell with a stop in Bree and two adventures along the way. The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bundle provides everything needed to kick off a campaign in Middle-earth because it includes the rules as well as details on the Shire and Rivendell and the lands in between.
By the time the adventures in Shire Adventures end, Bilbo Baggins is likely the Player-heroes patron. He could make two requests, both requiring adventuring. He would like to see an Archet hunting bow and see it shot, which would require a Journey to Archet followed by braving the Chetwood on a hunting quest.
Bilbo also has a letter he’d like delivered to Elrond in Rivendell. Normally a Dwarf or Elf would make the journey, but Bilbo sees this as an opportunity for the Hobbits to experience a bit of the wider world. And see the splendor and wonder of Rivendell with their own eyes. If they meet Arwen and Shadow falls away from them, so much the better.
Some or all of the Hobbits might turn down this unseemly offer to adventure further. Players could create Player-heroes of their own at this point to replace the starting Hobbits. Or some or all of those Hobbits could agree to go on a couple more quests for likely cracked Bilbo Baggins.
In Archet, Fitch Talltree, the forester is looking for help in hunting some wild wolves threatening the region. He’s okay with the Player-heroes just going hunting to get the bow they are seeking, but he does warn them that doing so will likely bring on the wolves. Helping him hunt the wolves down first will keep the Player-heroes safer. This encounter is a good one to use the Council rules with, with the goal for the Player-heroes to get the best outcome (maybe even getting the bow before going wolf hunting) and make the best impression they can get with Fitch.
The long journey from Bree to Rivendell is a long one and the Player-heroes are likely to be worn out. Just as they are about to get past the Trollshaws, a troll wanders onto the road during the night. If the Player-heroes can evade the monster, they might be tempted to try to get to its lair and steal some treasure before it returns before morning. This encounter is interesting because it encourages fleeing from danger and then facing the temptation to seek treasure at the risk of limb and maybe life.
After the trauma of this long Journey, the Player-heroes arrive in Rivendell. While they are going to have a Council with Elrond, it might be good to have Arwen be the first Elf the Player-heroes meet. She can help remove Shadow, and for players who saw the movies, they will be familiar with the idea of her finding lost Hobbits and bringing them to her father in Rivendell.
Armed with The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying bundle, a Loremaster can kick off a short three-adventure campaign. If this goes well, the Loremaster has many options, as do the players. The Player-heroes may choose Elrond as a new Patron and set up in Rivendell if he’ll have them and after they’ve shown Bilbo the bow they have won. If a player wants to try something new, they could play a High Elf of Rivendell. Or the group could head back to Hobbiton to see what new adventures Bilbo may turn up for them.
If you want to run Middle-earth using a well known system, the consider trying The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying.
Picture credit: Pixabay
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