Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Belariand and the Lands to the North

Started reading The Children of Hurin, and so far I'm liking it.

Back when I read the Silmarillion for the second time (sometime in the late 90's), I thought that the 1st Age of Middle Earth would actually make for a better D&D setting than the 3rd Age (when Hobbit/LOTR, and MERP are set).

Giant elven kingdoms with some human regions, dwarves in great mountain fastnesses, and lurking to the north, Morgoth in Angband under Thangorodrim.

Everything just seems bigger and more heroic in the Silmarillion, and I think D&D's more flashy spells and magic items and high level characters would work better in this age. Plus, Morgoth has all the monsters Sauron had (orcs, trolls, spiders--although nothing like the Nazgul are mentioned), plus werewolves and vampires, dragons, balrogs...


  1. Problem -- Power scale. Demihumans at this time are far, far, far more powerful than humans. Humans have an almost orc-like fecundity that enables them to survive. In game terms, there should be no level-limits for demihumans, and indeed, they should actually be quite powerful, especially the Noldor.

  2. Another option I like is using Tolkien's world as it was in the mid-1930s. The Shaping of Middle-earth (which is volume 4 in Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle-Earth) includes the Silmarillion as it flowed from Prof. Tolkien's pen in the mid-1930s. Then read John Rateliff's 2-volume work, The History of the Hobbit. In it he reveals that when The Hobbit was written in the mid-1930s, it was intended to take place shortly after the events in the Silmarillion, without the long ages that Tolkien later inserted between them.

    For my money, THAT would be an awesome Middle-earth for D&D.

  3. I seriously would never run Middle-earth for D&D. Decipher's system was actually pretty decent at capturing the feel of the setting, in my opinion. We were actually considering running Decipher's system for the Forgotten Realms at one point, just to see how it turned out.

    Vancian magic doesn't fit Tolkien's world. The entire magic of D&D is much more pulpy. Tolkien's magic items were special, not run-of-the-mill.

    And as I already said, the mechanics leave the demihuman races in a much weaker position than they actually were in the stories. (This is another reason I have trouble jiving with a lot of the level limits in D&D--if elves live forever, they have forever to perfect their skills as archers and warriors, and in Middle-earth it shows).

    Regardless, there's a lot there in Tolkien's world. Monsters, magic, and wars were all bigger in Beleriand. Indeed, the lands beyond were all wild, mysterious, and unsettled. Some roads and dwarven outposts existed (I forget when Khazad-dum was first hewed from the Misty Mountains), but I'm not sure what else was out there except that massive great forest that Treebeard had talked about.

    In D&D, what I'd actually always wanted to do was to build an elven culture (separate from the Seldarine-worshippers) that had the SILMARILLION as their holy book--kind of like their Bible--just to see how it turned out and the kind of conflicts and exchanges they could have with the more commonplace D&D elves.

  4. Damn work computer ate my reply.

    Anyway, Dave, you're right about level limits, at least for the Elves. The Noldor and the Sindar shouldn't be limited, but the Avari, I'd say, along with Dwarves and Hobbits (if there are any hobbits) should still be limited.

    And I'm not too concerned with the fact that D&D magic is more flashy, or that there are lots of monsters available that aren't Middle-Earth canon. Magic items are actually easy to make unique and special--I've already got those pdfs for a lot of them.

    I'd rather just have Beleriand as a playground under D&D rules, than try to perfectly recreate the setting. Just getting the feeling of the setting is enough for me.