Adventures In Middle Earth: Loremaster’s Guide, by Amanda Valentine
As someone who is fond of the universe of Tolkien’s novel’s, and of tabletop roleplaying games in particular, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I came across this particular dice-based roleplaying game based on Middle Earth. And judging from this book–where the Loremaster has the equivalent position that the DM has in Dungeons & Dragons–Middle Earth makes for a very compelling environment for fantasy adventures that are high on heroism and light on the sort of magic that many people find most objectionable about role playing. If you too are a big fan of the Hobbit or Lord Of The Rings, then it is worthwhile to note that this particular game sits between those two books in the chronology of Tolkien’s writings, and that it pays a great deal of attention to that large body of lore while also allowing for creativity and flexibility within that existing lore that allows for compelling and original adventures among the body of heroes who are part of the larger universe that Tolkien created without being the main characters that everyone is already familiar with. This game looks like a good one, definitely worth trying out with the right group of people.
Taking up a bit more than 150 pages, this book is certainly not a large volume, and is designed to supplement (and also correct) the player’s guide (review forthcoming). The book begins with the setting of the game and its initial location in Laketown, where the summoning of various members of the five armies that defeated Smaug allows for a convenient jumping off point for a group of adventurers seeking fame and profit (1). After this comes a discussion of some precepts, some of them rather melancholy, that undergird the playing of the game (2). Then comes a look at the adventuring phase and rules involving rest, inspiration, and multiclassing (3). There is an expanded look at journeys that allows for a great deal of adventure in the midst of one’s travels hither and yon (4) as well as an expanded look at non-player characters and audiences with others (5) designed to help the loremaster with these important elements of gameplay. There are discussions of adversaries and battle and the importance of scenery (6) as well as wondrous, legendary, and healing items for use by the party (7). The book concludes with a discussion of magic in Middle Earth and its general subtlety (8) as well as a discussion of the fellowship phase where xp is given and where the group decides whether to split up or stay together in search of more adventures (9).
For those who might think of a game like this as simply another version of Dungeons & Dragons, the creators of the game have done a good job of making the gameplay distinctive. By immersing the reader in the lore of an existing universe with a melancholy undertone of long and uncertain struggle with the likelihood of defeat, and by having creative classes that correspond to the world of Middle Earth as well as a more subdued focus on healing and lore as opposed to flashy spells, this book does a good job at helping someone to create compelling campaigns for a group of players set in Middle Earth. Not only does this sort of book help someone to organize a party of players in a series of campaigns based out of Laketown and surrounding areas, but it may even inspire some wonderful fan fiction based on the world of Middle Earth, and that is something to appreciate as well. This book gives the reader a good enough basis of the way that life in Middle Earth works that it is likely to be a very compelling and popular volume among fantasy roleplayers.