Adventures In Middle Earth: Player’s Guide, by Cubicle 7
As someone who greatly appreciates the universe of Middle Earth and is always looking to master new rulebooks for role playing games, both for playing purposes and to help keep my mind fresh about such matters, this book was definitely one I appreciated reading from a publishing group that is well known in England for its great role playing games (including one set in the Dr. Who universe, review forthcoming). If you are someone who loved the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogies and wondered how they would make for compelling tabletop role playing games, this book is definitely one for you. Although I have never played a game with this rulebook, I get the feeling that it should be a very popular one given the high degree of popularity for role playing games in general and the Middle Earth in particular. And if such gaming is not very popular, it should be, as there is a lot of adventure to be found in Middle Earth and plenty of people who would likely have a very good time exploring such a world for themselves with a group of friends who have similar interests.
This book is more than 200 pages and gives a good basic overview of the game that would be sufficient for someone playing a game set in Middle Earth. The book begins with a discussion of the setting of the wilderland where the adventuring takes place in this particular game (1). After that comes an overview of the rules for creating characters and the backgrounds, classes, virtues, and other basic aspects of gameplay (2). After this comes a detailed look at the classes of the Middle Earth universe, namely scholar, slayer, treasure hunter, wanderer, warden, and warrior (3). There is a discussion after this of various virtues that the characters can gain through experience as well as success in gameplay that improve their character and give it a great deal of power and influence (4). After this there is a list of unique backgrounds that provides a great deal of interest as well (5). What follows after this is a fairly basic look at the standard equipment the party will begin with based on their race and class backgrounds (6) and a brief discussion of journeys and their phases (7). A discussion of the shadow and the sources of corruption that players would struggle with (8) as well as a brief discussion of audiences (9) and fellowship phases (10) brings the book to a close having provided a straightforward and brief overview of the elements of gameplay in the world of Middle Earth.
Overall, the book does a good job at presenting some differences between Middle Earth and the sort of world that most people expect when playing tabletop role playing games. For one, there is a greater emphasis on diplomacy checks, as the need for sanctuary and succor in the face of endless conflict against evil means that one must work hard to develop rapport with others of diverse backgrounds who may initially be wary of adventurers. The lack of flamboyant magic and the presence of a lot of forgotten and neglected historical knowledge and artifacts makes the game more oriented to scholarship than to technology, although the presence of skilled dwarfs makes for excellent weapons and armor being available, at least. The game also does a great job of providing shadow points as a way of demonstrating the expectation that heroes will act heroic and a decidedly strong penalty for behaving in a wicked and immoral fashion, and also providing a phase of the game where leveling up and general rewards can occur in an organized standpoint that allows for parties to continue on or break up in an orderly fashion.