Pathfinder for Lord of the Rings


Conversions


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Yeah, this old chestnut has been around for a while with D&D 3.5 (and the recent thread about using PF for a Hobbit campaign), but let's revisit it anyways. How would you house rule Pathfinder to work for a Third Age middle earth campaign?

Some of my thoughts:
- Either eliminate spellcasting for PCs or severely limit it. Spells are potentially fatiguing and do not use memorization. Overt spells will attract attention. Spellcasting is potentially corrupting.
- Introduce Fate-like aspects to reflect a character's "Doom" and "Destiny"
- magic items are exceedingly rare and are never just a "+1 sword"; they all have a lineage and importance of some type. The power of such items is often level with the power and importance of the possessor
- elves don't use spells per se, but gain special 'magical' abilities with their skills as they increase their ranks. For instance, An elf with a +10 or better in Insight would gain a subtly mind reading ability, sort of like Galadriel. An elf with Stealth +10 or better can run on snow or grass without leaving a mark. Maybe a +10 bonus to The same type of stuff could be applied to other races. Dwarves may be able to enchant a weapon to +1 with a Craft rating of +10 or better, etc. Just off the top of my head.

Anyone care to add to the list? I'm not interested in hearing "Pathfinder should not ever be used for middle earth." Don't rain on my parade ;)


Obviously one would have to limit races, but probably also classes. Most all your divine classes would have to go, the ranger would be good but you may have to run with the non spellcasting ver. in the APG.

The "master craftsman" feat or whatever it is called could be used for the non-caster classes to make magical items, but that is a specialzed disposition and thus fairly rare.

With regards to the spellcasting, Dragonlace had a mechanic for spellcasting fatigue that may work. Modifiying the wizard so that the spells he "prepares" would be the only ones he has an option for casting in the day may help keep his spell diversity useful while falling back on his arcane bond to get out of tough spots, but that may take too much from the sorcerer.


I would reach for E6 right away.

Other changes would be largely cosmetic.


It was tried a few times. It never seems to go well. The druid talks the eagles into dropping the hobbit into the volcano or something.*

I have to go with E6. Anything other than that and you're going to loose a lot of the flavor or mortality and "why can't the wizard do it?"

I don't know how rare magic items are, at least for PC's. Frodo had elven chain, a magic shortsword/dagger, cloak of elven kind, and that light thingy. For his level he was positively pimped out.

Something i would change would be allowing the PC's to have all of their magic item wealth in one item. that way they're, overall, at the same power level but the magic item is still rare/special.


Maybe the best way to rule it would be that magic items and magic users are rare, but then so are people with class levels, and the majority of magic items are in dank, forgotten, monster-infested places that only the bravest souls would dare enter. Brave souls like adventurers....


What I would do if I stuck to Pathfinder, not being very adept at actually changing the rules (I've actually wanted to do this sometime):

Races would definitely have to be restricted... humans, halflings (hobbits), and dwarves are probably the only ones who would remain in their current incarnation.

Half-orcs would probably work as uruk-hai.

Elves

Elves.. may not be allowable as PCs. I had jotted down different race modifiers, trying to keep them equal in power to humans, to reflect their LotR incarnation before when I was thinking about this (I really really want to run a game set in the First or Second Age sometime):

+2 Dex, +2 Cha
Replace Elven Immunities and Elven Magic with something that represents 'prescience', lower in power then the two combined to make up for the missing ability penalty.
Everything else could stay the same

If the party was all-elven from an earlier age, it may be possible to consider using humans with the Advanced template for elves, which seems closer to what they actually were before their race began to fade.

Elven NPCs could more easily represent the 'superiority' of Middle-Earth elves, having (comparatively; see below) tons of NPC levels. But they'd be, of course, rare.

Other Considerations

The rest of the world would have low NPC levels. The heroes wouldn't just be random adventurers; kings would notice them, peasants would talk in hushed whispers, and the dark forces would definitely want to kill them before they got too powerful. The PCs should probably take some time crafting backstories. Even if they were originally nobodies, that won't last for long.

Without actually banning classes, which I don't like to do:

Players would be encouraged to play non-spellcasting classes. Arcane magic would be seen as corrupting, and divine magic isn't given to just anybody.

Magical items would only be given as gifts or found in a monster's lair, not for sale.

Those are my ideas, mainly concerning fluff...


what about half-elves? Elrond was a half-elf technically!

Sovereign Court

I too would start with E6, and after that start performing major surgery.

For myself, I'd likely anchor my ME game in a human, hobbit and dwarf perspective. Elves and full casters would be kicked aside immediately as player options. Elves are simply too superior and spellcasters, from my decades long obsession with Tolkien, are too rare and special to warrant player characters to just pick to be one. Gnomes are also out due to the setting. Half-Orc... I could see it as a one time special snowflake option for the campaign.

To break up the racial options more, I'd go in and do some work to give racial traits that fit with different cultures of humans, hobbits and dwarves.

Barbarian
Fighter
Paladin (you'd need to be an exceptional individual, AD&D style stat minimums would likely be instituted)
Ranger
Rogue

Bard could be fit back in with some kind of adjustments or an archetype that tones down the magic further.

Cavalier, with some re-themeing going on would also work.

No magic items. There would be things players could find, and they'd be carefully picked and scrutinized to fit with the themes of ME. This might mean they are quite powerful items, but they'd be once in the campaign type items you get and that's about it.

Once the magic is stripped away, then it could be reinserted in dribs and drabs in very specific ways. A lot of this would be to give nature type options. The key thing is that magical elements would need to remain subtle, but potent when it is available.

One overall philosophy I'd be taking with a ME campaign is that just because it was mentioned in one of the books doesn't mean it was common. Just because there was a Witch King and other Black Numenorians who dabbled in sorcery doesn't mean that it unlocks magic to anyone, or make it freely available to PCs. Likewise, just because there were magic items doesn't mean they are easily attainable. Lastly, just because Gandalf and the other Istari exist, doesn't mean that magic is something that anyone can do or achieve. They were all demi-gods and there were only five of them.

Grand Lodge

If you haven't seen it yet and want a good laugh on this topic, you might want to check out DM of the Rings.

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Icarus Pherae wrote:
what about half-elves? Elrond was a half-elf technically!

Elrond, Elros (his brother) and Arwen are the only half-elves ever mentioned in the whole history as far as I can recall. I'd leave them out as options for PC characters.


While Elrond was a half-elf by heritage, at the end of the first age he (along with all the half-elves at the time) was made to choose elven or human fate (i.e. racial traits.)
Elrond chose elven, so he would have the elf traits (as would his children); Elros (Elrond's brother) chose human and was, consequently, the first king of Numenor.
So, no half-elves.
Elves, however, could be separated into two races: Noldor, or High-Elves, (e.g. Elrond, Galadriel) and Sindar, or Wood-Elves. (e,g, Legolas) Tolkien's sundering of elves doesn't quite match up with D&D, but this would be a close, and I think necessary, approximation.
Likewise, humans would be split into two races: Humans and Dunadain. The Dunadain being the descendants of Numenor in which their bloodline is true enough to still possess traits of the Men of Westernesse.
Dwarves would stay the same, Hobbits could be adapted from Halflings, and Wizards would actually be more of a race than a class. There being only five Wizards in Middle-Earth, not a PC race.

Casting classes would be very different. Many of the Noldor and some of the Dunadain wielded powers that could be called "magic" (esspecially powers of divination), but the casting classes as given would have to be tweaked to fit the limited magic nature of middle-earth. One could just give elves and others racial abilities and do away with casters altogether, although members of these races being able to hone their talents via class levels would certainly be fitting.

"Magic" items would be rarer in the third age than in past ages, and many of the most powerful magic items would be relics of past ages. Magic items would still be created though. The crafts of the elves of Lorien and Rivendell could be described as magic. The Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain could still craft many wondrous things. And even the Dunadain of Gondor could make items of higher than masterwork quality. In Henneth Annun, Faramir gives Frodo and Sam Gondorian walking sticks upon which were placed virtues of finding and returning. I would think those might count as minor magic items. Although, the craft of all these races would be declining.


You need more complex races/stats for human, as they vary quite a bit, rather than the higly flexible but vanilla PF standard

dunedain, common man, rohirrim, southron, easterling etc

spells would all require some kind of caster check to cast, with failure meaning the spell is cast but the caster is fatiqued or similar

Items would need +1 to +3 non-magical bonuses (+1=masterwork, +2 =mastercraft, +3 =something else!)

I think the areas to the west of the misty mountains to the blue mountains would be the best place to play as

1. quite mix races incl elves and dwarves, 'interacting'
2. keeps you away from LOTR action itself
3 lots lore, ruins, history, peril etc to play with there

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There's a lot of mention of not allowing PCs to play as Elves and Wizards. Because they are "too special" to allow to be PCs.

But PCs are SUPPOSED to be the rare and special ones. NPCs would be the background characters from Lord of the Rings. You don't want a situation like DM of the Rings where the PCs are relegated to the railroad.

I agree make the world e6 (because that seems to be the power level of LotR), play with lower Wealth By Level rules (or the good suggestion that PCs might get 1 'special' item that most of their Wealth is sunk into).

Also if you're going to let your players adventure in Middle Earth, it's important to not be precious about continuity. Players will BREAK things, it's their nature. Don't have a lot of spellcasting NPCs and spell casting remains rare and special (and new spells become difficult to find since there wouldn't be a big library of magic in every town).

ANYWAY hope that helps.


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
There's a lot of mention of not allowing PCs to play as Elves and Wizards. Because they are "too special" to allow to be PCs.

At least Elves and Wizrads are part of the story and whether thay are allowed or not, they remain an easily identifiable part of Middle Earth. Such is not the case of one of the main class of D&D/Pathfinder however: the Cleric.

One of my biggest headache when attempting to adapt Tolkien to D&D was "what to do with the Cleric". It has very few direct counterparts in the story, unless you remove the whole "my magic comes from my devotion to my god" thing, in which case Galadriel, Elrond, Feanor and Melian (and others like Glorfindel and the witch king of Angmar) fit the crunch better than that of Wizard.

Regardless, that would put the cleric on the same level of non-availability as the wizard...

when I considered adapting Middle Earth to D&D, I had re-fluffed the concept of HPs and houseruled natural healing to make do without a cleric in the group.

'findel

Sovereign Court

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

There's a lot of mention of not allowing PCs to play as Elves and Wizards. Because they are "too special" to allow to be PCs.

But PCs are SUPPOSED to be the rare and special ones. NPCs would be the background characters from Lord of the Rings. You don't want a situation like DM of the Rings where the PCs are relegated to the railroad.

For myself, I'd be using Elves and Wizards as an interesting counterpoint to the dark forces of the world. Just as the evil things in the world are Other to the people that we can relate to, likewise the Elves and Wizards would likewise be the Other, but from a good side.

Kind of think of it as a game where you play humans in a world inhabited by angels and devils. Both of sides are remote and threatening in their own ways.

Tolkien did this for the most part. It was only Gandalf and Legolas who the reader to connect to, and Legolas was even a bit remote as a main character.

By making them Other, you can position them as a source of mystery and a symbol of the "long defeat" where the Elves are slowly fading from the world as it transitions into the era of Men.

If you do want to include Elves and Wizards in the game, and remain true to how they fit into the setting, then they'd simply be at a power scale that wouldn't really fit with the other races, save perhaps the Dunedain. Tolkien made it work because he was writing a book, which allows complete narrative control, but if you're trying to make a simulated world of ME then you'd need to come up with game systems that lay beyond the normal assumptions of how Pathfinder works in order to accommodate the extreme power differences.

If however you collapse things down to a human level, then you can keep the Pathfinder system intact and it'll work as intended.

What really made the characters in LotR exceptional was their willingness to go out beyond their homelands and do what had to be done to help each other because of friendship and a larger sense of fellowship.

That's the kind of approach I'd want to run the game, something that attempts to emulate what Tolkien was trying to create with Middle Earth. What would be a massive turn off to me would be some kind of "Middle Earth Flavored" game, which just has some loosely based tropes from the books. If the party is filled with spells being cast all over the place, elves that ought to be super human in many respects, and demi-god Wizards tromping about it just wouldn't seem to be Middle Earth or Tolkien at all to me.


Regarding the notion that elves are too universally superior... are we perhaps overstating this? I don't think Legolas stood out as being more powerful than any of the non-hobbits in the party; heck, Gimli beat him in the orc killing contest at Helm's Deep. Even if you go back to the First Age, the greatest warrior of all time was a man (Turin Tarambar). Elves and dwarves fought against each other and the dwarves did just fine. Orcs attacking Lothlorien surely managed to kill many elves. The most overtly powerful elves, such as Galadriel, are clearly not PC material. But someone like Legolas surely is. Elladin and Elrohir don't seem significantly 'better' than the rangers who join up with Aragorn to journey the Paths of the Dead. Thoughts?

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William Edmunds wrote:
Regarding the notion that elves are too universally superior... are we perhaps overstating this? I don't think Legolas stood out as being more powerful than any of the non-hobbits in the party; heck, Gimli beat him in the orc killing contest at Helm's Deep. Even if you go back to the First Age, the greatest warrior of all time was a man (Turin Tarambar). Elves and dwarves fought against each other and the dwarves did just fine. Orcs attacking Lothlorien surely managed to kill many elves. The most overtly powerful elves, such as Galadriel, are clearly not PC material. But someone like Legolas surely is. Elladin and Elrohir don't seem significantly 'better' than the rangers who join up with Aragorn to journey the Paths of the Dead. Thoughts?

I think it might be doable, but to do it right there would need to be a lot of design work. The elves really are a core thematic element to Tolkien's universe, and so trying to tease out those themes within the structure of Pathfinder is a lot harder to do.

One of the big problems is the fact that elves are immortal, and even when they die they sometimes are reincarnated back into the elven population in ME, who over time recollects their previous life. Thus, one area is an issue of knowledge and skills. Legolas' birth isn't given by Tolkien, but if you poke about and estimate, he could very well be around 3000 years old.

It's illustrated quite well in Moria. Gandalf likely knew or could guess what was up when he placed the binding spell on the door, but he was likely trying to make sure not to panic anyone else. But it's Legolas who has the only real honest reaction when he realizes it is a Balrog. "Ai! Ai! A Balrog has come!," he's utterly terrified. Aragorn is likely to have learned what a Balrog is from his own studies at Rivendel, and it's possible (though far less likely) that Boromir has heard the name before from his own studies in Minas Tirith. Still, they don't really have any clear reaction, they don't get what's really going on.

Now, Legolas might be 3000 years old, but he could even be almost twice as old, because his father is likely around 6000 years old. It's possible Legolas is old enough to have witnessed the War of Wrath in the 1st age, and may even have seen Balrogs before. His terrified reaction certainly lends plausibility to that. Legolas was always the quiet, level headed cool guy in the fellowship, but the Balrog almost makes him wet his pants.

So that age issue is an issue. Elves seem to do things effortlessly within ME. Do you give them +5 to all skill rolls? If you want to make it feel like ME then you'd want it to be a far more hefty bonus than Bardic Knowledge. Do you give them a lot of bonuses to stats? +2 to Dex, Int, Wis, and Cha? I'm not all that sure without looking over things more.

Then there is the snow scene. Legolas just flits about on top of the snow, walking in his slippers and not seeming to be affected by the cold in any significant way. It's like he's got endure elements and freedom of movement going on in that scene, all just subtly happening just because he's an elf.

Then there is eyesight. There is a good book where a scientist breaks down various elements of LotR in scientific terms. I don't have the book handy, but from his analysis of the scene in which Legolas picks out the specific details of the Rohirrim from a mile or so away, well... narratively it's phenomenal, but in actual numbers it was phenomenal also. Low-light vision just doesn't compare.

If you really wanted to simulate that, elvish "high resolution" seeing ought to have tremendous advantages in terms of ranged attacks. Far shot is inadequate to simulate it, instead you'd need to remove range increment penalties several degrees out. If you can fire a composite longbow out to 550 feet without any range penalties... that changes the game in a lot of ways.

In terms of combat, Gimli did just barely win out over Legolas, but it should be noted that Legolas ran out of arrows and had to do knife fighting for the last bit of his score. If he's almost keeping up with Gimli just armed with a dagger then something pretty sweet is going on there.

Galadriel did report that there were many deaths when orcs attacked Lothlorien, however, "many" for elves is likely to be a fairly small number compared to the mortal races. With the elves fading away their numbers were pretty small to begin with at the beginning of the War of the Ring. And the elves still won, so if there were, say thousands of orcs pouring into Lorien, hundreds elves with their awesome ranged attacks and tactics won the day. A lone elf is a force magnifier.

Items that are mundane to elves would seem magical to other people, possessing a natural technology to them that makes them work just right. Masterworking is inadequate as a bump up. The elven rope just comes undone at the will of the user, and that was presented as just business as usual to the elf that Sam talked to. Lembas acts like a potion of healing in many ways, if one keeps in mind the abstract nature of hit points in the system. If you extrapolate out all the other ways that elven technology would work, you'd find yourself in a high magic game very quickly.

So, overall, that's the problem that I see with elves. If you don't want to just sprinkle some elvish flavor into the game, but instead really try and simulate them as they were depicted in ME, then you've got to work out whole new balance features for the game.

One way of doing this is to use hero or fate points. Hobbits would get buckets of them, humans next, dwarves even less, and elves would hardly get any, or even none, but would have a wealth of awesome abilities baked into them. That kind of narrative game mechanic is already used in RPG games like Buffy or Smallville, where those games are designed to have different characters have wildly different power levels, but narratively are on the same level.

So in play, hobbits might be awful at combat, but they have heaps of fate points that just keep them ticking, and at crucial points, allow them to crit an enemy. Meanwhile, elves, who's "fate is bound to the world" wouldn't really have any leeway. Their super-human nature is all that is left in a world that is slowly forgetting them.

There is another mechanic that I'd been working on for Wizards, it's a completely different subsystem that involves them basically starting out at a 20th level character, but whenever they use a power that exceeds the APL of the rest of the party they lose a certain number of hit points permanently. That way, a Wizard is "cloaked" and can "uncloak" themselves as use their full Maria power if need be, but it costs them. They weaken, becoming more bound to the world and mundane.

So it's all possible, but man... if you want to do it right, you need to do some major surgery to the system and invent new sub-systems that need playtesting to dial in how the numbers work. That's why if you went with my original post, and just fix the game's power level at that of humans and cut out the rest, you can have a fairly authentic ME experience without having to do all that extra work.


I understand what you are saying about Legolas possibly being ancient, but apart from the Balrog instance, I don't see him as possessing any great wisdom or knowledge.

As far as the contest with Gimli in concerned, while it is true that Leggy had to accomplish the latter portion of his tally using knives, I think it really illustrates how 'even' he and Gimli are; Legolas has an extreme advantage with arrows being able to pick off orcs at a great distance, while Gimli has to accomplish his task in pure hand to hand combat. Regardless, the contest illustrates that both are effectively matched when it come to combat acumen.

In the Battle of the Last Alliance, the men of Gondor seem just as capable as the elves. It is, ultimately, a man who defeats Sauron. Gil Galad even falls during that battle. In the Battle of Five Armies, elves don't stand out any more than dwarves or men.

I think the key to elves, and the way I will handle the, is that they have a finite amount of fate points. While hobbits and men, and even dwarves, can refresh their fate points, elves cannot. Of all the races, they have the least ability to affect their own fate. Elves They are also the least ambitious race by the third age. The 'great' elves have almost all passed away into the west. By the third age, the player character elves are typified by Legolas and the Wood Elves of Mirkwood, not by Elrond and Feanor.


I know it is standard fair to think of the powers elves have in LotR as being unbalancing for Pathfinder, but I don't see that they are, especially if you are playing e6.

Endure elements and freedom of movement: 99% of the attacks the elf will face won't have anything to do with endure elements. If it does, fine, let him be a special snowflake for a fight. When it comes to his freedom of movement, give it the stipulation that it doesn't effect grappling nor does it let him escape knots and ropes or spells that cause things to grab you. The freedom of movement only applies to moving through the natural world when that world isn't intelligently trying to kill you: snow banks, quick sand, gravel, dadada...

To simulate their highly trained skills, let them take 20 on any craft skill they have rank in and let them have bardic knowledge as a free power. Just because these characters are old doesn't mean they remember everything, nor does it mean they study all the time. They still have to get through their day to day lives, make a living, and relax. I imagine that elves would have a highly sophisticated culture of art and religion which they fill their days with, but 99% of them aren't getting multiple doctorates just because they are bored.

I have a feeling you will find that giving a character +5 Climb, Jump, Stealth... Bardic Knowledge, Endure Elements 5, the ability to take 20 on crafting checks, and freedom of movement / pass without a trace while in a natural setting against natural forces, won't unbalance the game hardly at all.


One more thing:

Wizards' powers come from their race, being Maiar, not study or talent at all. And that power could be seen as having come from Illuvatar: making it divine in nature.

---

And... does anyone know a good, pre-existing system for LotR?
(I'm really not competent enough with rules-crafting to convert another system myself)

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Yucale wrote:

One more thing:

Wizards' powers come from their race, being Maiar, not study or talent at all. And that power could be seen as having come from Illuvatar: making it divine in nature.

---

And... does anyone know a good, pre-existing system for LotR?
(I'm really not competent enough with rules-crafting to convert another system myself)

Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) by Iron Crown Enterprises is the big one. It had the license for a long time and pumped out an exhaustive amount of material. Every book even has conversion notes to use with other systems.

There was a time when you could legally download a huge amount of the material, but I assume with the loss of the license that is no longer the case.

MERP was a good system, though with some glaring problems. A stripped down version of Rolemaster, the underlying magic system just didn't work with the setting as Tolkien presented it. Still, I spent many years running MERP and houseruling a lot of the magic elements to fit better with what we saw as the spirit of the stories. From that, some of my best RPG memories coming from those days.

Go poke on ebay and pick up some of the material. It's not 100% canonical, often extrapolating in many ways, but the sheer quantity of material, along with those wonderfully detailed maps, is still quite worth it.


Humans in the third age are absolutely less "powerful" than elves, perhaps not to the extent that a level-adjustment would be necessary, but let's not be silly, elves are better than humans in most ways by the third age.


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I worked on MERP for ICE just before its loss of the license (which also shut down the book I was working on - Lindon).

It's been a while since I pondered this - years - but I recall a few points.

Tolkien's late writings in the History of Middle-earth series compiled by his son suggest that the closest thing to Elven magic is a quasi psionic system. That said, essentially all magic in ME is ultimately divine, since it is a power of subcreation invested in Eru's children (including his wayward ones).

Though Gandalf and Saruman were Maiar they also studied the ways of the enemy, which were far removed from the pure intuitive magic of the gods in the direction of prideful craft-- i.e., arcane magic was imbued with a bit of evil. Hence Gandalf's use of his Ring of Power and Saruman's fall and breeding of Orcs (a magical act). In MERP there were rules for corruption from extensive use of magic.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I played in a low-magic, slightly low-tech campaign for 3.25 that used a different system of magic. Elements of Magic, or something like that. The really cool aspect of that system is that none of the non-spellcaster PLAYERS knew anything about the magic system, so it was rare and mysterious to us. We advanced really, really slowly, so we never got to level 4+, so my ranger never had to learn the magic systems. But by 3rd level, the mage was able to use a mass positive energy spell that healed multiple PCs and hurt multiple undead at the same time. It was really, really cool! I remember the mage could turn into a wolf, turn invisible, shoot magic missiles, and do some healing.

I played 3.5-ish ranger that used throwing axes in melee and ranged combat.

We had a blacksmith fighter that used a shortsword (which was considered kind of high tech).

We had a barbarian that liked to jump out of trees.

We had a rogue archer.

We eventually added another fighter that was all defense-based (chain shirt and shield, dodge, combat expertise, maybe mobility?) that eventually saved our bacon once by repeatedly being missed by 1!!!

EDIT:

For Tolkien-like magic, I would use a variation of the Hero Point system in the APG. It would cost a Hero Point to cast a spell, and there would be an extensive feat tree for what level spell you could cast. Maybe a difficult caster level check to cast a spell without expending a Hero Point? Knowledge or Spellcraft skill checks to learn or cast spells? With additional feats for favored spells of the spellcaster?

There would probably be ritual magic where you could give one of your Hero Points to the mage so he could use it to cast, and even evil rituals that stole Hero Points from the victims.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
SmiloDan wrote:


For Tolkien-like magic, I would use a variation of the Hero Point system in the APG. It would cost a Hero Point to cast a spell, and there would be an extensive feat tree for what level spell you could cast. Maybe a difficult caster level check to cast a spell without expending a Hero Point? Knowledge or Spellcraft skill checks to learn or cast spells? With additional feats for favored spells of the spellcaster?

There would probably be ritual magic where you could give one of your Hero Points to the mage so he could use it to cast, and even evil rituals that stole Hero Points from the victims.

I really like this one, it seems to me to achieve the flavor of magic in LotR. Gandalf only used magic sparingly, the arcane lock spell on the door in Khazad-dum, speak to animals on top of Orthanc, etc, but he made some really cool fireworks, many of which were clearly magical. So he used his Hero Points to cast the spells he needed at that moment, but for making his fireworks? Favored spell pyrotechnics, maybe a few illusion spells.

And in my opinion, most magic items should be more than simple +1 or whatever. Anduril was never flashy, didn't burst into flames or go through armor or anything, but it was a very powerful symbol, perhaps magically so. And I would also advocate the possibility of in-game magic-ing to items, while it doesn't come out and say it, I think the books imply that Sting gained something against spiders when Bilbo used it to slay one and named it. When Frodo draws it against Shelob in Two Towers, it has a blue flame. Now no wizard enchanted it with spider bane or anything, and it certainly wasn't crafted that way, but something gave it power.


Talynonyx wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:


For Tolkien-like magic, I would use a variation of the Hero Point system in the APG. It would cost a Hero Point to cast a spell, and there would be an extensive feat tree for what level spell you could cast. Maybe a difficult caster level check to cast a spell without expending a Hero Point? Knowledge or Spellcraft skill checks to learn or cast spells? With additional feats for favored spells of the spellcaster?

There would probably be ritual magic where you could give one of your Hero Points to the mage so he could use it to cast, and even evil rituals that stole Hero Points from the victims.

I really like this one, it seems to me to achieve the flavor of magic in LotR. Gandalf only used magic sparingly, the arcane lock spell on the door in Khazad-dum, speak to animals on top of Orthanc, etc, but he made some really cool fireworks, many of which were clearly magical. So he used his Hero Points to cast the spells he needed at that moment, but for making his fireworks? Favored spell pyrotechnics, maybe a few illusion spells.

And in my opinion, most magic items should be more than simple +1 or whatever. Anduril was never flashy, didn't burst into flames or go through armor or anything, but it was a very powerful symbol, perhaps magically so. And I would also advocate the possibility of in-game magic-ing to items, while it doesn't come out and say it, I think the books imply that Sting gained something against spiders when Bilbo used it to slay one and named it. When Frodo draws it against Shelob in Two Towers, it has a blue flame. Now no wizard enchanted it with spider bane or anything, and it certainly wasn't crafted that way, but something gave it power.

This is certainly an interesting idea and makes a great idea to use or adapt for a low magic campaign.

However: Sting was an Elven dagger (forged in Gondolin, as mentioned in The Hobbit), and like all Elven blades glowed in the presence of Orcs-- and presumably other unnatural creatures. The makers of the LotR film did interpret things somewhat like you did-- perhaps Bilbo naming it after the fight with the Mirkwood spiders had some shaping effect on its magic. But the magic derived from the innate magic of craft as mastered by the Noldor. See here. Hope this helps.


I agree that E6 is the way to go. Gandalf rarely uses anything I'd rate above a 3rd level spell. A sixth level fighter can do things that are flat-out super-heroic compared with ordinary, 1HD warriors, but he's not invincible.

Handling magic is tricky. Vancian magic clearly does not work well for the setting. You might try working with psionics or perhaps truenaming (from the 3E Tome of Magic). Either way, you'd need to modify the systems. You should probably treat magic item creation as the province of high level, highly skilled, NPC craftsmen. I would strongly recommend that you disallow full caster base classes. You might consider making all magic powers accessible only by feats, and perhaps making some of those feats epic.

For playable races, I'd recommend:
Humans of various nations/breeds
Dwarves
Hobbits
Half-Orcs or 'Goblin-Men'(Not the Uruk-Hai)

Elves would be level adjusted.
Stat differences for some of the human breeds might be appropriate. A full blooded Dunedain/Numenorian should probably be LA+1.
If your campaign is set far enough back, you might replace Hobbits with Petty Dwarves (yes, I know that they are not related).

PC classes:
Fighter (fighting-men, knights, soldiers, etc.)
Rogue (Burglars, scouts, etc.)

You might also consider using only the NPC classes:
Warrior
Aristocrat
Expert
Commoner

The generic classes from 3E UA could be useful.

Regional and racial traits could be devised specifically for the setting.


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You may want to use one of the two spell-less Ranger archetypes printed in the APG or Kobold Quarterly.
Truenaming has a better feel to it than Psionics for the magic used by the Wizards and Sauron. The Elven magics tend to be song, craft, or inituitive in nature. A rebuilt Bard or Magus with low-key spells like Resist Elements could be used as an "Elf class."

Creation of magic items, as detailed by Tolkien in Morgoth's Ring requires a bit of the creator's spirit/life-force. Morgoth infused the gold of Arda with a little of his power (in a nod to the Rhinegold, originally) and that is why it inspires desire and greed.

E6 is probably a good idea, though the First Age heroes and the Wizards probably get to level 12 or so. Slow advancement is also important.

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If you use super slow advancement, you might want to give some other awards out besides level advancement. Maybe a bonus trait at the halfway point or something?

Superslow advancement can be kind of frustrating, especially if the PCs do a lot of one thing, but never get better at it. For example, if they spend 6 months sailing on ships, they should get better at sailing ships. But if they don't go up a level during those 6 months, then it's kind of frustrating and unrealistic, especially if all sort of exciting adventure is going on.

Even worse, if they level up near the end of the ship sailing portion of the campaign, they might put some points in Profession sailor, then spend a year trekking through a desert, never putting their hard won knowledge to the test. Then they might feel like they wasted their skill points, feats, etc., which are VERY valuable in a low level, super slow advancing campaign.

The one campaign I played like that in, I lucked out and played a ranger, and the campaign was mostly about exploring the woods and dealing with dangerous animals, which were my favored enemy. I know some of the players became frustrated because they had made less optimal decisions about their character creation. For example, the rogue archer and my character pretty much filled the same niche, except my character was much, much better at it (better BAB, better HD, better saves), so he was like a 2nd-best version of my guy. Trapfinding wasn't that much of a concern, he almost never got to use his evasion, and most of his other skills didn't come up much (Bluff, etc.) against animals, but my Survival skill was used all the time. And he couldn't even multi-class into ranger or fighter or whatever because we only went up levels twice.

And the DM was an excellent DM, so it wasn't like he was trying to sideline some PCs or only designed one kind of adventure. It was just the style of the campaign made some character niches much, much more enjoyable than others. Versatility also seems to be key when it comes to low-level, super slow advancement.


William Edmunds wrote:

Yeah, this old chestnut has been around for a while with D&D 3.5 (and the recent thread about using PF for a Hobbit campaign), but let's revisit it anyways. How would you house rule Pathfinder to work for a Third Age middle earth campaign?

Some of my thoughts:
- Either eliminate spellcasting for PCs or severely limit it. Spells are potentially fatiguing and do not use memorization. Overt spells will attract attention. Spellcasting is potentially corrupting.
- Introduce Fate-like aspects to reflect a character's "Doom" and "Destiny"
- magic items are exceedingly rare and are never just a "+1 sword"; they all have a lineage and importance of some type. The power of such items is often level with the power and importance of the possessor
- elves don't use spells per se, but gain special 'magical' abilities with their skills as they increase their ranks. For instance, An elf with a +10 or better in Insight would gain a subtly mind reading ability, sort of like Galadriel. An elf with Stealth +10 or better can run on snow or grass without leaving a mark. Maybe a +10 bonus to The same type of stuff could be applied to other races. Dwarves may be able to enchant a weapon to +1 with a Craft rating of +10 or better, etc. Just off the top of my head.

Anyone care to add to the list? I'm not interested in hearing "Pathfinder should not ever be used for middle earth." Don't rain on my parade ;)

I think morality should be a really significant feature of an LotR game, and distinguish the setting from others which are popular nowadays. The defunct Decipher game separated magic into Wizardry and Sorcery, the latter embracing spells of domination and destruction. It used a Corruption points system, perhaps similar to Dark Side Points system. Using Sorcery to dominate someone's mind or blast your opponents to bits added Corruption. If Corruption ever equaled or exceeded a primary attribute called Bearing (basically Charisma), the character would become an NPC in the service of the Dark Lord.

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