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Old 02-09-2018, 09:03 AM   #1
Elrond
 
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Default Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

I prefer my fantasy a bit more Tolkien-y and a bit less D&D-ish. I especially don't like mages tramping around fireballing things. Magic has inherent issues:
  • It's very difficult to balance properly: low-level spellcasters tend to be underpowered, while high-level casters tend te be overpowered.
  • It's just too convenient: given enough spells, magic can solve any problem. And if spellcasters are willing to rest a lot, magic is basically unlimited. Not even food is a limiting factor with a "create food" spell.

So, what would I change?
The big one: no spellcasters. In Tolkien (and actually loads of fantasy literature) there's (almost) no actual spellcasting going on. That doesn't mean there's no magic. Magic is just more "built in". There can still be magical items and certain persons or creatures can still have special powers because of who they are: Aragorn has super healing powers because he is the True King. Shadowfax is more than just a horse. Gandalf as a spellcaster would be the laughing stock of the Forgotten Realms, but he clearly has special powers.

And the other one: elves. Tolkienian elves do hunt and they do forage. So sense of duty (nature) should be less limiting and also probably give fewer points.

In detail:
occupations
With no spellcasting, there will obviously be no wizards.

Music is powerful, so there's no reason bard songs wouldn't work. But downright spellcasting will not work. Bards will have to concentrate on songs and social skills, for the rest bards can stay unchanged.

There's no reason why chi powers and holy powers wouldn't work. So Holy Warriors and Martial Artists can remain unchanged, maybe under another name for flavour.

Clerics and Druids will come very close to each other without spells. I would merge them and elaborate on herbal healing. Gathering herbs, brewing potions, treating wounds and disease with herbal recipes. That kind of thing. They can also inherit the intellectual aspect of wizards (research, savoir-faire). I would call the result Loremaster. That has a nice Tolkien-y ring to it. Maybe still some split could be made between more urban, priestly types (research, savoir-faire, holy powers) and rural, healer types (healing and animal/plant empathy) but I fear both would turn out a bit limited.

Elves
As said, Tolkienian elves do hunt and forage and they can camp without actually lugging tents along. Having an elf around will save on the weight of camping equipment. Of course the elf will have to do the associated rolls. Elves tend to be a bit "my way or the highway" so hunting and foraging will have to be done the elven way (ecologically). Of course for elves that is second nature, but anyone else hunting with an elf in the party will suffer a penalty (-2 seems reasonable). For the rest they should still be nature lovers, just not the soppy kind, so no attacking non-evil creatures except in self-defence.
Elves have magery 0. That becomes a great asset with no spellcasting: it gives them a monopoly on identifying magic artifacts. I would rename it to something like "Elven lore". Some learned non-elven people might know about specific artifacts, but only elves can recognise an unknown artifact on sight (because they are ancient and dad knew Feanor in his youth and all that).

All this makes elves more powerful and should also make their template more expensive. Making sense of duty (nature) give less points can do that. Also magery 0 can be made more expensive. I would say some 10 points all together.

Does this sound kind of reasonable?
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:44 AM   #2
Tom H.
 
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

I also prefer a world with subtler magic.

The Tolkien concept does feel grittier and more grounded while still imbuing the world with the mystery of magic and the unknown which is essential for fantasy.

That said, I can't help but wanting to give my magic users the option of hurling the classic missile spell in combat.

I do like the GURPS concept that magic must draw on some power source. Adjusting and limiting the power source is a good possible approach to constraining spell casters.
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:53 AM   #3
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

Come to think of it.

Tolkien's magic could be a bit extreme too.

If I recall from the Fellowship of the Ring, I guess we were supposed to be impressed with Gandalf setting Wargs on fire, while Saruman was controlling whole weather systems from a distance.
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Old 02-09-2018, 11:52 PM   #4
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

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Originally Posted by Tom H. View Post

If I recall from the Fellowship of the Ring, I guess we were supposed to be impressed with Gandalf setting Wargs on fire, while Saruman was controlling whole weather systems from a distance.
The wizards in Tolkien were supernatural beings. All were far more powerful in theory than they ever showed in reality. All 5 were more or less equivalent to Saron... they all were Maiar.

No mortal spell casters are shown in LotR. Even Gladriel’s direct spell casting in the movies doesn’t happen in the books. I don’t think Gandalf setting fire to the wargs happened either.

Indiscriminate use of powerful magic broke the world in the first Age. The Istari were given the mandate to go to Middle Earth and influence, not to force a victory directly. Saruman is willing to bend the rules more than Gandalf... and he IS more powerful overall, but both were more powerful than either are willing to openly show.

If you’re going to do Tolkien-ish I’d suggest using inmate powers rather than learned spells. The Istari certainly are expressing their inmate power when they use magic rather than casting a traditional spell. A magically oriented being could learn new powers over time, but much more expensively than just learning a spell. Gandalf’s breaking spell and aura of protection that he uses multiple times across all the movies is an example... he uses the same power repeatedly rather than using different spells.

Ritual magic also probably has a place, much of the magic done in Tolkien’s works is probably ritual magic, just with different looking rituals than you might expect.... and performed by incredibly powerful beings who don’t require much if any help and performed in places of great innate power.

Also much direct magic seems to come from magic items. Rings, wizard staves, swords... one possibility is to have rare magic items created with ritual magic, then have the magic items be the primary expression of magic in the world. The magic is subtle even then... rings of leadership and influence, swords that glow in the presence of an enemy, mithril and adamantine armor.... wands of lightning, not so much.

There is rune magic in LotR as well.

Last edited by tanksoldier; 02-10-2018 at 12:15 AM.
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Old 02-10-2018, 05:40 AM   #5
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

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Originally Posted by tanksoldier View Post
The wizards in Tolkien were supernatural beings. All were far more powerful in theory than they ever showed in reality. All 5 were more or less equivalent to Saron... they all were Maiar.
Maiar encompasses an enormous range of power. Everyone from Sauron all the way down to the humblest handmaiden is a Maia if they started in the Halls of Iluvatar. You can't just say "they all were Maiar," brush off your hands, and walk away.

Quote:
No mortal spell casters are shown in LotR. Even Gladriel’s direct spell casting in the movies doesn’t happen in the books. I don’t think Gandalf setting fire to the wargs happened either.
I have already pointed out a bunch of mortal spell casters in my previous post. There are more. In Tolkien a "spell caster" is not someone with a special talent or godlike power; it is simply someone who utters a spell. A spell is any incantation that affects the world. Anyone can cast a spell if they know how and if they can put enough personal will or artistic ability into it.

Quote:
Indiscriminate use of powerful magic broke the world in the first Age.
Not at all. A war between godlike powers broke the world in the First Age. That was not indiscriminate.

Quote:
If you’re going to do Tolkien-ish I’d suggest using inmate powers rather than learned spells. The Istari certainly are expressing their inmate power when they use magic rather than casting a traditional spell. A magically oriented being could learn new powers over time, but much more expensively than just learning a spell.
I don't think there's any distinction in Tolkien between "innate power" and "traditional spell" as sources of magic. What is a "traditional spell," exactly, according to you?
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Old 02-10-2018, 06:31 PM   #6
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

Quote:
Hum, what do you mean with false?
I misunderstood what you were saying.

Quote:
Maiar encompasses an enormous range of power.
Of course. You could write an entire dissertation on the beings of Middle Earth and people have done.

The point it, the Istari _all_ have more power available than they actually use.

Quote:
I don't think there's any distinction in Tolkien between "innate power" and "traditional spell" as sources of magic. What is a "traditional spell," exactly, according to you?
I'm trying to think of a way to make spell-like effects more expensive but not completely unobtainable... buying them like a superpower or something. The Istari cast spells because they are supernatural beings, not because they are mortals who memorized something in a spell book.
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Old 02-10-2018, 08:57 PM   #7
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

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Originally Posted by tanksoldier View Post
I don’t think Gandalf setting fire to the wargs happened either.
In books this happened in The Hobbit, as did the use of some flash effect to blind a bunch of goblins, and also some sort of spell to extinguish all the goblins' lights to allow the captured dwarves to escape.

In Fellowship Gandalf's direct and blatant spell casting was limited to (failing) spells of unbinding and opening on the door to Moria. He allowed that he could cast more while they were on Caradras (and the bad weather there was never shown to be more than the mountain's normal state) but that every magically attuned being for hundreds of miles would know he'd done it.
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

Middle-earth spells aren't usually fireballs, but they're not as absent as all that.

Glorfindel casts a spell over the handle of the knife that stabbed Frodo. Finrod and Sauron had a song-battle. Luthien sang Sauron's tower to the ground. Every time someone sings to make something happen, that's a spell: Frodo tries to sing over the trees of the Old Forest (and fails; they have a stronger song). Tom Bombadil sings and what he commands happens. Gandalf does cast lightning bolts and lights fires and knows opening spells and words of command. The dwarves of Thorin's company cast spells over the gold they took from the trolls' lair. The feasting elves of Mirkwood cast spells of sleep over Bilbo and Thorin when they intrude. Finrod sings so well that he can actually conjure visions. Frodo is affected by the spell of the barrow-wight, and Bombadil breaks that spell by scattering its hoard in the sunlight. Saruman is casting a spell whenever he controls people with this voice. There's more.

Middle-earth is also very psychic. Don't use that word of course, but there's plenty of telepathy going on among the powerful people. Gandalf explicitly talks about his clairvoyance and that of Sauron, and Galadriel makes hints in that direction too. Gandalf can also influence people with his will, such as when Bilbo is unable to give Frodo the ring, and when he strives against the will of Denethor (at which point his telepathic perception filter goes down and Pippin starts to wonder exactly who and what Gandalf is). Ordinary people are constantly having visions in dreams, often of contemporary events elsewhere, sometimes of the future.

And then there are all the magic items.

Middle-earth is a very magical place that includes plenty of spells. They're not of the "abracadabra... zap!" kind for the most part, but there are those too. That means to make Dungeon Fantasy more like Middle-earth, you have to mostly gut the existing magic system and add in multiple totally new magic systems. Focus on psychic powers, but give them a different name.
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:14 PM   #9
Kromm
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

Hi! I'm the designer of the DFRPG and the line developer of GURPS. Here's my honest answer:

I'd recommend using fully general GURPS for the experience you seek. It would be fair to say that the DFRPG is a lot like the rules and supplements GURPS provides for fantasy, except with most of the aspects you like dialed back to 1 or 2, while the D&D-like parts are cranked up to 11. You could, with considerable work, make the DFRPG do what you want . . . but you'll keep running into missing pieces. The missing pieces – not just subtler magic systems (including ones that get away from spells and make magic inherent to races and items) and guidelines for creating nonhuman races (like your elves), but also non-adventuring crafts and professions (because to have swords, you need miners, smelters, smiths, and so on), socio-economic mechanics (for guilds, knights, monarchs, etc.), mass-combat rules (for large-scale warfare), and a thousand other things – are all in GURPS.

If you already have the DFRPG, this isn't a suggestion that you should toss it in the bin and go out and buy a ton of GURPS materials! The DFRPG is useful as a core. But you might want to consider posting in the GURPS forum and asking what supplements provide the parts you want to add on.

Just a suggestion!
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:05 AM   #10
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Default Re: Mod idea: a bit more Tolkien-y

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Here's my honest answer
And a great one as well.

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Originally Posted by tanksoldier View Post
Sauruman is willing to bend the rules more than Gandalf... and he IS more powerful overall, but both were more powerful than they are willing to openly show.
From Unfinished Tales I remember an explanation of Saruman being very interested in magic items of power in exchange of human empathy. However Gandalf is there with his ring enhancing, I believe, fire magic mainly for amusing effects.
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