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Old 10-06-2014, 10:39 AM   #1
Anders
 
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Default [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

AFAIK, the Second Age has been disregarded as an adventure setting but I think it could be turned into one. I can see several paths to adventure.
  • On Numenor you could play Faithful vs. Faithless skullduggery.
  • On the mainland there's always either side of colonization. I believe that the Numenorans started out as relatively nice "White Man's Burden" people and ended up more like actual colonialists. Or worse.
  • Then there's the war against Sauron. The One Ring is forged somewhere around 1600 SA, the War of the Elves and Sauron began in 1693 and Sauron wasn't defeated until SA 3441, so there's plenty of time for adventure.
  • A "post-Apocalyptic" setting could be played early in the Second Age. After all, humans and elves must have had a certain "what the hell just happened"-feeling after the War of Wrath.
  • And there are probably artifacts lying aroung from the War of Wrath (either side) which can cause all sorts of trouble. At least early in the age.

Pros:
  • You get a chance to fight Sauron without all those inconvenient Main Characters muddling things up. There are important characters, of course, but they're not as well established.
  • In fact, the entire age is rather sparsely detailed, making it possible for villains to exist without upsetting things. We know who was king of Numenor at any given time, but who was the governor of Umbar?
  • There's more magic around - a general theme is that the world goes from prominent magic to subtle magic. Might be nice for many people.
  • There's also probably more technology around, surprisingly. The men of Numenor strike me as TL 4 without gunpowder, while their lesser heirs in Gondor are probably TL 2 or 3.

Cons:
  • There's a ton of work to do. You need to sketch a half-dozen human cultures; more if you go a-colonizing to the South.
  • You may lose the LotR feeling.
  • Everyone will want to play an elf. Because Legolas. :)

So, what do people think?
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Old 10-06-2014, 10:58 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

I think Legolas was a Mary Sue for somebody and that Gimli was more entertaining. Also that he has no business being in the Hobbit. Bloody immortals. :p

Not having read much of the Similiarn, or however it may be spelt, I think it would be interesting to at the very least try a second age campaign.
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Old 10-06-2014, 11:59 AM   #3
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

Much of the MERP material published by Iron Crown Enterprices dealt with eras earlier than the LOTR events. Mid third age, or often 2nd age or perhaps even 1st age. And I'm sure there were some pre-Sun supplements too.

Part of the reason may have been that there were more wiggle room then, wthout the PCs getting crowded out by Gandalf and so forth. But I'm sure another reason was that the MERP/Rolemaster system's magic system was extremely ill suited to Middle-earth, but that this ill fit was less evident in earlier ages and so easier to conceal.

Something like GURPS' Ritual Path Magic system could work well (although a different Path set would be better, I think). I know William Stoddard ran a BESM 2nd Edition campaign set after Sauron got the One Ring back (i.e. late third age altenate history), but that involved building one or probably several magic systems out of BESM's building blocks.

One could do the same with the build system in GURPS Powers, making generous use of Enhancements such as Low Signature and No Signature (but less generously than if one strives for a Third Age feel), and of course much "skillful lore" can be represended with levels of Aspected High TL, e.g. for medicine or metallurgy/smithing rather than with actual Powers. In fact the whole actively and visibly casting of spells thing from D&D should be much reduced, but not removed entirely, and (one of my pet peeves) it should be non-trivial to determine whether an item is magical or not, to achieve a proper world ambience.
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Old 10-06-2014, 12:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poonbahbah View Post
I think Legolas was a Mary Sue for somebody and that Gimli was more entertaining. Also that he has no business being in the Hobbit. Bloody immortals.
My favorite comment on that came from a friend who remarked on how he had clearly pined away after losing Tauriel. . . .

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Old 10-06-2014, 12:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

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Originally Posted by Peter Knutsen View Post
I know William Stoddard ran a BESM 2nd Edition campaign set after Sauron got the One Ring back (i.e. late third age altenate history), but that involved building one or probably several magic systems out of BESM's building blocks.
I still have the campaign protocols and the writeups of the Rings of Power if anyone wants them. Just PM me with your e-mail.

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Old 10-06-2014, 12:36 PM   #6
jason taylor
 
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anders View Post
AFAIK, the Second Age has been disregarded as an adventure setting but I think it could be turned into one. I can see several paths to adventure.
  • On Numenor you could play Faithful vs. Faithless skullduggery.
  • On the mainland there's always either side of colonization. I believe that the Numenorans started out as relatively nice "White Man's Burden" people and ended up more like actual colonialists. Or worse.
  • Then there's the war against Sauron. The One Ring is forged somewhere around 1600 SA, the War of the Elves and Sauron began in 1693 and Sauron wasn't defeated until SA 3441, so there's plenty of time for adventure.
  • A "post-Apocalyptic" setting could be played early in the Second Age. After all, humans and elves must have had a certain "what the hell just happened"-feeling after the War of Wrath.
  • And there are probably artifacts lying aroung from the War of Wrath (either side) which can cause all sorts of trouble. At least early in the age.

Pros:
  • You get a chance to fight Sauron without all those inconvenient Main Characters muddling things up. There are important characters, of course, but they're not as well established.
  • In fact, the entire age is rather sparsely detailed, making it possible for villains to exist without upsetting things. We know who was king of Numenor at any given time, but who was the governor of Umbar?
  • There's more magic around - a general theme is that the world goes from prominent magic to subtle magic. Might be nice for many people.
  • There's also probably more technology around, surprisingly. The men of Numenor strike me as TL 4 without gunpowder, while their lesser heirs in Gondor are probably TL 2 or 3.

Cons:
  • There's a ton of work to do. You need to sketch a half-dozen human cultures; more if you go a-colonizing to the South.
  • You may lose the LotR feeling.
  • Everyone will want to play an elf. Because Legolas. :)

So, what do people think?
Most of the later part of the First Age seems to have been post apocalyptic in nature(actually I think the term is Dark Fantasy) anyway.
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Old 10-06-2014, 09:29 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anders View Post
AFAIK, the Second Age has been disregarded as an adventure setting but I think it could be turned into one.
This.^^^ Yes.

JRRT himself commented that he never said much about the Second Age, in part because it's a dark time in Middle-earth, for the most part, but Middle-earth is a big place, and a dark period can be an interesting one, too.

Quote:

I can see several paths to adventure. [LIST][*]On Numenor you could play Faithful vs. Faithless skullduggery.
Or, if you want something a little lighter, there's always the early days of the Guild of Venturers. It's almost made-to-order for certain kinds of role playing. In the early days of the Numenorean sea mastery, the Guild were their explorers, the men who were going all over the world, exploring the lands and seas.

Middle-earth is not the only continent in Tolkien's world (though it may be the biggest), there are other mortal lands. Who knows who, or what, live there? Of course, there's Middle-earth's vast coasts as well, most of which are off JRRT's maps, anything could be there.

The thing about this setting is that it's well-defined. The explorers can go forth, adventure, and come back to Numenor, which is a safe haven and secure home base. Local politics occasionally mess with them, such as when Prince Aldarion fell out with his father King Tar-Meneldur for a while and the Guild were forbidden to sail, but usually they were popular and for several generations they were the great heroes of Numenor.

(You probably do need to decide if it's a round-earth or flat-earth approach, though, because it'll effect this campaign.)

Quote:

[*]On the mainland there's always either side of colonization. I believe that the Numenorans started out as relatively nice "White Man's Burden" people and ended up more like actual colonialists. Or worse.
Worse. Much, much, much worse, toward the end of the Second Age. As the Dunedain became ever more corrupt and alienated, they went from paternalistic teachers, to tribute-gatherers, to conquerers, to slave-holders, eventually degenerating into literal devil-worshipers who practice human sacrifice to Melkor. This last only lasted a few decades, though, before the End.

That would feed into a campaign set in Numenor in that last nasty period, too.

The plight of the Faithful didn't arise overnight. It arose gradually, getting a little bit worse with each generation, over the course of several generations. Over a thousand years spanned the gap between the first of the rebellious Kings, Tar-Ciryatan, and the last monster, Ar-Pharazon. Tar-Ciryatan or Tar-Atanamir, proud and rebellious though they were, would probably have been almost as horrified by Ar-Gimilzor or Ar-Pharazon as the Faithful of later ages were.

But in the last few generations, all the tropes of espionage and civil war stories can apply. The Faithful were actively outlawed, in the later years of Pharazon's reign, any Faithful Dunedan in Numenor had a very high-point Secret Disad. There could be an 'underground railroad' smuggling Faithful Numenoreans off the island, or hiding them from the King's Men. There could be partisan rescue ops for prisoners slated for sacrifice. There could be an effort to expose Sauron as the fraud he was.

One problem with many scenarios in this setting, though, is that we know the Outcome already. Unless you're prepared to change that, there's going to be a sense of futility in play around a lot of things, unless the players aren't familiar with Tolkien's stories.

But the setting could work.

Note also that there are various accounts of Ar-Pharazon in JRRT's writings. In some versions, in his youth he Wasn't So Bad, he and Amandil (the Lord of Andunie and father of Elendil, distant ancestor of Aragorn) were close friends, and at least one version even said that he might have had some Faithful sympathies!

So if you wanted to go with that route, you could surprise players who know what happened with an encounter with young Lord Pharazon, only to discover that he's actually somewhat helpful and useful! If someone calls foul, you can point out that it's at least semi-canonical.

There could also be a hint of Tragedy about it.

Note too that the Downfall of Numenor is not the end of the Second Age. The Second Age goes on for centuries yet, and this is the period when Arnor and Gondor are being founded, and Sauron returns to Mordor. There are possibilities here, too!

One backhanded possibility: nobody (or almost nobody) thinks of themselves as being corrupt. The King's Men wouldn't have considered themselves corrupt or degenerate. So the Downfall would have left the surviving King's Men with some Hard Choices to make.

We know from JRRT that most of them remained corrupt, becoming the Black Numenoreans who tended to side with Sauron and fight against Arnor and Gondor. But I would imagine at least a few had their worldview shaken up by the Downfall, recognized Sauron's treachery, and repented.

So imagine a party of former Numenorean King's Men, living in Arnor or Gondor, trying to redeem themselves, learning how to be 'righteous' Dunedain, and coming to terms with the fact that the Faithful they'd been raised to see as disloyal or religious fanatics or old-fashioned or whatever were Right All Along, and are now on top, running the show, holding the scepter and making the laws. Moreover, coming to terms with the fact that it's right and proper that those people are now on top.

Also, in Numenor the religious schism split families, friends, husbands and wives, so now our repentant King's Men may meet up with those people again, as well.

For players who like intense character-role-playing, that could be interesting.

Quote:
[*] A "post-Apocalyptic" setting could be played early in the Second Age. After all, humans and elves must have had a certain "what the hell just happened"-feeling after the War of Wrath.
Especially those who weren't actively involved in the previous events. The Elves, Men, and Dwarves beyond the Blue Mountains were mainly peripheral to the War of the Jewels. Melkor did leave Thangorodrim to travel to the birth-region of Men and precipitate the Fall of Man, but after the Men spread across the world, there were many tribes and nations and peoples of various races living across Middle-earth when the hammer came down.

Last edited by Johnny1A.2; 10-06-2014 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 10-06-2014, 10:44 PM   #8
whswhs
 
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
Note too that the Downfall of Numenor is not the end of the Second Age. The Second Age goes on for centuries yet, and this is the period when Arnor and Gondor are being founded, and Sauron returns to Mordor. There are possibilities here, too!
The Downfall is 3319; Isildur takes the One Ring in 3441. A long time but not "centuries yet."

Quote:
One backhanded possibility: nobody (or almost nobody) thinks of themselves as being corrupt. The King's Men wouldn't have considered themselves corrupt or degenerate. So the Downfall would have left the surviving King's Men with some Hard Choices to make.

We know from JRRT that most of them remained corrupt, becoming the Black Numenoreans who tended to side with Sauron and fight against Arnor and Gondor. But I would imagine at least a few had their worldview shaken up by the Downfall, recognized Sauron's treachery, and repented.

So imagine a party of former Numenorean King's Men, living in Arnor or Gondor, trying to redeem themselves, learning how to be 'righteous' Dunedain, and coming to terms with the fact that the Faithful they'd been raised to see as disloyal or religious fanatics or old-fashioned or whatever were Right All Along, and are now on top, running the show, holding the scepter and making the laws. Moreover, coming to terms with the fact that it's right and proper that those people are now on top.

Also, in Numenor the religious schism split families, friends, husbands and wives, so now our repentant King's Men may meet up with those people again, as well.

For players who like intense character-role-playing, that could be interesting.
Yes. It would have what Tolkien calls "applicability."

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Old 10-07-2014, 10:10 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
(You probably do need to decide if it's a round-earth or flat-earth approach, though, because it'll effect this campaign.)
It was flat before the fall of Numenor and round after. No?
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:30 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Tolkien] Playing in the Second Age

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One problem with many scenarios in this setting, though, is that we know the Outcome already. Unless you're prepared to change that, there's going to be a sense of futility in play around a lot of things, unless the players aren't familiar with Tolkien's stories.
That's a matter for historical settings too. I prefer low-power adventuring anyway.
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