My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a well written, nicely illustrated book. Maybe it’s sad they recycled the illustrations from their other RPG: ‘The One Ring’. The Loremaster’s guide to Adventures in Middle-earth, the equivalent of the dnd 5e dungeon master’s guide.
Since this book uses the OGL 5e rule set, the book expands on what is already known from the official dungeon master’s guide and adds new rules also recycled ‘The One Ring’. The only part of DnD that is totally different and changed is the magic system.
The book starts with a very nice description of the main setting. The game is called adventures in Middle-Earth but it mainly focuses on the Wilderlands, or Rhovanion. That compromises the Misty Mountains, Grey Mountains, Blue Mountains, Mirkwood, The River Anduin, Long-Lake, The Lonely Mountain with Erebor inside it, lake-town or Esgaroth, Dale,… You know, the places from The Hobbit.
The main town of the game is Esgaroth, the new town after Smaug destroyed the old one (at the end of the Hobbit). This town is the starting point and main base for the players to start the game. The description of the town is very detailed with different districts, important NPC’s described and stats for the town-watch etc… It’s all you need as a master to get this town alive.
Throughout the book there are pop-ups which give you ‘adventure seeds’. These are inspirational tips for side-quests. Which are pretty cool and make it easy when your players don’t know what to do, or are stuck in the main quest and need to do something else.
The game takes place 5 years after ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’. In 2946. As a gamemaster it is necessary to known all the events taking place before and after this event. So this book also features a timeline with the history of middle earth, even going back thousand of years. In this timeline it is made clear which kind of characters know or remember certain parts of history. Some of the most important events are big secrets. For example the explorations of the necromancers castle, Dol Goldur, by Gandalf is only known by members of the White Council. Very awesome.
Additional there is a new bestiary with 4-5 kinds of trolls, orcs, spiders… Since the lord of the rings has many different subraces, which the dungeons and dragons’ bestiary doesn’t have. Also there is a list of NPC’s you can use throughout the campaign: guards, thiefs, chieftains, sages,…
But the big addition to the dungeons and dragons games are some rules and concepts from ‘The One Ring’. These are the phases in which this game is divided. You have the fellowship phase, Journey phase and adventuring phase and then there are also audiences, sanctuaries, patrons, etc…
The adventuring phase is ‘normal play’, as known in every other RPG. It expands with extra rules for rests and inspiration. Rests are mainly taking place in sanctuaries or safe places while traveling. The inspiration rules are now the same as in DnD, since DnD also uses the concept of inspiration.
The Journey Phase is a sort of fast-travel system. Where you can undertake a long journey without having the need to describe and plays weeks of travel. Sort of like in the Baldur’s Gate computer game, where you travel between map markers for 4 – 8 hours without actually playing it. But this time the travel time takes weeks. The Journey Phase has its own rules and players need to prepare and plot their journey. Scripted and random events can occur, players have to assign tasks to each other, etc… It’s almost a game-in-a-game.
Then there is the Fellowship phase. That is a phase between the game sessions. When you end a game session you can have your character live on by giving him or her a task to complete. So when your group of friends can’t play for a certain amount of time, it doesn’t feel like the world was set on pause. These rules are so expanded it’s also a game-in-a-game.
Audiences are new rules for when you get an audience with an important NPC. For example a Chieftain, a steward, a wizard, a king, a lord. For example: an audience can give you the opportunity to unlock a new sanctuary where you can rest.
Next are Patrons, important NPC’s, like for example Gandalf or Elrond, who give you, the master, the opportunity to let your players feel connected to the main events taking place in middle earth and build important relationships with important figures.
Magic is totally different from in DnD, since in DnD spells are too powerful. In the movies, magic is very rarely used, and when it’s used everybody stands in awe or it’s so powerful, the ‘normal’ folk and warriors are literally blown away by it. But wizards can’t machine-gun magic missiles around. The timing and effects are different from in DnD. So there is a list with new spells for the game and a list of dnd spells who are middle-earth appropriate. Druid, Cleric, Sorcerer and Warlock spells all go towards the wizard since these classes don’t exist in this world.
Overall, very good book. Enjoyed reading it. Sad that it has a different dimensions (literally the book is 1/3 inch wider) than the Player’s Guide.