Monday, September 26, 2016

Adventures in Middle Earth (Player's Guide: Races)

Greeting Game Fans and welcome back to Middle Earth.  Today we’re going to cover the races offered in the Adventures in Middle Earth: Player’s Guide as part of our coverage of that fantastic book.  Ever wanted to play a Dunedain, or a Dwarf from the Blue Mountains?  Pondered being a hobbit embarking on his first adventure?  Has the Riddermark called you across it’s plains and valleys?  This book has you covered and more.  So let’s dig into the Races of Middle Earth.

Now to be perfectly fair, Adventures in Middle Earth refer to them as Cultures, and this is a more appropriate description than Race.  Culture covers everything that is normally covered in a racial description and offers one new trait.  Standard of Living is a reflection of how wealthy a given cultural group is.  This adds another layer of immersion into Middle Earth, and gives me as a player a much more complete picture of who my people are and where they come from.  

I think this was a very smart choice by the folks at Cubicle 7.  They have one of the greatest settings ever written (possibly the finest fantasy setting ever written) and they are working hard to bring that feeling to the tabletop.  The cultures feel different, which is important because they have to as faithful to the source material as possible while still being entertainingly distinct enough to play as different characters on the tabletop.  (For those of you who are world building, take notes, these are interesting, immersive race choices that feel like iconic fantasy).  

The Bardings are the cultural offshoots of the same broad group that also gave rise to the Beornings and the Woodmen.  They have resettled the ruined city of Dale and are quickly becoming masterful merchants and thriving traders.  Bardings have the following traits to keep an eye out for.

First, they have a Prosperous Standard of Living, representing their recently earned wealth and prosperity.  They are often considered to be the best equipped of the Mannish cultures in the Wilderland, and can be identified as such.  They have the Clear-Eyed trait, and at character Creation have access to one Barding Cultural Virtue (We’ll cover Virtues next week, but suffice it they are somewhere between super feat and ability score increase in terms of character growth.  Mannish cultures start with one, other cultures can select one at Level 4).  

The mountain folk and hunters that follow Beorn the Skin-Changer protect the wild places and the river crossings.  Made of the folk who forsook the company of others by choice or by necessity, the Beornings are fiercely loyal to their Chieftain Beorn.  The Beorning folk have these traits.

They have a Martial Standard of Living, representing their functional wealth without being ostentatious.  They have the Angry trait, and at creation can access one of the Beorning Virtues.  Beornings are an interesting culture because they represent a culture of castoffs and misfits.  In Middle Earth, they’ve adopted a leader, and fill a necessary role in protecting the Wilderland from the Shadow.  

The last descendants of the ancient kingdom of Arnor, the Dunedain fiercely protect the North from the servants of Shadow.  Travelling tirelessly through the forests and other dark places, these scions of lost nobility are often the first line of defense from the dark things that wander Middle Earth.  The Dunedain have the following racial traits.

Dunedain have a Martial Standard of living.  They have the resources to help them finish their missions, but are not rich.  They also have the Lore of Numenor and Raised in the Wild traits.  Like the other Mannish cultures, they have a Dunedain Virtue at creation.  

Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain
The Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain have recently reclaimed their ancestral home in the Lonely Mountain, and brought industry and trade back to the region. The Kingdom Under the Mountain has resurged, and the Dwarves are hard at work restoring their ancestral home and glories.  The Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain have two origins to pick from in addition to their cultural traits.

First, the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain are Rich.  They have the fabulous wealth of the Kingdom Under the Mountain and are expert craftsmen to make use of the raw materials of the underground home. The dwarves also posses Dwarven Resilience and Night Vision, in addition to Dwarven Weapon Training.  The Erebor origin have Dwarven Toughness and Road Wisdom, while the Iron Hills origin have the Tool for War Trait.  All Dwarves have an ability bonus to Constitution, while Erebor adds to Wisdom, and Iron Hills adds to Strength.  

Elves of Mirkwood
The Elves of Mirkwood have stood as tireless guardians of their ancient forest home.  Suspicious of outsiders and slow to trust, the Elves of Mirkwood walk hidden paths through their home to defend it from all who trespass.  The Elves of Mirkwood have a decidedly martial bend to their philosophy and are a culture ready for war.  They have the following traits.

The Elves of Mirkwood are a Martial culture.  They spend their wealth on preparing the defenses of their forest and are not flashy with their wealth.  They have the Night Vision and Eyes of the Elves traits.  They’re also proficient with a variety of weapons, and have the A Whisper Through the Leaves trait to get around stealthily.  

The Hobbits of the Shire
It would be hard to tell the story of Middle Earth without the Hobbits.  Short of stature, but deep in tradition, The Hobbits are a people who value safety and security.  Things that are out of the ordinary are unwelcome in the Shire, and the Hobbits who live there would rather avoid changes to their corner of the world.  The Hobbits have a few options to consider in addition to their racial traits.

Hobbit culture is affluent with a wide variety of trade and agriculture to carry them finanicially.  They have a Prosperous Standard of Living.  Hobbits are also Resilient to the corrupting influence of the Shadow,and Noble Pursuits.  To round out their normal traits, they have Hobbit Nimbleness and Hobbit Elusiveness.  The Harfoot Hobbits are Unobtrusive, while the Stoor Hobbits are extremely strong, and the Fallowhide family are Students of Old Lore.  

Men of Bree
The men who settled Bree are all that remains of the ancient realm of Eriador.  The Bree Folk are an island of civilization in the middle of a vast wilderness, and maintain their small villages and towns.  Many fine stories have started in the Prancing Pony, and more adventurers have travelled down the old roads into myth and legend than anywhere else.  The Men of Bree have the following traits.  

The Men of Bree maintain a Prosperous Standard of Living (primarily from the protection offered by the Rangers of the North).  They have the Crossroads Glance trait, and like other Mannish Cultures, can select a starting Virtue. (You can choose to play a Hobbit from Bree Land, all you need do is select either the Harfoot or the Stoor Hobbit family and declare yourself a Bree-Lander).  

Men of the Lake
The Men of the Lake are the close cousins of the Bardings.  Where the Bardings embrace Tradition, the Men of the Lake embrace the newness of modernity, looking for the newest and the most advanced things.  Their position on the Lake has given them rare opportunities to trade abundantly with their neighbors.  They are an enterprising, forward thinking people with the following traits.  

Men of the Lake have a Prosperous Standard of Living, owing to their central position on the Lake.  They also have the Natural Born Traders trait, and like the rest of the Mannish Cultures, can select a starting virtue.  They make excellent traders, bargainers, and merchants. So you can plan accordingly when designing your character.

Men of Minas Tirith
The Men of Minas Tirith represent the last line of defense in Middle Earth against the predations of Mordor.  A Kingdom without a King, they are ruled by a line of Stewards who hold the line against Mordor’s black armies.  They are a people who on the edge, teetering between the defiant stand and falling into madness and shadow.  They have the following Traits.

The Men of Minas Tirith have a Prosperous Standard of Living, and possess the Proud Heritage Trait.  Like other Mannish Cultures, they can select a starting Virtue.  As one of the primary cultures featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Men of Minas Tirith are one of the best expressed cultures we’ve seen visually, and their distinctive style comes through loud and clear.

Riders of Rohan
The Riders of Rohan represent a very different culture from the ones we’ve seen so far.  Roaming far and wide across their homeland, the Riders of Rohan are a martial culture that rides everywhere, and take to the field of battle on horseback.  They patrol their lands with vigor and live a simple, happy life.  They have the following traits.

They have a Martial Standard of Living, representing their simple lifestyle.  They aren’t flashy or ostentatious, but they have the resources to take care of their majestic steeds and ready to make war on the Riddermark.  They have the Horse Lords trait, as you would expect, and can pick a starting virtue.  

Woodmen of Wilderland
The Woodmen of Wilderland are an offshoot of the same culture that spawned the Bardings.  They live in small isolated communities where they work together to meet their communal needs.  They are resolute warriors who oppose the Shadow at every turn, and count Radaghast the Brown as an ally.  They have the following traits.

The Woodmen are the only culture in this book that have the Frugal Standard of Living.  They aren’t a wealthy people, and don’t value gold and treasure the same way others do.  They work to live off the land and meet their needs as best they can.  They have the Woodcrafty trait, and start with one of their cultural Virtues.

And that is the rundown on the Cultures that are available for players out of the Adventurer’s Guide to Middle Earth.  Check it out, it’s a wonderful book.  Next week we’ll go over the new classes and possibly take a deeper dive into Virtues.  Game on, Game Fans.  

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