Monday, March 27, 2017

Mystery Box Friday (What's in the Box?)

Hey Game Fans, We’re either a little late or way early depending on how you want to look at it, but this week’s mystery box features a wonderful book form the fine folks at Cubicle 7.  Today we’re going to take a quick look at the Loremaster’s Guide to Middle Earth.  This is the second book in their adventuring resources that are compatible with 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, and helps a budding game master get a grasp on the epic world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can find?


Broken up into 9 chapters, the Loremaster’s Guide offers insights and ideas for setting your game in Middle Earth, and gives the Loremaster a host of options and ideas for creating his or her own adventures set in this fantastic world.  The fine folks at Cubicle 7 have hit another one out of the park with this book.  Each chapter gives the Loremaster enough ideas and knowledge to work within the setting as a role-playing environment without overwhelming them with boundless details that Tolkien’s work is known for.  (Warning:  Reading this will not make you a Tolkien Scholar, and you should consider yourself armed for a debate/discussion with one about the setting.)  


In many ways, this book picks up where the first book, the Player’s Guide to Middle Earth leaves off.  It takes the ideas and concepts originally prepared in that book, and gives the Loremaster the tools to run the game.  It’s built on the rules set for the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, which gives both player and Loremaster a host of options for cinematic experiences in Middle Earth.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to adventure across Middle Earth, you’ll find few resources better equipped to help with that question than these books.  (Honorable mention to the One Ring RPG, also offered by Cubicle 7)


Chapter Breakdown

Chapter 1:  Setting and the Tale of Years



Chapter one picks up with an explanation of the setting and background details that are essential for understanding Middle Earth as an RPG environment.  Each region comes with an explanation in brief, and adventure ideas for each of those places.  You also get a brief history of the setting, and a detailed explanation of Laketown.  (this is post reclamation of Erebor, so Laketown is one of the most bustling cities in the region.)


Chapter 2:Before the Game



MIddle Earth is not like most of the other worlds that we play games in, and certain essential elements are components of Middle Earth adventures.  This chapter goes over these differences and helps guide a Loremaster find their way into crafting thrilling ideas and adventures that fit the spirit of Middle Earth.  

Chapter 3:  The Adventuring Phase

This chapter is devoted to the specific differences in adventures between this Middle Earth setting and any other fantasy setting (such as Faerun or any of the other Dungeons and Dragons worlds) that you could find yourself adventuring in.  It’s especially helpful for a new loremaster to get their head into the differences.  This chapter, Chapter 2, and Chapter 4 are especially useful getting into the setting and the ideas that separate Middle Earth.  


Chapter 4: Journeys Expanded

Journeys are the codeword for adventures in the Loremaster’s Guide.  This chapter expounds on ideas and options for making journeys memorable and exciting.  It also gives you a chart of interesting complications and details for making journeys more difficult (or less so), and a way to simulate the seemingly random chaos in the world.  This chapter is a fun read and as i said above, Chapters 2,3, and 4 are recommended reading for anyone who wants to GM anything.  They’re wonderful resources.  


Chapter 5: Non-Player Characters and Audiences Expanded



This chapter covers two key features, the NPCs that are likely going to come up during the game.  Featuring a host of the Free Folks of Middle Earth, this ranges from elf lords to dwarven soldiers and everyone and everything in between.  The second feature, the expanded Audiences rules, cover in detail how the interactions work between visiting adventurers and noble lords in their domains.  This expansion does a fine job of fleshing out the rules and giving you as a Loremaster the keys to run these encounters.  


Chapter 6: Adversaries and Battles



This chapter covers the combat aspects of adventuring in Middle Earth.  From orcs, goblins and trolls to more esoteric and terrible beasties, this chapter has just about everything you’d need for a bestiary.  This chapter also features a variety of specific rules and situations for interesting scenery and other setting pieces that are a wonderland to pick a fight in.  I especially am a fan of the big table full of cool abilities that you can use to spice up your monsters.  


Chapter 7:  Treasure and Rewards



Middle Earth is a wondrous land filled with treasures of gold, rare manufacture, and social power and position.  This chapter goes over a bunch of different options for rewarding characters and providing them with epic boons and items that they will sing songs of.    Middle Earth works a little differently than other fantasy settings, and this chapter is very helpful in helping a Loremaster get players into the idea of how treasure and rewards work differently.  Also included are real magical items and theories of how they can be found and interacted with.  


Chapter 8: Magic in Middle Earth



Magic is an astonishingly powerful force in Middle Earth, and in most cases is beyond the realm of adventurers.  The player’s guide features no characters who wield magic, and the book speaks of it in hushed tones and as folk tales that are best left alone.  This chapter goes over how magic works from a behind the screen standpoint, and if you choose to add magic to it, the spells that are the best fit for the setting.  


Chapter 9: The Fellowship Phase

The Fellowship Phase is a unique contribution to the Middle Earth adventures, and is a narrative exercise where players can clear up lingering plot elements, recount their adventures, and find ways to plan for future adventures.  With the time and distance elements of the setting, These are important because they give players a way to tell their personal stories between the actual adventures, and to create their own personal stories.  This is one of the most interesting developments in game design that i’ve seen in a while, and i enjoy it a lot.


Conclusions



That’s the book in its completeness.  With a superbly packed 160 some odd pages, the Loremaster’s Guide to Middle Earth is essential for the GM who wants to take his players on a journey in one of the most popular settings in fantasy literature.  Cubicle 7 has done a fantastic job of putting this together, and i have heard that they are releasing a book of adventures soon to go with this book and the Player’s Guide.  I am very impressed with the quality of this work and the work in the player’s Guide.  I hope the Adventure book is just as fantastic.  


That’s it for this week’s mystery box, next week we’ll have a couple of adventures from the DM’s Guild for your perusal.  Game on, Game Fans

You can find out more about the fine work that Cubicle 7 is doing here

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