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Lord of the Rings RPG?

Started by thlostGM, October 10, 2002, 09:34:53 PM

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I am new to the forum, and this is my first post.

   I am starting a Lord of the Rings game and was wondering if anyone has any suggestions?  I specifically mean the game mechanics (as I have no experience with it).

The Lost GM

Eric J.

Hahahahahahaha....  Sorry.  I had to get that out of the way.  That was blatentalley inapropriate, but it is due to the fact that this very issue has been hotlley debated durring my lunch periods, with my friends, at my high school.  

First: Don't try this unless you are familiar with ALL of the fiction.  The last thing that you need is a bunch of people with LoTR in their hands attacking your house.

Second: Don't try this unless you have any clue on what such a project would be.  Living up to some of the greatest fiction of all time can be tough.  You don't want people to have polls on how much you screwed up Tolkien (like Kevin J. Anderson).

Third:  Decide on the premise.  Tolkiens work can be viewed and taken so many ways that it would be impossible to do without full knoledge on the style of presentation and what you are trying to emulate.

My friend, Jessie (who has read everything of Tolkiens', J.R.R and Christopher) told me that you would need to have a physical and meta-physical stat. description on every character.  He knows little of RPG design, but he does have a point.  You also might consider other issues.  Character balance any one?  Player A: Let's see thoes classes.  Wizard, Elven Princess, Dwarven miner, Valar warrior, oh, look here a hobbit, that's what I want to be.

These are just a very very faint glimpse of what a problematic project this would be.  I'm not familliar enought to consider me competant to review such a task, but hopefully you are.


You might wish to check your local game store, since a Lord of the Rings RPG was just released this month into the stores.  As I didn't pick it up, I really can not remember who put it out or what system it uses, but a quick web search ought to yield that information.

I do seem to remember that it was /not/ d20 - which actually surprised me.

-wade jones
dialectic llc

aka wraeththu
-wade jones
developer for Gnostica
dialectic LLC


Hi thlostGM,

I hate to sound like I'm shuffling you off, but have you tried posting this question at>RPGnet?  The reason I ask is because I have seen several posts over there about this game and aboslutely none over here.   I don't own the game so I can't give any feedback---not unless you want some advice on the old original I.C.E rules.  :)


EDITED to ask you to make sure to come back here and post  in the Actual Play forum after a session or to. Good luck!


Probably the best advice I could give would be to read the RPG book.  Cover to cover.  While you're reading, take notes.  Then make yourself a cheat-sheet of information you'll want to remember when running the game.  Also make a cheat-sheet for players with details on character creation and the basic mechanics.  When you get together, don't plan on playing the first session.  Instead, go over the rules and make characters together.  This can be valuable because the more attention paid to the character creation step, the more ideas you'll have about what sorts of adventures and scenarios will be interesting to the player, and the more interested in their characters the players are likely to be.  This is all fairly general stuff, I realize, so if you know all this already, I apologize.  Just trying to be as helpful as possible to a fellow newbie. ;)

From everything I've seen and read, the CODA system is fairly straightforward: Skill level + 2d6, try to equal or exceed a target number.  If you are familiar with d20 you will probably have little problems picking it up.  The most complicated aspect will probably be character creation.  Keep in mind, however, that I don't own and haven't read the book, this is based on the 20 or so reviews and articles I've read about the game.

Good luck!


LotR game mechanics are no more difficult than any other game you've played.  The much touted "Coda" system (I understand naming systems, but shouldn't they have something to do with the game or mechanics...) is really nothing more than d20 rules using 2d6 instead of a d20.

There are a few tweaks you'll want to be familiar with, but mechanically, if you are comfortable with d20, you won't have any trouble with LotR.


Thanks everyone for responding.  

I believe I may have misinformed some of you about what I am looking for.  Yes I do own the game, and although I have not read the book cover to cover, I have noticed a few problems (specifically with Orders).  I do not plan on running the game in the Middle Earth setting, as I have a hard time believing that I could do Tolkien justice.  The system greatly intrigues me, and I am having a little trouble fitting the pieces together.  I was hoping to find someone who has already played (or used the system in a game) for advice.

I don’t plan on running the game for like a month or so (prep time), at which time I will have a private session with each of my six players to make up their characters.

I was also wondering, does anyone have a questionnaire that they give their players when they start a new game?  Something that gets them to write (and think about) all the info about their characters history down for you to use.

The Lost GM


I picked up the new LotR book to flip through, alas, I had not the cash to purchase it right there on the spot or I would have done so (sue me, I'm a sucker for a nice-looking product...and, ooo, faux-leather cover? I like), thus I am afraid I can't be of much help in regards to the rules themselves, and I'm babbling.

Next order of business: character questionaires.

Two things you may wish to consider about this; first, not all your players may WANT to detail their characters at the start of the game, some of them may wish to develop the character and their history as play progresses. Second, you should ask yourself why you want this information, and based on that, what sorts of information you desire.

More to the latter, will you be using that information in your game...not "eventually" or "as fodder for the future," but as a main part of the game itself?

Typically, gamemasters desire alot of character information that never gets used, or rather, is never important to the campaign the GM has been developing since before the players appeared.

This is usually frustrating to players, as it usually sets up expectations that go unmet, so unless your campagn is actually going to be tightly entwined with that information -- making it central to the actually occuring events in the game -- I would just forget it about it and let them have fun romping about in whatever adventure you've created.

The alternate method is to create the characters for the campaign yourself and let the players choose from among them; this way, you have all the character information you need in your head, and you've likely already tightly integrated those specific characters with the developing campaign you have in mind.

Note that some players may be unhappy with this sort of set-up, as they expect to be able to create their own character for play. However, they are also likely to be unhappy later when their plans for the character they have created are never worked into the campaign.

Usually, if you explain to these types that you have some special things planned for the character they've chosen (and you likely would, given the reasons you would create characters for the players), they'll be fine and be able to reconcile playing "someone else's" character.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Landon Darkwood


I am also new to the forums, so it seems fitting that my first post would be on a new topic started by a someone else new to the forums. :)

I have had the new Rings game for a little while, and had the chance to both experiment with it and break it down according to the material provided elsewhere on The Forge by Mr. Edwards. Based on the assumption that everyone here is at least passingly familiar with said material, here goes:

The biggest problem with the game is standard commercial RPG incoherence. The mechanics are essentially a mishmash of different GNS ideas, with very little sense of focus. The rules set is mostly Simulationist, with a Narrativist metagame mechanic in the form of Courage Points, which you spend to give you a better chance at dramatic success. I call it Narrativist because the criteria for replenishing said points is the dramatic appropriateness of the action you're resolving with the spent points. It calls on the player to spend his Courage Points when doing so would have the most impact on the story, etc. Because balance between characters has been given low priority in favor of more closely matching Tolkien's setting, I would argue that Gamism is in short supply here. Anyone who starts with an elf is going to be statistically more powerful on the outset than anyone else, because that's how Tolkien's setting was. When it is known from the outset that characters are going to be unequal, the sense of competition wanes because there's no fair playing field. Besides that, there's no tangible mechanical reward for competition with other characters or the GM. This isn't the game for such ventures, apparently.

In fact, in the gamemastering chapters, the designers argue in favor of removing and de-emphasizing elements more common to Gamist-style fantasy: no random encounters, no quests for selfish wealth-gaining, combat as a last resort for conflict resolution, XP awards for good roleplaying, etc.. It calls for the creation of epic heroes alone as characters, people of pure and selfless motives, who show restraint, dignity, and wisdom like the characters in Tolkien's novels. Assuming these psychological limitations and the suggestions of the designers are followed, this game can play and feel very different than, say, Dungeons & Dragons.

Mechanics comparisons between LOTR and d20 are impossible to avoid, of course; with minor tweakings, they are essentially the same system with a different probability curve. What separates them most is not the actual mechanics, but the designer's intent for the use of those mechanics. The text explicitly states that the goal of the game, as far as the designers are concerned, is to "tell a Tolkien-style epic," apparently a purely Narrativist venture. As hinted at above, however, the system does not facilitate this Premise. Everything about the mechanics has been geared toward consistency with Tolkien's -setting-, and the characters you'll churn out will be epic heroes consistent with Tolkien's -setting-. Really, except for the Courage Point mechanic, there's nothing in the rules that contributes directly to the nebulous 'tell an epic' goal outlined by the designers. The game hands no narrative power to the players at all. A Window RPG game (or The Pool, for all of you who have jumped off the Narrative deep end <grin>) that describes characters in Tolkien-esque language could accomplish the epic story goal better, set apart from all the effort the LOTR game puts into quantifying Middle-earth numerically for you.

Unfortunately, commercial RPG design seems to have adopted this as a regular fault. The designers give you a strong setting and 'reality' model with Simulationist/Gamist rules, and then say, "We're here to tell a story."

What would be best served by a LOTR game, I think, is a focus on Simulation via Character Exploration (What would it be like to play an epic hero?) or Setting Exploration (What would it be like to be in Middle-earth?), and heavy Drift away from the designers' Narrativist goals. In order to do this most effectively, you either need to know a lot about Middle-earth, or a lot about epics and epic heroes. The latter option allows you to not worry so much about 'doing justice' to Tolkien's works, because the setting only needs to be consistent enough to allow your characters to develop.  What story there is will ideally be a by-product of your focus on these other things. Fortunately, because the mechanics contribute so little to narrative, changing the focus such will require minimal, if any, system-tweaking. Without the narrative pretense, the game strikes me as being more focused than d20, in the sense that it tries to do away with Gamist tendencies too.

Sorry that was so long. I hope some of that helped somebody. :)

-Landon Darkwood <>


but I have played the new LotR game.

It isn't bad. It really does try to get the Tolkein feel... and it doesn't fail miserably. The game mechanics, in my opinion, do a decent job of emphasizing what is important in Tolkein's writings. One of the most important attributes for a character is Bearing. Game balance between races is thrown out the window. Elves simply are better than the other races. Magic tends to be much more subtle than in most fantasy games, and I have been told that all of the magical effects in the game were actually used in the books (I'm not crazy enough to go back and check myself).

That isn't to say there aren't problems. Character creation is a mess. There ought to be a cheat-sheet summarizing it somewhere. There isn't one. I'd suggest developing an outline for your players (or finding one on the Net). Decipher has a discussion board on their site that has had a great deal of discussion about Erratta and such. I'd suggest checking it out.

Game mechanics themselves are fairly straightforward and, for the most part, work fairly well. The multiple action rule and dodging are both somewhat problematic, but they are also both easy to fix. The one thing that sort of bothered me was that starting characters can very easily be extremely potent at character creation. If you want to cut down on that a little, I'd recommend not allowing characters to have free skill specializations at character creation.

What was your concern about the Orders, by the way? I'm not a huge fan of class-based systems in general, but this is quite a bit more free-form than most I have seen.

My very own">game design journal.


My question is do you have your world? I am sure you may be able to find a coherent Profile of the CODA system somewhere which you can tweak and overlay to your own world. However, to grab the mythic your world must BE Mythic.  That is not to say that is must have a past. Almost obviously your world has a past but Tolkien's world has a MYTHIC past and the promise of an equally MYTHIC present.  It is a time where stories of adventurers and (ugh) Heroes and villians are written and told.  So you have a world of fact, what did happen, and Myth what they said happened.

Can CODA capture the MYTH of your world? Unless there are only 100 people on the whole planet, the world will go on as your Player's personas do their thing...

Not Every system works for every world EVEN if they are similar worlds.



I just picked up the book...actually, bought it for my wife for her birthday, since I knew she'd like it...couple of comments:

Quote from: szilardGame balance between races is thrown out the window. Elves simply are better than the other races.
This, however, is spot-on with Tolkien's works. Elves ARE better than the other races...and besides (say it...S A Y  I T!) "Game Balance is a Red Herring!"

QuoteThe one thing that sort of bothered me was that starting characters can very easily be extremely potent at character creation.
Again, what's the problem with this?

The heroes of the Fellowship varied widely in ability from the start of the book, some began the series (arguably mappable as the start of a gaming campaign) as extremely potent.

But moreso, is this really a problem with the system/game, or with your expectations of how things work in an RPG? Exposure to D&D as the basis of gaming might produce such expectations without really providing an acceptable rationale for the same: that is, characters must start as novices in a game, not arrive on the scene fully fledged masters in their own right.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ben Morgan

It occurs to me that a variation of the Trollbabe mechanics might work well for this kind of thing.

Someone ha mentioned once upon a time an idea for a resolution mechanic based on having a certain number of points to split between Strength (brute force), Skill (finesse), and Luck.

If you changed Trollbabe's d10 to a d20, then specified a lower, mid, and upper range for each category (frex: 1-5 Strength, 6-14 Skill, 15-20 Luck), then had a list of items that you could check off to gain rerolls, including relationships that can be developed in-game, that might work.

Just a thought.

-- Ben
-----[Ben Morgan]-----[]-----
"I cast a spell! I wanna cast... Magic... Missile!"  -- Galstaff, Sorcerer of Light

Mike Holmes

Hey Landon,

Just wanted to say hi and welcome to The Forge. I'm not really all that familiar with the system being discussed, but from what I've heard of it your GNS assessment sounds very good. Nice job for a first time post, and thanks for the analysis which confirms my suspicions about the game.

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.


Sorry it took so long to respond, my password was not working, and it took me a while to straigten it out.

I will be starting my LOTR game this coming weekend.  I have taken a great deal of time with each of my players in creating their characters (did find a character creation cheat sheet), and working out their reasons for being involved in the game. So I have high hopes for them.

The game world has been a work in progress for the past year or so, and when this system came out I thought it fit wonderfully.  The world I have created has a strong history, and subtle magic. But as I said before, I don’t believe I could live up to my (or my players) expectations of a Middle Earth game.  I don’t know if it will be perfect, but it’s worth a try.

My problem with the Orders, and some of the races is that they do not list the Edges, and Flaws for all of them (Elves).  I found this to be a pain, as none of my players wanted to take a pre-made package. The rest of the system looks good, and I have run a few combats with individual players to make sure I have it right.  

- The Lost GM