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Sorceror (& Sword) and the LoTR

Started by catenwolde, November 10, 2002, 01:12:11 AM

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I'm still checking the post every day for my copies of Sorceror and Sword to arrive, so you'll have to forgive me if some of this is way off - it derives mainly from what I've read on the boards, etc.

While I'll be trying out a Hyborian setting right off the bat, I've also started to wonder if the system can be bent to a LoTR (or Silmarillion)setting.  Can the concept of a "demon" be stretched to represent a "personified national spirit" such as what made, for instance, the line of Numenorean kings greater than their peers, or a "demi-divinity" such as the Istari, or the power of the Nazgul?  Can the concept of Humanity be used both to represent someone acheiving a closer tie to the Light, and those who have fallen to the Dark?

Characters would obviously fall somewhere between the poles I mentioned above, but in general I wanted to if this seems reasonable, has been done before, just wouldn't work, etc.





I had read your earlier posts, but failed to recognize you were a fellow Michigander.  And from my old stomping grounds nonetheless!  Very cool.

Anyway, check out this thread to see what some people have to say about Sorcerer and High Fantasy.

For what it's worth, I think Sorcerer can do a lot of things.  Now, most people (it would seem, me included) prefer to stick to its roots - dark, trangressive games where the demons aren't just metaphors, and where the relationships are almost always dysfunctional - which may not reconcile so well with Professor Tolkien's works.  But I'm sure it could be done (and at this point I would recommend checking out The Sorcerer's Soul, for its fabulous discussion on what Humanity can mean, and maybe also for its Angelics/Grace rules...but I know that you just plunked down a wad of cash for the other two books, so maybe that's not what you want to hear).

Take care,



Thanks for the reply, and congratulations on your suppliment.

After a while away from rpg's - resultant from a case of the AD&D blues - I tried 3e and came away nonplussed, and was thus very happy to find The Forge.  I now have plowed through Paladin, and Donjon, and am awaiting Sorceror and S & Sword.  I'll likely play a few games of "Star Wars" Paladin and "Little Keep" Donjon over Thanksgiving, and then prep for a Christmas "Conan" Sorceror game.  This should give me a bit more time to digest things, and then I'll tackle S & Soul, and perhaps Charnel Gods, who knows?  I do a lot of wargame design work, trying to chase down new takes on old themes, so it's refreshing to see the creative aspect of rpg design coming out again.



Ron Edwards

Hi Christopher,

Welcome! I'm glad the Forge, and Sorcerer in particular, is meetin' the need.

As for Sorcerer's application to The Lord of the Rings, I think that one key scene in the story tends to get overlooked even by its biggest fans: when Aragorn travels the Paths of the Dead and awakens the damned army to his call. This is necromancy. It is friggin' big necromancy, as bad and foul and "black" as any. In Sorcerer terms, Aragorn is patently low on Humanity after that experience, and in my opinion, he never recovers, based on his depiction throughout the rest of the book (contrast the "king on the faded tapestry" tone of Aragorn-sections in the last portion of the story with the vibrant, rather scungy Strider of the earlier parts).

Let's not forget Eowyn and the leader of the Nazgul: Taint, anyone?



I think there is more than sufficient soul-searching darkness in Tolkien's work to warrant a Sorcerer take on it.

Those books have a real darkness to them, a real decay of a way of life that could fit well into a Sorcerer game.  

It isn't Tolkien but his imitators who had frolicky happy elves and goofiness.  The Lord of the Ring has its darkness.  

I think a high fantasy game that draws from Tolkien and Donaldson's Covenant the Unbeliever series could work well.


Tolkien to me naturally lends itself to Sorcerer.  We have three major elder races (numenorians, elves and dwarves) and magical items that can only be counted as wicked powerful object demons.  How else do you explain the power of the ring or the palantir?  The nine are explicitly described in terms of demons created via necromancy.  Humanity battles are rampant, and as Ron pointed out, victory is rare.  Look at Frodo, who ultimately lost his struggle with the ring and became entralled to it.  We even have a mythic otherworld: the destination for which the immortals (of whom Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, and finally Frodo and Bilbo are members) sail when they pass from the world of mortals.

A person could do an excellent Tolkien-inspired campaign with Sorcerer.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management


I've been mulling this over ever since recent discussions about "High Fantasy Sorcerer" on the boards.  Here's the idea I formed, which I referenced in passing in one of the threads:

LotR is all about one thing...yes, I know that's blasphemous, but it really is...the One Ring.

If we forget the Silmarillion et al. for the moment and concentrate on the LotR trilogy, that's what it is about.  Simply, can you resist the corruption of ultimate power (personified by the One Ring)?

Frodo held out.  Boromir didn't.  Saruman didn't.  The rest of the characters spend their time (in the Fellowship) trying to resist its influence and their own desire for it.  Look at Gandalf and the elven Queen -- would the book have been the same without their wrenching temptations and sweaty denials of the power offered to them.

Edit: Irmo pointed out to me privately that Frodo didn't hold out.  He's right, of course, Frodo didn't. I should have been more careful in my writing...I'm really only talking about the Fellowship book above, not the other two books, which I mistakenly imply I am doing.

If we include the Silmarillion et al., then we see that Tolkien's works are really all about power and its proper uses.  Morgoth, Sauron, Saruman and all the rest of the lot are guilty of one thing -- the misuse of power and authority.

They go against the natural order, against proper and rightful authority.
Morgoth changed the song of Eru to his liking, going against the vision and leadership of the Creator.

Sauron wished to rule all Middle-earth.  His followers did not follow him because it was right or correct to do so, not because he was a rightful noble or lord, but because of fear and Sauron's rule through it and power instead of being a proper lord of his people -- he did not have the rightness of a true lord's actions and behavior.

(The new LotR RPG has a couple of wonderful sections in it about theme, role-playing and Tolkien's works.  Go browse it at B&N if you get the chance.)

Sorcery and magic are two different things -- magic is inherent and natural, and must be used naturally.  Consider it to be "thematic technology" for LotR (ie: a gun or car in a regular Sorcerer game isn't a demon just because it gives a type of power to a person...likewise, an enchanted sword or elven magic isn't sorcery just because it gives someone power).  Sorcery thus arises from twisted and wrong uses of magic and power.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ron Edwards

Hi Raven,

I'll buy that - most particularly and especially once we separate the six short books called "The Lord of the Ring" from (a) fanboy Middle Earth or Silmarilion issues and from (b) any fantasy role-playing allegedly based on the material, directly or indirectly.

I'll also call into attention a protagonist who's usually overlooked in (a) and (b): Gollum. Who does not, and will never, submit to Sauron, and whose defiance arguably achieves the greatest good in the entire book. What ... a ... sorcerer. One little aged hobbit, who without doubt and without ego (see his last speech), defies The Cosmos for what is his, even if it is (to use the metaphor from another thread) the most repulsive whore in existence.

Everyone should go and read all of Gollum's scenes carefully. You'll see it all: pride, endurance, agony, idealism, struggles with Humanity, and despair. Great stuff.

I have decided, as a general rule for myself now on, to campaign for making a huge distinction between Tolkien's stories and old-school D&D.



Quite.  The folks who were responsible for Old School D&D (and they go way beyond Gygax and Arneson...check out any pre #100 issue of Dragon Magazine for a who's who of AD&D history) either A) read and understood their "source material" only on the most superficial of levels, or B) were just themselves so inadequate writers that they could not convey the depths of their understanding in their work.

I think this is probably true for most readers, myself included.  The Lord of the Rings is often read by and refered to as juvenile literature...but there is no way that 10 and 12 year olds can really grasp the tremendous nuances in the book.

I never liked LotR as a kid.  It was way too long.  The "heroes" were these stupid little short people, the coolest characters like Boromir (who is still, I admit my favorite) were killed off way early and they kept going back to that pointlessly annoying little golum runt.  Reading it again as an adult...what a diferent story it is...still way to long though ;-)


Just speaking of D&D...

This is the most accurate and simplest description of D&D I have ever seen

The original D&D seems, quite obviously, to be a pastiche of Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard adventure stories, set in a Tolkeinian world of Moorcockian morality, using Jack Vance's magic system, redacted for multiple protagonists. No wonder things are confused. - Ken Hite


Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'll also call into attention a protagonist who's usually overlooked in (a) and (b): Gollum. Who does not, and will never, submit to Sauron, and whose defiance arguably achieves the greatest good in the entire book. What ... a ... sorcerer. One little aged hobbit, who without doubt and without ego (see his last speech), defies The Cosmos for what is his, even if it is (to use the metaphor from another thread) the most repulsive whore in existence.

Ron, was it you you said in some other thread that LotR all boils down to Gollum versus Sam Gamgee? as everyone who has read the books knows, Frodo succumbs to the Ring... but Sam doesn't. it all boils down to Gollum's devotion to himself and Sam's devotion to others (Frodo and the Shire as a whole.)
John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects:

Ron Edwards

Hi John,

Yup, that was me.

And yeah, Anthony, I think Ken nailed it with that one.



John (and Ron),

I've been thinking about this all night...
Gollum wasn't dedicated to himself.  Not in the least.  None of his actions are selfish or self-preserving or anything of the sort.
Gollum is dedicated to the One Ring -- the damn thing has a spirit about it, it's intelligent, after a fashion -- it's just like a person.

Imagine if the One Ring were a person -- literally, a whore -- who Frodo had to escort to her doom, resisting her temptations all the way.  Look at Gollum's actions in that light.

There they are, Gollum and the One Ring, down in the darkness for ages, the Ring whispering to him, he caressing her...and then she up and leaves with Bilbo, passes from him to Frodo, who wants to destroy her.
Gollum wants to be with his One Ring, his Precious; he wants to protect her and caress her -- not use her (as would Sauron), not destroy her (as would Frodo).

It's a sick, twisted relationship...but there it is.

Gollum isn't thinking about himself, he's thinking about his precious.


So, how does this relate to Sorcerer: I'm thinking Humanity = Dedication to Another.

The Fellowship is all about this -- Boromir fails at this when he breaks with his dedication to the Fellowship and tries to take the One Ring.  Sam is all about this, as he never abandons Frodo.  Gimli and Legolas are all about this when they refuse to abandon Pippin and Merry to the uruk-hai.  Gandalf sacrifices himself for the Fellowship on the bridge in Moria.

Saruman fails at this when he breaks his oaths to the Valar in regards to protecting the peoples of Middle-earth from the Shadow.  Aragorn succeeds at this when he summons the dead, and perhaps this is what saves him (perhaps all that Humanity loss from the necromancy is offset by the single roll of Humanity gain).

Gollum succeeds at this repeatedly, in his attempts to regain the One Ring.
Ultimately, though, it is a sort of twisted selflessness -- and if you look at it all like this the Premise comes about as "What is dedication to another?" and "Are you willing to pay the price for that dedication? (and what is the cost?)"
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio



That sounds good to me.  My absolute favorite aspect of The Lord of the Rings is Sam's dedication to Frodo.  I love that, and a game that focused on it alone would be way cool in my book.

- Scott

Ron Edwards

Hi Raven,

I think you nailed it. That's about the best reading of the story I think I've ever seen. It agrees with my reading that Gollum's actions are not based on selfishness.

I also think the entire interaction between Frodo, Sam, and Gollum in their journey into Mordor is the central arena for this conflict.