This last weekend my good friend and co-writer Hunter @skunkosourous GMed a session of the Lord of The Rings mod for DnD 5e and while I am pretty sure he has some thoughts about it on the GM side of things, I thought I would offer my players perspective.
So we all started at third level, the level where a lot of player options start opening up in 5e. I was an elf bard traveling with a couple of hobbits, a soldier of Gondor, and a dunedain ranger. We went out and did some basic orc murdering, which was very fun, but there are some problems with the game that I had.
My first problem was that there is no magic in Middle Earth. That’s not really a problem from a lore perspective really but mechanically it hurts. I actually love the low fantasy aspect of Lord of The Rings itself, but it hurts the balancing in the game. As a third level bard the only thing I could do that was specifically bardish was bardic inspiration. Being an elf and a bard in normal circumstances would give me a wide range of abilities but with low fantasy there was not much I could do. The bad guys did not have any magic to bring to the table either and that made combat very short. There is a huge part of DnD that relies on some sort of healing magic via potions or spells that help with the scaling of encounters. Not only that but there is a lot of things to modify and edit a dynamic battlefield that are all based on spells. So in this case battles were a little static and very quick.
The Lord of The Rings universe is full and rich, going across multiple ages that are fleshed out and alive. It’s a wonderful vibrant universe that begs to be explored. That being the case, in the third age you have orcs, goblins, spiders, Smaug, and trolls. There is not too much going on in the bad guy pool for players. Other eras would have other monsters but it’s hard not to end up in that monotony of killing the same thing over and over.
That being said the one shot was just fun in its own right. There was a lot of meta jokes about the books and movies and we didn’t step on the cannon really at all. Also just being a part of this amazing and fantastic world was its own form of wish fulfillment.
I think my biggest setback is that there is already a Lord of the Rings RPG out there called ‘The One Ring’ that is designed with the setting in mind. It is not a D20 system but it takes into account the special aspects of the universe that your playing in and has won various awards for being a good RPG. I think I would want to give that system some more research before I decided which one I liked better, and I completely understand that some people like the d20 system more than other systems, but I think that the Lord of the Rings does not fit into the DnD style of playing.
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