AD&D1E In Middle Earth

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A Middle Earth Setting for AD&D 1E/OSRIC Gameplay
By Tony Sandoval

The purpose of this setting is to provide gaming adventures in the realm of Middle Earth as presented by J.R.R. Tolkien in the books “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” using the core game rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition and/or OSRIC.

The situation I have set up takes place at the beginning of the Fourth Age which begins after the events of “The Lord of the Rings” concludes. Using some information from the appendices at the end of that series, Players will be able to interact with some of the characters from the stories in a direct or indirect way.

Tolkien describes the Fourth Age as the “Age of Men” and that everything is beginning to change in Middle Earth. I have taken that opportunity to interject the AD&D 1E world as the world that the Fourth Age is becoming. This allows the Players the familiarity of geography and history while forging a new and different future for Middle Earth. This obviously veers away from ideas that Tolkien had discussed in other works but this is where I as the DM/GM and game creator take over to make it something different.

In the timeline, the first adventure takes place about 25 years after the departure of Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf and the others. which began the Fourth Age. Many things from the days of the Third Age are ending with those who remain behind.

Some “old” creatures are departing, never to be seen again. Some are still there, yet hidden and becoming more legendary. Meanwhile, new creatures are emerging. Some are variants of old creatures and some never seen before.

Magic is changing and it is not the same magic as when Gandalf and Saruman walked Middle Earth. An astral gate was opened with the destruction of Sauron. He had been tampering with forces unknown to anyone else in his efforts to rule all. With the opening of this gate, many new beings have found their way to Middle Earth. Some Good, others Evil. The impact of their presence on Middle Earth only contributes to further changes of what is to come.

General Discussion

The primary reason I brought AD&D 1E to Middle Earth was for my kids. Because of the Jackson films and my own interest influencing them, my kids are very interested in adventuring in Middle Earth.

However, my kids have been playing AD&D 1E for over a year now and are still learning the game system. I don't want to change everything just for a different geography.

I chose to enter Middle Earth in it's Fourth Age because that is when Tolkien describes it as changing from the old ways and is now the Age of Men. There is a lot of room for creativity in this period. Also, Too many people are caught up in Tokien's "canon" where his characters are concerned. You'll never please the purists who refuse to veer creatively from the picture Tolkien created.

Another problem for me in using Middle Earth during the active storyline of "The Hobbit" or "The Lord Of The Rings", etc... is trying to fit your characters and activity into what is already going on. Not a task I want. I decided to use a time period where Tolkien was "done" and there was room to move around without bumping into a lot of his activity. The Fourth Age provides a proximity to Tolkien's activity that allows my players to get the feel of his Middle Earth, while at the same time, I can drop in AD&D 1E wholesale without really disrupting anything else.

It's true that by inserting AD&D 1E at this point veers away from the direction Tolkien indicates in other works having to do with post "rings" activity, but so be it. This is my Fourth Age now and we're off and running.

Being so close to the end of Tolkien's story still requires me to have to keep his boundaries in mind as I insert adventures and characters. For example, when rolling to determine random encounters outdoors, in the Shire, there are quite a few monsters that really aren't appropriate yet to be used there, particularly men. King Ellesar is alive and in power and he has issued a decree that men are forbidden to enter the Shire without explicit permission.

You can have men as monsters in the Shire, but you have to tailor their presence a bit as you describe their presence and how they fit in. Nothing prevents the DM from rolling again for a more appropriate monster if he/she isn't prepared to handle an incursion of 40 human bandits or 100 merchants in a caravan rolling unexplained through the Shire.

This would work even better if you set the timeframe say at about 1000 years after "the departure". Then only a handful of the "old" elves and dwarves would still be around but likely never seen. King Ellesar has died, Arwen has left, all the story hobbits are dead, and enough time will have passed to have thoroughly made the transformation. In that situation, a DM is even less bound by Tolkien's story and characters. All of Tolkien's story would have been legend by then.

I didn't choose that late timeframe for the simple reason that my kids wanted to have some kind of interaction with the Middle Earth they had read about. So, while most of the "prime" characters are gone, some of the others remain and a DM through creative planning can limit interaction of the remaining "stars" Like Ellesar or Sam Gamjee or Pippin and Merri, "cameo" roles in order to keep some of that "flavor" the players are looking for.

Adventure Discussion

The adventures I will write for this setting all assume that the DM/GM has either the three core books from AD&D 1E ("Players Manual", "Dungeon Masters Guide" and Monster Manual 1" at the least) or the OSRIC manual in PDF or book formats. I leave room in the adventures for a lot of random activity based on the tables included in the books. "Why re-invent tools if the content is already there?" is my thinking on it.

The Mad Dwarf

This adventure starts in the Shire and is a level one adventure. Sam has sent letters for help to various teachers and masters who have graduating apprentices to come to the Shire with his permission to aid him. These recent graduates find themselves at Bag's End talking with Sam and Rosie about a crime in which "Frodo's Treasure" has been stolen from them and they want the party to find it and bring it back. Clues and information have been placed that will lead the PC's on a journey around the area of the Shire. In the meantime, a dwarf with insane ideas of "taking back" the items made by dwarves (and elves) in order to create a treasure large enough to make him a King under his own mountain has been coordinating and carrying out schemes in the area. There is room for plenty of random Encounters (use the books) and enough treasure and reward to get an adventurer motivated.

Sam and Rosie are the only Tolkien hobbits the Players will encounter. The rest of the NPC's are of DM creation.

A good map to give to the Players to get around Middle Earth can be found here.

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