I know that lots of people out there are as excited as I am about Adventures in Middle Earth from Cubicle 7. This RPG is based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and makes use of the Open Game License for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. The Player’s Guide is out and the Loremaster’s Guide is going to have all the creatures and such, but some people want to get started now. One of those is me: I just convinced a group to start some Roll20 gaming and we settled on AME as our game.
We’re starting tonight, in fact, which means I need to come up with some material. Luckily, there’s plenty of material already out there for Adventures in Middle Earth! Sort of!
The other Middle Earth game from Cubicle 7 is the excellent The One Ring which has won all sorts of awards so I’m probably not the first to tell you about it. I’m actually a bit torn about AME and TOR because I love the older game and think the mechanics really fit the setting. AME does as well (they did a wonderful job adapting the assumptions in the Player’s Handbook to the low-magic, fully rural setting) but it does so by borrowing a lot of important elements from The One Ring. Cubicle 7 has said several times that this release does not mean they are discontinuing TOR and I really hope that holds true. But in the mean time, there’s tons of information from the same publisher that you can use in Adventures in Middle Earth.
There is a whole slew of products for TOR and they have a wonderful mix of lore and adventures. If you’re hungry for more material for an Adventures in Middle Earth game, allow me to convince you to buy The One Ring products to boost your options.
One question you might ask is why you should buy pdfs when there are so many free Tolkien resources out there. The Tolkien Gateway wiki has so much about the books and it’s all linked and cataloged for you. Ardalambion is an incomparable resource for Tolkien’s languages that I’ve been consulting for more than a decade. Still, neither of these sites or anything else out there is really geared towards roleplaying games so you’d have to do a lot of work on your own.
Not only is The One Ring already written with an RPG mindset, but the book is organized exactly the way an Adventures in Middle Earth DM needs. Both games use an Adventuring Phase where the action happens and a Fellowship Phase where PCs regroup, and the details of each of those phases is spelled out in The One Ring products. There are also notes about how different situations affect characters with Shadow points which is another element they share. Also, the games are both focused on the time period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the region of Rhovanion so everything is relevant.
Lastly, it should be noted that there are other excellent games out there including the older and impressively complete game Middle Earth Roleplaying. If you have access to this game you should definitely check it out and feel free to use both. However, if you have to choose one I think the shared elements in The One Ring and the fact that MERP dates from the 90s with some older gaming philosophies, I think the choice is clear.
The One Ring Products
There are quite a few products out there for The One Ring, as I’ve said, and almost all of the content in them can be directly useful in Adventures in Middle Earth. The core rulebook you can probably skip: the additional information you’d get will be covered in the Loremaster’s Guide for AME soon and they’re the most focused on TOR mechanics. All of the other books, though, I think would be great for an aspiring AME Dungeon Master.
- The Heart of the Wild: This book is a campaign sourcebook for the Wilderland region and probably contains a lot of information that will be repeated in the Loremaster’s Guide. There’s a good chance that a lot of it will be missing, though, since this book is extensive and detailed.
- Tales from Wilderland: These adventures are intended to be stand-alone but there are some elements in them that can connect into a full campaign. The book relies a lot on Heart of the Wild, but it’s definitely complete without the additional context that other book provides. I figured it would be a lot of work to convert things but mostly it’s pretty self-explanatory (see below).
- The Darkening of Mirkwood: There is a timeline of events between The Hobbit and the War of the Ring provided in The One Ring core rulebook (and presumably will be too in the Loremaster book for AME) but this book expands that into a full set of adventure hooks. Each hook is ready for a GM to start an adventure with (there are several for each year) but a few are fully fleshed out into adventures. Like Tales from Wilderland, there’s surprisingly little you’d have to change.
- Journeys and Maps: This excellent supplement has dozens of new events to spice up your journeys, plus large-scale maps of every part of Middle Earth from Eregion and Wilderland to Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor. This might be a “second stage” purchase once you’ve tried out AME and like it, but it should be on the “definite” list.
- Rivendell: Once you journey across the Misty Mountains from Wilderland, this supplement is a must-have. It lays out the area around the Shire and Bree in the same detail as Heart of the Wild and the core Adventures in Middle Earth do for the eastern Rhovanion region. In particular, if covers the region’s history as well as its geography. Ever wonder why the Boos Nazgûl is called the “Witch-King of Angmar?” The answer’s in here. Of course, if you’re players want to all play hobbits maybe you should get this earlier…
- Horse-lords of Rohan: Same as above but for the south. This book lays out Rohan in a comprehensive way, including the history and people. There are two cultures in here: one is the Riders of Rohan already covered in AME but the other is the Hill-folk who are interesting for two reasons. First of all, they are isolated and feel slighted by the Rohirrim, making them a different sort of culture than the usual “let’s all cooperate” Free Folk, and secondly they owe their allegiance to Saruman the White of Isengard. Sure hope he stays nice…
- Loremaster’s Screen and Lake-town Guide: Groups playing Adventures in Middle Earth are lucky in that Men of the Lake are included in the main book. The One Ring players had to wait a bit for this to come out (a Minas Tirith culture still isn’t out) but this book also comes with a detailed description of Lake-town itself making it a great resource. I’d recommend it more highly for AME groups if they didn’t already have the culture and if this wasn’t bundled with the screen, but if you’re planning on spending a lot of time at the Lake in your campaign, you should definitely snap it up.
- Erebor: The Lonely Mountain: This book is amazing and I highly recommend it to any TOR Loremaster. For Adventures in Middle Earth, however, you’ll find a lot of the pages in here taken up by mechanics for Dwarf characters and for making Dragons. You’ll probably find the philosophical ideas about dragons useful in converting from D&D (again, see below) but just know that the lore in here is not the bulk of the book.
Converting Between Systems
While Adventures in Middle Earth and The One Ring share a lot in common, they are definitely different game systems. So how do you use these books in your AME campaign? Well, it depends on the level of shifting you need to do.
- No Shift: The lore, the NPCs, and the events do not need any change. Some adventures (particularly those in Tales from Wilderland) actually have very few mechanics in them to start with. This means you can use pretty much all of them right off the page.
- Small Shifts: Skill and Attribute checks are the biggest thing in this category but basically you just need to find the “translation” and apply that. Body is either Strength or Constitution or Dexterity, Heart is either Charisma or (rarely) Wisdom, and Wits is either Intelligence or (for reflex) Wisdom. Skills are a longer list but you can use this table to switch. You’ll notice that some skills from TOR (Battle and sometimes Travel) and have not real correspondence to AME and that Animal Handling doesn’t map to anything in TOR. This doesn’t mean these are unusable, just that you should make a judgement call when they come up.
|The One Ring||Adventures in M.E.||The One Ring||Adventures in M.E.|
|Awe||Intimidation||Explore||Survival or Nature|
|Athletics||Athletics or Acrobatics||Song||Performance|
|Travel||Survival or Con Save||Courtesy||Traditions|
|Stealth||Stealth or Sleight of Hand||Riddle||Riddle|
|Awareness||Perception||Craft||History, Investigation, or Traditions|
|Search||Investigation||Lore||Lore, History, or Shadow-lore|
- Big Shifts: The largest issue here is creatures and those will presumably be covered in the Loremaster’s Guide. For now, just use any of the NPCs at the back of the Monster Manual, the animals at the back of the Player’s Handbook, or the goblin, hobgoblin, and orc entries in the Monster Manual. If you run across someone with spell abilities, just pass them off as extraordinary abilities: the acolyte turned creepy Shadow-tainted thief can’t actually hurl burning hands but he’s got some nasty flash-powder. If a spell really doesn’t fit, swap it out for a spell of the same level that does. If in doubt, you can also check out this fan site that’s done a lot of creature blocks.