Adventures in Middle-earth builds on the base of the core OGL games system, which powers the world’s favourite roleplaying game, adding new classes and cultures (which replace “races”), a set of rules for journeys, a system for meeting powerful and important non player characters, and a lot more.
Dominic McDowall, Cubicle 7 CEO had this to say: “Adventures in Middle-earth has already proved to be our most successful roleplaying game on release. I’m delighted to be able to bring all our acclaimed Middle-earth material to a new audience, and the reception has been fantastic!”
Setting-wise, Adventures in Middle-earth initially focuses on Wilderland – the huge area around Mirkwood – at specific time. Events in the game occur five years after the events of The Hobbit. The dragon Smaug is dead, the free peoples of the region are beginning to travel and explore once again. King Bard, newly established in the rebuilt city of Dale has sent out a call for Adventurers to come to nearby Lake-town, and undertake missions for him. It’s a hopeful time, but out of character we know the War of the Ring is coming. The Nazgul are about to retake Dol Guldur in Southern Mirkwood, and Wilderland is still home to the survivors of The Battle of Five Armies, as well as orcs from the Misty Mountains, and the spiders of Mirkwood.
Adventures in Middle-earth offers a low fantasy interpretation of the OGL rules: there are no magic users or divine healers. The available equipment is tailored to what we find in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Players may play Bardings, Beornings, Hobbits, Dwarves of The Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood, Men of Bree, Men of the Lake, Men of Minas Tirith, Rider of Rohan, Dunédain, and Woodmen of Mirkwood. The new classes comprise Scholar, Slayer, Treasure Hunter, Wanderer, Warden and Warrior.
Adventures in Middle-earth introduces a system of Virtues – special abilities that add thematic special abilities to each of the cultures. Some characters begin their adventuring career with a Virtue, and more can be gained as characters advance in level. Characters are further tied into the setting with a variety of Middle-earth themed Backgrounds. These provide a motivations and inspire an appropriately-themed character backstory.
The combat rules are unchanged, making this side of the game familiar to anyone who’s a regular fantasy roleplayer. A big change to the standard OGL rules however comes with the removal of Alignment. Adventures in Middle-earth assumes players are broadly good. New Corruption mechanic tracks Shadow Points – accrue too many of these and your character risks succumbing to a Bout of Madness, along with gaining permanent Shadow. This presents a big challenge to some commonly encountered play styles. Too much killing and looting and your character is steadily consumed by the Shadow, and eventually becomes unplayable.
A huge part of adventuring in Middle-earth is journeys – a focus of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – and Adventures in Middle-earth provides new rules for generating flavourful Journeys.
New Audience rules provide the Loremaster with a framework for structuring encounters with significant characters, be they King Bard, an important NPC with something the Company want, or Gandalf himself.
The new “Fellowship Phase” offers a variant to downtime, seeing players taking charge of the narrative while their characters rest between adventures.
Physically, Adventures in Middle Earth Player’s Guide is a 224 page hardcover book, beautifully illustrated in full colour. The cover art is by renowned Middle-earth artist John Howe.
Adventures in Middle Earth is available in all good US games retailers now, the European release date is the 16th of November. Participating game stores are running an introductory adventure – The Eaves of Mirkwood.
The Adventurer’s Guide will be followed by the Loremaster’s Guide, packed with setting info and advice for those running games, expected in PDF before the end of 2016, and released in hardcopy in early 2017.
About Cubicle 7
Cubicle 7 are a UK-based hobby games developer and publisher, known for their high production values in bringing geek favourites to the tabletop, including Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings.