kaijusenpai
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Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Sun 13 Sep 2020, 02:47

So, I'm sure this has been done to death elsewhere, but I wanted to know how everyone else feels about it here.

For sure, corruption is absolutely a theme in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, but it is something that few characters succumb to in a lifetime of adventuring, and often that corruption ties directly to either treasure or The One Ring itself. Making it such a prevalent mechanic in the game is an interesting choice; it is possible for a character to go mad, become evil, or commit suicide in a single longer adventure (granted not necessarily all that easy). It acts as more of a "Sanity" mechanic borrowed from Call of Cthulhu than anything else, and turns Middle Earth into something of a horror setting, which is certainly not how I ever imagined it (though there are certainly horrific creatures and themes if you're willing to look for them).

My question is this: do you think this mechanic really works as intended? It doesn't necessarily make me feel more like I'm in Middle Earth, to be honest. This is coming from someone who has read all the books (including Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales), watched all the films many times, etc. It certainly adds tension, but this is a Middle Earth in which Mordor isn't even all that active... sure there are orcs around, there is shadow activity, but this isn't even the darkest of times and yet adventurers become corrupt and go mad all willy-nilly.

I'm curious what you all think... And I'm also hoping that Fria Ligan takes another look at it when they're working on TOR2E and AiME's successor. I think the corruption mechanic has a place in such a game, but to make it so overt and punishing takes me out of the world and drops me into the Mountains of Madness or something.
Last edited by kaijusenpai on Sun 13 Sep 2020, 05:34, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Carcharoth
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Sun 13 Sep 2020, 04:21

I think that if anything, the phrase "bout of madness" is a little confusing/misleading. It invokes ideas of running through the forest, pulling out your hair, and babbling like a madman, when I think it's simply a way for a PC to temporarily become an instrument of "The Shadow". The Lore-master gets to take a PC, which is normally an asset to the party, and turn their strengths/gifts into a liability, which I think perfectly reflects the nature of corruption in Tolkien's universe.
"Of all the terrors that came ever into Beleriand ere Angband’s fall the madness of Carcharoth was the most dreadful; for the power of the Silmaril was hidden within him."
- The Silmarillion
 
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jerichojeudy
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Sun 13 Sep 2020, 11:36

Indeed, bout of madness makes you think of Denethor, who was exposed to Enemy directly through the Palantir.

The rules are there to create Boromir moments, moments where PCs succumb to their inner deamons, not become mad. So rewording these rules could be important.

When Shadow manifests in a PC, it expresses itself in a very specific way, according to your Shadow type or whatever it’s called. So your not going mad, it’s just the seed of greed or pride, or whatever is interesting and true to your character, takes over and makes him take « evil » deeds.

Brings him closer to Sauron, but only in a philosophical sense, really. If Sauron would take over, greed, power and pride would be the only Law.

If played like that, I feel it’s thematic and makes this dark could hover over ME, a foreboding cloud of terrible things to come. I quite like it.

But you definitely need to tailor to taste.
 
coniunctio
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Sun 13 Sep 2020, 12:16

...I like it and can't think of a better way to work with the 'eucatastrophe' that Tolkien referred to - the spirit of hope and sacrifice brought to the brink for the sake of the greater good. Quite often in the canon we read of what happens after that point is reached, for better or worse, and in scale from the smallest to the biggest personality. I suspect the use of the word 'madness' is more in the philosophical sense than our modern psychology term and that is where the game mechanic requires some subtlety to differentiate it from the Lovecraft element you refer to. Tolkien uses the word madness quite often or a variation of it. Becoming 'fey' 'rash' 'wild' or a reflection of it in the eyes as a malice or intent. With the 'Boromir effect' his madness is also then underwritten with an attempt at redemption of the soul. He sacrifices himself almost like a reset button has been switched on with a condition (of the Gods... where Gods we can think of as archetypal forces at work?). He has gone beyond the governance of his own self. His own self-determination or pride of the ego bound up with ideas of nationhood and valour and strength of arms only. One would say he has been seized by a complex. And at the heart of every complex is an archetype at work. There is a battle of his spirit. I like it because the LM can get into that kind of archetypal territory of the Fates at play for the PC's when they are at the brink. Do they drift into wandering obscurity, pilgrimage, death, a redemptive act, become fey in combat, become an agent of evil. That last one could be quite interesting for the LM to have an accomplice in another player who at the start of the adventure phase provides the LM with their own plan of action. A strategic aspect to the game rather than follow a linear series of narrative events. Perhaps after falling into the wrong hands he is required to hunt the company down or stir up shadow in the region - or sew doubt and 'evil' in the region or his home village. I'm thinking in the style of the board game hunt for the ring. A bit of a chess piece on the map so to speak.
 
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Elroval
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Sun 13 Sep 2020, 19:18

The rules are there to create Boromir moments, moments where PCs succumb to their inner deamons, not become mad. So rewording these rules could be important.
I think the wording is just right. After all, Boromir, after realising what he had done cried: 'Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back! '

So I wouldn't want to change the wording at all, as it reflects the source material exactly.
 
Atama
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 07:10

Wormtongue, Frodo himself, Saruman, Thorin... Many characters were overtaken by Corruption at some point in the books. Galadriel came close but managed to overcome the Shadow when offered the One Ring. I think the mechanic does a pretty good job of mirroring one of the major themes of the books.
 
Jakob
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 11:18

Wormtongue, Frodo himself, Saruman, Thorin... Many characters were overtaken by Corruption at some point in the books. Galadriel came close but managed to overcome the Shadow when offered the One Ring. I think the mechanic does a pretty good job of mirroring one of the major themes of the books.
+1
If you define these "bouts of madness" broadly (as I would), they are a quite common occurence in Tolkien's work. Think also of Bilbo taking the Arkenstone (while that turned out well in the end, Bilbo's rationalisation that he'd just choose his fourteenth part himself makes clear that his intentions were not that noble), or of the quite murderous story of Turin Turambar; and also of positive examples liek Faramir resisting the temptation of the ring. Also, Theoden succumbing to Wormtongue's/Saruman's spell could also be seen as giving in to magically enhanced corruption. To me, it really feels like the "leitmotif" of middle-earth.
 
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jthurn
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Thu 17 Sep 2020, 19:25


My question is this: do you think this mechanic really works as intended? It doesn't necessarily make me feel more like I'm in Middle Earth, to be honest. This is coming from someone who has read all the books (including Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales), watched all the films many times, etc. It certainly adds tension, but this is a Middle Earth in which Mordor isn't even all that active... sure there are orcs around, there is shadow activity, but this isn't even the darkest of times and yet adventurers become corrupt and go mad all willy-nilly.
Before I add my pennies you should know how I run my games: I lean into and reward role playing (over roll playing), and develop custom stories for each player/character to exploit their blind spots while elevating their best aspects. I see the world as another character, one that is experiencing a colonizing invasion by the Shadow. As the Shadow spreads, it raises the stakes and makes bad things worse. I've had the same campaign with the same group going for six years, so the Wilderland has become more and more tainted (part of that is due to time, part due to consequences of player action or inaction.)

While the times aren't as dark as the fall of Eriador or the War of the Ring, horrible events still impact people. There are still the stresses of life and the trauma of adventuring. There's a ragged line between good and evil that runs through everyone, and they still need to resist the Shadow -- whether it's a little voice in the ear or massive pressure on the mind -- in order to remain true to their callings, duties, and selves. Heck they may not deteriorate due to the Shadow exactly, but to their own malice or mistakes. The perfect open door through which the Shadow slips.

All that to say that I try -- hard -- to make sure that this doesn't happy willy-nilly at all. The ideal is for there to be real stakes and real situations that create real terror and real consequences. And I definitely use all the Tolkein-esque examples people have brought up here as inspiration.

(And speaking of inspiration, I'm looking forward to a shadow point counterbalance in the second edition.)
 
gyrovague
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Fri 18 Sep 2020, 17:15

With the 'Boromir effect' his madness is also then underwritten with an attempt at redemption of the soul. He sacrifices himself almost like a reset button has been switched on with a condition (of the Gods... where Gods we can think of as archetypal forces at work?).
That makes me think that a neat mechanic would be that after a bout of madness you get some kind of temporary or single-use superability, varying by Calling, that can be used for "redemption".
 
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Falenthal
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Re: Discussion of Shadow and Corruption

Fri 18 Sep 2020, 20:55

With the 'Boromir effect' his madness is also then underwritten with an attempt at redemption of the soul. He sacrifices himself almost like a reset button has been switched on with a condition (of the Gods... where Gods we can think of as archetypal forces at work?).
That makes me think that a neat mechanic would be that after a bout of madness you get some kind of temporary or single-use superability, varying by Calling, that can be used for "redemption".
Looks like something that could be dramatic and emotional.

Just thinking about mechanics, I tend to think of such a situation from another perspective: after a bout of madness in which a hero takes some shameful action, the LM offers him a course of action to redeem himself... but which is nearly impossible. If succesful, he won't gain the permanent Shadow and will recover the trust of his comrades. Otherwise, he'll get double Shadow points and a bad reputation. Or whatever.

In such a highly difficult situation (that probably he has to solve by himself, without help), a real hero should be willing to spend as many Hope points as necessary to succeed. Spending so many Hope points would be similar to having that "super-ability" in effect, but not in cost to the hero, who should sacrifice something for his attonement.

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