Andwise
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Alternate Middle Earth setting

Mon 01 Aug 2022, 21:08

I had an idea for a TOR setting which would be exciting and familiar but also different and freeing with respect to canon. I want to plan a Middle-earth setting where something major (or minor, with major consequences) happened, or didn't happen, which changed the history from TLotR quite drastically. This would be a pretty grim setting, much like the end of the First Age in Beleriand, when Morgoth had almost overrun the whole land and only a few islands of resistance remained, just before the host of the Valar and Noldor came to save the day.
Possible changes:

--The ring was stolen from Bilbo? Maybe Gollum took it back before Gandalf belatedly realized its significance?
--The Blue Istari, rumored to have fallen to the Shadow are back and helped defeat Gondor and Rohan?
--Smaug never died? Maybe Bilbo got burned to a cinder in during the discussion and so the one ring is buried under mounds of treasure under Erebor.
etc.

Either way, the changes to Eriador would be great. In this "history", the south and East are mostly fallen to the Shadow. Gondor has fallen, Rohan has fallen, Perhaps even Lorien. Refugees have flooded the lands North and West, rebuilding once ruined cities and towns and strengthening the remaining areas not yet under the shadow. Everything south of Tharbad and East of the the Anduin is lost. Perhaps there are islands of resistance in the Iron Hills or South West Gondor (Andrast and Anfalas), and the Norther part of Mirkwood fights back with Thranduil and many elven refugees from Lorien). Maybe the Beornings numbers are bolstered with fleeing Rohirrim returning to their ancestral lands. Perhaps also some of the southern or eastern enemies (Haradrim? Dunlendings?) have changed alliances and are fighting back against Sauron. Not sure.

In this setting there could be a quest to actually find the one ring. There could also be a lot of interaction with canon characters and a lot of freedom in the big overarching story. You wouldn't have to make quests that carefully skirt around important places or people.
Anyway, any ideas on what change caused this alternate history and how the land would be different?
 
Dunheved
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Tue 02 Aug 2022, 11:28

Tbh my first response to this idea was " No. TOO big for me, not my scene. Move on."
But Tavern Keeper is down today (August 2nd 2022) so I have a few moments contemplation before Strider Mode sets in (that or else I remember I have to water the vegetables!).

I think the catastrophic change I would incorporate is one of these two threads - both have the same root.

1. Saruman finds out from Gandalf, or one of Thorin's companions, about Bilbo's invisibility ability: deducing that the Hobbit has a Ring of Power. And so Saruman "acquires" it and the war of the Ring is between Saruman and Sauron
2. Gandalf falls to the lure of the Ring himself with similar consequences.

The first choice becomes totally open and seems to give a wild direction at very much of a tangent to Tolkiens story.
The second version permits some use of Tolkien's characters and sub-plots: Gandalf might be able to get the Rangers and Aragorn on his side for a while, until the Ring corrupts the wizard. And who knows who wins the fight with Sauron? Or what Saruman does in this situation? Or Denethor and Boromir?

(For the British audience, today is August 2nd isn't it? Not April 1st?)
 
Andwise
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Tue 02 Aug 2022, 18:39

Wow, those are two very intriguing ideas.
1. I prefer this one because I like keeping Gandalf good, and as a patron. I suppose it would still lead to the fall of the South and East as Super Ultra Mega Saruman would first want to deal with Rohan and then Gondor. Having Saruman also battle Sauron/Mordor would end up helping the Free peoples, so maybe Rohan would flee north, up around Gladden, or to the Long Lake, and refugees from Gondor would head south and west, below the White Mountains. Perhaps, if Saruman had the Ring, even the ents would have to flee, I suppose to Mirkwood, although it would be cool if they made it as far as the Old Forrest or Eryn Vorn or something.
2. This option is also interesting. Perhaps Radagast would be the final Istari on the side of the Free People, or the Blue Wizards would return to help him. I have no idea what kind of army Gandalf would muster. Yes, perhaps Aragorn and the Rangers would side with him, erring on the side of Pride and domination like some of the Numenorians of the 2nd Age. Cool.
Thanks for you ideas.
 
Asgo
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Tue 02 Aug 2022, 23:37

Generally, I love the concept of alternate timelines where X did or didn't happen. A lot of epic stories and IPs have - for dramaturgy reasons - quite a few direction deciding plot points or single points of failure, that could drive the story on crazy tangents.

For middle-earth and if you want to keep roughly the time frame the one ring is a prime choice - it would also keep it a center point and therefore on somewhat familiar territory. The time frame is also a good measure to determine how much difference new world building you have to do. Middle-earth will be far more recognizable and familiar if something got off the rails a few decades ago compared to a few centuries (from the time where you wanna play).
...
1. Saruman finds out from Gandalf, or one of Thorin's companions, about Bilbo's invisibility ability: deducing that the Hobbit has a Ring of Power. And so Saruman "acquires" it and the war of the Ring is between Saruman and Sauron
2. Gandalf falls to the lure of the Ring himself with similar consequences.
...
if you go later in the story you could also take anyone from during the LOTR, who might be successfully tempted by the ring.
You could go for Aragorn or Boromir as corrupted leaders of men - below the power levels of Gandalf or Saruman, but with the nice twist of showing what the ring could do in possession of someone with potential backing of a nation or armies.
Or go high with Elrond or Galadriel, in an ironic twist of keeping the ring away from corruptible humans.
Or go crazy with a corrupted Tom Bombadil - not sure how that would turn out, but it sounds definitely like fun. ;)

A more subtle change, still focusing on the ring, would be that Bilbo in a moment of realization of the effect of the ring disposes of the ring before Gandalf discerns it's true nature. Perhaps with Bilbo going mad and ending his life as a starting point for the investigation and discovery process, with a fresh search for the ring afterwards. The fun bit is, that you can be very free with where the ring actually ends up and how hard it is to find and with the tragic end of Bilbo you can construct a nice motivation for a variety of potential characters to get to hunt for the ring - either with some personal drive from the Hobbits side or an investigative push for characters more in "hired to find and retrieve" category.

My personal favorite for a change that is a bit more indirect and down the road: Balin's attempt to retake and rebuild Moria is successful or at least holds on long enough for the fellowship passing through Moria. You could create a lot of creative changes from that without going too far off the path.


One thing though, which holds for a lot of beloved IPs, if you want to use the new setting for a campaign, checking in with the intended players if they would be interested in something like that might be useful. A lot of players go for a LOTR or Star Wars RPG to specifically immerse themselves in that world - with the expected recognition factor and general familiarity - not all will necessarily appreciate the amount of work you would put in your ME variant. :)
 
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finarvyn
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Wed 03 Aug 2022, 03:39

My idea is a Fourth Age thing. Once the One Ring is destroyed, we all assumed that the power of the three and the seven and the nine was gone as well. What if it wasn't? So Sauron isn't killed but is dispersed and has to claw his way back into power. Working his way down the line, his spirit divides into three parts and tries to possess the wearers of the Three. Galadriel becomes a bane-sidhe or something like that. Gandalf becomes a spell casting necromancer. (Ironic, as Sauron was "the necromancer" in the Hobbit.) Elrond becomes a hermit in his dark towers of Rivendell.

I know that the Seven were lost in dragon hordes. Perhaps that could create seven draconic ringwraiths. That's pretty darned scary.

The heroes are now tasked with three quests as they have to face three of Middle-earth's greatest and somehow wrest the rings from them, then take the three to somewhere (Mount Doom? Where were the three forged?)
Marv / Finarvyn
I bought into The Loop, Forbidden Lands, Vaesen, Alien and Twilight 2000 (in that order).
Now backing TOR 2E KS.
OD&D since 1975, Amber Diceless since 1993.
 
Otaku-sempai
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Wed 03 Aug 2022, 04:11

I know that the Seven were lost in dragon hordes. Perhaps that could create seven draconic ringwraiths. That's pretty darned scary.

The heroes are now tasked with three quests as they have to face three of Middle-earth's greatest and somehow wrest the rings from them, then take the three to somewhere (Mount Doom? Where were the three forged?)
.
Only four of the Seven Rings were destroyed. Canonically, Sauron recovered three of the Rings including the Ring of Thrain. It was presumably these Rings he was using to attempt to bribe the Dwarves into giving up Bilbo.
#FideltyToTolkien
 
Andwise
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Thu 04 Aug 2022, 18:51

You could go for Aragorn or Boromir as corrupted leaders of men - below the power levels of Gandalf or Saruman, but with the nice twist of showing what the ring could do in possession of someone with potential backing of a nation or armies.
Or go high with Elrond or Galadriel, in an ironic twist of keeping the ring away from corruptible humans.
Or go crazy with a corrupted Tom Bombadil - not sure how that would turn out, but it sounds definitely like fun. ;)


[/quote]

Those options do sound fun! I prefer Saruman as he already showed his true colors in the actual timeline, and Boromir, as he also failed in resisting the temptation to take the ring.
The Moria option is cool too. Thanks for the ideas.
 
Otaku-sempai
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Thu 04 Aug 2022, 22:29

One small change: When Bilbo has his chance to show mercy to Gollum he kills him instead (and lies about it later?), tainting his spirit. What happens from there?
#FideltyToTolkien
 
Asgo
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Re: Alternate Middle Earth setting

Fri 05 Aug 2022, 01:57

One small change: When Bilbo has his chance to show mercy to Gollum he kills him instead (and lies about it later?), tainting his spirit. What happens from there?
nice one, with consequences that would short term be more subtle although have quite interesting effects down the road.

An interesting question in that context is how you embed your changes to the world into the game.
1) as upfront lore drops of big changes - random example everyone - even in the Bree area - would know that Gondor recently conquered Rohan and created Greater Gondor as the new united realm of men. The people might not know why and how that happened, but it is a such a big difference most characters and therefore their players should know upfront.
2) a more subtle change that players are intended to discover through the game. so they would know that you changed something relevant to the world, but not what

The suggested change above would be a nice case for 2), in particular in the time frame of TOR 2nd ed. Could make for interesting investigative bits, in particular if you end up with Bilbo as a patron who might feel off more and more over time.


Of course, if you cannot decide on the alternate reality to use, you always can use all of them. :)
Unknown to most there exists another ring of power, which looks quite similar to the The One Ring - let's call it The One Ring 2nd ED ;) - and gets often mistaken for the one over the course of history, because to an outside observer its powers look quite similar. The main difference is that putting the ring on wouldn't just make you invisible it would transport you to an alternate timeline in the multiverse (randomness of the target depends on your level of control). From the outside you just disappear. The One Ring is a precursor and takes you just a bit out of it to see one alternate one with barely an overlap and an automatic bounce back on removal of the ring. In those alternate realities you can play with all those different variations.
For playability I recommend making it a group port ability otherwise you end up not just with a split party, but a split party with different world and histories - that could get confusing. ;)
Still might be more playable than single timeline time travel, where in session 30 you might have to revise or replay sessions 19-29, because your party decided to travel back to the time of episode 18 and wreak havoc on history. Multiverses are more forgiving, you can always add another variant....

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