Last week, I rolled out the idea behind this column, doing a play review of Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Our first session occurred on December 1st, 2018. However, before that session there was a deal of work to be done, standard prep for an extended campaign. As it stood, one of our longtime players, Leland, had to step away for real world reasons. Down a regular, we started out our fellowship with Rebecca, Stephen, John McGuire (Tessera Guild), and myself, while Mike ran the game as the Loremaster. For characters, we each picked what we wanted to play without worrying what the other characters would choose:
- Rebecca: Gwynnestri of Mirkwood. An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Once the game gets rolling, Rebecca will find Gwynn’s voice early, which helps set the tone for the campaign.
- Stephen: Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith son of Hoin. A dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian) with a tragic backstory that I’ll share in the coming columns.
- John McGuire (Tessera Guild): Finn of Gondor. His class has not been revealed yet, but he’s a 17-year-old human, and John is building him as just a pup, new to the wider world.
- Egg Embry (Tessera Guild): Robgud Clarfield, a Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). I knew going in that I did not want to be a “spotlight” character, that I wanted to play a supporting role and that brought Robgud to mind.
[NOTE: In the interest of players enjoying the maximum freedom at the gaming table, I did not ask for their character sheets so stats will only be shared as I learn them in-game.]
Let’s talk about the character creation process for my character, Robgud Clarfield. Why a Hobbit Scholar? Well, that was my second choice. My first choice was a Hobbit Warden. When I envisioned the character, I knew two things:
- My dice rolls tend to be so bad that I cannot hit the broadside of a kobold. Decades ago, my 5th or 6th level Ranger, at full HP with a bastard sword, went one-on-one with a single 1e kobold. My Ranger just barely survived. The kobold escaped. That’s what my dice rolls look like in D&D.
- I wanted to play something outside of my norm.
Addressing those in reverse order, let’s start with my usual type of characters, which tend to be the whisper-growl of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer from 24, or the “comic” relief character (without the hindrance of actually being, you know, funny). In other words, murder hobo down the line. For this game, I didn’t want to do that since, obviously, murder hoboing would be off by just a smidge in Tolkien’s world. Instead, I wanted to play my own version of Sean Astin’s Samwise Gamgee, or, for those that know him in life, my Tessera mate, John “Hope Springs Eternal” McGuire. I wanted to play the uplifting character that believes tomorrow will be a bright sunny day.
For my poor rolls… well, if nothing can be done to improve my dice rolls, maybe there was a class that would lessen my poor luck’s impact. To that end, I read the Warden class and really liked the first level ability, Warden’s Gift. As a bonus action that could be used a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, you grant an ally a d6 to be added to any attack, ability check, or saving throw in the next 10 minutes. Replenish uses on a Long Rest. With that power, I would benefit the fellowship from jump while letting my allies make up for my poor rolls. I also felt that class had some basis in Sam Gamgee making it all the better to choose. As the class says, “Many Hobbit-heroes, for example, are Wardens (when they are not Treasure Hunters!)”
Yet, I’m a Scholar in the game, why’s that? As we got closer to the date, I got the news that ruined that character class for the min-maxer part of me: Stats would be the Standard Array. If you don’t know, the Standard Array in D&D 5e are a predetermined set of base stats (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8). These numbers are modified by Cultural attribute enhancements. In the case of Hobbits of the Shire, that’s +2 to DEX, and then Family Ties elevate them:
- Harfoot: +1 to WIS
- Stoor: +2 to CON
- Fallowhide: +1 to INT
The Warden’s primary ability is Charisma. Using the Standard Array with a Hobbit of any Family Tie meant my maximum starting Charisma would be a 15 without exceeding the rules. That score meant my Warden’s Gift power would have 2 uses per Long Rest. In AiME, Long Rests are rarer than in standard 5e (more on that another time) meaning there’s a fair chance that I’d go several sessions only able to pass out two d6s to help the fellowship, which made the min-maxer in me balk.
Was that a fair assessment of the class? Absolutely not. The Warden has a list of excellent powers and would be a compelling addition to any fellowship, even if your Charisma is not 18. The choice to not pursue this class was is all about my personal hangups. Thus, back to the class options I went and there I discovered the Scholar (read, Cleric).
In hindsight, that hangup would prove to be providence. To learn about that providence, let’s turn to Lake-town and our first session… [Next Friday]
Interested in trying out Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e? You can get most of the books as PDFs through Bundle of Holding (here) until January 4th, 2019. The price for Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, Rhovanion Region Guide, The Road Goes Ever On, Loremaster’s Guide, Wilderland Adventures, and the Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster Screen is not likely to get cheaper than what BoH and Cubicle 7 have it for there.
As well, Cubicle 7 has started taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.
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