I have long been tempted by the call of Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e. I have read good things, it uses D&D as a chassis, and I have been extremely curious as to how these guys mechanically expressed the breadth and depth of Tolkien's world. Unfortunately, I have never been a big fan of Tolkien's works. I slogged through the Lord of the Rings because I felt I needed to, but it took me years and several aborted attempts. Thus, the price tag was always too high for something that emulates books I was never in love with in the first place.
That all changed when Cubicle 7 offered up their Middle-Earth 5e library on Humble Bundle. I grabbed it and have been reading through the Players Guide. It is as good as advertised and I am very impressed. In order to explain why I love this so much (especially given my own dislike of Tolkien's books), I have to explain my relationship to baseball.
I do not like baseball. It is boring. The season is way too long and no one game seems to matter all that much, even in post season. I have tried to like it for both family and friends. Back in the day, I would try to watch Atlanta Braves games on TBS and Chicago Cubs games on WGN. I even went to a couple of live MLB games. I just couldn't bring myself to care.
Here's the thing though: I completely understand and appreciate why baseball fans love this game. I have always wished I could do the same because I love watching people who love baseball talk about baseball. Of all the 30 for 30 documentaries ESPN has produced over the years, my favorite is still the one about how the Boston Red Sox came back from three games down in the ALCS against the Yankees. It is one giant homage to Boston Red Sox fans and their love for their team. I love it because it is about everything I love about people who love baseball.
I have a similar relationship to Tolkien as I have to baseball. I don't like reading his books and I have no intention of reading them ever again, but I love to hear people talk about them and why they love them. This is why I actually slogged through the Lord of the Rings — I wanted to be part of that conversation. I wanted to love and talk about Tolkien that same way people who love the books do.
What I am trying to get at here is that what makes Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e so good isn't that it is Middle-Earth or Tolkien. What makes it great is that they get what people love about Tolkien: the themes, the ideas, the archetypes, the literary forms, the values, the world-view. Everything that I love hearing people who love Tolkien get excited about is in this game. It allows me to participate in that love in a way I could never have imagined myself doing.
Here is one of the highest praises I think I can give any game: I want to play this. Badly. Interestingly, I don't want to be the Loremaster/GM/DM/Referee whatever you want to call it like I do with most RPGs. I want to be a Player. I want to create a character and play.
To that end (and because I feel I have to whinge about something), I created this Character Sheet to replace the awful, boring, uninspired CS that comes with the game:
You can download it here.
One last thought. From a mechanical POV, I really appreciate what Adventures in Middle-Earth does with 5e. They push the concepts of Race, Class, and Background in the kind of experimental ways that I tried to with ba5ic. It has got me thinking of new ways to frame ba5ic — specifically in a Lovecraftian direction. Hopefully, these ideas will see the light of day prior to next New Years.
BTW I hope 2020 brings many blessings to us all.
2 hours ago