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Category: Middle-earth (Page 1 of 4)

28mm Middle-earth Miniatures for RPGs and Wargames

I am doing research on what manufacturer’s produce Middle-earth compatible minis with human males in the 28mm or 30mm height range.

Background: I have hundreds of D&D and Pathfinder miniatures (where human males are 28mm tall, sometimes closer to 30 or even 32mm tall). Some call it ’25mm Heroic’ but these larger minis look noticeably taller than the traditional 25mm counterparts. However, most of the Middle-earth miniatures lines are in the true 25mm size range, not 28 or 30mm.

I want to buy minis to use for Middle-earth wargames which will field around 100 models on the table using the Dragon Rampant rules. I am also starting an ‘Adventures in Middle-earth’ roleplaying campaign, so I’d like to use these same miniatures in both Middle-earth wargaming and in tabletop roleplaying games. So I’d rally like my Middle-earth armies to be in the 28mm or 30mm height range.

I asked on the “Wargaming in Middle-earth” Facebook group and got some great feedback!

28mm Metal & Plastic Miniatures

Northstar’s Oathmark miniatures range has a nice range of goblins, dwarves and soon will have elves as well. It is worth taking a look at Frostgrave stuff as well.  These look to be the best looking manufacturer in this size range.

If you go hunting for Dark Age / Saxon cavalry there’s a load of great options out there in 28mm. Gripping Beast do them in metal and plastic.

Footsore Miniatures also have nice mounted Saxons.

I hear that there are plans to add goblin riders, but I’ve not seen official news on that.

Size Comparisons

There are some great blog posts showing the different sizes between GDW Lord of the Rings figures and models such as Oathmark:

Rebased Heroclix Models

I also plan to rebase some Heroclix Lord of the Rings models. I’ll touch up the paint jobs a bit. These are a quick, inexpensive way to get Middle-earth figures on the table that are the 28mm size range.

Long-Term Middle-earth Campaign Roadmap

If I am able, I would love to intermittently play Middle-earth campaigns for years to come, and sequence them in such a way that over time we traverse sequentially the most interesting time periods for RPG adventures. Here’s a roadmap:

  • T.A. 1640 The Heroes of Arnor — Mercenaries for Lord Elasander, ally to Arthedain, last royal house of Arnor, attempt to boost border defenses in the wilds of Rhudaur, west of the Misty Mountains. (Already played this, concluded summer 2017).
  • T.A. 2941 (Events of The Hobbit)
  • T.A. 2947-2977 The Darkening of Mirkwood — The Necromancer may have been cast out of Dol Guldur, but a lingering darkness remains over Mirkwood, a shadow that will grow ever longer as the years draw on – unless a band of brave adventurers step forward and hold back the gloom. (Hope to play this next; a published campaign from Cubicle 7)
  • T.A. 3018-3021 (Events of The Lord of the Rings)
  • T.A. 3021 (End of the Third Age)
  • F.A. 15 Palantír Quest — Adventurers must survive the wilds and ancient ruins to find a legendary palantíri needed by King Elessar. (Hope to play this someday; a published campaign from I.C.E. using MERP rules)
  • F.A. 29 A Scourge of Wyrms — Dark forces lead to a arise of Wyrms (dragons) and a ring of shadowy spies who threaten the throne of King Elessar. (Hope to play this someday; a custom campaign)
  • F.A. 121 The Wrath of Shadows — In the wake of Arwen’s death, a powerful figure arises with ties to Sauron, wielding a mysterious artifact known as the Vandilmaril. (Hope to play this someday; a custom campaign)

Palantír Quest & Adventuring in the 4th Age

One of the campaigns I really want to run someday is ‘Palantír Quest’, a 1994 campaign module published by Iron Crown Enterprises for the old MERP rules for Middle-earth.

I’m fortunate to have a copy (this is pretty collectable; copies on eBay run $150-$200). Here’s the cover.

The interior has some amazing, black-and-white line art. Great maps you can scan and reproduce as handouts!

Here’s one summary of the adventure:

Strange portents in the great Seeing-stone of Minas Tirith give promise that one of the lost palantíri of the North has returned to the lands of Men. Can the adventurers find the legendary treasure and bring it to King Elessar? Rogues of the wilds, blizzards out of Forodwaith, and the greed in Men’s hearts all conspire against them. (source)

Here’a great, spoiler-free review of the ‘Palantír Quest’ adventure.

The adventure by default takes place just a few years into the Fourth Age. With some tweaks, you could set it some years later.

There are about 12 ‘adventures’, each of which I’d guess would take 1-2 game session apiece, for about 18-24 four-hour sessions of play. There are MERP stats for NPCs and creatures, but it would not be too hard to convert them to Adventures in Middle-earth or The One Ring.

The campaign takes place over most of a single year. I’d need to do some more reading to see if interjecting a few ‘Fellowship Phases’ with additional months of downtime (from the Adventures in Middle-earth) would disrupt the storyline.

Anyway, a fine campaign from the looks of it! I look forward to running it someday 🙂

Things I’ve Learned After Running Three ‘Adventures in Middle-earth’ Games

I’ve now run three ‘Adventures in Middle-earth’ game sessions. I love it! It is a fantastic and very faithful adaptation of the Tolkien material.

There were a few things I got wrong the first time I ran it, and there are some different game-style assumptions that require a slightly modified approach to get the most out of this new, wonderful 5e setting. Here’s my advice to new gamemasters (called ‘Loremasters’) who are thinking of running a Middle-earth campaign using’Adventures in Middle-earth’ (or AiME).

My First 'Adventures in Middle-earth' Game

My First ‘Adventures in Middle-earth’ Game

Journeys and Mapping Are A Key Activity

Journeys are a big part of each game. Players are going to spend more time than you would think having fun strategizing over routes to take, who is going to take on the role as ‘Guide’, and other activities involved in planning and taking a Journey. The mechanics are new but after a couple of sessions things flow pretty quickly.

There’s so much fun looking over the map and seeing places everyone has some familiarity with. ‘Hey, those are the Barrow-downs!’ ‘Say, Amon Sul is the same as Weathertop — that’s where Frodo and company were attacked by the Nazgul!’. It was interesting to play in a world so familiar and rich with history. It felt like we were in a campaign that everyone had been playing together for 20 years.

Journeys Aren’t Like Traditional Hex Crawls

Journeys can be long. You can easily take a journey of 150 or 300 miles before you get to your main destination. As such, the rules don’t follow traditional hex crawl procedures. My traditional hex crawl method was (doing this for each and every hex): enter a hex ➞ roll for encounters ➞ rest for the night ➞ see if anything happens while you’re on watch ➞ travel to the next hex.

In AiME, by default, although you plan a route through a dozen ten-mile hexes or more, you don’t track where you’re at on a specific day. Instead, you may have a Journey Event that takes place at an abstract time and place during the journey. For example, the Loremaster might say: “several days into the journey as you enter the bogs, you encounter a band of orcs”.

I got confused by this the first game I ran a Journey. Worked much better when I didn’t track exact days and distance the following session.

Players Dig Kingdoms, Titles, and Sanctuaries

From day one, you’re immersed into a ‘kingdoms’  focus that feels somewhat like the ‘strongholds’ end-game of the old White Box / BX / 1e D&D days. During the Fellowship Phase players can do things like receive Titles and create Sanctuaries. Sanctuaries end up being a big deal — if you have to routinely make a long journey with no Sanctuary in the middle to stop and recover, you’ll have more negative Journey Events, more enemy encounters and such. Build a Sanctuary mid-way and split that route into two Short journeys and you’ll have much easier travels.

The fact that months or even a full year can pass during a Fellowship phase infuses a grand, epic air into your activities. Very Tolkienesque, even when players are low-level characters!

Different Lands or Eras Requires Extra Effort

The books and maps work best if you run your campaign in the era between the time of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and place your campaign in or around Mirkwood. If you wan to try running adventures in a different land or time period, you’ll have some additional work. Personally, I like the year 1640 in the Third Age (centuries before The Hobbit) since I can pull out and use my many MERP modules (old Iron Crown ‘Middle-earth Roleplaying’ adventures that used the Rolemaster system).

You’ll have to tweak a few things and use a different map, but I’m doing it and it’s working fine with a bit of effort. See my house-rules and map resources for doing a TA 1640 campaign.

The ‘Wanderer’ class has a ‘Known Lands’ feature that you’ll need to take into account if you use a different map than the one they provide in the Player’s Guide.

Player Abilities Drive Story

One thing I was surprised about was the intense sandbox gamestyle AiME fostered due to features built into the characters. For example, there is a background feature ‘Foreknowledge’ plus Fellowship phase activities ‘Research Lore’ and ‘Meet Patron’ which end up letting players ask questions and get answers at the beginning and end of games. Characters end up asking questions and generating patrons or quests which drives story lines that are entirely of the player’s origin. I love it! Using ‘Dungeon World’ style fronts is a great approach to driving adventures after a session or two of play.

Because of this, and because of the Journey and Fellowship phases, game session structures are quite different than in my traditional D&D game. After three games, here’s how a game that ends up with a Fellowship Phase might pan out for a four hour session:

  1. Resolve Fellowship Phase from last game: 25 minutes
  2. Roleplay Adventure Hook Scene: 35 minutes
  3. Plan and Take Journey to Adventure Locale: 45 minutes
  4. A couple of exploration/roleplay scenes and 1 big fight: 1:45 minutes
  5. Take Journey Home from Adventure Locale: 30 minutes

Note the items in bold — these are gameplay phases that I would often skip or run very quickly in a traditional D&D game. In Adventure in Middle-earth, they can be about half a game session!

Journeys include encounters that can be things like an Orc Band, a Troll, wandering group of singing Elves, or an opportunity to hunt down Herbs or Food (that give mechanical benefits; they’re sort of like magic items). Journeys and the sandbox adventuring that spring out of them are a big part of the game, and also take a chunk of game time. A good thing, but you should budget game session time for these things 🙂

Tracking Journey or Fellowship Phase Information

There are some Journey related modifiers, as well as Fellowship phase events, which can carry over from session to session. I’ve now started to use a publicly visible whiteboard to take note of Journey modifiers as they come up during the Embarkation and Journey Event phases. Helps me not lose track of something.

Ramping Up on Tolkien Canon

You can plunge in to running AiME without being a Tolkien scholar. That being said, it helps to re-read the books (or watch the movies) before or as you run a campaign. I’m found myself gaining interest in reading up on various Tolkien topics.  Some resources I’ve found helpful:

Youtube has some great videos you can give to players. In twelve minutes, you can learn just about all you need to know! Have players watch these two videos (second one is if you’re running TA 1640 campaigns):

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