The Fellowship of the Ring d20

   The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the primary inspirations for fantasy role-playing games. I do know one gamer who’s not familiar with the Lord of the Rings – but his primary interests lie with modern wargaming and he’s the only one I’ve seen in decades.

   So how would you convert the Fellowship into game terms? Literary conversions are always a bit difficult; RPG games tend to have abstract systems, cinematic combat options, characters who – since they’re not being guided by the author – have to be durable enough to survive making many bad decisions, and superhuman powers (whether called magic, psionics, combat maneuvers, or advanced technology) which are flashy and exciting enough to interest the players and still well-defined enough to fit into a game system and to be explained to the players. They usually also have some form of “experience points” to provide an in-game measure of achievement and a prize for the players to seek.

   Literary characters tend to suffer realistic injuries and recover slowly, to have their luck controlled by the author rather than by dice, to have realistic levels of skill and to develop slowly (if at all), to respect upper limits – and to respect the fact that getting better at something becomes more and more difficult as you approach those limits. In literature, as in reality, if something is worthwhile, there’s pretty much always a price to pay for getting it.

   That is in fact one of the major divisions in role-playing games. Magic, psionics, technologies that break major laws of real-world physics, and so on can all be quite “realistic”; they simply say that your game rules are simulating a world with somewhat different laws of nature.

   It’s when you start breaking laws of logic – when you start inspiring people to ask “but if that works, why don’t people just…” on a regular basis – that your game gets “unrealistic”.

   So here’s a basic rule for literary conversions: stick as closely as possible to the primary source material. Don’t give the characters any abilities that they don’t display in that source material.

   For a secondary rule of thumb, you can generally assume that the characters were either very lucky or very unlucky as seems appropriate since the results of their “roll of the dice” were up to the author and not to chance. It’s entirely fair to assume that your converted characters will only match the more outrageous stunts (if any) found in the source material when their theoretical players are getting very very lucky indeed.

   That, and the article on Gandalf and the Balrog – has recently led to some discussion over conversions of the rest of the Fellowship, Since it’s not the first time the subject has come up, it’s time for an article.

   Part of the trouble with converting the rest of the Fellowship is that, unlike Gandalf – who performs some definite magical acts, most of which can be rated in various game systems – they mostly don’t do a lot in game terms; they push through snow, they travel, they listen to backstory, they swear oaths, and they discuss options.

   They do do a certain amount of fighting though – and that’s a topic that most game systems cover in a fair amount of detail. I’ll just have to work with that. Ergo, the first thing to do is to look at each confrontation throughout the trilogy. I’ll be using the page numbers from the three-volume Houghton-Mifflin Second Edition boxed set, as revised by Tolkien.

   The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Page 84: Frodo, Pippin, and Sam hide from a black-cloaked rider on a black horse. This figure is later revealed to be a Ring-Wraith. Since they see him, her, or it, there must be line-of-sight – so evidently Ring-Wraiths aren’t all that perceptive.
  • Page 88: Frodo, Pippin, and Sam hide from a black-cloaked rider again, although it does not see them. Fortunately, the rider departs as Gildor Inglorion and his companions approach. Apparently the Ring-Wraith does not want to risk a confrontation when there is no profit in it.
  • Page 109: Frodo, Pippin, Sam, and Merry dodge a black rider yet again.
  • Page 128: Old Man Willow almost takes out Frodo, Pippin, and Merry. Fortunately, Tom Bombadil happens by and rescues them. No actual combat occurs.
  • Page 151: A barrow-wight captures Frodo, Pippin, Sam, and Merry. Fortunately, they’re still within range to call on Tom Bombadil again. Tom also provides all four of the hobbits with daggers “forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse”. These apparently have some special virtues. Again, no actual combat occurs.
  • Page 168: Aragorn joins the party. He’s intimidating, an experienced traveler, and knows a lot about the land.
  • Page 195: As is revealed later, Gandalf is besieged by Ring-Wraiths. He manages to hold them off – “such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old”. No details are provided.
  • Page 200: The grass within the circle at Weathertop is scorched and withered. Evidently Gandalfs light and fire magic was not enough to actually ignite the grass; he held the Ring-Wraiths back, but was not able to actually defeat or injure them – just as they failed it injure him. It’s possible that there was more cautious magical sparring than actual battle. Aragorn is demonstrated to be a reasonably skilled tracker though.
  • Page 207: Five Ring-Wraiths attack Frodo, Pippin, Sam, Merry, and Aragorn. They mentally compel Frodo to don the Ring – although they seem to find the Westernesse Blades intimidating. One wounds Frodo with a Morgul-Knife. Frodo’s swing misses, although it apparently does help keep his own wound from being mortal. Aragon charges the Ring-Wraiths with a pair of torches and they retreat (without injury), although Aragon “cannot think why they have gone and do not attack again” (it is later revealed that the Ring-Wraiths had good reason to be confident in the deadly powers of the Morgul-Knife). Aragorn provides Frodo with a poultice of Athelas to help him resist the effects of the wound. Fortunately, Frodo seems to be extraordinarily resistant to the effects in any case.
  • Page 222: The party meets up with Glorfindel, who has apparently been chasing Ring-Wraiths around. Of course, he also runs from them; evidently neither Glorfindel nor the Ring-Wraiths wish to risk a pointless confrontation.
  • Page 225: The group – Frodo, Pippin, Sam, Merry, Aragorn, and Glorfindel – flees from the Ring-Wraiths, again avoiding combat. A more complete description is given ten pages later.
  • Page 232: Gandalf has been listening to Frodo talk in his sleep, and “it has not been hard to read his mind and memory”. Evidently Gandalf has a bit of ESP. More notably, even with the care of the Elves and Gandalf, they had a very hard time finding the splinter of the blade that was still in the wound and Frodo nearly died. Evidently neither Gandalf nor Elrond (or any of the other elves in Rivendell) have any fast methods of magical healing. There probably aren’t any in Middle-Earth save, perhaps, among the Valar.
  • Page 235: Gandalf fills in Frodo about what happened during the groups flight from the Ring-Wraiths. Frodo was sent ahead on the swiftest horse while everyone else got out of the way of the Ring-Wraiths, because otherwise they’d have been ridden down. It’s noted that even Aragorn and Glorfindel could not withstand all nine at once. However, Elrond caused the river to flood once Frodo had reached the far side, and Gandalf added rolling and grinding boulders. This killed three of the Ring-Wraiths horses and swept away the three Ring-Wraiths who’d been riding them. Aragorn and Glorfindel then rushed out with torches and panicked the horses of the remaining six Ring-Wraiths into diving into the flood, so that they too are swept away. Gandalf notes that being smashed and ground by boulders will not harm the Ring-Wraiths, but that they are “crippled” without their horses.
  • Page 259: Boromir recounts that he and a company of men – including his brother – held “the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath”, and that only four escaped by swimming after it was cast down. Evidently their armor was either very light or easy to get out of. Less likely, all four were superhuman swimmers.
  • Page 267: Aragon recounts having stumbled across a fresh trail that allowed him to follow and capture Gollum – apparently by simply grabbing him. He apparently feels that this was a great stroke of luck.
  • Page 269: Orcs successfully rescued Gollum from the Elves, and the elves dared not come too close to Dol Goldur to pursue them. This doesn’t say anything about the Fellowship directly, but it does rather imply that the immortal elves don’t accumulate “experience points” (the magical power-stuff that increases your personal skills and powers, rather than the memories and general information that comes with realistic “experience”).
  • Page 270: Gandalf notes that “even the Wise might fear to withstand the Nine, when they are gathered together under their fell chieftain”. Evidently he’s not too worried about individual Ring-Wraiths.
  • Page 271: Here we have Gandalf’s first confrontation with Saruman, when he goes to visit Saruman in search of advice. There is an argument (although there is no mention of combat or magic), and then – according to Gandalf – “they took me and they set me alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc”. Since it seems unlikely that Gandalf would refer to Saruman as “they”, or that he would be referring to some presence of Sauron (that’s been suggested, but Gandalf notes that Saruman seems to be setting himself up as a power “in rivalry of Sauron and not in his service yet”), it seems most likely that Saruman simply called in some guards.
  • By inference, either Gandalf didn’t take his staff and/or sword to the meeting, wasn’t disarmed, hid them somehow, got them back somehow, or got new ones – or at last a new staff, since Glamdring is specifically named later on.
  • Note: evidently fast travel is not available; they were “a fortnight on the way when the weather changed” (page 295) – and that was just between Rivendell and Hollin, and before the first view of the Misty Mountains. The Crebain – black crows that may be spies – are out as well (Page 298). The Fellowship hides from them.
  • Page 302: The Fellowship retreats from the pass by Caradhras since something there is rolling rocks down the mountain at them and sending excessive amounts of snow. Since the others cannot get a fire lit, Gandalf lights it with magic (Page 304) – although he notes on page 305 that he must have something to work with to produce fire; he cannot burn snow.
  • Page 310: The Fellowship elects to go through Moria rather than fight wolves. They have to fight some anyway: Legolas shoots one and the rest run away. Both sides in the conflicts are continuing to show a (thoroughly realistic) desire to avoid combat if they can – as shown by the fact that it’s taken better than three hundred pages for one of the warrior-types in the party to actually hit something.
  • Page 312: A great host of wolves / “wargs” attack. The members of the Fellowship stand with their backs to the fire and defend themselves. Aragorn and Boromir are noted as killing one wolf each, Gimli wields his axe, and Legolas shoots – although the results are not noted. Gandalf sets the trees on fire, and the wolves retreat, although not before Legolas has a chance to kill one. In the morning, the dead wolves have vanished. In gaming terms, they may have been conjurations, illusions, or spirits of some sort. The party heads to Moria because Gandalf feels that “We must reach the doors before sunset, or I fear we shall not reach them at all”.
  • Page 322: The Dweller in the Pool appears. Sam, kneeling by a tentacle and slashing it repeatedly with his knife, manages to get that tentacle to let go of Frodo. The Fellowship flees into Moria, and the dweller collapses the gate behind them.
  • Page 325: Frodo seems to have picked up some supernatural senses. He is more aware of things that cannot be seen. This is attributed both to his nearly being transformed into a wraith by the Morgul-Knife and (by Galadriel) to his having worn the One Ring. This isn’t particular combat-related, but it is a character capability.
  • Page 338: The Fellowship is besieged in the Chamber of Records: Gandalf peers out with a flash of light, and then dodges back to avoid arrows: he reports “There are Orcs, very many of them, and some are large and evil; black Uruks of Mordor. For the moment they are hanging back, but there is something else there. A great cave-troll, I think, or more than one. There is no hope of escape that way.” The Fellowship elects to block the door and attempt to make a stand, so as to make the Orcs fall back a for a bit – during which time they can flee.
    • A cave-troll attempts to force the door they’ve wedged shut. Boromir swings at the arm it’s thrust through the gap (“Hewed at the arm with all his might”), but his sword rebounds from it’s skin with it’s blade notched. Frodo stabs it in the foot with Sting (evidently magical elven weapons are better than normal steel), and it bellows and falls back. It does not appear again; perhaps it cannot keep up now that it’s limping or perhaps crippled.
    • The Fellowship is attacked by many orcs. Legolas kills two, Gimli chops the legs from under another, and Aragon and Boromir kill “many”. Sam is lightly injured, but kills an orc with “a sturdy thrust with his Barrow-blade.”. When thirteen orcs fallen, the others retreat. Of course, the Fellowship includes nine characters – Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Boromir, Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli.
    • The Fellowship then attempts to retreat, but “a huge orc-chieftan, almost man-high” leaped in, blocked Boromir’s cut with it’s “huge hide shield”, knocked Boromir over, ducked Aragorn’s attack, and hit Frodo (inflicting massive bruising and possibly cracked ribs, but failing to penetrate his Mithril-mail). Sam hacks at and breaks the Orcs spear-shaft, and Aragon kills it with a blow to the head while it’s trying to get out another weapon. The Orcs flee, and so does the Fellowship. Net score; Nine characters, fourteen Orcs.
  • Page 340: Gandalf attempts to magically seal the door behind the Fellowship. The Balrog of Moria disrupts his attempt. Still, the room collapses and blocks off pursuit for the moment.
  • Page 343: Many orcs are firing arrows at the Fellowship, but the range is long and they do no harm – although Frodo’s armor saves him again (this becomes a repeated item – allowing Tolkien to stress that the party is in danger without ever actually injuring them). Legolas readies an arrow, but does not fire; the arrival of the Balrog daunts him.
  • Page 344: Gandalf confronts the Balrog on a narrow bridge across a chasm. It’s sword breaks when parried by Glamdring. Gandalf breaks the bridge, but the Balrog’s burning whip catches him and he is dragged down with it. The remainder of the Fellowship flees.
  • Page 346: Aragorn strikes down an Orc-captain as the group barges through and past some Orcs who were guarding the (broken) gates – but they were restricting themselves to the shadows anyway, since it was only one hour after noon outside. No further blows are struck. The Fellowship gets the hell out, wanting to be very far away by nightfall.
  • Page 359: The Elven Border Guard and the Fellowship opt to avoid confronting the Orcs seeking them. The local elves send for reinforcements to deal with them.
  • Page 400: Aragorn has been trying to catch Gollum for some time -but with no success now that Gollum is alert and aware of him. Evidently Gollums evasiveness is a match for Aragons hunting and tracking skills.
  • Page 402: The Fellowship, now traveling by boat, is fired upon by Orcs on the river’s shore – but Orcs apparently cannot aim properly at people wearing elvish cloaks in the dark. The only hit is on Frodo, and it rebounds from his Mithril-Mail.
  • Page 403: Legolas takes a pot-shot at a target of opportunity – a great winged creature – and hits with the “Great Bow of Lorien”. It goes down, and doesn’t come back. This is praised as a “mighty shot”. It is later revealed (in The Two Towers) that this was almost certainly a Nazgul’s steed.
  • Page 416: Frodo uses the Ring, evades Boromir, and sees many things from a high seat before departing with Sam. The Fellowship breaks up.

   The Two Towers:

  • Page 15: A squad of Orcs has attacked Boromir, Merry, and Pippin. According to Pippin (remembering later on) there were dozens or “at least a hundred”. He and Merry had fought as well, and Merry had “cut off several of their arms and hands”. Boromir apparently managed to kill quite a few before falling, as there were “at least” twenty bodies left behind. Some of those may have been slain by Merry and Pippin however, as the Orcs were under the sever handicap of having been ordered to take the hobbits alive and uninjured.
    • Secondarily, Boromir is probably fighting without regard for his own life here, attempting to make amends for his personal failure to withstand the temptation of the One Ring. He exemplifies one of the themes of the entire trilogy though; the powerful, noble, ambitious, and well-trained man of war fails – and it is left to the peaceable small folk to succeed with their own quiet and unsought heroism.
    • Finally, it is also worth noting that the Orcs are generally small, short-lived, ill-trained, relatively poorly-equipped, ill-organized, poorly-led, and aren’t at their best in the daytime, even if they are thoroughly vicious.
  • Page 16: Legolas and Gimli “have hunted and slain many orcs in the woods”. There’s no indication of how many at a time.
  • Page 17: Something that may be worth noting: “Orcs” and “Goblins” are essentially interchangeable terms in the Lord of the Rings.
  • Page 22: The orcs who have taken Pippin and Merry have left a trail so blatant that “it needed little skill to find”. This is good, since Aragorn, Gimle, and Legolas want to follow it at full speed. Aragorn later loses the trail in the hills, but guesses correctly and picks it up again. The characters all show good endurance during the chase sequence though.
  • Page 60: With their immediate captor killed, and in the confusion of a battle, Merry and Pippin slip away into the forest – although the fact that the Riders of Rohan pass them by without noticing them in the dark makes it pretty easy. Those elven-cloaks are really coming in useful.
  • Page 98: Gandalf can apparently make a magical disarm attempt; Gimli loses hold of his axe, Aragorn’s sword glows, and Legolas fires into the air. Gandalf is then recognized, and combat is averted.
  • Page 137: The Battle of Helm’s Deep. The attack began at some (unknown) point shortly past midnight. The archers – and droppers of stones – handle the first waves. Aragorn, Eomer, and “a handful of stout swordsmen” sortie against the men and orcs who are manning the rams. Of course, since those individuals were manning the rams, they didn’t have weapons drawn to start with – making the initial attack fairly easy going. Aragorn and the rest then fall back, but nearly get killed by two Orcs who were pretending to be dead. Fortunately, Gimli kills both of them (arguably this proves he’s good enough to get in a double attack somehow). Meanwhile, Legolas has apparently made twenty kills (how he knows is an open question, but elvish eyes are supposed to be very very good), but is out of arrows. He’s had at least the time it took for the enemy to bring up battering rams though – probably at least an hour; those things are heavy and slow.
    • During the ongoing battle, Aragorn and Eomer thrice rally the men and lead “desperate” charges to drive the enemy from the wall. When the Orcs sneak through the culverts and get inside, Gimli aids the defenders there – apparently killing another nineteen orcs. Sadly, Legolas, meanwhile, has killed another four in hand-to-hand – although he’s apparently had at least as long as it took Gamling and Gimli to block up the culvert. By that time, it’s near dawn; so the battle has lasted for some hours.
    • Sadly, the attackers breach the wall at that point with some sort of explosives. Aragorn holds back some attackers by sheer intimidation – and fear of his legendary blade – and Legolas shoots one who attempts to follow him when he stumbles, but the rest are only swept away by a boulder. Legolas’s count is now thirty-nine.
    • Dawn then arrived, and Theoden and his men rode forth; the charge carried through the enemy – partly because the enemy was facing the other way, looking at the forest that had moved up during the night and at the reinforcements that Gandalf had brought. The forest proved hostile.
    • After the battle, Gimli’s count stood at forty-two and Legolas’s at forty-one.
    • This is a pretty impressive battle report: forty opponents each! Surely they must each be very very good indeed!
    • Well – maybe. The entire point of a fortification, and the governing principle of it’s design, is to ensure that the defenders have every possible edge – both against the initial attack and against any of the enemy who penetrate the outer defenses. That’s why siegecraft was invented; a direct attack is likely to result in massive casualties – far in excess of the number of defenders. An escalade – a direct attack made in a hurry, simply throwing waves of men against the walls until the defenders are overwhelmed – is even MORE wasteful. Casualties of ten for one is actually pretty minimal.
  • Page 183: Gandalf and Saruman have a debate. Saruman tries his usual tactic – entrancing his listeners with his voice, Gandalf commands Saruman to continue the talk when he tries to leave. Gandalf announces “your staff is broken” and Saruman’s staff breaks – an effect which apparently deprives him of much of his magical power except his voice. Exactly how this works is never explained, although it may have something to do with him being “sent back”. It doesn’t really work in role-playing games however; if there’s an “off switch” on people’s powers, guess where every single plan will aim?
  • Page 220: Sam wrestles with Gollum. Gollum would win easily, but Frodo threatens him with Sting. In the Lord of the Rings, just as in reality, weapons are evidently far more dangerous than unarmed combat techniques.
  • Page 265: Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are captured by Faramir and three of his men. There’s no fighting.
  • Page 316: Frodo resists the mental compulsion to don the ring when near a Ring-Wraith, drawing extra strength from the Vial of Galadriel – and also serving to make sure that the reader remembers it and doesn’t see it’s next use as a deus ex machina.
  • Page 329: Frodo drives Shelob back with the light from the Vial of Galadriel. Fortunately, she’s vulnerable to light. This is, of course, one of the major advantages of being an author; you can provide your characters with the keys to the situations they’re going to face and be sure that they’ll use them as intended.
  • Page 335: Sam manages to chase off Gollum, but Shelob poisons Frodo. As fights go, Gollum’s surprise attack is much more in doubt that Shelob versus Frodo. Gollum is, however, eventually driven off with no damage beyond bruises and scrapes to either side.
  • Page 337: Sam fights Shelob, gets very lucky indeed, and is aided by the Vial of Galadriel. He manages to drive her off.

   The Return of the King:

  • Page 83: Gandalf chases off a Nazgul with a “shaft of white light”.
  • Page 90: The opening of the Siege of Gondor. Great armies are involved. Gandalf may have been helping out against the Nazgul by helping the men stand firm against the terror they spread, chases away some Nazgul in the rescue of Faramir (they don’t want to confront him yet), organizes the defense, and confronts the Witch-King at the gates (where it is called away before any actual conflict occurs) – but the rest of the Fellowship does not become involved in the fighting.
  • Page 117: Merry stabs the Witch-King from behind in the knee; his blade is destroyed and transmits deadly forces back to him, but the Barrow-Blade breaks the spells which sustain the Witch-King. Merry is taken away for treatment after the battle.
  • Page 123: Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn participate in a battle – but no details are given. Aragorn (along with Eomer and Imrahil) survive unscathed, “for such was their fortune and the skill and might of their arms”. Of course, quite a lot of other people on the winning side also survive unscathed – and rational commanders and archers don’t get into the hand-to-hand much. All we can get from this is that our trio are probably better and / or luckier than average.
  • Page 141: Aragorn has some healing ability, at least when using Athelas. It may be some form of natural magic that only works for those with the right talent.
  • Page 151: The account of the ride of the dead. Apparently most potential enemies simply fled screaming. The Haradrim tried to make a stand, and the dead swept over them. After this battle, Aragorn dismisses the dead. There’s no mention of Aragorn or his companions taking personal action other than talking in this segment though.
  • Page 159: Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Pippin, and seven thousand men head for the Black Gate to act as a diversion. The army destroys a small ambush along the way, although a thousand or so can’t handle the strain and fall back. Pippin stabs a troll in defense of Beregond, and it falls on him.
  • Page 183: Sam confronts a wounded Orc (Shagrat), who opts to escape.
  • Page 186: Sam badly wounds an Orc with a surprise attack, it falls though an open trap door and breaks it’s neck. Fortunately, all the other orcs have killed each other.
  • Page 208: Frodo and Sam avoid conflict with some Orcs.
  • Page 220: Frodo and Sam struggle with Gollum. None of them are in very good shape, and weapons are not used. In fact, in the end, Gollum gets the ring back before accidently falling into the magma.
  • Page 226: Back at the Black Gate, Aragorn and Gandalf are overseeing the battle. Fortunately, the destruction of the ring pretty much ends the battle.
  • Page 285: Merry, Pippin, Frodo, and Sam intimidate some ruffians at the Shire. They then raise the countryside.
  • Page 290: A large number of hobbit archers shoot one ruffian. The rest surrender. Merry, Pippin, Frodo, and sam are now arranging the defense / cleansing of the Shire.
  • Page 295: Merry and Pippin kill a ruffian in the process of backing up the residents of the Shire. By the end of the battle, nineteen hobbits and nearly seventy ruffians are killed. Frodo did not draw his weapon.
  • Page 299: Saruman attempts to stab Frodo, and breaks his knife on Frodo’s Mithril Coat.
  • Page 300: Wormtongue cuts Saruman’s throat, apparently killing him instantly.
  • Page 301: Merry and Pippin are noted as cleaning up the last of the ruffians. No details are given.

   What can we conclude from this? Translating into d20 terms?

  • The major warriors of the Fellowship – Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, and Legolas – can easily handle a wolf or two each, seem to be a match for two or three orcs apiece, and are fairly good at avoiding injury. An Orc Chieftain is, however, a creditable threat.
  • The secondary combatants – Merry, Pippin, and Sam – can usually handle an orc each and become pretty good at single deadly stabs over the course of the books. They’re also fairly sneaky and easy to overlook.
  • Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, and Legolas can be presumed to have pretty good attributes. After all, they were seen as being well-qualified for a fairly vital and desperate quest.
    • Aragorn has a legendary sword (after it gets fixed), and has some privileges due to his heritage. Personally, he can use a special healing herb, knows how to track, seems to have some knowledge of tactics, and is good at scaring horses.
    • Boromir is a competent fighter. He’s also brash, over-enthusiastic, very strong, and good at pushing through snow. Still, when he’s “hewing with all his might” at the arm of a Cave Troll he cannot harm it. Sting does bite on the Cave Troll’s foot however. (Evidently Cave Trolls are highly resistant to normal weapons).
    • Frodo picks up some “magical senses” over the course of the books. He also seems to have great endurance and willpower.
    • Gandalf has already been converted in detail, over HERE.
    • Gimli can quickly strike again after taking down one opponent. He probably knows Power Attack and Cleave and is supposed to have great dwarven endurance.
    • Legolas is a pretty good shot. He can also walk on top of loose snow without sinking in and has EXTREMELY good eyes – although these seem to be at least partially racial powers. He later gets a magical bow.
    • Merry and Pippin pick up some strength and size over the course of the books. They both become reasonably competent fighters over the course of the novels as well.
    • Sam isn’t bad with his blade – slashing a tentacle of the Dweller in the Pool and killing an Orc. He’s also a good cook and general scrounger.
  • It’s worth noting that most opponents in the Lord of the Rings don’t have very many hit points. The Nazgul Steeds are relatively fragile – two of them go down with one hit each – and Saruman gets taken out with a single knife attack. Similarly, the ancient, immortal, elves are pretty good – but they don’t seem to be picking up even one level per century. They develop their abilities, but plateau – just like real people tend to.

   Well, like it or not, d20 Orcs trace back to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – although Tolkien drew on older sources. Ergo, Orcs represent one of our few available official conversions.

  • Orcs are Challenge Rating 1/2.
  • Wolves are Challenge Rating 1.
  • A pair of wolves, or three or four Orcs are floating around Challenge Rating 3. Of course, that’s for a party of four characters. Since we’re considering individual characters, we’ll want to push their levels up a bit – probably by +1, since “an even match” isn’t normally what the challenge rating system is designed to produce. It’s designed to produce encounters which will burn about 20% of the parties resources.

   Ergo, the major fighters of the Fellowship – Aragon (Ranger), Boromir (Possibly Barbarian, judging by the emphasis on strength and furious attack), Legolas (archery specialist fighter), and Gimli (melee specialist fighter) – should be around level four. The hobbits would probably fit in at level one or two to start with (probably rogue), and they may hit level three or four by the end of the books. In a low-magic, realistic world, that’s probably about the upper limit on “levels” for normal people anyway.

   I, of course, would use an Eclipse classless build, so I could more easily set up all their minor quirks – but they really don’t demonstrate any abilities that call for a high level.

   Their performance in the movies, of course, is completely different. Movies are a very different medium, and negotiations, dialogue, and backstory aren’t nearly as exciting to watch as they are to read – hence the movies inserted a lot of flashy maneuvers and exciting and dramatic battle scenes. To build the characters as they were in the movies would probably call for another five or six levels – possibly in some sort of a “stuntman” class or an “action hero” template – but you don’t need that to build them as they appear in the books.

4 Responses

  1. Very detailed. That’s awesome. I definitely agree that they would be only level 4 or so. Though judging the characters in the movie, I’d put them a lot higher, considering the amount of orcs they wade through. I’d rather base a game off the novels anyway, though.

  2. Cool Analysis. Gives me some ideas for E6 or E8 games. Thanks!@

  3. […] The Fellowship of the Ring d20: Converting characters from the books. […]

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