Sauron and Marty – Identities of the Manifold

   Sauron of the Ainur. A lesser singer in the music of creation. Entered into Ea as a Maiar of Aule, of an order just below the Vala – far more potent than lesser Maiar who would one day become the Wizards of Middle-Earth. Corrupted into the service of Melkor- Morgoth during the first age to become his second in command. An out-of-control reformer who fell into the folly of placing his plans above the welfare of those he was supposedly planning for. A bodiless immortal spirit capable of assuming physical forms to suit his purpose. Artificer-Sage. Manipulator. Illusionist, Necromancer, Firemaster, and Mentalist. Lord of Vampires and Werewolves.

   Perhaps foolishly, Sauron eventually placed a great deal of his own power into the One Ring, in order to make it powerful enough to dominate the other great rings and their wearers. To him, the risk appeared small to non-existent. The ring was almost indestructible, as long as it existed he would not be diminished, while he wore it his power was increased, few indeed were those who would be able to even contemplate destroying it once it was in their hands, and it would corrupt anyone else who tried to use or keep it so as to eventually return to him.

   That “almost indestructible” part would eventually return to haunt him, but so it is with villains. If they were worried about consequences, or ultimate failure, they would not be villains to begin with.

   That’s quite a role to fall into. Perhaps fortunately, while the nature of the Manifold is to make the dreams and tales of men into realities, they remain dreams and tales. True omnipotence – and the creation or destruction of souls – lies beyond any known mortal power. Even more limitingly, the strength of a Role is limited by the power of the individual who takes it on and by their ability to serve as a focus of a tales power – in game terms, by their charisma and related abilities. The laws of a realm can push those limits a bit – by up to three ranks beyond what an individual could normally sustain – but there is generally a price for that power. Most commonly, that price lies in finding that such an enhanced role is most reluctant to relinquish it’s grip – and tends to drag the host into many local problems.

   Tolkien, of course, portrayed Sauron, Melkor-Morgoth, and evil in general, as ultimately futile and decaying. Noble and valorous foes could inflict unhealing wounds on evil spirits, and – over the ages – their limited power was gradually expended upon their dark works and dissipated into the background evil of the world at large. That’s a bit awkward simply because role playing games in general, and d20 games in particular, generally don’t work that way; characters tend to grow and improve over time rather than slowly decaying. Fortunately, however, roles are inherently short-term (rather than lasting for many ages), and so we don’t need to worry about that aspect of the setting.

   So abilities does Sauron display?

  • Chief Lieutenant of Melkor-Morgoth. (Major Privilege, 6 CP): Sauron may command the lesser creatures of darkness across Middle-Earth and strongly influence (+6 to any required rolls or -6 to their chances to resist) greater creatures of darkness (other fallen Maiar, dragons, and similar entities) and any creature that has turned to evil without being born to it. Sauron is the Dark Lord of Middle-Earth in the later ages and stands just below Melkor-Morgoth, the Creator of Evil, in the early ones.
  • Legendary Mage-Smith. Create Artifact and Create Relic (12 CP): Well, most prominently, Sauron is remembered for the One Ring. Sauron is one of the great magical artificers of middle-earth, capable of teaching, assisting, and subtly manipulating, the great elven-smiths as well as of mighty works of his own.
  • Master of Lore and Craft. Augmented Bonus/Adds Int Mod to Cha based skills and Cha Mod to Int Based Skills (12 CP): Sauron has delved deeply into the nature of the world, can draw on the power of Melkor-Morgoth which is infused into it to aid him, and has cozened many secrets from the Vala and other Maiar in the youth of the world.
  • Shapes of Darkness. Shapeshifting with the Beasts, Dire, Shape of Death, Enchanted, Growth, and Variants abilities (30 CP). Sauron can take many forms, shaping the stuff of the world around his imperishable spirit – although colossal forms such as dragons are beyond his power to sustain.
  • Nightmare Legions. Leadership (6 CP): Sauron commands creatures of his own type – dark spirits. Originally those took the form of the (non-shapeshifting) sapient wolf-beasts called Werewolves and of batlike horrors called Vampires. Later, he would command the Ringwraiths and – as the Necromancer – a selection of minor wraiths and lesser evils. The armies of orcs and such fall under his Privilege, given above.
  • Treachery and Subtle Malice. Mystic Artist/Diplomacy with the Composition, Influence, and Mass Influence (Path of Artistic Mastery), Subliminal and Conditioning (Path of Whispers), and the Hidden Way and Spellweaver (Art of the Occult), special abilities (48 CP). His basic talents include: Fascinate, Hold Audience, Emotional Auras, Freedom, and Mass Suggestion (from the Manipulation list), and Block, Group Focus, Harmonize, Serenity, and Rule the Horde (from the Synergy list). (use of all of these will require a skill of 24+, which Marty will indeed have). Sauron is the greatest master of deception and manipulation on Middle-Earth, and – given time – has overthrown great nations with his words alone, easily advancing from prisoner to councillor to power behind the throne over time.
  • Creator of the Dark Tongue. Dominion with the Curse ability (12 CP). Sauron is a skilled and mighty ruler, and he can lay powerful curses – not least, the curse of the Rings. “He made himself a great king in the midst of the earth, and was at first well-seeming and just and his rule was of benefit to all men in their needs of the body; for he made them rich, whoso would serve him. But those who would not were driven into the waste places… [He desired] to be both a king over all kings and as a god to men. And slowly his power moved north and south, and ever westward.”
  • Fallen Spirit of Iluvater. Channeling (Negative Energy) with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Conversion Only (12 CP), and Conversion to a single seventh level spell effect (Greater Invocation, to produce any Arcane spell effect of level four or less), Specialized/can only produce illusion, necromancy, and flame effects (9 CP). Sauron was a master of the forge and fire, and noted as a necromancer – powers over the physical and spirit world that he was originally granted by Eru-Iluvater when he was called into being.
  • The Will to Dominion. Witchcraft III (18 CP) with access to Advanced Glamour, Advanced Shadowweave, and The Sight (18 CP) as well as 10 levels of the Wilder Spell Progression with no Caster Levels (Corrupted, no psionic disciplines, 20 CP). Of course, he was also subject to several Pacts – Vampirism, Gateway, Corruption, and Hunted (-24 CP). Sauron possessed a powerful mental influence, and could easily dominate the mind, and probe the thoughts, of mortals who were foolish enough to open up a link between them. He could also scry in search of his ring, and could often learn anything that was of interest to him.

   Well, that covers most of Sauron’s demonstrated powers. Still, he was a Corrupted Maiar, and a very powerful one. How about some generic bonuses to represent his spiritual nature?

  • Inherent Magic: Innate Enchantment, all abilities unlimited use-activated, personal-only (x.7 cost) where applicable. Normally Spell Level Zero (½) or One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated. 15,000 GP base value (16 CP).
    • +2 Enhancement Bonus to Each Attribute (8400 GP).
    • Warding Rune (1 + Caster Level/3, +4 max, resistance bonus on saves, 1400 GP).
    • Detect Magic (1000 GP).
    • Fast Healing 1 (up to a maximum total of 18 points of damage per level per day, 1400 GP)
    • Skill Mastery/+3 to Intelligence-Based skills (1400 GP).
    • Resist Energy (resistance 10 to all energy forms) (1400 GP).
  • Immunity/Stacking limits when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (Common, Minor, Trivial – only covers L1 effects, 2 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Minor, Legendary, Specialized and Corrupted, only covers inherent magic, and only those “racial” powers given above, 8 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], Specialized/only to cover initial racial abilities, 1 CP).

   The “real” Sauron would also have high-level Returning. Like any spirit, he was truly immortal, and could not be destroyed – and, as one of the Ainur, he possessed the power to create a body when he needed one, at least until the destruction of the One Ring stripped him of most of his power – although even that could not kill him. Roles, however, don’t need Returning; roles are a part of the structure of the worlds in which they apply, and – when abandoned – will simply continue in the plot of that world until they’re temporarily claimed by another visitor.

   That comes to a total of 206 CP. Fortunately, Marty already has Basic Witchcraft I, II, and II, which reduces the cost to a mere 188 CP since he doesn’t have to pay for it again.

   Ouch. That’s a lot of points. Fortunately, there are some fairly major limitations that apply… This identity comes with:

  • A powerful urge to dominate and possess – and, if possible, to corrupt – things of beauty, noble individuals, and the entire world.
  • Random adventurers – as well as Wizards, supernatural champions, armies of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, and the occasional Host of the Vala – who turn up at inconvenient moments to try to put an end to his vile evil.
  • A vulnerability to beauty and purity of heart. He must make a will check (at a DC set by the GM) to avoid allowing such individuals to affect or manipulate him.
  • An inability to repeat himself. If Sauron sends forth massive waves of flame to sweep over a battlefield, and successfully eliminates half the opposition, he cannot use that tactic again. He’ll just have to come up with a new one. Similarly, if one of his forms is truly destroyed, he can never take that particular form again. (This seems to be a common limitation on most of the inhabitants of Middle-Earth by the way).
  • Being an Outsider. Even in Middle-Earth Sauron is vulnerable to relevant channeling powers, mystic bindings, and banishment.
  • Sauron is easily detectable, scares normal animals, and tends to corrupt the physical world by his very presence. Mordor is not inherently a bad place; it’s a mess BECAUSE Sauron is ruling it.
  • It’s addictive. It will be quite difficult to give up this identity – and even after you someone does, it will tend to echo in their lives later on.
  • Large numbers of corruptible men, orcs, goblins, and other foul creatures tend to show up looking for you, often at the most inconvenient times.
  • Being subject to occasional strokes of really bad luck – such as the One Ring falling into the hands of first Smeagol and then Bilbo, some of the few creatures in the world that could more or less withstand it for decades or centuries.
  • His powers are significantly weakened without his Ring – although he’s not so dependent on it in the earlier years as later on. Without it, he’ll probably have to drop about 36 CP worth of his powers. theoretically, those powers can be used by anyone who picks up the ring – which is why it grants power according to it’s user’s own stature.

   That’s probably enough to make the whole thing Specialized and Corrupted, at least as a short-term identity. That brings the cost to Marty down to a mere 63 CP. Can he afford that?

   Marty, with a 19 Charisma can normally adopt a role of up to level five. Middle-Earth, with it’s potent archetypes and roles, increases that by +3 levels, to level eight. A level eight role is worth up to sixty-four character points – so yes, he can. Besides… Marty already uses a Ring of Power and possesses some oratorical talents. Still, he’s primarily a physical combatant – and thus may be a rude surprise to some of the local residents of Middle-Earth.

   Now, as an independent character, Sauron could be expected to have quite a lot of the standard base abilities – hit dice, saving throws, skill points, base attack bonus, proficiencies, and so on. I could probably build most of that on another one hundred to one hundred and fifty character points – making him somewhere around level twelve or thirteen or so. That’s powerful enough to deal with Gandalf (level eight), or even the massed Council of the Wise (five level seven or eight characters), with difficulty. He can be expected to defeat the most powerful elven lords (level six or so) after a brief fight and to overwhelm masses of normal opponents. Given time, he can weave magical effects augmented with plenty of metamagic – but his base, immediate, magics are not especially overwhelming. Fortunately, Middle-Earth is relatively magic-poor, so the books never really called for massive displays of raw magical power.


4 Responses

  1. Reading this, and the following post about the identity of Melkor-Morgoth, got me thinking about another pair of villainous identities (warning: fanwankery ahead) that’d be interesting to write under these rules: Jenova and Sephiroth, both from the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.

    The relationship between the two is comparable to that of Melkor and Sauron (in that one is an ancient evil, with the second inheriting the first’s power and position), and like Tolkien’s creations, have fairly nebulous suites of powers spread across the various games and other related media.

    What would those two roles look like?

    • Well, I’ve now had the time to take a look at your links and do a little research – but I’m afraid that I can’t help much on this one; I haven’t played – or even seen – the games these characters have appeared in, or watched the movie, and there isn’t enough information in the wiki entries to let me really gauge what they’re supposed to be able to do.

      That makes converting things awkward to say the least. With Melkor and Sauron, I’d read the various books, all the material is from a single author, there’s only one final version of each of the characters, and there are small mountains of scholarly analysis to refer to sort out any unclear points. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

      I did try checking with a few friends who have played at least some of the games. Unfortunately, what I got from them was pretty general:

      One simply noted that Jenova was “simply a genocidal reality editor”, while Sephiroth was “a combat monster and reality shaper.”

      Another noted that Sephiroth was “pretty epic”. He was “good with a sword, had some levitate powers, and some other showy powers that inflicted massive amounts of damage. Multiple attacks, stunts, powers, and massive amounts of hit points. Probably a lot of Path of the Dragon.”

      Unfortunately, that’s still not really enough to work with; I could easily make a character with massive combat skills, near-indestructibility, and vast energy-blasting powers – but it would be a generic creation, not Sephiroth.

      Sadly; questions about specific characters are much better answered by people who are actually familiar with said characters – even if that does (unfortunately) reveal that there are things that I don’t know.

      Oh well. I suspect that won’t really be a big surprise to anyone anyway.

  2. Another quick follow-up; I notice that Major Privilege has specific numeric modifiers, which aren’t found under the ability’s listing in Eclipse (p. 40). Can you speak more to how those numbers were determined, and if they’re a good baseline for other uses of the ability (e.g. is Major Privilege always a +/-6? Is normal Privilege a +/-3)?

    • I fear those are completely arbitrary. Privilege usually covers things like being a member of a particular kingdoms nobility – and so getting a free pass on minor misbehavior there, having the right to trial by combat or appealing directly to the king, being allowed to carry military weapons in the streets and ride horses in town, and being entitled to command a body of troops in time of war.

      In this case, we basically have Privilege: “Chief Lieutenant of The Powers of Darkness”. That wouldn’t fit in as a social privilege in most settings – it’s a bit widespread – but in the Manifold setting, where each of the myriad dimensions has it’s own powers, a single non-core dimension IS a very small and specific area.

      It got to be a +6 (rather than command by right) against the other major dark forces of the Middle-Earth setting because most of them are well aware that the people dropping in to play the roles of Sauron and Melkor aren’t “really” the “originals”.

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