Blood Talents in Middle Earth

Copyright Jörg Jahnke © 2006

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"Instead the older races, like Noldor or Dunedain, tend to be superior to the younger races."

Introduction

The HARP game system seems to put a high emphasis on game-balance. All races have the same sum of stat bonuses (+8 to +11), have the same sum of basic PPs and basic Hit Points and also the same sum of resistance rolls. At the same time it is designed to be able to be used for many game worlds and not to be fixed on one setting only.

When using Tolkien's Middle-Earth as a game world, this leads to some (although probably minor) problems. The Middle-Earth races from the description in Tolkien's work do not seem to be equally strong. Instead the older races, like Noldor or Dunedain, tend to be superior to the younger races.

To reflect this in the HARP system and still maintain the carefully implemented balance of the HARP races, I will in this article add some Blood Talents which are keyed to a specific race.

If you would like to tell me your thoughts about these Talent suggestions, please write to epost@joergjahnke.de.

Using Talents to modify HARP's racial descriptions

Below is a list of Race-specific Blood Talents for races which appear in Tolkien's Middle-Earth. I did not use the approach to create completely new races as I think the HARP races are fine as they are and only need some slight modifications for use within a Middle-Earth setting. In general I wanted to keep the amount of modifications as low as possible.

As said before, these Blood Talents are keyed to a specific race. Therefore e.g. the Noldor Elf Racial Blood Talent is only available for Elves and the Dunedain Racial Blood Talent is only available for Humans. Additionally only one of these Talents may be selected by a character i.e. the Nolder Elf Racial Blood Talent cannot be combined with the Silvan Elf Racial Blood Talent.

All the Blood Talents are assigned a DP cost as they must be purchased just like normal Talents. Unlike the Blood Talents which allow racial hybrids, they do not replace existing racial Talents, except when explicitly stated in the description. Finally, any stat modifications given below are in addition to the normal stat modifications for the base race.

The Racial Blood Talents

Elven Blood Talents

The Elves in Tolkien's Middle Earth have some unique features that they share among their different groups: They do not age or die, they are not subject to disease and they have better vision and perception than men. The latter is already included in the racial description of the HARP Elves, the others are added with the Racial Blood Talents plus some Talents specific to each Elven group.

All Middle-Earth Elves therefore have the following Talents in common, in addition to the normal HARP Talents:

-- Deathless: Elves do not age or die except through violence or grief.

-- Resistance to diseases: +100 to Stamina Resistance vs. Diseases.

The DP costs for these traits are included in the costs for the individual races below.

Noldor Elves

The Noldor Elves "are accounted the greatest of the Elves in lore and smithcraft" and also stronger than their elven cousins.

-- Stats: St +1, Re +1, Pr +1

-- Noldor get a 30% discount for the Talents Master Craftsman (see CoM) and Scholar (see HARP rulebook).

DP costs: 25

Sindar Elves

Sindar Elves, like their cousins the Teleri, are said to be excellent ship-builders.

DP costs: 5 (for the common Elven Talents above)

For 10 DPs Sindar Elves may purchase the Talent "Mariner" which grants +10 bonus to the Sailing and Navigation skill.

Silvan Elves

Concerning racial descriptions for the Silvan Elves I found very little that made me add special Talents to the race. Their nearest cousins, the Avari, are described to often be "dwellers of forests".

DP costs: 5 (for the common Elven Talents above)

For 10 DPs Silvan Elves may purchase the Talent "Affinity to woodland foliage" which grants +15 to all physical actions while in forests.

Human Blood Talents

The Men of Middle-Earth have no general special traits which differentiate them from the Men in other game worlds. Therefore I saw no reason to modify the race in general. What is listed below though, are special Talents for some groups of Men which can be used to add some more flavor and to allow certain mannish groups to have special characteristics known from Tolkien's works.

Numenorians and Dunedain

".... fair of face and tall, and the span of their lives was thrice that of other men of Middle Earth. These were the Numenoreans, the Kings of Men, whom the Elves called the Dunedain."

-- Stats: St +1, Co +1, Pr +1

-- Lifespan: 100-200 years

DP costs: 15

Beornings

These people are named after the shapechanger Beorn who fought in the Battle of Five Armies.

-- Animal Friend: Will not be attacked by animals unless provoked.

-- Beornings get a 5 point discount when purchasing the Shapechanger Talent.

DP costs: 10

A comment on races or racial groups that were left unchanged

In the above list, some readers might miss one group or another. What I tried to do when compiling the Racial Talents is taking a look at the descriptions in Tolkiens work and finding special racial characteristics as opposed to characteristics due to a certain culture. This leads to quite a short list of "races" in comparison to MERP or the RMSS/RMFRP descriptions, but I think in most of these cases it is a better approach to reflect the "racial" differences by choosing a different culture rather than adding a distinct race.

I only included a few of the Mannish races. I certainly might have added special Racial Talents for e.g. Woodmen which make these races excellent at Climbing or for Rohirrim which make these superior horsemen -- but is this really a racial ability or is it not a question of skills learned during adolescence? As said above, I think these abilities should better be reflected by selecting the appropriate culture which then supplies the necessary adolescence ranks that makes these people superior at some skills.

I also refrained from modifying Dwarves and Halflings as the HARP description for these races is already quite close to that given in Tolkien's Middle-Earth. In comparison to MERP or Rolemaster these two races have relatively low Resistance Rolls in HARP. But does this have to be changed? The reason both races are often connected with a high resistance against magic is in my opinion the fact that Tolkien's works state that the individuals of both these races that came in contact with Sauron's rings proved to be more resistant against their powers than Men. But this is also reflected in the HARP rules - by the high Will Resistance Bonus both races possess. Whether the low Magic Resistance is inappropriate or whether the Will Resistance Bonus should be increased further is certainly debatable, but I thought it was not worth modifying the system and possibly disturbing its balance.

HARP Races not normally allowed for use in Middle-Earth

There are some races which do not really fit into the Middle-Earth setting. The following are some suggestions on which races to remove or at least to modify:

-- Standard HARP Elves: A player must select one of the Elven Blood Talents.

-- Gryx: This race could be used to represent Greater Orcs or Half Orcs. If one does not intend to use these "evil" races, I would suggest removing the Gryx.

-- Gnome: The term "Gnome" is one of the names occasionally given to the Noldor Elves. Nevertheless a distinct race with the traits of the HARP Gnomes does not appear in Tolkien's Middle-Earth. I therefore suggest removing the Gnomish race from the game. On the other hand it does not hurt to have them, although I would suggest at least restricting the use of this race. In such a "scenario" the Gnomish race was perhaps simply too insignificant to be mentioned in Tolkien's works.

Abbreviations

CoM HARP College of Magics

DP Development Point

HARP High Adventure Roleplaying

MERP Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game

PP Power Point

RMSS Rolemaster Standard System

RMFRP Rolemaster Fantasy Roleplaying