Hope and Despair

Copyright John Kapsalis © 2015

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"Thalion the Dunadan ranger has suffered long tortures in Carn Dum before he is let free, a shadow of his former self."

These are the house rules I started using in my current Middle Earth campaign, to represent the influence of Hope and Despair on the PCs (or even major NPCs). We have used them only for a handful of sessions and they are not tested long enough. It can be described as a strategic level morale.

The main concept is Hope Points which represent the PCs psychological resources. There are also Despair Points, which come into play when Hope Points are reduced to zero. The number of Hope or Despair Points has an effect on the PCs Activity, OB, DB, and Initiative.

This is represented below as follows:

0-40 Normal Activity
41-70 +5 Activity
71-85 +10 Activity, +5OB
86-95 +15 Activity, +10OB, +1 Initiative
96-100 +20Activity, +15OB, +5DB, +2 Initiative
101+ possibly gaining an extra appropriate talent or potential stat gain once in a campaign

If Hope Points drop below 0 they become Despair Points:

0-40 Normal Activity
41-70 -5 Activity
71-85 -10 Activity, -5OB
86-95 -15 Activity, -10OB.-1 Initiative
96-100 -20Activity,-15OB,-5DB,-2 Initiative
101+ possibly losing an appropriate talent or temporary stat loss once in a campaign

Depending on the race of the PC starting Hope Points differ:

Elves +5
Dwarves +15
Men +10
Hobbits +20
Woses +15

To this is added the PC's Self Discipline stat bonus for a result of at least 0.
Starting Hope Points = Racial Hope Points + SD bonus.
Example: A man PC with a SD bonus of +4 starts with +14 Hope Points.

Hope Points can be earned or lost. Earning or losing Hope/Despair Points in a certain situation depends on a non-open ended roll of 1 to 100. First we'll see some examples of situations that call for a roll and their respective Hope or Despair Bonus:

  • The blessings of a Dunadan Lord (+5 Hope)
  • Destroying a major enemy (+5 to +15 Hope)
  • Merry song and drinking (+5 Hope)
  • Starlit night and the light of Earendil (+10 Hope)
  • Staying at Rivendell (+10 to +50 Hope)
  • Winning a RR vs Fear (+5 to +15 Hope)
  • Blessed item (+5 to +25 Hope)
  • Passing through Gorgoroth (+30 Despair)
  • Passing through the plains of Angmar (+20 Despair)
  • The darkest of nights (+5 Despair)
  • Losing a RR vs Fear (+5 to +15 Despair)
  • The sight of a Wraith (+10 Despair)
  • The sight of a Nazgul (+25 Despair)
  • Losing a close friend (+15 Despair)
  • Guilt (+15 Despair)

Many more situations can be added as examples. Different situations can be cumulative if the GM thinks it makes sense, the same situation is not cumulative.

If a PC is meeting a situation that the GM feels appropriate for a roll, a check should be made to see if the Hope/Despair Point total changes. The check comprises of a 1 to 100 roll to which is added the situation's Hope/Despair Bonus. If the sum exceeds the Hope or Despair Point total of the PC then a change occurs to this total.


  1. Tobo Yellowfingers has a sum of 20 Hope Points. While straying for the first time far from the Shire he meets unexpectedly some old friends. The situations calls for merriment and singing (+5 situation Hope Bonus). A roll is made to see if the Hope Point Total changes. He rolls a 35 plus 5 to a sum of 40. Since 40>20 Tobo gets a bonus of +5 to his Hope Point Total.
  2. Tobo Yellowfingers has travelled farther and now has a sum of 30 Hope Points. His fellowship reaches the Angmarean plains, an inhospitable high plateau desert under the Shadow. The situation calls for a check of Despair (Despair Bonus +20). He rolls a 46, plus 20, for a result of 66. Since 66>30 Tobo's Hope Total is reduced by 20! If Tobo had a Hope Point Total of 70 (he was very strong) and he rolled a 46 his Total would have not changed, due to his superior Hope!.
  3. Thalion the Dunadan ranger has suffered long tortures in Carn Dum before he is let free, a shadow of his former self. He has a Total of 50 Despair Points. He is found by a group of elven wardens and the healer of the group sings an elven song of blessing (equal to Dunadan lord's blessing, Hope Bonus +5). Thalion's player rolls a 68, plus 5, for a sum of 73>50. His Despair Total drops to 45, but the healer sees that he needs the help of Elrond for further healing.
  4. During the way back to Rivendell, Thalion regains some of his memories of failing to help his very best friend to survive in the Angmarean pits. The situation calls for a roll against guilt and losing a close friend (a sum of +30). He rolls a 05, plus 30, for a sum of 35<45 and nothing changes. If he rolled high, an 86, plus 30, would make a sum of 116>45, then a bonus of 30 Despair Points would be added to his current Despair Total.

As an optional rule, one or more members of a fellowship can “burn” Hope Points in order to help another member that faces the dangers of despair. The Hope Points “burned” can then be transferred to the PC in need.

Overall, these rules seem interesting and I think they have a feel of Middle Earth where the characters struggle with faith and hope.

Hope and Fate Tracker

Hope and Despair Summary

PS: Many thanks to the Iron Crown Forum members for the helpful advice on these rules.