I started this document back in 2007, and still have not finished it, and has not been updated since then. How sad is that. Although I have given it a limited play test along time ago.
Middle-earth Magic for C&S
The purpose of this page is to offer a solution for magic in Middle-earth, using the Chivalry & Sorcery: The Rebirth RPG gaming system, which I think suits this purpose quite well.
It is not my intention to specify "You can't do 'X' or 'Y' because it isn't in the canon of Middle-earth!" All I wish to achieve is to develop a solution for Middle-earth magic that is as true as possible to what is evidenced in Tolkien's writings, and yet fits in with the C&S wider SkillScape system.
It would be easy for the casual observer to think that in Middle-earth, magic is only accessible to Eldar or Ainur. But that is a mistaken position, and others were capable of wondrous magic achievements, within the bounds of Arda.
There are plenty of examples in Tolkien's writings that allow for non-Eldar and non-Ainur beings to use magic, and therefore ensure that magic is not something restricted to an elite few. Practicing magic should, of course, still be a difficult undertaking and be rare, and this has been a theme in C&S ever since 1st Edition. For if it is too common place then it loses its potency and mystique, and quite frankly becomes another form of weapons technology with which to bash your enemies.
From the early days of 1st Edition, Tolkien was a strong theme through the game. Indeed I don't recall, but I believe there were copy write issues. But one thing C&S has always insisted on, is that magic was difficult, tough, powerful, and required a lot of time to achieve anything meaningful on the part of the player as much as the character they were playing.
The magic philosophy of C&S, in my view, is already well suited to Middle-earth, and would only take a little tweaking here and there to be able to measure up to what is needed to make a magic system suitable for RPG gaming in Middle-earth. The style of spells also suits Middle-earth well and again would only need slight tweaks to hopefully ensure it fits into the Middle-earth style.
I would say from the outset that I can easily be wrong about all this, in terms of the various references I may use about the uses of magic in Middle-earth, and I may not be totally accurate in what is understood to have actually happened in Middle-earth. No doubt there will be many Tolkien scholars that, should they lower themselves to read this, will think exactly that. And I freely admit there are those out there who appear to know more than me about Middle-earth.
In my arrogance, I like to think that I am a bit of a Tolkien expert compared to most Tolkien "fans", and I also believe I am a very reasonable and logical person too. All I am trying to do here is manage any expectations of any changes that are suggested to this document. I am quite willing to be proven wrong, just make sure you bring more than just an opinion to the debate. Hard evidence and a well reasoned argument will be persuasive, opinions will not.
There are some beliefs regarding certain persons, events, etc. that exist within the Middle-earth legendarium that I hold, which anyone reading this must consider, but which are not universally held.
I believe they have a bearing and influence (great and small) on building any Middle-earth magic system, and they speak to (to some degree) on how magical power might be acquired, enhanced and distributed:
Glorfindel of Gondolin and Glorfindel of Rivendell were the same
Glorfindel of Gondolin was reincarnated after his death, after having slain a Balrog defending the escapees from Gondolin (among which were Tuor and Idril), and was greatly spiritually and magically enhanced by his self-sacrifice. Further to this his subsequent close relationship with the Maiar in Valinor, enhanced his spiritual and magical power still further.
He then returned to Middle-earth during the Second Age to aid Gil-galad in the war against Sauron, where he would certainly have been instrumental in the plans to defend elven lands and in the planning of the assaults on Sauron's strongholds.
Personally, I still struggle to believe that some people do not believe this, given the essays in the History of Middle-earth (HOME) Vol. 12: Peoples of Middle-Earth.
Sauron was, naturally and natively, a hugely powerful, possibly the most powerful Maiar
The only two Maiar, to my mind, who might match and maybe exceed his power, were Eönwë and Ilmarë. However, this may simply be a misunderstanding on my part due to the high standing they had amongst those Maiar who directly served the Valar. But Eönwë at the least has got to be in the running, as it was he who lead the War of Wrath against Morgoth. Ossë may also have been a match for Sauron, given to the efforts Melkor made (in some writings) to convert him, but I don't personally think so.
Sauron with the One Ring (i.e.: Second Age of the Sun, before the fall of Númenor) was personally (i.e.: ignore his servants) more powerful than Morgoth was, personally, at the end of the First Age of the Sun. Hard to believe, but true as far as I am concerned, as evidenced in HOME Vol. 10. I don't think there is any argument about this due to the HOME Vol. 10 evidence, but I can see how at face value it would be hard for some to accept.
How old was The Mouth of Sauron
The Mouth of Sauron was not thousands of years old at the time of his confrontation with Gandalf the White at the Black Gate, when it talks of him having "...entered the service of the Dark Tower when it first rose again..." in Chapter 10: The Black Gate Opens of The Return of the King, it is stating that he entered Sauron's service in the year 2951 of the Third Age of the Sun.
I do not believe it means that he entered Sauron's service in the Second Age (i.e.: SA 1000 or around SA 3320). For him to have been alive since the Second Age would have required him of have worn a Ring of Power (the only thing proven to give effective immortality to a mortal within the bounds of Arda, beyond a few hundred years, as far as I am aware); and if he had, then by the time of the War of the Ring he would have been a Wraith, not a man of flesh and blood!
The Ringbearers and the mastery of The One Ring
Of the bearers of the Great Rings of Power, only Gandalf the White, if he were to master and wield the One Ring in the first place, would have had any hope of taking down Sauron in a one on one confrontation during the time of the War of the Ring (and this is a Sauron who is obviously reduced in personal power and without the One Ring himself). Other wielders of the Great Rings who thought about doing it (i.e.: Galadriel) were deluded and would have fallen to Sauron's vastly superior innate power. In Letter #246 Tolkien says:
246 From a letter to Mrs Eileen Elgar (drafts) September 1963
...In his actual presence none but very few of equal stature could have hoped to withhold it from him. Of 'mortals' no one, not even Aragorn...Of the others only Gandalf might be expected to master him – being an emissary of the Powers and a creature of the same order, an immortal spirit taking a visible physical form. In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', 1381, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond. But this is another matter. It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power. But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as is seen in Elrond's words at the Council. Galadriel's rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous thought and resolve...
So no mortal could hope to without the One Ring from Sauron. That much is certain. Gandalf holding the One Ring "...might be expected to master him...". But Tolkien says "...none but very few of equal stature could have hoped to withhold it from him...". Was Gandalf of equal stature?
183 Notes on W. H. Auden's review of The Return of the King
...But he [Sauron] went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit. *...
* Of the same kind as Gandalf and Saruman, but of a far higher order.
I think, therefore, that whilst Gandalf was the same kind of being as Sauron, as we know they are both Maia, he is clearly of much lesser power than Sauron, so the use of "might" by Tolkien is important. I think Gandalf's master of Sauron, even if Gandalf is wielding the One Ring, even if he were Gandalf the White, is highly debatable. And if his mastery of Sauron is debatable, then the other wearers of the Three have not a hope. Even for Galadriel, the greatest Noldor other than Feanor himself.
Fëa and enhancements
The key game mechanic in determining the potential for the magical potency/power of an individual in Middle-earth appears to be their fëa, or their spiritual power. How great ones fëa is seems, in the main, to be determined by the race the individual is a member. Although race appears to me to be the foundation on how much fëa an individual is born with, it is also the case that an individual's fëa, and what they can achieve with it, is greatly influenced by their experiences, in terms of who they have met, what they have done, and what they have sacrificed.
For the purpose of gaining these kinds of enhancements, Ainur are generally excluded as they are often the source of such enhancements for lesser beings, such as Glorfindel's further spiritual enhancement (after he was reincarnated) as a result of dwelling so long with the Maiar of Valinor (Olórin/Gandalf in particular), and they are in the main, already beings of pure spiritually. I don't know fully what I mean by that, but I am getting at the fact they seem to be angelic beings created with finite and fixed, although very large, spiritual power already, which they can freely access.
However, it is well known that Gandalf the Grey (an Ainur of the Maia variety) sacrificed himself, despite having a great task ahead of him and was sent back, spiritually enhanced, as Gandalf the White. So it is possible for an Ainur to be enhanced. But this case was as a result of direct intervention by Ilúvatar himself, so I think that stands outside the realms of normality one expects in Middle-earth.
So, fëa enhancements really exist just to benefit the lesser (non-Ainur) races of Middle-earth, and allow them to be greater than their basic nature would normally allow. For it is in them, and mostly in man (because he begins so low), that such potential for greatness and improvement exists.
Some fëa enhancements have a habit of fading, especially if the reason or source for the enhancement is no longer about or the individual has chosen to physically leave the reason for the enhancement behind. For example, the Noldor who returned to Middle-earth from Valinor during the Rebellion began to "fade", a phenomena that did not exist, or was certainly far less noticeable, in Valinor itself. This "fading" was one of the key reasons for the creation of the Ring of Power, which stopped this "fading" in its tracks, and allowed the wielders (particularly of the three "Elven" rings) to maintain their domains and resisted the passage of time. "Fading" was common to all Quendi, but I suspect those from Valinor felt the loss greater than the Avari who never benefited from the light of the Two Trees.
Also this fading seems endemic to all existence within the bounds of Arda, for it is said that before the world is remade, even those in Valinor will feel the weight of their years after having been part of Arda for so long.
Fëa: the basis of magical power
Fëa forms the basis of an individual's potential magical potency. This base amount differs depending on the individual's race (or class of being). There are two key classes of being; Angelic and non-Angelic, i.e.: the Valar and Maiar (the Ainur) as opposed to the Quendi, Dwarves and Hildor (men).
Each race has its own base fëa, which is then modified, to either be enhanced or be reduced, by certain factors, such as important experiences, self-sacrifice and also study.
It is important to note that fëa represents an individual's potential magical power. The race belonged to, and the class/vocation the individual follows, greatly influences what the individual is capable of using their fëa for. The character may be a Quendi of the highest order, but if they are basically a fighting individual, the overt "magical" powers they are capable of will be fairly limited, if still somewhat fantastic to your everyday mortal. And if the character is a rude and mean Wildman of the woods, but he follows a sorcerous class, then it could be that he is able to achieve effects that are quite beyond the aforementioned Quendi.
Fëa is meant to be a replacement for PMF in C&S terms, and rather than one's PMF being developed as one develops a Mode of Magick, it is ones fëa that increases.
There is some variance of fëa even within the individual races themselves, which helps account for why some individuals are more potent or apt to using magic than others, even before vocation/class is considered.
So to this end, to find a character's Basic fëa take the Base fëa from the 1.1 Racial Classifications table below, and then make a role on the 1.2 Standard Racial Modification table. Modify the Base fëa by the percentage arrived at, which then gives you the character's own Basic fëa (always round down).
All modifications to an individual's fëa, regardless of source, are made off the Base fëa number in the below table, rather than each modification being made off an already modified Basic fëa value.
1.1 Racial Classifications
1.2 Standard Racial Modification
You are playing a Calaquendi and you role 87 and an 8 on the Crit Die. Your own Basic fëa is therefore: 35 + (35 x 18%) = 41 (41.3 rounded down).
You are playing a Wild Man (Easterling or Haradrim) and you role 13 and a 2 on the critical die. Your own Basic fëa is therefore: 5 + (5 x -8%) = 4 (4.6 rounded down).
You are (for some reason that escapes me right now) playing a Maiar and you role 72 and a 4 on the critical die. Your own Basic fëa is therefore: 50 + (50 x 9%) = 54 (54.5 rounded down).
This range of fëa for each race, apart from giving a bit of variety to an otherwise static table, allows for such beings as Fëanor to come into play, if the campaign should need such a potent individual. So characters can be created who can therefore challenge the might of the lower levels of fëa achievable by beings on a naturally higher level of being then themselves.
But this also allows for a reality that exits in Middle-earth which means that the greatest of the Maiar, for example, are forever out of reach of even the greatest Eldar ever to live, as it should be.
One can include exceptions of course, such as Fëanor's ability to create the Silmarils, which seems to have been a totally unique ability. But these unique abilities do not have to have anything to do with a character's fëa score.
Fate can play a huge part in this too and can further narrow the gap between the different beings in Middle-earth. For example, Fëanor was destined to be the greatest Eldar ever the live, period. No player character could hope (I would suggest) to ever be as great as Fëanor in a normal RPG setting. Therefore fate as an influencer for NPC's could be of far greater influence than anything else. But for player characters it may be only a low to moderate modifier, unless you are running a real big saga of a campaign that requires PC's to be movers of big events, either at the forefront or in the background.
Fate factors for player characters also, to my mind, can seem a bit out of place, as the players ought to be allowed to make their own fate and do their own deeds, even within a fairly restrictive campaign where the GM needs them to be doing XYZ and achieving ABC. I personally wouldn't hand out large fate modifiers to player characters unless the campaign depended on it.
The percentage modifier for fate should be applied to the Base fëa from the 1.1 Racial Classifications table, rather than an already modified Basic fëa score. Below are some examples. But these are only examples and the GM should really spend some time think what would fit their own scenario or campaign world.
There is no reason why "To be a leader of a people in times of great change/adversity." couldn't be appended to Théoden as much as the Leader of the Haradrim who Théoden killed at Pelennor. I just chose to give Théoden a different fate description and bonus. You could easily choose otherwise.
What I would suggest, however, that you apply only one fate modifier per character, otherwise you could really let things get a bit too out of hand and have lower beings getting much too powerful in comparison to how they are presented in Middle-earth.
For example (taking the three examples above):
The Eldar is of a Royal House of the Eldar, and is therefore going to play a 'Secondary' role in world events:
41 + (35 x 20%) = 48
The Wild man is a leader of his people during the War of the Ring and is destined to fight a key leader of the West on the Fields of Pelennor (the character need not know this specifically of course):
4 + (5 x 10%) = 4 (4.5 rounded down, sadly).
You are Huan:
54 + (50 x 15%) = 61 (61.5 rounded down).
Sacrificial and Experiential Enhancements
Certain experiences can affect an individual's fëa during the course of their life. Examples from Middle-earth include the Eldar who travelled to Valinor and dwelt in the Light of the Trees and therefore became much "greater" in most respects than their Middle-earth bound brethren.
Self-sacrifice is another method by which fëa can be enhanced. The ultimate sacrifice (death) can give large benefits if the cause is just, but you'd better be sure you can be reincarnated to gain the benefit of it (so better make sure you're an Ainur or a Quendi). This is a difficult one to quantify and I cannot cover all the angles. There are two key examples of self-sacrifice I would like to highlight which resulted in death and subsequent spiritual enhancement.
Gandalf and Durin's Bane
Gandalf's sacrifice to defend The Fellowship appears, on the face of it, to be a great one and critical for the future of the free peoples, and I would not disagree. The point I am trying to make is that there was a distinct and desperate purpose to his sacrifice. A purpose, which if ever fulfilled (and of course it was, by the destroying of the One Ring), that would benefit a whole load of people, and of course the designs of the Valar.
Glorfindel and the Balrog
Glorfindel's sacrifice against a Balrog, when defending the refugees of Gondolin (among which was the child Eärendil) was, for me, a greater and purer sacrifice than Gandalf's. Glorfindel was utterly unaware of the importance of Eärendil in the saving of Middle-earth. Glorfindel defended them because no one else could. Yes, they were socially important people, but as far as Glorfindel's core personality is concerned, he would have defended them no matter who they were, because there was a need to. Which makes his sacrifice a much more noble one.
Still further, an even greater sacrifice, to my mind, would be for an individual, who is themselves important to the future of a great purpose, to sacrifice themselves for an innocent nobody. This would be most effective of all if the "nobody" was a child.
This is illustrated wonderfully in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant where Covenant's summoning to The Land in The Power that Preserves is stopped by the High Lord Mhoram after Mhoram learns that Covenant is trying to save a child in our world, to which Mhoram proclaims:
"...You turn from us to save life in your own world. We will not be undone by such motives. And if darkness should fall upon us, still the beauty of the Land endures..."
There is absolutely no precedent for this in Middle-earth that I can think of and indeed it may run against the grain of what appears to be sacrifices in the pursuit of a greater cause that are common in Middle-earth (I am probably getting a bit to Gemmellesque here, or pushing my own beliefs onto Middle-earth too much). But it works for me, hence some of the below examples.
You may think that self sacrifice to support those who are important to worldly event IS the greater sacrifice. I would suggest it is possibly a more important sacrifice, but I also believe a measure of an individual's purity of soul (I am drifting into uncomfortable territory for me) is in how they view the importance of a single life. Is one life (whoever it may be), more important than another life? I would argue not, regardless of what importance one may have over another in the material world.
What about multiple experiences? Well so long as they are different, then I don't necessarily see a problem with a cumulative effect, but again I would advise caution, for otherwise PC's would likely start to go out of their way to have these 'experiences' just to up their fëa.
Also I would suggest that subsequent experiences have no effect unless they offer a great benefit, in which case the character would benefit from the more profound (in terms of fëa enhancement) experience only.
There appears to be an immutable and inescapable effect at work in Arda; that of "fading". This "fading" can be general in nature, but can also be in relation to a specific enhancement of an individual's fëa. Some enhancements do not fade in themselves, but will be subject to the more general form of fading suffered by all beings in Arda at all times.
The first kind of "fading" is a general "fading" that appears to effect all beings within the bounds of Arda, especially the immortal beings, i.e.: the Ainur and the Quendi, will tire of their existence. Quendi that remained in Middle-earth after the end of the Third Age, would be effected so adversely that they would eventually fade from physical existence altogether. It seems from Tolkien's writings that those in Valinor would not physically fade, possibly as a result of still being with the Ainur, but they would certainly tire of life, until the world is renewed.
The second kind of "fading" is more specifically related to those beings who have gained an enhanced spiritual stature due to, for example, having lived in Valinor under the light of the Two Trees, or, having lived among angelic beings for some time. In both these cases, the source of the enhancement can be lost, either voluntarily or forcefully. In the case of the Two Trees, the benefit they gave those who bathed in their light was forcefully removed as the Trees were destroyed by Melkor and Ungoliant. In the case of dwelling amongst angelic beings and example of this is when Noldor voluntarily left Valinor to return to Middle-earth. Therefore the Noldor lost out in two ways. Firstly they were deprived of the Two Trees and secondly they chose to leave Valinor and the Ainur behind. The "fading" they then experienced, which may have been slight to begin with, was the key reason behind them forging the Rings of Power, the main purpose of which was to hold back the passage of time and therefore hold back the "fading" of themselves and their lands.
This second "fading" is directly linked to the distance and length of time the enhanced being is, and has spent away from the source of the initial enhancement.
The extent of the "fading" is difficult to quantify and is probably best left up to the GM and what fits in with their campaign. Also it does not seem to have had a huge perceivable effect on the great Eldar of Middle-earth who were still around in the Third Age. One would have thought that having lived for around 2000 years away from Valinor and after the death of the Two Trees, and before receiving her Ring of Power, that Galadriel may have suffered a bit of "fading". And it is difficult to say one way or another whether she had or not. The Eldar MUST have been aware of it to some degree before the Rings of Power were made, or why bother making the Rings in the first place. Some of the impetus could be laid at Sauron's feet, possibly as a result of his deceptions, but this kind of "fading" must have been very real for them to keep using the Rings in spite of the danger of Sauron retrieving the One Ring.
So "fading" is probably something that only happens over fairly long periods of time and is therefore unlikely to effect game play, unless the campaign spans hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Class should be of key importance in determining how one can utilise one's fëa and also should influence, to some degree, the potential to increase fëa through study, if for no other reason than to give the lowest beings such as men, a chance to gain near equal footing, if not equal, with higher beings, such as Quendi and Dwarves.
For example, a character may have a huge fëa, but if they have dedicated themselves to improving their physical prowess, and therefore adopt the class of Fighter, then it seems a tad unrealistic and unfair to have them throwing fireballs around, as well as being able to chop you up into little pieces. It simply would not be in keeping with game-balance to allow these characters to have great magical powers.
Others will dedicate themselves to the pursuit of magical excellence, and they should benefit from a greater potential to increase their fëa, and also a good understanding of their magical discipline and the ability to use it to a greater effect than those who simply have great innate fëa, hence the need to still develop Methods of Magick.
Glorfindel must have had a huge fëa, due to his self-sacrifice and his friendship with the Maiar of Valinor. Yet he was clearly of the fighting classes and he didn't go about commanding people (except in the more mundane way) or throwing flame around like Gandalf. When he dwelt in Gondolin it was told that he was second only to Turgon in his prowess. He displayed magic like powers in that he could heal, as he did with Frodo's wound (although he lacked the potency to fully heal it and he could only delay the inevitable conclusion to Frodo's predicament unless more potent healing was brought to bear), and he could flame-on when required (or possibly this was a constant effect that was simply more perceivable by those who could see into, or were passing over into, the shadow-world as Frodo was at the Ford of Bruinen). That is to say he could allow himself to be viewed as he was on the other side, as Gandalf put it. When he turned this on even Nazgûl feared to face him. Although this effect it seems, was common to all those who had dwelt over the sea. I would suggest, however, that the more potent the individual the greater the flame-on potency.
So back to classes, what about the classes that are available and how can they advance a characters fëa?
As a character develops their Mode of Magic, their fëa increases at the same rate as their PMF would have. However, since fëa is an exclusively magician characteristic, there are other ways that is can improve, not counting the methods listed above.
The main way is an increase from general experience. Much as big experiences can have an immediate impact on one's fëa, the slow accumulation of experience has a small by growing influence on fëa. Basically, for every 10,000 of Accumulated Experience a character receives, regardless of race and class, they gain an additional point of fëa. Note this is Accumulated Experience, not the amount of experience that a character may have spent on his skills that counts here.
So in short:
Per fëa bonus
Mode of Magic Level: +3
Accumulated Experience 10,000 Accumulated Experience: +1
If you are using the rest of the standard C&S magic rules then one's fëa simply replaces PMF in determining Magic Level and therefore what spells you can learn, etc.
However, I would suggest that this is most unsatisfactory if you are trying to replicate Middle-earth in all its glory. To do this I would suggest you need a modified list of spells, striking some out, developing new ones and re-categorising others either up or down the MR scale to better reflect what is possible in Middle-earth. Teleport and Fly, for example, should not be available in their current form. The only beings able to replicate these kinds of effects are Ainur when they are not wedded to their physical form. And even then, Teleporting seems quite out of the question.
One also needs to seriously consider Quendi in this equation. They could naturally subcreat, so how best could we account for their magic? A new Mode? Quendi Subcreation Mode? It almost begs for the term Primitive Talent to return to the texts of C&S, or possibly termed as Natural Talent Mode, which would then have its own strengths and weaknesses as far as the different realms of magic are concerned.
One could easily put forward a case for a whole load more work in this area. I think the keys areas that need addressing are on a racial, skill and spell level rather than a vocational one.
As far a magical Modes are concerned then a Natural Talent Mode is a must to account for Quendi natural magic and ability (not that it ought to be necessarily restricted to just Quendi) and a specific Dwarven Mode to account for Dwarven natural magic and ability. One could just stick to a Natural Talent Mode and then specify the differences in how this Mode manifests in the different races, but then you may as well have a wholly different Mode for each race.
Whatever is decided the Natural Talent Mode should be in no way as good as the other Modes that magician's study towards. If a Natural Talent wants to break out of the restrictive rut of only have a talent for magic, and wants the big time, then they should have to study one of the more formal Modes.
As far as spells are concerned, hopefully I will get round to redefining the current spells and also building a list of new ones that are in keeping with Middle-earth, if for no other reason than I need to for my own Middle-earth campaigns.