Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Last of the Feanorians

I have formulated a new approach for a Middle-earth campaign, one that could span hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years, and allow the player characters to be part of the Tolkien literary canon. Well, kind of.

I propose a Third Age campaign, with a party of adventurers consisting of what are usually a short-lived PC racial type: Noldor. Anyone who has participated in Middle-earth role-playing knows all too well the crippling limitations of a low level Noldo, regardless of profession. Noldor are, as "High Elves," handicapped by a very small number of background options that keeps them from becoming too powerful in the game, something the Turambar (Gamemaster) must be sensitive to, given that the Wise and the Great in Middle-earth -- especially in the familiar Third Age -- are so rare as to be legendary. (Remember Boromir's superstitions concerning the Lady Galadriel, the greatest of the Eldar still in Middle-earth? To him, she was little more than a witch, until he actually passed through Lothlorien.) You just don't typically meet the likes of a child of Finrod Felagund on the streets of Pelargir or Tharbad or (worse) Bree-hill.

That being said, I propose to abandon this careful approach almost altogether, and allow the beginning Noldo PC six (6) background options, instead of the usual two. This is in large part to allow for a realistic fleshing out of the character, due to the circumstances of their lineage; and here I must turn to some grey area, though it is largely an area where JRRT alone has held forth.

It is well known that all Quendi (Elves) can die, but that their spirits do not leave Middle-earth, as do the spirits of Men. Rather, they travel to the Halls of Mandos, until they are released back into the world. How this happens it not perfectly clear, but it can be assumed that they are reincarnated. I have no literary evidence to support this idea, but it is known that the Glorfindel we meet in The Fellowship of the Ring is in fact the same Glorfindel who dueled a Balrog to the death in the Cirith Thornonath. There is no reason evident to suppose otherwise, and it has further been written elsewhere (I disremember where) that he was released from Mandos, and returned to Middle-earth with the Wizards (Istari) in T.A. 1000. It can be supposed that he did not just walk bodily out of Mandos, but that he came into the world again through a natural birth-mother. Just the same, it can be supposed that his spirit was "gifted" a body to house it, the same as those Maiar who would become the Istari gained their bodies. Glorfindel died, but was allowed to come back into the physical world, and was somehow given a body towards that end.

Now, what I propose is a similar circumstance for my Noldo characters: they can actually become Elves that are written of in the Quenta Silmarillion. I am not yet sure just how such elven PC's would come into Middle-earth -- whether they are born to mothers there, or come over Sea after being given bodies again. That, ultimately, may not matter too much. What does matter is that they must be Noldor: for that plays into the heart of the adventure, their raison d'etre: the redemption of the Feanorians, by the last of the Feanorians.

I am not yet certain of the PC's goals. They will certainly have a Quest to achieve, or Quests. But it will be a campaign that could span an Age, and breathe new life into both my own circle of adventurers, and into characters mentioned only cryptically, some in passing, in the mythos of the greatest epic fantasy of all.

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Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"