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Old 03-05-2011, 11:36 PM   #1
Paradus
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Of powers outside our realism?

Greetings to all

One thing I love about Tolkien's world (and other fantasy settings) are of powers of which could not be obtained in the real world. The reason is for when reading I enjoy falling within a world quite seperate from our own, where your imagination can run free.

Now on to my question.
Of the many powers and abilities of arda's inhabitants I'am curious about.

What powers did the elves have over men (Besides superior senses)?

What is the so called inner power of the eldar races which is noted as "magic"?

How strong physically were the eldar races compared to men? Were unnatural or supernatural feats common?

What physical differences and abilities did the dwarves have from other races (besides body structure)?

How do the abilities of unique individuals (Beornings-shapeshifting, Malbeth- foresight, Witchking- flaming sword etc) manifest?

What of the glowing and superior power of elven blades?

How do the spirits of death manifest upon the physical plane (Barrow-wights, the fallen of dunharrow etc)?

How do the trees come to life (I.e old man willow for example)?

Does the power of Illuvatar have any limits?

What of the power of song and music?

Finally what powers did the great Morgoth have at his disposal?

cheers.

Last edited by Paradus; 03-05-2011 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 03-06-2011, 08:36 AM   #2
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OK, lots of questions. I'll try to address some...

Elves can reincarnate.

Anything that Men don't understand how it happens, they call magic. As for the power, it's probably the Elves' willpower and their deep connection with nature.

They can heal faster than men.

Dwarves are very good with stone, metals, etc.

I don't know about the Witch-king and Beorn, but I think that Malbeth just had the ability of his race more concentrated in him. The Numenorians in ME had foresight (eg Gilraen predicts Aragorn's future and her own, Aragorn predicts what will happen to Elrond). How - I don't know.

Elven blades are much sharpe than regular ones. Also, they can cut though "enchanted" material - eg. Sting cut through Shelob's webs. And the fact that they glow at the comming of enemies gives a big advantage to anybody who has them.

Music has a great power in the legendarium. It all begins with music - the Ainulindale. Then there is the Finrod vs Sauron singing competition. Then Luthien first singing Sauron, and then Morgoth into oblivion. In the 3rd age the song "A Elbereth Gilthoniel" gives Sam strength to continue. I'm not sure if it's the song, Elbereth's name, or just the sound of Elvish, though. I really have no clue as to why music is so powerful. Maybe because those who know how can channel their wills through their voices or the voices of their instruments?...

I believe that there is some sort of spiit living in Old Man Willow, but I don't know how it got there.


I skipped some questions that I don't think I can do justice right now.
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Old 04-10-2011, 03:45 PM   #3
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One set of answers...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradus View Post
Greetings to all

One thing I love about Tolkien's world (and other fantasy settings) are of powers of which could not be obtained in the real world. The reason is for when reading I enjoy falling within a world quite seperate from our own, where your imagination can run free...
Lots of questions. I might take a stab a answering a few of them. For a really thorogh (if not difinitive) answer, you might try downloading a copy of the rules of Ambarquenta. It is a very detailed set of rules for role playing specifically designed for Middle Earth. It includes specific games mechanics for 'powers outside our realism' which might be described as magic. These include...

If you speak the name of a Valar, servants of the Enemy won't like it and will be under a handicap for a bit.

Speaking the name of a Valar, or in our game singing songs dedicated to a Valar, might improve use of skills associated with that Valar.

All elves are given the edge 'artificer', meaning once they have nine skill levels at making something, the thing that they make might have additional virtues. Boats might ride rapids, cloaks might hide one in a woods, or swords might not break. Elves aren't the only race that can have the artificer edge, but according to the rules anyway, all elves (who spend the non-trivial effort to get 9 levels of a craft skill) can create.

While I have been playing Ambarquenta for three years now, just a few months back they finally published Chapter 11 on magic. There is a list of spells, most of which come out of TLotR or The Hobbit, along with limits on who might cast them and how often. If one buys into the game rules, all elves are pretty good at certain spells centered on thoughts, speech and perception. Thus, they can communicate with beasts, talk directly from mind to mind, and a few can look into another's eyes and learn of the other's motivations, dreams and flaws. (Galadriel can tell you about that one.)

Thoughts, speech and perception is just one 'realm' of magic. One might also study other fields such as fire (Gandalf) or beasts (Radagast).

While non elves might learn magic, doing so tends to corrupt them. It is easy, if one uses sorcery or necromancy, to fall under the influence of The Enemy.

While elves start out with a significant advantage in spells associated with thoughts, speech and perception, there are no battle spells in that realm of magic. Such spells can be used to gain knowledge and understanding, but are not suited towards acquiring power or domination.

All player characters have different amounts of Ambar, an attribute which allows one to fulfill one's fate, or to alter probability somewhat. In game mechanic terms, every once in a while one can add a bonus to or roll again very important dice rolls. This might reflect how certain individuals, blessed or cursed by the Valar, have roles to play in the tale of the world. The Valar are looking over their shoulders and giving them a little boost from time to time.

Now, this is a partial list, and any item on the list might be controversial. Did the author of Ambarquenta, devout Tolkien fan or not, get it right? It is certainly possible to quibble a lot of points. As this forum reflects, there is certainly lots of room for discussion and debate.

But if you really want detailed answers to all of your questions...
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Old 04-15-2011, 03:33 AM   #4
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Then there was that thingy about...

What an amazing mouthful of seriously time intensive questions. It would require writing a book (or 60) to answer properly at all.

The trouble I'm seeing is that they've already been written. And if I may be honest without honestly trying to dis you on the subject, this is like asking for a huge effort in order to give you a personal shortcut to hours upon hours of intensive (yet, thoroughly enjoyable) study.

This is why I believe you aren't receiving an overwhelming volume of response to these very relevant, and oh so interesting questions. But good luck finding them. The journey is worth the wait, I promise!
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Old 04-15-2011, 09:03 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azrakhor Akallabeth View Post
What an amazing mouthful of seriously time intensive questions. It would require writing a book (or 60) to answer properly at all.

The trouble I'm seeing is that they've already been written. And if I may be honest without honestly trying to dis you on the subject, this is like asking for a huge effort in order to give you a personal shortcut to hours upon hours of intensive (yet, thoroughly enjoyable) study.

This is why I believe you aren't receiving an overwhelming volume of response to these very relevant, and oh so interesting questions. But good luck finding them. The journey is worth the wait, I promise!
Actually, Azrakhor, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree that the answers are necessarily there to find. Paradus's questions seem to stem from a way of looking at fantasy worlds that is not particularly congruent with the way Middle-earth is written. At least to my mind, his questions seem to want to impose a scientific schema onto the various "magics" of Middle-earth. At best, this is comparable to the attempts of the Christians in late antiquity to explain their doctrines, which stemmed from a Semitic mindset, into the philosophical framework of Greek and Roman understanding. At worst, Paradus is trying to explain away the mysteries of Tolkien's mythology into a Dungeons-and-Dragonseseque rulebook.

However, even if Paradus *isn't* in danger of following Saruman's folly, that of breaking a thing in order to understand it, I would have to argue that the reason there is a dearth of responses here has less to do with the fact that "that they've already been written" as with the fact that they don't have an easy answer.

Of course, the answering of questions is greatly complicated by the fact that Paradus asks so many! Or rather, not the fact that he asks so many, since many threads could mean many interesting conversations, but rather the fact that he asks them all on the same thread. Several of these questions could have interesting discussions teased out, but lumped together in one thread, the prospective answerer either has to respond in a bullet-point list, or try to come up with a single unifying answer.

To focus on a single question, let's look at Question 1:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradus
What powers did the elves have over men (Besides superior senses)?
Thus far, it has received one direct answer (Blantyr's answer, while comprehensive, deals with non-canonical sources. If Paradus is looking for a Dungeons-and-Dragons synthesis, I doubt he could do better than Blantyr, but if he is looking for a Tolkien-based exegesis to back it up, recourse to the Ambarquenta website isn't like to cut it):

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55
Elves can reincarnate.
In her typically direct way, Galadriel55 cuts right to the heart of the difference between Elves and Men, but there are problems here.

Firstly, is reincarnation is a power that the Elves possess? Arguably, it is not. Although the Elves are bound to Arda and from their very nature are supposed to live from their birth* until the End of Time, re-embodiment is not something that is within their own power: only the Valar can redress the injustice of an Elf dying, and they can delay this re-embodiment as their just judgment sees fit (or, as in the case of Fëanor, withhold it permanently as just punishment).

Consequently, I would say that the distinction between Elves and Men is not that Elves can be re-embodied, but rather that Elves are not supposed to die in the first place, whereas death is explicitly Eru's Gift to Men. This raises the second question, however, of whether or not longevity co-terminal with the life of the world is a "power" the Elves have over Men. Tolkien's own terminology ("the Gift", he calls it) and his discussion of the envy the Elves and even the Valar will eventually feel for it suggests that it is not something "better" to never naturally die. In any case, it is a question of nature or essence, and I would say that powers derive from differences in nature, and are not the same as the differences themselves.

However, there ARE consequences from the different Elven and Mannish natures that might manifest as 'powers' (Paradus uses this term on another thread, as I recall, and seems to like it, but it's a term that seems metaphysically inept for Middle-earth, so I'm struggling to use it). Because Elven nature is bound to this world, they are in a much closer communion with it. Men, who are but visitors to Arda and leave it indeed when they die, are not bound to Arda's fate, while the Elves do not know if they will have a life after the final destruction of Arda, and if they do, they believe it will be in an Arda Remade. This union of natures between Elves and Arda means that the Elves have a much closer relationship with the material things of this world, including with the other living things in Yavanna's domain (plants and animals--what we call "nature"). My contention is that any "powers" the Elves possess are the direct result of this close relationship that is built right into their fëa.

These powers include the heightened perceptions that Paradus mentioned in his original question, and also includes what Sam calls "magic" in Lothlórien--the magic that Galadriel distinguishes as "art," distinct from the "deceits" of the enemy. A little bit of western art history may be appropriate here: until the "modern times" the point of art was to imitate nature. There were different schools about how to go about this, about whether one should be realistic (depicting things as they are) or idealistic (depicting things as they ought to be), but there was no disagreement that art should imitate nature. Given what I have already said about the Elves having a closer relationship to the nature of Arda than Men, I feel it should therefore be self-evident that the "Arts" of the Elves--their "magic"--is contingent on their very essence being tied so closely to that of Arda.

As actual effects of this "power," we can see the various things that the Elves produced: Celebrimbor's Rings (all but the One), the Elessar, the palantíri, Galadriel's mirror, the Phial of Galadriel, the cloaks of Lórien, and supreme above all else: the Silmarils.

As an aside: we know that the Númenóreans were the most "Elf-like" of Men, and also that they had the greatest "technology." Given that, in modern times, technology is the product of science, which may be considered "knowledge of how the world works"--aka, knowledge of nature, perhaps we could say that Elves were able to do "intuitively" what we have to do mechanically--and because they were bound together in their very essence with Arda, there were not the catastrophic environmental consequences that our separated Mannish natures have effected by pursuing the same effects through our science.

And that, is one very long answer to only one of Paradus's questions. I certainly don't want to discourage him from asking more... but if I may give some unsolicited advice, it might be better to give them separate threads...





*I was about to say "conception" but the similarity of the terminology to arguments about the morality of abortion stopped me... though I do think it would be interesting to know if miscarried Elven babies would be re-embodied in Valinor. Even if miscarriages are not typical of Elves, there are surely instances of pregnant Elven mothers dying in the sack of Nargothrond, Gondolin, or elsewhere that would provide a similar scenario.
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Old 04-15-2011, 09:18 AM   #6
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Then there was...

Very possibly, good (or bad) Formendacil. Still, I tend to see the answers to each of the questions as readily available, if the time is taken. Perhaps my apprehension of these is something I take for granted because they appear obvious enough to me and I feel I could answer them all fairly thoroughly in a direct sense, not necessarily as you say, with a view to cataloging for (perhaps) a clinical dissection With a view to RPG, but rather as they appear to work in the writing. But your response was gracious, and thank you.

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Old 04-15-2011, 11:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azrakhor Akallabeth View Post
Very possibly, good (or bad) Formendacil. Still, I tend to see the answers to each of the questions as readily available, if the time is taken. Perhaps my apprehension of these is something I take for granted because they appear obvious enough to me and I feel I could answer them all fairly thoroughly in a direct sense, not necessarily as you say, with a view to cataloging for (perhaps) a clinical dissection With a view to RPG, but rather as they appear to work in the writing. But your response was gracious, and thank you.
The thing is, though.... I don't think the answers are readily available in every case; and if you base your opinion about the general lack of response to Paradus's questions on their ready answerability, then if I were successful in demonstrating that the answers AREN'T readily available, your conclusion about the lack of response would no longer be supported.

Take, for example, Paradus's last few questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradus
Does the power of Illuvatar have any limits?

What of the power of song and music?

Finally what powers did the great Morgoth have at his disposal?
I would contend that these questions have no ready answers, each in their own particular way, and that consequently an interesting discussion could be founded on each of them (and, admittedly, may already have been done in the vaults of time somewhere on this or another forum. In that case, Paradus may be faulted for not finding those discussions and contributing to those conversations... but I do not think he would find certain answers).

Firstly, "does the power of Ilúvatar have any limits?" This is no simple question, but ties in directly to the unanswered philosophical questions about the nature of God. Even if you assume that Ilúvatar has the same philosophical properties as the Christian God, you have to bear in mind that there is no complete agreement as to whether the Christian God has the qualities of omni-benevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience given in philosophy to the supreme being. Quite apart from the Problem of Evil on a technical level, you also have the Problem of apparent Evil in acts attributed to God in revelation--and, for that matter, you have the Problem of apparent Evil in the acts attributed to Eru in Tolkien's "revelation". Never mind the fact that the identification of Eru with the Christian God is disputed by some rather weighty minds on this forum in the first place.

And even if Ilúvatar's power does not inherently have limits, is it possible that He limits them Himself in giving governance of the world to the Valar and giving free will to Men (and Elves, Dwarves, etc)?

Regarding the second question, about the power of music in Middle-earth, there are admittedly a book-full of essays about music (Music in Middle-earth, edited by our very own Esty) which could be consulted, but after you go through the book, I would say (mind you, only having read through a third to half the essays) that you would left with a strong sense of "okay, now I know pretty much everything Tolkien said... but I still have to draw my own conclusions." It's one thing to survey every instance that links power and music in the corpus of Middle-earth texts; it's quite another to conclude solidly what the exact parameters of power might be.

Thirdly, "what powers did the great Morgoth have at his disposal." Much like the question of music, one could survey all the instances of Morgoth exercising his might in Tolkien's work, and still not know whether he could do more or not--though one might be able to block off certain directions (for example, we know that Morgoth could not create, only twist other's creations... at least in his later stages). However, the question is complicated by other things: Paradus says "Morgoth" so I assume that he means Morgoth-enemy-of-the-Eldar-in-Angband-during-the-First-Age, which is a different matter than Melkor-as-he-first-entered-Arda. What's more, Paradus adds the phrase "at his disposal." Well, we know that Morgoth had the power to change his form--when he took up a form at all... but this power was dispersed throughout the matter of Arda by the time he last took a shape as he escaped the clutches of the Valar... so this "power" that he legitimately possessed was no longer "at his disposal." If this was true of this power, would it be true of others? For example, if we assume that Morgoth "created" the orks and trolls before Utumno was destroyed and he was taken to Valinor, could he have done a similar act when he returned? This depends if all he did was breed Elves (or Men) for their most abominable traits... or did he actively use his subcreative power to mould them into different forms?

Again... it is not answerable, so unless "it is not answerable" is a legitimate "answer to each of the questions [that is] readily available, if the time is taken," then I have to conclude that the answers to these questions are NOT all readily available.



*cough* Okay, that gets the logical argument out my system, but quite beyond refuting your point logically, Azrakhor, there is a "moral" point I am trying to make--and I mean "moral" in the sense of "this is what ought to be done on the Downs." Even though I rather strongly disagree with Paradus's terminology, and even if I actually incline to your position that, by and large, these discussions already exist on the forum and can be found if one digs around... the purpose of a discussion forum is to discuss. While it is a minor fault to not dig up a pre-existing thread and add to what is there, rather than starting a new (possibly superfluous thread), it is also true that there are over a decade of discussions buried in the pages of this forum, and even the relatively long-term users have not read them all... and even if we have, we cannot be expected to find them.

In other words, even if Paradus's questions were readily answerable, it would still be within the scope of this forum to ask them. Not everyone on this globally-used site has access to all twelve volumes of the History of Middle-earth, even *if* they've all read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, which they have not. Many of the best threads come out of topics that have been discussed many times--not because the topic is new, but because the input into the topic is. One of the treasures of the Barrow-downs is wealth of knowledge of its many members, and one of the whole points of the discussion forum is to allow that knowledge to be imparted and shared.

Mind you... I have a philosophy degree, so I've been conditioned to see the reasking of old questions, and the full reconsideration of ideas from start to finish--even when the conclusion is no different--as a good thing in itself.
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Old 04-15-2011, 11:38 AM   #8
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I... I...

There is no mistaking your formidable intellect but you are missing some of the invisible qualities of understanding, within your understanding. Let's just say that to explain MY understanding of why these are EASILY available and READILY answerable would require ANOTHER 60 books Beyond Tolkien's own.

I contend that your contention is probably true for YOU. Therefore I do not argue the point. But I said what I said, and not without knowledge. Simply saying so doesn't make it true, so if you desire extensive clarification I shall require a publisher and an advance fee for my time. In other words, it's too much work to bring you up to speed with my own knowledge, sir. But thank you for your gracious response.

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Old 04-15-2011, 11:54 AM   #9
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dot dot dot

And for my next trick-



...


And thank you for your gracious response.
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Old 04-15-2011, 02:36 PM   #10
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This is why I believe you aren't receiving an overwhelming volume of response to these very relevant, and oh so interesting questions. But good luck finding them. The journey is worth the wait, I promise!
There are some very interesting threads on many of them on the forum. Certainly a bit of use of the search facility might be more profitabel than expecting someone else to produce a cribsheet. I feel like Sam that some questions require a week's answer or none at all since they require a degree of evidence balancing and conjecture.
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Old 04-15-2011, 03:49 PM   #11
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Just want to add something about Morgoth's powers:

I wouldn't call it "powers", but rather "power". I noticed that although he was once the most powerful ainu, during the first age he and Melian had a few "mental battles", and Melian won. (I can't quote right now, but there was something like "often did his thought stray to her, and there was foiled"). Which shows exactly how much power he lost over this time.

Well, maybe instead of "lost" I should say ''used". He put in into Arda and its creatures.

And more about powers: cunning lies.
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Old 04-15-2011, 05:04 PM   #12
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Upended logic

I can always readily admit when I make a speculation. In the case of the above quoted text, that's all it was. And I allow the fact that I can be wrong in my speculations. I'm sure my speculations are irrelevant, and I could have been wrong, and likely am. I shall certainly endeavor to stick to the researchable facts.

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Old 04-15-2011, 05:18 PM   #13
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haha, so in order to learn the answers to the above questions, answers that you apparently know so well and have readily available, we have to pay an advance fee and for a publisher for 60 upcoming books... and then, god forbid, we have to read them all?

Uhm, thanks but no thanks!
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Old 04-15-2011, 08:15 PM   #14
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Defending the D&D Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Actually, AzrakhorThus far, it has received one direct answer (Blantyr's answer, while comprehensive, deals with non-canonical sources. If Paradus is looking for a Dungeons-and-Dragons synthesis, I doubt he could do better than Blantyr, but if he is looking for a Tolkien-based exegesis to back it up, recourse to the Ambarquenta website isn't like to cut it):
Ambarquenta runs 316 pages, and you are correct, it has or is no exegesis. It's a set of role playing rules, not an academic thesis. It's bulky enough without footnotes. Those trying to play the game aren't likely to want the footnotes. I also figure that those who see a D&D level break out and have a decent knowledge of the books will know where the D&D level break out came from and will be able to judge reasonably how worthy the break out is.

It also seemed to me that Paradus was asking his questions at a D&D level. At least, I wasn't up to answering it at a deeper level.

It is also interesting looking at how the Barrow Downs natives attempt other levels that just don't get touched if one looks at things from a D&D perspective. Reincarnation isn't mentioned at all in Ambarquenta, or in The Hobbit, or with the exception of Gandalf in the main body of LotR. That elves are of Arda and thus have dominion over Arda also doesn't show up. Ambarquenta sees the elves domain as in thought, speech and perception. Speaking with beasts, reading another's motive and communicating mind to mind were taken as inherently elven in terms of abilities outside our realism, rather than being close to nature. Looking at abilities actually shown in the books, I can see where AQ's author was coming from. I'm not saying he is right, all who disagree are wrong, or that I can quote a source. I can respect that he is sincerely walking a valid path. What was actually done in the books, and who could do it?

I guess my own perspective is one of immersion rather that academic abstraction and proof. In any role playing format, I tend to play female characters. I have long loved Tolkien. Thus, I had to create a Tolkienesque female character. The models that came to mind were Arwen, Galadriel, Goldberry and Eowyn… two princesses, a queen and a demi-goddess. As you might imagine, you can't get there from here given the number of skill picks allowed a beginning character. Aerlinn couldn't be as grand as Tolkien's major characters, but she I wanted to give her the potential to grow into it.

Three themes dominated the initial character development. Elves are hunter gatherers far more than farmers or herders. She had to be at home in a woods. My interpretation of the culture says elves would be artists far more than businessmen. The motive would be the search for beauty rather than profits or wealth. This spills over into morality. Rather than striving for justice or law, one strives to create a beautiful environment, to do the beautiful thing rather than the just thing.

The result was a singer who spent the fair weather months wandering the forests, gathering venison, acorns and strawberries, singing to Yavanna and Elbereth while watching for servants of the Enemy. In my mind, the songs to Elbereth were no small thing. Elrond, at one point, noted that the Shadow had grown nigh on to the Misty Mountains, and that all under the Shadow was dark to him. At least in my mind, the wandering companies in singing songs to the one who protects from the Enemy are among other things cleansing the land from Shadow. They are helping to keep Elrond's vision clear.

Can I reference an academic tome to verify this? No. Can I quote a line in the AQ rules to confirm it? Hmm… Almost, sort of. Speaking the name of a Valar does invoke the Power of Words rule, but it is very hard to stretch the rule as written to say that singing to Elbereth creates a blessing upon the land. Does my game master agree with me? I don't know. I didn't ask. I just mentioned that she tends to spend some spare time when the group isn't on the march singing songs to Yavanna and Elbereth, with a hint as to why. I don't need or want to know any effects. I don't expect it to change the adventures the group as a whole is having at all. Yet, that is part of what Aerlinn is and does.

Now, Aerlinn has high scores in attributes like grace, bearing, insight and fea. Most of the rest of the group focused on impressive strength, vitality and nimbleness. Aerlinn also has lots of skill levels in musician and singer. One might think if she sings songs dedicated to the Valar, she might have more effect than the others.

If so, it didn't make it into the AQ rules. The Power of Words section says absolutely nothing about the character's attributes, skills or race. Anyone can speak the Names in an appeal for aid.

Thing is, none of the other characters do. There is a comment in the Power of Words paragraphs saying that such invocations must be role played well. It is bad form for a player to say at every opportunity, "Elbereth! Elbereth! Elbereth! I want plus one to this dice roll!" In character, this translates to a notion that one doesn't invoke the aid of the Valar except in extreme circumstances. In practice, no one does. In the books, with rare exception such as Frodo's stand by the ford at Rivendell, one doesn't chant names prior to or in battle. Players in my game just don't do it.

Except Aerlinn. From Aerlinn's perspective, Yavanna wants the land to be sung into a greener green. Elbereth wants the land to be protected from Shadow. Ulmo wants things tainted washed clean. Este wants health and healed wounds. To sing to the Valar is not something to be done on rare occasion in moderation. Aerlinn is not strong in Power of Words magic because of skills, character and race. It is just that she is comfortable in it. By the strict rules of AQ, anyone could invoke the Valar just as well as she could. It would just be out of character, inappropriate for the cultures of most races.

Still, she also lives an appropriate lifestyle. If she would regularly manifest the virtues of the Valar, she has to embody said virtues. If I am going to have her sing regularly and invoke the Power of Words, I also feel obliged to role play her in a spirit compatible with Arwen, Galadriel and Goldberry. I also don't believe she seeks to be virtuous in order to gain power and dominion. It would be the other way around. The singing makes her aware of the beauty. The act of singing is beautiful, to be done for its own sake. It might be in some sense addictive, but it would be a glorious addiction. To feel the virtues of the Valar in song is to want to embrace them, to live them.

But that's just the Power of Words. AQ's Chapter 11 includes a spell list and rules for casting them. Chapter 11 magic does reference attributes, skills and race. Then there is Ambar, the ability to alter probability so that one might achieve one's fate or destiny. There are other game mechanics as well, ways to do things that were done in the books. I can embrace some with enthusiasm, while being dubious about others.

Some things I just avoid. Chapter 11 magic is enhanced by speaking words and making gestures. I want Aerlinn's magic to be subtle and unnoticeable. Sure, Gandalf might often wave his staff around, or speak in a commanding voice. That's Gandalf. That's not Aerlinn. If she wants to talk to a horse, she talks to the horse, and I'll eat the 6 point penalty on the dice roll rather than have her sing or gesture before she does it. The Art, or at least Aerlinn's Art, is casual, effortless and natural.

As a rule of thumb, when working elven magic, I want to play it subtly enough that if Sam Gamgee were there he wouldn't notice the magic. I might pass a note to the GM rather than let the other players know something magical is happening. If at all possible, I'd want Aerlinn to not notice she is practicing magic. She can just communicate with horses, and might not be overly aware of how she does it, and utterly unable to explain it to a Sam Gamgee. She can sing to the Valar, but so can anyone. They are just too self conscious to do so.

This is just my spin on the books. Can I prove it? No. Can I come up with academic references to support my thesis? No. Still, I'm not sure that one ought to be dismissive of the role playing perspective. Deconstructing -- practicing Saruman's heresy, working details from the bottom up -- isn't the only way one might learn of something, but neither should it be dismissed. Aerlinn's experiences might not be canon or anything approaching canon, but they might hopefully provide food for thought.
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Old 04-16-2011, 01:02 AM   #15
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Ambarquenta runs 316 pages, and you are correct, it has or is no exegesis. It's a set of role playing rules, not an academic thesis. It's bulky enough without footnotes. Those trying to play the game aren't likely to want the footnotes. I also figure that those who see a D&D level break out and have a decent knowledge of the books will know where the D&D level break out came from and will be able to judge reasonably how worthy the break out is.

It also seemed to me that Paradus was asking his questions at a D&D level. At least, I wasn't up to answering it at a deeper level.

[explanation of Ambarquenta character creation rules]

This is just my spin on the books. Can I prove it? No. Can I come up with academic references to support my thesis? No. Still, I'm not sure that one ought to be dismissive of the role playing perspective. Deconstructing -- practicing Saruman's heresy, working details from the bottom up -- isn't the only way one might learn of something, but neither should it be dismissed. Aerlinn's experiences might not be canon or anything approaching canon, but they might hopefully provide food for thought.
Yes, but the problem is that the original poster, Paradus, though he indeed seemed to thinking rather in D&D terms, was asking about "Tolkien's world"– that is, presumably, Tolkien's own writings rather than any roleplaying system based on them. Tolkien didn't write the "Ambarquenta" rules, did he?
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Old 04-16-2011, 01:32 AM   #16
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Old 04-16-2011, 02:22 AM   #17
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Yes, but the problem is that the original poster, Paradus, though he indeed seemed to thinking rather in D&D terms, was asking about "Tolkien's world"– that is, presumably, Tolkien's own writings rather than any roleplaying system based on them. Tolkien didn't write the "Ambarquenta" rules, did he?
No, he didn't. Nor did the author of the AQ rules write LotR. And reading AQ would say nothing meaningful about Tolkien if you haven't read a great deal of Tolkien. I would say AQ is a not particularly good rules system unless one has a fairly deep love of Middle Earth. AQ is a reflection, inevitably a distorted reflection. As such it needs a correction which might best come from players with a knowledge of and respect for the original. I did assume Paradus familiar with the original.

I might say AQ doesn't answer anything. It perhaps asks far more questions than Paradus. For every point where it states something firm about how the books step outside realism, you can and perhaps should ask if the rules got it right. Tolkien's number one priority was not nitpick level consistency, while RPG rules have to act like rules. The job of writing rules can't be done perfectly. Still, my thought is that if one immerses one's self in the sub-creation, one learns different things than if one discusses the sub-creation in abstract. If one doesn't attempt to find patterns, one isn't going to learn patterns.

I do see Paradus's questions as relevant. What can one do in Middle Earth with song and magic that one can't do in our poor mundane reality? Who can do what, why, when and where? Yes, I am echoing Saruman's heresy of breaking things up to understand the parts. Perhaps I might be missing something of the whole.

But if one shuns the W questions, something is missing too. AQ was put together by people with a great love of Tolkien. In setting up RPG rules one has to address the W questions. An academic exegesis, if it avoids the W questions, isn't going to be complete.
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Old 04-16-2011, 07:30 AM   #18
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Reincarnation isn't mentioned at all in Ambarquenta, or in The Hobbit, or with the exception of Gandalf in the main body of LotR.
As was said before, this is about what Tolkien wrote, not about a Tolkien-based RPG. He wrote other books except for TH and LOTR. In The Silmarillion it says that most Elves are allowed to reincarnate after their death, and quite a lot of them do.

The exceptions:

Feanor was not allowed to reincarnate as a punishment
Miriel (Finwe's first wife) didn't want to reincarnate (which is why Finwe chose to remarry)

There are probably others.
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Old 04-16-2011, 07:47 AM   #19
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haha, so in order to learn the answers to the above questions, answers that you apparently know so well and have readily available, we have to pay an advance fee and for a publisher for 60 upcoming books... and then, god forbid, we have to read them all?

Uhm, thanks but no thanks!
Uhm, thanks for playing, but no thanks back, Skippy. Your mocking two cents displays the heights of your stupidity because you do not even comprehend the subject, so go be a smart *** somewhere else because stupid people bore me. I'm out of here. Bye bye.
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Old 04-16-2011, 08:38 AM   #20
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Battle Prophecy

There is one more form of magic that didn't make my above list. Before major conflicts, there is often an exchange of words that might at first seem like a form of taunting, but in fact is an exchange of prophecies. One of my favorites is between Gandalf and the Witch King over the fallen gates of Minas Tirith. I haven't my books with me. Pardon if I haven't got it precisely right.

Note, that earlier in the book, it is established that in Minas Tirith, the day and the First Hour begin with sunrise, when the cock crows.

Gandalf : "Fall back into the abyss awaiting you and your master!"

WK : "Old fool! Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now, and curse in vain!"

Cock : Crows, thus ending the hour.

Rohirim host : Horns horns…

Here, the Witch King might be said to have made a mistake. According to the terms of the exchanged prophecies, Gandalf had to die then for the curse to be in vain. If Gandalf didn't die then, both the Witch King and his master would fall into an abyss. Gandalf wasn't aiming just to save Minas TIrith, he prophesied a final victory. The Witch King allowed Gandalf's effort to stand.

A short time later, the Witch King loses another exchange of prophecies.

WK : "No mortal man may hinder me."

Eowyn : "But no mortal man am I. You look upon a woman! Begone if ye be not deathless!"

Now, I do not know if Eowyn as a member of a noble house had been trained in the art of prophecy as a battle skill, but it might be said that she defeated the Witch King right then with words, before a blow was struck. If she spoke out of love for her uncle and despair over his fall, the words are no weaker. The Witch King seemed to know what she had done. He hesitated before beginning the combat, but begin it he did.

Frodo : "You shall have neither the ring nor me!"

Gandalf : "You shall not pass!"

How would one make up rules for this in a role playing game? One can't. The closest I have been able to come to it in a Middle Earth game was Aerlinn firmly declaring that the wight shall return to his barrow. At that, she didn't dare do so, didn't dare initiate an exchange of prophecy, until the early glow in the east of the soon to rise sun gave extra force to her words. One finds nothing of the pre battle prophecy in the AQ rules. Still, I'm waiting on it, not in the rules, but in play. Should some evil creature predict doom, Aerlinn shall be looking for a way to turn his words and thus turn the doom.

I see role playing games as a shared daydream. Perhaps any sub-creation is a shared daydream. Middle Earth, in the beginning, wasn't much intended to be shared widely, perhaps not in a wider circle than the Inklings. Obviously an author or a games master will have a greater role in sharing a daydream than a reader or player.

I'm just not sure that academic formality is the only approach to sharing a daydream. Can I prove that my interpretation of battle prophecy is what Tolkien had in mind? Not in any formal sense. I just find embracing my interpretation enhances the daydream. It increases the depth and the wonder. What more is there to do? Still, one has to recognize the magic to share the magic.
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Old 04-16-2011, 09:35 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skip spence
haha, so in order to learn the answers to the above questions, answers that you apparently know so well and have readily available, we have to pay an advance fee and for a publisher for 60 upcoming books... and then, god forbid, we have to read them all?

Uhm, thanks but no thanks!
Uhm, thanks for playing, but no thanks back, Skippy. Your mocking two cents displays the heights of your stupidity because you do not even comprehend the subject, so go be a smart *** somewhere else because stupid people bore me. I'm out of here. Bye bye.
Azrakhor– should you happen to change your mind about leaving, as I hope you will, please note the following: we do rather fancy ourselves as debaters here, and one of our principles is that people who make claims should be able to back them up. This you've refused to do, on the grounds that though the questions are "READILY answerable", explaining why would take "ANOTHER 60 books". As this is an obvious contradiction in terms, I really can't say I'm surprised you copped a bit of flak for it– not to mention for your demands for payment before you will condescend to explain your points.

Further, while no doubt Skip meant to poke fun at you, apart from the mocking "haha" and "god forbid" all he actually did in that post is paraphrase you. Read it again.
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Old 04-16-2011, 06:27 PM   #22
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Evening all,

Interesting thread, and Formy's posts are certainly as erudite as ever, no argument about that! Paradus is a new poster, so we ought to cut a little slack, welcome to the Downs!

Maybe the questions might have been better phrased as how might one represent Tolkien's works in a role-playing game? I'll have a quick and superficial go below, but don't forget that, as Formendacil noted, many aspects can never be satisfactorily codified into rule systems. Do a search on 'magic' in the Books forum if you don't believe me!

I've taken the liberty of copying Paradus' post and interleaving my answers-

What powers did the elves have over men (Besides superior senses)?

Has been covered above, in addition they were not susceptible to most diseases, the whole immortality thing, more graceful and fair. Perhaps one aspect might include the notion of practice. If a man were to practice archery for ten years he might become quite expert. An elf might choose to practice archery for three hundred years, and presumably become rather more expert. But that's not to say that human warriors were less effective than even those accounted mighty amongst the elves, think of Hurin, Turin, Aragorn and Tuor.

What is the so called inner power of the eldar races which is noted as "magic"?

Apart from Osanwe, this was never explained in detail to the Hobbits (representing us poor readers!), so we simply can't know. I suppose the only way to approach this is to consider Galadriel's rather cryptic comments and the incidents of 'magic' in the legendarium.

How strong physically were the eldar races compared to men? Were unnatural or supernatural feats common?

Elves were very strong in resistance to poor conditions, remember Fingolfin's folk and the crossing of the Helcaraxe, I think very few, if any, humans could survive a similar impromptu polar expedition. A key point here though is the 'Light of Aman' that seems to express mainly as spiritual strength, but perhaps some physical aspect too. As to physical strength per se, I think they are generally comparable, probably the mightiest of the elves exceeded human strength, iirc Celebrimbor was said to be particularly strong. But remember Legolas, Aragorn and Boromir on Caradhras, where the men to the heavy snow-ploughing while the elf does the running around on top of the snow, but JRRT did say that Legolas was indeed physically strong (you have to be to make a good longbowman).

What physical differences and abilities did the dwarves have from other races (besides body structure)?

They were long lived 2-300 years or thereabouts. Their womenfolk remain shrouded in mystery, but apparently were but a small proportion of the race, bearded or not! Gimli claimed that Dwarves excelled at feats of endurance, tiring less quickly than men, but how true this was I don't know. Though to be fair keeping up with Strider and Legolas half way across Rohan was no mean feat with little legs. They were used to being underground, great miners and craftsmen etc.

How do the abilities of unique individuals (Beornings-shapeshifting, Malbeth- foresight, Witchking- flaming sword etc) manifest?

I'm assuming you mean become clear and apparent for the first time, as shapeshifting at least should be pretty obvious after this! Again we don't really know, Beorn was said to be something of a sorceror, so maybe inherited, maybe 'magical'. No idea how Malbeth became a seer or how the Witchking's sword worked, or Anduril for that matter, see 'magic' above :-)

What of the glowing and superior power of elven blades?

'Magic' ;-) specifically from Gondolin for Sting at least.

How do the spirits of death manifest upon the physical plane (Barrow-wights, the fallen of dunharrow etc)?

The Barrow Wights were supposedly sent there by the Witch King no idea where he got them from, some have proposed that they are old victims of Morgul-blade stabbings. The Dead of Dunharrow were so powerfully cursed by Isildur for letting down the Last Alliance that they couldn't die properly until their duty was discharged. As to the exact mechanism by which these things are achieved, er unknown again!

How do the trees come to life (I.e old man willow for example)?

From nods and hints by Treebeard it appears that Old Man Willow might be a Huorn 'gone bad', alternatively he may be inhabited by some some malevolant spirit. Interestingly there is mention of the 'Black Alder' in the Withywindle Valley, another bad-Huorn? As Treebeard says the ents grow tree-ish and the sheep become more alike to the shepherds,

Does the power of Illuvatar have any limits?

Unknown, as discussed above.

What of the power of song and music?

The world was created by song and music so it can have real effect and influence in Middle Earth. Whatever magic is, it is often accompanied by song or music, for example Luthien's spell in Angband. Maybe even the other side used it- the drum roll before Grond strikes the gate of Minas Tirith??

Finally what powers did the great Morgoth have at his disposal?

As explained above, it depends when. Morgoth in the First Age of the Sun was far less powerful than Melkor the rebellious Valar, who was said to be mightiest of the Valar at that time. Again we can't know the full extent of his powers, but pretty damn devastating I should think.
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Old 04-17-2011, 09:09 AM   #23
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Oaths

If words in the form of prophecy can shape events, can not also oaths? These two forms might be similar, a proclamation that such a thing shall be so?

I'll mention one. The people dwelling about what came to be called the Paths of the Dead swore allegiance to Isildur to fight Sauron. The oath was broken, with major resulting magical effects.

Now, oaths wouldn't be a form of magic wielded by an individual. They aren't learned through training, or gifted through the blood of this race or that. Oaths would seem to be a part of how Middle Earth works. If the words are spoken, it shall be so or dire consequences follow. I can't think of enough other examples of oaths made or broken to judge their power or how easily the power is invoked.

The oath of Fëanor and sons would be another major example, though it was not broken. It was no less damaging for not being broken. It seems to me that the forces to whom he swore thought binding the oath makers to follow their oath was proper punishment for daring to swear it.

I'm not sure how one might write rules covering oaths in a Middle Earth role playing game. As a player, I'd be very careful about making a formal oath. As a game master, if a player makes a big deal of swearing an oath, it might become a potential major plot arc.

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Old 04-17-2011, 03:33 PM   #24
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..,so go be a smart *** somewhere else because stupid people bore me.
I thought you were the one leaving? *shrugs*
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Old 04-18-2011, 10:51 AM   #25
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I thought you were the one leaving? *shrugs*
Perhaps he grew so bored with himself that his motor functions shut down completely and, being incapable of locomotion, hoped that you would leave in his stead.

A surrogate skip at the expense of spence, as it were.
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