PDA

View Full Version : LOTR vs. D&D



kirksmithicus
09-16-2008, 11:07 PM
Was reading through the favorite fantasy movie thread and this question popped up in my noggin'.

If LOTR series are the greatest fantasy books and movies of all time, and inspired D&D, how come all the RPG's associated with the LOTR weren't / aren't more popular than D&D?

any thought?

Stormcrow77
09-16-2008, 11:11 PM
Becuse they have always had bad rules.

Webhead
09-16-2008, 11:14 PM
...And probably because D&D came first. There's something to be said about being the first horse out the gate.

MuslixtheMighty
09-16-2008, 11:22 PM
Plus there is the whole D&D is American while LOTR is English. Kinda of like the "Who created Punk?" debate.

boulet
09-16-2008, 11:28 PM
I have never been fond of LotR. So emulating it in games isn't on my agenda. I'd rather play badasses like Elric or Conan.

ignimbrite
09-16-2008, 11:33 PM
The LOTR rule set seemed even more complicated than D&D. I flicked through the rulebook and from what I can tell they try too hard to make it exactly like the books without leaving enough wiggle room (and that is from someone who likes rules).

Bearfoot_Adam
09-17-2008, 12:01 AM
And well LOTR has been done. and done well. Why try and copy that. I think one of the problems with games from literary sourcest like Tolkien and the Jordan books is that people are either frustrated becasue they feel they can't make it as good or bored because it feels like it's a rehash of things they read 10 times already.

kirksmithicus
09-17-2008, 11:45 AM
Becuse they have always had bad rules.
A matter of opinion. Not my thing mind you, but I've known people who loved the old MERP rules.


...And probably because D&D came first. There's something to be said about being the first horse out the gate. Perhaps, but there have been other systems released after MERP (and Deciphers LOTR Coda system) that have done better with consumers.


Plus there is the whole D&D is American while LOTR is English. Kinda of like the "Who created Punk?" debate.
I created Punk, the day after I created the "?". Also I feel the need to point out that, while I did not create the Internet, I did create Al Gore, who then created the Internet.


The LOTR rule set seemed even more complicated than D&D. I flicked through the rulebook and from what I can tell they try too hard to make it exactly like the books without leaving enough wiggle room (and that is from someone who likes rules).
Yes the old MERP rules are more complicated than D&D. However, Deciphers game, released in 2004 is not unlike 4E D&D. Minus the at-will, encounter, and daily powers and a lot of the munchkinism. Some slightly different game mechanics but overall, very similar.


And well LOTR has been done. and done well. Why try and copy that. I think one of the problems with games from literary sourcest like Tolkien and the Jordan books is that people are either frustrated becasue they feel they can't make it as good or bored because it feels like it's a rehash of things they read 10 times already. This was what I was thinking too. To much background information that everyone already knows, making it to inflexible, and hard to make your own as a GM.

nijineko
09-17-2008, 12:01 PM
ice held the license to publish merp for such a long time, because they did a good job of representing the world and everything in it. however, the rolemaster system is considered harder to learn than many other systems, and while it has fans, the system is not growing its fanbase very well. when the new-and-improved movies were to come out, the estate wanted something new-and-improved to tap into the rpg side of the market... and the n-a-i edition of rolemaster/merp wasn't cutting it in their view. so they switched to a new system. ^^ for that matter... the latest edition of rolemaster/merp pretty much split the fanbase in terms of who liked it and who didn't.

*shrugs*

i've always been a fan of the system of organization of rules used in rolemaster. no matter how many books they put out, you always know exactly where in the book to look for a given type of rule. it simply become a matter of remembering which book a particular rule was in. unless you convert the books into binders, like some do, in which case it's all pre-organized for you.

boulet
09-17-2008, 12:17 PM
This was what I was thinking too. To much background information that everyone already knows, making it to inflexible, and hard to make your own as a GM.
It's common trait of Star Wars as a game setting. But Star Wars RPGs (arguably) have met more success than LotR RPGs. So is there another factor that explains these differences ?

nijineko
09-17-2008, 12:45 PM
i think it is the genre combined with the rules and a bunch of marketing factors. star wars has been advertised and hyped for a long long time. lotr has not received nearly the attention that star wars has. for example star wars action figures have been around for a really long time. the star wars movies were much better quality than the visual presentations of lotr. sci-fi is slightly more acceptable to non-fiction types than fantasy, or so i've noticed. the comparative list of the difference in marketing goes on and on. lotr is just now receiving similar marketing attention as star wars has had for years now.

so i think that ultimately, it boils down to marketing and advertising. star wars had it, lotr didn't. and d&d kinda jumped into the fantasy niche. and had advertising, too. ^^

Webhead
09-17-2008, 12:52 PM
...To much background information that everyone already knows, making it to inflexible, and hard to make your own as a GM.

That's one reason I avoided Forgotten Realms like the plague. There are many thousands of people who know far more about FR that I would ever care to fathom and I had no desire to try to live up to those expectations or devote that much energy to memorizing it.

Somehow, the Star Wars universe does not suffer from this same kind of feeling for me, perhaps because it has been a substantial part of my life for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty much hard-wired with Star Wars by now, so it presents no intimidation or challenge to mold it to my own games. Part of it too may be that it is such a massive setting with so many possibilities and so many established eras, play styles and character types.

MortonStromgal
09-17-2008, 12:54 PM
Because theres more than one world, you can plane hop from Dragonlance to Dark Sun or pick a world that is more up your alley.

With MERPS for along time there was just one setting and that only apeals to a certain crowed.

A better comparison would be MERPS vs WHFRP or D&D vs Fantasy HERO

tesral
09-17-2008, 02:06 PM
It's done. LotR is a complete story, the world become "uninteresting" in the fourth age. It's someone else's toy.

D&D while it has worlds made for you is an open set. You can do with it what you wish.

Star Wars is a big Galaxy. As one friend put it "You can play anything in star wars. Take a plot, take a story concept and you can frame it in the Star Wars universe, and you can.

Webhead
09-17-2008, 02:31 PM
It's done. LotR is a complete story, the world become "uninteresting" in the fourth age. It's someone else's toy.

D&D while it has worlds made for you is an open set. You can do with it what you wish.

Star Wars is a big Galaxy. As one friend put it "You can play anything in star wars. Take a plot, take a story concept and you can frame it in the Star Wars universe, and you can.

I agree all around.

I loved Babylon 5. I don't think I could ever play in the setting within an RPG because it feels entirely too self-contained and the show's "book ends" are very clear.

gdmcbride
09-17-2008, 02:57 PM
Allow me to add my support to Tesral and Webhead's posts.

I love roleplaying and Lord of the Rings, but the idea of aping Tolkien and creating a sad little knock-off of the good professor's crown jewels just appalls the hell out of me.

I don't want to save Middle Earth ... again.

That said, modern fantasy has stolen so many of the professor's creations. Yes elves, dwarves and orcs existed before Tolkien wrote about them. But he codified them. Almost every version of elves, dwarves, orcs, rangers, halflings, mithral... (I could go on) is either a straight rip-off of LotR or a transparent reaction against it ('orcs aren't always evil!').

Modern fantasy has two great princes who preside over two schools of thought -- R.E. Howard and his steel-eyed melancholy Cimmerian murder machine is the other.

In many ways, Tolkienesque roleplaying has been incredibly successful. We just call it D&D. Even in its hey-day ICE knew ... people were buying their Middle Earth supplements to play D&D in.

Gary

Webhead
09-17-2008, 03:12 PM
...R.E. Howard and his steel-eyed melancholy Cimmerian murder machine is the other...

Nicely done! I like it! Watch any Venture Bros. do you? :)


...In many ways, Tolkienesque roleplaying has been incredibly successful. We just call it D&D. Even in its hey-day ICE knew ... people were buying their Middle Earth supplements to play D&D in.

Yes indeed. D&D is just LotR's inbred love-child. Yes, it has grown entirely into its own through the years and millions of fans but it is still, deep down, just a seed from the tree of Middle Earth. We're all playing LotR, even if we don't recognize it anymore.

gdmcbride
09-17-2008, 03:57 PM
Nicely done! I like it! Watch any Venture Bros. do you? :)

I love the Venture Brothers. Did you see the episode where Brock Sampson gets put in the fantasy machine and we are shown exactly what his dreams look like? Now tell me there isn't a little Conan there... :)


Yes indeed. D&D is just LotR's inbred love-child. Yes, it has grown entirely into its own through the years and millions of fans but it is still, deep down, just a seed from the tree of Middle Earth. We're all playing LotR, even if we don't recognize it anymore.

D&D had other influences, certainly, but really ... how many low-rent Sauron-knockoffs have been killed over the years by Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Gandalf and Frodo-clones? How many lost kings have been restored to their plagarised thrones? How many orc hordes have broken on the gates of faux-Minas Tiriths? How many wannabe Witch Kings have been slain by retreaded prophecies? How many almost-Andurils have been reforged?

All fantasy fans and creators stand in Tolkien's shadow. This is not a bad thing. It simply is a fact.

Gary

Webhead
09-17-2008, 04:08 PM
I love the Venture Brothers. Did you see the episode where Brock Sampson gets put in the fantasy machine and we are shown exactly what his dreams look like? Now tell me there isn't a little Conan there... :)

Brock is great. I think one of my favorite characters though, has to be The Monarch. "Dr. Venture and I have been locked in a deadly game of "cat-and-also-cat" for years!" Priceless.


D&D had other influences, certainly, but really ... how many low-rent Sauron-knockoffs have been killed over the years by Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Gandalf and Frodo-clones? How many lost kings have been restored to their plagarised thrones? How many orc hordes have broken on the gates of faux-Minas Tiriths? How many wannabe Witch Kings have been slain by retreaded prophecies? How many almost-Andurils have been reforged?

All fantasy fans and creators stand in Tolkien's shadow. This is not a bad thing. It simply is a fact.

Yep, and that's nothing to be ashamed of either. It's a testament to the power of the kind of storytelling that Tolkien employed. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

nijineko
09-17-2008, 10:37 PM
tolkien is one of the grandfathers of this particular incarnation of fantasy.

MortonStromgal
12-19-2008, 11:07 PM
It's done. LotR is a complete story, the world become "uninteresting" in the fourth age. It's someone else's toy.


I think that is a common misconception. MERPS is set slightly before the Hobbit and after the coming of the Necromancer. There is a lot of stuff going on all over Middle Earth as Sauron gathers his forces. You have to resign yourself to the notion that you can't defete the BBEG yourself however. You can however defeat a captain of the bandits or goblin king.

tesral
12-20-2008, 01:35 AM
I think that is a common misconception. MERPS is set slightly before the Hobbit and after the coming of the Necromancer. There is a lot of stuff going on all over Middle Earth as Sauron gathers his forces. You have to resign yourself to the notion that you can't defete the BBEG yourself however. You can however defeat a captain of the bandits or goblin king.

Mostly it's someone else's toy. Tolkien did such a fine job of telling the really big story I've never had an urge to play there. I prefer top make my own tales and my own mythologies. I'll look to the Master myth maker for inspiration. But I don't copy.

MortonStromgal
12-20-2008, 02:07 AM
Mostly it's someone else's toy. Tolkien did such a fine job of telling the really big story I've never had an urge to play there. I prefer top make my own tales and my own mythologies. I'll look to the Master myth maker for inspiration. But I don't copy.

Sure, you want a tool kit not a world. I can respect that if not relate. I never would have loved oWOD, Shadowrun, and alike without the fluff. For me the fluff makes the RPG. Because there is no perfect mechanic IMHO.

fmitchell
12-20-2008, 03:56 AM
Yes elves, dwarves and orcs existed before Tolkien wrote about them.

Depends on definitions. "Elves" was a pretty broad term, the proper plural of dwarf is "dwarfs", and orcs were entirely Tolkien's invention (admittedly with antecedents in goblins, ogres, trolls, kobolds, boggles, and other nasty folkloric creatures).

But, to the greater topic, I guess I've always chafed at playing in an author's world, whether it's Tolkien's, Lucas's, or even Lovecraft's. I prefer to borrow from multiple sources and create something different. (If others want to stay within the lines of a work of fiction, ignore the rest of this post.)

For example, I think it's good to get away from the plethora of Tolkien knockoffs, including bog-standard D&D. Look to the original Arthurian, Norse and Celtic folklore; look to tales from Arabia, Africa, Russia, India, East Asia, and the Americas. Read the other masters of fantasy from which D&D gets its inspiration: Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, E. R. Burroughs, Lord Dunsany, C. S. Lewis, E. R. Eddison. Take inspiration from elfless fantasy, from other "speculative fiction", even from science. (For example, in one world I'm working on most of the humanoid species fit into a quasi-evolutionary tree, including a few extinct species. Each one developed in a different, isolated area of the world.)

Another useful exercise might be to take standard Tolkien, and strip out one or more elements. Imagine a world with only men: the Dark Lord's armies are men like yourselves, misled by empty promises, and the heaps of their bodies are a time of mourning, not counting coup. (Or is it?) Imagine a world without a Dark Lord, where elves, dwarves, orcs, hobbits, and men play ordinary politics and skirmish over scarce resources. Imagine a world where the Dark Lord wins, as Midnight does, or where enemies are everywhere and ever-stronger, as Warhammer Fantasy does, or where we see the world from the orcs' perspective, as Orcworld and Orx do in their own ways. Imagine, as Rich Burlew has in a series of articles, that instead of elves, dwarves, and halflings, the major non-human species is gnomes, combining great knowledge, secretive ways, and a comical appearance.

D&D, unfortunately, has a lot of assumptions "baked in": adventurers fit into these classes with these powers, magic works this exact way, characters have "levels" with automatic increases in "hit points" and the number and strength of abilities, etc. A lot of these are outside Tolkien entirely; his Wizards, for example, were unique creatures who used "magic" only sparingly. You can do the sort of assumption-changing I mentioned in D&D, but it's a lot of work. That's why D&D, while the most popular, is by far not the only RPG on the market.

gdmcbride
12-20-2008, 05:57 AM
I think that is a common misconception. MERPS is set slightly before the Hobbit and after the coming of the Necromancer. There is a lot of stuff going on all over Middle Earth as Sauron gathers his forces. You have to resign yourself to the notion that you can't defete the BBEG yourself however. You can however defeat a captain of the bandits or goblin king.

Right...that's I think our problem in a nutshell. Assuming we're running a canon LotR game, we can't save the world ... or doom it. Frodo, Sam and arguably Gollum get to destroy the ring and kill the Dark Lord. We can kill some monsters, sure. But the world's fate is not in our hands. Gandalf actually explicitly talks about this in Return of the King.

"We have not the Ring. In wisdom or great folly it has been sent away to be destroyed, lest it destroy us. Without it we cannot by force defeat his force. But we must at all costs keep his Eve from his true peril. We cannot achieve victory by arms, but by arms we can give the Ring-bearer his only chance, frail though it be." -- Gandalf, the Last Debate.

I prefer my own world, my own choices, my own destiny.

Gary
--- Merged from Double Post ---

Depends on definitions. "Elves" was a pretty broad term, the proper plural of dwarf is "dwarfs", and orcs were entirely Tolkien's invention (admittedly with antecedents in goblins, ogres, trolls, kobolds, boggles, and other nasty folkloric creatures).


Actually, wikipedia has a great article on orcs and their real world history here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orc)

Yes, Tolkien invented them and codified them. But for example, the Oxford English Dictionary notes a 17th century of usage of 'orke' being roughly equivalent to 'ogre'. And of course all of these various words ultimately stem from the Roman god Orcus, the devilish grim reaper god of death.

All I'm saying is that Tolkien took a tradition of faeries and elves in the woods, dwarfs in the mountains and nasty ogres possibly associated with devils and dark lords and transformed them into the modern fantasy that we know and love/hate today.

Gary

Mead
12-20-2008, 07:05 AM
I agree all around.

I loved Babylon 5. I don't think I could ever play in the setting within an RPG because it feels entirely too self-contained and the show's "book ends" are very clear.

Buddies and I tried a Bab5 campaign, I think with Mekton Z rules (back when B5 was still on the air, way before any RPGs about it). It fell flat, everything was either small potatoes, or worthy of the big dogs' attention. We were never able to capture the scale of the show using offstage characters.

In retrospect we probably should have started on Mars and not been plugged directly into the station.

MortonStromgal
12-20-2008, 11:57 AM
This brings up an interesting point, do you have to have an epic game to have a good time? The reason I got into GMing was because although I had an awesome GM his stories were always about saving the world. I wanted to play stuff more personal like a group of farmers defending their small village from bandits. I found there are plenty of other gamers tired of saving the world to.

With this philosophy you can have a great time defending Bree from the forces of Angmar without having the tale of Frodo even enter the picture.

tesral
12-20-2008, 11:00 PM
This brings up an interesting point, do you have to have an epic game to have a good time? The reason I got into GMing was because although I had an awesome GM his stories were always about saving the world. I wanted to play stuff more personal like a group of farmers defending their small village from bandits. I found there are plenty of other gamers tired of saving the world to.

With this philosophy you can have a great time defending Bree from the forces of Angmar without having the tale of Frodo even enter the picture.

I prefer a less that epic game. One in whichthe PCs matter their deed and actions will leave a mark, but they will not likely alter the world.

And the reason is that you cannot threaten the world every generation or it starts to loose it's grip on the imagination. "Oh, a world threatening monster...again." So I keep the stories I tell on the personal level. I threaten the PCs. And I tell them in a world where it could get epic at any time, where the acti9on of the PCs matter. The fate of the world is not preordained because the Great Man has written it. It will be written, but by my players and myself.

Edward
12-21-2008, 05:44 PM
Running a Middle-earth campaign can be challenging, certainly. It's an extremely detailed world; the GM needs to be very interested in Middle-earth and needs to enjoy researching it. Obtaining campaign materials can also be a problem if the GM doesn't rely on fan materials. The advantages are the depth, the realism, and the compelling storylines. I say storylines, rather than storyline, because the War of the Ring is only one of many.

The biggest problem I have with most fantasy settings is that they're simply unrealistic. Magic and magical creatures don't present a problem for suspending disbelief (we're playing a fantasy role-playing game, after all), but internal contradictions do. Such contradictions also present an opportunity for players to gain an advantage. For example, D&D settings generally don't account adequately for the magic that's available. Take the ability to create food as just one example. Why aren't there stores selling magically created food? Why isn't food so cheap as to be almost free? It should be. Since it isn't, the players could realistically start a business selling created food and get rich. Most referees wouldn't allow this to happen; they would place new limitations on the spells or magic items being employed, or introduce a campaign hook that prevents the players from succeeding. This is transparent GM intervention; it's managing the campaign with a bludgeon. Many players resent it. Personally, I never intervene this way. I would allow the players to start their business and get rich. Why not? Realistically, they should be able to do so. If I were suddenly transported to the average D&D campaign world, it's exactly what I would do -- and I would succeed.

Middle-earth doesn't have these problems. Tolkien carefully considered every aspect of the world and made it internally consistent. In most cases, fans who have added material have done a very good job of living up to his standards.

Of course, Middle-earth isn't the only realistic campaign world by any means. But it's the most interesting.


Not my thing mind you, but I've known people who loved the old MERP rules.

Some people do, but they're a niche market. I think the ruleset has been the biggest problem. Personally, I wouldn't consider using either the ICE rules or the Decipher rules. Fortunately, it's easy to run Middle-earth under a different ruleset.


This was what I was thinking too. To much background information that everyone already knows, making it to inflexible, and hard to make your own as a GM.I would consider this the second reason that Middle-earth has never taken off as a campaign setting. It's true that it's hard to make your own; you have to really master it, and you can't make drastic changes. For example, introducing a new race wouldn't work, and new spells and magic items have to be consistent with what's already in place. However, if you know the material well (or want to learn it) and both you and your players like it as is, I would consider it the best campaign world available.


It's done. LotR is a complete story, the world become "uninteresting" in the fourth age. It's someone else's toy.


I love roleplaying and Lord of the Rings, but the idea of aping Tolkien and creating a sad little knock-off of the good professor's crown jewels just appalls the hell out of me.

I don't want to save Middle Earth ... again.

This is why I've never been interested in running a campaign during the War of the Ring or the Fourth Age. Everyone knows what happens; there are no real surprises (unless you spend a lot of time detailing the late Fourth Age, in which case it's a different world in many ways).

An early Third Age campaign, however, gives a completely different feel. There are many interesting settings; Angmar's invasion of Arnor and the aftermath of the Great Plague are the most popular, but there are plenty of others. Very few players know anything about them, and yet there's a hint of familiarity, a mix of the exotic and the familiar reminiscent of Greek or Norse mythology. There are enough touchstones that players don't feel lost, but enough of the unknown that they don't feel tied down.


Right...that's I think our problem in a nutshell. Assuming we're running a canon LotR game, we can't save the world ... or doom it. Frodo, Sam and arguably Gollum get to destroy the ring and kill the Dark Lord. We can kill some monsters, sure. But the world's fate is not in our hands.


The fate of the world is not preordained because the Great Man has written it. It will be written, but by my players and myself.

If you consider a canon LotR game to be one in which the players aren't allowed to change history, I wouldn't recommend that. I tried it when I first started gaming in Middle-earth, but I gave it up quickly. Almost anything can change history 1500 years before the War of the Ring. (I once went on a quest to find the Entwives. I succeeded . . . and the Ents left Fangorn to join them. Oops.) You have to play in the present and not worry about the implications for the War of the Ring. The characters don't know the future and the players shouldn't act as if they do.

So, if the players are really good, I allow them to kill the Witch-king, prophecy notwithstanding.

This doesn't mean they can save the world, though. The Ring is lost, and no one is going to find it (at least in my campaign). There are no magic bullets or magic rings, and without them, you can't kill Sauron. It's barely possible that he could be defeated militarily, but this would be very difficult (particularly since everyone thinks he's dead).

This has never been a problem for me. I've never had a group that wanted to go kill Sauron, or find an artifact that instantly vanquishes all evil. If players are interested in a low-fantasy campaign, they're almost certainly content to clean up their own corner of the world. If they want to vanquish evil for all time, they probably prefer high fantasy anyway.

And that's the third reason Middle-earth isn't more popular as a campaign setting: It's low fantasy. Most players prefer high fantasy.


I prefer my own world, my own choices, my own destiny.The disadvantage with any prepackaged world, D&D or otherwise, is that you didn't make it. Only a homebrew world which you built from the ground up is truly your own. That's a lot of work, though.

tesral
12-21-2008, 09:46 PM
The biggest problem I have with most fantasy settings is that they're simply unrealistic. Magic and magical creatures don't present a problem for suspending disbelief (we're playing a fantasy role-playing game, after all), but internal contradictions do. Such contradictions also present an opportunity for players to gain an advantage. For example, D&D settings generally don't account adequately for the magic that's available. Take the ability to create food as just one example. Why aren't there stores selling magically created food?

Well if you look at the description of create food and water, it's about like living on wheat paste and water. I don't think you could sell it. No one that can afford better food would eat it.

As to Middle Earth being consistent and other worlds, not? That depends entirely on the GM, entirely. Tolkien was a good GM, his world holds together. However the next guy running a Middle Earth game might not be. I am a good GM, my world holds together, I think at least as well as Middle Earth. It is not Middle Earth, but it holds together. I believe that fantasy must be internally consistent. You can vary physical laws, but only in a consistent fashion. One must take the effects of magic into account in world building.



The disadvantage with any prepackaged world, D&D or otherwise, is that you didn't make it. Only a homebrew world which you built from the ground up is truly your own. That's a lot of work, though.

33 years worth to date. Same world all that time.

Edward
12-21-2008, 10:05 PM
Well if you look at the description of create food and water, it's about like living on wheat paste and water. I don't think you could sell it. No one that can afford better food would eat it.

It's been a long time since I played D&D; this particular problem may have been fixed. Back when I was playing, there were magic items and higher-level spells that could create high-quality food. In any case, the problem wasn't the existence of such spells; it was the fact that the world didn't take them into account.


As to Middle Earth being consistent and other worlds, not? That depends entirely on the GM, entirely.Certainly, but a good GM with a bad world will have to go to a lot more work to make it consistent, and a bad GM with a good world will have to go to a lot more work to break it.


I am a good GM, my world holds together, I think at least as well as Middle Earth. It is not Middle Earth, but it holds together. I believe that fantasy must be internally consistent. You can vary physical laws, but only in a consistent fashion. One must take the effects of magic into account in world building.Sounds pretty good. Have you published your world by any chance, or posted it online? I'd be interested in playing it sometime if it's available.

I know a lot of referees don't have their homebrew worlds in publishable form because they're constantly expanding, but you might want to think about organizing it and publishing it if you haven't already.

tesral
12-21-2008, 10:13 PM
Sounds pretty good. Have you published your world by any chance, or posted it online? I'd be interested in playing it sometime if it's available.

I know a lot of referees don't have their homebrew worlds in publishable form because they're constantly expanding, but you might want to think about organizing it and publishing it if you haven't already.

No, and likely never will. The only way to play my world is to get into my game.

The sheer amount of detail I would need to codify and write would likely make D&D3.5 look like a light literary effort. I do this when the mood strikes and some can be found at my website. But a fully ready to play version, no.

nijineko
12-24-2008, 02:14 PM
likewise. i don't get as much enjoyment gaming in other people's universes as i do in mine. and i shudder to think of how much writing i'd have to do to codify what i've already come up with, let alone what i'm coming up with now.

MortonStromgal
12-30-2008, 01:25 AM
The only way to play my world is to get into my game.


Honestly reading a world book can never live up to playing in the world of a good GM though a noob guide is always a good read to get the general feeling of a world. While I appreciate what Campaign world books try to do I never found them that entertaining. Shadowrun/WOD were different because it was loaded with fluff rather than facts and you could take it or leave it. I love fluff because it gives me the feeling for the world. I'd rather read the Icewind Dale trillogy over the Forgotton Realms Campaign Guide any day.

Banshee
12-30-2008, 02:18 AM
I started playing D&D back in the early 1980's. Since then, I've both played and run games in various settings and systems. For some reason, I like the D&D Greyhawk setting best of all. I don't know why, but that's how I feel. However, after having tried "boxed worlds" and my own custom worlds, I've found it's best (for me at least) to take a "boxed world" and modify it to suit my and my players' interests.

When I decided to make my own world somewhat recently, I found I was bogged down in the details. Maybe it's cheating, but I scrapped that campaign and worked out some changes to the Greyhawk setting that made it exactly what the group wanted. Add an NPC here, delete an NPC there... you know what I mean. I'm of the school that says "have fun with it" rather than the one that forbids deviation.

tesral
12-30-2008, 03:25 AM
When I decided to make my own world somewhat recently, I found I was bogged down in the details. Maybe it's cheating, but I scrapped that campaign and worked out some changes to the Greyhawk setting that made it exactly what the group wanted. Add an NPC here, delete an NPC there... you know what I mean. I'm of the school that says "have fun with it" rather than the one that forbids deviation.

When I buy a module or game setting book I look at it as the particular book auditioning for a part in my world. I have used plenty of pre-made work in my world, but all of it was customized to some extent. It's they same deal even if you use a whole world that way. Once you start playing in Greyhawk, the Realms, or even Middle Earth, it's yours. The very fact that you and your players are in that world means you are altering it from what the writers envisioned. You should claim that world and make it yours. From that point on everything has to pass your muster. If you don't like a module or a source book, or even just part of one, it doesn't get in. The official stamp of approval is meaningless. The product must meet your approval for what you have done with the world

Edward
12-30-2008, 11:28 PM
For some reason, I like the D&D Greyhawk setting best of all.

It's the classic high-fantasy setting. I like it a lot myself, in spite of the contradictions.


When I decided to make my own world somewhat recently, I found I was bogged down in the details. Maybe it's cheating, but I scrapped that campaign and worked out some changes to the Greyhawk setting that made it exactly what the group wanted.There's nothing wrong with this approach, if it meets your needs. The only problem is that you can never publish or share it, since you don't hold copyright.

My solution to avoid getting bogged down in details while still being able to legally publish it is to start with the real world and customize appropriately. I started with ancient Greece, but medieval England and France are the basis for generic fantasy. Then, whenever you need details, you can just do a little historical research. Everything is there: Languages, currencies, laws and customs, whatever you need. If you make your world an alternate past, you can even keep the place names and most of the history.

Rochin
01-10-2009, 01:31 AM
It's the classic high-fantasy setting. I like it a lot myself, in spite of the contradictions.

There's nothing wrong with this approach, if it meets your needs. The only problem is that you can never publish or share it, since you don't hold copyright.

My solution to avoid getting bogged down in details while still being able to legally publish it is to start with the real world and customize appropriately. I started with ancient Greece, but medieval England and France are the basis for generic fantasy. Then, whenever you need details, you can just do a little historical research. Everything is there: Languages, currencies, laws and customs, whatever you need. If you make your world an alternate past, you can even keep the place names and most of the history.


That makes a heck of a lot of sense to me. Everything but the fantasy is built in, I have tried to make my own homebrew worlds and kept failing. Now I know why. With an established world, the ground work is done. It then allows for you to fantasy it up how you want. It is so simple that it is hard to see on its own. Nice post.

Edward
01-10-2009, 03:04 AM
Depending on the approach you want to take, the fantasy could be built in, too. If you already have a magic system or specific monsters you want to include, you can go with that. If not, you can use the mythology or folklore from that region and time period. For the Ancient Greece setting I'm working on, for example, I'm using actual Greek mythology for the magic system, the creatures, and the gods.

Jcosby
01-19-2009, 06:58 PM
When I buy a module or game setting book I look at it as the particular book auditioning for a part in my world. I have used plenty of pre-made work in my world, but all of it was customized to some extent. It's they same deal even if you use a whole world that way. Once you start playing in Greyhawk, the Realms, or even Middle Earth, it's yours. The very fact that you and your players are in that world means you are altering it from what the writers envisioned. You should claim that world and make it yours. From that point on everything has to pass your muster. If you don't like a module or a source book, or even just part of one, it doesn't get in. The official stamp of approval is meaningless. The product must meet your approval for what you have done with the world

I would have to agree 100% here. I have been using the Realms as my "homebrew" world since the day I first purchased it back in 1987. Just because I'm using Ed Greenwoods world doesn't make it any less mine. From day one I didn't use FR Canon to make changes to my world. As a matter of fact many many years ago I destroyed most of the main population centers via a large scale war and turned my Forgotten Realms into something that is very close to what they have now in 4th edition. I didn't care for the cuddlely feel of the Realms and turned it much darker and more dangerous to travel. I believe "Points of Light" is the term they use in 4th edition and that is a very good description of my Realms. As Tesral said I also use pre-made books and modules for my world but they have to pass-mustard and when I do use them they usually get modified greatly before they are open for use by my players.

I have nothing but respect for people that have thought out and created an entire world, that's a TON of work. But I just didn't want to spend the time on working on that much and I happen to be a great fan of the Realms. I loved the books and the Dragon articles Ed Greenwood wrote long before the "Grey Box Set" came out; so when the Campaign Setting did come out for AD&D 1st Edition I was sold...

As for J. R. R. Tolkien, I love his writing as well. I love the books and the movies. I don't think he was the inventor of orcs, elves or hobbits; he was the person that shaped them for people in the 20th century. He borrow from legend and myths all over the world and created something that could be read and loved by people of this century and centuries to come. That doesn't take anything away from his writing, it's great and has stood the test of time and will long after we are dead.

But like Tolkien, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson borrowed from writings, legends and myths to create D&D. They just put something from one form into another form; from novels, stories, poems to a role-playing game.

JC

RGTraynor
01-21-2009, 06:11 AM
If LOTR series are the greatest fantasy books and movies of all time, and inspired D&D, how come all the RPG's associated with the LOTR weren't / aren't more popular than D&D?While the thread migrated from the original question months ago, some of the answers are obvious, some less so.

Now heck, I'm a former MERP author, and I freely admit that MERP screwed a lot of things up. RM isn't an easy system, and beyond that, some things bugged me about the line, quite aside from 9 pt interior text that I've a hard time reading now without a magnifying glass. The detail's mostly munchkinesque, with uberNPCs and locales stuffed with enough magic items to sink Numenor twice over; it feels like a classic Monty Haul treasurefest than anything JRRT wrote.

Moving on beyond that, JRRT was an author, not a GM or a world designer, and Middle-Earth as written is a mediocre gaming world. (Seriously. Stop yelling for a moment.) For the purposes of running a game, as our paradigm holds, we know damn near nothing. We don't know how many people are magicians, of which kinds, or how they're trained. We don't know if divine magic is even extant, never mind how people might know it. There's exactly one genuine city in all the world (unless Umbar is one) and nation-states are droplets in a sea of empty. With no sign of commerce - and no scope for commerce - the tech and manufacturing bases aren't good enough to support anything beyond substinence-level agrarian cultures. And so on.

In doing the MERP line, we had to make it all up, everything. Quite aside from that Tolkien Enterprises didn't want us to make things up, there's no fanbase in all of SF/fantasy larger and more rabid than the Middle-Earth one, and like any other fanbase, they have strong ideas about what they think the world looks like and massive hate on for deviations from the same. People screamed over PC wizards, over magic items, over anything created east of Rhun and south of Umbar, over Big Bads that weren't Sauron, over the line being set centuries before LoTR, over any elves or hobbits depicted as evil, etc etc etc. For every "OMG we can play in Middle-Earth!!!" there had to have been three "Those bastards ruined Middle-Earth!!!"

By contrast, D&D was tabula rasa. Forgotten Worlds, Greyhawk, Ebarron, they stepped on few toes, and what those gameworlds looked like didn't interrupt childhood memories or adult preconceptions.

Edward
01-21-2009, 07:08 AM
Now heck, I'm a former MERP author, and I freely admit that MERP screwed a lot of things up. RM isn't an easy system, and beyond that, some things bugged me about the line, quite aside from 9 pt interior text that I've a hard time reading now without a magnifying glass.

Agreed.


The detail's mostly munchkinesque, with uberNPCs and locales stuffed with enough magic items to sink Numenor twice over; it feels like a classic Monty Haul treasurefest than anything JRRT wrote.I agree that the treasure and some of the NPC's needed to be cut down a bit, but they were modest compared to a lot of other games (e.g. D&D).


Moving on beyond that, JRRT was an author, not a GM or a world designer, and Middle-Earth as written is a mediocre gaming world.It sounds like you're saying LOTR was written as a book rather than as a game setting. That's certainly true, but it provides far more background than any other book I've read.

I would actually consider Tolkien primarily a world designer and an author only secondarily, though.


For the purposes of running a game, as our paradigm holds, we know damn near nothing. We don't know how many people are magicians, of which kinds, or how they're trained. This is also true of most game settings -- Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, etc. They don't provide anything close to the level of detail I would consider necessary. For example, what percentage of the population of the World of Greyhawk is made up of spellcasters?

I enjoyed Greyhawk a lot, but I had to make up much more background information while running it than while running Middle-earth. I only know of two settings that even come close to Middle-earth's level of detail: Harn and ICE's Shadow World.


We don't know if divine magic is even extant, never mind how people might know it. There's exactly one genuine city in all the world (unless Umbar is one) and nation-states are droplets in a sea of empty. You have to read between the lines, it's true. Some questions create a lot of debate. In general, though, the fan base seems to be able to reach consensus on most issues without much trouble. Of course, I realize ICE didn't have the online resources that are available today.

In any case, the same types of questions come up with almost any game setting.


With no sign of commerce - and no scope for commerce - the tech and manufacturing bases aren't good enough to support anything beyond substinence-level agrarian cultures.I'd have to disagree. It would make an interesting paper, though.


In doing the MERP line, we had to make it all up, everything. Quite aside from that Tolkien Enterprises didn't want us to make things up, there's no fanbase in all of SF/fantasy larger and more rabid than the Middle-Earth one, and like any other fanbase, they have strong ideas about what they think the world looks like and massive hate on for deviations from the same. Dealing with an established fanbase does present problems, but it can be turned to your advantage, too. It all depends on how you handle it.

If I were launching a game, I would prefer to create my own world -- if I were certain I could attract an audience. An established franchise such as Middle-earth gives you a built-in audience.


People screamed over PC wizards, over magic items, over anything created east of Rhun and south of Umbar, over Big Bads that weren't Sauron, over the line being set centuries before LoTR, over any elves or hobbits depicted as evil, etc etc etc. For every "OMG we can play in Middle-Earth!!!" there had to have been three "Those bastards ruined Middle-Earth!!!"Hmm, yes. Incidentally, I think setting it centuries before LOTR was the best decision they could have made.

I had a few problems with Thieves of Tharbad, by the way -- mostly ICE's interpretation of Cardolan. (Their interpretation of Cardolan was the only thing I really hated in ICE's Middle-earth line. I deleted it and substituted my own interpretation.) Overall, though, I liked it a lot. I started most of my campaigns in the Rhudaur/Cardolan border region, so I got a good bit of use out of it.


By contrast, D&D was tabula rasa. Forgotten Worlds, Greyhawk, Ebarron, they stepped on few toes, and what those gameworlds looked like didn't interrupt childhood memories or adult preconceptions.But D&D was also first. ICE didn't have that advantage. Without the Middle-earth line, who knows if anyone would ever have heard of them?

RGTraynor
01-21-2009, 10:58 AM
I agree that the treasure and some of the NPC's needed to be cut down a bit, but they were modest compared to a lot of other games (e.g. D&D).It's modest compared to Monty Haul D&Desque dungeoncrawling. It's pretty outrageous compared to the actual number of magical items seemingly in general circulation ... and consider that the magic items presented in LoTR were subtle - the elven cloaks had virtue of camouflage, the Numenorean blades cut more deeply and shone when there were orcs nearby.


That's certainly true, but it provides far more background than any other book I've read ... I would actually consider Tolkien primarily a world designer and an author only secondarily, though. And not a great one, unhappily. Tolkien's background info did precisely two things better than any author before or since: create a vivid, detailed history and vivid, detailed languages. That, alas, is that. We know - know, as opposed to presume, predict or extrapolate - almost nothing else.


You have to read between the lines, it's true. Some questions create a lot of debate ... In any case, the same types of questions come up with almost any game setting. That'd be the presume, predict, extrapolate part, and in the end, it's making stuff up. Do you have to do more of this than in adapting other fantasy works? Probably not.


I'd have to disagree. It would make an interesting paper, though.You're disagreeing based upon what? What international commerce does LoTR portray? The elves of Lindon are isolated. The various dwarven communities are isolated. Rivendell and Lothlorien are portrayed as oases under siege. The Shire has so little contact with the outside world that Bree, all of a day's ride west of it, only gets the rare occasional visitor from it. Gondor and Rohan share a land border, and even as ostensibly close allies know little to nothing of the doings of the other nation. We actually have a decent notion of the population of Gondor, and it's roughly the size of colonial Massachusetts, without the intracolonial and international trade that made Boston the third richest port of the British Empire.


I had a few problems with Thieves of Tharbad, by the way -- mostly ICE's interpretation of Cardolan. (Their interpretation of Cardolan was the only thing I really hated in ICE's Middle-earth line. I deleted it and substituted my own interpretation.)Heh, you can blame me for that; I'm largely responsible for Cardolan's geopolitics. (Come to that, I'm responsible for Cardolan, nearly unique to ICE's line, having geopolitics.) That being said, you're bolstering my point: even among fans who bought the products, there are those who just plain don't like the results.

tesral
01-21-2009, 11:43 AM
And not a great one, unhappily. Tolkien's background info did precisely two things better than any author before or since: create a vivid, detailed history and vivid, detailed languages. That, alas, is that. We know - know, as opposed to presume, predict or extrapolate - almost nothing else.


Most authors are bad at world building. I have had at least one author outright state it was a waste of time, "cat vacuuming" he called it, "sharping your blowing balls". But then authors are not building a world they are telling a story. Show not tell* is the order of the game and anything about the world comes in around the edges of ideas**. These are virtues in story telling. Those arguing against Tolkien following the virtues of good writing and being a bad game master is rather amusing. He was not all thing for all genres. I maintain that he could have used a good editor with the guts to back up his cuts.

The Gamemaster on the other hand is building a sandbox, not telling a single story never to return to that spot again. World building in all of its cat vacuuming glory is the order of the day. While yes we outline the story we are not the sole author of same. That is the work of the players as well. However, building the world is largely the work of the Gamemaster alone. It is a different kind of writing, but writing none the less. (Melissa Scott told me as much. When I said I had a 30 year campaign going. "That's writing too!" Her eyes got really big)

So, we have a great deal about the languages of Middle Earth. A decent amount on the mythology, the gods the great powers. We have very little about the people, the land and the commerce. Tolkien wrote about Kings and Wizards, not the man on the street or in the field. Places like Lothlorian or Rivendale could not exist in splendid isolation, with Elves wandering about meditating on birdsong. Someone had to be getting their fingers dirty in the dirt and growing food. We never see these people except for when the die in battle. The Pelennor fields should have been full of crops. No doubt the battles there would mean tightened belts and famine for the people of Minas Tirith, but we never hear about that.



From the TrekCreative Adaption (http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/trkguid/lexicon.html) of the Turkey City Science Fiction Writers' Workshop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_City_Writer%27s_Workshop) Lexicon.

* Show, not Tell Violates the cardinal rule of good writing. The reader should be allowed to react, not instructed in how to react. Carefully observed details render authorial value judgments unnecessary. For instance, instead of telling us "she had a bad childhood, an unhappy childhood," specific incidents--involving, say, a locked closet and two jars of honey--should be shown.
Rigid adherence to show-don't-tell can become absurd. Minor matters are sometimes best gotten out of the way in a swift, straightforward fashion.
One indicator that you are telling, not showing, is leaving the perspective in which you are telling the story and jumping in with the "Narrator's voice" to hand out information. Handing out some straightforward information about a character is not in itself questionable if done well. If Sue had a bad childhood and she thinks about it the story can get into her thoughts and let the reader know that Sue is thinking about her childhood, provided there is a good reason why she would think about it. Same with Bob telling Joe about Sue's bad childhood, if (and only if) Bob could be expected to know about it and has reason to tell Joe. If handled this way take care to (a) keep it short to avoid an Info Dump (see below), and (b) work some more explanation into the story later on, to avoid a Plot Orphan (see below).(last paragraph suggested by Steve Oostrom)

** The Edges of Ideas The solution to the Info Dump problem (how to fill in the background). The theory is that, as above, the mechanics of an interstellar drive (the center of the idea) is not important; all that matters is the impact on your characters: they can get to other planets in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them hallucinations about past lives. Or, more radically: the physics of TV transmission is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into couch potatoes because they no longer have to leave home for entertainment. Or, more bluntly: we don't need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people's lives have been affected by their background. This is also known as "carrying extrapolation into the fabric of daily life."

RGTraynor
01-21-2009, 01:06 PM
Those arguing against Tolkien following the virtues of good writing and being a bad game master is rather amusing. He was not all thing for all genres. Pretty much. I was in a debate last year where people suggested that the Fellowship was all about the same "level," which is a complete crock. JRRT was writing a story, not setting out a balanced gaming scenario.

Edward
01-21-2009, 06:30 PM
It's modest compared to Monty Haul D&Desque dungeoncrawling. It's pretty outrageous compared to the actual number of magical items seemingly in general circulation ... and consider that the magic items presented in LoTR were subtle - the elven cloaks had virtue of camouflage, the Numenorean blades cut more deeply and shone when there were orcs nearby.

Good point. I think a lot of GM's cut back on the magic items; I know I did.


And not a great one, unhappily. Tolkien's background info did precisely two things better than any author before or since: create a vivid, detailed history and vivid, detailed languages. I would say that makes him a great world designer. Role-playing games hadn't been invented yet, so he wasn't writing with them in mind. He probably had a vague idea that he wanted people to share Middle-earth, but no more than that.

In any case, building a truly complete world requires a large, highly skilled team. One man can't do it all, even in a lifetime.


Do you have to do more of this than in adapting other fantasy works? Probably not.Yes, definitely. I don't know of any other fantasy work with a background nearly as detailed. (That's one reason I like mythology. The details are all there, even if there are a few contradictions.)


You're disagreeing based upon what? What international commerce does LoTR portray? The elves of Lindon are isolated. The various dwarven communities are isolated. Rivendell and Lothlorien are portrayed as oases under siege. The Shire has so little contact with the outside world that Bree, all of a day's ride west of it, only gets the rare occasional visitor from it. Gondor and Rohan share a land border, and even as ostensibly close allies know little to nothing of the doings of the other nation. We actually have a decent notion of the population of Gondor, and it's roughly the size of colonial Massachusetts, without the intracolonial and international trade that made Boston the third richest port of the British Empire.It sounds like you're talking about the period of the War of the Ring. I realize MERP was based on LOTR, but I always thought of it in an early-Third Age context. (In fact, I ran one late-Second Age campaign.) At its height, before Sauron's reappearance, Gondor did have thriving international trade, with Arnor, Rhovanion, Rhun, Harad, the Dwarves (who, like the Shire, weren't isolated at that point), and even the Elves. The latter Third Age was a period of decline; trade and the economy stagnated, populations dropped, cities were abandoned. In the Fourth Age trade revived.


Heh, you can blame me for that; I'm largely responsible for Cardolan's geopolitics. (Come to that, I'm responsible for Cardolan, nearly unique to ICE's line, having geopolitics.)That must have been an interesting job.

I disagreed with the depiction of Cardolan (and to a lesser extent, Arnor in general) as a feudal society; I don't see the conditions that created feudalism in Europe ever having existed in Arnor. Arthedain had a strong central government right up to the end. Also, critically, the Dunadan kingdoms had a strong sense of nationalism, whereas medieval Europe didn't. My opinion was that Arthedain would have intervened in Cardolan much sooner and much more strongly than in ICE's view, and would have had broad popular support. Some of the great nobles might have continued to intrigue, but they weren't popular and could have been executed with few repercussions -- unlike in medieval Europe, which lacked Arnor's solid yeomanry and middle class. There was little personal loyalty to nobles; loyalty was to the King.

Also, I saw Cardolan declining faster than in ICE. In my interpretation, Cardolan dwindled rapidly, but what was left was largely controlled by Arthedain.

Still, I'm glad Cardolan had geopolitics of some sort. I always wanted to see more of the political aspect in other ICE supplements.


That being said, you're bolstering my point: even among fans who bought the products, there are those who just plain don't like the results. Absolutely. That's probably unavoidable with any product, but I agree that it's more of a problem with an established fanbase.


Or, more bluntly: we don't need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people's lives have been affected by their background.

Or move the info dump into an appendix or onto a website -- perhaps in the form of a gaming supplement.


I was in a debate last year where people suggested that the Fellowship was all about the same "level," which is a complete crock.

Yes, the idea is rather absurd.


JRRT was writing a story, not setting out a balanced gaming scenario.I've never been a fan of balanced gaming scenarios in any case. I prefer realistic scenarios in which the players have to figure out how much they can accomplish. Is there a kraken in the second chamber? Fine; it gives them an opportunity to practice their sprinting skills . . . .

RGTraynor
01-22-2009, 01:42 AM
I disagreed with the depiction of Cardolan (and to a lesser extent, Arnor in general) as a feudal society; I don't see the conditions that created feudalism in Europe ever having existed in Arnor. Arthedain had a strong central government right up to the end. Also, critically, the Dunadan kingdoms had a strong sense of nationalism, whereas medieval Europe didn't. My opinion was that Arthedain would have intervened in Cardolan much sooner and much more strongly than in ICE's view, and would have had broad popular support. Some of the great nobles might have continued to intrigue, but they weren't popular and could have been executed with few repercussions -- unlike in medieval Europe, which lacked Arnor's solid yeomanry and middle class. There was little personal loyalty to nobles; loyalty was to the King.Mm, but feudalism's certainly a factor in LoTR. Rohan has the demonstrable notion of loyalty to a local lord, even if the kingdom doesn't seem to have fiefs, per se. Gondor's plainly feudal; all those regions have local lords.

Where Cardolan in the 15th century fell down was in the near-complete destruction of legitimate authority and the army, a situation in which countries with a great deal more cohesion and national pride than Cardolan have fallen prey to warlords and strongmen.

Could Arthedain have intervened sooner and more strongly than it did, and would that intervention have been successful? Possibly so ... but the fact is that it didn't, and that's not ICE's POV; it was JRRT's history.

Edward
01-22-2009, 05:02 AM
Mm, but feudalism's certainly a factor in LoTR. Rohan has the demonstrable notion of loyalty to a local lord, even if the kingdom doesn't seem to have fiefs, per se.

Rohan wasn't Dunadan, though. The Dunedain had a very strong national identity and much greater cultural cohesion than the Men of Middle-earth; witness the refusal of Dunadan troops to fight each other at the Battle of Nen-i-Sul in 950. No Dunadan monarch was ever overthrown.

In any case, I wouldn't consider Rohan feudal; I'd consider it a clan-based society.


Gondor's plainly feudal; all those regions have local lords.Gondor developed a hereditary nobility, yes, but that's not exclusive to feudalism. Gondor was an empire; I would draw a parallel with the Byzantine Empire, which also developed a hereditary nobility. There was no Dark Age in which central authority broke down.


Where Cardolan in the 15th century fell down was in the near-complete destruction of legitimate authority and the army, a situation in which countries with a great deal more cohesion and national pride than Cardolan have fallen prey to warlords and strongmen.

Could Arthedain have intervened sooner and more strongly than it did, and would that intervention have been successful? Possibly so ... but the fact is that it didn't, and that's not ICE's POV; it was JRRT's history.
The Royal House of Cardolan ended in 1332. Argeleb of Arthedain claimed the High Kingship of Arnor in 1349, and Cardolan recognized him. Angmar and Arnor went to war shortly thereafter, with Cardolani forces operating under Argeleb's command. ICE's view was that the King's rule extended into Cardolan in name only, with the nobles ruling their fiefs as they wished and controlling most of the military force. I don't see any reason for this interpretation. Argeleb was King of Arnor, not just of Arthedain, and there's nothing to suggest that he was king in name only. As the Heir of Elendil, the King was held in almost mystical reverence. As I see it, if the nobles had failed to obey orders or had intrigued against the crown, the King would have ordered the Cardolani military to execute them, and they would have done so with great gusto. The people would have lined up to watch the executions. A nice occasion for a picnic.