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Thread: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

  1. #21
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    In short to the original question: the way magic is represented and used in most games based on LOTR has not much to do with the background but just with what (the producers assume) sells.
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  2. #22

    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Great posts that pretty much say it all about magic in Tolkien. Iīd only add a comment about the OP as to the way it is worked out in LOTR/WOTR.

    I find that GW made a good job there and magic in these systems is way different from magic in WHFB. Itīs more about affecting morale, subtle effects on movement etc. Nothing like dwellers or comet of cassandora. So, all in all, for a game, I think that rules in both, lotr and wotr, purvey the right atmosphere, while at the same time remaining something playable.
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  3. #23
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Most of the minor casters are a little off in WotR. I know I've said this in another thread, but, as an example, the goblin shaman's in SBG (core rules) only have Transfix and Fury, which is a lot more subtle than the fireballs they can throw in WotR.

  4. #24
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Yeah, i really did not understand some of the spells they added to WotR. Like being able to throw fireballs and stuff. Just totally ruins the whole LotR magical thing for me.

  5. #25
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Well, it is a New Line Cinema liscence, rather than strictly Tolkien, and PJ did add Saruman casting fire in the extended version. However, it should at the very least be reserved for those who are the top tier of 'loremasters' in Middle Earth.
    It's definitely not in the books, though. They use explosives instead.

  6. #26
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Hi all!

    As stated above, ‘magic’ in Middle Earth is really not ‘magic’ as we think of it nowadays. Consider that technically magic just means ‘an unexplained force’. It doesn’t really have anything to do with concepts like mana or mystical energy. All magic, when people have actually believed in and attempted to use it, as been linked to religion or the spiritual. It’s never really been the kind of utilitarian make-some-fireballs stuff you see in MTG or D&D. And Tolkien, as a staunch Catholic, definitely followed that line of thinking strictly.

    While he stated in several places that you won’t find many (or any) overt references to religion in the world of Middle Earth, all the ‘magic’ you see is the inherent, subtle power and order of the world, as others have said. It’s defined by what Is Good and what Is Not Good. Good being ‘in keeping with the plan/fate/design of authority’.

    Thus, all ‘magic’ in the LOTR really isn’t magic at all, as described. Rather it’s the inherent authority of the beings wielding it. It’s just command, or knowledge, in a way. That authority manifests in different ways, like song or the ability to craft items that have some of the creator’s will in them, but overall it’s not about ripping some mystical energy force out of the dirt and turning it into fire.

    The Istari, as Maiar, have authority in their fashion. But that authority in turn is granted by the Valar, and that in turn by Eru Illuvitar. When the Istari turn against that will (like the wizards who failed), their powers lessen, and eventually, like Saruman, fade. Of course they still have their inherent power/authority, but the ‘energies they were channeling’ if you will, dissipate.
    Sauron’s power, besides his own, is gained from Melkor. The powers of the Ringwraiths are gained from Sauron. The ‘dark sorcery’ of the Black Numenoreans like the Mouth of Sauron is simply power/authority granted by those above them (Sauron or the Ringwraiths).

    So all this so say: there is no such thing as magicians or wizards in Middle Earth. Tolkien used the term to describe those who have seemingly magical abilities, which simply means authority over the material world. In the games, it’s perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the world to have shamans of the evil races wielding power, since that would simply be authority from Sauron/etc…

    Now, of course you could debate whether Sauron would really grant a lowly Orc the ability to shoot fireballs, but it’s theoretically possible. Of course some spells are less in keeping than others (like fireballs…I guess if he’s holding a torch, maybe…) but whatever. The only real disagreement/conflict is in the backstory Games Workshop has invented for some of the characters. For example, Druzahg is described as being banished and going into the wilderness, where he ‘acquired’ his powers. Sorry, but that’s BS. It’s impossible in Middle Earth. Now maybe he met some shadow Balrog who gave him some power, but that kind of magical authority can’t be TAKEN. And certainly not by some lowly Goblin.

    I have more of a problem with the Elven Stormcaller. I guess it kinda fits if they’re singing and calling on the storms, but the Wise (Galadriel, etc…) are never going to grant that authority to lessers…it’s not in their character.
    Last edited by Stargorger; 09-02-2012 at 12:43.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    I agree with the first two thirds of this, Stargorger. You characterize the nature of Tolkien's 'magic' very nicely. The Valar and Maiar have certain 'magical' abilities by their very nature, much as we would consider angels and fallen angels... you don't think of them as magic users in the D&D sense at all.

    As for the elves, that's a little more mystical and obscure. As seen when Frodo is starting to turn into a wraith, elves have a certain spiritual/immortal quality to them that gives them some inherant abilities, and the knowledge to work with those abilities. Elrond, in his healing and in his control of the river that swallows up the wraiths in FotR, is termed a 'Loremaster'. The stormcallers would be in that vein, rather than expressly getting power from the Wise (though they would by nature be working within the heirarchy).

    As for goblins, who are most likly corrupted elves, Tolkien mentions that some of the fallen Maiar wander as incorporeal spirits. I could see a rogue goblin like Druzhag being used by one of those to affect the world. Besides, most of the abilities they're talking about have to do with animal control rather than straight up magic.

    Still doesn't account for the less subtle abilities, like the fireballs though.

  8. #28
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peregrin View Post
    I agree with the first two thirds of this, Stargorger. You characterize the nature of Tolkien's 'magic' very nicely. The Valar and Maiar have certain 'magical' abilities by their very nature, much as we would consider angels and fallen angels... you don't think of them as magic users in the D&D sense at all.

    As for the elves, that's a little more mystical and obscure. As seen when Frodo is starting to turn into a wraith, elves have a certain spiritual/immortal quality to them that gives them some inherant abilities, and the knowledge to work with those abilities. Elrond, in his healing and in his control of the river that swallows up the wraiths in FotR, is termed a 'Loremaster'. The stormcallers would be in that vein, rather than expressly getting power from the Wise (though they would by nature be working within the heirarchy).

    As for goblins, who are most likly corrupted elves, Tolkien mentions that some of the fallen Maiar wander as incorporeal spirits. I could see a rogue goblin like Druzhag being used by one of those to affect the world. Besides, most of the abilities they're talking about have to do with animal control rather than straight up magic.

    Still doesn't account for the less subtle abilities, like the fireballs though.
    @Peregrin
    That’s true. Good point. So maybe it’s inherent to their natural authority over the natural world too? Hmm. Gotta think on this :-)
    And that’s true…if the Stormcallers are in a similar vein as Elrond…although it is worth noting that Elrond, Loremaster or no, has one of the Three Rings. Which were made by Elves, granted. Hmm. I wonder if that authority/ability fades in time? Like with the Numenoreans…although they got it from the Elves I guess. So maybe it just fades as it goes down through the ranks/generations?
    Maybe the question is really why aren’t there MORE Stormcaller-type elves?

    True, true. Hadn’t thought of that for Druzahg. Although that still isn’t TAKING power, as in, by force. Like, in Star Wars you harness the force through your own will…the Force doesn’t MAKE you use it. Here it’s the reverse. The goblins could not invent these spells on their own…someone or some gene/whatever gave them that ability. The question then is..’who?’

    Lol yeah. Good point. At least they don’t have stuff like ‘morph into a gold-skinned god goblin’ lol.

  9. #29
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    What about Kardush the firecaller. He was invented to throw fireballs around. Cannot find any references to him in the books or films so i assume he was invented by games workshop which in my opinion is bad juju, especially when not only inventing a character and saying he was trained to use fire magic by the nazghul but also the fact he uses fire magic at all.

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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    I get a kick out of that, as there are no references to the Nazgul using fire magic.

  11. #31
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    @Noobie
    Lol yeaaaahhh…I…don’t like him. Yeah Peregrin’s right, pretty sure there’s no reference to fire magic at ALL in the books, much less by the Nazgul (which essentially just cast Sunder Spirit and Transfix over and over again).
    I seem to remember that Gandalf uses fire magic in the hobbit briefly, but it could be explained-away. It’s very subtle…he lights a fire or something but that’s it.
    Yeah I honestly don’t know what their motivation was for Kardush (which, by the way…”Car + douche” does not = a cool name lol) seeing as Mordor already has bags of shamans and other spellcasters, and plenty of named heroes. There was no need for him at all. I can understand needing more named heroes for the Fallen Realms since Tolkien doesn’t mention many, but Kardush???

  12. #32

    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Actually the fire magic in The Hobbit is rather explicit and clearly put as magic really, not just fireworks. In the caves of the Misty Mountains itīs like lightning sparks and later against the wargs he puts some tree parts on fire and throwns it at them, but it is a magical fire.

    But then, itīs Gandalf we are talking about, the future white wizard. Certainly not something that should be flying around with every minor shaman.
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  13. #33
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Also, its the equivalent to magical flint and tinder, not fireballs. He has to have something to light (trees ). There is a stronger case for the lightning, but not in regards to Nazgul or goblins.

  14. #34
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    And I guess we could argue that the lightning is simply him changing the static pressure in the cave, etc... ;-) But that might be pushing it lol.

    Good point Tuq....you cool named dude! ;-)
    Yeah I'd forgotten that. Gotta go re-read it before the film comes out!

  15. #35

    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Yea, I think we all agree about how magic in Tolkien is fundamentally different from other settings, in that itīs not just another form of cause-effect technology, but really something intrinsic to the natural world. That magical world, in the sense that mountains and rivers, beasts and plants all are alive and interlinked with themselves and the powers is something that I really love about his work and that sets it apart from most other fantasy stories, in that it really creates a feeling of being in a different world, not just our current mentality tranported to a medieval/fantasy surrounding.

    There were several really good posts explaining it better and I wonīt dwell too much on it again. I only commented because, even so, there is also every so often more explicit magic, particularly when the big guys, like Mayas and Istari, do it. Morgothīs creation of the orcs by twisting the elves and Sauronīs necromancy is pretty "high" magical too.

    As to the games, I guess I never perceived the possibility of too explicit magic in lotr/wotr because the way my gaming group plays these systems is quite fluff and background focused. Still, despite some possible exaggerations in WOTR, both systems are clearly different to other "high magic" systems.

    PS. Yes, the Tupinamba and the whole history of Brazilian colonizations and its wars are quite interesting and could give good tabletop inspiration. Someday Iīll build my "Bandeirantes" themed Empire force for WHFB, with Tupis as free company and flagellants.
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  16. #36
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    Re: Middle-Earth: a land of magic or a land of magicians?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tupinamba View Post
    Yea, I think we all agree about how magic in Tolkien is fundamentally different from other settings, in that itīs not just another form of cause-effect technology, but really something intrinsic to the natural world. That magical world, in the sense that mountains and rivers, beasts and plants all are alive and interlinked with themselves and the powers is something that I really love about his work and that sets it apart from most other fantasy stories, in that it really creates a feeling of being in a different world, not just our current mentality tranported to a medieval/fantasy surrounding.

    There were several really good posts explaining it better and I wonīt dwell too much on it again. I only commented because, even so, there is also every so often more explicit magic, particularly when the big guys, like Mayas and Istari, do it. Morgothīs creation of the orcs by twisting the elves and Sauronīs necromancy is pretty "high" magical too.

    As to the games, I guess I never perceived the possibility of too explicit magic in lotr/wotr because the way my gaming group plays these systems is quite fluff and background focused. Still, despite some possible exaggerations in WOTR, both systems are clearly different to other "high magic" systems.

    PS. Yes, the Tupinamba and the whole history of Brazilian colonizations and its wars are quite interesting and could give good tabletop inspiration. Someday Iīll build my "Bandeirantes" themed Empire force for WHFB, with Tupis as free company and flagellants.
    Exactly :-)

    PS: Gotcha. Makes more sense now. Yes, I'd love to see a large-scale (as in, large selection/range) miniatures game set in the late colonial period. *sigh*. Maybe someday.

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