The most recent release for Lord of the Rings the Card game, was Escape from Mount Gram, which comes complete with a new Lore hero, the Silvan elf Rossiel.
Rossiel is the 7th Hero in the game to exist only in world of Fantasy Flight – Thalin, Beravor and Eleanor are shared with their earlier release, Middle Earth Quest, but Mirlonde, Caldara, Idraen and now Rossiel are purely creations for the LCG.
In terms of why the designers have created these characters, there are a few major possibilities. An obvious point to note at the outset, is that all four LCG only characters and (at least) 2 of the core-set figures are female. Contrast this with the characters drawn directly from Tolkien’s canon, where Eowyn and Galadriel are the only female heroes we’ve seen, and it’s understandable that the designers might be looking to redress the balance.
A Man’s world?
In terms of whether the designers need to create their own characters in order to have more female heroes, I thought I’d do a quick consideration of some of the other possibilities out there for hero status in the card game.
Arwen is an obvious choice, and is probably only being held back by the quality of the Ally version (although I like to think it’s an angry Glorfindel fan who still hasn’t forgiven Liv Tyler for stealing Asfaloth.)
Beyond that, things get murky – there’s definitely potential to add someone like Ioreth (healer/wise woman in Gondor, spends most of Aragorn’s coronation talking) and given the slightly vague chronology of this game, you could probably stretch in either direction for Gilraen (Aragorn’s mum) or Lothiriel (Imrahil’s daughter and, after the War, Eomer’s wife), but beyond that you’re starting to scrape the barrel with geographically dubious figures like Goldberry or Rosie Cotton, figures from too long ago like Celebrian or Dis, or figures we just don’t know that much about about, like Theodwyn (sister to Theoden, mother of Eomer and Eowyn) or Morwen (mother of Theoden and Theodwyn).
In sum, there’s definitely potential for the designers if they really wanted to create another female hero based on a canon character, but I certainly don’t think there’s a blindingly obvious candidate whose omission seems strange, in the way that there was before the arrival of Galadriel. Aside from Arwen (who does exist in the game, just not in hero form) none of the names above stand out nearly as much as a figure like Thranduil, whose continuing absence is a bit odd, to say the least.
In terms of chronology, the game is somewhat guilty of breaking its own rules – it was originally stated as being set during the 17 years between Bilbo’s Eleventy-First Birthday in TA3001 and Frodo’s departure from the shire in 3018. However, we have since seen Saga expansions which take us a long way back before this to the events of Bilbo’s Unexpected Journey in the 2940s, and forward into the events of the War of the Ring itself (you’d have to imagine we’ll eventually reach the end of the Third Age)
Taking these wider time-frames, most of these figures are reasonable – Gilraen and Morwen would be getting fairly old by 3001 and Theodwyn died not long after, but 60 years earlier is a different matter. Chronology for Dis is fairly sketchy, but she was younger than her brother Thorin, so should be around at least as long as him. Celebrian sailed into the West about 500 years earlier though, so she’s probably out. To sum up:
- Celebrian (sailed west in 2510),
- Ivorwen – (2857 – 2929)
Ok for this time period
- Dis (2760 -?)
- Gilraen (2907 – 3007)
- Morwen (2922 – 3005)
- Theodwyn (2963-3002),
[Just for reference, the Battle of Five Armies was in 2941, Biblo’s birthday in 3001 and The Ring leaves The Shire in 3018]
Putting aside any desire the designers may have to offer a broader range of female heroes for the players, there is another reason for them to create their own heroes, and that is simply greater creative scope.
The Fantasy-Flight-created heroes of the earlier cycles were fairly generic, cardboard cut-out figures, with little known about them beyond their race and traits. We can make our own assumptions about Beravor the Ranger vs Eleanor the Gondorian Noble, but it’s essentially guesswork.
Over time, Fantasy Flight seem to have been getting more adventurous in this regard though. Last year, Idraen came with a short-story of how she rescued a young girl from Bree who had lost her way whilst out berry-picking, although the emphasis remained on the strange, unknown nature of these Dunedain.
Rossiel also comes complete with a biography, this time giving us more of an account of her childhood and upbringing: her studies under the lady Galadriel, the violent death of her sister at the hand of some orcs, and how she came to be wandering the wilds on these adventures. As the designers have developed the overarching story-arc which links the quests, this is an area they can explore in a way which just wouldn’t be as plausible if they were dealing with a figure well-established in Lord of the Rings canon.
Over the past few cycles, the narrative behind the quests has taken a bigger and bigger role. Instead of a string of scenarios connected in only the loosest fashion (Dwarrowdelf) we find ourselves part of a wider 9-part narrative. I’ve no idea yet what plans the designers have for Iarion or Amarthiul, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see one of them appear as a hero – assuming they don’t end up going all Lord Alcaron on us.
It’s also worth noting, of course, that a newly-imagined FFG character can be sent questing with anybody, whereas a second or third (or fourth) version of one of Tolkien’s existing creations could only be fielded at the expense of one of the current iterations. I ran a pair of decks through Black Riders and The Road Darkens, using core set Aragorn, only to reach Treason of Saruman and discover that he had to give way to his Fellowship iteration. (On the plus side, if you’ve given him one of the “permanent” attachments, it does carry over to Fellowship Aragorn).
Whilst there’s plenty of scope for the designers to weave their own tales for home-grown heroes, the proposition for fan-creations is slightly different – obviously, we can carve out our own little corner of the Mythos, and create a character, but it’s harder for us to put a paper insert in everyone’s next adventure pack. Rather than creating a new character (or two) from scratch I decided to make hero cards for some of the Ladies of Middle Earth mentioned above – it had been a while since I did any custom-cards. I also wanted to share a bit of insight on my thought-process in creating them. I have no idea whether the designers approach things in a way at all similar to me, but thought you might be interested in my approach.
The main thing that we know about Dis is that she was the mother of Fili and Kili, as well as the sister or Thorin. As the only named female dwarf in Tolkien’s lore, she has been the subject of much speculation and fan-fic, but I wanted to keep things fairly simple. At the most basic level, she needs to be able to bring her sons along, hence the ability to pay for dwarves from any sphere. This more-or-less dictated that she needed to be within Leadership, which is a bit of a shame, as it’s already the sphere where we have the greatest excess of Dwarf heroes. However, tactics – the sphere lacking a third hero seemed the worst fit.
Stats wise, it seemed reasonable to assume that any sibling of Thorin’s would have a reasonable amount of willpower, but as she never crops up in any of the adventures, a high attack stat didn’t seem right. I decided to carry across being a reasonable defender too. Fili and Kili are already a powerful combo, so I deliberated for a while over whether it would be too much to give them an additional boost when she was in play – so far this is something we’ve only really seen with Elladan and Elrohir, and it’s definitely a mechanic I’d like to see more of, but I decided to leave it, at least for now.
Gilraen, the mother of Aragorn was one of the Dunedain, although not herself a direct member of the royal line. She was the one who took the young Aragorn to Rivendell where she hoped he would be safe.
There were a few possibilities in terms of her ability – relating to hiding in Rivdenell, I thought that something secrecy-related would be nice, but I also wanted to create some kind of Dunedain synergy – for example an ability which benefitted from engaging enemies, although it was tricky to balance this with the theme of a non-combat-focused character. Lowering the threat of others by drawing enemies away from them seemed the best bet. The fact that her ability can only benefit others, not herself seemed to tie in well with the flavour-text.
I’m not aware of anything to suggest that Gilraen ever spent much time adventuring, so have made her fairly flimsy in combat, to allow a low threat level, but she can still quest reasonably, and is less likely to get taken out unexpectedly than a hobbit.
Lothiriel was a tricky one – it’s irked me ever since The Steward’s Fear that Imrahil doesn’t have the Outlands trait, although his power-level would be insane if he did (not much effort at all for a character who could quest and attack/defend on a power-level to match anyone in the game). Lothiriel is also the wife of Eomer, so the future Queen of Rohan. I initially had her keying off her father and husband to gain their traits, but this felt both dull and overpowered. Making the traits conditional seemed to lower the power level significantly and add an interesting element of choice, but I wanted something else to make the character feel worthwhile. Clearly, it had to key off of characters leaving play, and I decided that threat was the way to go (or was it card-draw) – I initially had the limit at once per phase, but felt that this was potentially just too powerful, with easily two, and potentially far more per round, especially if someone’s playing Silvans…
Stat-wise I decided to go for the generic 2/2/2 for a good all-round utility, but to dial back the hit-points slightly, to make her threat more manageable.
I hope people have found the custom-creations interesting. I’d be interested to know your thoughts generally on heroes being drawn from Tolkien’s works directly, or being created purely for the game.