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Decipher Report #4!

September 22, 2001 at 9:07 pm by xoanon  - 

And so it ends. After Twelve hours of celebration, the Decipher birthday bash has come to it’s conclusion.

There was no lack of action towards the end, and while I was busy nourishing myself of a much needed dinner, the Decipher folks were working hand in hand with the fans. The names of employees are numerous, and it seems from all walks of the game, be it designing, marketing, or production, everyone’s been on the boards spilling out trivia and answering questions.

I’ve taken some samples of the questions and answers from the stretch run of the party, so kick back, and do a little investigation into the intricacies of Decipher’s LOTR card game.

Questions fielded by Tom Lischke (Design):

How is it decided which member of the fellowship fights a shadow-character? And what happens when there are multiple shadow-characters against you?

Say there are 5 minions (A, B, C, D, and E) and 4 companions (1, 2, 3, and 4).

First, The good guys assign any defender (1 defends A, 2 defends B, 3 defends C, and 4 defends D).

Now, there is no one left to defend, and there is still one minion. The owner of that minion gets to assign it to attack one of the caracters (and that will almost always be the Ring-bearer).

Once all assignments are made, the Fellowship player decides which skirmish to resolve first.

Are there any known gameplay idea that are not in the first set?

There at least a couple of things that existed in the playtest for the first set, and we shelved them because they weren’t working yet.

For instance, the concept of a Captain (on the bad guys), who could either deploy inexpensively or add strength to guys from his culture or something.

I’m sure there are more that I’m not thinking of, but I’d hate to give to many away, as they are what you’ll see in the next sets.

When will more card images be released?

We have to get special permission from New Line for each one that we release before the game actually releases, and there are a couple of cards that aren’t in the first set specificly because they can’t preceed the movie release.

What is the difference between a possession and an artifact?

One is older 🙂

Other than that, changing them to a new class gets them out of a lot of the cancelation that will effect possessions. For instance, a card called rust might be appropriate to whack a possession, but nobody is going to leave a palantir out in the rain. See?

Steve Long (RPG Project Leader) had a long, in depth post worth reading.


Well, generally speaking, I don’t make my notes and outlines available to people; it’s not really appropriate. However, part of the reason for assembling the five-page list is to be sure I include all those effects in the “Magic” chapter — so you’ll get the all-important end result. 🙂

<< It looks like there will spellcasters other than Istari in the game. Though I haven't read every word of Tolkien's Middle-earth work, it looks to me like there is the Elven and Dwarven magic of being and making, and there are Wizards, but there isn't a whole class of magicians among Men.
>Please show me that’s wrong, as long as you’re not bent by people’s desires to play wizards.>>

There are definitely going to be users of magic other than the Istari. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are lots of subtle references to the traditions of magic and magic use in Tolkien’s works. For example:

— mentions of Dwarven magic runes and enchanted toys
— Gandalf’s mention of knowing “dozens” of spells in the “tongues of Elves, Men, and Orcs” — and that on the single subject of doors
— various subtle Elven magical stuff (which is dealt with as a racial ability, not spellcasting per se)
— the mention that the people of Bree suspected Frodo of being a “traveling magician of unknown powers and purpose”

String all that, and other references, together, and you can create a fun, game-able system of magic and magic use that remains true to the nature and feel of Tolkien’s work.
Dunedain, Middle Peoples, Easterlings, Wild Men — similar, but not identical, to Faramir’s classification system in TT.

<<& some comments you can comment on if you want:
>>Will you people be able to get anyway near the huge wordcount of the MERP books?<<

I don’t have exact figures on the wordcounts in any given MERP book, so I can’t really answer that. The core book is nearly 150,000 words, and the supplements will likely be 60,000-80,000 words.

I have little familiarity with MERP; I don’t own any of those books.

<< Do you have first-rate cartographers and put a lot of thought into mapping the places that Tolkien didn't?>>

I feel confident in saying that I have absolute faith in our graphics guys to do a *superb* job with maps and every other graphic element of the line.

There are certainly plenty of options for tailoring a campaign to suit your preferences and tastes! Just as you might want an all-Men game, I bet there are people out there planning all-Dwarf chronicles. 🙂

<<>How familiar are you with Hero Wars, the Gloranthan RPG partly designed by Robin Laws? It’s my first choice of rules system for a Middle-earth campaign (not having seen yours, though it sounds like it has too many ‘crunchy bits’ [rules excess to what’s in the world] to be ideal). >>

I own the books, but haven’t read them. I have the deepest respect for Robin’s talents as a writer and designer (and he’s a great guy, to boot).

What constitutes “too many ‘crunchy bits'” is difficult to say. One person’s excess is another’s deficiency. 🙂 Fortunately, the great thing about RPGs is you can always change ’em to suit yourself!

[[SNIP]]
Fourth Age: would either be pointless for the same reasons Tolkien discovered when he tried to write his sequel, or very challenging to make work>>

Au contraire! I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that games aren’t novels, and novels aren’t games — what works in one doesn’t necessarily work in the other. Just because Tolkien didn’t think that he could write a good sequel to LOTR doesn’t mean that there’s not *LOTS* of game-ability in the very late Third/early Fourth Ages. After all, *someone’s* got to help King Elessar mop up those pesky lurking evils. 😉

There’s lots more, the posts are as numerous as the stars in the sky, and thus, sadly, I can present only this fraction of the wealth of card gaming wisdom imparted by the Decipher folks. Go Here to meander through the wealth of trivia, gossip, and newly released tidbits about the game.

Posted in Old Spy Reports on September 22, 2001 by

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