A LoTR question - for gamers

Rereading the trilogy for the umpteenth time, and started thinking - what would a stat sheet for the major characters look like?

This doesn’t answer your question, but it may provide some amusement.

It’s been pointed out that just going by the magical abilities Gandalf actually is shown using he would be no more than around a 4th level Wizard.

First edition MERP (dunno about later editions) published official stat blocks for most of the main characters and their items in one splat book or the other, generally where you the players were likely to encounter them. So, Rivendell had Elrond’s stats, Arthedain had Aragorn’s etc…

Anduril was really overpowered, too.

I can’t actually find any, but I’ve seen such sheets, and the results are kinda surprising. Aragorn, the highest-level member of the party, works out to about a 5th-level ranger, albeit one with a +4 or +5 sword. The other members of the party are mostly 4th level. Gandalf is a special case, since, like DigitalC said, he never shows any more power than a low-level wizard would. However, the sheets I’ve seen put him at 20th level, since a) That’s the official level where characters become more or less demigods, which Gandalf is, and b) he’s specifically forbidden from using his full power except against other Maia, and his only battle with such an entity, the balrog, takes place primarily off-screen (in the books, at least).

Actually he has at least one other major battle, on Weathertop vs the Nazgul. It was described by Aragorn and Frodo, who saw it at a large distance, like lightning. And when they got to the top a few days later, all the stones “were blackened as if with fire” and “all the grass was shriveled to the roots.”

And the balrog fight was described in similar terms, “Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountainside where he smote it in his ruin.”

Both of his biggest fights take place off screen and are described in fairly elemental terms, fire and lightning, breaking mountainsides. Gandalf was definitely not someone to mess with, when if he was authorized to mess back.

As far as the others go… yeah somewhere around 5th level. In classical RPGs (ie D&D) somewhere between 5th and 10th level characters cross from heroic characters to super-heroic characters. And LotR doesn’t have any super-heroes.

I’ve seen the arguments that Aragorn (the highest-level member of the Fellowship, except for presumably Gandalf) was only 5th level, and I don’t buy them. For one thing, he (and the other heroes) has gotten far too much XP in his long career to be that low. Heck, just the Battle of Helm’s Deep had Legolas and Gimli each killing enough orcs to gain four levels, if we assume they’re low-level characters. For another, several of the heroic characters are described as being worth as much in a battle as a thousand lesser men. As for 10th level being where characters become “superheroes”, that’s not true, either, since superheroes are defined in terms of what they can do, not how well they can do it. A first-level wizard could easily be described as a superhero, but nobody uses that label for high-level fighter-types in the real world. Rather, 11th level is officially the level at which folks begin to be “legendary”, and there are certainly many legendary characters in LotR.

Was wondering if there was a KODT version of Lotr…

Legolas at least has to be pretty high level-he’s had centuries in which to perfect his craft, in countless campaigns and skirmishes, and on-screen at least it shows. Aragorn is 90 or so years old, and probably has lived a more “intense” quasi-militaryish life, and has the fighting chops to show it. John-Rhys on the other hand never convinced me that Gimli was much other than a mediocre tank-like fighter (part of that admittedly was all the weight of makeup and padding he had to wear).

Well, one of the things mentioned somewhere in the D&D material is that even a 1st-level player character is is leaps and bounds more powerful than your average “civilian” non-player character. That is, at Level 1 you’re already a figure of heroic proportions and power.

Well, there’s a Star Wars version, Darths & Droids, that is very well done.

ETA: That is, Darths & Droids is the SW prequels given the DM of the Rings treatment.

In 4th edition, maybe, but in earlier editions, while a first-level character was something special, it was only in having a lot of potential, or at most a heroic destiny. You still have to grow into that potential.

This points to something I’ve long felt about RPGs as commonly played, that their players often cheat themselves out of an enormous amount of fun by designing or allowing the game to advance the characters’ power quickly. The best and longest-running game in my circle never saw any PC get past 9th level, and some of the most important and renowned characters never got past 6th or 7th. This was a 1st/2nd-edition AD&D campaign that ran intensively for more than four years.

In our game, there was a rough law of diminishing returns for experience points from doing the same thing repeatedly. It didn’t seem to make sense that characters could advance without limits for just doing the same kinds of things over and over. Once you’ve gone up one level fighting orcs, you should have to do something different to go any further.

Yeah but by those same measurements, our heroes should look differently than they do. They should have a mountain of loot and magical doodads. Boromir’s horn should be a Horn of Blasting or a Horn of Valhalla. Everyone should have magic primary and backup weapons, armor, and a broad variety of miscellaneous magic items. Instead they are just gaining some of their first (and fairly low level) magic lewts. Cloaks of Elvenkind are a pretty early reward for PCs, the kind of thing you would be handing out to low level characters. And a third of the party (the fellowship) don’t even have any magic weapons at all. By 10th level, we should be seeing Winged Boots and the like. Like I said by 10th level we should start to see “super-heroic” abilities, flight, teleportation, gouts of elemental energy, resistance to the same. Some characters get this through native abilities, others from magical items, but by level 10 they should be there.

As another example, Aragorn as a mid-to-high level ranger should have a good number spells like Water Walk and Treeshape. Maybe he only reserves it for healing… but outside of a couple of scenes he doesn’t really use it much. And even that is pretty low level. If he were above 10th level, he could have cured Frodo outright with a Neutralize Poison after Weathertop. Instead he can only delay the effect… much as if he had access to Delay Poison, a first level Ranger spell.

Simply put RPGs assume a higher level of supernatural ability than fantasy literature, especially LotR. The primary characters’ lack of supernatural abilities place them firmly in the lower levels, at least as D&D and most other fantasy RPGs define them.

And keep in mind that he isn’t a D&D style wizard. He survived a huge fall into a pit*, had a running fight with the Balrog for days and even then still had enough going for him to pull off that elemental display. He’s a supernatural, superhuman being with magical powers, not a D&D wizard.

  • And if going by the movies, slammed into the wall and ground against it as he fell by a flaming, dinosaur sized Balrog while still fighting. A D&D wizard - for that matter, a D&D fighter - would be reduced to a charred streak of red goo against the wall of the pit unless they had serious magical defenses. Certainly not 3rd level stuff.


Gandalf is a Maiar. Same as the Balrog (and others). As such he is not a human. While not as overtly menacing looking as the Balrog he is (obviously) the equal to one.

The only things in Middle Earth more powerful than Gandalf would be one of the Valar and perhaps a few other Maiar. (Sort of the difference between an Angel and an Arch-Angel for Maiar/Valar.)

We never see the full extent of Gandalf’s powers but he is without doubt among the most powerful entities in Middle Earth. Some few might be stronger but not many (Sauron clearly would be, perhaps Gothmog [supreme Balrog] was). Particularly when he comes back as Gandalf the White.

He’s also got no animal companion, doesn’t dual wield or shoot a bow ridiculously well, fights better than Boromir…

Fact is, I’d question the automatic assumption that Aragorn is a ranger. Yes, I know he’s called that but in terms of what he does and the skills he’s got, he’s more of a fighter with one or two levels of ranger, tops. Or a Paladin with tracking/survival feats (he turned undead on Weathertop).
Which fits his status as the king of Numenor, too.

That being said, the Fellowship is a rubbish group. Who takes 4 rogues but no cleric ?!

And while Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel and Aragorn are fairly high level, most of the fellowship is not. On first arriving in Rivendell, Legolas is 15th level IIRC. The rest of the party is all under 10th level.

Yep, but then again it should be.

But it doesn’t work that way in either the novel or in the rules of any RPG I know of. Elves don’t advance as fast as humans because they are less ambitious, more focussed and more patient. In “The Silmarillion” it was not uncommon for the greatest elven warriors to go for centuries without getting into more than a brief skirmish. Meanwhile the humans lived such a short time that they forced a lot into their lives. This became a point of friction between one elven king and his human “guests” at one point, with the men thinking they would become too old to fight before they elves would be prepared to go to war.

So the fact that Legolas was old wasn’t in any way indicative of his level.

Probably best not to dwell on the travesty that was Gimli in the movies. Suffice to say that it bore no resemblance at all to the character in the book.

Except that this Middle Earth, not Greyhawk or some AD&D settiing. Totally different rules. To make a magic item of any power the creator has to essentially place part of their own soul into the item, and it takes ages. Magic items of any sort are rare in Middle Earth.

First thing to realise is that the wraith knives were not poisoned. They were enchanted. The knife tip itself breaks off and then swims towards the heart. So even in D&D terms a Neutralise Poison spell would be worthless. There is nothing in a D&D (or MERP) Ranger’s inventory that allows them to counter the effect.

The lack of display of other powers by Aragorn is hinted at in the novel and explicitely stated in MERP. Using power attracts attention. In Merp no characters can exceed 10th level because once they get that powerful they are either recruited by the great powers of their alignment or, more often, killed by th opposition. Using an ability like Treeshape is a perfect way of saying “Aragorn is here”. Since the whole mission relied on secrecy, and since Aragorn kinda wanted to avoid Sauron anyway, high level abilities would only have been used in the most extreme circumstances even if they did exist within the system.

The basic D&D system works the same way. If an orc is worth, say, 40XP, then a 1st level character only needs one to level. A second level needs 4, a thirds level 10 and so forth. By the time you reach 10th level you need to kill a lot of orcs to level.

Your points are all well taken Blake. D&D is not Middle Earth… but that is kinda my point. On the D&D scale everyone in Middle Earth falls on the low end of the scale. And D&D isn’t the best model for an RPG in Middle Earth. I wouldn’t use it as such. But it does allow us to make some comparisons, using the most widely played RPG in the world. Of course that isn’t quite right either anymore is it? WoW is almost certainly the most widely played RPG in the world now.

Gandalf’s power level relative to other Maiar is left ambiguous (though Sauron is almost certainly more powerful, Melian probably, and Saruman likely), but it is known canonically that he was the wisest of them. Of course, the comparison isn’t made any easier by the fact that the Istari have deliberately limited themselves with human forms.

To think that I have only played ADD twice in my life. What a shitty game that was, even "Das Schwarze Auge " was better.