View Full Version : LoTR Magic

2008-08-18, 01:22 AM
I was trying to find the discussion on all this but it's... burried.

So, eh. This is a short and simple request, but it will take awhile for you to explain i'm sure. So, eh.

How exactly does LoTR magic work again, and how did we reach that conclusion?

2008-08-18, 10:22 AM
Here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80550)'s the thread you're thinking of.

Short version:

Elves (and in rare circumstances some other people) can make "magical" items just because they are able to. They can fully realize their intention through their craftsmanship. Swords are really good at being weapons. Travel rations are the best around. Stuff like that. It just takes whatever that thing is and cranks it to eleven and this is just something Elves do naturally. They have all the time in the world (and I mean that literally) to practice whatever they decide to learn.

Most magic that exists as "spells" or whatnot is due to the caster being one of the setting's equivalent of an angel or deity and they simply transcend nature and make stuff happen (i.e. it's just a miracle, simple as that). Due to the way that Gandalf described his run-in with the Balrog it seems that making this stuff happen can be described as an act of will enforcing a change on the world as the spell/counter interaction almost broke him, mentally.

The remainder are not fully developed, but we get frequent mention of "sorcery" used by bad guys (the Witch-king of Angmar, the Mouth of Sauron, and others are mentioned as being sorcerers). We don't actually have any data on what the mechanism for this magic would be or even it's full capabilities. The other thread gives a rundown of examples. My personal theory (I think it fits into the other framework we have going, but there's not a lot of direct evidence for it) is that this is more closely related to invocational magic rather than incantational. That is, a sorcerer has made a deal with "dark forces" who then provide miracle-type magic on an ad hoc basis rather than just tapping into some source of magic that's just there (think Faust as opposed to Harry Potter).

There are outlying examples that don't fit into these categories neatly, but they're unexplained exceptions.

2008-08-18, 11:20 AM
So basically, magic works because there isn't any.

2008-08-18, 11:43 AM
.... kind of. D20 isn't a particularly great system to model Middle Earth magic on, since D20 has a distinction between arcane and divine magic.

In Middle Earth, the whole thing was created through song. Basically, Tolkien's overgod, Iluvatar, got all of the Valar (basically angels) together and made music, and Middle Earth was what resulted. The energy of the world was from creativity. It all derived from Iluvatar, but each of the Valar was in charge of creating things according to their nature. Manwe was air, Ulmo was water, and so on. What the Elves had going for them, was that they understood this. Some of them went to live on Valinor for awhile, where they lived with the Valar and learned from them. They're able to grasp the real properties of matter, and use it creatively to their own ends. The Noldor elves were particularly good at this.

You're right that it isn't magic, in the sense of calling something to be out of nothing. But it is magic, in the sense of it being a sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic, to the other Middle Earth races. The Elves didn't use gizmos in order to achieve that level. Creativity and willpower were the technologies they used. They could take something from idea to physical form with much less of a problem than humans had. Like if an elf and Michaelangelo both saw a lump of stone, Mike might get 99% of it off of the beautiful statue underneath. But that elf would make it 100% perfect, because he knew the real properties of the stone.

2008-08-19, 07:11 AM
Essentially, Tolkien points that there are three different kinds of "magic" in Middle Earth: Lore, Subcreative Power and Sorcery.

The first is just a deeper understanding of the world. Maiars, Elves, Numenoreans and Dwarves were around for so damn long that they knew how to make some amazing stuff that hobbits and other simpletons believed to be "magic", although it was only really superb craftmanship. The Lorien cloaks, most (if not all) of the magical swords in Arda or the hidden gates of Moria are some examples of Lore at work.

The second refers to the native power of the entity. Only Ainur, Elves and the Numenoreans descended directly from Elros (who had some Maiar blood coming from Melian and quite a bit of elven blood in his ancestry) have this and it allows the user to change things within the boundaries set by the Ainulindale. This power can be depleted if abused, as happened to both Melkor and Sauron who used theirs to twist living things into the creatures of darkness that became their servants. The Rings of Power apparently enhanced and/or focused this particular department.

The third is evil stuff and probably also includes necromancy (which doesn't quite work like D&D necro, definitely). Melkor diminished his tremendous power by soaking all of Middle Earth with his evil and even after he got kicked out of creation, this taint remained and others learned to manipulate it to do magicky things that they shouldn't have been able to do naturally (like the Black Numenoreans). LOTR Necromancy doesn't involve the creation of zombies, but rather the control of spirits like those who animated the sentinel statues in Cirith Ungol or haunted the Barrow Downs since the days of the Witch King's reign in Angmar (well over a thousand years before the War of the Ring). Interestingly, these spirits are mostly Elven Spirits who refused to head West and over time became bodyless wraiths, tainted by their refusal to heed the summons of the Valar.

Anything else?