What If: The Doom Of The Rings

The first setting idea I'd like to share is something I thought about many years ago and concerns prof. Tolkien's Middle-earth. I must admit that I am of mixed feelings towards the Middle-earth myself. I admire the work prof. Tolkien put into creating a complex, living world with rich history. I like Hobbit and even Silmarillion even more but The Lord Of The Rings not so much to say the least. There are reasons why it's parody was titled Bored Of The Rings, after all. My stance towards the trilogy somewhat warmed recently, thanks to fine work done by Turbine with their The Lord Of The Rings Online game.

Many years ago, after reading The Last Ringbearer, I started to think about Middle-earth game that would twist the story a bit. Not nearly as much as The Last Ringbearer, but a bit. Primary concern was the timing, I didn't wanted to place it prior to or during the events of The Lord Of The Rings because I don't like players messing up with existing story (depends upon particular setting, in Star Wars Expanded Universe I am more lenient, for example) but placing it afterward would be a bit pointless. After some thought I considered tweaking the ending of the trilogy for the purpose of the game setting - it is one of the rare occasions when I even considered that because I prefer to leave book worlds as they are and instead play in worlds designed as game settings instead. There are plenty of those for anyone who needs a world to play and can't (or won't) create his own.

The basic premise of The Doom Of The Rings setting is that neither Gandalf nor rest of the Council Of Elrond anticipated the possible fallout of The One Ring's destruction. When it finally fell into the fires of the Mount Doom, the great power bound within was unleashed. It did shattered the vestiges of Sauron's physical form, nullifying his ability to influence the world, as planned. The power didn't disperse harmlessly, however. Instead it rushed toward the most suitable receptacles - the remaining rings of power. The surge of unbound sorcery immediately empowered the lesser rings and their bearers. This freed the Ringwraiths from their servitude toward the now powerless Sauron and revived the discorporated Witch-King of Angmar. Even the bearers of the Three, free of corruption until now, had to wrestle with temptation of power. The sudden disappearance of the Sauron's will driving them routed the orc army during the Battle of Morannon. Only the eruption of Mount Doom stopped the Free People from invading Mordor. Without the guidance of Gandalf, who was struggling with Narya, trying to overcome the sudden influx of power, the army under the command of Aragorn returned to Gondor, unprepared to venture into the barren lands while the rain of volcanic ash ignited spontaneous fires and poisoned already scarce supplies of water.

While the Free People celebrated the victory and vanquishing of the ancient threat, the Nazgul, much more tangible and capable of greater interaction with physical world than previously, spread across the Middle-earth driven by their rekindled ambition, greed and arrogance. Each of them sought out a seat of power and mustered orcs, trolls, dark men, and corrupted spirits under its banner. Reborn Witch-king returned to Angmar where his servants were already marshaling evil forces. One Nazgul came to dwell in Fornost, one in Dol Guldur and another moved to the depths of Moria determined to subjugate native goblins and slaughter returned dwarves. Three divided Mordor between themselves in uneasy alliance bent on ravaging Gondor. Eighth of the Ringwraiths claimed the throne of Umbar. The last one remains unaccounted for, an enigmatic threat lurking in the shadows, bidding its time for a decisive move.

Saruman, still at fraction of his former power and trapped within the walls of Orthanc, never left for Shire. Instead, he subtly manipulates events in Rohan pitting the Rohirrim against Dunlendings and trying to undermine the horselords' loyalty to Gondor. His agents roam the Eregion and Rhovanion spreading unrest, seeding betrayals, forging alliances and, above all, seeking items of power that would restore their master's might.

Gandalf managed to reject the temptation of empowered Narya and vanished after Aragorn's coronation, presumably recalled to the West for his mission was complete. Some, however, speculate that he decided to stay in Middle-earth against the wishes of might Valar, to advise the Men and Elves in their battles against the remaining forces of the Shadow.

Lothlorien struggles, flanked by goblins of Moria and orcs of Dol Guldur. The elven realm is protected by the power of Nenya but its continuous use strains the spirit of Galadriel and pushes her slowly into madness. Rivendell is harried by goblins, trolls and hillsfolk beholden to Angmar as well, but nowhere near as hard as Lorien so Elrond is forced to draw on Vilya's power to much lesser degree than Galadriel.

Gondor, under the rule of newly crowned Elessar Telcontar, is subject to the raids of Mordor orcs, Haradrim tribes and Umbar corsairs. The main forces of the kingdom are tied in Ithillien, preventing the hordes of Mordor from overwhelming the southern kindgom.

Men of Bree and hobbits of Shire, while relatively isolated from the greatest dangers, are still haunted by marauding servants of evil. Roaming groups of bandits, goblins and giant spiders cross the borders of once peaceful lands.

Rangers Of The North wage many small but vicious battles through the Eregion but their primary concern is retaking ancient cities of Annuminas and Fornost while preventing Angmarim from conquering the North.

Dwarven expedition slowly reclaimed Moria from the hands of various orc tribes but their progress was stopped and partly reversed when the denizens of the depths were rallied by one of the Ringwraiths who choose Moria as his new domain. Now, the dwarves must fight with all their might and fortitude to hold what they managed to retake.

Free people all around the Middle-earth need courage and valor to eradicate the forces of evil and make the way for the Forth Age to come.

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