Balrogs and Bagginsess (‘B&B’) is a set of rules for table-top roleplaying in the world of Tolkein’s Middle Earth. The game is based closely on the mechanics and statistics of the Original, Basic and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons family of games (O, B and AD&D). These games are widely available, understood and loved, and the author believes they present an excellent (if often unappreciated) format for adventure roleplaying in Middle Earth. B&B can be thought of as a short set of conversion notes for Middle Earth campaigns using the spells, monsters, magic items and other materials available through previous Dungeons and Dragons games.
Nevertheless, B&B differs in several important respects from published editions of D&D: most noticeably, it lacks rigidly defined character classes, replacing them instead with the more flexible and setting-appropriate notions of ‘roles’, which are more flexible concepts that combine character race, homeland and occupation. Also, characters do not have alignments; instead ‘traits’ provide the mechanism for describing a character’s loves, hates and other passions. The list of spells available in the game and sorts of characters capable of learning them differ from official editions of D&D. There are a number of smaller and greater changes in the rules governing attack, defense, spell casting, saving throws, healing and other detailed mechanical issues. Noteworthy influences include Pendragon, Prince Valiant, The Fantasy Trip, Tunnels and Trolls, and 3rd and 4th (and even 5th) edition D&D. Nevertheless, most of these changes are transparent during play: the actual flow of action and most of the rolls made during a game closely resemble early editions of D&D.
Two things about these rules may be controversial (at least, among those interested to read them!): Many gamers believe magic in Middle Earth should be subtle and mostly out of the hands of player characters. I believe the action and spirit of the books are actually captured quite well by the magic of D&D, provided one judiciously prunes the spell lists to remove powers that are clearly out of step with the setting and re-organizes into groups of powers that resemble iconic character types in the stories. A more technical argument might be made with my choice to make B&B compatible with Basic and Advanced D&D rather than one of the more tightly engineered modern editions. This comes down to a question of taste: the author is old, mentally frayed and prone to nostalgia, and so pre-3rd edition forms of the game are a natural personal choice. These editions also have a more whimsical tone and flexible approach to rules. I believe both of these characteristics can help gaming groups explore their
understanding of Tolkien’s worlds through free-form roleplaying rather than a rigid set of mechanics. Note that in making this choice I’ve forced on the readers the long-debated descending scale for armor class used in pre-3rd editions of D&D. If this is simply too difficult or aesthetically distasteful for you to accept, I’m giving you one last chance to set down this book or close your pdf reader and walk away.
The monsters, spells and magic items for Balrogs and Bagginses are directly from or closely patterned after previous editions of Basic and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This mechanical compatibility with previous editions means groups can freely import incorporate content from previous editions consistent with their own vision of the setting. Shambling mounds in the Old Forest? Lurker’s Above in the Underdeeps? A deck of many things in Saruman’s library? You won’t find these things explicitly included in this volume, but if you wish to include them in your campaign, knock yourself out!