Playstorming Embarkation Tweaks in Adventures in Middle-earth

Adventures in Middle-earth from Cubicle 7

update: I posted this to Reddit, and there have been some great comments.

I’ve been on a deep dive into the Adventures of Middle-Earth. Originally attracted to the , I’m wondering about the design goals of the Journey system.

Let’s review the Journey Rules

  • Players assign tasks and plan route.
  • Loremaster determines Peril Rating of the journey.
  • The Guide makes an Embarkation Roll: 1d12 modified by the Guide’s Survival proficiency bonus plus half their Wisdom bonus minus the Peril Rating.
  • The Loremaster either relays the result, or optionally hints at it.
  • Determine the number of Journey Events.
  • Events are played through, noting down the result for reference.
  • The Arrival roll (d8) is made, and results are applied.

Before I get started in breaking down the sub-system, I definitely want to say that I like the goal of this system: Make Journey’s meaningful relative to other aspects of play.

Digging In

I want to dig into “The Guide makes an Embarkation Roll”, and its odd formula:

  • 1d12 plus
  • Guide’s Survival Proficiency bonus (without Wisdom modifier) plus
  • 1/2 Wisdom bonus minus
  • Peril Rating (between 1 and 5)

With the Embarkation roll, you consult a table with a range of 1 or below upto 12 and above. The lower half is detremental to the party’s Journey rolls, the upper half is positive.

The most naive 1st level Player-hero (-1 Wis modifier) with no Survival proficiency travelling the most perilous route will have a -6 to their roll. Everything will go bad. If they take an easy journey, they’ll have a -2 to their roll: a 33% chance of a positive Embarkation.

The most skilled 1st level Player-hero (+3 Wis modifier) with Survival proficiency and Expertise (as an Open Cultural Trait) travelling the most perilous route will have a +0 to their roll (+3/2 +4 - 5). If they make an easy journey, they’ll have a +4 to their roll: an 84% chance of a positive Embarkation.

Once that skilled 1st level Player-hero bumps proficiency bonus (and Wisdom perhaps), they’ll have at least a +6 to their roll on the easiest terrain and at least a +2 for the most perilous journey.

Sifting Through

I’m not quite certain where to go from here. I suspect the design intention of the Embarkation, Journey, and Arrival mini-game is that journeys might grind you down. You’re not rolling for random encounters, nor really tracking rations, but instead playing the mini-game to see how travel goes.

Below is an initial pass at capturing what appears to be the intention of the Embarkation rules.

This procedure breaks the Embarkation roll into two separate rolls. First roll on the Guide’s Difficulty Class (DC 🔍) for Starting off on a Journey table.

Table 110: Guide’s DC for Starting off on a Journey
TerrainSurvival DC

Looking at the page 77 of the System Reference Document: Fifth Edition (SRD5 🔍), I chose to split the difference between task difficulty.

On success the Game Master (GM 🔍) will roll 1d6+6 and consult the Adventures of Middle-earth Embarkation Table to determine the result. On a failure, the GM will roll 1d6 and consult the same table. I wonder if there should be a modifier for failing/succeeding by 5 or more; Perhaps a ±1 to the d6 roll? Or roll the d6 with disadvantage/advantage?

The end result is the Embarkation table is preserved, but the roll cleaves closer to the rules of the basic game.