Like many of you, I have tried unsuccessfully to run a game that felt Tolkienesque in a variety of game systems. Here is how it would work perfectly in Fictive Hack. (And here’s a new template. Dhengellin)
DM: Okay, so let’s make some characters and do this thing. What do you want to make, and what do you want for an adventuring goal?
Hank: I want to be a bad-ass old wizard with a magic elf ring that lets me live forever.
DM: …okay, sure. So everybody else will get something really cool too. ::Hands Hank the wizard template.::
Carl: Awesome, Hank! You scored us mad starting loot! ::Awards Awesome Point::
Laura: Yeah! ::Awards Awesome Point:: And Carl, good reminder. ::Awards Awesome Point:: Now, I want to play a Viking dwarf.
DM: Great. ::Hands Laura the stonach template:: How about a name?
::Hank laughs and hands over an Awesome Point::
DM: Whatever. Hank, you think of a name?
Hank: Gandalf the Bad-Ass.
DM: Okay, Gandalf. Carl, what do you want to play?
Carl: So all these characters can fight and stuff, right? I mean, nobody is all like, “I can’t figure out how to use a sword!”
DM: Right. All the characters have the same rules for fighting, but talents can improve your options.
Carl: I want to play a little fat bastard.
DM: You can make your character look any way you want.
Carl: I want to play a midget.
DM: Okay, you can make a midget out of any of these templates.
Carl: Is there a midget template?
DM: ::Wordlessly hands Carl the Dhengellin template::
Hank: “Midget template.” You rule. ::Awards Awesome Point::
Laura: I want to be a king. I want a dwarf kingdom.
DM: A kingdom of dwarf Vikings.
DM: Tell you what. You can have 1d10 dwarf minions traveling with you. How is that?
Laura: Okay. And I can add more any time, right? Any time we find dwarves, they’ll be my followers?
DM: Okay, yeah. Roll it.
DM: …and you have to name them.
Hank: Okay I did my rolls. I want the “Menace” talent. Can I make people pee themselves?
DM: If you spend an Awesome Point, sure.
Hank: But does that mean I can’t, like, attack with magic? Even though I’m a wizard?
DM: Sure you can, for 3 Awesome Points. If your attack is awesome enough, the other players might give you more Awesome Points for doing it.
Hank: Like if I make a pine-cone grenade? Dude, can I make a pine-cone grenade?
DM: Yes. You might have to toss in another couple Awesome Points to make your magic attack do something cool.
Hank: Can I shoot out of my mouth and eyes?
DM: It can look however you want. Carl, how are you doing? Did you figure out what cool extra thing you wanted for your character?
Carl: Hah! My little dude can totally sense magical stuff. I’m going to get the best loot.
DM: So what do you want to start with?
Carl: I don’t know yet, I’m still figuring this guy out.
DM: Got a name?
Carl: Yeah. Dildo Bagsack.
DM: Well… you can name him that, but all the monsters will attack him first.
Hank: Dude, just rearrange it. Like Bilbo Dagdack.
Laura: Or Dong Baggins. We’ll know what you mean. You’re playing a midget tool.
::everyone laughs and gives Laura an Awesome Point::
Carl: Bilbo Baggins it is.
Laura: My character needs a good last name. I’m thinking “Inthethaddle.”
DM: “Thor in the thaddle?” Really?
Laura: “Thorin” for short.
::Awesome Points clatter to her.::
DM: Don’t give it all here. You still have ten dwarves to name.
Hank: I don’t need no stinking backpack. I do want a reach weapon. Like a magic staff!
DM: Would you rather have a magic staff than an elf ring that lets you live forever?
Hank: Hell no.
DM: Well, maybe a magic staff could be your adventuring motive.
Hank: Uh, I’ve got a busy month coming up. I’m not going to be able to make it all the time. Is that cool?
DM: We’ll work you in and out.
Laura: My adventuring motive is to kill a dragon and take its loot. With my army of dwarves.
DM: That’s very ambitious of you. The dragon is actually sitting in your mountain kingdom on all your stuff. Your bigger-than-I-expected band is the last of your subjects.
Laura: Scaly bastard.
DM: Apparently dwarves are fattening. The dragon is sleeping it off on your family loot.
Carl: My adventuring motive is to get a gem the size of my head! But I’m like this humdrum guy, this midget dude who likes his food and his house and doesn’t really want to go adventuring. ::thinks:: Actually, my adventuring goal is to get home alive.
DM: Noted. How about you, Hank?
Hank: Ride a giant eagle.
DM: Good one!
::Awesome Points slide to Hank as people laugh::
DM: Everybody got your attributes rolled? Picked out your starting talent? Got your starting gear?
DM: Okay. Bilbo, you’re sitting in your house in Bag End.
Carl: Nice. Oh, wait. What about my super-cool thing?
DM: Do you want to get it later in the adventure?
Carl: Only if it’s cooler than everyone else’s.
DM: Yeah, I can work with that. You’ll get the coolest magic thing, and it will be later in the adventure. We ready to get started?