Middle Earth - Mannish Cultures

I made this years ago, but only rediscovered it. Some of it needs work, but I thought some might find it useful.

MEN, The Secondborn


Also called Beijabar or Bajaegahar, this dispersed group of large men has a confused origin. They are a Northmen branch related to the Woodmen, Lake-men, and Dale-men of Rhovanion, although they apparently became distinct in elder times, probably before the Northman migrations out of Eriador. Their numbers are few and some have distinguished them as a clan rather than a separate people. Culturally, and to some degree physically, however, they are unique.

Common Traits: Hairy (Applies only to males), Big Boned, Friend of the Wild (No animal will attack a Beorning unless actively provoked), Less Sleep (The Beornings need sleep only twice every three days)

Cultural Traits: Thundering Laugh (The Beornings do enjoy laughing, drinking, and singing, when the situation permits)

Note: Beorning lords have the ability to shape-change into large Bears whenever desired. “Shape-change” is a skill which they possess, and the difficulty of changing is dependent upon the stressfulness of the current situation. It takes a great deal of concentration to shift into Bear-form and at least 3 minutes of time.

Black Numenoreans

Common Traits: Diminished Blood (Despite betraying the Valar and the Elves, the Unfaithful still possess some of the nobility of their ancestral origins. This is reflected in their looks and bearing, which are often impressive. +1 to Mental pool, Health +1), Diminished Longevity (The Black Numenoreans use the normal human aging chart, their Physical aging penalties are reduced by 2)

Cultural Traits: Racist (Black Numenorean culture teaches that their race is superior to all others and destined to rule Middle-earth)


Common Traits: Diminished Blood (Though the Corsairs’ origins lay with the Numenoreans, they have mingled with other races such as the Haradrim. +1 to Mental pool, Health +1)

Cultural Traits: Skygazers (Many Corsairs have grown up with an excellent knowledge of the sky. They can often tell if the weather is changing, and know most of the constellations and star names by heart), Lore of the Sea (The Corsairs operate many ships and most youth are at least familiar with the art of seafaring. They receive one free skill that involves the sea; Ship-building, Fishing, etc.)


Common Traits: None

Cultural Traits: Riverfolk (The Dorwinrim live in an area of Eriador very close to the Sea of Rhun with all of its rivers. They are very adept at navigating rivers).


Common Traits: Blood of Numenor (The true remnants of the West in Middle-earth. The Dunedain have a noble look and demeanor which are the envy of lesser men. +1 to Physical pool, +1 to Mental pool, Health +1, Steele +1), Longevity (The Dunedain use the modified “Numenorean Age Chart”), Bright Eyes (The eyes of the Dunedain glitter like starlight, allowing some of the ancient Elven heritage to sneak into the mortal realm)

Cultural Traits: Prejudiced (Many Dunedain have come to despise the Black Numenoreans and the Corsairs), Bulwark of the West (The Dunedain have long protected the West from the Enemy. For some this is a source of pride and nobility, for others it has become a source of contention), Elf-friend (Most Elves have a favorable, if somewhat sad, view on the Dunedain)


Common Traits: None

Cultural Traits: Hatred of the Straw-heads (Nearly all of the Dunlendings hate the Rohirrim, for they forced their people off of their ancestral lands and into the hills), Animated (The Dunlendings are a people that wear their emotions on their sleeve, for better or worse), Mountaineers (Living in the hills and mountains have taught the Dunlendings a thing or two about the mountains, and how to climb them)


Common Traits: None
Cultural Traits: Horsemen (Almost all Easterlings are trained in some form of horsemanship. They are automatically granted the Riding skill), Under the Sway of the Shadow (The Easterlings have been under the influence of Sauron for many generations. +1 Ob to all Will checks), Nomads (The Easterlings are a nomadic people and have gathered a great deal of lore concerning the lands immediately east of Rhovanion).


Common Traits: Short (Most Haradrim are shorter than their northern brethren), Bright Vision (Haradrim are used to the blinding glare of the desert, and are not easily dazed by bright flashes or similar displays), Desert Endurance (Haradrim have adapted well to the desert and can travel great distances with little water. They are slowly little by sand. However, they operate poorly in cold climates. -1 Ob to Forte checks while in temperatures above 90˚ F and +1 Ob while in temperatures below 32˚ F.

Cultural Traits: Suspicious of the North (Sauron and his agents have sown suspicion of the north into the culture of the Haradrim)


Common Traits: Short (Most Lossoth are shorter than their southern brethren, with males averaging 5’5 and females 5’3), Rugged (Forodwaith is an unforgiving environment. The Lossoth have adapted well and they are a tough people. They can travel long distances with little food or rest), Keen Sense of Smell (The Lossoth can smell a man or animal a mile downwind and 100 feet upwind)

Cultural Traits: Fear of Darkness (Elements of their culture have taught them that the dark holds a great many evil things), Generous (Lossoth culture teaches that generosity is an absolute necessity in such a savage environment), Nomads (The Lossoth are a nomadic people and have gathered a great deal of lore concerning the lands of Forodwaith).


Common Traits: Yellow Hair

Cultural Traits: Horse-Masters (Almost all Rohirrim are trained in some form of horsemanship. They are automatically granted the Riding skill and can improve this skill or obtain any related skills during any phase of their lifepath), Hatred of the Dunlendings (Nearly all of the Rohirrim hate the Dunlendings, whom they see as savage barbarians), Lore of the Riddermark (The Rohirrim are a semi-nomadic people, and they know their own lands very well)


Common Traits: None

Cultural Traits: Warmongers (The Variags have long been under the sway of Sauron and have are at constant warfare with their neighbors. +1 to Steel), Under the Shadow’s Sway (The Variages have been under the influence of Sauron for many generations. +1 Ob to all Will checks), Horsemen (Almost all Variags are trained in some form of horsemanship. They are automatically granted the Riding skill), Hatred of the West (Sauron has taught these people to hate the West and all it stands for)


Common Traits: Stocky (Woodmen tend to have a stocky build), Bearded (Almost all Woodmen males have thick beards)

Cultural Traits: Lore of Mirkwood (The Woodmen have long dwelt in Mirkwood and know its secret beauties and terrors well), Tree-Climbers (The Woodmen are quite adept at scaling trees. -1 Ob to Climbing when the target is a tree), Reclusive (The Woodmen value their privacy and do not like outsiders).


Common Traits: Stunted (Woses average only 4’ – 5’), Beardless (Woses cannot grow beards), Keen Sense of Smell (On an open field they can smell an Orc before another man can see him), Keen Sight, Distinctive Appearance (Woses have a very distinctive appearance, and this tends to draw attention to them if they are spotted outside of their natural habitats)

Cultural Traits: Wood-craft (The Woses learn to carve and shape wood at an early age. -1 Ob to all Wood-craft checks, which is a skill they automatically obtain), Reclusive (Woses wish to be left alone and do not like to contact outsiders), Loyal (Woses have a deep sense of loyalty to those they befriend)

1 Like

I don’t have time to read this all in detail, but let me give it a provisional thumbs up. Can some peeps playtest and burn up some characters with these rules?

Can you post the “Numenorean Age Chart”? This looks really cool, but my knowledge of ME isn’t enough to appreciate all of it. (What the heck are Woses?)

I also have a question about these traits. Some of the traits look like die traits or call-ons but you don’t specify what they are. Keen sense of smell is a die trait from the MoBu if I’m not mistaken, but you haven’t listed it as one here. Others I’m not so sure about - for instance, is Bright Vision a die trait, a call-on, or just a character trait that a player might use to lobby for an advantage die?

Hi Jim,

All good questions. I actually first wrote this waaaay back when I got my Burning Wheel original printing. However, since I’m currently running a Middle-earth game I think I’ll go ahead and update these and add in some more detail.

Woses are kind of like the original autochthonus men.

A bit like Neanderthals after the Cromagnon entered Europe. They are “more naturalistic”. They are squat, stealthy, covered with tattoos and using blowguns. They have a magical connection to carved statues. They are an “other” in the story. They come forward and “save the day” at one point in the story.

They seem to me to be a cross between mythic picts and faeries.

I needed this!! My group are ready to give Burning Wheel a go, and the vote so far is for a Middle-earth setting. We’re burning up characters on Sunday. I have tons of MERP and the new One Ring game that I’ll be using for reference.

If I may ask, why not just run “The One Ring”? It seems like an ok game (tho the systems in BWG seem like more fun). :slight_smile:

If I may ask, why not just run “The One Ring”? It seems like an ok game (tho the systems in BWG seem like more fun).

It does seem decent. But, the main goal of this game is to give Burning Wheel a go (rather than just do a Middle-earth game) since I’m very heavily invested in reading the books over the past few months. I can see The One Ring being very successfully Tolkien-esque in how it runs and plays, but nowhere near the level of breadth and detail possible with BWG, which is also very Tolkien-esque.

Gotcha. Can’t wait to read how it went!