Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dunadan and Numenoreans in 5e Dungeons and Dragons

Note: For this essay, I'm using the gender-neutral use of "Man" as a reference to the race as a whole. This goes along with the way Tolkien used the term and goes back to pre-Norman conquest Old English when mann simply meant human while wif and wer were the gender indicatives (female and male respectively)

The Dunadan of Tolkien's Middle Earth are one of the remnants of what are known as the Edain or High Men. They are remarkable for being much longer-lived than other races of Man and having gifts of foresight or the like. They are remarked as being taller and healthier than many other men and marked by a seeming of great intelligence and insight. Some of this is certainly due to the long traditions of maintaining lore and knowledge down through the generations but there is also a significant difference between the majority of the race of Man and the Numenoreans and Dunadan.Comments by Tolkien have indicated that Elf and Man would be considered the same species if examined by science. The difference between the two people is a spiritual one. 

Elves are tied to the fate of Arda, the world, they cannot leave it. Even in death the Elves' spirit simply retires to the Halls of Mandos to remain. Some information I have heard indicates that these spirits are eventually reborn in a sort of reincarnation. Regardless, the Elves will not leave Arda until Arda is no more. Man, by comparison, is not tied to the Fate of Arda. When they grow weary, they can leave and go to existences unknown and beyond the realm of the world. This is referred to as the Gift of Man. In the beginning, this gave Man the power to determine when, assuming they were not killed by violence or disease, they would leave this life and move onward. The spirits of Men are inherently desiring to eventually move on and see this world as only a brief stop over before moving onward.

Some think that Elves represent the concept of humans before the fall of Eden while the Men of Middle Earth represent the concept of humans after the fall, but this sort of hard and fast equivalency goes against Tolkien's professed dislike for allegory and specific meaning and also contradicts the language used. Death is specifically referred to as the gift granted to Men intended to be basically the equivalent of a quit or log out button so the individual could move on when they are weary of this life and desire something else. Morgoth, however, has corrupted the view of the Gift among Men and caused the mortals to fear what lies beyond the death and to see the death as a sort of punishment of some kind. 

My personal interpretation is that this fear increased the rate at which the spirit became weary of Middle Earth and the weariness of the spirit combined with the fact that they are not tied to Arda the way Elves are caused the body to start to fail and eventually they die. Aging being a sign of this internal anxiety even while the conscious mind wants to remain in this world. 

The difference between Elves and Men is very clear in the difference between whether they are tied to Arda or not and the Dunadan and Numenoreans are very clearly of the Race of Man. This is something that bothered them greatly. In fact Numenor was sunk due to the attempt by their fleets to invade Valinor under the mistaken belief that if they were to live in Valinor then they would be as immortal as the Elves. This was one of Sauron's many lies during the time he was still able to take on a pleasing shape. He simply wanted Numenor to destroy itself...even if they had successfully invaded, Tolkien has confirmed that living in Valinor does not confer immortality. Bilbo, Sam, Frodo and Gimli all eventually would die even though they would likely live to a ripe old age.

However due to the occasional intermarriages between Elf and Man, there are bloodlines on both sides that are different from the standard of their kind. For the Elves, this is typified by the Half-Elven bloodline and is very small in number owing to the rarity of Elf-Man relations and the infrequency with which Elves have children. For Men, this is the line of Numenor down through to the Dunadan. Both of these lines are also affected by descent from one of the Maiar, the immortal spirits that include Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Sauron and the Balrog.

When maiar take on a mortal form it is sort of like putting on a suit of clothing. For maiar like Gandalf, the mortal and physical form is inherently a temporary situation with both pleasures and dangers. Other maiar find the temptations and vulnerabilities of a mortal form to be uncomfortable and prefer to remain as bodiless spirits. Other maiar become engrossed in the wonder of being able to interact with the world through a body and become increasingly tied to their physical form and hesitate to abandon it. Then there are maiar like Sauron and the Balrog as well as their master Morgoth who have turned against Eru and know that if their physical form is destroyed that they will not be granted the privilege of taking on a new one and fear the judgment they would face once they were stripped bare before Eru.

It is important to note however, that the physical forms of maiar are essentially mortal creatures. For example, Melian takes on the body of an Elven lady during the period she lived with Thingol. During this time she had all the physical and emotional qualities of any other Elf. As such, the effects of her blood twinning through the bloodlines of Elrond and Elros is uncertain. Genetically speaking, the body she held was the same as that of the Elves and Men, but she is spiritually distinct from both Men and Elves and spiritual characteristics are at least partially inherited in Tolkien's Middle Earth. It is notable that the line of Elves and Men from Melian's descent are notably prone to great insight, foresight, gifts of healing and great charisma. This is true even of the individuals that are most blinded by pride, greed and arrogance such as the latter kings of Numenor.

All told, the Numenoreans and Dunadan are a touched race. Of the various races within D&D they seem to have the most in common with the Aasimar or the original concept of the Tiefling (before they got standardized as Hellboy look-a-likes). As such that is likely the best model to use. In this case, the Aasimar from the DMG is the best basic model. However, the spells granted by the Celestial Legacy trait on Aasimar are notably very flashy which is not the usual for Tolkien style magic. 

In keeping with the concepts of insight and charisma that characterizes the line of Melian it might be better to replace Light with Guidance, though I think maybe Friends for Black Numenoreans to represent their tendency to corrupt others. Lesser Restoration fits the healing touch of the pure Numenoreans, but for the Black Numenoreans, Command might fit better. Daylight is way too flashy, but Calm Emotions works great for the pure and loyal Numenoreans while Suggestion might work best for the corrupting ways of Black Numenoreans and other such fallen races.

It is tempting to suggest that they do not suffer the frailties of age, but that was a characteristic held only by Aragorn who was possibly the last of Men to embrace the Gift of Man as it was meant to be.

As to Darkvision, I am of two minds about it. The Dunadan and Numenoreans aren't specifically noted as having superior physical visions in the same way Elves are, but on the other hand they aren't noted as not having such abilities either. It would be easiest to leave it untouched, but I think I'll replace it with a racial proficiency in Insight.

As such, the races would look like this: 

Dunadan or Loyal Numenoreans


Ability Score Increase: Wisdom +1, Charisma +2

Age: Dunadan can live up to two hundred years or longer.

Alignment: The Dunadan are mostly of Good alignment due to their long traditions and increasing scarcity making it easier to keep temptation and corruption to a minimum.

Size: Dunadan are medium creatures.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 ft.

Soul Perception: Dunadan have proficiency in Insight.

Resilient Soul: You are resistant to Necrotic and Radiant damage.

Line of Melian: You know the cantrip Guidance. At 3rd level you can cast the spell Lesser Restoration once. At 5th level you can cast the spell Calm Emotions once as a 3rd Level spell once. These abilities are regained after a Long Rest.

Languages: You speak Common and Adunaic


Black Numenoreans


Ability Score Increase: Wisdom +1, Charisma +2

Age: Numenoreans can live up to two hundred years or longer.

Alignment: The Black Numenoreans are mostly of Evil alignment due to their long connections to the service of Sauron and the worship of Morgoth.

Size: Numenoreans are medium creatures.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 ft.

Soul Perception: Dunadan have proficiency in Insight.

Resilient Soul: You are resistant to Necrotic and Radiant damage.

Pupils of Sauron: You know the cantrip Friends. At 3rd level you can cast the spell Command once. At 5th level you can cast the spell Suggestion once as a 3rd Level spell once. These abilities are regained after a Long Rest.

Languages: You speak Common and Adunaic.

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