"The Lord of the Rings" is a bit different from your typical DnD setting (which is funny given how much DnD is based on Tolkeen's work). It is pretty low magic, yet at the same time magic is constantly talked about or the after-effects are felt. There is not a lot of high-level combat, The Alexandrian has an awesome article about "D&D: Calibrating Your Expectations" that posits Aragorn would be only a 5th level character in 3rd edition. And there is a lot of traveling and talking, two things most DnD versions have some troubles making interesting. So I have been pleasantly surprised that AiME (as I'll be calling it) does a very good job with bringing the feel of Middle-Earth to Dungeons and Dragons, and I've been playing the adventures from one of it's campaign books ("Wilderland Adventures") which have been pretty well written (though, being me I've tweaked them in a few places).
Quickly though, let me get the few things I have not been so fond of out of the way first.
The classes are very much the standard DnD 5th classes, with only a few tweaks. This does suck, I would have loved to see them try to build some new classes the might tie in better to the setting.
There are no magic user classes, but there is a chapter in the Lore-master's Guide that talks about which spells from 5th could work - which leads to my second minor complaint: nothing from the 5th edition books are re-printed. So you'd have to take the list of spells and then pull out the 5th ed Players' Handbook and work out the details yourself - same goes for skills and basic game rules. I can see why they did this, it keeps their books smaller and thus cheaper, so it isn't a bad thing, but it is annoying to need to carry extra books at times.
They did not really incorporate tool proficiencies. This is a real pain, and again I think I get why. In the original 5th edition books there was very, very little about tool proficiencies - kinda stupid since they make up half of the skill system. It wasn't until years after 5th was released, with Xanathar's Guide to Everything that 5th got some good tool proficiency rules. So this is really a ding at the 5th edition team for releasing incomplete systems, but the AME guys didn't try to fix it or patch it, they just dropped tools altogether, which can make for some tricky moments at the table.
My only real complaints at the Wilderland Adventures campaign is that a lot of the adventures have a "cut-scene" moment, where stuff has to happen to further the plot. I don't like that personally, all of the things described were things that the party could notice and interrcept, so I played them differently at my table. Again, not a huge issue, some GMs really don't care about cut-scening the party, and it's easy enough to fix in your head. And the adventures are meant to be only loosely connected, so you could run them as one-shots or weave them into your own larger campaign narrative, but the AME team didn't put in a sidebar here and there about how to tighten the adventures if you did want to follow their storyline, again quite fixable but something I wish they had addressed.
So as you can see, overall my only complaints about the system are pretty minor things.
There are a few new mechanics the AME team imported from their previous game, and I do think they are good additions to the 5th collection, but I also thing that all of them need some tweaking to make them really shine. These I'm going to mention here, but I'll be covering in more depth in the posts to come:
- Some extra travel mechanics that cover how dangerous the terrain is, put the party in fairly clearly defined roles, and handles random encounters.
- Audience mechanics that expand on talking to people.
- Shadow/ corruption mechanics for being exposed to frightening and evil things/ situations.
- And a few other odds and ends.
You can find the rest of this series here