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In Lord of the Rings canon, elvish swords glow brightly when an orc is near. And Uruk-hai are just a kind of orc.

In the campaign I'm running, orcs and Uruk-hai are allowed as player characters. One of the PCs is an Uruk who found and grabbed an elvish sword in a dungeon.

How would you manage the situation?

The options I see are:

  1. The sword will always glow brightly when held by this PC (and of course cause problems when trying to hide).
  2. The sword will get accustomed to its new master and slowly stop glowing for him, but continue doing so for any other orcs that get near.
  3. Ignore that the sword should glow.
  4. Use my power as Game Master to make sure the sword gets destroyed or stolen during an adventure.

EDIT

Given the answers and comments received, and before I comment on anything myself or chose an answer.

(By the way, very good answers and comments up to now)

The Uruk at hand is not an evil character. Campaign takes place around 1000 Fourth Age and most Uruk-hai tribes, free from the will of Sauron, have indeed found their own way. Some warring against Good, some extint, some just stealing and surviving and some have collectively found a redemption path, working as mercenaries for the Restored Kingdom of Gondor (which includes Mordor and some lands to its north now). Now, 1000 years after LotR, the PC belongs to the last group and is strong, sturdy, ruthless and brutal, but not evil. His small team (half the group) is almost as if it were its tribe (a Mormenumenadan, a Rohir and an East Man), and the Mayor from the City is his Master.

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Boredom dictates I point out that while Tolkien's word-choice is a little inconsistent orcs and goblins are supposedly the same thing. Uruk-hai, meanwhile, are not in-fact "half-orcs" but the offspring of orcs and "goblin-men" (who supposedly are half-orcs) so they're more like 3/4 orcs. Interesting side-note, orc were corrupted by Morgoth, not Sauron. And although Morgoth is bound Fenris-style according to Christopher's analysis of his father's manuscripts the whole of Arda is Morgoth's "One Ring" so an argument could be made for continued evilness. YMMV. "It's your game." –  Wesley Obenshain Jun 27 at 8:01

2 Answers 2

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Your assertion that all elven sword glow bright is incorrect. Some, very rare ones, do. Most of them do not, they are "just" swords. Several times within the Silmarilion, elves are successfully ambushed by orcs. But let's assume that the your Uruk find one of the magical elven blades.

As a side note, I view magical items in Tolkien's work as an expression of their maker's willpower, feelings, and capture of natural phenomena. For example, the One Ring was imbued with Sauron's will to dominate. The Silmarils were imbued with Feanor's love the light of the Trees. You might or might not agree with me but debating this is outside the scope of this answer. So, whether the sword is "intelligent" or not is irrelevant from my point of view.

I would rule that the sword shines to warn its user that orcs are around. It does so because it was forged by a power elf that instilled their hatred of orcs into the sword. It is that hate that powers the sword. It is that hate, and maybe the desire to protect those that yield it that cause it to shine.

So, now it has been taken by something it hates... I would rule that the sword will do its uttermost to kill the carrier: increase fumbles range, brightness at inappropriate times, and that kind of things. Those should be as major or minor as you think. I'd base it on whoever forged the sword -- you know who that is, right?

Now, can the Uruk character convinced the sword that is it a good guy? Can they show the sword that they are reformed, looking at their lost origins and trying to reclaim their true uncorrupted nature? Suddenly, there is a story arc for that player. There's depth. It no longer is "an elven sword" but possibly redemption for the character.

Now, what is the Uruk character were happy to be evil? What is their hate started to override the sword's? Slowly but surely corrupting the sword until it became a twisted, corrupt, thing of darkness. That would work too and leave it nicely open ended so your player can chose where they go with it.

TL;DR

Use the sword as a way to enhance the story you tell.

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The sword won't do any of those things if it's not intelligent. If it's "just" a magical sword imbued with the power to glow when orcs are near as a warning then it may well just glow as it was built to. Then again, Uruk-hai are a new breed or orcs created by Sauruman by breeding orcs and men. The sword may not glow in the presence of Uruk-hai, instead only glowing for Mordor orcs and the goblins from Moria. I can't remember if the book establishes a precedent for this. –  Haegin Jun 26 at 15:13
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I think the beauty of this answer is you don't need a precedent, though. You can simply say "this is how it is - the sword gets its light from the hate". The only counter argument is... aren't Uruk full of hate anyway, so it would still glow? But I digress a tad. I love the idea of handwaving on this, as long as you're consistent with it. –  corsiKa Jun 26 at 15:18
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Concerning sentience of the weapon - a rising tide is not intelligent but it will always find a way around a barrier. Electrons are not intelligent but will always follow the path of least resistance. –  Gusdor Jun 27 at 7:50
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@Sardathrion Anduril is reforged from the shards of Narsil which was of dwarven make, so there's that. The other thing is that both Narsil and Anduril glowed anyway... "Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen." and "The sword of Elendil filled Orcs and Men with fear, for it shone with the light of the sun and of the moon, and it was named Narsil." –  Wesley Obenshain Jun 27 at 7:53
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@Haegin Although Saruman created his own breed of Uruk-hai, Saruman did not create the Uruk-hai. That was in the movies. –  Flamma Jun 27 at 8:22

A lot of weaponry in Rolemaster and MERP is "aligned" to good or evil, if a character/NPC attempts to wield them then bad things can happen, like being struck with permanent Pain spells until they get rid of them, or even Absolution, only the power powerful weaponry (as Sardathrion says) will glow however.

What is just as important, however, is the social significance of the blades; Elven weapons are a huge deal to orcs and goblins, they hate them as much as they hate the Elves themselves and an orc wielding a blade like that is going to get a lot of stick (read, other orcs trying to kill them) for carrying around such a hated weapon.

For MERP depending on the power of the blade (+5 unlikely, +25 definately) the orcish wielder would have some kind of discomfort, fumbling, spells cast on them, etc when using something that's basically designed to kill their own race.

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Wouldn't an orc get great pleasure from an elf being slain with an elven blade? –  corsiKa Jun 26 at 15:15
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You'd have to ponder wether the delicious irony weighs more in orc ethics than the sheer repulsiveness of wielding a weapon (a Magic weapon, too) forged by the enemy. –  Nigralbus Jun 26 at 16:12
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@Nigralbus Uruk-hai are just the sort to relish that kind of pain-for-purpose trade, but only the most badass of them have the discipline to endure years of pain and the perception of betrayal of its own kind for that kind of payoff. Which is to say I agree, and it would be a mark of extreme cussedness for an Uruk to do it! –  SevenSidedDie Jun 26 at 18:29
    
I am unable to find anything in MERP about weapons (or any object) being aligned to good or evil. This is 1984 Red Book from ICE, I do not know about 1991 LotRAG or 2002 LotRRG or 2011 TOR. –  Envite Jun 27 at 7:48
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I must remember that in The Lord of the Rings, an Uruk-hai chieftain and a Snaga start a battle over for get who will own a chainmail (that appears to be made for an elven prince), so, I wouldn't say they're above using elven weaponry. –  Flamma Jun 27 at 8:46

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