As weird as it sounds, I like to play the other side in RPG stories, or at least, design how to play.

In old MERP PCs could be of the Middle Earth evil races (orcs, half-orcs, uruks, trolls, half-trolls and ologs). As it happened with more normal races, those weren't balanced (a Noldo elf being much better than a human).

When I have thought of making the races available in other systems (like Decipher's Lord of the Rings or The One Ring) I always find the problem of balancing. Since all races are balanced in those games, I'd like to make those races also balanced, but I don't know why, since uruks seem to be way better than orcs (sunlight resistant, stronger and even smarter).

I know those games aren't designed for evil characters, that you are supposed to play heroes and such. I don't care. What I want to know is: how would you balance orcs and uruks if you had to, in any game? Which advantages would you give to orcs or what disadvantage would uruks have?


2 Answers 2


The Math Side

Digging through the cultures for the underlying math...

Each culture presently released (Barding, Beorning, Lake-Men, Woodmen of the Wild, Woodmen of the Mountain, Shire Hobbits, Wild Hobbits, Mirkwood Elves, Iron Mountain Dwarves) is built with the following:

Each culture has base attributes of 1/3/4 - but these are never shown. Each culture has 29 "points" of skills:
Rank 1 is 1 point
Rank 2 is 2 more points, total 3
Rank 3 is 3 more points after rank 2, for a total of 6 points.

Each culture so far totals either 38 or 40 when you sum End + 2x Hope
Each culture so far has two packages of weapon skills; each has a rank 2 weapon skill, a rank 1 weapon skill, and dagger 1.
Each Culture favors two common skills.
Each Culture except for hobbits favors one weapon skill OR offers a broad skill. Each Culture has 6 Specialty Traits.
Each culture has 2 favored and one uncommon calling. Each Culture has 5-6 Virtues (5 at release; several have an additional added in supplements)
Each Culture has 0-3 Rewards. (Wild Hobbits have no rewards; the rest have three.)

Each background adds a 1/2/3 to the base atts. This generates each atts being one of: 2/5/7, 2/6/6, 3/4/7, 3/5/6, 4/4/6, 4/5/5
Each background favors one skill.
Each background has 8 Distinctive Features traits.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In case anyone is looking at this to build their own culture, it is worth noting that every culture has one trait which is available to all backgrounds. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 7, 2016 at 19:25

There were two typical balancing factors in MERP (and indeed Rolemaster) for races that have better stat bonuses, hit points and so on.

  • Background points. Races such as Elves typically only receive one, races like goblins can receive five or six. These are very versitile options for character creation to give you additional bonuses to skills, magical items, royalty links (depending on system options) and so on.

  • Soul departure time. To a lesser degree those races (especially in Tolkiens world) with superior stats also were longer lived, however when they started dying they were not long for this world. Races such as humans and goblins stayed around much longer when they were dying. This is probably harder to manage.

For The One Ring I'd suggest superior races like Uruks receive reduced points for character customisation (compare how elves vs. humans are generated perhaps) or lower hope points to balance out their superior lineage/statistics.


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