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Contest: Ring-maker Winner!

by on November 26, 2014

Picking a winner for the Ring-maker contest was incredibly difficult. That’s not just a tired cliche or something I have to say either; there were quite a few cards that were worthy winners and I’m sad that I can only choose one. That being said, I won’t drag out the process any longer. The winner of the Ring-maker contest here at Tales from the Cards is Patrick B. with his Last of the Seven. Those who have seen my own card designs in the First Age expansion know that I have a special fondness for cards that involve some element of risk-taking. Here, we have an amazing resource generation effect, but one that comes with a great risk. It is also well designed in that it prevents scrying from providing an easy way out. The connection to theme is fantastic, with a strong connection to the idea of the Dwarven rings generating wealth but potentially inviting disaster. Finally, Patrick crafted an impressive write-up about the card and lore that could fit right into an official FFG spoiler article. Well done and congratulations! Thank you to all the other entrants as well! I’ve re-published the winning entry below.

The Lore

“Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone…”

In the Second Age, Celebrimbor and the other Noldorin smiths of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain forged many rings of power with the aid of the repented Maia Sauron. Unbeknownst to them, however, the former servant of Morgoth held evil plans for the rings, and his touch tainted all but the Three Elven rings.

When Sauron sacked Eregion, he tortured the whereabouts of all rings but the Three out of Celebrimbor (as told in “The History of Celeborn and Galadriel” in Unfinished Tales). Presumably, this is when Sauron recovered the Nine (which he gave to lords of Men who would become the Nazgûl) and also the Seven, which the Silmarillion relates:

“Seven rings he [Sauron] gave to the Dwarves… And all those rings that he governed he perverted…and they were accursed, and they betrayed in the end all those that used them… They [the Dwarves] used their rings for the getting of wealth; but wrath and an overmastering greed of gold were kindled in their hearts, of which evil enough after came to the profit of Sauron. It is said that the foundation of each of the Seven Hoards of the Dwarf-kings of old was a golden ring; but all those hoards long ago were plundered and the Dragons devoured them, and of the Seven Rings some were consumed in fire and some Sauron recovered.” (Simarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”)

But, as told in the Appendices to <i>The Return of the King</i>, one of the Seven had eluded Sauron from the start, passing to the Dwarves of Durin’s House in Moria through their great friendship with the Elf-smiths of Eregion:

“It was believed by the dwarves of Durin’s Folk to be the first of the Seven that was forged; and they say that it was given to the King of Khazad-dûm , Durin III, by the Elven-smiths themselves and not by Sauron, though doubtless his evil power was on it…” (The Return of the King, Appendix A)

From Durin III the first and last of the Seven passed down through the royal line, escaping Durin’s (VI) Bane in Moria with Thráin I, until it came to Thrór, King Under the Mountain at the time when Smaug descended in flame and destruction upon Erebor. Many of those who knew of the existence of the Ring believed that Thrór had, in his folly, worn the ring when he re-entered Moria and was slain by Azog (it is rumored that Balin’s doomed attempt to retake the mines was motivated by the desire to recover the Ring). However, this was not so, for Thrór had not been quite so foolish:

“Years afterwards Thrór, now old, poor, and desperate, gave to his son Thráin the one great treasure he still possessed, the last of the Seven Rings… He was a little crazed perhaps with age and misfortune and long brooding… or the Ring, it may be, was turning to evil now that its master was awake, driving him to folly and destruction” (The Return of the King, Appendix A)

No one except Thráin II knew of the whereabouts of the Ring, an artifact which had long been shrouded in secrecy as is common among Dwarves with respect to their treasures. Looking back, it seems probable that Sauron knew something of the Ring and Durin’s Heirs who bore it, for the Dark Lord’s malice was clearly at work the night Thráin II, as he sought “shelter under the eaves of Mirkwood”, was kidnapped and imprisoned in the dungeons of Dol Guldur. And so Sauron recovered the last of the Seven to remain free.

In retrospect, it would seem that the recurrent ill-fate of the House of Durin can be traced to the malice Sauron directed at the Dwarves for their resistance to the corruption of the Rings of Power. While the Nine corrupted and enslaved Men, reducing them to ringwraiths, the Seven had no such direct power over the Dwarves, and Sauron was limited to acting against their bearers indirectly:

“None the less it may well be, as the Dwarves now believe, that Sauron by his arts had dsicovered who had this Ring, the last to remain free, and that the singular misfortunes of the heirs of Durin were largely due to his malice. For the Dwarves has proved untameable by this means. The only power over them that the Rings wielded was to inflame their hearts with a greed of gold and precious things, so that if they lacked them all other good things seemed profitless, and they were filled with wrath and desire for vengeance on all who deprived them. But they were made from their beginning of a kind to resist most steadfastly any domination.” (The Return of the King, Appendix A)

Thus the loosing of Durin’s Bane, another former servant of Morgoth aroused by Sauron’s rise to power, could be attributed to the evil taint upon Durin VI’s Ring of Power. Likewise Smaug may have come to Erebor seeking this very ring, as many others of his brood had devoured the golden rings at the heart of other Dwarven hoardes. The deaths of Thrór and Thráin seem to have been driven by a madness perhaps kindled by the Ring’s desire, and even the subsequent deaths of Thorin II, Fili and Kili could be interpreted as ripples of this evil legacy.

Thus while the Last of the Seven brought power and great wealth (as evidenced by the glory of Khazad-dûm and Erebor at their heights), and possibly could “prove the foundation of a new fortune for you yet,” as Thrór told to Thráin upon gifting the Ring to his heir, that power came at a price. At each turn, the Ring invited dark fortune upon those who would wield it to breed gold from gold…

The Card

What if Thráin had not been captured and the Ring taken by the servants of Sauron? What if instead he had gifted it to his heir, Thorin II, or to another of the royal line of Durin’s House? The histories might have been very different indeed had King Dáin, or even Glóin or Gimli, born this Ring. What wonders might they have accomplished, or what dooms might they have visited upon their companions, with this power upon their finger?

The Last of the Seven card is designed to let players discover for themselves the alternate histories possible under such a scenario. The card’s abilities are designed to represent both the unique promise and peril of this powerful artifact in the game world of the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game.

Befitting the secret legacy of the Seven, and the jealousy of the Dwarves, only a noble heir of the House of Durin may bear this Ring. This restricts its use to the heroes Thorin, Glóin, and Gimli, but the card specifically includes Dáin Ironfoot, since the exclusion of the “Noble” keyword on this card is likely an oversight. (Note that a house rule allowing it to be attached to Balin as well could be argued for on similar grounds).

Once attached, however, the Ring flames the greed and jealousy of its bearer, hence the immunity of the attached hero’s resource pool — this nullifies resource-smoothing effects such as Blue Mountain Trader or Errand-rider, but also nullifies outside aid such as Gaining Strength (the Dwarves are by nature hard-headed, and such a Ring makes them even more resistant to outside meddling of any kind).

The ability of the Ring itself is meant to evoke Thrór’s final message to Thráin, “This may prove the foundation of a new fortune for you yet, though that seems unlikely. But it needs gold to breed gold.” (The Return of the King, Appendix A). The player must spend a resource for the hope of gaining three (a more powerful effect than Steward of Gondor even), but in the spirit of the Dwarven miners of Khazad-dûm, those who delve deep for treasure may uncover darker things. If the wrong encounter card type is guessed, not only has one resource been wasted, but a new evil is unleashed upon Middle Earth to harry and harass the heroes (or possibly worse).

Last-of-the-Seven-Front-Face

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4 Comments
  1. If only the card didn’t nullify its own effect 😛

    “Attached hero’s resource pool is immune to player card effects”. Should be to “other” player card effects.

  2. Michael Healy permalink

    Does that mean that the Balrog nullifies its own immunity to player card effects? I think we have a Cretan Liar Paradox on our hands….

  3. Gizlivadi permalink

    @Michael Healy: Um, what? The Balrog is an encounter card… Of course he doesn’t nullify his immunity.

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