Monday, April 7, 2008

All my gaming can be blamed on Tolkien

DM of the Rings I: The Copious Backstory Like many gamers my age, my ideas for gaming (especially fantasy gaming; but equally fantasy roleplaying and fantasy wargaming) come from a heavy dose of Tolkien, and Tolkien imitators.

Sure there are the others - Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, Robert Howard, and the others - but Tolkien looms largest.

My initiation into fantasy gaming came around the end of the 70s, which saw a resurgence of Tolkien-mania in the US - with the release of the Ballantine paperbacks, and also the Hobbit animated TV special, the Bakshi movie (terrible now, but oh I loved it then), and finally the Return of the King TV special. It all made me gooey and weak in the knees.

Around the same time, I was reading (and rereading) the Tolkien stuff, I was also reading Greyfax Grimwald, Peter Pevensey, Thomas Covenant (still don't like him), and Shea and Flick Ohmsford. But Frodo Baggins stuck with me. As did uncle Bilbo. Only later did Fafhrd and Conan and Elric and Cugel come into my quarry of literary foundation stones for writing and gaming.
Even today, my current (although still fledgling) Castles and Crusades campaign that is based in the World of Greyhawk has strong themes that are quite Tolkienesque. There is (unbeknownst to the players - and you who are reading this know who you are) an overriding evil presence in the campaign, who through lesser agents seeks to subvert various neutral forces in the world towards evil; the Dwarves are an old (but not as old as Elves) race that are quite suspicious; the Orcs and other goblinoid races are created in a much lesser sense then Man, Elf or Dwarf were created (and for evil purposes); the current crisis for the world will be solved by a quest on a personal level, despite the engagement of mighty martial forces on all sides.
It is a good basis for a worldview of the fantastique. I do not regret it at all.

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