Tuesday, 3 January 2017

J.R.R. Tolkien at 125

Today marks J.R.R. Tolkien’s 125th birthday. There had been fantasy fiction set on imagined words before, but the genre can easily be divided into pre- and post-Tolkien, and the RPG industry is post-Tolkien from its roots.

I am post-Tolkien from my roots as well, with early memories of having The Hobbit read to me and my brother. Along with Star Wars in the cinema, Doctor Who and Star Trek on TV, The Lord Of The Rings is one of my foundational myths. You’ll find his adaptations of Arthur and Beowulf on my bookshelves. And a I fondly remember the year we received a letter from Father Christmas in his style.

The first map of Middle-Earth, from a selection in Wired on The Art Of The Lord Of The Rings.

His influence is everywhere in gaming. My first choice of boxed game was for Middle-Earth, Citadel Halflings were even trickier to paint than human-sized characters, I had a hand in playtesting The One Ring for Cubicle 7, and even in Scotland you will sometimes hear terrible Scottish accents when people play Dwarves.

Despite this, as I have said before I’ve hardly ever run any Middle-Earth games or directly reflecting it since my formative gaming years, because it has a much stronger authorial voice than even something like Star Wars when George Lucas owned it completely, it always had authorised spinoffs and the like. And with it being literary I’d want to catch the authorial voice and I doubt I could sustain it. I think he would have made a great GM.

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