Thursday, February 25, 2010

100% Tolkien Free

This is one of those "flogging a dead horse" topics, but I want to write something about it regardless. It's no secret that I do like some Tolkien. The Hobbit, for instance, is a perennial favorite. Other works by Tolkien leave me cold. It's an opinion, so take it or leave it. You can argue that EGG & D&D were not influenced by Tolkien, saying that everyone robbed from the same mythologies, but then you have things like Balrogs.

My appreciation of The Hobbit aside, I'm not really keen on using Tolkien's material in my own world. As a matter of fact, I'm bored to tears of orcs, goblins, ents, dwarves, hobbits, balrogs, and the like. Haven't we been experiencing this stuff pretty much continually for our entire lives? I need a vacation from this stuff. That's why I'm happy to say that the World of Yezmyr is 100% Tolkien free.


Yes, it's true. There are no elves, or dwarves, or hobbits. There are no orcs, goblins, ents, or balrogs. There are dragons, but they are eastern worms, not western drakes, and hence not really like Tolkien's dragons. (Secretly, I was tempted to allow a little GW influence and have space orcs armed with plasma bolters, but I thought better of it in the end.)

Now, instead of traditional tropes, I am spending more time conceptualizing the myriad alien horrors that stalk the dusty surface of Yezmyr. The creatures are more horrific and, because they are new, more interesting to myself and the players. Truth be told, I should have made this move a long, long time ago.

5 comments:

Stuart said...

I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but my current game is 100% Tolkien Free as well. Even the fantastic elements that haven't yet been introduced are without any "orcs, goblins, ents, dwarves, hobbits, balrogs " etc.

I feel the same way you do - I like those things, but I'm a bit tired of them and want to give them a rest for a while. :)

Geoffrey said...

I don't like Tolkienish stuff in D&D either.

Grendelwulf said...

An interesting challenge DM-wise, and one that must be quite liberating creatively.

I admit to paying homage to Tolkien in my early gameworld. Much of what transpired in the Silmarillion & LoTR was kept as ancient history. The High Elves went into the West (other planes), monsters and darker breeds went underground. Mankind slowly developed into a Utopian society.

At least until the Underdark attacked the surface world in retaliation, throwing it into utter chaos. Elves had to come back, etc and do what they could for humanity, much of the world was changed from the wars of magic and technology until what was left resembled the typical D&D world (in my case, Oerth & Greyhawk).

I applaud you sir for kicking some sand out of the 'sandbox'!

Ciao!
Grendelwulf

Blair said...

I'm totally going to have to use that "100% tolkein free" symbol..

NetherWerks said...

My old Bazra group dropped all the Tolkein-stuff back in the early Eighties...until someone decided to geneer a variety of elf as an ornamental species. We always had fights over how the Othikr were really dwarves-in-space, but that was not fair, nor accurate. In any case, I agree that the Tolkein elements have been over-played and often-times quite badly.

In re-reading the first LBB from OD&D, Men & Magic, Gygax uses John Carter of Mars as a much more integral and interesting example of the game and its inspiration. Can't have too much Barsoomian-derived craziness in my book.

What is most fun, in my opinion, is to develop your own world with your own setting/monsters/extended house rules. That is what we all did when I was first getting involved, and I still feel strongly that it is intrinsic to the game that you build your own world just like Arneson, Gygax or even Barker did. Waiting for published supplements and going by 'canon' is alien and contrary to the spirit embodied in the OD&D system--grab some pens and paper and make your own stuff. That's what it was originally all about.