Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Anyone ever do a LOTR D&D campaign?

Recommended Posts

tl;dr: see thread title. 


In the last few years I've become more interested in Dungeons and Dragons (though I have yet to play a game). My interest was first piqued upon reading Masters of Doom (did your order your copy yet, Skeletonpatch?), then again, upon watching Stranger Things. I just read through a D&D thread that 40oz started a couple years ago (https://www.doomworld.com/forum/topic/84884-how-do-i-dungeons-and-dragons/?do=findComment&comment=1528303). Basically, the thread discusses in some detail what D&D is and the various flavors campaigns can take on.


One interesting point made in the thread is that D&D is basically a collective story that the adventurers and dungeon master are collaborating on by virtue of playing the game. Rather than revive an old thread, I'll ask my related question here: do people play variants of D&D that take place in modern settings, say, like in a city with rivaling gangs? Do people play non "D&D", non-fantasy variants of D&D? But more interesting to me, do people ever play as characters from Lord of the Rings, the originator of D&D? I mean, you can buy LOTR video games, but do people ever try to play LOTR D&D as characters from the books, within the locations of Middle-earth, with the overall quest of trying to destroy the One Ring? Maybe most people would find that sorta dumb, but I think it'd be fun to see how I'd fair as Frodo, and to relive the rich detail of LOTR and to see all the interesting ways the game would progress differently than the books. I guess the adventurers would have an advantage from knowing the story, but they'd also be at a disadvantage since their party would probably be quite a bit smaller (I guess the average D&D party is 3 or 4 adventurers?)


I think playing a LOTR D&D campaign could provide some interesting insights into some of the decisions the characters made in the books and how they affected the plot progression and destiny of the characters, while providing an interesting, alternative narrative.


Share this post

Link to post

I don't think D&D is the right game for the LOTR setting. You'd have to rebalance a lot of things since there's no such things as clerics and wizards in the D&D sense in Middle-Earth. (ME wizards are actually basically angels.)

Share this post

Link to post

Okay, admittedly I'm not very versed in the Tolkien universe, and I have never played D&D, and I've only read LOTR once (though I'm planning on reading it again soon), and struggled to reach the midpoint of The Silmarillion. But am I not correct that without LOTR you would not have D&D? The dungeon part of the name of the game comes directly from Moria, does it not? Are there not variants of D&D that are specifically tailored to do a LOTR quest with LOTR characters and LOTR landscapes and LOTR foes? 

I mean, surely someone somewhere has developed a version of D&D perfectly tailored to LOTR where you don't get to choose a cleric, but you can be specific characters from LOTR? Maybe, upon starting out, the adventures would not be able to choose any of the major characters, so no choosing Frodo, Sam, Aragorn or Gandalf or any powerful characters such as Elrond, Galadriel or Bombadil. Instead of being specific major characters, you can choose a race and class and maybe in your mind you want to be Aragorn, to be the heir, or Frodo, the ring bearer, but only if the DM sees that in your performance in the game if you are worthy will he at some point in the quest reveal to you that you are the heir, or you are the ring bearer, even if the respective characters weren't named Aragorn or Frodo. So basically, you wouldn't be able to choose to be any of the major characters, but if your performance and actions warrented it, you might discover that you are in fact Samwise (even if not named so) or Gandalf, by virtue of your performance during the quest.


There wouldn't be any hard and fast rules about who ends up where or even who accomplishes the quest in the very end (though I suppose it would be unlikely not to be a halfling since they resist the ring's power better than anyone else). 


So some liberties would have to be taken, only in the sense that the DM would not have any preconceived notions from his knowledge of LOTR and the greater Tolkienverse, of how the story develops, who ends up where, or how the destinies of the various party members unfold. Maybe the party of adventurers upon setting out become lost and separated early on and do not wind up in Rivendell, or maybe only one of the party ends up there. (Is party separation even possible in D&D?). Maybe a fellowship of the ring never gets formed. It would all depend on who is playing the game and how things develop.


The goal wouldn't be to try to recreate the LOTR narrative as faithfully as possible. It would instead be to retell an alternate version of the LOTR story within the LOTR universe, with its characters and locations. Kind of like a parallel universe of LOTR where the story, possibly (not necessarily) goes very differently than how Tolkien wrote it. I think it could be interesting.


A side note: it's interesting how many characters level up in LOTR. Strider becomes Aragorn becomes Elessar. Gandalf goes from being Grey, to White. It never really occurred to me that that's where the whole RPG level-up concept came from.

Share this post

Link to post
On vendredi 11 janvier 2019 at 3:25 PM, Hellbent said:

But am I not correct that without LOTR you would not have D&D? The dungeon part of the name of the game comes directly from Moria, does it not? Are there not variants of D&D that are specifically tailored to do a LOTR quest with LOTR characters and LOTR landscapes and LOTR foes? 

  1. Probably would have been different, and probably less successful, but I do think it would have existed nonetheless. It's obvious that there are strong Tolkien influences in D&D, but there are also many other influences. D&D contains a lot of stuff that absolutely doesn't have any place in Tolkien's Middle-Earth. Originally, D&D came from Chainmail, which was a wargame where you'd manage only one soldier instead of managing an entire squadron.
  2. I don't believe the Moria is ever referred to as a "dungeon" in LotR. A dungeon originally was an underground prison. The name was chosen because it alliterates and rhymes with "dragon".
  3. Most probably, but nothing official.

Things that D&D got from Tolkien:

  1. Dwarves -- to some extent. Dwarves being magic-adverse comes from Gimli. The rivalry between elves and dwarves is also a Tolkienism.
  2. Elves -- to some extent. Elves being great archers with better-than-human sight comes from Legolas.
  3. Halflings.
  4. Orcs -- but largely reinterpreted. Tolkien orcs are much more supernaturally evil than D&D orcs. D&D orcs are just an aggressive humanoid race with cultural traditions of raiding and pillaging.
  5. Rangers -- influenced by Aragorn to some extent, but with several important differences too
  6. Some weapon enchantments

Things that D&D didn't get from Tolkien:

  1. The whole law-vs-chaos thing. That's from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions. This concept also famously inspired Michael Moorcock, who used the term "Order" instead of "Law" however. In turn, Moorcok inspired Warhammer.
  2. Trolls. There are trolls in Tolkien's books, but they are nothing like those from D&D.
  3. Wizards. D&D wizards are straight from Jack Vance's Dying Earth. D&D's spell slot system and the explanation that wizard prepare spells by "memorizing" them and then "forget" them when they cast them is often dubbed "Vancian magic" because of that, because it's exactly how it works in these novels. Some D&D spell names, like Prismatic Spray, are also taken straight from Vance (where it was called The Excellent Prismatic Spray).
  4. Clerics. Priests who cast spells granted to them by their gods. Yeah, that's not from Tolkien.
  5. Rogues, aka thieves. Those are from Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. If you wonder why D&D rogues can try to use magic items that normally only spellcasters can use, you will find your explanation by simply reading the adventures of the Grey Mouser, who is a rogue who can use magic items. In the Mouser's case, it's because he was once a wizard's apprentice, though he kinda dropped out. In D&D, it's because the Mouser could do it, so D&D rogues can do it too.
  6. Barbarians. Fafhrd was an influence here, though obviously another influence was R.E. Howard's Conan.
  7. Gnomes. Fun fact about Tolkien and gnomes: he nearly called his Noldor elves like this.
  8. Dragons. The whole thing about color-coded dragons so you can tell which are good and which are evil is pure D&Dism. In Tolkien, it's simpler, all dragons are bad.
  9. 99% of the bestiary. Things are cribbed from fiction and myths all over the place. I can tell you that an ixitxachitl, a displacer beast, a flumph, a flail snail, a gelatinous cube or a death slaad would never have fit in the Middle Earth setting.
Edited by Gez

Share this post

Link to post

Crap, I'm just seeing this post now! Thank you Gez! How in the world do you know so much about the history and influences of D&D? Anyway, interesting stuff!

Share this post

Link to post

I used to be active on a D&D board. I also used to read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books (I was especially a fan of Vance and of Leiber) and it's always funny to read some old novel and then go "hey, so that's where that D&D creature comes from!" For example, the displacer beast, which I mentioned, is originally an alien monster from The Voyage of the Space Beagle.


Share this post

Link to post
On 1/12/2019 at 12:25 AM, Hellbent said:

Are there not variants of D&D that are specifically tailored to do a LOTR quest with LOTR characters and LOTR landscapes and LOTR foes? 


There have been numerous attempts to do Middle Earth RPGs.  I think The One Ring is the latest, and is pretty well regarded.  But they're very different ganes to D&D.  Using D&D for Tolkien would be a bit like using Doom as the engine for the next Mass Effect game (if there was ever going to be another ME game, which of course there won't, thanks to Bioware screwing the franchise).  Sure, they are both SF shooters at heart, but they're very different play experiences.  A game that feels like Doom won't feel like ME, and vice versa, despite some similarities.  The same applies for D&D and LotR.


Gez talks about some of the differences between the two, above.  Another difference is scale.  High-level D&D characters are basically superheroes.  The end of a D&D campaign isn't sneaking into a volcano to melt the one ring while desperately doing orcs, it's going to toe to toe with Sauron, Shelob and whatever Nazgul you didn't already kill in earlier sessions.


(Also, despite originating as hobbit knock-offs, D&D halflings are now a very different thing.)

Share this post

Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now