23 April 2013

T is for Tolkien


Professor Tolkien. Would we be playing AD&D the way we do without his influence?
 
Much has been made out of "Appendix N" the past couple of years. The success of Goodman Games's Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, which bases its feel and setting heavily on Appendix N sources comes to mind as a prime example. Gygax himself is dismissive of the Professor's work in early issues of Dragon. There is a long-running thread on Dragonsfoot about removing the influence of Tolkien from one's game.
 
Admittedly, there are other influences on AD&D other than the good professor. Vancian magic springs to mind. There are Lovecraftian roots as well, and not just a pulled section from the DMG either; Tharzidun and the Temple of Elemental Evil, dimensional travel and races like the githerzai and githyanki (which might even be influenced by Moorcock as well). Speaking of Moorcock, what about Law and Chaos with Neutrality as the Cosmic Balance? The mighty-thewed barbarian class is straight out of Howard and Lieber.
 
That being said, there are many things taken for granted that come straight from Tolkien. There are the blatantly obvious: halfling-hobbits, Balor-Balrog, treant-ent. Some not so much: the divide between high/grey elves and wood elves, the animosity between Dwarf and Elf, Half- Orcs (a shady character in Fellowship of the Ring that hangs out with Bill Ferny is described as having the look of some goblin blood in him) and Half -Elves (Elrond Half-elven, anybody?). What about the existence of a ranger class? There is the clear relationship between the tier of goblin-orc-hobgoblin that mirrors that of goblin-orc-uruk-hai in Tolkien. What about the idea that elves are the First Children and that their kingdoms are places of light, fortresses that hold out against the evil? In that respect, Greyhawk itself has the feel of Tolkien in it. Should we compare Iuz and his lands with Sauron and Mordor? How about Hommlett to Bree? The Kron Hills to the Shire? The Lortomils to the Misty Mountains?
 
While it is clear that AD&D is a amalgam of information from many sources, much of it is clearly influenced by Tolkien. Whether or not that is a direct connection or one from fantasy literature in general is for my gentle readers to decide. But the connection is there.
 
Until tomorrow, gentle readers, when we examine Unholy Warriors.
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