Ring Worlds

Settings fascinate me and you can’t really admire settings without turning your eyes towards Tolkien’s quaint little home for all of his fictional elf languages. I always wondered how to get my game on in Middle-earth. The Rangers hack of Mouse Guard comes really close to hitting the nail on the head for me.

In an old Sons of Kryos episode, I talked with Jeff about how I’d game Middle-Earth, changing it to Middle-earths. The players would be charged with going to alternate Middle-Earths and seeking out various bearers of the One Ring. It is like a Tolkien issue of What if? in campaign form.

It is fun to think about the various characters who cam into contact with the ring and what a Middle-earth would look like with the One Ring in their clutches:

  • Bilbo
  • Gandalf
  • Elrond
  • The Beast Outside Moriah
  • Bill the Pony
  • The Balrog
  • Galadriel
  • Boromir
  • Faramir
  • Shelob

What wonderful villains each of them could be (all except Bill the Pony; we know that Bill is above the Ring’s lure).

Then I came across this, from the forward of the Lord of the Rings:

The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated by enslaved, and Barad-dur would not have been destroyed by occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.

Man, that is a setting I’d play a campaign in. Flesh out the wizards of different colors. Play out some wizarding politics. Suss out some more about the Southrons and ride us some oliphants.

I love the bittersweet end of the Lord of the Rings with the ring-bearers diminishing into the west and magic fading from Middle-earth but it would be nice to game in a place where the Shire doesn’t turn into strip malls and parking lots quite so fast.

EDIT: This is kind of embarassing. I have blogged about this before. Huh.

10 thoughts on “Ring Worlds

  1. This is one reason I liked the Midnight setting, as a “What If Sauron had won?” There is a lot of room for play in ME, because the story is so predestined in some say that if you crack the narrative all kinds of interesting possibilities spill out.

  2. I always found the humanifying of the world to be a deeply disappointing conclusion (probably underlined by the fact that the Bakshi version was much more explicit about this). I know that this whole “the world is getting humaner, mundaner, boringer,” was necessary for the whole “this is our world but earlier” feel in the story, though. I just wish it weren’t.

    Also, in the D&D game that Eppy was going to DM for Emily, Joshua, Meg, Vincent, and me (I might be forgetting someone; sorry!), I was going to play a halfling that was fighting back against attempts by the culture to wipe her out (it’s actually the aftermath of a failed attempt). It reminded me of how the hobbits would fare poorly under any tyrannical Ring-bearer. Only, of course, my chick was way more badass than Sam and Frodo.

    • The whole world is diminishing and being left to the humans doesn’t bug me so much in Tolkien’s books (or the films based on them) but it does start to grind on me when it shows up in RPG world after RPG world. Someone had as their sig on RPG.net: “Once things were great and then someone fucked up and now things suck.”

      Funny, that you made a female hobbit bad-ass for your unborn D&D game. It interests me how much we like playing around with these toys, making comments on what we liked and didn’t like about the originals.

  3. That sounds like an awesome BW game.

    And your original “Middle Earths” idea that you mentioned sounds like an awesome way to run Grimm.

      • To clarify: I meant that it sounds like it would make an awesome BW game (the setting implied in the quote from the forward of LotR).

        As for Grimm, there’s just something about playing children lost in a fantasy setting which is more interesting/poignant than playing adult characters. Maybe it’s just because I’ve had good experiences with the game (albeit the old d20 version) in the past.

  4. Judd – the Middle earths game sounds pretty awesome, especially since I just started reading the Dark Tower books and now I have this weird mash up of that and the Middle Earths in my head now with Saruman as the Man in Black.

  5. Pingback: The Return of the Ring « The Githyanki Diaspora

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