|Tolkien (right) apparently cackling?|
It can hardly be said that worship of Tolkien is primarily a roleplayer's affliction, at least. The movie versions of the tomes were enormously popular amongst the general public, and it was unusual for a while to hear people who'd never rolled a polyhedral die in their lives talk about dwarves and elves and goblins and stuff. And hey, it was a really good movie. Nobody denies that.
But there are so many other influences that could have been taken by fledgling roleplayers, that it's simply a shame. There are the sword and planet novels of the likes of J. Vance, the pulp fantasy worlds of R. E. Howard, the dark cosmic horror of Lovecraft, to name but three. All three have more life, more energy, and more interesting features than Tolkien, but Tolkien's features are still by far the most popular.
Elves that are beautiful and near-immortal, dwarves that are gruff craftsmen, hobbits with hairy feet and skill with slings, evil and enraged orcs, small and cunning goblins- it's almost as if D&D, and by extension, the entire world of fantasy is just another Tolkien rip-off.
Before I get further, I'd like to point out that the real reason it's as annoying as it is, is that every game from the beginning has been influenced /heavily/ by D&D. It's no joke. Every game has the exact same player-to-DM relationship, and in some cases the exact same mechanics. But don't take my word for it. Take the word of the inestimable and occasionally divisive Ron Edwards, via his essay, "Fantasy Heartbreakers." It's a good read, and covers what would take me at least a couple more paragraphs. It ties in, I promise.
The real point that I guess I'm trying to make is that Tolkien is ok. He's alright, but his version of fantasy is overplayed. If I see another elf/dwarf/halfling player race combination, I'll probably go insane. It's gotten so bad that people who do "homage" his works are regarded as "generic fantasy." Seriously, you knew that. Every game that has pretty-boy elves, bearded ass-kicking dwarves, green-skinned brutish orcs, and tiny pastoral hobbits is considered stock fantasy now. And why? There are so many more races to choose from, so many more ideas that have yet to be mined. For example, and this is off the top of my head, you can take the "stout and trustworthy" aspect of dwarves and make a race of people made literally of stone, a la the Herculoids. You could go the other way with Elves and turn them into literal immortals, detached watchers like those one guys whose name escapes me in the Marvel Comics. The Sentinels, I want to say, but I think that's the name of those gigantic purple (?) robots.
But the point is the same, really. Don't copy Tolkien any more. We get it. You like the Lord of the Rings for some reason. So have the other fifty guys before you. Quit it.
|Not pictured: Generic fantasy|
I want to take a moment and point out an excellent fantasy game that was in no way Tolkienesque- "The Mark of Kri", a Playstation 2 game. The entire game was based around Polynesian myth, if I remember correctly, and was so much more interesting and vibrant than another pale shade of Tolkien that it makes me literally angry that nobody else bothered to get the memo. Is it really that hard not to blatantly copy the name of the biggest and most famous fantasy author in the english-speaking world?
Am I really the only person who would rather look at the Mark of Kri than another Lord of the Rings-styled game?