Guide of Modos
Aw!The closest I have ever gotten is during the sequel D&D 3.x campaign to a highly successful 2E campaign, where the PCs were the children of PCs from the previous campaign (largely the same player group) and all the history, both background and played, really mattered. It was really wonderful, and I don't expect i will ever feel that way about a game again.
Some of the "wondrous" comes from ignorance - not knowing what's out there, and being surprised at its discovery. Hard to do that when all of a game's monsters and spells and items are neatly listed in the book.By "feel" I mean the tone of the work that balances the mundane, the wondrous, and the horrific all at once; the sense of a deep history reaching up to produce the drama of the Now; the archetypes and ideals that yet hold on to humanity and even grittiness to some extent; and, most of all, the tug-of-war between hope and despair.
I can get some of those sometimes, but never all of them in a single game. I am not sure it is even possible in a game because the GM is not the author as such, but I do strive for it. . .
If you look at Tolkien's work and see it as a thing you would want to emulate in play, have you ever managed it? Did it require a ME/LotR game or campaign? What elements were hard? Which seemed to come easily? What do you think makes game "feel" like Tolkien?
I tried an adventure in Orthanc, the tower of Isengard, once. Without walls of text blocks, it's hard to sound like you're Tolkien as you narrate a scene. But I used Modos 2 (in signature), which allowed the players to detach from the rules and pay more attention to the narrative, which helped a lot. It was also helpful to use as many Tolkien-words as possible, not just the proper nouns, but the older-English-sounding ones as well.