While I do think that LotR can be and has been told in other settings and locations, I think you're spot on in just about everything you wrote. My post was a reply to a specific poster that defined exploration as story (not as an aspect of the story) and social as character creation.I think this is too hasty. If you remove the setting and locations from Lord of the Rings, does the story remain unchanged? I don't think so. Setting is a character all it's own in stories, and you can't just separate the stage from the play -- it has it's own very important role in the story. I think you might be meaning plot when you say story, which I think might be more defensible, but I'm not quite willing to concede there without a lot more thinking on the matter.