D&D 5E Which parts of D&D came from Tolkien?


Well, that was fun
Staff member
It’s well known that halflings were originally called hobbits before TSR was forced to change the name by the Tolkiens. Same, IIRC, with ents and treants.

What else came from Tolkien?

Our vision of goblins?
Balrog - Balor?
Giant Eagles?
High and wood elves?

I’m sure some were a case of having the same inspiration, and of course plenty of D&D is inspired by a million other things than Tolkien. But I’m curious which elements were adopted from Tolkien specifically.

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Ranger, probably?

Alas, I don't know enough fantasy literature pre-Tolkien to know how much he should credit he should get for inventing or popularizing the concepts and archetypes that populate D&D.

Mark Kernow

Rangers, yes. I also think you could make a case that all the early demi-human races in D&D (elves, dwarves, halflings, maybe even half-orcs) have certain characteristics that come from Tolkien. If you look at a lot of the other books Gygax references in the back of the 1st edition AD&D DMG (Appendix N), they didn't feature these races in anything like the same degree or format. These other influential books were a lot more human-centric generally. It might help to list some of things that probably came from other authors so you can rule them out: memorising spells and using spell components from Vance, Law and Chaos (the alignment system) and probably also elementals from Moorcock, Thieves from Lieber (although there is a bit of Bilbo Baggins in there as well), Paladins from Anderson, Barbarians and the pulp style of early adventures from Howard. And Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith are in there as well influencing monsters and deities. Then you have the stuff that Gygax put his own unique spin on, even if there are folklore roots for it, e.g. the Drow.

But is there a bit of early dungeon design that is influenced by Tolkien's Moria? The early megadungeons seem to riff off the idea of an almost endless lost labyrinth, although they are a lot more 'fun house' and less doom-laden than Tolkien's version.

Mark Kernow

I agree with Rocksome, the chatty, cunning dragons seem very Tolkien. As opposed to the other fantasy / folklore versions where they can't speak and are effectively beasts with only animal intelligence.


Which parts of DnD came from Tolkien?

Interestingly, Gygax was not a big fan of Tolkien, but the books were hugely popular in the 70s, so he couldn't ignore them. My list:
Half-elves (cause of Elrond)
Magic rings (in folklore but Tolkien brought to forefront)
Eleven cloaks and boots
Antagonism between elves and dwarves
Giant spiders
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Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Invisibility rings?
Rope of Climbing?
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Weapons with names and magical powers ("Sting")

The idea that a character could be hit with multiple weapon attacks and keep fighting (Boromir's end).

Nobody mentioned Halflings yet. Yikes...the Hobbit.

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