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D&D 5E Why D&D is not (just) Tolkien

How influential was Tolkien on early D&D, on a scale from 1-5?

  • 1. Not influential/ minimal influence.

    Votes: 1 0.6%
  • 2. Very little influence / no more important than other fantasy writers.

    Votes: 19 10.9%
  • 3. Moderate influence.

    Votes: 65 37.4%
  • 4. A great deal of influence/a large amount of D&D is borrowed from him.

    Votes: 71 40.8%
  • 5. Exceptionally inflential/no D&D without him.

    Votes: 18 10.3%

  • Total voters
    174
  • Poll closed .

pemerton

Legend
The Hyborian Age is a narrative device, for telling pseudo-historical stories without having to worry about the history or geography.

Middle Earth is, notionally at least, our earth.

I find the World of Greyhawk closer to REH - it is a narrative device for telling pseudo-historical stories, with the same sorts of pseudo-nations and cultures as found in the Hyborian Age. With the exception of the Tolkien-esque elves and dwarves.

So I think [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6780330]Parmandur[/MENTION] are both right on this one.
 

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Hussar

Legend
Kinda sorta. Like I said, the addition of non-human nation states concurrent with human nation states makes it look very different from Hyborea where all the non-human stuff is relegated to "lost civilization" status. There's no snake man country, for example, even if Stygia does have a lot of snake men. :D You certainly don't see non-humans hobnobbing with humans. Whereas you have an elven country, a dwarven country, an orc country, a giant country, an undead country and various others. Yakfolk wandering into towns and halfings doing their thing.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Kinda sorta. Like I said, the addition of non-human nation states concurrent with human nation states makes it look very different from Hyborea where all the non-human stuff is relegated to "lost civilization" status. There's no snake man country, for example, even if Stygia does have a lot of snake men. :D You certainly don't see non-humans hobnobbing with humans. Whereas you have an elven country, a dwarven country, an orc country, a giant country, an undead country and various others. Yakfolk wandering into towns and halfings doing their thing.
True that: the anything goes hodgepodge of D&D, right there. Also, crashed alien spaceships, Shaolin Monks, and Cowboy Wizards.
 

Hussar

Legend
Well, to be fair, the kitchen sink, hodgepodge nature of D&D is a mostly D&D thing. I'm not sure I'd point to anyone else for that inspiration.
 


Parmandur

Legend
Undead country? You mean Iuz?

I don't remember yakfolk in GH or JRRT!
I'm pretty sure the original Yak-men were in 2E Al-Qadim, as the token infidels in the mountains after all the normal monstrous humanoids had converted to Not-Islam.

Iuz has a bit of a Mordor vibe going on.
 

Hussar

Legend
Undead country? You mean Iuz?

I don't remember yakfolk in GH or JRRT!

The particulars might be different, but, again, my point is that you have contemporous multiple races with nation states and cultures and identities all squished up together. This is something you see in Science Fiction pretty early on. Fair enough. But, in fantasy, it's not really until Tolkien that you get a setting world with multiple different intelligent species all working for/against each other.

Think about it this way, when do we start seeing non-human protagonists in fantasy? In the pulps, the first one I can think of is Elric and that's pretty recent. There are many complaints about the "Cantina Scene" thing in D&D where the local tavern has a mix of different species all drinking together, but, that concept is pretty much straight from Tolkien. Or maybe C.S. Lewis. :D But, even in Lewis, your protagonists are all human.
 

pemerton

Legend
when do we start seeing non-human protagonists in fantasy? In the pulps, the first one I can think of is Elric and that's pretty recent. There are many complaints about the "Cantina Scene" thing in D&D where the local tavern has a mix of different species all drinking together, but, that concept is pretty much straight from Tolkien.
No disagreement at all on this score. I'm pretty sure my first (or near-to-first) post in both the Tolkien threads has been to say that the whole idea of non-human fantasy races which are basically human cultures in funny suits - and hence which lend themselves to literary treatments, and RPing, just as if they were human - comes from JRRT. To my mind, it's the most obvious thing that D&D owes to Tolkien.

EDIT: This is why I said you and [MENTION=6780330]Parmandur[/MENTION] are both right. GH owes its non-humans to JRRT. But everything else about GH seems to me closer to the Hyborian Age than to Middle Earth.

Also, for what it's worth, I'm currently GMing a Burning Wheel game using GH as the setting, and the tensions between the S&S aspects of GH (which the BW rules for humans support well) and the Tolkien-esque aspects of GH (which the BW rules for elves and dwarves support better than any other RPG system I know) is one source of challenge in GMing that game.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Another Tolkienesque element that's been present in D&D since the start is the dualistic struggle between good and evil. Law and Chaos in OD&D and B/X aren't the same as Law and Chaos in Moorcock, they're really just different terms for good and evil, probably taking inspiration from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions and The Broken Sword.

There's an interesting passage about this on page 112 of the 1e DMG. Gary is basically saying that a D&D campaign might look like Conan but it's really an epic struggle between good and evil.
Furthermore, there must be some purpose to it all. There must be some backdrop against which adventures are carried out, and no matter how tenuous the strands, some web which connects the evil and good, the opposing powers, the rival states and various peoples. This need not be evident at first, but as play continues, hints should be given to players, and their characters should become involved in the interaction and struggle between these vaster entities. Thus, characters begin as less than pawns, but as they progress in expertise, each eventually realizes that he or she is a meaningful, if lowly, piece in the cosmic game being conducted. When this occurs, players then have a dual purpose to their play, for not only will their player characters and henchmen gain levels of experience, but their actions have meaning above and beyond that of personal aggrandizement.
This quote does perhaps resemble Moorcock's Eternal Champion series more than anything else, but there's some Tolkien in there too, given that Gandalf, Saruman and Sauron are the supernatural servants of divine beings.

One can interpret Conan as dualistic - the struggle between the corrupting force of civilisation (evil) and the virtuous barbarian (good) but it's not as clear-cut because Howard also has forces of savagery represented by apemen and other beasts as something to be avoided.

I will happily admit that a clear struggle between good and evil is not limited to Tolkien and can be found in many other sources that influenced Gygax such as Abraham Merritt, August Derleth, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Manly Wade Wellman and, ofc, Christianity.

There's also dualism in Zelazny's Jack of Shadows and Amber series, and in Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East series. The influence of the Cold War is obvious in the latter and I think also present in the former. I'm sure it must've also affected Gary Gygax's thinking.
 
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gyor

Legend
I think to many people focus on the Gygax era when that was just the starting point of D&D, Greyhawk abd Mystara were the Star Trek: Original Series vs. TNG/DS9/Voyager/Enterprise which are like the FR/Dragonlance/Planescape/Ravenloft/ect... which did more really to define Star Trek in my opinion.

Example Tolkien may have given the original inspiration for Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings, but it was FR that created Telepathic Ghostwhisper Halflings, Athas that had cannibal halflings, the basic form of elves is inspired by Tolkien, but that has split into Drow, Gold Elves, Moon Elves, Wild Elves, Sea Elves, Wood Elves, Fey'ri, Eldarin, Shadar Kai, LeShay, Athas Elves, Lythari (wolfish shapeshifting elves), Averiel, Snow Elves, and countless other Elven races. Even Dragons that take the Shape of Elves like Silver Dragons.

And Tolkien's Elves were shaped by his Catholic faith, D&D are shaped by modern sensiblities and are much more sexual beings then Tolkien Elves, Tolkien's Elves didn't have D&D's sense of debauchery. Tolkien Elves are chaste, D&D Elves dance naked in the woods, work in brothels, and have babies with fiends, and in some setting commit horrifying war crimes.

And religion in D&D is vastly different then in Tolkien's universe and that effects every race and class to varying degrees, with traditional Christian influence being far less then people realize. Even Aasimon, D&D Angels are more related to Spiritualism and abit of Hinduism then traditional Christianity (4e's Angels are alittle more then spiritual constructs made made from the stuff of the Astral Plane and serve any deity, no matter the morality or lack of mortality a God has making them even less Christian).

Another major influence on D&D that is over looked, mechanics, mechanics have at times driven the evolution of the fluff and is not influenced at all by Tolkien.
 

How much influence on GaryG and his friends on the original D&D I don't know but some things (especially Rangers) seem to point to at least a little to moderate. But other influences are without a doubt important as well.

As to D&D itself, well it would not have gotten off the ground and continue to thrive without the players and huge numbers of us have been hugely influenced and may not have gotten into the game with it. For me this is true without a shadow of a doubt, I wanted to be Aragorn or Thorin or Gandalf and not just read about them and this gave me the chance to do so.

Later of course I wanted to be Elric or the Grey Mouser but for me without Tolkien I never would have found them or D&D.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I happen to be reading Lord Dunsany currently, and literally just finished a story where the hero meets a giant intelligent spider. Which reminded me of this thread, naturally, because people have credited Tolkien with that trope when it appeared much earlier.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Following the 1977 cease-and-desist letter from Elan Merchandising, owners of the non-literary Tolkien rights, TSR were forced to change the text of many of their publications including Chainmail, the Basic Set and OD&D, removing direct Tolkien references. This thread has a list of the alterations made to OD&D, which are quite extensive and include five instances of "Tolkein".

M&M
6.11 “hobbits” – uncorrected – all
8 Hobbits & Balrog (5) Halflings & Dragon (6,7)
9 Hobbits, Ents, Balrogs (5) Halflings, Treants, <blank> (6,7)
23.11 “(i.e, a Balrog),” (5) – removed (6,7)

M&T
1 image labeled “Nazgul” (5) – title removed (6,7)
3 “Balrogs” (5) – whole line removed (6,7)
4 “Ents” (5) Treants” (6,7)
7.ORCS para “Tolkein” ref (5) – removed and para reformatted (6,7)
7.”Balrog… 25%/100 Orcs…” present (5) – whole line removed (6,7)
9 “Barrow Wights (per Tolkein)” (5) – “Wights” and para reformatted; end of last line “energy by a Wight becomes a Wight” left duplicated in previous font (6,7) - plus "Tolkein" - uncorrected all - of course
9 “The Nazgul of Tolkein…” sentence (5) – removed and para reformatted (6,7)
13 image labeled “Balrog” (5) – title removed (6,7)
14 “BALROGS” paragraph/description (5) – removed and replaced by Tom Wham artwork (6,7)
16.ENTS refs to Ents (5) – replaced by Treants and para reformatted (6,7)
17.ROCS para “Eagles of Tolkein…” ref (5) – removed and para reformatted (6,7)
23 Sword 61-65 - +3 vs…. “Ents” (5) – “Treants” and “65” damaged (6,7)
27.sword alignment - ref to Ents (5) – changed to Treants and para reformatted (6,7)
32.potion of Fire Resistance – “Balrog immolation” – uncorrected – all Smile
32.(line above previous Balrog ref.) – “Fire” (5) in “Dragon Fire” – word replaced/in slightly different font (6,7) (slight difference between 6 & 7, too?))

U&WA
9.18 Hobbits (5) Halflings (6,7)
11.Monster Level 6/9 – Balrogs (5) Spectres (6,7)
14 image labeled “Nazgul” (5) – title removed (6,7)
15.table “Balrogs” and “Ents” (5) “Chmrs.” and “Treants” (6,7)
16. MOVEMENT table – “Balrog” line (5) removed (6,7)
18. last “12” line “Balrogs” and “Ents” (5,6) blank and “Treants” (7)
19.Dragon Types/10. “Balrogs” (5,6) blank (7)
25 image labeled “Ent” (5) – title removed (6,7)
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'm pretty sure the original Yak-men were in 2E Al-Qadim, as the token infidels in the mountains after all the normal monstrous humanoids had converted to Not-Islam.

Iuz has a bit of a Mordor vibe going on.

Iuz and Mordor; weird what turns up when you're looking.

Given my searches for all things Greyhawk-y, I went to this thread; on the one hand, the influence of Tolkien on D&D is inarguable. On the other hand, Gygax strenuously argued against it.
 

Iuz and Mordor; weird what turns up when you're looking.

Given my searches for all things Greyhawk-y, I went to this thread; on the one hand, the influence of Tolkien on D&D is inarguable. On the other hand, Gygax strenuously argued against it.
Is getting the exact ratios isn't important? It's an influence, but only one of many.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Iuz and Mordor; weird what turns up when you're looking.

Given my searches for all things Greyhawk-y, I went to this thread; on the one hand, the influence of Tolkien on D&D is inarguable. On the other hand, Gygax strenuously argued against it.
Gygax...said things. Apply grains of salt as needed.

Iuz the individual Cambion demigod gives off heavy Sauron vibes (granted, more Second Age Sauron than Third Age Sauron, but that more goes to how the Tolkien influence might be deeper than Gygax wanted to admit), and Iuz the country is clearly Mordoresque "the monsters rule here" stuff.
 


Doug McCrae

Legend
Iuz the individual Cambion demigod gives off heavy Sauron vibes (granted, more Second Age Sauron than Third Age Sauron, but that more goes to how the Tolkien influence might be deeper than Gygax wanted to admit), and Iuz the country is clearly Mordoresque "the monsters rule here" stuff.
I completely agree, and I'd add that Celadon Forest resembles Lothlorien and Fangorn Forest, Celene and its ruler Queen Yolande somewhat resemble Lothlorien, and the "Battle of Emridy Meadows" (the name) resembles the "Battle of the Pelennor Fields". The way that demihumans -- elves, dwarves, halflings -- make military alliances with good humans and evil humanoids -- orcs, goblins, etc -- ally with evil humans is similar to the battles in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The importance of the high fantasy races in Greyhawk is covered here in more detail.
 


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