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Old 05-17-2019, 09:28 PM   #1
EltonRobb
 
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Default Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

So. Tell me, which would you prefer to build? A knock of Tolkien, or something original?
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Old 05-17-2019, 10:21 PM   #2
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So. Tell me, which would you prefer to build? A knock of Tolkien, or something original?
The last fantasy world I created was Halloween-themed. The major races of it (apart from human) were witches, phantoms, werewolves, vampires (living vampires), and "scientists" who appeared to replace the extinct sorcerers.

Before that I worked on a steampunk future for Dragon Age, so it did have dwarves, elves and darkspawn.
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Old 05-17-2019, 11:00 PM   #3
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So. Tell me, which would you prefer to build? A knock of Tolkien, or something original?
When I ran a Tolkien-inspired fantasy campaign, it was set in Middle-Earth—though an alternate history Middle-Earth where Sauron caught Frodo sneaking over the border, took the One Ring back, and all the PCs were in the Resistance.

In a vague way, my current fantasy campaign is of Tolkienian inspiration: it has seven humanoid races, including analogs of men, elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, and trolls. But the geography, cultures, and history are entirely different, and I have set aside Tolkien's concept of good and evil races entirely; rather, each of the races has its own forms of good and evil.

Otherwise, my fantasy worlds have been either taken directly from fiction not by Tolkien (E.R. Eddison and Terry Pratchett, for example) or entirely invented.
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Old 05-18-2019, 05:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

I like to start from something familiar and then tweak it heavily. So, I tend to start with Tolkienesque, but layer on my own associations and interpretations. Often, this means building the races according to a Tolkien-inspired vision (with dashes of D&D and Banestorm), then seeing what such a race might reasonably do. Halflings have traits to explain why many like good food, but those same traits can benefit alchemy and ranger-type activities. I conceive of dwarves as Jewish, German, or Russian, based on linguistic elements, so then I can expand on dwarven culture (and religion) based on those cultures. Elves are vegetarian, so living in the woods is just easier for them (burning down the woods is a bit like busting a fridge--and eating meat just sounds gross).

Like Bill, I set aside the idea of races being inherently good/evil. I find such sharp distinction dull and would much rather explore the philosophical differences between cultures.

I doubt I could ever run a straight setting from fiction, and even running one inspired by fiction will involve a lot of tweaks.
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Old 05-18-2019, 09:44 AM   #5
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So. Tell me, which would you prefer to build? A knock of Tolkien, or something original?
Unless I was doing what was a conscious fanfic I think I would prefer something original. The reason to me is that a large part of the interest of speculative work is the worldbuilding.

Also I am not sure anyone can make a real Tolkien knock-off. Lotr was fed by Tolkien's personality, life history, culture, and philosophical and religious beliefs all of which form a subtle matrix. I am not an Oxford professor (though I would like to be), nor do I have peculiar interest in linguistics, nor am I an Englishman (though I can see the attractions), nor am a Catholic (though I can see the attractions). I live in a place where I take for granted there being enough room for both industry and scenery, and don't have to gripe about dark satanic mills. I don't have a world war going on, merely routine bandit hunting compared with a world war by people with an inferiority complex. Much of my world is simply different. Tolkien had prejudices I don't and I am sure I have prejudices he did not have (for instance I could not have realized the literary value of Teutonic myth without him).
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Old 05-18-2019, 09:57 AM   #6
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So. Tell me, which would you prefer to build? A knock of Tolkien, or something original?
How would you define a Tolkien knock-off? I usually have elves and dwarves and goblins in my fantasy but most of my sources is pre-Tolkien. So, is it a Tolkien knock-off or not?
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Old 05-18-2019, 10:24 AM   #7
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I love Tolkien's writing (the more long-winded the better), but I have discovered through experience that I am poorly suited to present Tolkienesque worlds.

My working assumption is that I am too cynical, secular and materialistic to convincingly portray a world peopled by mythic kings, dark lords, benevolent angels, ageless elves, noble heroes and iredeemable orcs, at least without indulging in entirely unsuitable speculation about economics, politics and unheroic individual motivations.

I am capable, I believe, of understanding the psychology of Théoden King, Éomer, Denethor, Boromir and Faramir, for example, but do not feel confident that I could convincingly portray characters of such tragic heroic scope, with value systems so radically alien to me. As for any of the elven characters or the Maiar, they are enigmas to me, ones I fear I could never understand well enough to portray well. In any case, I am well content not to attempt to compete with Professor Tolkien in a field where I can clearly see there is no risk of me ever rivalling him.

I have set games in settings created by various designers, but ultimately, I think that my favourite campaign setting is some version of Earth. Choosing different geographic areas and historical eras already offers near infinite variety and and an embarrassment of riches for background and reference materials. The possibility of adding impossible things, in the form of myths, legends, superstitions or other supernatural phenomena, ensures that any kind of campaign I can foresee wanting to present has a viable home on Earth.
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Old 05-18-2019, 10:53 AM   #8
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How would you define a Tolkien knock-off? I usually have elves and dwarves and goblins in my fantasy but most of my sources is pre-Tolkien. So, is it a Tolkien knock-off or not?
Similar question, yes. Like many a gamer before me, from back when it was presented as the preferred option, I've built up my own fantasy world based on the concepts of D&D. Since D&D was itself built upon the bones of Middle-Earth (as well as the Dying Earth), does that make Aathe a Tolkien-knockoff knockoff?
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Old 05-18-2019, 11:31 AM   #9
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How would you define a Tolkien knock-off? I usually have elves and dwarves and goblins in my fantasy but most of my sources is pre-Tolkien. So, is it a Tolkien knock-off or not?
Forgotten Realms is a Tolkien knock-off, so is Dragonlance to some degree.
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Old 05-18-2019, 11:40 AM   #10
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Default Re: Tolkienesque Worlds or Non-Tolkienesque Worlds?

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Forgotten Realms is a Tolkien knock-off, so is Dragonlance to some degree.
Forgotten Realms is no more a Tolkien knock-off than it is a Robert E. Howard or Fritz Leiber knock-off. Obviously, in a shared world setting for RPGs, fiction, computer games and other media that has four decades of history, there will be elements similar to many works of popular fiction, but that hardly makes it accurate or useful to pick one popular fantasy author and insist that other works are 'knock-offs' of his because of superficial similarities.

If we're classifying things as 'Tolkienesque', Dragonlance is a lot more so than the Forgotten Realms. The Forgotten Realms have always featured societies with a very urban, mercantile focus, as well as events and conspiracies driven by worldly concerns, where factions and power groups cannot always be neatly divided into 'heroic' and 'in service to dark forces'. Dragonlance has a much more high fantasy 'Good vs. Evil' vibe going on.
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