‘To mortal fields say farewell,
In Elvenhome a clear bell
in the high tower is shaking.
Here grass fades and leaves fall,
and sun and moon wither,
and we have heard the far call
that bids us journey thither.’
JRR Tolkien, The Last Ship
Christopher Tolkien, who died yesterday, was not a gamer, yet his influence upon the games I love is indelible.
If nothing else, his maps of Middle-earth provide an invaluable visual guide to his father’s creation. It is those maps that guided and inspired me as I began my first forays into world-building.
For many years I enjoyed playing MERP, Middle-earth Role Playing, a work that drew heavily on those maps and of the posthumously published work of JRR that Christopher edited for decades.
The game I’ve helped design, Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition, owes much to the Tolkiens, father and son. Its first edition was rife with references to Middle-earth, with hobbits, and Necromancers making rings of power.
D&D, in its early incarnations, drew little from Middle-earth. It had orcs, certainly, but its elves drew more from the works of Poul Anderson and the sword & sorcery tales Gygax loved.
But to many players – certainly those of my generation, the Second Wave – Middle-earth was our introduction to a fantasy world.
If my early attempts at map making were inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson, my subsequent efforts were inspired by Christopher Tolkien.
Rest in Peace.