Friday, March 18, 2011

The Silmarillion , The One Ring, and My Obsessions with 'Settings'

I obsess over 'settings'. This accounts for the nature of some of my hobbies- mainly comic books and roleplaying games. In each most often I get to explore imaginative worlds and sometimes create or take part in them (as in RPGs). While getting into new games, comics, films, or movies I am constantly judging how realistic that world is given there are varying levels of suspension of disbelief. And when a franchise violates something established around the rules of that setting I have a hard time forgiving it. This usually comes in the form of the deus ex machina and can make or break my interest in said setting.
My personal ultimate litmus test for how well I'll like a setting is my beliefs and opinions of our actual reality and Biblical scripture in comparison to the story presented in the setting. If a setting dovetails into those, I usually can lock on and declare myself a fan of that setting. A good example of this is Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet/Quintet or C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. It takes very little suspension of disbelief for me to fit these into the reality that I actually believe. If I find the setting solid, I often become quite a strong fan immersing myself into the story and uncovering all I can find about the setting.
On the other hand, other settings I've given myself into failed. For example- I watched the short films that told the back story of HALO and was so disappointed in them that I've dismissed the franchise as a waste of my time and effort. Which is too bad. On the surface HALO looks so good. But that history in the setting was just too stupid in my opinion.

Beren and Luthien by meneldil-elda


It is this back story or history that I really get into. Their Genesis Story. The Silmarillion is the Genesis Story for Middle Earth, the world where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings takes place. I find this one to be a fantastic template for people to base their own on. J.R.R. Tolkien's depth in Middle Earth's history makes it so believable that there is no need for suspension of disbelief. A lot of this is due to how the book is written. It feels like one is reading a King James version of the Bible when reading the Silmarillion. There is probably less suspension of disbelief reading the Silmarillion than there is reading the Bible.... well maybe not. But it's probably close.

I am taking in the Silmarillion via audiobook on my commutes to and from work. This is the very best way for me to 'read' this book. Any who have tried know that it reads much like the Old Testament of the Bible (because it is that for the Lord of the Rings in many ways). The voice talent is very good and has an English accent. But I do confess that many of the names are a whirlwind of references and having a book to reference would benefit the reader to truly take in these stories. In fact I would bet there is no other way with all the characters named. It really could take dedicated study to know the Silmarillion.

With this kind of history, it seems natural that J.R.R. Tolkien's work should be credited as a major influence on the fantasy roleplaying industry. As a matter of fact, there have been a couple of roleplaying games set in Middle Earth. Most recently Decipher Inc. published a game from 2002 through 2006 that mainly featured artwork from the films. Before that had a long run with the Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) which was published from 1984 to 1999 . Currently the license is held by Cubicle 7 Entertainment and they're set to debut The One Ring this year.

11 March 2011 - Cubicle 7 Outlines Plans for Lord of the Rings™ RPG

The One Ring™, the fantasy roleplaying game set in the world of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to be released by Cubicle 7 Entertainment in partnership with Sophisticated Games, is one of the most eagerly awaited RPG releases of the year. With gamer and fan anticipation growing toward the August 2011 debut, Cubicle 7 today released some details about the format and content of the game line’s first release: The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild.
The adventure begins five years after the events of The Hobbit. The defeat of the Dragon, the ousting of the Necromancer and the stunning victory of the Battle of Five Armies has made the land a much safer place. The Free Peoples of Wilderland are looking beyond their own borders for the first time in generations. Merchants are opening up previously-abandoned trade routes, bringing prosperity to the region and renewing bonds of friendship between long-estranged cultures. But while Lords and common folk become complacent in their new-found security, much evil still lurks in Wilderland. From the Orc-holds of the mountains to the dark and corrupt depths of Mirkwood a darkness waits, recovering its strength, laying its plans and slowly extending its shadow.
Small companies of heroes set out to explore the newly-opened frontiers. Whether their goal is to protect their homes, recover the treasures of a lost age or carry out the orders of their King, they could find themselves in the front lines of the battle against the ancient enemy, in adventures over the Edge of the Wild.
Focusing on the region of Wilderland – from the east of the Misty Mountains through Mirkwood to the Lonely Mountain – the game covers the geography of the region and its major cultures. Immersion in the setting is at the heart of the game. Players create their characters from the cultures of the region, integrating them fully with the setting and giving them a personalstake in the unfolding events. The wood elves of Mirkwood, the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, the Woodmen of western Mirkwood, the Bardings of Dale, Beornings, or hobbits that have ventured into the region after Bilbo’s return to the Shire, are among the characters featured in the initial release.
The August release is the first of a series of core game titles. 2012 and 2013 will see similar core releases expanding from that point, first with provisionally titled The Errantries of the King and then leading up to the War of the Ring. Each of these will expand the attention given to Tolkien’s world as well as the range of playable cultures and races. “You could compare our approach to the way Fantasy Flight has handled the 40K franchise,” commented Dominic McDowall-Thomas, Cubicle 7’s Director of RPG Development. “We have a huge setting to explore, and this lets us approach it in stages, covering each element in detail instead of trying to stuff an encyclopedia of information into the initial release. It also helps players build their campaigns in a dramatic fashion. With Adventures over the Edge of the Wild as the starting point, the grand story of The Lord of the Rings is starting out, in the background, but players start at a point where they can influence events instead of just being along for the ride.”
This approach also allows the game to take on an epic, multi-generational character. While characters of long-lived races can span the different setting periods, others can pass the torch to their heirs (spiritual or ancestral) in later periods. “Some people have compared this aspect of the game to the classic RPG Pendragon,” Dominic went on to say. “It fits really nicely with Tolkien’s long view of his world.” In fact, the game is highly focused on Tolkien’s themes, with an emphasis on such values as hope, valor, and wisdom reflected in the rules as well as the background material.
The initial release will consist of two core books: the Loremaster’s Guide for GMs and the Adventurer’s Book for players. A full line of supplementary products will follow, with early releases including a Rivendell sourcebook and a campaign guide.
Cubicle 7 Entertainment is a British-based publisher of games such as Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, Victoriana, Legends of Anglerre, SLA Industries and The Laundry as well as the forthcoming The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild roleplaying game based on The Lord of the Rings, Primeval, and Airship Pirates RPG, a steampunk game based upon the worlds of Abney Park. Cubicle 7 also publish a wide range of games on behalf of a number of partners including Arc Dream Publishing, Contested Ground Studios, Adamant Entertainment, Gun Metal Games and Rite Publishing.
Cubicle 7 Entertainment can be contacted on info@cubicle7.co.uk.
Sophisticated Games is the publisher of all book-based Lord of the Rings and Hobbitboard games, and has created, in partnership with key companies worldwide, The Lord of the Rings (Reiner Knizia series), The War of the Ring (with Nexus), The Hobbit (Reiner Knizia) and Middle-earth Quest (with Fantasy Flight Games). It is proud to work with Francesco Nepitello the author and inspiration behind these first two RPG books, as well as the famed Tolkien artist John Howe, a long time collaborator on Sophisticated Games’ output, who this time shares graphic honours with artists Jon Hodgson and Tomasz Jedrusek.
UK based Sophisticated Games can be contacted on hydewire@gmail.com
Middle-earth, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks or registered trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises and are used under license by Sophisticated Games Ltd and their respective licensees.

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Glaurung and Nienor by zdrava A meticulously made piece of typography, layer after layer of text creating one brilliant end result
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