Sunday, May 30, 2021

WotC's Tolkien Game

So, yesterday I came across my file of material relating to Wizards of the Coast's attempt at a Tolkien roleplaying game --or more accurately what parts wd have gone into the core rulebook of Middle-earth as a D&D world. I thought this was gone forever, at best stuck on some twenty-year old floppy, so I'm happy to have unearthed it again.* 

While this file has very little material that wd have gone into the game itself --the Brand team killed the project before it got very far into the actual design stage-- it does have a detailed preliminary table of contents, assignments of who wd draft which chapters, some memos and meeting notes, and the like.

Also with this was the detailed outline I wrote for a trilogy of adventures to go with the Decipher's LotR game, called Cold Waters, Deep. I rather liked this one, so I might go back and work it up sometime to run with my local gaming group if they're amenable to the idea.

Have to say it'll be nice to have the bits and pieces for all three Tolkien rpgs I worked on at some point to be gathered together in one place.

--John R.

*sort of literally -- it was mixed in with a lot of papers relating to various unfinished projects on a lower shelf of the bookcase that collapsed recently. 


grodog said...

Very cool, John!

Any chance you can share some more details about the TOC, vision/scope for the project, etc.?


John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Allan

I'll have to go through the misc papers, but think I shd be able to share some information about what we wanted to do, so long as I don't show any of what actually got done.

It's been so long that I'm looking forward to how much these relics match what I remember.


zionius said...

Dear John,

I'm enjoying your wonderful The History of the Hobbit , and noticed a few things that might be considered for the errata. I can't find your email, so I'd write here, sorry for being off-topic!

1. XIV.i, discussion of ‘Conversation with Smaug’

I think the Tengwar on the jar should be this: The first two vowels different from your Tengwar transcription.

The Tengwar on the jar used a similar mode to that described in Addendum vi, i.e. a full writing mode (every vowel with a letter) with phonemic spelling. (See for "DTS 1") The only difference is it used the letter for "u" in Addendum vi to represent "o".

Following the instruction in Addendum vi, the Tengwar should read: gould θrór θrain / akəːst biː ð θiːf, which means in English "gold Thrór Thrain / accursed be the thief".

Note the same signs also appear in the two version's of Thorin's letter to Bilbo: sound "ou"/əʊ/ in the words "Bilbo", "total", "repose", and "Co."; sound "ó"/ɔː/ in "all" and "Bywater"; sound "ai"/aɪ/ appears in "by", "arises", "otherwise" and "Bywater"; sound /əː/ in "disturb", "person". All are written with the same Tengwar letters, except the exchange of u and o. I've marked them here:

Your statement "vowels indicated by diacritical marks in the original enclosed in parentheses" is also inaccurate. It's a full writing mode where diacritical marks don't always indicate vowels, since the vowels already have standalone letters. The diacritical mark on the first "o" modifies the sound to "ou", the acute accent marks on "o", "r" and "i " modifies them to long vowel /ɔ:/, /əː/, /i:/, and the mark on "a" modifies it to /aɪ/. They are all discussed in Addendum vi.

Now turn to the meaning of Þ·Þ. Rather than "Thror & Thrain", I think it means "Thror son of Thrain". You've discussed how Tolkien confused their order in X.iii. And as discussed in the "Thrym Thistlebeard" section, Tolkien himself said "Þ·Þ stands for Thror son of Thrain." That's why in the Tengwar inscription Thror appears before Thrain. So the full inscription means: "gold [of] Thrór [son of] Thrain / accursed be the thief / Th[rór son of] Th[rain]"

2. Addendum vi, Fëanorian Letters

I noticed a few issues that might be errors from either Tolkien or during editing and typesetting.

"The letter , being no longer used for a consonant, was used for the vowel a."
I think here should be , letter no.24. Here the Tengwar is actually "chance" rather than "dance". Note the ":" punctuation at the end of the Tengwar, so it should read "Tom, the piper." rather than "Tom, the piper".

"not in cases where pronunciation varies between [a:] and [æ] as in [added above the tengwar in neat ink: glass]"
The Tengwar is actually "class" rather than "glass". Since "a" in both class and glass can vary between [a:] and [æ], Tolkien could mean either word.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Zionius

Thank you for your detailed critique of my transcription. I don't have time to look into the matter right now but have printed out your comment to have it on hand should I be able to revisit this issue down the line.

With best wishes,

John R,

zionius said...

Dear John,
Thanks and look forward to your insight!
I also find the letter in Table III, v-row no.4 quite weird. The sound is an editor addition. And in Tolkien's other Tengwar alphabets this position is for letter _unque_ , rather than Middle English letter yogh. Maybe it's a misalignment in the manuscript, and what Tolkien meant is like this The letter "yogh" is used to mark the letter's sound, not the letter itself. And the letter itself, unwritten like the last letter in f-row, should still be _unque_, as in other Tengwar alphabets.

The issues might need a recheck of Tolkien's manuscript. so I understand it would probably take a long while. Please leave a comment here for any updates, so I can get a notification, thanks!