On the 3rd January 1892 JRR Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. To celebrate this event, on this day each year Tolkien fans around the world will raise a glass and toast the birthday of this much loved author. This year’s toast is: “The Professor!”
To make the Birthday Toast, you stand, raise a glass of your choice of drink (not necessarily alcoholic), and say the words ‘The Professor’ before taking a sip (or swig, if that’s more appropriate for your drink). Sit and enjoy the rest of your drink. For more information about how to toast, see the Tolkien Society.
My particular toast was backed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s War in the North, which was so kind as to send shirts, cider, and toasting glasses. The timing was perfect because I was able to toast with my friends of two decades at our monthly d20 Modern gaming session.
It was also the day I was able to share my published book, The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, with the friends and gamers who all contributed to it.
Ultimately, Tolkien’s Fellowship was precisely that – a gathering of fellows, allies, and friends. Even when it was forced to split up, Sam refused to leave Frodo’s side. The Fellowship knew it had to work together to survive.
Likewise, adventuring parties in fantasy games are more than just groups of convenience. Getting a bunch of people to play together varies by medium: it can involve one player with computer-controlled non-player characters (NPCs), players working together who are not in the same room across an electronic medium, or even a hybrid system wherein some players are physically present while others are not. In the following chapters, we explore the evolution of the Fellowship and what it means for both characters and their players.
“It’s worth noting that Tolkien’s project, as exhibited in all of his writing and just those for which he has become famous, is so vast, so unbounded in its aspirations, that we cannot even imagine its long-run consequences,” says Castronova in Synthetic Worlds (2005:298). “In the short run, today, all we see is the fact that almost every synthetic world that’s been created has been modeled on Middle-earth.”
In the following chapters, we will explore those consequences.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North is a role-playing game in development by Snowblind Studios. It is based on the events taking place in the northern regions of Middle-earth in the background of the main story of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Players will take control of a hero of the war, and will be able to play through the game alone or cooperatively with other players, with the ability adjust the percentage of experience your co-op partner receives.
The game is scheduled for release in North America in 2011. The game will feature stronger graphic violence than previous Lord of the Rings games and is expected to be the first game in the series to receive an M rating from the ESRB.
As a special gift to subscribers, the folks behind War in the North also sent me t-shirts (see pictures). If you would like a t-shirt please contact me here and I will be happy to send you a shirt. The shirts are all size Large and are in limited quantities, so they will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please send me your name and shipping address and I will send them to you as a thank you!
Here’s to the Professor!