Good versus evil | The Inn | Magic | Weapons and Armor | The Quest

Good versus Evil [top of page]
"And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"--Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter VII, 357.

One of the most common elements seen in modern RPGs is the clear definitions and divisions between good and evil. In Lord of the Rings, the definitions between the two were heavily emphasized not only through characters as the Dark Lord Sauron, but also through the sudden shifts in personality underwent by Frodo, Bilbo, and others upon possessing the ring.

The Inn [top of page]
"The Inn of Bree was still there, however, and the innkeeper was an important person. His house was a meeting place for the idle, talkative, and inquisitive among the inhabitants, large and small, of the four villages; and a resort of Rangers and other wanderers, and for such travellers (mostly dwarves), as still journeyed on the East Road, to and from the Mountains." --Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter IX, 147.

Particularly prevalent in single-player action RPGs and massive multiplayer online RPGs, the inn is often used as a source of health regeneration through "rest" and as a source of information through its bartender and inhabitants.

Magic [top of page]
"At that moment there came a roaring and a rushing: a noise of loud waters rolling many stones. Dimly Frodo saw the river below him rise, and down along its course there came a plumed cavalry of waves. White flames seemed to Frodo to flicker on their crests and he half fancied that he saw amid the water white riders upon white horses with frothing manes. The three Riders that were still in the midst of the Ford were overwhelmed: they disappeared, buried suddenly under angry foam. Those that were behind drew back in dismay." --Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter XII, 209.

Although Gandalf and Saruman were opposed in their allegiances, the two wizards were depicted as knowledgeable and formidable leaders, despite their relatively frail appearances. The ability to fight and conquer opponents without the necessity of physical strength, as well as the mere image of a magical fire or flood materializing, would cause some war gamers to develop complicated rules and systems to calculate the effects and power of such attacks (Wikipedia).

Weapon and Armor styles [top of page]
"'And all the arrows of all the hunters in the world would be in vain,' said Gimli, gazing at the mail in wonder. 'It is a mithril-coat. Mithril! I have never seen or heard tell of one so fair....'"--Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter VI, 327

The weaponry of the Middle Earth was similar to what was used in medieval times in the real world, ignoring enchantments and fictitious materials such as mithril and dragon scale. Swords, bows, whips, staffs, mails, shields and plated armors are staple items in the overwhelming majority of RPGs to come out since Dungeons and Dragons, and even mithril armor--strictly a Tolkien invention (Wikipedia)--is now widespread in Everquest, the Final Fantasy series (since Final Fantasy III) and in most games using the Dungeons and Dragons rule set.

The Quest [top of page]
"....Do you remember Galdalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. SO let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over."--The Return of the King, Book II, Chapter V, 926.

The fundamental aspect that defines the modern RPG and separates it from its war game predecessors is the need to fulfill a quest. While the existence of quests dates to the earliest works of literature, the quest for the ring was employed by Tolkien to embellish on all the other themes mentioned above. According to literary critic W. H. Auden, the six essential elements of the typical quest story are:
  1. A precious Object and/or Person to be possessed or married
  2. A long Journey to find it
  3. A Hero - the only person with the right qualities to find and possess the Object
  4. A Test to screen out the unworthy and reveal the Hero
  5. The Guardians of the Object, which the Hero must overcome before possessing the Object
  6. The Helpers who "with their knowledge and magical powers assist the hero and but for whom he would never succeed." (Isaacs and Zimbardo, 45.)
With these elements, RPGs often portray the object as something that, in the possession of the hero, will benefit the entire community or world that the hero inhabits. Being the only one--or only group--capable of completing the journey through the world and pass the tests along the way, the hero overcomes the guardian--often a personification of pure evil--and saves the world.