Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lord of the Rings: I Will Take the Ring to Mordor!

On the way to Rivendell, the party finds three petrified trolls.

Lots of plot since the last post. I finished up with Bree and its environs, explored the ruins of Weathertop, made my way to Rivendell, destroyed the Black Riders at the river, attended Elrond's council, and set off again with most of the canonical Fellowship, with numerous encounters, combats, and treasures along the way.

In Bree, I made another loop around town but still never got any satisfaction on the sub-plot of Bill Ferny, the horse thief. Then again, I read about him in the Lord of the Rings wiki, and it appears he's a reasonably significant character in the book, so perhaps the references were just book lore. I also asked everyone about GANDALF and didn't get much, except the blacksmith suggested that Gandalf had told him to help Shirefolk, and he gave me a magic shield when I told him my real name.

At the same blacksmith, I spent most of my wealth on chain mail and shields for my characters. When I returned to the wilds and faced those wargs again, I kicked their asses clear across Eriador. Having Aragorn in the party helped a lot, but the upgraded equipment helped more.

That's right! How does it feel?

A few notes from the Bree area:

  • South of the city was the Forsaken Inn. It was run by a dwarf named Orin, and some random dwarf on the road from the Shire had told me to seek Orin and tell him Nuri, Borri, and Falin were looking for him. I fed Orin those names and got some stories associated with them. While we were talking, black riders arrived and Orin told me to run to a secret passage under one of the inn's beds.
  • There was a reasonably large dungeon under the bed, but little in it except some spider attacks and dwarf sarcophagi that made references to minor characters and battles in Tolkien's books. In one room, a row of green skulls sat on a shelf next to a ghost. I didn't know what to do here, but later I found a green skull for sale in a shop, bought it, returned to the dungeon, used it in the room, and got directions to a treasure that turned out to be "Galadriel's token." There was some note with it that suggested that I would need both it and the Golden Wheel (which I found under Sharkey's Shipping previously) to find Durin's Axe.

  • The game's approach to healing is odd. For most of it, I've been regenerating a couple of points at a time by munching on rations and mushrooms. I have a metric ton of athelas, picked up from various places, but I can't seem to actually use it directly. Then, around Bree, I encountered two healers who were happy to heal me to full health for free just from wandering into their shops. One of them complained that his athelas root was old, but he wouldn't take any of the athelas I had. This sudden free and plentiful healing, right when my party got a lot more powerful anyway, made the map much easier.
  • Despite this, I still wasn't able to keep my party alive when facing random Nazgul attacks. Five of them attacked me when I reached Weathertop, which technically happened in the book, but I couldn't even successfully flee without at least a couple of my characters dying.

On the other hand, this didn't happen in the book.

  • Aside from the Nazgul attack, which I ended up just walking around, Weathertop was notable for a very large cavernous dungeon and a set of crypts beneath it. The dungeon was necessary for two reasons that I could see. First, it held a piece of what turned out to be Aragorn's sword, Anduril. Second, I encountered a ghost of heartbroken man named Thaldred, whose lover was slain by the forces of the Witch King. He wanted a token that proved a "maiden's love." The token that Rose gave to Sam did the trick, and he gave me the LUTHIEN word of power for the second time.

Thanks, ghost friend, but this ground has been pretty well trod by now.
  • In the Weathertop caverns, I encountered my first trolls. They look a bit different than Peter Jackson imagined them.

  • There were a lot of encounters with unnamed humans, dwarfs, and hobbits on the road. They all had a little bit of lore to impart.
  • This guy makes me feel less guilty about using his name.

Calm down, man. It's not like the game offers a "knock" command.
Eventually, I got sick of being attacked by Nazgul and just moved on to the next map even though I hadn't fully explored the Bree area.

Frodo prepares to reverse-Moses the Nazgul.

Almost immediately on arrival in the Rivendell environs, I found another cave, again full of trolls, and again found the LUTHIEN word of power. The game really wanted me to have this one. The reason soon became clear when I met up with Glorfindel by the river. He put Frodo on a horse and sent him ahead, but the nine black riders caught up with me. The game showed a cartoon sequence from the film and then gave me one action to bellow LUTHIEN and drown the black riders in the river. In the Jackson films, Arwen is with Frodo and invokes the power; I didn't realize this wasn't canonical.

I always feel bad for the horses.

After they were defeated, the game noted that their cloaks had been left behind, snagged on rocks and whatnot. I spent a while wandering around collecting them even though my inventory was nearing its breaking point. Glorfindel had just joined my party, which helped a bit.

At Rivendell, which looked like a small mansion rather than a huge keep, I was allowed to explore freely. I met Bilbo, who went through his quasi-Gollum metamorphosis when I showed him the ring, then gave me Sting and mithril armor (I equipped both to Frodo). He joined my party briefly but left it after the Council. In a library, I read through dozens of pages of text of local lore, most of it having to do with the maps I'd already explored. I guess some players must head right for Rivendell, then backtrack to the Old Forest and Bree?

Blah, blah, blah. I found the Smith's Ring ages ago.

There were also--finally!--a number of trainers who offered skills to the various members of the party. The manual outlined the possibility of acquiring or buying new skills, but I hadn't met anyone willing to teach or sell them to me. Then, suddenly, Rivendell produced three of them.

I was finally able to get rid of a ton of inventory items. The game suggested I give a nice gem or piece of jewelry as a gift to Arwen. I did, and she rewarded me with her token (she told me to show it to Galadriel) but also an increase in "luck" points. I gave her a few more gems and the luck points continued to go up even though I didn't get any more tokens.

Is she prettier than Liv Tyler? Discuss.

I had been carrying the signet ring of the slain ranger Hawkeye since the Shire. In Elrond's house, I met his girlfriend, who asked me to bury it in the tombs beneath Rivendell, which I did happily. Some spirit spoke up and suggested that in "the city of the dead," I should ask the former king of his past.

There was a decent role-playing choice here. I didn't explore what happened if I said "no."

Later, the smith took two parts of Aragorn's sword that I'd been carrying since the Shire and forged Anduril. (In the book, aren't all of the pieces already at Rivendell? And is it reforged this early in the story?) I finally sucked it up and dropped the excess shovels, torches, and other equipment I'd been carrying, too. I hope none of it is needed later.

Aragorn can be a bit of a pretentious douche, can't he?

Much like LUTHIEN, the game really wanted me to learn the word for "friend," presumably because it's needed to get into Moria. There were two places that I learned it in Rivendell, and all my party members got it, meaning I can now invoke it more than a dozen times. Anyway, it turns out that the word is MELLON. Really? I always thought Gandalf was saying something like "BELL-OCK" in the film. This is definitely not a word you want to mix up with English, lest the elves launch a campaign against Gallagher for smashing so many friends with a sledgehammer.

Dare I hope that GOURD means "enemy"?

I found Gimli and his father, Gloin, hanging out in some caverns beneath Rivendell and got Gimli to join me. Gloin had a lot to say about Moria, which I assume is about to occupy a big part of my life. 

A bit of Gloin's intel, which lasted for several paragraphs.

I had everyone else, but it took me forever to find Gandalf. He turned out to be hanging around some rocks in the northeast corner of the map, and the moment I met him, he didn't even squeak a hello before announcing it was time for the Council. 

Nice to see you, too.

Back in Rivendell, Boromir showed up and the meeting commenced, highlighted by a three-minute clip from the animated film. It was interesting to see how differently it proceeded from the Jackson film, with the discussion much more civil, Boromir not antagonistic at all to Aragorn, and Frodo rather calmly announcing that he'll take the ring to Mordor. In the latter point, I thought the Jackson film was much more dramatic and moving.

The council meets in the Bakshi film insert.

When it was over, Gandalf automatically joined the party. Elrond wanted proof that the black riders were gone, which is where their cloaks came in handy. He then gave me some more athelas; honestly, what am I supposed to do with this stuff? Boromir was hanging around, but I'd finally reached 10 companions and the game wouldn't let me add any more. Reluctantly, I dismissed the pony in favor of another fighter. Boromir came with the Horn of Gondor, which I assume we'll have to use at some point.

It wasn't until I departed Rivendell that I realized I never found Legolas anywhere. I thought maybe his presence in Rivendell was another Jackson modification, but I looked at the wiki and, no, he should have been at the council. Maybe his place in this game is usurped by Glorfindel.

A few other miscellaneous notes:

  • Even though I'm not overly attached to the source material, I've had a difficult time keeping anyone but Frodo in the lead. You can designate anyone as the "leader," and that person usually ends up in the thick of combat, so it would make more sense to make it Aragorn or Druin. You can also make any character the ring-bearer, but I've also had difficulty using anyone but Frodo for that. It just seems wrong.
  • While it's satisfying to have my party of 10 pound on enemies, I'm left lukewarm by the game's approach to combat overall. There are very few tactics associated with it except movement and attacking. Perhaps that will change now that I have some spells.
  • Much as Sting glows blue when orcs are near, Sam's "spider sword" hums when spiders are near.

Of course, the fact that the room is full of spider webs was also a bit of a warning.

  • Speaking of spells, Gandalf came with "Illuminate," "Unlock," "Firefinger," "Animalspeak," and "Countermagic."  Glorfindel came with just "Countermagic."
  •  In terms of Words of Power, between my party members, I have 5 HELP HELPs, 4 BOMBADILs, 2 ELBERETHs (Aragorn came with one), 1 ANGMAR, 15 LUTHIENs, 1 BEREN, and 17 MELLONs. I assume at least one MELLON is needed to enter Moria, but I have no idea what BEREN or ANGMAR does, nor whether HELP HELP, BOMBADIL, or LUTHIEN ever serve any purpose again.
  • Gimli's portrait shows him wearing a hat that makes him look like a total doofus.

Howdy, pilgrim. 1620 was quite a year, wasn't it?

  • Every once in a while, my party seems to get an extra round in combat. I'm not sure why.
  • My list of notes and hints has grown huge. I keep solving areas and then realizing I had some hint that would have let me solve it faster.
  • Okay, read this and tell me once and for all, are orcs and goblins the same thing? Then why does Gandalf say that Saruman has been "breeding orcs with goblin-men"?

In related news: I give in. I have a couple of airplane trips next week, and I'm going to force myself to read the book. It's silly to keep having to ask all of you to fill in the plot points, and I'm often confused by the wiki.

I find myself wondering how long the game will last. I assume it goes at least to Lothlorien, because I've received several hints as to what to do there. I also wonder what the sequel looks like, with (presumably) the Fellowship broken up. We'll find out eventually. On to Moria!


  1. Considering that it's following a predetermined plot, the game seems to be doing a decent job of being a fairly open RPG. Are you going to backtrack, despite the uncanonical feeling, and try to fight the Nazghul in the earlier maps, or have they been removed post-Luthien

    1. They appear to have disappeared. In places where Nazgul attacked before, I got attacked by human thugs instead.

  2. I am curious, I have heard others voice their same displeasure with the lord of the ring books in comparison to other fantasy authors, what is wrong with his writing style? Is he too wordy, childish, boring?

    I loved the books as a kid. I even went out and bought his other works that he never finished just to get more information about the world he created.

    What authors do you like? I am in need of another fantasy series to start and would love some suggestions.

    1. It would take more time than I have to do a point-by-point analysis of Tolkien's writing style. Maybe I'll do it after I force myself to read the book.

      Part of it is the dialogue. For reasons I forget, I recently looked up the actual text of where Merry and Eowyn kill the Witch-King. In the midst of a battlefield, we have the Nazgul giving this absurd speech:

      "Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."

      Eowyn, for her part, replies: "Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."

      "Hinder"? That's a bold boast there, Eowyn. Jackson rightfully punched up the dialogue. He has the Nazgul stop after "Do not come between a Nazgul and his prey" and Eowyn says, "I will kill you if you touch him!"--both choices more in tune with the nature of the battle.

      Throughout the book, the dialogue is like this, with words that ought to be delivered with great pathos sounding more like they're being spoken by bored teenagers role-playing the characters around a table.

      The narrative itself, I find, varies between something that's too much in love with its own history and language and weird little inserts and interjections on the part of the author. "But lo!" "And behold!" "What cold and unhappy little hobbits they were!" (That last one isn't a direct quote, though I remember something like it.)

      I suppose the more important aspect--and this isn't Tolkien's fault at all--is that we live in a post-Tolkien world, in which fantasy has taken a darker turn towards more realistic characterizations and more complex plots. I don't know enough about the genre to credit it to any specific person. Martin and Erickson seem obvious, but we saw more gritty characterization and adult themes showing up much earlier than that; I'm thinking in particular of the 1982 film The Sword and the Sorcerer, and I'm sure there are lots of other examples. These are words with no absolute heroes and villains, no racial alignments (mark my words: even the white walkers will eventually be shown to have a good side), where the downsides of things like caste systems and hereditary monarchies are fully explored. Having been exposed to such works, it's hard to go back to Tolkien (which is what I'm doing; of course, many of you started with him), who reads less like an epic fantasy author and more like a fairy tale author.

      As for what authors I like, I'm really enjoying Brandon Sanderson at the moment. I think he contributed two of the best novels in the "Wheel of Time" series (I didn't like the last one) and both his "Mistborn" series and "Stormlight Archive" books are some of the best fantasy I've ever read. His main problem is that he can't write sex--his few attempts are cringe-worthy at best--but his world-building is comparable to Tolkien, and his prose is much, much better.

    2. I tried to read through the trilogy in college (I had previous read and enjoyed The Hobbit in grade school as one of my earliest novels) and ended up putting it down halfway through the last book because it was just too depressing trudging through Mordor with Frodo and Sam.

      I've since come to regret and and hope to re-read the books someday. I'll probably get more out of them too, now that I'm twice as old as I was back then.

    3. Im a fairly typical nerd, I read The Hobbit just last month and really enjoyed it. I liked the imaginative world, the adventure and the situations. I didnt notice his prose, but that's just my opinion and if you are turned off by the prose that's OK

    4. "I will hinder it, if I may"

      "You may not"

      "Oh, no worries, maybe next time then"

    5. There's a book by Tom Shippey, "J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century" ( which examines Tolkien's works and especially the Lord of the Rings in great detail. Shippey is a successor of Tolkien at Oxford, and among other things analyses the language Tolkien used and why it's often archaic. Great book, which I heartily recommend.

      But then I'm not a native speaker, so I probably didn't notice most of the awkward uses of language in the books like you did. :)

    6. Remember that Tolkien's goal was less to write a "modern" fantasy story and more to construct a kind of mythos/legend or even fairy tale, like for example Beowulf. The dialogue in those kinds of stories is what Tolkien was going for at least in principle, and since you're so familiar with the King Arthur lore you would probably agree that overly direct dialogue like "I will kill you!" would not quite fit in there. I agree that it works better for the movies, though.

    7. Right. I can allow that Tolkien was wildly successful in meeting his goal while simultaneously not particularly enjoying the result.

      I was interested in Arthurian literature largely for the same reason a lot of people are interested in Tolkien: the allure of all the tantalizing references and bits of lore embedded in the stories. There are not, however, many classic Arthurian sources that I'd recommend to a modern reader for the quality of their writing.

    8. "Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."

      I've always thought this was one of the most chilling passages I've ever read. Angmar isn't joking about this. He'll fucking do it. He's done it before, and he'll do it again. So his language is old-fashioned? He's thousands of years old! He hasn't exactly been keeping up with the times. It's amazing he even speaks Westron at all.

      I always detest fantasy authors who make their characters speak in modern voices. It's ridiculous. Moreover, it makes them sound ridiculous as soon as their time has passed. Nothing more immersion-shattering than listening to two characters speak in 70s slang, using outdated concepts from that era to relate to each other.

    9. It's not the language I object to. It's first that the speech seems a little long-winded, given that the battle is raging around them. Second, what does it even MEAN? Is he literally going to pick her up and carry her off to Mordor? While there's a battle going on that he's supposed to be in charge of? What if a bunch of people get in his way? He'll just spend the entire war ferrying his victims back and forth to Sauron so he can fulfill his boast? That should have been a scene in the movie. Angmar exhaustedly flies back to the battlefield after a four-hour trip, only to find ANOTHER soldier standing between him and his prey. "Oh, come on!" he says. "Didn't you see what I just did with Eowyn? I took her all the way to...puff, puff...Mordor...and you'd better BELIEVE she's suffering right now. Just...get out of the way. Okay?"

      Or is it a more metaphorical boast? Is it basically just his way of saying, "I'll mess you up"? 'Cause he doesn't really need to say that. One look at the guy would tell me that. What is the specific mechanism by which he will "bear thee away to the houses of lamentation"?

    10. It's an epic story, there is ALWAYS time for long-winded speeches in the middle of battle. It's not a documentary, if you're looking for the specifics of travel time between the Pelennor Fields and the dungeons of Lugburz you're bound to be disappointed.

    11. I think the Nazgûl predilection for bearing people away is pretty well-documented, no? I'm not the Tolkienite that some folks are, but taking people to Sauron to be tortured is a pretty regular occurrence in the non-trilogy books, as I recall. Maybe the orcs and evil-allied humans took care of that, dunno.

      I think part of the point of the Witch-King's speech is that on some level he recognizes Éowyn as a threat -- or at least, he perceives her power -- and he's trying to intimidate her into fleeing. At the same time, his willingness to stop just to trash-talk signifies his overconfidence, because he doesn't believe that he or his forces can be defeated.

      Meanwhile, Éowyn's understated response seems to me the epitome of humble bravery in the face of terror. No boasting or macho puffery, just simple refusal to capitulate or to give into fear, even though she knows she's hopelessly overmatched (hence why she says she'll "hinder" the Witch-King -- I find that line wonderfully wry, actually, and oddly moving).

      You could talk at length about how that vision of bravery relates to mid-century English values of humility and understatement. And maybe there are things that are problematic about that vision and those values and how they're associated with the "poetic", dulce et decorum est, and so on. But, well...given how utterly sick I am of the contemporary culture of boastful buffoonery, and seeing people who contribute nothing to the world (e.g. reality show stars) proclaim their importance, it's one hell of a breath of fresh air to see humility and understatement celebrated, and the boastful brought low.

      (On the other hand, I've never been fond of the part where the adversaries announce "We are the fighting Uruk-Hai!" and so on. It makes me expect a musical number to follow: "We are the fighting Uruk-Hai / We kill and maim, don't ask us why / Our violence we can't deny"...)

      And yeah, if you don't like epic speeches in battle, the Iliad would probably be best left off your reading list!

    12. I never saw a problem with this particular mid-battle verbal-jousting. It is, after all, the Witch King. There are only two people on the battlefield crazy enough to get near him *intentionally*, and that could, quite conceivably, include his own side. He doesn't seem like the type to be particularly concerned about "friendly fire."

    13. Oh, very well. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in my criticisms of the literary merits of that particular passage. Nonetheless, I maintain it is not a very well-written book. I'm almost halfway through, and I have absolutely no sense of character for most of the members of the Fellowship (except that they're significantly more cheerful and verbose than their film counterparts). Everyone's ready with a long sermon or song at a moment's notice. There's absolutely no sense of urgency, not even when Frodo was stabbed and poisoned.

    14. Put that together with his habit of generating names by making one-syllable changes to names he was already using so you don't really always know which was which...

      In my opinion, Tolkein came up with good stories that were badly written, while C.S. Lewis had mediocre stories that were well written. If only they'd worked together on one story and taken the best from both we might have something truly awe inspiring.

    15. I can't resist offering a Tolkien-to-vernacular translation:

      Nazgul: "Do not get in my way, or I won't just kill you. I'll have you sent to Sauron, and you will suffer unspeakable tortures of body, mind, and soul until you beg for death."

      Eowyn: "Do what you must. Even if I can't stop you, I will pay any price to slow you down."

    16. It's not the language I object to. It's first that the speech seems a little long-winded, given that the battle is raging around them - IIRC, medieval battles were a highly ritualized fair, they were hardly raging in the sense that fantasy movies would show it.

    17. And is Lord of the Rings more like authentic medieval history or more like epic fantasy as might be portrayed in a film?

    18. Well, Tolkien's own vision obviously tended towards the former - if only by virtue of there being no fantasy movies at the time of writing ;)
      But I also recall reading that he initially created Middle-earth and its history as a background for development of fictional languages (to mimic the development of real languages, affected by actual historical events), so he clearly aimed for a substantial degree of authenticity. Thus yes, I'd call Lord of the Rings a historical fiction novel at least in form (if not in subject).

    19. It's ironic that he hates having his books being compared to any actual historical events when his aim for the books is to show people how he views historical events.

      It's like saying, "I hate cookies! Now I'm going to eat a whole jar of it and tell you just how much I hate it!"

    20. Not really. What he hated was the plot of his books being viewed as an allegory for WW2 - or as an allegory for anything for that matter. And that was precisely because he constructed his narrative as a historical one - i.e. an "objective" relating of events that does not have any kind of symbolic meaning (postmodern concepts of history came later).

    21. Which is weird, since he had to have some kind of reference in his head before he could draw from it to conceptualize a story. And if he did, those experiences would most definitely come from the World Wars subconsciously because that was all they were talking about then, goddammit.

      Would it be surprising if the readers didn't catch what he was writing that were inspired by (if not indirectly referencing) those wars?

    22. I can't even begin to describe how I despise psychoanalysing an author based on their work. That it's considered a vaild approach to art research is the one thing that I hate most about my profession (though being severely underpaid comes really close).

    23. What Kenny was doing wasn't so much psychoanalyzing as suggesting that a writer working in the 1940s was almost certainly influenced by the events of his world. It's not a crazy assumption, and I could see someone who really cares about LOTR writing about how events of the first half of the 20th century shaped the book's worldview. But it can be equally true that Tolkien didn't intend any explicit allegory, which I agree he probably didn't. I read an article arguing that he did, but I thought the connections were pretty spurious--and of course Tolkien himself said repeatedly that the connections just weren't there.

  3. - If you go back to Bree after Rivendell there are a few things that have changed.

    - In the book Aragorn carries the broken Narsil/Anduril and is forged in Rivendel (this is changed in Jacksons movie), and yes, Mellon is correct as the word for friend.

    - If you ask Elrond about Gandalf he says that he's "at the foot of the mountains east of Rivendell"

    - About the Athelas, read the manual ;)

    "Known in Gondor as Kingsfoil, this herb is a powerful curative. It is useful in the hands of a healer or someone skilled in Herb Lore. This herb Is said to be especially effective in the hands of the rightful King of Gondor."

    - Legolas is outside, west to the bridge that leads to Rivendel. Definitely a character to have.

    - You still have to do Moria, Lorien and "another" map

    1. This is the danger of blogging a little behind my playing. I'm already deep in Moria, so I won't be able to return to Bree or pick up Legolas until much later, and I suspect I won't be interested by then.

      I did miss that bit about athelas. Despite what the manual says, though, healers don't seem to care about it (at least, nothing happens when I try to trade it to them), and nothing happens when my one character skilled in "herb lore" tries to use it. Aragorn CAN use it, though--thanks for pointing that out. I guess I'd better put him in the lead, since it works only on him.

    2. Does invoking the "herb lore" skill itself with athelas in your inventory do anything interesting, as opposed to invoking the athelas item directly?

    3. No, I thought of that. None of the "lore" skills can be invoked directly.

    4. After you have done Moria, there's an easy way to backtrack. It's even part of the lore, just different from the book.

      I do recommend backtracking and exploring after either Moria or Lothlorien.

  4. It's very odd that Glorfindel joins the party. He's one of the badasses of ancient days and is probably stronger than Gandalf. It would be like Elrond or Galadriel joining the party; he's on their level power-wise.

    Arwen is canonically dark-haired. It's weird for her to look otherwise.

    Goblins and orcs are the same kind of thing; they're both orcs. However, there are a lot of kinds of orc, and it's possible that goblin refers only to some subset of the whole orc race. In particular, the smaller, more light-susceptible, northern orcs are often called goblins. As for the text you quote, they mean that "goblin-men" are distinct from regular orcs. Saruman was cross-breeding orcs with humans, which was considered one of his most heinous crimes.

    1. I've always been terribly confused about orcs versus goblins in Tolkien.

      Here's a useful writeup I found via a Google search:

      Wikipedia has a discussion on the matter, but I didn't find it very clarifying:

    2. Besides Glorfindel, there's other "badass" characters that are canon and can join the party. I believe a couple were already missed.

    3. Gandalf was a Maiar (a sort of demigod) as was Sauron. Glorfindel was an elf, albeit a powerful one (he killed a Balrog but did of his wounds), Gandalf is almost certainly more powerful.

    4. Middle-Earth is full of examples of Elves and Men slaying mighty beings. Balrogs, Dragons, Sauron - one hero even maimed Morgoth, the most powerful being in the pantheon save the creator himself.

      I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to have Aragorn/Boromir or one of the Elves be seen to be similarly capable to Gandalf in the game.

    5. In the game, there is another Maiar available to join the Fellowship too... ;)

    6. I think you've got it backwards a bit. Orcs and goblins are the same, but he makes it more complicated sometimes by using Orc to refer to bigger goblins, as though all Orcs are goblins but not all goblins are Orcs. I imagine it's like saying that all ponies are horses; it doesn't prevent you from saying "I don't want a pony, I want a horse!"

      And my read is that "goblin-men" = "half-orcs." He implies that Bill Ferny is a half-orc, which means that they can pass. So it's possible that the Uruk-Hai are one-quarter human or less; basically Orcs that can tolerate daylight like humans.

      (And a final parenthetical note of irritation with everyone who has ripped off his creation: In his descriptions of the very biggest, most badass Orcs in existence, he always says that the most massive specimens of goblinkind are ALMOST as big as a man. Really people, how else could hobbits pass for them otherwise?)

    7. @banshee: Sure, Gandalf in his native form would be more powerful than any elf, but the Istari have special constraints placed on them. Gandalf had some of them lifted when he returned as the White, and you can see a remarkable boost in his power there.

      In ancient days, Glorfindel fought off armies of orcs, dragons, multiple balrogs (granted, he was at the head of an army). Actually, there are interesting parallels between him and Gandalf, as both were killed while slaying a balrog and returned from death. Tolkien says about him:

      "He then became again a living incarnate person, but was permitted to dwell in the Blessed Realm; for he had regained the ... grace of the Eldar. For long years he remained in Valinor, ... in the companionship of the Maiar. To these he had now become almost an equal, for ... his spiritual power had been greatly enhanced by his self-sacrifice."

      In another place, he is called the mightiest of the elves who remain in Middle Earth. So at any rate, he's way powerful. Off-scale compared to anybody other than Gandalf in the party.

    8. One of the things I always liked about Steven Erickson's series is that many characters might be immortal, but hardly anyone is invulnerable. Whether through luck or skill, mortals are quite capable of slaying gods.

    9. As did Raistlin Majere and Huma from the Dragonlance series.

    10. Tolkien is full of less being harming or slaying greater beings, though always at great cost to themselves. That doesn't make them equals--the whole point is the underdog accomplishing something and if they are equals the epic tragedy would be lost.

      Hence the "almost equal to Maiar", which proves my point.

  5. Tolkien never really seemed to distinguish between goblins and orcs (I'm pretty sure "orc" is just a somewhat botched translation of the Elvish word orch, which is just their word for "goblin"), but since he did distinguish between bigger stronger varieties who were from dark strongholds like Mordor and I think also Mt. Gundabad in the far north of the Misty Mountains and the smaller, weaker orcs from places like Moria and Goblin Town, using the more intimidating "orc" for the stronger varieties and "goblin" for the weaker ones is standard practice amongst every Tolkien fan who doesn't have their head stuck completely up his ass. This is particularly true since Saruman's superorcs are called uruk-hai which distinguishes them from all the other orcs. Using "goblin" the same way is sensible (in some places I think it's become commonplace to call Mordor orcs "uruks," Misty Mountain orcs "goblins," Angmar and/or Mirkwood orcs "orcs," and Isengard orcs are of course "uruk-hai").

    Fun fact: In early writings, including I think the Hobbit, Tolkien was under the impression that in English folklore a hobgoblin was a bigger, nastier goblin, so he sometimes referred to his bigger, nastier orcs as hobgoblins. Later on he learned that this was exactly the opposite of true: Folklore hobgoblins are smaller than goblins and tend to be benign. He stopped using the word hobgoblin altogether, but the misconception clearly survived long enough to get D&D writers to make the same mistake.

    1. Thanks, Maldeus. Just the discussion I was hoping for.

    2. Really? I don't recall Tolkien ever using the word hobgoblin.

    3. Harland: You might have to find a first edition The Hobbit; he changed a lot of stuff in the second edition once he had LotR started, dropping hints to the rings true nature and tying the necromancer to Suaron.

  6. The game seems to have picked up since the last post, sounds a lot more fun now.

  7. In answer to your comment about Anduril. In the books, Aragorn carries Narsil (the broken sword of Elendil) in his scabbard from the beginning (he carried no other weapon, either and the swords that he gave to the hobbits in the films came from the barrow-downs rather than from him in the books). The sword was indeed reforged in Rivendell, with the entire "Elrond is a cowardly douche" and "Aragorn is avoiding being king" plots being injected by Jackson into the films.

    1. Yeah, as I recall it, Aragon had spent 40+ years working to become king so he can get married to the women he loves, not running from it.

  8. I can't resist commenting on Sanderson + Wheel of Time. ;) I think he was a bit of a mixed blessing. I'm generally not really a fan of his style and think that Jordan was considerably better at portraying characters. On the other hand one has to admit that Sanderson was able to shoulder a monumental task.
    As Jordan did eventually get bogged down in a mire of minor characters and plotlines Sanderson deserves considerable credit for speeding up and finally finishing things. It's just that ... well, I think a good deal of flair was sacrificed in the process.
    Also Sanderson certainly didn't help with Jordans unfortunate tendency to turn his characters / certain factions into superheroes that need ever-increasing hordes of monsters to provide them at least with some sense of challenge.
    But that's a personal pet peeve of mine. I prefer it slightly more 'realistic' and low-key. In my opinion the tension is often ruined when the enemy bodycount rises to ridiculous levels as it is often the case. Jackson's LOTR/ Hobbit adaptions certainly come to mind here.
    Is it reaaaaally sensible to attempt to show how awesome your heroes are by letting them slaughter hundreds of orcs personally? If your opponents are that bad at combat - how heroic does that truly make your guys look? They are clearly playing on EXTREMELY EASY or possibly using cheats. :)


  9. A couple notes again:

    1) You missed at least 2 strong NPCs in Rivendell. Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir, are available to recruit. I took them instead of Merry and Pippin, but I understand you might prefer to include the "standard" fellowship.

    2) There is a 2nd way past the mountains besides Moria, I hope you found it.

    3) There are a few barrows south and southwest of Rivendell worth exploring. I just checked a FAQ and I'm pretty sure I found more than what is mentioned there.

    4) If you answer "No" to Hawkeye's widow, that's a decision that may... haunt you later ;) Choices and consequences, as early as 1990!

    5) You may have to take a decision soon at the end of Moria. One option is as per canon which loses you what might be now the most powerful member of your party. The other is to fight. I lost one (non canon) NPC that way which was a decent tradeoff, but it's your choice.

    1. 2) I found Redhorn Pass (Caradhras), but I couldn't make it past the snowdrift. I figured this was deliberate, as per the original source. Is there some way to cross from the west side?

    2. The only way to cross from the west side is by abusing a glitch in the game: move your party up and down, and make leader the easternmost character. Rinse and repeat until you're past the trigger for the you-cannot-pass message.

      Understandably I only did this for testing purposes: I still went back and did Moria.

      You can, however, travel from the east. You will find more than just a mere mountain passage, and unblock that path for good.

    3. While I was actually playing, I didn't figure out how to get back from the east. It seems I had to search each bit of hallway to find the secret passage to the spirit's chambers.

  10. I can only imagine the disappointment a fan of the series must have felt after paying full price for both of the LOTR games, only to never have the third one be made and therefore have no 'true' conclusion to the video games' story.

    I remember games being roughly $55-$60 back when this game was published and an inflation calculator puts $55 as equaling just under $100 (!!!) in 2014 dollars. Buying both games must have represented a decent investment of time and money...and then you don't get the third.

    Yeah, I'd be bitter.

    1. Anyone know why the third game was never made?

      I bought the floppy version of the first two games together as a 2-in-1 pack in the mid-90s for like $5-10. It was a very good value.

    2. My guess is that poor sales of Vol. II sunk the project.

      Interplay still exists, and suppose it's not impossible that they still have the rights to make III (though more likely, right reverted to the Tolkien estate after X years). We should lobby them for the sequel.

    3. Ha, I wasn't even aware Interplay was still around. They have a new game on Steam actually, but their In Development page lists only small projects. I don't think we'll be seeing Volume III in our lifetime.

    4. In the industry, the Lord of the Rings license was (after the fact) considered "cursed", much like the One Ring. It passed to multiple other companies, each of whom failed to get out a game. Sierra had the license for a while, spent some money on it, but eventually lost it.

      I wasn't directly involved in any of that, so the details have gone fuzzy. But we were very excited when Sierra got the license, then disappointed that they didn't manage to make a game from it.

    5. In my fan-fictiony mind, a Lord of the Rings game developed by Sierra would have been powered by the Betrayal at Krondor game engine.

      And it would be awesome.

    6. Sierra did eventually publish a game called The Hobbit in the early 2000s. Came with a free copy of the book. 3rd person, action adventure, not terribly good, but not horrid either.

    7. Does anybody else's brain explode a little bit that Corey F-ing Cole is a regular commenter here? Because mine does.

    8. @Raifield: Good call!

      @Nate: Yeah, isn't the Internet great? Hi Corey :)

    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    10. Heh, thanks. Just remember someone's very wise advice - "Never compare your everyday life with someone else's highlight reel."

      Occasionally I've lucked into doing something special, but most of the time I'm just a gamer. Chet has some pretty cool stuff on this blog, so I like to contribute when I have personal experience on something. Or in this case, when he's talking about one of the books that had a major effect on my life.

    11. Hopefully, there'd be a Kickstarter for Vol. 3. XD

    12. "Or in this case, when he's talking about one of the books that had a major effect on my life." Sorry I've been insulting it so much, then.

    13. It's interesting. I dearly love LotR. And I also like the language he is using (and I am more interested in books with great usage of the language and get easily bored by authors using modern day language). However, I am not a native English speaker.

      Despite this I am very interested in what you have to say on the subject. I have nothing against people thrashing my favorites as long as they are entertaining while doing it!

  11. It's true that the Lord of the Rings can feel a little backwards, but I can forgive them for being one of the foundations of modern science fiction and fantasy, along with John Carter of Mars and a couple other wellsprings. Who know what CRPGs would have looked like without Tolkien? It probably would have taken a little longer to get the idea of a party-based system out there without the fellowship as a model, for one.

    As for his novels, Tolkien cannot be accused for lack of ambition. He sought to create a new English Mythology. Middle Earth is a world in decline, where the past is bigger than the present. The high language of the books is an attempt to conjure up ghosts of what once was. Of course Eowyn would use an archaic voice at that point in the book; she is functionally the queen of her people, facing down the the personification of evil in the battle that would decide the survival of her race! I can forgive a little poetic license. It's Beowulf - at it's best, the Lord of the Rings is epic poetry in prose format. YMMV.

    This game was clearly a labour of love, for all its flaws. Given how easy it would have been for interplay to rely on the license and not give an effort, that's a minor miracle. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of the rest of it.

    1. Interplay suffered all its life from labors of love. Though they wound up publishing several huge titles, nothing they developed themselves ever became a big hit in its day, including the first Fallout.

      Their development list reads very much like Acclaim's: a big name in the 80's with a steady decline going into the 90's. They were far better as a publisher.

    2. Yep. As I keep saying, I admire Tolkien for his world-building, recognize his enormous contributions to both fantasy literature and role-playing, but still don't like the actual text of the book.

    3. Sounds like me and Nirvana or Wiliam Gibson. I love what they did the the genre, and know how *important* they are, but can't stand either one.

  12. Ref "Mellon" vs. "Bellock" (both of which I've always pronounced as equally-waited syllables, so it would be "Mell-On" rather then "Mell-uhn"):

    Gandalf tried many different words to open the gate. Finally Merry asked him, "What do the runes at the top mean?" and Gandalf answered, "They say, 'Speak friend and enter.'" He then has an inspiration, berates himself, and says "Mellon" and the door opens.

    This slightly violates a rule of riddles, in that "Mellon" actually appears in the text above the door. Presumably Gandalf was so fluent in Sindarin that he didn't read it aloud in Sindarin - He just translated it. Afterwards Gandalf remarks that the door was created in a more trusting age.

    In the film, Frodo has the inspiration, since he's the hero. He echoes Bilbo's love of riddles by saying, "It's a riddle!"

    1. I've never really understood why an ELVISH word, rather than a dwarven one, opens the mines. I'm sure it's steeped in lore somewhere. I did start reading the book yesterday and am almost at the point where they enter Moria. What strikes me most so far is how many goddamned songs there are. They're actively being chased by Nazgul, and they're happily singing little ballads.

    2. Probably because all friends of Moria dwarfs (including some elves and humans) were meant to be able to solve the riddle. Sindarin was commonly known (at least by more educated), while only few words of dwarf language (that is, some battle cries) had been heard outside dwarf circles.

    3. I always thought it was root Maiar language (which Elvish was based on) that was inscribed there.

    4. I could be wrong, but at one point there was a group of elves outside the gates of moria. The actual elf who created the rings lived in that area, Celebrom(sp). If memory serves there was major trade between the two groups.

      In that stand point having the greeting in elvish makes more sense. They are in fact the people you are talking too.

    5. It's because dwarves never fully trust on anyone but other dwarf So they wanted to keep the secrets of their language for their self only.
      Dwarves used Sindarin as Noldorin was all but forgotten by this point.

  13. Really looking forward to reading about Part II someday, whenever you get to it. There is very little information about it online. I found a very thorough guide for Part I but nothing at all for Part II, even at GameFAQs. You know a game is obscure when there's no guide at GameFAQs.

    1. That's true. I've already downloaded it--I wanted to see if the engines were the same--so fortunately, I can guarantee I'll play it.

  14. The reason the doors of Moria are etched in Elvish is that the land west of the gate was an Elvish country called Eregion, of which Rivendell is the last remnant. In the Second Age, five thousand years ago, The Lord of Eregion was Celebrimbor, a cunning smith whose grandfather had crafted the Silmarils. Sauron taught Celebrimbor how to make the Rings of Power for the Dwarves and Men, to give as gifts, but they were touched with Sauron's power and corrupted their holders. In secret, Celebrimbor forged the Elf-rings without Sauron's assistance. Sauron in turn forged the One Ring, and when he had done so he regained his full power. To keep the secret, he unleashed his forces on Eregion. Celebrimbor was killed, Eregion was destroyed, and the gates were sealed.

    The message on the gates is not a riddle, that was a misunderstanding and a mistranslation on Gandalf's part. It does not say "Speak, friend, and enter." As Gandalf's later realizes, it says " Say "friend," and enter."


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