Friday, 11 January 2013

The Hobbit: The film and the game

Finally got around to see The Hobbit last weekend. I've been drafting this blog post ever since, and then decided to give up and re-write the hard bits as sequels...

Overall I enjoyed the film, mostly I really enjoyed it, but there were a few bits that I actively disliked as they totally broke my suspension of disbelief:
  • Most of the Radagast bits, but especially the orc chase*
  • Standing on the knees of giants
  • Bits of the escape from the goblin king
While putting the quest to Erebor in its broader context, and basking in the scope of Tolkien's worldbuilding, the film simultaneously made me want to play in that world again and reiterated to me how difficult a game setting Middle Earth is. I played a lot of MERP in my youth, and it always struck me then how poor a fit the game was to the setting. But I'm struggling with four (at least) aspects of the world which don't really fit my views on what a game setting need -
  • Low magic - so healing is hard and downtime is long
  • Low magic - so rewarding players with cool stuff is tricky
  • Mary Sue madness - lots of beings that are off the RPG power scale, but not sufficiently aloof from the world (Elrond bad, Gandalf good)
  • That story - how to really involve the players in Middle Earth, without having them anywhere near the One Ring or its Fellowship?
I've some thoughts on working around these issues which I'll cover in future posts. Meanwhile I'd be really interested to hear of approaches to these questions (especially the first), or even to hear that I'm plain wrong!

* Two Istari (one of whom we've just seen defeat a wraith) plus twelve decently armed dwarves versus a dozen or so warg riders - seriously? Gandalf may have an injunction against confronting Sauron directly, and it may have gone totally against the mood of the book and the film, but those orcs are toast...!