Lore


The Ancient Gaming Noob has an interesting article discussing the pitfalls of creating an MMO around a well-known story IP. When you get to hold Legolas’ bow when he’s taking a leak or can interact with the world as a character that already has a predefined history it can hurt rather than help players’ interest and engagment.

TAGN from the comments:

Using Session Play to put you in the shoes of one of the main characters seems like a bad idea to me.

If you are allowed any freedom of action, you can screw things up. Boromir dances, makes rude gestures, and expends no effort at all in defending Merry and Pippin.

If you are not allowed any freedom of action, why bother putting you in that situation rather than just running a cut scene.

Job Done Well

LotRO is ever walking that perilous line. I thought the Amarthiel / Narmaleth quest line in Book 1 hit all the right notes for a parallel quest to that of the Fellowship. She wasn’t in the books and played no part in the story as done by Tolkien but it gave the players a threat to tackle which plausibly would have to be dealt with so the Fellowship could continue unimpeded.

I also enjoyed the cut scene / session play parts in the Mines of Moria where players could see through the eyes of a dwarf survivor all that happened upon the finding of the Balrog and the fall of Moria.

In both the Amarthiel line and in the Moria bits, players assumed the roles of minor characters or characters created expressly for the game and did not (usually) get into becoming a major factor in the Fellowship except as a helper.

Job Done OK

Most of the content thus far has been like that above. Sometimes, however, there was content that gave me pause. Like the walk with Frodo section prior to leaving Rivendell. When I did it, I thought it was awesome. My little hobbit would of course be thrilled to have a chat with a fellow adventurer so far from home. And the fact that he had helped Frodo indirectly since my character was a Bounder made it fairly exciting.

The only down-side was when I ran that same quest again on my alts. It was amusing as an RP device to consider what my different characters would say given the exact same events and dialog coming from Frodo. My burglar may have been supportive and glad to help, my hunter (who is the uncle to my burglar) might have had sterner advice though also more practical. My human guardian probably would have told him to train up in earnest and stay behind the large men with shields.

The problem I had with the walk with Frodo is that everyone does it. Several thousand characters have had their chat with Frodo. Knowing that put a bit of a damper on things, but what are you going to do. It’s an MMO.

Job … Done

While there were parts I liked, there were also some I thought went too far. The Rangers bit in Endewaith, I think it is, seemed a little off to me. These are rangers and members of the Grey Company. And they need the help of a hobbit cook / burglar because … why exactly? If they’re short on crispy bacon or need fishing pointers, my character would likely be a benefit. Other than that, I think, by lore reputation, my hobbit wouldn’t have much to contribute to the fighting. It was the same with the Dunedain parts in Evendim – just based on the lore I had a tough time imagining my hobbit adding anything to the battles.

Dunedain: “And now, setting aside our history as an epic fighting force equivalent to none, we have enlisted this hobbit to help with our battle.”

Me: “Remember, when fighting with a dagger, you grip the handle part and aim the pointy part away from you.”

Dunedain: “Er … yes. Thank you.”

Me: “Also, don’t run with scissors and be sure to pack a straw hat to keep the sun off your head while you’re farming.”

Dunedain: *sigh* “Ok, no running with scissors on the battlefield.”

I imagine they’d find a way to get him to guard the bee as quickly as possible.

Thus far, Turbine has steered clear of sticking the players directly at the controls of a major character (that I can recall, anyway). I’m looking forward to the Rohan expansion and hope Turbine will keep to what has worked in the past.

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I stumbled on a project Gutenberg book about the Poetic (Elder) Edda.   A source for Tolkien and numerous fantasy works, such as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the Poetic Edda is full of gods, dwarves and Norse mythology.  The book in the link is a free one from project Gutenberg so it’s older and not as polished as I’d like.  The language strikes me as being a bit stilted.  But it’s still a good read and likely to result in a future investment of other translations of Norse mythology.

I’ve been goofing off in LotRO now and then but I’ve also been catching up on my reading a bit more this summer.

Starting off the line up of books I’ve completed already is Neil Gaiman’s NeverwhereNeverwhere is a modern fairy tale for adults.  It’s central character, Richard, is a normal business man in London when, one day, he helps a stranger and is dragged into the London Below.  It’s  a good read filled with twists and turns and plenty of harrowing adventures.  Highly recommended.

Along with Neverwhere, I’ve been reading the Annotated Grimm’s Fairy-tales.  It’s fun to read the old, and some new, tales as recorded by the Brothers Grimm.  The notations add some interesting points along the way.  The stories are also supported by period artwork.  Recommended if you’re into old fairy-tales and myths.

In my almost-finished pile is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of Craft.  I’ve been a fan of Stephen King’s work since High School.  (And for my money, It is the scariest book I’ve ever read.  Something about that damn clown freaks me out!)  Whether you’re a King fan or not, On Writing offers some biographical information on King and a lot of sage advise in creating fiction from one of Horror’s masters.

In my just-getting-started pile are two books.  The first is Neal Stephenson’s AnathemAnathem is a science-fiction work focusing on a group of academic monks.  It’s one of those books like Dune where the author not only made up a world but also added a significant amount of vocabulary to support it and give it a sense of history.  It can be a hard read due to looking up words (like speelycaptor, bulshytt – it doesn’t mean what you think, and Kinagrams).  It’s off to a slow start.

The other book I’m just beginning is American Gods by Niel Gaiman.  Like Neverwhere, American Gods is minimalist, fast-paced and fun.

I was having a discussion on Ventrilo the other day with some folks in my LotRO kinship.  We were lamenting the roughness of the LotRO end-game and were talking about some of the hurdles different IP-based games are having.  (That is to say, games based on a third-party IP – technically, all games are based on someone’s IP.

Blizzard owns the IP related to WoW.  So if they want to add space-ships or player-controlled flying mounts, the lore folks just say it’s possible and then it’s up to the software folks to make it happen.  There’s almost nothing standing in the way of a gaming possibility, the lore creators just have to figure out the story behind it and then it’s ready to be built into the game.

Turbine does not own the IP behind its LotRO game, Tolkien Estates does.  Everything in the game Turbine build has to conform to the lore as Tolkien imagined it.  There are exceptions (like the number of adventuring hobbits running around) but the places, the overall feel of the game and many of the character names and abilities are limited by the IP.  As such, players cannot be wizards (there are only a handful in Tolkien’s world), players cannot ride eagles (riding eagles is a rare privilege); the lore curtails many of the possibilities in an online world in favor of sticking with a set, third-party IP.

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In 1956, Cornish miners lobbied the California mining industry after the close of a large California mine; the miners demanded that management set free the Tommyknockers in the mines so they could be employed elsewhere.  Management relented to the miners’ request.

Tommy Knockers are a variety of Little People originating from Cornwall.  Prone to mischief, Tommyknockers (or Knockers) would be blamed for missing mining gear.  Miners would also credit the Knockers for beneficial actions such as making the knocking noises in mines which precede a cave-in or collapse.  Scientifically speaking, the knocking was the sound of the earth buckling, but the Knocker explanation is a lot more fun.

The Cornish miners brought the Knockers with them when they came over to the USA during the gold rush in California.

I’ve been on a Lore kick for a number of months now – not just about the games I’ve been playing but really anything to do with traditional stories or fairy tales. Seeing as Halloween (my favoritest Holiday evar) is coming up, I thought I’d post something I found from the History Channel Halloween section.

People have been making jack o’lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o’lanterns.

(Story from the Stingy Jack entry.)

Wikipedia also has a Stingy Jack article.