I’ve been fairly forgiving of the Peter Jackson LotR movies, and they’re nice shiny fantasy eye candy, even if they lack in substance.  But seriously?  Introducing a random female elf character in the Hobbit screams awful bad idea.

All of the parts with Liv Tyler’s fish-faced Arwen were the most tedious and groan inducing moments in the original trilogy.  But at least her character was semi-canonical (it’s been ages since I read the books, but I vaguely remember at the end of RotK, some elf lady kind of showed up out of nowhere and Aragorn is all “By the way, she’s with me, read the appendix if you care.”)

Also, I find it amusing the spin they put on her being a “lower” elf .  To really get what that means, you kind of need to be familiar with a lot of First Age stuff and inter-elven racism.  Basically, most of the elves in Middle Earth are “Dark Elves”.  There is a huge flowchart out there on a site somewhere or another that gives all of the details, but basically, there are 2 kinds of elves.  The light elves, who went to Valinor, and the dark elves who didn’t.  Of the Dark elves, there were the Grey Elves who started off toward Valinor but for some reason or other didn’t make it, and then there were the really Dark Elves who said “Walk across two continents AND sail over an ocean? No thanks!” (these should not be confused with the one guy who is specifically referred to as a “dark elf”).

So, um… she’s a “low” elf kind of the way that tribes of Israel who didn’t cross the River Jordan to settle are “low” Jews. It’s a bad explanation that doesn’t really give the appropriate context to idea they’re trying to convey.

d20 Lord of the Rings?

Actually having looked at the Eclipse book briefly, I am completely boggled by d20 point-buy gaming.  That said, here is a pretty awesome series of articles breaking down some Lord of the Rings stuff.

Personally, I imagine a Middle Earth setting to be pretty much subject to Holmes Basic caps.  Other than progression of spells and maybe thieving skills, none of the scaling beyond level 3 makes much sense in any system.


A follow up…: A few examples of how some fantasy settings handle ‘non-white’ races

This list will be by no means exhaustive or even particularly detailed. But I hope it will be more interesting than those “1d10 Names of random garbage” posts that I see everywhere 🙂

Just off the top of my head…

Order of the Stick: OoTS takes place in a Multi-ethnic world that for most purposes seems colorblind, at least insofar as humans are concerned, though racial tension is explored a bit through the goblins (green) and hobgoblins (yellow). Features both non-white protagonists and antagonists. Also depicts a number of cross-racial romantic couplings.

Earthsea: Multiple ethnicities exist, though each culture is homogeneous in the pockets they’re indigenous to, except in certain cosmopolitan areas. Features a non-white protagonist and a black side-kick. White people are pretty much villainous vikings through most of the series.

Middle Earth: Oh, my. Despite some claims as such, Orcs are never explicitly said to be “black”, just that they are all (probably, even Tolkien admitted having reservations, as a Christian man, in claiming that an entire race of people was evil, irredeemable and incapable of good) evil and speak the Black Tongue. Easterlings are never explicitly defined as Hun or Asiatic or such, but they’re all pretty much evil barbarians. Same with the Haradrim, except one gathers that they’re Moorish or Arabian and universally opposed to Civilization (with a capital C). I’m pretty sure the Wainriders are Gypsies.

Elder Scrolls: Lots of races here, and a lot of them are pretty racist against each other. But no race is universally defined by their racial traits, at least as personality goes. It is interesting, though, that there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, racial mixing (with the exception of the Bretons, who are apparently all half-elven?). I wonder if there are any black people that aren’t Redguards? Or if there could be a black imperial? “I’m from the imperial province, born and raised!” Too bad, you’re black, so you’re a Redguard.

Dragonlance: Were there black people in Dragonlance? People were pretty uncomfortable around Raistlin because of the color of his skin, but I’m not sure that counts.

Prydain: I’m pretty sure everyone in this was either welsh or a goblin.