Reminder: “D&D” Was Once Filled With Hobbits
‘Dungeons & Dragons’ grew, spanning decades and becoming a cultural juggernaut. From humble basements full of kids trying out to the hallowed halls of Amazon Prime Video on the big screen, it seems these days J&D is everywhere. And so it is The Lord of the Rings. In an alternate universe, we could have had the two existing together in the same game. J&D creator Gary Gygax (who, in fact, has the best name in the world) was obviously inspired by Tolkien’s epic oeuvre, going so far as to create a bunch of species that Tolkien invented and put them in his Game.
The Hobbits were in the original version of the game in 1974, as were the ents. Tolkien’s estate was not happy about it. Balrogs, wargs, and ents, all creatures that had origins in folklore dating back thousands of years, were also released in early versions of the game that became modern. J&D. The copyright period had expired and technically The Lord of the Rings was in the public domain. Gygax used these characters to flesh out his world of sword and sorcery, and they’re so ubiquitous that they certainly wouldn’t seem out of place in a fantasy story. But when Gygax was to publish a board game called The Battle of the Five Armiesa direct reference to the big fight at the end of The Hobbit, it was a step too far for the field that dealt with the works of Tolkien. They sent a letter threatening TSR. Hobbies, the publishing company that Gygax had co-founded when he couldn’t find a publisher to produce his game, with a lawsuit. Besides hobbits, they also requested that the words dragons, goblin, orc, dwarf and elf be removed from the official list. J&D materials. If these measures were not taken, the young game publisher would be liable for damages of around half a million dollars.
Gygax certainly didn’t invent the word elf, but luckily for tabletop games, neither did Tolkien. TSR agreed to eliminate hobbits, balrogs and wargs and changed the name of ents to treants. They also dropped the board game and the potential lawsuit was settled out of court. Hobbits were changed to halflings and from 1977.
Continue your quest for more J&D knowledge with these great D&D shows, The weird mythological origins of famous gaming monstersand a list of dungeon masters who elevate the game to an art.