Wednesday, April 27, 2022


This is a beautiful, nostalgic post written by lummoxjr (also known as author Lee Gaiteri, who has another book coming out soon). I'm not going to italicize the post, so just know that it's all Lee from here on. 

I saw you mentioned the unfortunate passing of Scott Bennie, and Interplay's Lord of the Rings holds a huge warm and fuzzy place in my heart. So I have a story to share with you about what it meant to me.

My introduction to Tolkien's world came from my dad, who read The Hobbit to me and my sister as kids. In the late '80s I finally read Lord of the Rings for the first time and was blown away by the depth of the story. Then one day in 1990 my family was out at a mall and we discovered Interplay's Lord of the Rings in a software store: officially licensed by the Tolkien estate. Naturally it was a must-buy. Over the next several months my dad and I spent several evenings a week, a few hours at a time, working our way through the game together. We even got an Adlib sound card so we could listen to the music and sound effects in the game.

We discovered quickly just how huge the game map of the Shire alone was, and for the time the game was truly epic in scale. What was fascinating to us especially was that it was so non-linear, allowing many different paths through the game and even allowing different characters to be the Ringbearer. (There was a cost for using the Ring: it permanently lowered the bearer's Will stat, every single time.) Battles were frequent and tense. Quests were layered and meaningful, and it was vital to find supplies to survive. We got lost in the Old Forest together. We had a nice witch as a companion whose frost spells made her a powerful ally in the Shire and the Old Forest, but in some caverns outside of the Bree-land we stumbled onto an unfortunate letter and she turned on us. At Rivendell we reforged a lesser ring. We tried in vain to fight our way through Caradhras, and spent weeks trying to figure out a way through Moria. We lost Gandalf on the Bridge, but what you might not have known was that it was totally possible to fight the balrog instead—at the risk of losing one or two other members of the Fellowship, because it was a ridiculously hard fight. The adventure went on and on, with surprises at every turn. Some of the quests even had much later payoffs than we expected: such as a ghost we helped back in the Shire suddenly finding us again in Mirkwood, offering to be a companion in recognition of what we did.

But another fascinating wrinkle was that the game initially shipped with a cheat intact. If you typed "frodolives!" after the executable on the DOS command line, it would activate an in-game teleport function. At the time we used Prodigy as our online service, and it had some fairly vibrant message boards where we ended up sharing teleport coordinates with other fans of the game. As a result we were able to see even more parts of the map that we'd missed, or use the Pools of Healing in Moria to help us bounce back after some inordinately tough battles. We discovered also that some storylines from the game were apparently partially cut: you could go back to Bree and interact with Rayf Brogan, a ruffian who caused you trouble on the first visit who now had a change of heart and was willing to join the party. The teleportation mechanic opened up a whole new level of exploration in the game. I was deeply saddened that later re-release versions cut it out; yet the original was no longer playable on newer machines because it ran like a gerbil on crack.

We tried to get into the Two Towers sequel, but it wasn't the same. It tried to use split storylines that made it really hard to keep up with the action, so it just didn't work. But the original game was utterly glorious and remains one of my favorite games of all time: not just for its exceptional content, but for the times my dad and I spent deciding which path to take in a cave or if we'd looked behind this or that bush in hopes of finding a little athelas.

It's a beautiful thing how all creative endeavors—and in many ways gaming most of all—can create so many wonderful experiences, new stories, and fond memories in the people they touch.

Site Meter