D&D has many literary influences, but one of the most prominent is the Lord of the Rings series. Here’s everything D&D stole from Tolkien.
The works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons have both stood at the epicenter of the fantasy genre for years, inspiring many games, movies, and even several fundamental tropes of the genre. Because of that, it isn’t very hard for fans to find similarities between the two – character types, races and other aspects of D&D‘s worldbuilding can be seen as a direct reference to the Lord of the Rings series.
The relationship between Tolkien’s works and Dungeons & Dragons has shifted over the years in some ways, oftentimes in response to intellectual property rights assertations coming from Tolkien’s publishers. In the early history of D&D, the nods to Lord of the Rings were significantly more pronounced, and the creator of the game has often cited various fantasy and science fiction novels as inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons‘ earliest editions.
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While the Lord of the Rings series predates Dungeons & Dragons, the series started gaining significant popularity in the decade during which D&D was first created. Due to this, and due to the fundamental changes the fantasy genre went through as a result of the success of Tolkien’s works, it seems almost inevitable that this influence would be visible in Dungeons & Dragons. But some similarities between the two are a little closer than one might expect.
What D&D Stole From Lord Of The Rings: Hobbits & Balrogs
In the original versions of Dungeons & Dragons, several character races were named differently than what can currently be found in modern editions of the game. Halflings were originally known as Hobbits – a clear nod to the works of Tolkien. Balrogs and Ents, among other species, were also featured as D&D monsters. These were also renamed later on, with Ents becoming Treants and Balrogs getting rebranded as Balor.
What D&D Stole From Lord Of The Rings: The Ranger Class
While the character archetype of an archer isn’t exclusive to the Lord of the Rings series, the Ranger class as featured in Dungeons & Dragons is markedly similar to the character of Aragorn. The character build of a warrior woodsman that excels at tracking and herb-lore draws heavy influence from the Tolkien character, and first edition D&D leaned more heavily on this archetype than later versions of the game, making the comparison to Aragorn very easy-to-spot to many fans.
Even outside of these specific instances and despite several changes to various aspects of the game, the influence of Lord of the Rings is still very apparent in Dungeons & Dragons, though it isn’t always so heavy-handed. But given the significant impact Tolkien’s writing had on the fantasy genre as a whole, many fans may not find this inspiration surprising.
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