Ever since I first heard about Amazon Prime’s upcoming TV series, I’ve been cautiously optimistic. There is so much potential for it to be great, but as anybody who has watched The Hobbit movies will know, it could also go horribly, horribly wrong. This week, the first synopsis of the TV series was released. I have a few general thoughts about the setting and timing of the series, but when I was considering what I might write, I started to wonder, “What does Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series mean for tabletop games?”
In case you haven’t seen it, you can find the initial press release statement here; I also read this article on Den of Geek which might help whet your speculative juices.
It seems that the series is to be set thousands of years before the events of the Lord of the Rings, during the Second Age. This makes a lot of sense. It’s an era fairly clear of Tolkien’s storytelling; there’s a broad canvas upon which to lay down some stories. Tabletop gaming had inadvertently informed my own preconceptions here; I had expected the series to take place in the build-up to the War of the Ring era, probably because I’ve been playing FFG’s Journeys in Middle Earth. The idea of stories set amongst the rising shadows felt like an obvious choice.
Switching to the Second Age removes the problem of not messing with Tolkien’s main narrative, and allows for more shades of grey than one usually finds in Tolkien’s novels. 30 years ago I probably could have told you everything there was to know about the Second Age. These days my knowledge is a little rusty, but it’s the era in which Sauron walks Middle Earth and the Rings of Power are forged. The magnificent island of Numenor is still in existence with the ancestors of Aragorn sitting on its throne.
The press release mentions a “reemergence of evil.” I assume this is Sauron arriving to stir up trouble, starting the events that will culminate in the War of the Ring centuries later. Sauron in this incarnation is far more silver of tongue than his Third Age persona, affording the opportunity for some more interesting character interactions. In the Second Age, he will deceive the maker of the rings, enslave the 9 human kings, forge the One Ring, and convince the Numenoreans to sail to the Undying…