We just got hold of a neat little interview with Scott Crawford, the head of cool character stuff and setting for the upcoming co-up RPG Lord of the Rings: War in the North. We admit it - we're GIANT Tolkien nerds here, so we're excited about his game just on spec. After seeing at E3 we were even more excited... and that level of elvish glee has just ramped up even further...
How do you approach developing new content, storylines, characters for The Lord of the Rings world?
First of all, I go to the source. There is a wealth of unexplored stories, comments and hints found in The Lord of the Rings literature. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth has such a rich and detailed history that it would have been impossible for all of it to be contained between the covers of even a really long and complex work.
Every devoted J.R.R. Tolkien fan has a few burning questions they would love to have answered or has pondered just what was involved in events described only in a few lines of text, but provide hints of epic adventures. For example, in The Fellowship of the Ring after the Council of Elrond the good guys decide to send scouts to search the land to determine if it is safe for the Fellowship to depart. In the words of Gandalf:
"Some of the scouts have been sent out already, others will leave tomorrow. Elrond is sending Elves, and they will get in touch with the Rangers, and maybe with Thranduil's folk in Mirkwood. And Aragorn has gone with Elrond's sons. We shall have to scour the lands all around for many long leagues before any move is made."
Our players can expect to be part of this effort, and of course in such dangerous times they are certain to find this task an eventful one.
My goal in expanding upon the stories of Middle-earth is to tell a tale that may not have happened, but could have happened. And, to do so without running rough-shod over the rules and traditions established in the source material.
WITN stresses an innovative new interdependent co-op system; can you explain how this is represented in a meaningful way through the story?
Our lead characters will have to depend upon the skills of their comrades as well as their own in order to survive and succeed. This is mirrored perfectly on the story side with the composition of the player party. Dwarves, Elves and Men all have their various strengths and weaknesses and each race has strong opinions of the others. In The Lord of the Rings literature, the free-folk had to learn to put aside their differences and band together to survive. You and your friends (whether they are human-controlled or AI) will need to do the same.
Our player's characters come together quite by chance and run headlong into an event that threatens all the free-peoples of Middle-earth. Working together by necessity they soon discover that together they are far stronger than any one alone. This is a reflection of the "united we stand, divided we fall" theme that is a large part of the original story.
Of course, our players will play a big part in this as well since they will have to learn how to work together with their teammates to improve the effectiveness of the party.
Within many games, NPCs serve a "story-telling" mode - they often are the narrators or deliver key pieces of information the drive the story; how is the story driven forward in WITN?
NPCs certainly play a large role in delivering story in WITN, but we also strive to make sure the player doesn't feel as if his character was just born into Middle-earth yesterday. A lot of our story will come from the lips of the player characters themselves, and those who explore playing all three available races will find the characters have differing viewpoints and a different store of knowledge.
For example, in a conversation about co-operation among the free-folk, an NPC might bring up the Battle of Five Armies and our Ranger might choose to ask more about that event only to find his Dwarven companion speaking up to give a first-hand account of the battle.
We hope dedicated RPG players will find it refreshing to be the one to answer a question every now and then instead of always being perpetually clueless.