To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying,
The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying.
West, west away, the round sun is falling.
Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling,
The voices of my people that have gone before me?
I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me;
For our days are ending and our years failing.
I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing.
Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling,
Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling,
In Eressëa, in Elvenhome that no man can discover,
Where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!
The years have a way of sneaking up on us. Time is a subtle but inexorable stream, and the trickle of the everyday adds to our lives one drop at a time. Only when we look back do we realize that our lives have pooled into a vast lake. It boggles my mind to think that I’ve been writing this blog for seven years. I look back at what I wrote in 2013, at where I was in my life, and I marvel at the journey which has led me from there to here.
Involvement in the Lord of the Rings LCG community has grown into a vital facet of my life. Attending GenCon in 2013 was my introduction to the community at large. There I met Caleb Grace, designer extraordinaire, and participated in my first GenCon/Fellowship event. Some moments represent critical junctures in our lives, and GenCon 2013 was certainly that for me. Among the many fine folks I met were Derek, Ian, and, Matthew, who I later joined as The Grey Company Podcast. They remain close friends and my life is better for knowing them.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
-The Fellowship of the Ring
I never would have guessed, all those years ago, just how my community involvement would lead to wondrous adventures. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to meet players in: France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, and Spain. The Austin LotR LCG group which I helped start has been running strong for several years now and continues to be a source of joy and fellowship for me. I’ve been privileged to have conversations with designers Caleb and Matt Newman, as well as members of Cardboard of the Rings, Master of Lore, CardTalk and other notable content creators. Beyond GenCon, I’ve participated in Lure of Middle-earth in Germany and Con of the Rings in Minnesota. I cannot count the number of friendly people I’ve met and friends I’ve made since I started playing this game.
As with all adventures, life is not without its challenges. After a valiant struggle against cancer, my father passed away suddenly in 2015. Only those who have lost a loved one will understand just how deeply the wound hurts. Time passes, and our hearts heal, but we will never quite be the same. The most seemingly innocuous moments can bring a flood of memories back; a song, the smell of his favorite food. Tolkien had true wisdom when he said that not all tears an evil. We who survive hope to live inspired by those who have gone before us. In our hearts and memories, they live forever.
It was my father reading the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me as bedtime stories which instilled an enduring love of Tolkien. Doubtless one of the things that makes me think of him now is the recent passing of Christopher Tolkien. Authorship is not always a clear-cut distinction, and works like the Silmarillion and Children of Húrin owe a tremendous debt to Tolkien’s original writing and legendarium. Still, the work of editor and collaborator is never easy, particularly when the original author is not available for questions. Christopher Tolkien deserves recognition for helping to complete so much of what his father left unfinished. As time passes, and my appreciation for Tolkien’s lesser-known works deepens, I recognize just how instrumental Christopher Tolkien was in crafting many of my favorite stories.
An unfortunate trend in media, which seems to have only worsened in the 21st century, is our fascination with the negative. I suppose this is human nature. Like many aspects of our nature, the tendency to be distracted by negativity is dangerous. If we don’t allow ourselves to step back and give self-awareness a chance to regain the reins, we risk getting caught up in the narrative and losing perspective on what really matters.
Our fine community is no exception when it comes to being distracted by the negative. Looking around various online forums, one can hear the doomsaying which followed immediately after FFG’s announcement of the game’s impending hiatus. Having worked for corporate entities in one capacity or another for 20 years now, I have little faith in their ability or desire to speak the truth. Personally, I think that capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with truthfulness. If a company knows that withholding the truth will in some way aid its profitability, it will most often choose this approach over one which is more forthright.
That said, companies are made up of people, and having met many of those directly involved in the creation of this game, this distinction is vital. While we may never know the ultimate reasons why this version of the game is ending, we do know that those who work on LotR LCG day-to-day care. They care not only for the game as a product which makes money, but they care for the players and the community which has formed around the game over the last decade. So many have put years of their lives into making this game the best it could be, and to be cynically critical of them because of a corporate decision would be an egregious mistake.
While it may be tempting to bemoan the ending of one story I am choosing to use this opportunity to look back and be grateful. If not for this game, I would never have formed the beautiful friendships I did. My travels would have been that much poorer for not having met kind and hospitable players from around the globe. The game has pushed me to pursue my passions for writing, graphic arts, search engine design, and literary criticism. Even now, the Discord channel remains a consistent source of inspiration, far more so than more general forms of online social interaction.
The community which formed around this game is as rich, diverse, and worthwhile as any community you are likely to find anywhere – it deserves to be cherished and celebrated.
After this iteration of the game ends, we don’t know what story comes next. For every creator the day comes when a creation must be allowed to stand or fall on its own. The original designers of this game have moved on to other endeavors and I am happy for them in their new adventures. I hope that whoever is tasked with the next chapter of this game is able to continue with the level of quality which we now take for granted. As long as the post-hiatus output maintains the excellence of what we have now, I will remain a loyal patron and supporter of the game.
It may be that it is impossible for FFG – or any other company – to achieve the magical combination of theme and mechanics, community and camaraderie, which this game embodies. If that is the case, I will consider myself privileged to have been a part of something beautiful. The friendships I’ve made and the adventures I’ve experiences will live with me forever, and for all that this game has given me I am eternally grateful.
In the mean time, I encourage others to spend a moment and appreciate what this game has given to them. I thank all of you, my readers, for the feedback, encouragement, and even criticism you’ve given me over the last seven years. Without you, I would not have continued on this journey and so I owe some small but vital portion of my joy to your involvement as an audience. Feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comments below.