Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game (ft. Elijah Wood) Lost Odyssey: The Red Scribe Full Presentation

Dungeons & Dragons borrows heavily from Lord of the Rings in its initial structure (“I think there have been some lawsuits about it, actually,” Welch says, laughing), so moving from D&D lore into Lord of the Rings was a natural fit—especially for Welch, who is a massive fan of Tolkien’s series and especially the Peter Jackson films. Swords, figurines, and art adorn her walls, and her large chestpiece tattoo is an homage to a headcanon of hers, where she imagines Eowyn dies in battle, wearing Theoden’s helmet, and the flower of Rohan’s kings, simbelmynë, eventually grows over her body. It’s a wicked cool tattoo, and I was nerdy enough to be able to recognize Theoden’s helmet because, much like Welch, I am also a bit of a Lord of the Rings fan.

Welch describes how much the movies in particular meant to her as a young girl, and how much the story—the way it alternates between a grounded travelogue and epic battles“literally changed” her life. She was a lead designer at Wizards of the Coast before moving on to be a narrative designer, first at Dreamhaven and then at Probably Monsters. Her whole life for the past decade has been about magic, fantasy, and immersive game design. A lot of it she credits to the hold that Lord of the Rings has had on her imagination.

When it comes to playing the Lord of the Rings game, however, there’s more to it than just throwing a bunch of player characters in the Shire and telling them to head east. Balancing player agency, audience expectations, and a pretty strict time limit is no joke, especially when it comes to running Dungeons & Dragons as a two-hour one-shot, where single sessions can routinely pass four hours for just a small segment of the campaign. “The trickiest bit is the audience,” says Welch. “They’ll pick up on the threads you drop, even if your players don’t.” Just like real life, there are too many threads to weave into a game in a way that represents total closure.


She describes the balance between creating solemnity at the table versus wrangling a bunch of actors who are ready to be goofy. “Dungeons & Dragons can be, and usually is, very silly; it’s one of the things I love about it. Lord of the Rings,” she says, “is a little more serious.” There is an abbreviated adventure that comes from performing one shots that becomes almost a formula for Welch. You introduce the characters, you set them on a quest, you present a combat situation, you describe the aftermath. She talks about how sometimes, though, she realizes that she needs to fill 10 minutes: “Okay, time to get them interested in a random encounter!” Welch laughs. “But often it’s that unscripted stuff that I enjoy the most.”

Welch is more than grateful for all the opportunities she’s had to perform professionally as well as game as a professional, but one thing she mentions is that she has never gotten to lead a campaign. She does one-shots, short arcs, but she hasn’t had the chance to really dig into a game. “The idea of letting a story end when I’m tired and picking it up next time? That sounds so nice.”


Gaming as performance is nothing new, but playing tabletop games for a wider audience, not just for the benefit of friends at the table, is still a relatively nascent art form. Performers like Welch are still figuring it out, and many are working on balancing gaming and performing, and attempting to find the middle ground between the two. “There’s that pressure when you have an audience,” Welch explains. “I love performing, don’t get me wrong, I love having an audience, I love being the center of attention. But I’ve played a few games offline that I never record or stream, and the pressure of not having to perform and think of the next witty thing to say, or amp up the drama, or even allowing yourself time to flip through the rulebook is freeing. Because there’s so many things that you don’t have to worry about, like losing people’s attention or or fucking something up, because you don’t have an audience there. And that’s pretty nice.”

“It’s so endlessly cool to sit on a stage and play pretend,” Welch says, “And somehow that raises money for a good cause like that.” She loves D&D and she loves Lord of the Rings, and she’s hopeful that through performance and play, she can encourage others to play games. “Whether it’s a game about dragons, or neon-noir detectives, or himbos, there’s so much creative stuff out there, and it doesn’t matter what it is, but I think it’s so incredibly important and healthy for human beings to give themselves permission to pretend as adults.”


There is a safety in gaming—you are able to pretend to be someone else, to identify aspects of yourself in a container that you can try on and take off—and often adults, Welch says, are not encouraged to experiment with who they are. Growing up with role playing games, Welch “had all these characters who sort of were different branches of what I could be as an adult.” She describes asking herself, “Who are these characters? Who am I most drawn to? What do I like about this? And then folding them into my real personality. And that’s how I became who I am and how I still continue to become who I am, based on these experiments through play and pretend.”

Games are an incredible language through which people express themselves and come to deeper understandings, not only about themselves, but about relationships, the world, and other people. Welch loves games. By the end of our conversation, after off-handedly mentioning some games I was playing or interested in, she had already bought them. (They were Crescendo of Violence and Himbos of Myth and Mettle, for the record.) Her passion for gaming comes through in our conversation, and she wants to bring people into her table, and find ways to create connections. “I think play is so important,” Welch says at the end of our conversation, before immediately inviting me to be a part of a role-playing server. I might already have a character in mind.


You can watch Kate Welch DM Lost Odyssey: The Red Scribe presented by Lord of the Rings: Rise to War now.

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