The influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on the Record of Lodoss War anime series.

The Record of Lodoss War anime series has entertained audiences in Japan and the United States; fans on both sides of the Pacific are captivated by the epic tale of Lodoss and its richly textured fantasy world.

Created by Ryo Mizuno, the world of Lodoss evolved from the source of Mizuno’s true love: role-playing games. In fact, Mizuno is credited with single-handedly introducing Japan to the role-playing game–originally in the form of tabletop dice-rolling game–which became one of the most popular genres in the video-game industry. Today, Japan still leads the way for video RPGs.

Mizuno’s greatest inspiration came from his college days, in weekly Dungeons & Dragons games he dungeon-mastered back in 1986 in Japan. What began as a storyline for a game played by a group of college kids would a few years later be published by Kodakawa Shoten as a series of fantasy novels. These novels eventually were adapted into a 13-volume direct-to-video series released first in Japan in 1991, then in the States three years later. The videos were a hit in both countries and led to a full-length animated motion picture (Legend of Crystania The Movie); a video series of the same name; a Lodoss TV series, The Chronicles of the Heroic Knight; plus several video games. All this sprung from the Dungeons & Dragons games played by a group of college students?

It may seem unlikely, but when you examine the roots of D&D, you begin to see their deep connection to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. The co-creator of D&D, Gary Gygax, willingly admits that many of his ideas for the game came from J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy.

“There is no question we were influenced by Tolkien,” Gygax says. “It became apparent to me that the more of Tolkien’s creatures I put in there, the more people would enjoy playing fantasy.”

The concept of different racial characters working together in a group to fight evil (like the group who comprise the fellowship of the ring to protect young Frodo) was an idea in The Lord of the Rings that Gygax really latched on to and made the basis of every D&D game. This idea in turn led to the Record of Lodoss War’s original character roster reflecting a racial mix similar to that of Frodo’s group of companions. Both groups have a grumpy bearded dwarf, one wizard, a few human fighters and an elf. There are no hobbits in Record of Lodoss War, and no clerics in The Lord of the Rings, but both are found in the character classes used by D&D. Instead of calling them Hobbits they are known as Halflings in Dungeons & Dragons. (Gygax admits that they even used the term “Hobbit” at first but it was later changed because Tolkien had it copyrighted.)

In fact, much of how the Western world views fantasy is directly linked to Tolkien’s books. His descriptions of many monsters from old fairy tales were so accepted most people don’t even realize that he had anything to do with it. Many of the fantasy monsters in D&D as well as Lodoss War came from The Lord of the Rings: Orcs, trolls, goblins and (of course) dragons were all found in the world Tolkien created. The first Record of Lodoss War series even goes so far as to send the group of adventurers (composed of an elf, dwarf, fighter, wizard and cleric) through an abandoned dwarven mine in a quest similar to the story of The Fellowship of the Ring.

So from The Lord of the Rings to Dungeons & Dragons and then to Record of Lodoss War, we can see the influence of one man’s incredible imagination as it’s reinvented in the form of a successful game series and, years later, a captivating anime series. With his own imagination set ablaze by the games of D&D he had been running, Ryo Mizuno wove an epic fantasy tale filled with legends, prophesies, courage and conquest.