42 Reasons Why The Hobbit Would Make A Miserable D&D Campaign

With the imminent release of The Hobbit, I have been re-reading Tolkien`s classic, and for some reason, I tend to have tabletop RPGs on my mind. Cannot imagine why that is. However, the result is the following, 42 reasons why The Hobbit would make a miserable D&D campaign. Hopefully it provides you with a few laughs. A warning though, this list will include spoilers for the book, and presumably the film. Consider yourself warned! Now, let us get this journey started.

  1. Someone will complain that it’s cliché to go on a quest to kill a dragon in a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
  2. Let’s face it, four players can break your game and drive you insane. Fourteen will leave you in a corner gibbering about all the voices and dice.
  3. A wizard may arrive precisely when he means to, but he still can’t manage fourteen players any better than you. Gandalf will seem a lot less impressive after the thirty fourth time the party manages to get away with something of questionable morality or sensibility, despite his efforts manage their insanity.
  4. What are you playing? Dwarf fighter. And you? Dwarf fighter. Huh, and you? Dwarf fighter. Okay… let me guess, dwarf fighter? No, I got the Halfling rogue. This seems… unbalanced.
  5. To sweeten the pot, the rogue is level one with no gear while the fighters are all at least level five. Why is no one clamouring to play Bilbo?
  6. If any player has read the book or seen the movie, they will meta-game the whole thing. Seriously, you should have seen that straight off.
  7. One player will play to the drunken dwarf stereotype. Perpetually tipsy Thorin anyone?
  8. Your resident power gamer will complain about the build of his dwarf. He will then loot Glamdring and Orcrist to dual wield. He might take Sting as well. And the Ring.
  9. No one will be happy to hear they ride ponies half the way to the Mountain.
  10. Everyone who read the Lord of the Rings will insist on naming their pony Bill. Augments may ensue.
  11. They will all be sad when all of the “Bills” perish horribly.
  12. So, thirteen dwarves, all captured by trolls and stuffed into sacks. Someone will roll a twenty on that escape artist check.
  13. Two key plot points, (being captured by goblins in the Misty Mountains, and the hidden door in the Mountain Bilbo must access to face Smaug) revolve around hidden doors going unhidden. Dwarves can detect hidden doors. There are thirteen of them. I foresee an issue.
  14. The players will be annoyed that Gandalf stole the experience for killing the Great Goblin.
  15. Once they realize that Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting all glow when goblins are near, and that Bilbo needs low light to see, they will get creative. Meet Gashsar, the goblin they are now keeping in tow to assure they have low light at all times. They call him Bill too.
  16. They will want you to do a Gollum impression. Take my word for it, say goodbye to your voice!
  17. Three hours into the riddle game, you will realize allowing both sides to use google was a mistake.
  18. The riddle game will seem much less suspenseful when every answer becomes a sexual innuendo.
  19. Besides, even if they have not read The Hobbit, they have seen The Lord of the Rings. They will not play a riddle game with Gollum. They will play another game. It may involve sneak attacks. And death.
  20. Once the players have the Ring, Bilbo will get suspiciously rich while the dwarves begin to notice a distinct loss of their items and wealth. That’s what happens when the under leveled and under geared hero gets a magic ring.
  21. Once the players have the Ring, they will head straight for Mount Doom. See the first sentence of number 19.
  22. If the players get free reign, don’t be surprised to see them write a few wrongs before the trouble starts in The Lord of the Rings. Then again, the Saruman versus thirteen angry dwarves and one hobbit assassin could be entertaining.
  23. When faced with a horde of goblins and wargs, the part will decide to fight, not escape. Better experience you see.
  24. Or, the party will scatter to the winds. They just need to outrun the slowest party member and all.
  25. Several fights occur in forests. Against animals. Animals who are afraid of fire, like wargs, and spiders. Smokey the Bear will not like their “solutions”.
  26. Your players will insist on riding the eagles. Seriously, they will not let that idea go.
  27. If they call their eagles Bill, you still cannot smack them.
  28. Upon meeting Beorn, despite your attempts to explain his mystic skin-changing ways, they will just look at you and respond “So, he’s a druid.”
  29. If a party member falls into the cursed river, they will never abandon their friend, instead carrying him – Haha, no, I kid. They will just loot him and leave him for dead.
  30. Against the spiders, a player can use clever tactics to outmaneuver them, as in the book. Or, as players and rogues are wont to do my experience, Biblo will go on a sneak attack spree.
  31. Also, thirteen dwarves trapped by spiders… Screw it, just see number 12.
  32. Lake-town greets the party as heroes. They won’t take advantage of that will they?
  33. You will have to say “No you cannot loot Lake-town.”
  34. There will be a player who wants to tame Smaug. If he succeeds, guess what the great dragon’s new name will be?
  35. Thorin will not be bothered by Bilbo taking the mithril coat. He’s a player, he will just accept that is how looting works. … Unless he’s that power gamer.
  36. Someone will complain that Bard cannot learn Sylvan, but can talk to a thrush.
  37. Having a dwarf and a Halfling rogue, someone may decide the way to take down Smaug is the remote backstab!
  38. This might just be an issue for me, but one of my players will complain that she cannot play as the thrush.
  39. They will actually hate you for killing their big bad with an NPC, and telling them with a thrush. They won’t even notice that they can’t speak sylvan.
  40. You will have to run the battle of the five armies. And they won’t let you get out of it like Tolkien managed too. Good luck with that!
  41. When Gandalf returns, they will not care where he was, and only two players will remember who he even is.
  42. What are the chances that when Bilbo finds his home and belongings being sold, his reaction may force you to admit that he is being played with a chaotic evil alignment?

There you are, 42 reasons that make it wonderfully clear that while Peter Jackson may be able to pull off the miracle of adapting Tolkien’s work to film (even at 48 fps), an attempt to bring this tale to the table would end as well as Balin’s excursion into Moria.  I’m serious; I think The Hobbit would make a horrible campaign, especially if you love the source material. If you consider writing a Hobbit themed campaign, I must assume you do, and watching players distort that vision would be hard to take. Now, of course, all of this assumes you could play with players oblivious to The Hobbit and its plot, so this really is more an excersise in humour, than an argument. All the same, I feel it bears saying, do not try this. If reading this made you want to try it though, and you think you can do it despite these warnings, first go read the wonderful DM of the Rings for additional evidence along this vein of thought. Then, if you go ahead with it, please let me know how it goes. I’m betting I get at least 1 out of 42 of these points right. Well, let those dice keep rolling, and go read and see The Hobbit.

One comment

  1. sianwalton · · Reply

    “10. Everyone who read the Lord of the Rings will insist on naming their pony Bill. *Augments* may ensue.”

    Bill never asked for this.

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