In gaming terms Frodo levels up big time by the end of the Lord of the Rings. He is the most famousest hobbit ever and for good reason. Elf friend and elf wise, witty, calm, and perceptive, Frodo is able to converse with the great and, whilst he has a significant magic armoury (mail +sword), he is a pacifist. He has glimpses of the future, prophetic dreams and a seeming bottomless pit of sympathy. Oh and he also happens to destroy the One Ring!
Some say that Sam is the real hero of LotR but for me Frodo is the real deal. Sam may be awesome and loveable, and has a ‘zero-to-hero’ character arc. But is somewhat of an ignoramus who grows into knowledge. Frodo is already wise and becomes more-so whilst fighting to hold onto his mind. He is the one who sacrifices all so that the world may continue: the demonstration of Tolkien’s thesis that even with victory comes loss.
Frodo is wounded several times and by the end of the book, in gaming terms, suffers major corruption/sanity loss/another hideous aspect to roleplay with. By succumbing to the Ring at the end you’d think his alignment would change from Good to Evil, but it more likely is strengthened by the experience and conceptually changes from Neutral Good to Lawful Good, or better still from casual do-gooder to unwavering pacifist. But this also comes with complications: one might say he gains a bonus guilt attribute or a major corruption effect and/or 1d20 Sanity loss with an automatic mental illness (Compulsion? Nightmares? Psychosomatic illnesses?), not to mention some recurring magical illnesses.
You may notice that Mr Frodo levels up significantly after the ring is destroyed. At the end of Return of the King he is no mere burglar. Frodo acts like a paladin or a sage-like peaceful guru when dealing with prisoners at the Battle of Bywater and later with Saruman. The fallen Maia recognises his power and wisdom. He is even stabbed by Saruman, and again saved by the mithril coat, but still Frodo wants no vengeance. The former Ring Bearer seems to feel no jealousy at being ignored back in the Shire. Heck Frodo is even foretelling Sam’s children and future by the end of the book. He manages to conveniently rendezvous with elves en-route to the grey havens. Perhaps this was telepathic nudging by Gandalf OR was it foreknowledge by Frodo?
Were Frodo’s new abilities a gift of the Valar, or merely the experience (XP) of the quest? Or was it the arduous possession and use of the Ring in Mordor, an artefact containing the essence of a most powerful Maia, that rubbed off and propelled Frodo to these mental heights?
Bear in mind this is an item that magnifies the strengths of the user – Smeagol was a sneak and it made him a stealth freak, Bilbo was a fair-minded gentle-hobbit who liked maps and lore – he became a lore-master and writer. Frodo was an intuitive and clever hobbit – the ring amplified his intuition and farsightedness (with perhaps some tutelage from Gandalf).
Frodo had been poisoned by a magical blade of a wraith sorcerer and envenomed by a demon spider – the effects of these are long lasting if not permanent. Perhaps other magical experiences also produce a long lasting effect?
Frodo Baggins has been healed by the powerful Half Elven Elrond and mentally probed by the Istarii Gandalf. Chewing the fat with Bombadil and Goldberry, he has looked into the mirror of Galadriel, sat upon the hill of seeing, and received telepathic warnings from a Maia. He has constant contact with a mithril coat and a magic sword, Elven cloaks, lembas etc. If the mere lembas and rope can have such a deleterious effect on the corrupted Gollum then perhaps the opposite is true for the uncorrupted? And that star glass of Galadriel will be leaching out some major magical buffs for sure – Frodo wears it around his neck. Heck just hanging out with Elves seems to make people cooler! In which case chillin’ out with a Maia should be even more efficacious.
So perhaps Frodo has grown (levelled up) via adsorption of power via proximity. A sort of magic osmosis.
This XP boost may also be due to, not just possessing the most powerful magic item since the Silmarils, but actually wielding the One Ring to deadly effect. (cf. Frodo’s Curse upon Gollum). Frodo manages to use the Ring’s power as it was intended – domination and command*.
And let’s not forget the entire experience of the ring quest- Experience Points galore!
So did the Valar reward the Ring Bearer with prophetic vision and wisdom, in addition to a free one-way ticket across the sea?
Or is Frodo’s power just a side effect of prolonged intense magical osmosis?
Or perhaps it is due to his vast and terrible experience, creating an evolved mental state?
I am guessing all of the above.
*Interesting side note – The mighty Isildur possessed the Ring for two years but could not, or would not, master it to command the Orcs ambushing him at Gladden Fields (Unfinished Tales – The Disaster of the Gladden Fields). Frodo technically possessed the Ring for 17 years, but in reality only wore it for less than a year. Yet he was able to use the Ring to command Gollum. Admittedly it seems Isildur knew he had screwed up in not destroying it, whilst Frodo, only minutes after using the Ring (to curse Gollum), claimed it as his own.
Postscript for gaming sticklers who want it spelled out:
At the end of RotK Frodo uses the XP to boost his wisdom stat and perceptiveness skill. A few points are also expended in magic sense, loremaster skills and empathy. The loss of the ring finger and the assorted recurring wounds he has taken drops his dexterity/agility a smidge and lops a chunk off his constitution and sanity/mental balance.
Magic osmosis activates Frodo’s magic/psychic ‘foresight’ and the Gods/Valar grant him ‘divine ascension’ (a place on the boat).