There was a quiz show on German TV back in 1981 or 82, with one of the candidates having Lord of the Rings as her topic. She was abysmal, hardly got a single answer right, but still piqued my interest with the tidbits of story mentioned. 🙂 Got the books for my next birthday.
From there it was Fighting Fantasy game books, my first rpg (German “Das Schwarze Auge”, not D&D), MERP, Rolemaster, RuneQuest. I ran multiple campaigns set in Middle-earth, using ICE’s regional guides – the best was Greater Harad with a very epic campaign.
As teenagers we actually designed our own Lord of the Ring game, a huge, sprawling affair without achievable victory conditions. One little design bit mirrored War of the Ring: The Free Nations couldn’t go to war against Sauron and Saruman, before a hobbit hadn’t visited their homeland and “activated” them.