The question is: Why Has My Favourite Game Stayed with Me?
Aside from the theoretical (minimal) value of this out-of-print game, I find the Middle-Earth Role Playing game fascinating.
The Rolemaster system, even simplified, was not the best fit for this license, but there’s something fascinating about the way each supplement contained so much potential. It doesn’t always hit the mark, as some of the adventure material can be pretty simple or just singularly un-Tolkien-like, but each book is nevertheless a source of fascination.
In the early days, there were campaign and adventure supplements, with the former covering a big area with roleplaying-able material like characters, locations and treasures, while the adventure supplements were much shorter and focused on a much smaller area within a region.
So, you might get a supplement about Mirkwood, but an adventure supplement more specific to the Necromancer’s Tower; or, a supplement on Mordor, but a more specific adventure set on Shelob’s Lair or the Black Gate.
Inside each book, whatever the size, you could expect a bit of politics, some geography, a consideration of the flora and fauna, non-player characters and creatures, artefacts, and maps. Big supplements often came with pull-out maps that expanded to A3 or larger, while smaller supplements offered A4-sized area maps. All of the books had location maps and outlines for buildings suited to looting them room-by-room.
I have been collecting these books since the mid-80s, but only recently doubled down to complete the collection, which is tough as they go for astronomical sums on auction sites. I have used them with other systems to run adventures – including The One Ring 1e and Hollowpoint – and sometimes picked a copy off the shelf just for random ideas.
There’s just a weird sense of value embedded in these books, which feels odd considering the nature of the content. These are not West End Games supplements for Star Wars that have since become canon in the ongoing universe. No one would claim that anything in these books created by Iron Crown writers is anything but fan fiction.
I appreciate having them around and I have done for the last 40 years. They make MERP memorable and a personal favourite, even though I haven’t played a game of it, rules-as-written, for more than three decades.
RPGaDay is a prompt-driven experience in tabletop roleplaying, initiated by Dave Chapman of Autocratik, and powered by me and you.
The prompts for this year are as follows — and you can find out more on Dave’s website.