MERP

First Edition (First Printing)

Middle-earth Role Playing (first printing)Product: Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP) (1st US Edition)

Stock #: RP 8000

Producer: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Designers: Coleman Charlton, Peter Fenlon, Bruce Neidlinger, Terry Amthor, John Ruemmler and Richard Britton.

Release date: 1984

Category: Middle-earth Role Playing

Format: MERP Rulesbook (Softcover ANSI A, 128 pages).

Comments: This is the first edition and printing of the famous and classic fantasy role playing game set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which spawned several reprints and a Second Edition a decade later. MERP isn’t actually its own game system but rather presents a watered down version or subset of Rolemaster (RM), with the least necessary (and least used) attack tables removed and simplified weapon classes and armor types, as well as lesser numbers of spell lists (and less powerful magic), two magical realms (essence and channeling) instead of three (allocating some of the RM mentalist lists to the channeling realm), six statistics (stats) instead of ten – merging some of the RM stats into combined MERP stats, i.e. Agility (Ag) and Quickness (Qu) into Agility (AG), Memory (Me) and Reasoning (Re) into Intelligence (IG), Self Discipline (SD) and Presence (Pr) into Presence (PR), and Intuition (In) and Empathy (EM) into Intuition (IT), while retaining the remaining stats unchanged, i.e. Constitution (CO) and Strength (ST) – as well as assigning a MERP Rulesbook 1984 (back)limitation to the player character level of 10 instead of the maximum RM level of 50. Also the numer of character classes, in MERP referred to as Professions, have been reduced from 19 to six, being more keyed to Middle-earth, i.e. that of Scout, Warrior, Ranger, Bard, Mage and Animist. The primary skills have more or less been retained from RM but all of the Special Skills have been dropped (with the exception of Ambush and Body Development) and also the magic skill Channeling. Furthermore, the secondary skills have been reduced from 40 to 27, although the Tracking skill has been lifted from the secondary skills list and now become a primary skill. However, the general skills according to RM have been further categorized into General Skills (Climb, Ride, Swim and Track), Subterfuge Skills (Ambush, Stalk/Hide, Pick Lock and Disarm Trap), and Miscellaneous Skills (Perception and Body Development). Furthermore, the phases of the game round have been merged and become simplified, and thus being reduced to six. All this considered, MERP still retains enough materials to be able to present a quite complex game system. MERP contains all necessary information covering all aspects of fantasy role playing, such as the quite complex character generation system (more or less retained from the RM Character Law rules) which includes all of the races and cultures unique to Middle-earth, as well as realistic combat and magic systems (with comprehensive spell lists) which requires at least one roll against a table, but often also a second table for critical hits or fumbles, both presenting some quite violent and amusing situations. MERP also contains comprehensive guidelines for the Gamemaster to cover poisons, damage, healing, weather, magic items, Middle-earth based creatures, encounters, etc. The book also contains a sample adventure set in the Trollshaws andd10 the Last Inn, which are keyed to mid-Third Age Middle-earth, or T.A. 1640, which also serves as the generic game year of the majority of ICE’s Middle-earth Series. MERP is a solid and well designed game, probably one of the best ever made considering the world in which it is set. The fact is that MERP was designed to accommodate ICE’s Middle-earth Series that was launched in 1982 (i.e. two years prior to the publication of MERP). But the game system is also superior to most other contemporary games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, etc. That said, the complexity level of the game is also its greatest weakness as the combat system is not that intuitive as one could wish for. The downside of all this table referencing that it requires is that it may take a while to resolve a simple skirmish, even hours if the Gamemaster (GM) and players are inexperienced. This is not a game for beginners; the above mentioned games (D&D and RQ) are for them. In a way, MERP/RM is the best of both worlds of D&D (the level system and professions) and RuneQuest (the percentile dice system). However, it takes time to master MERP, but after that initial habituation there are no limits to the level of realism (and complexity) that are possible, because of MERP being the offspring of RM. When the MERP rules have been mastered up to the 10th level, the GM has the possibility to switch to Rolemaster which more or less seamlessly takes off from where MERP ends. The scope of the game is thus remarkable and has no equals; it will grow with the experience of the GM and players. That is one of the true beauties of the game system of MERP and RM, the other beauty of course being its setting in Middle-earth.

MERP 1st ed. boxProduct: Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP) (1st US Edition)

Stock #: 8100

Producer: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Designers: Coleman Charlton, Peter Fenlon, Bruce Neidlinger, Terry Amthor, John Ruemmler and Richard Britton.

Release date: 1984

Category: Middle-earth Role Playing

Format: Boxed set (Stock #8100) which contains the MERP Rulesbook (Softcover ANSI A, 128 pages; Stock #RP 8000), Floorplans (Booklet, 16 pages), Card with Character Counters, 2 D10 dice.

Comments: This is the boxed set of the first edition Middle-earth Role Playing game, containing the basic MERP Rulesbook with its sample adventure set in the Trollshaws in T.A. 1640. The box also contains a early and simple version of character counters, well as a set of floor-plans, to be used by the Gamemaster and players as an aid in resolving tactical situations when used together with the sample adventure. It also contains two dice that each have 20 sides (icosahedrons) but are numbered 1-10, i.e. technically D10’s. These are used together to resolve game play situations, such as attacks and maneuvers. Each die has a different color so as to distinguish them from each other, one of them representing the decades while the other the units, together creating 1-100 results in a percentile roll. These rolls are either resolved normally with results yielding between 01 to 100 (i.e. two die results of ”0”) or as ”open-ended” rolls, which yields results below 00 (i.e. minus) or above 100 without restriction; negative results are resolved when the first D100 roll yields a result below 06 which then requires a second D100 roll, with the second result being subtracted from the first result, while results exceeding 100 may be generated if the first roll yields a result over 95. Technically a open-ended roll may continue increasing both positive and negative results with multiple rolls until the percentile dice yield a result below 96.

MERP box set (First print)

Bree and the Barrow-DownsProduct: Bree and the Barrow-Downs

Stock #: 8010

Producer: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Designers: Heike Kubasch

Release date: 1984

Category: Middle-earth Series Adventure Module

Format: Shrink-wrapped Sourcebook (Saddle-stapled softcover ANSI A, 32 pages; Stock # 8010) with six full-color maps of Bree-land, Silent-Head, and the villages of Bree, Archet, Staddle and Combe.

Comments: This adventure module was the first supplement published for ICE’s new Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP) game, as well as the first adventure published for Rolemaster (RM) and its Middle-earth Series. It is divided into several sections or chapters, each containing various information. After a inital section of abbreviations, definitions, map keys and conversion rules (making the module workable in most RPG systems), there is a chapter on the history and basic description of Bree and the Barrow-Downs, as well as the smaller villages Archet, Staddle and Combe, and the surrounding forest Chetwood, Bree and the Barrow-Downs (back)including its economy as set in T.A. 1700. Then follows chapters on politics and power in Bree-Land, including institutions, fairs and festivals, after which all of the important personalities and figures of intrigue are described. There are two separate chapters devoted entirely to the Barrow-Downs, the tombs of the old Nûmenórean and later Arnorian kings and lords, complete with the standing stones, describing their nature and structure, as well as the wrights haunting the place, making a detailed description of its layouts, complete with enounter tables for items and magical attacks from the wrights. After this general description of Bree-Land and the Barrow-Downs follows two chapters with some simple adventures, as well as charts and tables on healing herbs, NPC’s and wild beast. In total, the book contains six major full color maps, one major and seven lesser floorplans, as well as four illustrations of the Barrow-Downs. Much is recognizable from the earlier campaign modules of the Middle-earth Series. In honesty, there is not much difference as both the campaign and adventure modules are basically structured in the same way; most of the volume is focused on background information to flesh out the area in detail. Thus any adventure module may be used as a campaign module as well, in this case for Bree-Land and the Barrow-Downs. The chapter with adventures describes each of them with very scarce guidelines, not at all as fleshed out as in the case with the sample adventures appended to the MERP core rulesbook. So if one is asking for ready-to-used manuscripts for adventures, as a Gamemaster one will be dissapointed with this adventure module. But if one is looking for a well researched sourcebook for a small area, such as for running a campaign in the village Bree, much will be provided for the GM. Some trivia: The cover is actually a still shot taken from Ralph Bakshi’s movie The Lord of the Rings, clearly alluding to that animated movie as a great source of inspiration for the staff at Iron Crown Enterprises.

Dagorland and the Dead MarshesProduct: Dagorlad and the Dead Marshes

Stock #: 8020

Producer: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Designers: Ruth Sochard,  Peter Fenlon, John Ruemmler, Coleman Charlton and Terry Amthor.

Release date: 1984

Category: Middle-earth Series Adventure Module

Format: Shrink-wrapped Sourcebook (Saddle-stapled softcover ANSI A, 35 pages; Stock # 8020) with three full-color maps of the Dagorlad area, and the fortress Tir Nindor, the rock formation Sarnen Thuringwath, and the town Eithel Celebrin.

Comments: This adventure module set in T.A. 1640 describes the swamps, marshes and plains of Dagorlad, the area just north of Mordor inhabited by Marshmen, Easterlings, Northmen and Gondorians, as well as the various black races and undead beings, such as Orcs, Trolls, Ghouls, Ghosts and Wraiths. The module follows the same structure as the previous one and begins with abbreviations, definitions, etc., before it Dagorland and the Dead Marshes (back)ventures into describing the area, its plain and marshes, including the climate, flora and fauna, as well as the peoples and beings mentioned above. Then follows sections which explain the politics and places of interst, such as the fortresses and villages of Gondor, the Tombs of Dagorlad, the Lair of the Bandits (Tol Malbor), and the haunted grim rock formation known as Sarnen Thuringwath. Next follows a chapter that presents adventure guidelines and suggestions, such as the use of diseases (with appended table), player character backgrounds and how to use traps. Then follows four chapters each describing possible adventures, including tables for NPC’s and prices. One of these chapters focuses on the parts controlled by Gondor, the fortress Tir Nindor, and the fortified towns of Caras Gwindor and Eithel Celebrin. Another chapter is devoted to the bandits of Tol Malbor, and another one with the mysterious and haunted underground complex of Thuringwathost. The fourth adventure chapter concerns encounters with the undead at a Black Nûmenórean barrow. Each of these chapters present more or less brief information on suggested adventures as well. In total, the book contains three major full color maps, of which one covers the Dagorlan area and the others Sarnen Thuringwath and Eithel Celebrin, and one small black and white area map, as well as nine lesser floorplans. Compared to the previous ”adventure module” Bree and the Barrow-Downs this one actually may be described as a true adventure module as more than half of the pages actually concerns solid adventuring and in total presents five separate ready-to-play adventures. However, there is lots of information in this module which presents much background to flesh out the area of Dagorlan and the surrounding areas in detail. Thus this adventure module may be used as a campaign module as well for the Gamemaster to create his own adventures.

The Tower of Cirith Ungol and Shelob's LairProduct: The Tower of Cirith Ungol and Shelob’s Lair

Stock #: 8030

Producer: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Designers: Jeff McKeage, Peter Fenlon, John Ruemmler, Coleman Charlton, Terry Amthor, Chris Christensen and Bruce Neidlinger.

Release date: 1984

Category: Middle-earth Series Adventure Module

Format: Shrink-wrapped Sourcebook (Saddle-stapled softcover ANSI A, 31 pages; Stock # 8030) with a full-color map of the north-western part of Mordor.

Comments: This adventure module set in the generic MERP game time T.A. 1640 describes the passageway which leads to Mordor through Minas Ithil and the dark fortress of Cirith Ungol, which also hosts the giant spider’s lair in its vicinity. The module follows the same structure as the previous ones and begins with abbreviations, definitions, map keys and conversion The Tower of Cirith Ungol and Shelob's Lair (back)rules, before it presents an overview description of the land, plants and animals, including the giant spiders. Then follows three chapters on the politics, physical overview and operations of the land, its history, Gondor and Minas Ithil (including its garrison, prominent figures and prices table), the various Orc Tribes, the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and Shelob the Great, that terrifying spider and her lair (Torech Ungol) as described by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, who is described in detail for use in the game by the Gamemaster. Then follows a chapter describing possible adventures filled with valuable information for the GM, such as floorplans for the various places of interst, tables for NPC’s and encounter tables. One adventure centers on Cirit Ungol, another one of Cirit Ungol and Shelob’s Lair, a two more only on Shelob’s Lair (of which one is set in the beginning of the Fourth Age). The module ends with a section dealing with a list of magical items, tables of NPC’s, poisons and rotten things (!), and enchanted or potent substances. This module presents much background information to flesh out the area of the two keeps in detail. In total, the book contains one major full color map, three major and seven lesser floorplans.

Hillmen of the TrollshawsProduct: Hillmen of the Trollshaws

Stock #: 8040

Producer: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE)

Designers: Carl Willner, Terry Amthor and John Ruemmler.

Release date: 1984

Category: Middle-earth Series Adventure Module

Format: Shrink-wrapped Sourcebook (Saddle-stapled softcover ANSI A, 36 pages; Stock # 8040) with three full-color maps of the Trollshaws area, and the fortress Cameth Brin and the barracks Tanoth Brin, the area of Glin a-Creag, and the town Talugderi.

Comments: This adventure module doesn’t have a specific time reference but most of the adventures contained therin are set somewhare after the Great Plauge T.A. 1636-37 (mostly at T.A. 1670). It centers on the lost Arnorian kingdom of Rhudaur and in particular the Trollshaws. As usual the module begins with abbreviations, definitions, map keys and conversion rules, before it Hillmen of the Trollshaws (back)presents an overview description of the region, its history, lands (the Highlands, Trollshaws, Lowlands and rivers, and Cameth Brin and its environments), climate, ecology, fauna and flora, as well as the peoples (the Hillmen, Dúnedain, Northmen, Dunlendings, and Petty-Dwarves). Then follows a brief chapter on the politics and power, followed by a chapter on the various places of interest, such as Rivendell. The module contains an entire chapter covering most aspects of Cameth Brin, the old Dúnedain fortress and its different levels, including its hot spring Ureithel, etc. A short chapter describes the town Talugderi, and then follows a series of four adventures set in and around Cameth Brin ranging from T.A. 164 to the dawn of the Fourth Age. There are also tables attached covering beasts and monsters, herbs and poisons, prices, and NPC’s. As with the previous adventure modules this one presents much background information to flesh out in great detail the Trollshaws area, with an emphasis on Cameth Brin. In total, the book contains three major full color maps, of which one covers the Trollshaws area, while the others cover Cameth Brin and Talugderi and its vicinity. There are also nine lesser floorplans which cover the different levels of Cameth Brin and the tower Tir-barad Tereg.

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