Saturday, March 1, 2014
The road goes ever onwards
Although I am a big fan of Tolkien and Lord of the Ring, having first read them when I was only 11 and re-read them three times since, I have not been a big fan of Middle Earth roleplaying. To me at least, Middle Earth (which seems to have limited wizards to only seven semi-divine beings and has no apparent clerics whats so ever) was a poor fit for classic Dungeons and Dragons (although fighting the big battles of middle earth with Chainmail rules seems completely plausible, not that big battles are are going to save Middle Earth). It also has the issue of when do you set it? Before the books anything the players do won't matter. After the books the great evil has already been defeated, and the magic is fading from the world. I like D&D games where the the player characters are causal agents (much more Conan king by his own hand) rather than bit players in some giant overplot. However my web surfing today revealed that quite clearly many people do not agree with my position.
Off surfing the web ran into this site rating classic Dungeons and Dragons modules (disclaimer I do not agree with his rankings Tomb of Horrors sucked when it first came out and still does, Queen of the Demonweb still rocks). However, I also noticed his comprehensive review of Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) modules from Iron Crown. I do have a bit of a soft spot for MERP as Arms/Claw/Spell Law light, and some of the modules sounded lots better than Moria and the Corsairs of Umbar, which are the only two I own. So I went to see what was on the web. Unfortunately MERP itself seems locked in the property rights graveyard (where games go to die) having lost their license from the Tolkien estate in 1999. I can find are boot-leg copies (no I'm not giving the links, you can find them yourself). However, in addition to the Decipher Lord of the Rings Game (also property rights defunked, although the card game seems to still be continuing) and the the One Ring from Cubicle 7 available from Drivethru RPG (although at $30 quite expensive) I found several quite interesting home brew game systems. On MERP.com there is both Adra Marred and Ea d20 , as well as a GURPS adaptation. Also of use was a collection of lord of the rings fonts (the tar.gz format is not real pc friendly, but 7zip was able to handle it). Several folders for other games exist but have no content. There is a Hither-lands entry but the link is broken, luckily I was able to find the teaser edition of Hither-lands on http://vgunn.globat.com/ The teaser edition is a really very interesting 30 pages, as well as being enough rules to play, although lacking DM guidance for monsters and building encounters. I would like to see more, however since the last date on the news page is 2010 and the forum link crashes this project is probably abandoned. Pursual of the links page of MERP.com lead me to the The Heren Turambarion website their own game Ambarquenta is currently a password locked beta test (and has been since 2012, I'll try asking for the key anyways). However, they also have a copy of The Middle-Earth Adventure Game (MEAG) which is not locked. Other site of interest included the fanzines Other Minds and Halls of Fire , and an archive of MERP fan modules and game aids. I signed up for the fan MERP module yahoo group, but they have not let me in yet. There are also a number of sites to devoted to literary critisms of the Lord of the Rings, but since I think Lord of the Rings is one of the most over analysed books there is I won't bore you with them further. As some of the younger folk at work were pointing out its my generations Harry Potter, the book you love because you grew up with it. Unfortunately I am beginning to get that collectors itch to go acquire MERP modules I turned my nose up at when they were easy to get a hold of. Hopefully the free stuff I downloaded today will stave that off.
Updates: The password in Open Minds 4 for Ambarquenta still works! The Open Mind site also contains the fanzine Open Hand for download as well. Am in on the yahoo group (interesting files but not well organized) it points at http://fanmodules.free.fr/ another depository of even more stuff (but no better organization)