[Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

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Falconer
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[Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Falconer » Thu Jul 09, 2015 6:55 pm

Suppose someone were using AD&D 1e rules but wanted to use the ICE Middle-earth series for his “setting.”

What 3-4 “essential” products from that line would you recommend to him?

For the sake of this discussion please leave out the other licensed RPGs and anything that is not a game product (i.e., don’t mention the Decipher RPG or Fonstad’s Atlas).

I have some ideas, but what to hear what you think. Thanks!!
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Justinov » Thu Jul 09, 2015 9:52 pm

I only own some of the ICE products, but found that most areas were simply be high-powered to really be playable.

1) "Riders of Rohan" & "Dunland" was two of my favourites for an adventure settings, as you could start as a rookie and progress into a local hero in the eternal fight between these two archenemies.

Rohan: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=2542
Dunland: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=2553

2) For long campaigns having the two books Arnor & Angmar makes for a great setting (though more high-powered) between the forces of the Witch-King of Angmar against the Dunadain Rangers of Arthedain (and Rivendell) set in the earlier part of the third age.

Arnor: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=2469
Angmar: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtm ... ionid=2784

3) Otherwise the "Palantir Quest" was perhaps the best ICE ever made adventure-wise for MERP, set in the early fourth age. Could probably easily be made into AD&D with some work.
http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Palant%C3%ADr_Quest

(Seem to also remember having fun with the adventures "Mouth of the Entwash" & "The Necromancers Lieutenant").

NB: Never tried "The Kin Strife" of the Gondorian civil war also earlier in the Third Age, but it looks quite interesting as a campaign.
http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/The_Kin-strife
Last edited by Justinov on Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Boneguard » Thu Jul 09, 2015 9:58 pm

I would recommend:
- Creatures of Middle-Earth;
- Treasures of Middle-Earth.

Valar and Maiar, Elves (2 books from 2nd edition that is a reprint/expension of the 1st edition Lords of Middle-Earth 1 (the Immortals)) as well as the 1st edition books Lords of Middle-Earth 2 (Mannish Race) and 3 (Hobbit, Dwarves, Ent, Orcs abd atroll) are also good add-on.

It gives a good feel of the Who's Who.
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Falconer » Fri Jul 10, 2015 2:09 am

Really great answers. Boneguard, I love the Creatures/Treasures/Lords anthologies; great toolboxes for any DM, and let’s be honest, the NPCs of Middle-earth are critical. And Justinov, the idea of just going straight to modules—especially the ones you recommended—is rock solid, too. Everyone knows the basics of Middle-earth!

Does anyone think the core MERP rulebook (any edition) or the Campaign and Adventure Guidebook(s) (any edition) are still useful (for someone running different rules)? The best “core” book I have seen is the Northwestern Middle-earth Gazetteer. It looks like it was modeled on the World of Greyhawk, right down to the conceit of being written in-world.
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Justinov » Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:24 pm

Falconer wrote:Really great answers. Boneguard, I love the Creatures/Treasures/Lords anthologies; great toolboxes for any DM, and let’s be honest, the NPCs of Middle-earth are critical. And Justinov, the idea of just going straight to modules—especially the ones you recommended—is rock solid, too. Everyone knows the basics of Middle-earth!

Does anyone think the core MERP rulebook (any edition) or the Campaign and Adventure Guidebook(s) (any edition) are still useful (for someone running different rules)? The best “core” book I have seen is the Northwestern Middle-earth Gazetteer. It looks like it was modeled on the World of Greyhawk, right down to the conceit of being written in-world.
The reason I went straight to modules is because I played a very low-magic type of Middle-Earth like Tolkien's books.
There are only 5 Maia Wizards (period) and only a few other extraordinary people (like Elrond and Galadriel) can cast magic.
For humans it is only the "Hands of a Dunadain King" that can magically heal, paired with the correct herbs (Athelas).

I played without "random monsters". As human, elves, dwarf or hobbit you faced orcs, wolves, crows. Or as human enemy humans.
Riders of Rohan on punishing raids against Dunlandings skirmishers laying ambushes in the foothills makes for great strategic and tactic maneuvering, when smaller war bands hunt each other in the wilderness leaving insulting notes to each other.
Then later you can start to throw in the growing influence of Isengard with half-orcs traveling in "criminal convoys" stealing human women all the way from Bree (or from Tharbad) for instance to bring back for "experimentations" in Isengard or simply as spies in both camps!

As the players got higher level they could encounter a barrow wight, giant spiders (Mirkwood), wargs or trolls.
But I actually GM'ed a group playing uruk-hai and normal orcs from Angmar send towards the Dunadains.
Growing in level ambushing human, they actually wanted to loot a barrow and ended up fighting a barrow-wight, where the uruk leader standing in the front didn't notice all his mates behind him fled. :P
So he fought gloriously and killed the barrow wight !! but contracted "black breath".........so the campaign sort of ended there, but he certainly went out with a bang!
NB: Uruks are some of the most insane combat machines you can create! Let the normal orcs do the sneaking, scouting, snivelling and complaining (for fun role playing), then call for pappa when trouble comes! [Just avoid at all cost fighting Dunadain or Elves at a range, as their bows would kill you instantly. Go for ambushes with close combat preferably at night].

Dragons, Balrogs and Nazgul are off course way out of limits for normal PC's. But what is better when your PC's heroically goes in with no chance and then make insane criticals
My PC's did in fact kill a Dragon with the most insane open ended roll I have ever seen (the guy rolled open ended 4 times in a row on the critical against the dragon).

For that type of play you didn't really need to own Creatures/Treasures/Lords to actually play, because the core book had the information you needed, but these books are off course a great read! ;)
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,/But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Havard » Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:58 pm

Falconer wrote:Does anyone think the core MERP rulebook (any edition) or the Campaign and Adventure Guidebook(s) (any edition) are still useful (for someone running different rules)? The best “core” book I have seen is the Northwestern Middle-earth Gazetteer. It looks like it was modeled on the World of Greyhawk, right down to the conceit of being written in-world.
I would say get the core book if only for the races and standard creatures. Of course, you could probably get the same information online.

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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Tolwen » Sat Aug 18, 2018 2:13 pm

Jumping in late and reviving an old topic ;)
IMO it depends for what campaign (temporally and spatially) he is aiming for. Otherwise you end up with good recommendations that are of no use in the precise circumstances.
Or is it just for reference purposes? That would shift the focus of recommendations somewhat ;)

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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Falconer » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:44 am

Let’s take a different tack. Suppose I want to start a campaign, but I want to let the players decide, to some degree, where they will adventure. But I don’t want to give them carte blanche, because I want to be ready with the various areas. So I will want to buy 4 different products detailing different areas. Eg., something in Arnor, something in Harad, and…? Give me four campaigns or adventure modules you can recommend!
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Tolwen » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:15 pm

Falconer wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:44 am
Let’s take a different tack. Suppose I want to start a campaign, but I want to let the players decide, to some degree, where they will adventure. But I don’t want to give them carte blanche, because I want to be ready with the various areas. So I will want to buy 4 different products detailing different areas. Eg., something in Arnor, something in Harad, and…? Give me four campaigns or adventure modules you can recommend!
OK, that's a good point to start :)
First of all, IMHO the original adventures of MERP (i.e. "Ready-to-Run" or regular three-part ones) are mostly very generic and not very imaginative. Overall they often follow standard patterns and generally make only little use of the specific options offered by the spatial and temporal setting (i.e. the "Middle-earth feel" that is so well developed in TOR). Therefore I include also the Campaign Modules in the selection to avoid having to choose mediocre ones based on formal aspects (designed and sold as "adventures").
So, after a lengthy introduction, here is my selection of favourites:
  • The Kin-strife: An amazing setting in Gondor's civil war. It is very far from TOR's basic assumptions for campaigning, but my personal all-time-favourite of all Middle-earth supplements ever made (regardless of publisher). Of course it limits you on a very specific temporal setting (the 1430s and 40s). Spatially you are more flexible, as Gondor's far-reaching empire in this time gives you lots of options. The only minor flaw is the almost total lack of the Shadow as an influencing factor. It is mentioned, but mostly in the role of an outside influence. IMO the integration of fair-seeming agents that subtly manipulate the Gondorian lords to further enhance the internal strife would be the icing on the cake. This setting is best combined with the two Southern Gondor (The Land and The People) books, though the latter two will push the count beyond the 4-book limit and usefulness, because they are nominally set in the typical TA 1640 era. Gates of Mordor is a another nice set of adventures set in Ithilien and very adaptable for an integration into the Kin-strife era (rather than in its default TA 1640 setting).
  • Palantír Quest: IMO MERP's best published adventure (as opposed to a campaign or regional module) by far. Set in the early Fourth Age and stretching its arc over almost all of the "classic" Northwest.
  • Thieves of Tharbad: One of the few early adventures that has a huge value. It provides three city adventures (who need some tweaking and further development), but the real gem is the description of the city in the immediate wake of the defeat in the war of TA 1409. As for the Kin-strife, knowledge (or possession) of the two supplemental region modules (Arnor books (also The Land and The People in this case) can prove helpful. The issues are similar, due to the differing temporal foci of the sourcebooks and the adventure. Spatially this is of course set in Eriador alone. A supplemental option (set before the events in "Thieves") would be Dark Mage of Rhudaur, as it ties-in with the themes of the history told in "Thieves".
  • The Northern Waste: A really grand setting in the arctic areas north of the classic Northwest. From the books made for the "off the map" areas, this is IMO the best by far.
So,there you have four core suggestions (Kin-strife, Palantír Quest, Thieves of Tharbad and The Northern Waste) plus optional supplements that are (more or less) easily adaptable to these core books.
The other publications dealing with the "off the map" areas (primarily Far and Greater Harad) I judge as rather standard and not very tolkienistic. They are OK if you want to go there, but I wouldn't put them on the list of core recommendations.

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Last edited by Tolwen on Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:00 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Tolwen » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:19 pm

Accidental posting. Please delete :)
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Falconer » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:39 pm

Very cool! I must admit I see little appeal in the Southern Gondor trilogy, but that might be a matter of personal preference. The rest seem awesome for sure!
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Re: [Middle-earth] Essential MERP Products

Post by Tolwen » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:04 pm

I really enjoy the idea of campaigning in the Kin-strife with no clear good and evil, moral dilemmas on every corner and deadly feuds running through families and friendships. No evil overlord threatens the Free People but it is entirely their own failings that bring the Southern Dúnedain onto the brink of disaster and pit brother against brother. I love this heavily gray-shaded setting :)

But of course I admit that this heavily politically-biased setting is far from the stereotypical Middle-earth cliché (as exemplified superbly in TOR's supplements) and thus surely not for everyone :)

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