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Let's explore all the Middle-Earth games


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I started doing this once before and bogged down (you'll see why in a minute). But with talk of The One Ring 2nd Edition coming out soon, I think it's time to give it another go:

There have been a bunch of licensed Middle-Earth RPG's over the years, and a bunch more games that work well for Middle-Earth but have the serial numbers filed off. I have copies of most of them. Every once in a while I get the urge to go through all of them and do a Let's Read, but let's face it, I don't have the time to do a Let's Read of one game let alone five to eight. So instead, I'm going to get a feel for each game by making characters in each one. I'll try to make the same basic character concepts to see what parts each system emphasizes.

The list of official games is:

ICE's Middle-Earth Roleplaying (MERP). I have the 2nd Edition.

ICE's Lord of the Rings Adventure Game (LOR). This was a cut-down/intro version of MERP, with a system similar to their Middle-Earth Quest gamebooks.

Decipher's Lord of the Rings Role-playing Game. I don't have this, so I'll have to skip it.

Cubicle 7's The One Ring.

Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle-Earth, a supplement for D&5 5e. Think it should work fine with the free 5e Basic Rules, which is what I have.

Did I miss any?

Other professionally published games that are useful for Middle-Earth in various ways:

ICE's Rolemaster. MERP is a simplified version of this system, and Rolemaster itself has a few uncommon elements that are clearly taken from Middle-Earth: separate races for "Common Men" and "High Men", for instance. Last time I started doing this, I didn t tried to make a Remaster character right after MERP and got completely bogged down. So I won't be doing that again.

TSR's AD&D. I mean, obviously - it's got "halflings", it's got elves, and 1st edition even has them divided into kindreds that resemble Stoors/Harfoots/Fallohides and Sindar/Noldor/Vanyar.

The Burning Wheel. I've played one demo of this game which was interesting but seemed like had a lot of complexity to learn. I've had the Revised Edition sitting on my shelf mostly unread for ages, just because it looks good. I've heard that the lifepath character creation system can make very Tolkien-esque characters, so this seems like a good opportunity to learn at least how character creation works.

Mouse Guard. A simplified variant of Burning Wheel, based on comic book about medieval anthropomorphic mice. Since this is about very small creatures defending their community in a very large world, it seems like it would work well to resign it as being about Hobbits defending the Shire. Maybe a bit specialized for Middle-Earth in general, though.

There are other Burning Wheel variants, like Torchbearer. I don't know much about them - do any of them have a particularly Middle-Earth flavour?

Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures: a B/X D&D derivative tuned for young heroes of classic fantasy - Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, Neil Gaiman's Stardust, the first part of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea. But I've used it to run conversions of some TOR adventures and the tone and character power level works well for Middle-Earth.

Free fan games:

Against the Darkmaster: a retroclone of MERP.

Middle-Earth Adventure Game (MEAG): a retroclone of LOR.

Legends of Middle-Earth: an original d6 dice pool system.

There And Back Again: a game based only on The Hobbit, with eg. the original conceptions of Elves and Trolls.

Age of Shadow: a Middle-Earth-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off setting for BRP (specifically, OpenQuest).

Balrogs & Bagginses: a B/X D&D variant which I expect is more straightforward (and explicitly Tolkienesque) than Beyond the Wall.

Fellowship: an Apocalypse World/Dungeon World derivative.

Realm Guard: a Mouse Guard hack.

La Terre des Héros: a simple game using 1d6.

Tiers Âge

Any other suggestions I should cover?
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French I think I can do. That's my only other language, though.

Thanks for the suggestions! I've added them to the OP.

Daz Florp Lebam

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I ran a MERP game that lasted a good while and went well. I have fond memories of that, and the system worked somewhere from "just fine" to "quite well". I had a good amount of Rolemaster experience before that, so MERP felt kind of breezy.

And those MAPS[insert infinite number of exclamation points]

The system was well-done enough and detailed enough that you could make just about any character you could imagine that would be appropriate for Middle-earth. I here it was too easy to make powerful spell-casters, but I tamped that down by requiring a Lore skill of suitable ranking for every spell list or spell. Something like that. I can't quite remember now. That was 20+ years ago. :(


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I've never actually played MERP, but the very brief Rolemaster game I ran in high school was set in Middle-Earth, largely because the races seemed right. (It ground to a halt very quickly because we tried to use the "count every action you take" XP system as written.) If I was to try it again I'd probably use something like MERP with the full Rolemaster attack and maneuver tables.

Erik Sieurin

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There's a game called Balrogs & Bagginses (sp?) that's an OSR B/X thing, sort of.


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What’s that quasi-famous home brew game that has groups on both US coasts and a couple of decades of play history? I saw a thread about it here recently. Lost it though. I found it very intriguing.


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There's a game called Balrogs & Bagginses (sp?) that's an OSR B/X thing, sort of.
Oh, yeah, I saw a reference to that and forgot about it. Thanks!

I wondered what to do about D&D, in general. OD&D and BD&D certainly had "Tolkien" touches - hobbitshalflings, specifically Tolkien-like elves and dwarves, a burglarthief class. (Yes, I know the Thief is really more of a sword-and-sorcery thing, but Bilbo being described as a "burglar" is the first thing that ever went through my head when I saw the class list.) AD&D extended this by having Halfling and Elf subraces straight out of the LotR appendices and the Silmarillion, respectively. And although the magic system is not at all like Middle-Earth magic, that's true of Rolemaster too.

Ultimately I decided not to include it and have Beyond the Wall stand for the whole D&D / OSR set of games, even though it goes its own way a lot.

But I think I'm going to change my mind and also do AD&D 1e, as the closest to Tolkien of all the D&D editions (because of the subraces), and Balrogs & Bagginses for B/X, on the assumption that it's closer to stock B/X than BtW is.
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