Of MerpCon, and Middle-Earth memories

Brace yourself for MerpCon! That’s right, a convention devoted to roleplaying in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth (largely, but not exclusively, through Iron Crown’s vintage Middle Earth Role Playing game). This will be the second such convention, and this year it looks like Michael Martinez (a familiar name if you follow any Tolkien newsgroups or discussion forums) will be the guest of honor.

I won’t be going this year, but it’s nice to see that the convention is apparently enjoying some success. Things are pretty bleak these days as far as roleplaying in Middle-Earth goes–Decipher’s Lord of the Rings is on life support, Iron Crown has long since lost the Tolkien license, and most of the fan-created Tolkien games out there currently seem to be either outright abandoned or are lingering in perpetual half-finished limbo. Nevertheless there are some good fan-driven Tolkien gaming sites out there at which the faithful still gather.

Iron Crown’s MERP game holds a special place in my heart, for it was one of the first RPGs I played regularly; I got many years of enjoyable gaming out of that thin red rulebook. Critics today tend to scorn it for its complexity and the rather non-Tolkien-ish elements that crept into it from its roots in the Rolemaster game system, but I can say that no such critique ever even occured to me when I was playing and running regular games using it.

Well, I take that back. I probably did realize on some level that the humorous and extremely gruesome critical hit tables in MERP (and there were many, many such tables) did not exactly line up with Tolkien’s grand vision for Middle-Earth, but I was having too much fun to worry about it. So what if, in the novels, Aragorn never had to worry about getting his jawbone driven into his brain by a lucky orc flail to the face, or about the risk of permanent paralysis from a crushing blow to his spine? Let me tell you, it sure made for some mighty fine gaming…

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6 thoughts on “Of MerpCon, and Middle-Earth memories

  1. Lord

    I just remembered another fantasy writer Andre Norton and her increadable feeling of how to describe her fantasy world.

  2. Amos

    The problem with rolemaster is that the critical hit table eventually wiped out the whole party. Unless the GM cheated ( I did), sooner or later (mostly sooner) an ememy would roll a crit over 95 and chop someone’s head off, end of story. If you just played it straight, you’d spend the whole time rerolling characters and no one would ever advance beyond lv 3.

    But the critical hit tables were so fun vs, enemies, hands chopped off, disembowelment, seting them on fire, it was carnage and so much more fun than just watching their hit points slowly go down to zero like in D&D

  3. Andy

    Yeah, the critical hit tables were a killer! They were really entertaining to use, unless of course you were the one on the receiving end of the critical. But those tables did make for some pretty hilarious fight scenes and fun memories.

  4. MerpCon Volunteer

    FYI. MerpCon III is now on the way. Guest Speaker Dr. Thomas Morwinsky.

    And we’re playing with multiple game systems, not just ICE MERP and ICE RM/MERP hybrid.
    The other systems being added this year (by popular demand and availability of Game Masters) include:
    D&D 3.5 adapted to Middle-earth (Ea d20)
    Decipher’s LotR
    and ICE’s HARP.
    We hope next year to have GM’s knowledgeable in Ambarquenta, Harnmaster, and re-release Runequest adapted to Middle-earth as well.

    Personally, I like to use the RM crit charts no matter what system I’m playing with. Sometimes a PITA to convert between systems, but if it definitely gets people’s attention! 😉

  5. MerpCon Volunteer

    FYI. MerpCon IV is coming. Guest speaker is John D. Rateliff, author of “The History of the Hobbit”. The event is always the last weekend of July, so this time around it is July 25th-27th, and as usual in Spokane, WA, USA.
    The theme this year is Dwarves.
    Check out the info at http://www.merpcon.org

  6. Hawke

    MerpCon V is 1 day away. Chatroom and Webcams up and running, audio streams soon to follow. We’re setting up today, registration/activities begin Friday 4:00 pm (Pacific time).

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