Middle-earth Role Playing

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Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP) is a 1984 role-playing game based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien (specifically The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) under license from Tolkien Enterprises. Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.) published the game until they lost the license on 22 Sep 1999.[1]



The setting for MERP is an expanded version of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Published campaign sourcebooks are usually set either around the year 1600 of the Third Age, or just after the War of the Ring. Therefore, MERP represents an interpretation of Middle-earth that does not directly involve the players in the continuity of Tolkien's published works. Several of the campaign modules depict lands to the east and south of the lands described by Tolkien, and I.C.E. may be seen as having created an original setting, inspired by and including several elements of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.[citation needed]


The rules system of the game is a streamlined version of I.C.E.'s generic fantasy RPG, Rolemaster.

Characters possess Attributes and Skills rated between 0 and 100. Skills can be modified to a rating above or below these limits (i.e. under 0 or over 100). An attack roll consists of a percentile roll, to which the attacker's skill rating and appropriate attribute rating are added and the defender's dodge rating is subtracted. The result is compared to the defender's armor type and looked up on a table to determine success or failure. A separate critical table is used if the initial chart result called for it.

Spell casters learn lists of ten spells as a unit. Each of the spells is based on a theme (e.g. Healing spells.)

Critical reaction

MERP was generally well received, although not recommended for beginners.[2] Some commentators disliked how the system handled magic. In Tolkien's books, magic is a rare, subtle force only used by a few powerful characters, whereas in MERP magic (from healing to throwing thunderbolts) was possible for nearly any Player Character. This lack of continuity with the source material was seen to upset the game's authenticity.[3] However, in many early reviews the game play was described as being true to the spirit of Tolkien's work and a pleasure to play[4]. Others, such as Jonathan Sutherland, enjoyed the detail of the maps and praised many of the early adventures.[citation needed]

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