Collecting Middle Earth Roleplaying game books entails a 15-year span of time when the RPG industry changed in many ways. From 1984 to 1999, the Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.) published books for Middle-Earth Role-Playing, eventually producing a first and second edition of the game. In preparation for the forthcoming Lord of the Rings movies and merchandising blitz that was to follow, the Tolkien estate revoked ICE’s license in 1999, which forced the company to declare bankruptcy a year later. MERP has become a collectors favorite since that time.
What Is MERP?
MERP is an acronym for Middle-Earth Roleplaying, which used a simplified version of the Rolemaster rules to create a fantasy roleplaying game universe based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarilion novels. The game detailed the parts of Middle Earth familiar from the books, but also a handful of other realms not in the Tolkien novels. Magic was also expanded in scope and power from its depiction in the books. In this way, MERP created a familiar setting, but one that was in many ways its own unique world. These days, most of these books are highly sought-after.
I’m not sure why MERP is as collectible as it is. Perhaps the books had low print runs. Or maybe the demand for these books is especially high because of the success of the movies. Another possibility is that the fans of the game are especially unwilling to part with their copies of the books. Whatever the reason, the Middle Earth Roleplaying game books are some of the most expensive collectibles in the roleplaying hobby.
While researching this article, I found a copy of the complete MERP boxed set for sale on eBay for $350. A copy of Dol Guldur was available for $329, and the module Laketown was for sale for $300. Keep in mind that these books are generally 64 pages long, printed on regular stock, and have cardstock covers. The productions values aren’t especially high (although the artwork is nice.) You can expect to pay over $100 for any MERP item for sale on eBay if you can find it in decent condition.
Other places to try when searching for MERP products to collect are Noble Knight Games and Troll and Toad. Both companies have excellent reputations and usually carry out of print RPGs. Some of the early MERP supplements, like Bree and the Barrow-downs and Assassins of Amroth, are available for $30 or $50 at Noble Knight Games.
Middle Earth Main Rulebook 2nd Edition
Despite being a second edition, this books still sells for around $60 a copy. It includes character development rules for men, hobbits, elves, dwarves, trolls, and orcs. It also contains a bestiary for the monsters, creatures, and people the heroes will be fighting. Also, an adventure named “Trollshaws” is found in this rulebook.
The Middle Earth Campaign Guide
Every Middle-Earth gamemaster has to have this campaign guide, which contains dozens of new tools for planning your campaign and executing adventures to surprise and challenge your players. The Middle Earth Campaign Guide contains a full color map of Middle Earth, pronunciation notes for multiple languages (elves, ents, dwarves, human, hobbits), a dictionary of words for said languages, and a glossary of terms. This book is the key to building the cultural milieu of Middle-Earth.
The Middle Earth Accessory Pack
Contains 60 stand-up figures, maps and floorplans for countless sites in the adventures, 6 ready-made characters, and the adventure “The Loons of the Long Fell”. This books contains source material that was first published in the 1st edition MERP rulebook.
Lords of the Middle-Earth: Immortals
This 1st edition MERP module discusses Valar, Maiar, and Elves. It also ncludes a general history, glossary, and notes on motivation, background, characteristics, and appearance. Stats are listed for MERP and Rolemaster. The module also includes a discussion of Morgoth, Sauron, and Ungoliant.
Moria the Dwarven City
Explore the Black Chasm underneath the Misty Mountains with this expansion, complete with maps of Dimrill Dale, the Sirannon River, Redhorn, Silvertine, and Cloudyhead. You get a cross-section of Khazad-dum, floorplans of the places like the Second Hall, the King’s Armory, the Chamber of Records, and the dreaded Balrog’s lair. Also inside are maps to over a dozen specific locations and 6 adventures.
Forest of Tears
The Forest of Tears module contains three adventures: “The Hidden Shrine”, “The Tower of Birds,” and “The City of Pred.” You’ll stare down an order of monks, avenge the death of an innocent, and combat a goddess in league with Sauron. Includes two color maps of the forest and the desert surrounding it.
The Court of Ardor
This book contains four maps and eight floor plans that lets you take on the evil known as The Court of Ardor. Deal with a curse on the land brought by Morgoth from a time when even the elves were naive.
Ents of Fangorn
This first edition supplement includes details on the Derndingle, Wellinghall, and the Forest of Tir Limlight. There are maps for Fangorn, Dunland, and the Southern Misty Mountains. Get a layout to the Cavern of Pain, learn about the powerful tree-herds, and use the treacherous Barz Thrugrim against any travelers in the area.
Southern Gondor Supplement
Southern Gondor: The Land was one of the last supplements (1996) published for MERP, but it remains a favorite for collectors. This book details a key portion of the domain of man, so any campaign focused on the human race would do well to have access to this module.
Mirkwood MERP Sourcebook – Wilds of Rhovanion
The Mirkwood once was called Greenwood the Great, but with Dol Gildur under control of the Necromancer, the enter Mirkwood cringes in terror. This is a reprint of the 1988 Wilds of Rhovanion, but the reprint alone sells for about $100 on eBay. If you can find a copy in excellent or mint condition, with the shrinkwrap still intact, you can expect to pay over $200 for a copy of this one.
Hand of the Healer
This supplement tackles the healer profession unlike any other healer’s handbook you can imagine. It has 56 healer character packages from 40 different cultures, 296 different potions, poisons, and herbs, new medical skills and powers, and two scenarios designed with healers in mind. These builds are inventive, from the necromantic healer-priest to the court physician to the Night-Warder.
I’ve seen The Hand of the Healer selling for as much as $250 on eBay.
More MERP Supplements
Other MERP books to consider are Trolls of the Misty Mountains, The Lorien Halls, Thieves of Tharbad, Angmar, and Riders of Rohan. There are dozens of Middle-Earth Roleplaying expansions that let you fill out the world and build the kind of chronicle worthy of Tolkien himself.