Gorgoroth (1990)

Gorgoroth is my favorite MERP book. Ignore the fact that they call it a Campaign. Like nearly every other MERP supplement, this is a world book full of history and detail that would be extremely difficult to work into an RPG campaign. I don’t care though.

This is the book of bad guys. Gorgoroth details the bulk of Mordor and its many fortresses, fleshes out the nine Nazgul (even giving them names!), the hierarchies of evil, troop deployments and even reveals many of Sauron’s lesser lieutenants. This is the MERP equivalent of West End Games’ Imperial Handbook. I love it so much.

Let’s start with the Black Riders. We’ve got full histories, names and personalities (Tolkien only named on – Khamul the Easterling – but he totally should have named the Witch King Er-Mûrazôr. Thanks for fixing that, ICE). Weirdly, we don’t get portraits of them all but I guess at least we got three of them on the cover (l-r Khamul, Witch King and Adunaphel – a lady ring wraith!). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because ICE never released a detailed look at Barad-dur, the tower of Sauron.

Next, just look at those lieutenants! What a rogue’s gallery! I want action figures of all of them, particularly Tonn Varthkur. I don’t care if he’s a rip-off of General Kael from Willow, he’s frickin’ cool as hell and the pommel of his sword matches his head. You gotta appreciate a villain that dedicated to his brand. (No Mouth of Sauron illustration though: L)

A lot of the appeal of these villains comes from Liz Danforth’s art. Danforth is the heart and soul of MERP, as far as I am concerned. Her delicate and ornamented designs – rooted in 70s art styles, maybe particularly ElfQuest – just feel so right for Middle Earth. Her elves are perfect. And you’d think someone could nail that ethereal elvish-ness would have a tough time with the dark side, but you tell me: do these villains look dainty to you?

Also, shout-out to Darrell Midgette’s skull fortress illustration. Totally looks more like someplace Skeletor would hang out rather than something from Middle Earth but, as I said in the first paragraph I don’t care. Gorgoroth is perfect, even if it is some mirrorverse version of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

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