Hillmen of the Trollshaws (1984)

My experience with Hillmen of the Trollshaws is typical of Iron Crown Enterprises’ marketing strategy for MERP. In the 80s, I was a kid who was equal parts obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons and The Lord of the Rings. When I saw Hillmen of the Trollshaws on the shelf of the RPG section at Waldenbooks, it never occurred to me that it was a supplement for a completely different game. I remember trying to puzzle out why the stat blocks were so weird looking.

The book contains an in-depth history and overview of a region known as western Rhudaur, and details the haunted fortress of Cameth Brin (which is an elaborate, well-made dungeon). There are three scenarios included, which illustrates another problem with the MERP line.

Middle Earth’s Third Age span 3000-something years. The events of Tolkien’s four most popular books take place between 2941 and 3021. You would think that period of time, being the most well-known, would be when MERP adventures were set, but no – MERP takes pains to avoid the famous events of Tolkien’s work in favor of fleshing out moments of historical interest. Which is fine, I guess, but dear god, pick a single era! The three adventures are set in Third Age 164, 1671 and an unspecified time in the early Fourth Age, after the War of the Ring. What the hell am I supposed to do with three adventures set across 3000 years?!

I have a great fondness for this book, though. There is a kind of magic in it. Because I was a dumb kid, I thought the book was spun out of some secret Tolkien material the folks at ICE had access to, that despite the Trollshaws making the briefest of appearance’s in Tolkien’s writing, this was Authentic. The sensation was similar to the brief period of time when I believed Lovecraft’s Necronomicon was a real book. It hurts my heart a little to think about how it was really all just made up, and worse, eventually discarded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *