A Campaign and Adventure Guidebook for Middle-Earth (1982)

A Campaign and Adventure Guidebook for Middle-Earth is a weird little RPG supplement. It is essentially a gazetteer of basic information about the world, presenting in, frankly, mind-numbing detail. I appreciate the amount of work and thought that went into this book, but I’ll be damned if I care about the prevailing winds and ocean currents of Middle Earth.

This is a good example of the problem with many MERP accessories. It’s a bad supplement for a MERP campaign, because it gives me very little practical information I can mine for a game. What it actually feels like is a book for Tolkien nerds, in many ways similar to the way West End Games tried to answer lingering fan questions by fleshing out the Star Wars Extended Universe. The main difference is that, despite the staggering amount of creative energy poured into fleshing out Middle Earth, the end result of MERP is something that feels a lot more like fan fiction than it does an authorized extension of Tolkien’s work. Perhaps most important, where LucasFilm had a vested interest in the Star Wars Extended Universe, Tolkien Enterprises didn’t really give a crap about MERP. When ICE fell apart in the run-up to the Peter Jackson film adaptation, Tolkien Enterprises took a decidedly predatory stance regarding the RPG license, admitting they cared only for royalties and forcing ICE to pulp their back inventory when the company went into bankruptcy.

Anyway, the main selling point of the Campaign and Adventure Guide was the beautiful 24×36 poster map of the entirety of Middle Earth by ICE co-founder Peter Fenlon. I don’t think a better map exists, probably because ICE made up most of it.

Fun fact: the cover art and the spot illustrations on the map are taken from production art from the Ralph Bakshi 1978 animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

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