Lord of the Rings Adventure Game (1991)

Iron Crown’s Middle Earth Role Playing (1984) was a simplified version of their very complex Rolemaster system (1980), but was not actually simple. MERP was also, somewhat confusingly, was set hundreds of years before the events of the War of the Ring, the bit of Middle Earth that most people are familiar with. So, in 1991, to draw new players and Lord of the Rings fans into the game, they released the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game box set.

Considering it is supposed to be a stepping stone to MERP, it is weird that the Adventure Game system is…nothing like MERP. It is actually an adaptation of the system used for the MERP adventure gamebooks (their version of Fighting Fantasy, basically) and adventures are structured in the same way, like a solo adventure. Except the intention is for a GM to run it. It is actually pretty cool, though the included adventure is a bit underwhelming (a small troll problem). It does a much better job, overall, of matching the tone and vibe of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Rings, something that MERP, despite being rich in intriguing lore, never really managed.

Anyway, as ever, the product itself is entirely outstripped by the awesomeness of the Angus McBride cover art. It is a little odd that they fronted a game for beginners with one of the most climactic scenes towards the end of the trilogy. On the other hand, I bought this as soon as I saw it on the shelf at Waldenbooks, so, I guess, mission accomplished.

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