Minas Ithil (1991)

Now with Minas Ithil (1991), we’ve got a real campaign sourcebook for MERP.

It’s a city book, detailing one of the cities of Gondor at the feet of the mountains that surround Mordor (Cirith Ungol and the lair of Shelob are in a pass leading directly east from the city). Minas Ithil was once the seat of Gondor — the first white tree was there, it had a palantir and was generally a place of strength that monitored Mordor for Sauron’s return. Around the middle of the Third Age, though, it was beset by plagues, depopulated and eventually seized by the Witch-King, after which it was called Minas Morgul. So you get a city you can explore at its height, during its twilight and, conceivably, as it falls. It also informs, though only dimly, what its afterlife as Minas Morgul might be like. It’s my pick for one of the best realized MERP supplements. It almost makes me want to run it.

The city is exhaustively detailed, with page after page of maps. If you don’t want to play MERP, you could very easily file the serial numbers off and have your own generic doomed city. I really love the number of illustrations of building facades and city streets by Ellisa Martin — they work the same way the exterior illustrations in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay do, establishing the mood and the tactile feel of the city. More city books should do this, to the point that I don’t understand why this isn’t a universal standard. David Martin’s cover extends this a bit, with its eagle eye view. I’m also a sucker for ringwraiths riding fell beasts, so.

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