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Fred Getce
11 February 2002, 03:29 AM
The Knights of the dinner table have recently watched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and have unanimously decided to play Middle-Earth Role Playing.

B.A.: “Ok guys are you ready to play?”

Bob: “Uhh…B.A. we have decided just to go back to the untouchable trio plus one instead in the Hackmaster campaign.”

Dave: “Ya…I don’t think it would be wise to play Middle Earth.”

Sara: “Not again.”

Brian: “It was a group decision.”

B.A.: “Wait a minute! After the movie you guys were gun-ho to play MERP so I went out and bought the supplements to play the freaking game. Eighty bucks! Eighty bucks of my hard earned money and now you don’t want to play!

Bob: “Oh great here comes the guilt trip.”

B.A: “Guilt trip my arse, you guys wanted to play this game so we are going to play and that is it.”

Dave: “Brian maybe you ought to talk to him, you’re the one who understands why we don’t want to play in Middle Earth better than us.

Sara: “If it makes you happy B.A. I want to play.”

Brian: “That is only because you actually created a character from scratch and didn’t convert Zayre over. Now B.A. we really wanted to play, but when we sat down to convert our characters from Hackmaster to Middle Earth we began to get red flags from the system that screamed Game System Incompetence.”

B.A.: “What are you talking about?”

Bob: “Well the first red flag was with the dwarves. You know how I like to play dwarves; well dwarves in Middle Earth have a penalty of minus five to their strength scores, while humans actually get a plus five. I don’t know what book your reading from, but to me that is imbalanced game play in my book. I mean Knuckles has an honest to god 18/100 exceptional strength score no way am I going to settle for a 13 strength.”

Dave: “Ya and don’t forget the combat matrix is totally whacked. I mean didn’t you see the movie. Aragorn was wielding a sword and a flaming torch without fail yet in the system there is a flat minus four penalties to wielding a lit torch in melee combat because of the glare off the bladed weapon! If El Ravager tries that stunt he will hit about 62% of the time and Aragorn was hitting 95% tops.”

Brian: “But the biggest red flag was with the elves and magic. First we have Mr. “My Father Was a Sub-Machine Gun” Legolas firing off more arrows than one is allowed per combat segment. Were not talking a minor gain but a freaking belt of arrow ammunition like he was firing a .50 caliber machine gun. I mean even if he had all the advantages for elves plus the quick reflexes and lightning reactions from table C-4, he would only be able to fire a maximum, MAXIMUM 2 arrows per segment, or 10 arrows a round without fail, but what do we see but Legolas firing 4 arrows a segment which means about 20 arrows a round! Now that is so unrealistic as to smack even the most hardcore gamers suspension of disbelief down a few notches. Than there is the fact that Elves can’t see in the dark. Where the hell was Tolkien’s head!? Elves have infraision out to sixty feet. I think Mr. Tolkien better check his notes on Elven anatomy, he obviously forgot something. Oh and than there is the magic. Does Tolkien actually want us to believe that mages walk around without any useful spells for combat or defense. I mean the best my mage can do is warm everyone’s cup of soup on a hot day sitting on the equator. Mages are supposed to be the heavy hitters of the group with ranged spells to assist the warriors and archers. In Garweeze world even a first level mage can kill a dozen orcs with their beginning spells, but in Middle Earth the best I can do is give them a Tori Spelling make-over.”

B.A.: “You guys do know that most of what you are talking about is based on experience levels. The only reason Legolas can fire so many arrows is he is a twenty-first level Elven archer, not a first level archer. Plus the level of the caster determines the power of a spell. A first level mage can barely crack out a fireball, but a twentieth can split a troll down the middle.”

Bob: “Hold your self their B.A. Brian is about to get to the biggest red flag of the all.”

Dave: “Ya it is the reason why we decided to just play Hackmaster instead.”

Sara: “Ah…B.A. you might want to take a few breaths.”

Brian: “The biggest red flag of them all has to do with the conversion from Hackmaster to Middle Earth. First of course was Bob’s Lament about Knuckles losing 5 points of strength. With only a 13 strength he can’t use his Crossbow of Slaying anymore because you need a minimum of fifteen strength to cock the string back. Than there is the penalties dwarves have in roguish skills as to make him about as effective in pickpocket as a three year old monkey. Plus lets not forget the biggest pockmark of them all. Dwarves can’t be thieves, but have to be scouts which means Knuckles loses all his in class bonuses to Backstab, Set Snares, Assassinate, Called Shot: Head, Called Shot: Kidneys, Called Shot: Groin, Sever Hamstring, Detect Ambush, Sense the Unseen and Uncanny luck! Knuckles may as well just laid down under a wagon wheel and end his pain. Now on to Dave the plus five to strength for being human was sweet.”

Dave: “Ya it gave El Ravager a strength of twenty-two.”

Brian: “But now convert his attacks a round to segments and he is about as slow as Barney Fife! I mean what good is a warrior who gets one attack every four segments of a round. Boromir was attacking those Orcs with 2 attacks every two segments, or basically going Jackey Chan on their Asses, while Dave would be doing mime. Also Dave would have to change his class from barbarian to Warrior Monk which would mean losing his in class bonuses to Called Shot: Head, Called shot: Groin, Called Shot: Heart, Disembowel foe, Sword throwing: Hackmaster class, Dodge Giant attack, Dodge Dragon Breath, Sever Hamstring, Torture, Interrogate, Blindsided Brawling, Blind Fighting and Disarm Opponent. Of course the biggest of all would be his limiting of sword use. The Warrior Monks disdain using edge weapons in all conflicts and have to select two, count’em TWO combat situations where they will use their sword, other wise they have to use other means. Doesn’t sound that bad until we read the table of situations, there are freaking twenty combat situations and he has to choose two only?! And let’s not forget that Balrog isn’t even on the list. And than finally there is Teflon Billy, my character. Oh the stats converted for a one to one ratio and the plus five bonus to strength was sweet, but when I converted his magic spells, most of them became weaker in scope and some of them had to be exchanged for another spell of equal value, or I could choose another spell to replace it at the same level. Okay no big sweat there until I looked over the spell lists. Only fifteen percent of the spells were combat oriented and only a tenth of them were fire spells, the others were either protection, identification, traveling or miscellaneous. Teflon Billy went from being a feared mage of fire magic to a guy who couldn’t even scorch the ass hairs off a fly. And last but the most important, we had to reduce our experience levels by a factor of three! Teflon Billy went from a fifteenth level mage to a fifth level no body.

B.A.: (By now has a disgusted look on his face) “Well gee guys, what can I say but Tolkien wasn’t sitting there with a copy of the Hackmaster Player’s guide in his freaking lap when he wrote his books and created Middle Earth. If I knew you were going to compare the system so closely to Hackmaster I never would have bothered. Let’s not forget that Tolkien is the father of fantasy, if it wasn’t, for him Gary Jackson would have never gotten involved with role-playing games.”

Brian: “Oh I am not disputing that Tolkien created elves, dwarves and halfings, but since Gary Jackson created rules to play such things you’d think that the Tolkien society would have consulted him on the rules of fantasy games before making MERP.”

B.A.: “Well the bottom line is we are going to play MERP tonight. I have nothing prepared for Hackmaster, so you might as well suck it up tonight.”

Bob: “Brian said you would probably go that route, so we went ahead and selected characters from the pre-gen list and stuff.”

Dave: “I wasn’t about to screw over El Ravager.”

Brian: “We can play MERP tonight, and play Hackmaster next time, just as long as we game.”

B.A.: “We went through all that ranting just to play pre-gen characters. Fine, lets hear them.”

Bob: “Well I took a Dwarven warrior named Gnarl Silvertooth. He is of Durin’s folk and wields a battleaxe. I took the following disadvantages. Epilepsy, Alcoholic, Klepto Maniac, Light sleeper, Blind in One Eye and Constant Nightmares. I took the following advantages Eagle Eyes and Unerring Aim. That gave me enough points to roll on heritage table B-1, so he starts with a +30 battleaxe of Troll slaying, +15 rigid leather and a ring of power, which allows him a +5 bonus to flanking attacks.

B.A.: “Well Bob your bonus for Unerring Aim and Eagle Eyes is canceled out for being Blind in One Eye. You should have checked out the special notation. On to you Dave”

Dave: “I took a Gondorian Warrior named Breldon Farimar. I took the following disadvantages. Two-left feet, Illiterate, Dyslexia, All Thumbs and Big for my Britches. I took the following advantages; ambidextrous, Excellent Balance and Quick as a Stag. That also gave me enough points for Heritage table B-1, so he starts with a +45 broadsword that glows in the presence of magic and orcs, plus a suit of +20 chain mail.

B.A.: “Dave you did the same thing as bob did. I am sorry but your bonuses for being Ambidextrous, Excellent Balance and Quick as a Stag are canceled out by Two-left Feet, All Thumbs and Big for my Britches. Alright Brian your up to bat.”

Brian: “Well B.A., I took a Half-Elven Mage named Leowyn Weyoun. I took as disadvantages Fearful of Dark, Superstitious, Phobia: Water and Chronic Health Problem: Asthma. For Advantages I took Excellent Balance and Superb Memory. With the points left over I chose to use them on optional table B-4 ancient ancestry to see if I was descended from greatness. I rolled a 94, which means I am the descendent of the first Elves. That gave me a 10-point spread across all attributes and a +20 points across all in class skills and a 5 to all secondary and background skills. He also starts with a staff of magic with an x4 spell multiplier and a cloak of elven hiding and sneaking.

B.A.: “Ok fine. Lets begin…”

(After game ends abruptly…)

Bob: “This blows, B.A. didn’t even award our XP for this game session.

Dave: “I know talk about being rude.”

Sara: “I Think it had to do with the fact that he finally realized the reason why you guys kept killing every old man with a long beard and pointy hat that you came across in the game. You wanted to take out Gandalf in a pre-emptive strike to conquering Middle-Earth.”

Brian: “Hey, if we take out Gandalf now the Fellowship will never be and we can take the One Ring and rule Middle Earth unchallenged. I mean if you don’t take out Gandalf first than he will take you out second.”

DirkGreystoke
12 February 2002, 04:09 PM
You are right about MERP, even Tolkien himself did not like the game and called it boring. One is much better off with the new miniature combat game from Games Workshop.