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Another blast from the past: MERP House Rules

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I've been doing a fair bit of gaming in Middle-earth lately. I ran a MERP game via Tabletop Simulator (there is a bunch of MERP stuff in the Steam Workshop) a few week ago, and I'm trying to get a regular campaign going. Using Tabletop Simulator is one option; a live rpg session is another. I had come up with a bunch of house rules last year. Some are taken from the rule book; others are modified.





These rules are mainly taken from the rule book with few modifications.


1. Fist/kick (brawling) attacks use the Tooth & Claw Table (AT-5) to attack and the Unbalancing Critical Table (CT-4) for critical hits.
2. Grapple/tackle (wrestling) attacks use the Grappling & Unbalancing Table (AT-6) to attack and the Grappling Critical Table (CT-5) for critical hits.
3. All fumbles (unmodified roll of 01) use the Moving Maneuver Failure Table (FT-4).
4. Brawling and wrestling attacks may be used untrained without the usual -25 penalty. Use ST bonuses for strikes and AG bonuses for grapples. Alternatively, add ST and AG bonuses as per MERP rules.
5. Hobbits are limited to Small attack results. Trolls and Ents are limited to Large attack results. All other races are limited to Medium attack results. All critical hits are limited to A criticals.



Martial arts cannot be used without training. Two options are available: 


1. Use the system described on page 218 of MERP 2nd Edition. These rules are similar to the brawling and wrestling rules above, except martial arts strikes use the Impact Critical Table (CT-9) for critical hits.
2. Use the Martial Arts tables from Rolemaster's Arms Law/Claw Law. Use the Martial Arts Fumble Tables in Rolemaster Companion I for fumbles.


Note: I use a table I found online for martial arts attacks, but that table no longer seems to be available.

I never cared for the martial art rank system used in Rolemaster. Instead, I use the number of skill ranks to determine the maximum result of the attack. 


Using the MERP 2nd Edition option:
Skill Rank 01-05: Novice Strikes or Sweeps
Skill Rank 06-10: Standard Strikes or Sweeps
Skill Rank 11-15: Expert Strikes or Sweeps


Using Arms Law/Claw Law:
Skill Rank 01-04: Rank 1 Martial Arts
Skill Rank 05-08: Rank 2 Martial Arts
Skill Rank 09-12: Rank 3 Martial Arts
Skill Rank 13-15: Rank 4 Martial Arts


Note that the MERP character sheet has a maximum of 15 skill ranks listed. Therefore, I will limit myself to those ranks, but adding more skill ranks is always an option.


Adrenal Defense is used without changes to any rules.


I will allow warriors, scouts, rogues, and barbarians to transfer weapon skill development points to martial arts skills on a 1 to 1 basis.



Leveling up in MERP can take a long time in MERP if you don't play regularly. And keeping track of every critical hit and spell point is too time consuming for me nowadays. So I decided to keep it simple.


All surviving characters get 2,500 experience points at the end of a successful adventure, maybe a little extra for exceptional deeds (defeating a great evil, delivering the killing blow on the main villain).
This will allow characters to level up every four adventures from levels 1 to 5 and every eight adventures for levels 6 to 10.


Unfortunately, everyone fails from time to time, and the characters are no exception. Since failure can be a good teacher, all surviving characters get 1,250 experience points.



I have not made any real changes, but I have decided that Ball spells will use the Directed Spells skill instead of the Base Spell skill. 



I have toyed around with making other professions for MERP, but I am currently thinking of using variations of existing ones instead. One way to do it is to use spell lists from Rolemaster instead of the ones from MERP.

For example, a Nightblade (RMC I) can be created by using a Bard or Monk as a base and using the Nightblade's spell lists. A Seer can be a Mage with the former's spell lists.




Right now, I am considering giving the players a free secondary skill or two. Players have a choice. Their characters may have:


A. One secondary skill with 5 ranks




B. Two secondary skills. One skill will have 3 ranks, while the other will have 2 ranks.


Characters may spend background points to acquire new skills or improve the ones they have.


And now for something completely different:



No, I am not going to mix Star Wars with Middle-earth. I have a science fantasy setting where knights (not Force users) wield laser swords and ride robotic horses. Since I like to make up rules for as many rpg systems I can, I wrote some up for the setting.


1. Lightsabers weigh 2 pounds but otherwise use the stats of the two-handed sword. Lightsabers use the Slash Critical Table (CT-2) for the primary critical and the Heat Critical Table (CT-6) for the secondary critical.
2. Lightsaber pikes weigh 4 pounds but otherwise use the stats of the spear. Lightsaber pikes use the Puncture Critical Table (CT-3) for the primary critical and the Heat Critical Table (CT-6) for the secondary critical.
3. Bowcasters use the stats of the crossbow but have the range of the longbow. Bowcasters use the Puncture Critical Table (CT-3) for the primary critical and the Electricity Critical Table (CT-8) for the secondary critical.


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Maybe someday. Tabletop Simulator includes virtual miniatures I use for my games. I have an Obi-Wan Kenobi miniature I can use as Radagast if I wish.


I never used Star Wars in my MERP game, but I have included Star Trek. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy once beamed down and interacted with my party.

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I often just determine these stats based on the average height and weight of the race listed in MERP. I likewise decide on the starting age offhand. But if I want to be more random about it, I just make use of the Dungeon Masters Guide from AD&D 1E.


Height & weight tables: See DMG page 102.
Middle-earth elves are taller than D&D elves, so use the human height table and half-elf weight table. Noldor and Dunedain are particularly tall, so add 3 inches to the height roll. Dunedain roll on the human weight table, of course.


Alternatively, use the MERP race's average height and weight, then roll on the Height & Weight Determination table on page 102 to see if the character's height/weight are above or below average.


Age tables: See DMG pages 12-13.
Non-Dunedain Men roll on the starting age table for humans and use the age category for humans. Dunedain use the half-elf starting age and age category tables.
Elves and half-elves use the elf starting age table. Half-elves use the high elf age category table. Elves do not suffer age penalties, but may enter a new cycle of life at the Old category.
Dwarves may use the mountain dwarf or hill dwarf age category table (GM's choice). Hobbits use the halfling age tables.


Since non-human starting age table has fewer options than the human table, use this formula for class-based starting age:
1. Warriors and rangers use the fighter column for their respective races. This also applies to optional MERP professions that don't normally use magic.
2. Scouts and bards use the thief column for their respective races. This also applies to optional MERP professions that combine fighting with magic.
3. Mages and animists use the magic-user column for their respective races. This also applies to optional MERP professions that primarily use magic.
4. Non-human clerics were mostly NPCs in 1E and often began in the old category. Therefore, the cleric starting age can be reserved for venerable NPCs of any class or characters starting well above 1st level.

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7 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Ahhhh MERP and their crits......I always rolled bad but after 30 years still memorable!


My last game didn't have any fumbles! Then again, the players weren't too familiar with the rules. And this was our first time using Tabletop Simulator to play.


We also used the MERP crits and fumbles in our AD&D game. Sometimes we got lucky, and other times, well....

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In case you're wondering how MERP would work in Tabletop Simulator, someone in the Steam Workshop has downloaded a bunch of MERP stuff, including a table that includes the necessary charts, dice, and spell cards. The setup allows for a game with six players and a GM. He also downloaded several miniatures, although they need to be re-scaled to the same size. There's another program that can help you do that, although it's not perfect.

I put together a bundle of stuff so that I can pull stuff out easily. I also set up in-game cameras to change the view from the map to the tables to other stuff I need. All I have to do now is put together character sheets and some music for the game. I can use a new headset too.


If you have Tabletop Simulator, just go to the TTS workshop on the Steam website and search for MERP.

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While MERP doesn't include rules for fortune telling, there's no reason not to include cartomancy or any sort of divination. Rolemaster Companion 1 included a card system called the Qabbals. It can be used for generating adventures as well as telling a character's fortune. I crafted a set of cards for use in my live rpg sessions. For TTS, someone added the Fortune Deck from the Everway game. I've been using the cards alongside the card turning system from the Castle Falkenstein rpg to generate adventures.


Here's the system I've come up with for TTS. I haven't playtested it yet, but I think it will suit my needs just fine.


1. The player draws three cards. These represent the past, present, and future.

2. Since the cards have be reversed, we need to determine if each card is reversed or not. Roll 3d6: The dice used are black, red, and white.

3. The black die corresponds to the card representing the past. The red die corresponds to the card representing the present. The white die corresponds to the card representing the future.

4. If the die roll is odd, then the corresponding card is reversed. If the roll is even, the card is not reversed.

5. All you have to do now is to interpret the text on the card.


Hopefully this system adds flavor to the game.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I can't believe I left out my oldest house rule. It's basically the "three strikes, you're out" rule. Given how lethal MERP combat can be, should a die roll result in a PC's death* or permanent injury, I will allow the PCs to escape that fate the first two times. There may still be consequences, such as being out of action for an extended period. There's no escape the third time, however.

* MERP has rules for bleeding (i.e. taking x hits per round). Assuming no major organs were damaged, the rule will apply if the PC falls to zero hit points. If the PC is healed before losing all his hit points, the injury won't count toward the total.


Another rule I'm considering is giving Elves and Dunedain bonuses to their Comeliness roll. However, I may just apply it if the roll is low. Likewise, I would give Orcs and Trolls penalties to their Comeliness rolls. I got the idea from this website.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I finally found the martial arts table I use in my game. Thanks to the author, one Sir Wolf.




Another rule is maximizing the effects of healing spells instead of rolling the number of hit points the character gets back. That should help keep the characters alive a little while longer.

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  • 3 weeks later...
48 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

My phone was being weird so I couldn’t view all the pics but what I saw was WOW! Great job!


Thanks. Someone on another board said the grain was as big as pasta, but I think most of it is the white background, which is the screen for a movie projector. I use that as my background when I teach online.

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I'll see what I can do. There are ads in between some of the photos. Flickr added those, not me. 


About the characters and the setting:


Several of the characters are the sons of my previous characters. Amrod and Maglor are brothers and the son of a Half-elf bard who married a noblewoman in Minas Ithil. He fell in battle when the sons were young. Galador and Lindir are second cousins. Lindir's father and Galador's mother are first cousins who married other members of the party. Bingo is the son of a Hobbit scout who married a Stoor maiden west of Mirkwood.


They are adventuring 30 years after the original party's exploits, so I call this MERP: The Next Generation (cue Star Trek music).


The characters are based in Minas Ithil in TA 1670. The city won't fall into the Witch King's hands for another 330 years or so. Minas Ithil is Gondor's intellectual and cultural center at this time. It's an artsy fartsy place, so some would argue that evil is a step up.

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  • 2 months later...
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Re: Canon and running a Middle-earth campaign


I just watched a fan-made film about Sir Percival. It reminded me that the Arthurian legends -- medieval and modern versions alike -- have different versions of events, some even contradictory. Same goes with different myths from around the world. As Tolkien was trying to create a mythology for England, we should treat it as such. Canon doesn't make a lot of sense in this context. Only The Hobbit and LOTR truly qualify, since they were published during Tolkien's lifetime. That means if you're a Game Master running a Middle-earth campaign, don't worry about canon too much. Just pick the version you like and stick with it.

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  • 2 months later...

I am late to this, but MERP had a lot of charm.  I am not particularly fond of the chart er Rolemaster rules, but the MERP stuff did a wonderful, outstanding job of putting players into that world with tons of support material and lots of loving faithful effort to make the game mesh with the books.

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2 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I am late to this, but MERP had a lot of charm.  I am not particularly fond of the chart er Rolemaster rules, but the MERP stuff did a wonderful, outstanding job of putting players into that world with tons of support material and lots of loving faithful effort to make the game mesh with the books.


The modules are excellent; even the people who hated the MERP system thought so. I'm glad I have a bunch of them, even though my collection is far from complete.


I'm currently working on a MERP to Basic Fantasy RPG conversion. My work is sporadic. I keep vacillating on my design choices. I will try to finish it soon.

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