A TSR Middle-Earth: Some Preparatory Notes

What if TSR, instead of Iron Crown Enterprises, obtained the rights to do a Middle-Earth RPG in 1984? Perhaps they would have simply treated it as another campaign setting for AD&D. After all, there are more than a few Tolkienian artifacts scattered throughout the D&D rules and attendant products already, right? But for the sake of argument let's say instead that they took parts of the AD&D engine as a basis and produced a stand-alone RPG that would appeal to die-hard fans of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and dice-chucking newbs alike. Perhaps keeping Middle-Earth mechanically distinct from the AD&D line was a condition of the TSR/Tolkien estate contract.

I bought this in an alternate reality.

System Overview
(1) Character Classes (& Races): Ranger, Warrior, Dwarf, Elf, Hobbit, Wose, Wizard*
(2) Experience system patterned after D&D. Dwarves and Elves gain additional benefits and abilities through aging.
(3) Monster Catalog: Orcs and orc sub-types, winged and wingless dragons, ents, barrow-wights, wraiths, balrogs, necromancers, Beornings, elf types, petty-dwarves, hobbit types, Haradrim, Istari, nazgul, trolls, vampires, spiders, etc., etc.
(4) Combat: Attack roll + Weapon Finesse versus Parry roll. Armor ablates damage.
(5) Magic-casting is non-Vancian and focused on willpower (physical exertion). Spells --> Runes. Many minor artifacts with distinct histories. Sentient magical items.

Third Age, many years prior to War of the Ring.
Key Modules: Moria; Necromancer's Keep in Mirkwood; Ruins of Angband; Plunder of Mordor
Supplements: Adventures in Khand; Elf-Magic; Servants of Morgoth
*Wizards would normally be a powerful NPC class with the option to run as PCs in particular campaigns.

V 2 with Jamesway bargain bin fauxthenticity.


  1. I would buy a MERPG with that cover, it's über-fantastic.

  2. Some Preparatory Notes

    You make it sound like you're going to have a go at this. If so I'd love to see the finished product. If not, great post anyway. :-)

  3. :-) Thanks, guys. This is just a teaser. I wouldn't mind continuing in this vein. Any suggestions about what you'd like to see in this product-that-never-was are welcome. Maybe things that MERP didn't quite do right that could be done better? Certainly their take on magic didn't do the setting any justice.

  4. Here is a Google compilation of discussions regarding Middle Earth and AD&D:



  5. Do you know how many nerdgasms would have occurred simultaneously in 1984, if TSR had made that announcement? The world as we know it would not have happened. Nobody would have left their bedrooms/basements, save to go to friends' houses to play AD&D.

    Damn, I'm almost having one just thinking about it and I'm not that all hip to licensed settings. Watching TSR/WotC mangle Diablo as a licensed setting was painful.

  6. @Timeshadows: Thanks! I may need to a hire a small contingent of gnomes to read through all this.

    @ChigoWiz: Dude, I was having nerdgasms just making that cover!

  7. J. R. R. Tolkien himself excepted, the Brothers Hildebrandt are THE Middle-earth artists.

  8. amazing cover.
    hopefully Cubicle 7 will release "The one ring" soon, we are still waiting.