Editorial: Back for more
Yes, we are still here! After a summer of self-imposed linguistic torture, your editor has returned for a double dose of Middle-earth madness in this, our first double issue of Other Hands. A lot has happened since Issue 5 last April. Amor, the first of the new batch of Middle-earth “Realm” modules from ICE, is finally out, and the dreaded Kin-strife manuscript is at last complete (see “Frontlines” for more details on new MERP releases). More importantly, though, we’ve got a great issue in store for you right here and now.
Chris Pheby has rejoined our ranks from OH 1 with a ready-to-run adventure and an article on magic use in MERP (co-written with OH newcomer, Michael Saunders). Like our last adventure in OH 4, Chris has chosen the War of the Ring as the setting for a harrowing encounter with one of the Ringwraiths as they begin the hunt for the Shire. His discussion of “innate magic” follows as a response to Andrew McMurry’s earlier discussion of the same topic a few issues back (OH 3: 11 – 12), and succeeds in operationalizing the latter’s insights into MERP/Rolemaster mechanics.
This is truly a double issue, for it contains not one but two adventures. With the helpful collaboration of a couple of friends, I’ve put together material for the cult of Benish Armon, expanding upon its role in the Kin-strife module. In addition, I include my own “sequel” to the Kin-strife, which heavily draws upon the cult article. This adventure (or, rather, campaign; for it is only presented in outline) is set in Gondor and elsewhere in the T.A. 1450, and enables characters to solve the mystery of Queen Berúthiel once and for all.
Having carefully considered my own article of last issue on the origin of Ar-Pharazôn’s monument in Umbar (OH 5: 17 – 19), Jason Beresford has written a counterproposal which offers an alternative (in this case, a revisionist) view of the evidence, which will most likely be appearing in some form in the published Umbar Realm module. Lastly (but certainly not leastly), Anders Blixt takes a quick stab at the logistics of Minas Tirith’s defense and their impact on the problem of food supply.
Since April, we have landed ourselves a few new subscribers, and we anticipate more to come. There also exists the distinct possibility that OH may become available “on-line” as well as in hard-copy to those who have access to the information highway. We are currently working out the details with our publishers, and will keep our subscribers informed of any developments. We hope our readers will enjoy the “thickness” of this issue, and encourage you to help us keep the pages Other Hands alive with your erudition and wit.
Chris Seeman — October 10, 1994
Contributors: Michael Saunders, Chris Pheby, Chris Seeman, Jason Beresford, Stefan Ardinger, Anders Blixt
Editing: Chris Seeman
Layout and Design: Lisa Disterheft-Solberg, Nicolas Solberg
Artwork: Sophia Caramagno, Jeff Hatch
Dear Chris and Other Hands,
Only recently copies of the first two issues of Other Hands fell into mine, and I have to say that it is just the kind of thing I felt long overdue. Personally, I always thought that MERP/Rolemaster, while being an excellent game system in its own right, is not ideally suited to a world like Middle-earth, perhaps less so in its (nonexistent, as far as I’m concerned) approach towards religion, but even more through the “abuse” of magic it calls for in what I felt was a non-high fantasy setting.
To solve the problem of “true magick” in a high realism fantasy world such as Middle-earth, for myself the logical consequence was to look for a game system with more “realism” to it, which I finally found with Harnmaster, leaving unsolved for the moment the issue of religion. Thus, I welcomed very much your article on religion in OH 2.
What ICE has been quite good at doing is, it would appear to me, the fleshing out of the various regions of Arda, and in this respect I do not share Anders Blixt’s criticism (OH 2: 22) about a lack of Middle-earth “feel” to the ICE products set in southern Middle-earth. One can simply not expect to feel at home in Tolkien’s world there, because one isn’t. After all, these settings are all about being different, “exotic” if you wish to put it that way.
This is not to say that south of Umbar “anything goes,” but the way Haradrim culture is described there, and the concept of Númenórean City-states surviving in the deep south as such certainly do not run contrary to the little Tolkien says about these regions. I think that is about all you can ask for and, personally, I appreciate very much that ICE refrained from the temptation simply to clone real world cultures, transplanting them to Arda. In fact I consider ICE’s southern Middle-earth game supplements a rather good example for intelligent use of real-world analogies in a fantasy setting. Details, of course, are, like always, debatable; as for the Storm King, oh well, all those Nazgûl have to come from somewhere after all.
With this I do not intend to particularly praise the plot lines of these “southern” (or any other of ICE’s) Middle-earth adventures still far too much Orc-bashing as far as I’m concerned. That ICE can do much better than this, they sadly have shown so far only in non-Middle-earth-related products, like their Robin Hood volume, whose “Forest of Dean” plot and places in particular could be made an excellent adventure anywhere in rural Gondor during the Kin-strife, with very little additional effort from the gamemaster.
Thanks an awful lot for the photocopies of Other Hands 3 and 4… Issue 3 was the best one ever, as far as I’m concerned every single bit of it. Of #4, I especially liked Norman Talbot’s piece “Middle-earth Down Under” (5 – 10) not that it particularly fit my own conception of Middle-earth. It was just so hilariously funny, and one wonders what might have become of Professor Tolkien’s works had he lived in New South Wales.
The only point of severe criticism I have to make about anything in the last two issues concerns James Owen’s remark that bronze was “widely used for sword blades in Roman times (OH 4: 20).” Well, sort of now guess why they call it the iron age. Even by the time of the foundation of the city of Rome (conventionally 753 B.C.) the only bronze sword around would have been the one held by the eldest community member (most likely having inherited it from his great-grandfather).
All the best with the next issues.
Dirk Brandherm, Basler StraBe 19, 79100 Freiburg i. Br., Germany
I’m just back from one of the silliest Tolkien Society moots I’ve been to in a long time. The Mundeli Sernieva were going full throttle. Among other subjects discussed, how exactly do Ores reproduce, given the lack of gooseberry bushes and/or cabbage patches under the Misty Mountains. Possibly they get delivered by pterodactyls; but if so, they will have died out by the early Fourth Age when the winged beasts became extinct.
Sarah Sturch, The Rectory 3, The Rise, Islip, Oxon near Kidlington OX5 2TG, England
Other Hands is an international gaming journal devoted to fantasy role-playing set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s secondary world of Middle-earth. It is a quarterly, nonprofit publication welcoming submissions dealing with any aspect of gaming in the context of Tolkien’s world: scenario ideas, rule suggestions, gaming product reviews, gamemastering aids, bibliographic resources, essays on Middle-earth, and whatever else our readership would like to see in print. In a word, Other Hands aims to be the definitive Tolkien-related gaming journal for a worldwide role-playing community. Within the pages of Other Hands, the interested gamer may publish materials with reference to any game mechanics he or she chooses (including Rolemaster and Middle-earth Role Playing). Such gaming material may deal with any time period of Tolkien’s world, and need not be bound to what has already seen print in Iron Crown’s modules. Other Hands provides this freedom because it is a nonprofit publication. Subscription rates are as follows: inside the USA 1 issue $3/4 issues $12; outside the USA surface 1 issue $3.50/4 issues $14 air 1 issue $4.50/4 issues $18. Payment should be made to Chris Seeman: PO Box 1213, Novato, CA 94948, USA. No Eurochecks, please!
Submissions are welcome in any form (preferably legible), but are easiest to edit when received on a floppy disk. Word for Windows is the editing software currently in use, so if there is any question as to the readability of your disk, please save your document in ASCII or text-only format and include a hard copy. All submitted materials remain the copyright of the author unless we are otherwise informed. All submissions must be sent to Chris Seeman: PO Box 1213, Novato, CA 94948 (USA). Please write me or call if you encounter any difficulties, my phone number is (415) 892 9066. Please also note that I may be reached over Internet: email@example.com
Iron Crown is planning several Middle-earth releases before the end of this year. The new Treasures of Middle-earth should already be in the stores as we speak. The Minas Tirith revision has gone to the printers and is scheduled to appear sometime late in September. Happily, this revised module will include (we are told) a greatly improved map of the city. Mona is soon to be re-issued as a full-fledged Realm module, and is rumored to contain something like a hundred and forty pages of text. There are also plans to release an Elves People supplement and a Dol Guldur Fortress module before the end of the year. Finally, there is to be a “MERP Accessory Pack,” a boxed supplement which will include stand-up cardboard figures and a book of floorplans and adventure layouts.
As for projects that are or may be on the drawing board, the Kin-strife manuscript is on ICE’s desk and the contract for it has been signed. Initially, their hope had been to release it by Christmas, but I expect it will not come out until sometime (hopefully early) in 1995. The remaining contributions to the Southern Condor manuscript are presently being made by yours truly, and we project that it will be in ICE’s hands by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Jason Beresford still labors on the massive Umbar Realm module. Finally, I have accepted Jessica Ney’s offer to write a Dúnedain People supplement, intimations of which may well be appearing in future issues of Other Hands.
There are rumors of other revision projects underway. I have heard that Realm modules are currently in preparation for Northern Gondor, Rhovanion, and Mordor. I have also heard tell of a Lake Town City module. It is quite possible that there are other revisions and original work going on that I am not yet aware of. We’ll do our best to find out more by next issue this January. Until then…
Reporter — Chris Seeman
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