Editorial: Introducing “Other Hands”

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, non-profit 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 world-wide role-playing community.

How did Other Hands come to be? The need for this journal derives in part from the particular licensing arrangement existing between the Tolkien Estate and Iron Crown Enterprises (the gaming company responsible for producing and marketing the Middle-earth Role Playing system). The license to publish Tolkien-related role-playing products is a world-wide license held exclusively by Iron Crown. This means, in effect, that anyone wishing their Middle-earth gaming materials to see print must go through Iron Crown. This places certain inherent limitations upon the prospective author.

To begin with, it means that the writer must utilize the official game mechanics of Middle-earth Role Playing, even if he or she prefers a different game system. There are also certain restrictions built into Iron Crown’s contract with Tolkien Enterprises stipulating that no materials set in the First or Second Ages of Middle-earth may be published. Finally, a prospective author writing on a region previously described in an earlier Iron Crown module is constrained to conform his or her own ideas to what someone else has written.

None of these limitations imply anything positive or negative about the quality of Iron Crown’s products; they are simply inevitable consequences of the legal arrangements described above. In the past, this problem was overcome by publishing one’s material in a gaming magazine (e.g. White Dwarf). Today, however, no major English-language gaming journal exists that is interested in publishing Tolkien-related material (most are now devoted to a particular game company’s products). Hence, there is a gap which needs to be filled for Middle-earth gamers— Other Hands seeks to fill that gap.

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 non-profit publication. It is our hope, then, that this journal will provide an open forum for all Middle-earth gamers to communicate freely and to exchange their ideas with one another in the common enthusiasm which they share for exploring Tolkien’s world through role-playing.

Why call this journal Other Hands?” In 1951 Tolkien wrote a letter to a prospective publisher, explaining the genesis and growth of his Mythology for England.” In this letter, he writes:

Once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend… I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
(Letters: 144 – 145).

With this inaugural issue of Other Hands we are pleased to add the category of role-playing” to Tolkien’s vision.

It had been our hope to release this issue on the first of January, so that our quarterly publishing schedule would have an annual reference point. Unfortunately, our arrangement with Tolkien Enterprises was held up by ongoing deliberations between them and Iron Crown Enterprises concerning the latter’s Middle-earth license; consequently, our spring issue is a bit late. We intend, however, to keep Other Hands on schedule, and aim to publish subsequent issues on the first of July, October, January, and April of each year.

We would also like to apologize to our overseas subscribers for the rather steep subscription price. At present, this is the bare cost of printing and mailing (if anyone has an idea of how to make distribution less expensive, we are all ears). In the meantime, our goal is to make Other Hands worth every bit you have paid, and to make each issue at least thirty pages in length (this, however, means that we will need your submissions). We will also strive to make each issue as diverse as possible, so that it contains as wide a range of material as can be managed.

Chris Seeman, 24 April 1993

Contributors: Anders Blixt, Pete Fenlon – ICE, Chris Phelby, Chris Seeman

Panel discussion participants: Andrew Butler, Glenn Kuring, Brian T. Murphy, Eric Rauscher, Chris Seeman


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