Editorial: Three Is Company

Editorial: Three Is Company

In the editorial for July, I expressed my hope that our next issue would be bigger, and it seems that I have gotten my wish. Although we are still by no means over the financial hurdle yet, Other Hands has been picking up speed during the summer, both in terms of writers and subscribers. Welcome to OH #3!

Besides offering all of our usual fare, there are two ways in which this issue represents significant progress toward our goals as a gaming journal. From its conception, Other Hands has aimed to provide a forum of communication between the authors, audience, and publishers of Tolkien-related role-playing games. Three of the many contributions to the present issue have advanced us in this direction.

James Owen of the Oxford Tolkien Society has offered an engaging response to Pete Fenlon’s open letter (written on behalf of ICE to our readers — sec OH 1: 3 — 6). James’ comments are those of a long-time Rolemaster player, and we are hoping to see more from him in future issues. His extensive training in the field of metallurgy makes him well qualified to say a thing or two about forging technology in Middle-earth.

Moving across the English Channel, we received a letter of great interest from Eduardo Martinez Santamaria (sec pg. 2), who has announced the formation of a roleplaying game commission” within the Sociedad Tolkien Espanola. This group seeks to establish contact through Other Hands with individuals or groups who are interested in Middle-earth gaming. They are also involved in customizing the MERP rule system to suit their tastes, and I have encouraged them to submit any of their ideas to our journal.

Finally, as the module-writing process continues apace for The Kin-strife, Umbar, and Southern Gondor, collaborative dialogue between the respective authors of these forthcoming Iron Crown publications has led Gunnar Brolin to present his view on population levels for the Dúnadan realms-in-exile. Gunnar is a man of many talents (one of these being demographics), and he is a contributing author to both the Kin-strife and Southern Gondor projects. Jason Beresford, author-to-be of the revised Umbar module, has written a brief response to Gunnar’s views, especially as they relate to the region of Umbar.

Because both of these authors offer population statistics which are at variance with those found in the recently published Northwestern Middle-earth Gazetteer (see review on pgs. 26— 27), we have decided to present their respective arguments in these pages for further consideration and discussion by both of you, the reader, and Jessica Ney of Iron Crown, who is responsible for the development of the MERP line. The purpose of this deliberation process is to come to some degree of consensus on this matter, so that these and future modules will not contain conflicting figures. In this way, we hope that Other Hands will be able to help facilitate constructive dialogue on topics of relevance to Middle-earth gamers.

The second way in which the present issue represents progress toward our stated goals is in our aim to offer practical materials for the Middle-earth player or referee. Much of the stuff in OH 1 and 2, while no doubt of interest to many of our readers, was less directly applicable to the contingencies of role-playing. There is a place in Other Hands for these more general Middle-earth-related topics; but we want to balance this out with more immediately usable” materials.

Our ultimate goal is, of course, to publish actual adventure scenarios within these pages. Although we have not achieved that goal in this issue, we read Tolkien Enterprises’ continued silence on this matter as tacit consent to proceed with our plans to include at least one adventure in each issue of Other Hands, beginning with issue 4 in January (see OH 2: 1 for the context of this discussion). We hope that this announcement will encourage some of you to send us your unpublished adventures.

OH 3 nevertheless contains a few pieces which are of practical interest. Tim Innes, one of the Southern Gondor authors, has given us an extensive essay on the Drughu (i.e., Drúedain, Woses), which includes RuneQuest stats for both the Drughu themselves and the infamous Púkel-men.” Finally, in preparation for an adventure which may appear in a future issue, I have written an interpretive article on the enigmatic Queen Berúthiel and her mysterious cats.

To wind things up, we have a programmatic essay by Andrew McMurry (also of the Oxford Tolkien Society) on the principles governing the use of magic in Middle-earth, which follows closely on the heels of Chris Pheby’s contribution to OH 1. And we have another short piece from Anders on — of all things — Scandinavian influences on the Orkish-English dictionary in the Empire of the Witch-king module. Finally, we have added a new feature, Frontlines,” which will bring together all of the latest gossip and news about Middle-earth gaming which fails to get into the letters column or this editorial. Anyone with information about anything is encouraged to give report for our fellow readers.

Before closing, I should bring everyone up to date on the problem of European distribution. We are still working with the possibility of arranging for Other Hands to be produced and distributed independently in the EEC, so as to reduce the overseas mailing — and, hence, subscription — cost for our readers outside the USA. For the present, however, it will be possible to purchase individual issues of our journal through Myth of Adventures: Verlag fur phantastische Medien, Berner Weg 24, D— 67069 Ludwigshafen, Germany. We are also hoping to get Bilbo’s Bookshop Bath to stock us, but have not yet received a reply from them.

A final matter before signing off. I am contemplating including an address roster of Other Hands subscribers in the upcoming January issue, so as to facilitate communication between our readers. Please let me know if for any reason you would not care to be included in this list. Well, that’s all for now— talk to you in three months!

Chris Seeman, 15 October 1993

Contributors: Gunnar Brolin, Jason Beresford, Andrew McMurry, Tim the Gothic Writer” Innes, Anders Blixt, Chris Seeman, James Owen

Editing: Chris Seeman

Layout and Design: Lisa Disterheft-Solberg, Nicolas Solberg

Artwork: Jeff Hatch, Tom Loback, Lisa Disterheft-Solberg, Edith Crowe


This letters column is intended to function as a forum of communication between subscribers of Other Hands. It can also serve as a place for readers to comment on various topics of interest without writing a full article. This is not, in fact, a new feature of Other Hands — we have simply not received any letters until now. So start writing!

Dear friend:

My name is Eduardo Martinez Santamaria, and I am a member of the roleplaying game commission of the Sociedad Tolkien Espanola.… I write to you regarding your announcement of Other Hands in our society bulletin some months ago. Our commission intends to offer revisions of the Middle-earth Role Playing system in order to bring it into greater fidelity with Tolkien’s books. We are therefore very interested in exchanging ideas with other groups who have similar interests.

As Iron Crown Enterprises is also located in the USA, we believe that Other Hands will be very useful to Tolkien fans and gamers all over the world as a vehicle for keeping people like us in contact. Congratulations for the idea! We would be grateful if you could send us further information about subscription prices, methods of payment, etc., as well as reports about other interested groups. And, of course, if there is something we can do, just tell us.

Eduardo Martinez Santamaría c/​Marqués de la Ensenada 11, 7°H, 26003 Lograño, España

Ed. — One of the principal functions of Other Hands is to provide an opportunity for one’s rule suggestions to be published; so we welcome and encourage your group to submit these ideas for open discussion among Middle-earth gamers. We also hope that other individuals or groups involved in projects such as your own throughout the world will send us reports on their progress to this letters column, so that we can develop an active network of interested gamers. Those wishing to communicate their ideas to Iron Crown directly should address their inquiries to Pete Fenlon: ICE, PO Box 1605, Charlottesville, VA 22902, USA.

Hello Chris,

…When you review the NWME Gazetteer in OH #3, you may point out that Gondor has received unrealistically low population figures, especially when compared with the army sizes supplied for Mordor in Gorgoroth. With these figures, Sauron would likely have little problem overrunning Gondor.

Anders Blixt — Hägervägen 16, S-122 39 Enskede, Sweden


Reporter: Chris Seeman

As explained in this issue’s editorial, the purpose of Frontlines” is to keep our readers abreast on the latest developments in the Middle-earth gaming scene worldwide. Since many of the contributors to this issue are involved in the writing of ICE modules, Frontlines” will be including regular reports on their progress. This column is, however, by no means limited to this topic and is available for anyone with something interesting to tell us.

Should the overlap between Frontlines” and Communications” obviate the need for two separate features, we will probably end up merging them. At present, the main difference is that Communications” remains a letters column where it is our readers who are doing the writing, whereas Frontlines” is my own synthesis information accumulated over the last three months preceding the issue in which it appears.

So what is the latest news on the modules? The Kin-strife (now subtitled The Usurper’s Reign) is still going through the editing process; but it is also acquiring some additional adventures (which, we anticipate, will bring the grand total to twenty-one). The current focus is on bringing Gunnar Brolin’s Umbar chapter into accord with some of the major revisions in the city/​haven layout currently proposed by Jason Beresford. The many adventures in this campaign module are now being playtested by members of Taruithorn (the Oxford Tolkien Society), who will be sending us their reactions and suggestions in the near future [Liz, this means you!].

The Southern Gondor realm” module, which will be covering everything north of Umbar and south of the Ered Nimrais, is beginning to take shape. The first draft of the Lamedon chapter has been received, and collaborative work on three campaign-length adventures is now underway. One of these adventures, entitled Silmarien’s Crown,” was recently playtested (in much abridged form) a few weeks ago at the west-coast gaming convention, Pacificon, where it was a great success. The other two campaigns will be treating the Gondor-Corsair conflict and Wainrider wars respectively. The general intention of the Kin-strife and Southern Gondor modules is to cover the periods of 1437 – 1448 and 1448 – 2050, whereas Jason Beresford’s Umbar realm module will be covering the entire history of that haven (although it will still be focusing on the years of the 17th century as did the original 1982 publication). I know less about the current status of Jason’s work, but have read some very impressive segments of it in progress. He, Gunnar, and Anders Blixt are engaged in an ongoing discussion not only about population levels, but about naval organization and ship design (both of which are understandably overlapping concerns).

A final bit of general news. When the idea of Other Hands was first conceived last August at the Tolkien Centenary conference in Oxford, there was much talk about the formation of special interest groups within the Tolkien Society of England. Thus far, no role-playing special interest group has emerged (though, I believe, there are many gamers in the TS who might be interested in forming one). Once word of our journal gets out among them, perhaps they will be encouraged to form one. In fact, even as we speak, OH 1 and 2 are being sold at this year’s Oxonmoot by James Owen and Andrew McMurry. Let’s wish them good luck in finding new subscribers!


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