Editorial: Round Two
As we begin the second year of Other Hands’ existence, I thought that a “state of the union address” might be appropriate. As of April, our journal has a total of thirty-five subscriptions (two of them complimentary, four exchange-based). Our readers range throughout the US and Europe: twenty-six in America, four in England, the others in Germany, Sweden, Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands.
Our financial situation (and that of our publishers) has evened out somewhat since last issue, leaving us less dependent on sheer numbers of subscribers to keep us afloat. Although we are regularly noted in the pages of Estel and Beyond Bree, it never ceases to amaze me that Amon Hen has managed to remain oblivious to our existence for more than a year now (especially given the fact that copies of OH were sent to its editor for review many moons ago). Tolkien specialty shops fear to stock us (with the partial exception of Thornton’s of Oxford, who promised to notice us in their next Tolkien catalogue). However, we laugh in the face of adversity.
Continuing on our campaign theme from last issue, Anders Blixt has offered us two articles that expand upon themes hinted at in his earlier article “Beyond the Third Age” (OH 1: 7 – 19). The first presents an outline for a Second Age campaign set in Middle-earth before the foundation of Gondor, while the second gives more in-depth background material for his Fourth Age “Aelindur” campaign.
Pete Clark, a newcomer to Other Hands, has given us permission to reprint a narrative background to another pre-Akallabêth campaign, which he has been running with the Oxford Tolkien Society. Normally, we do not publish purely “literary” pieces, but perhaps this will tempt Pete to tell us more about the campaign in a future issue. Scott Stanek, who has sent in a “bio” of a very interesting character — interesting, because his story proves that it’s possible to set an engaging Middle-earth game even in so remote a setting as Valinor in the First Age, also joins us.
I have not been able to contribute much to this issue because of my work with the Kin-strife module, but I did manage to write a short piece on the history of Umbar. No adventure scenario for this issue, because no one sent me any. Start writing if you want to continue to see stuff like that, and see you in three months!
Chris Seeman — April 1, 1994
Contributors: Anders Blixt, Pete Clark, Scott Stanek, Chris Seeman
Editing: Chris Seeman
Layout and Design: Lisa Disterheft-Solberg, Nicolas Solberg
Artwork: Jeff Hatch
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you very much for your kind gifts to the roleplaying game commission of the Sociedad Tolkien Española (STE). We have discussed the first two issues of Other Hands, and all agree that the journal will become the main discussion forum for Tolkienian role-players in coming years. I will be writing an article about Other Hands in Estel (our society bulletin) to inform all members of STE about subscription information. We are happy to see that we are not alone in our estimation of the Middle-earth Role Playing system — ICE’s Middle-earth looks very different from that of The Lord of the Rings.
I believe that there are two main reasons why ICE’s treatment of Tolkien’s world does not differ substantively from other conventional fantasy settings: the treatment of races and magic. These topics will be the principal subject of our commission’s activity, which will include:
1) A complete description of all races, with special attention devoted to the treatment of language and manners (both very important, we believe, since role-playing is an oral activity). Of course, races not invented by Tolkien himself will be omitted from our examination (ICE’s Umli and Half-trolls, as well as Half-elves, since these do not properly constitute a “race”).
2) Conversion of the magic system. This is an enormous problem, in part because the members of our own commission are themselves divided. As for myself, I believe that the correct approach would run as follows: there are only five wizards (the Istari); Men and Hobbits are not a magical by race, so they cannot work magic (although they may use magic items they come across); Elves can use songs of power to create magical artefacts; Dwarves can use magic only to improve their own creations (e.g., the magic toys described in The Hobbit and LotR). However, this is only my own interpretation of Tolkien (others on the commission defend other positions).
At present, we are discussing the Noldor (a lengthy process, as the members of our commission are spread over six different cities). We plan to celebrate our First National Convention in Pamplona in March, which should speed up our discussions. I am the mail-keeper for the Convention, so you can get more information about it from me, if you are interested.
Eduardo Martinez Santamaría — c/Marqués de la Ensenada 11, 7°H 26003 Lograño — La Riosa, Spain
Reporter: Chris Seeman
The first news is that the Kin-strife manuscript is not yet in Virginia on Jessica Ney’s desk (Jim Morrison lied); it is, however, in the final stages of editing and is scheduled for completion within six weeks. No further news on the Arnor module, except that it hasn’t yet materialized in the stores. The good news for those of us who have been working on The Kin-strife is that resolution of differences between our authors and Jason Beresford over the history, layout, and political structure of Umbar during the Usurper’s reign has finally been achieved.
This ongoing discussion has embraced questions about the adequacy of the original 1982 Umbar module, particularly in terms of the contradictions which exist between its map and Tolkien’s comments about the layout of the haven (cf. my treatment of one of these details in my article in this issue). The biggest change that will be appearing in The Kin-strife and the new Umbar realm module will be the creation of an entirely new haven foundation alongside the old 1982 city map, in order to better reflect the political, military and economic prominence of Umbar, as well as the natural (rather than man-made) character of its haven. The old city map will be retained, but the history of this “secondary settlement” remains largely unwritten.
Apart from this module news, I would like to report the unusual coincidence of no fewer than four Middle-earth games at a recent West Coast gaming convention (all of which used different rule systems) — it’s quite rare to find more than one Middle-earth game at most cons these days, so maybe this one was just a fluke, or maybe it’s getting more popular. Wouldn’t that be nice? The next time I write up this column, The Kin-strife will be finished (now that’s a scary thought). Talk to you in July!
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