The Life, Death, and Rebirth of an RPG Book

MERP Yesterday afternoon, I was strolling through my local Goodwill thrift store on 50% off EVERYTHING day.  The place is  always a madhouse on these days.  I am not sure why I bother going, as I never find anything worthwhile.  But, yesterday I did.

Stuffed in the kids book section, as I was looking for Elmo and Thomas the Train books for my 1-year-old son, was a copy of the Middle-Earth Role Playing game book. It’s regular price was 69 cents.  For one of the most popular games of the mid 80’s, second to only Dungeons and Dragons, I was willing to open up my wallet for the 35 cents this book would cost me.  And it is in fantastic condition for a book published in 1986 (It’s 2nd edition).

As I got home, and started paging through the book, it got me thinking.  And not the normal, “I like these rules” or “this is a stupid way to do this”, kind of thinking.  But, a Zaphod Beeblebrox, eating a piece of fairy cake in the Total Perspective Vortex kind of moment.

My mind wandered to who originally bought this book?  Did they go into their local game story when it was first released, excited to adventure in the world of Tolkien?

Did the book come from Waldenbooks? Or maybe the esteemed Wargames West Catalog?  Did the buyer purchase it premeditated? Or did they happen upon it and thought it looked fun?

This book is in great condition, so it most likely wasn’t dragged to and from a game for a few years in a backpack. But, I hope it was actually played before.  There are no marks, no big tears or creases, nothing. Is it possible that this book, an important piece of RPG history, never actually saw the gaming table? Was it bought, read, and boxed up until some massive spring cleaning marked it as “unwanted”?

Or maybe it comes from a long line of very careful owners, and it has many-a-tales told in its near 30 years of existance?

Too bad we can’t access the “Item Lore” spell list on page 62.  The 10th level spell is “History”.  Casting this spell gives the mage a random vision of some past event that an item was present at. That would make me feel better if I knew at least one Uruk-hai was slain or a Troll was turned to stone under this book’s tutelage.

But, we will never know.

And then my mind wandered into regret.  I will probably never play this game. I may look at this book from time to time for ideas, or for nostalgia. To me, it is an inelegant mess of charts and math (my apologies to Rolemaster historians and enthusiasts). Will this book sit on my shelf for 30 years until it ends up at Goodwill again?

And my biggest fear of all. Did my plucking of this book prevent some boy or girl, from finding their first RPG, which would break them into the hobby?

Well, no use harping on it.  The treasure is mine!



Stuart Greenwell

My first experiences with serious gaming came from the Hero Quest board game. I then made the next step to the RoboTech RPG and a lunchtime meeting of AD&D Oriental Adventures. My interests now are pretty much the same. Boardgames and RPGS. Some of my favorites boardgames are currently Settlers of Catan, Battlestar Galactica, and Space Alert. For RPGS, it is Monte Cook's Cypher System. But I am always down for a good round of Dungeons & Dragons.