Being mature

`So this thought has just cropped up on the ICE MERP Facebook group. “Question I play Rolemaster in Middle Earth why not use a much more mature system but still al the middle earth info/ICE modules etc?” 

Now ignoring the obvious replies that can be made by those of us who graduated to Rolemaster (RM) and in our case reverted back in this incarnation, there is a bigger question. What is a mature system? A system that is mature in my book has a lot to do with my background in biology and medicine. It has a robust interdependency that has over time evolved to provide a stable supporting equilibrium.  So is RM really a mature system? More complex, yes; also it allows more options and certainly more adaptable in terms of the wealth of character options and fighting styles. But more mature, no.

D&D has evolved to suit its different adventuring worlds, well there were rule changes. I’m not sure if they evolved to balance out the world or in response to players complaints about the previous versions, but at least it was in response to the modules and the world. I have no idea how Pathfinder fits into this idea, someone might like to enlighten me.

For Middle Earth there are just different systems basically based on which company managed to acquire a licence from the Tolkien Estate.

  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • ICE Rolemaster/MERP and subsidiary editions
  • Cubicle 7’s “The One Ring”
  • Decipher “The Lord of the Rings”
  • various online and by mail MMPORG

None of which has ever been part of a serious effort to become better at being a reflection of Middle Earth. Now, this has not been a fault of players who have attempted to warp whatever system they play to fit their idea of Middle Earth, some of which can be found on various fan sites and zines. However, I wonder if any of the systems have ever really had a chance to mature into a system that really reflects the rich tapestry of Tolkien’s mythic creation?

5 thoughts on “Being mature

  1. Part of the issue here is that there aren’t many “mature” rpg systems. The most successful rpgs are usually those that can be played quickly and by kids aged 7-17. While there are now a lot of older rpgers who have a great deal of education and yearn to see a system that acknowledges that, there really isn’t much to support it. I started with Runequest and COC and built a system that does what I want with combat. I was in martial arts for 25 years and got a bunch of black belts in different system, plus fencing, archery, and SCA, so I wanted something that felt right to me, and also something that allowed heroism while not making combat seem like something that should be a first choice. My combat works great now (40 years after I started playing!), but my style of play keeps changing as I get older. MERP did a great job building Middle Earth as a gaming area, but it does not a better rpg system. Agreement on what that would look like will be difficult, since Middle Earth was built around a couple of stories. The magic was never well-defined. The anthropology still grates on me, as Tolkien seems to have loved tall Nordic types and classed the East as savages. So what do you think such a system would look like? Level or skill-based? or something else?


    1. Not sure would be my answer – I think and it seems a lot of experienced GMs agree it is the tweaks to the original system that make it more mature so I guess a system published from a bunch of ideas is the ultimate mature system. But you can imagine how long that would take to agree on and test :).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gabe Dybing

    I’m detecting two topics in here: “maturity” and direct emulation of Tolkien’s sub creation. I don’t have much to say about maturity, but I’m curious about your assertion that Cubicle 7’s “One Ring” isn’t a serious attempt to code Tolkien’s mythology into a game. Many people argue contrastingly that it is “true” Tolkien. Others argue similarly for Decipher’s system. I only have a passing knowledge of The One Ring, myself. I haven’t been able to read through the reams of “this is what is M-e” or what many call “fluff.”


    1. In my “serious” comment I was applying the whole range of roleplay in ME not just an attempt to reflect the background milleux. So the question is how do you know the mechanics are mature? My answer is still the same as above….:)


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