Search the internet and you will find scattered here there and everywhere GMs who complain about the MERP/Rolemaster MM tables. It is never a surprise to me, as on my initial read through I missed the point as well. However, when I dug down into the reasoning some 25+ years ago it mostly made sense. At least in a way that allowed us to play a game and not have my players argue every 5 minutes about why they a 4’5″ dwarf should be able to cover 100m in 10 secs in full plate. So I am starting a little series up in the Rationale section to explain my thinking and explore some ideas.
Well it would be rude not to make a nodding mention of Jeff Erwin’s unfinished gazetteer on the Elves of Lindon when looking into how to incorporate the non-canonical Caras Celairnen into a synthesised MERP game environment. When I started looking into using the town as a location, I found a tantalising reference to this work on several sites. Tracking down a manuscript on the internet proved to be a little disappointing. I think given the half hinted references in some of the original MERP material I was hoping for a little bit more at least on the Second Age settlement, if not details for the Third Age. Instead, I ended up with more questions than answers.
Caras Celairnen, we are told, is a bastardisation of the Quenya Gobel Calarnen (Lampwater). I think that at some point in a fan magazine discussion there was a long discussion on ICE place names and corrections that involved Chris Seelman and Jeff Erwin. The main reason for the name change was that they wanted the Elvish to represent Lampwater town. This appears to be the rationale behind a long series of mind bending linguistic drifts and mistranslations. However, it seems to me reading the history section that the tower by the brilliant water would apply very well to an administrative centre of Galadrial. Indeed, it is unlikely the Elves would have built a town on a swamp, and the history refers to a lake in the second age. Accordingly, the name fits and it is only over time that the swamp moved in as the effects of the two rivers was slowly realised. That men call it Lampwater town needs have no linguistic link to the original place name; firstly because the town was rebuilt and remodelled by man and second it is an appellation (nickname).
According to the lengthy History section Caras Celairnen was the largest town in the region, serving as administrative and commercial centre of Eldarin Eriador, who were ruled by Galadriel from lake Nenuial. This fits with the reference in the Northwestern Gazetteer that the Elves had the town built by the dwarves as a trading post. In the Lindon Gazetteer this is referred to as being similar to Tirion in the west. Probably a rather grand claim given the legendary status of the city on the shores of Valinor. Somewhat confusingly, the Lindon Gazetteer also says that Galadriel ruled from a tower near the Uialduin which overlooked both the lake and the mighty Lhun. Although, it is an easy stretch to imagine Galadriel having several dwellings throughout a vast region.
This information gives a hint about the geography in the second age. First there was a lake, and given the size of the marsh this would have been large and fed presumably by the Uialduin. Time may have shifted the course of the Uialduin as well so this might be further north. Presumably, over time the lake has silted up and the marsh has formed as the river moved south. Second the region was covered in more trees although how wooded this realm was is not clear. However, if we look book at the Silmarillion maps we can could expect a region covered with great forests and still many Ents present.
We learn that man began to settle round the town during the second age. These were the remnants of Beor’s house and Edain who had never crossed Ered Luin. This created a mixed race town, which was also occupied by Dwarves. A harmonious beginning to the second age. However, with the arrival of Elendil and the faithful this changed with the Dunedain being granted the town by Gil-Galad. This means that during this period the Elvish influence across the region diminished quickly, as we know that Elendil established Annuminas as his capital. Later Jeff suggests that the ruins of a tower occupied by Galadriel or the town were incorporated into a fortress of the Noirinanyar family by the mid-TA. This is clearly a mix up as it doesn’t fit with the MERP canon for the kingdom of Arthedain or with the Royal Charter to Silanir’s line which was regranted to a junior line. I think more on the politics needs to be addressed as there is also reference to a half-elf as the direct descendent who is invited by the elders to rule when no suitable descendant of Silanir is available.
As a resource for understanding what the Elvish kingdoms might be like and how they may interact with the other races this partially completed work is a must read. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really answer anymore questions about how the town of Caras manages to survive on a trade route that must be heavily reliant on the “black smiths of the blue mountains” as Thorin was once called, and the good graces of Cirdan to sail ships through the 10 mile gap of Lhun. In fact, in some ways it poses more problems with different modules, histories and gazetteers fighting over a nebulous borderland.