Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

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Eirvit
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Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Eirvit » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:51 pm

I apologize if this isn’t the right forum for this suggestion. I finally settled on it because its main category is, aptly, Middle-Earth Roleplaying. I also posted this in the G+ Community.

Based on the growing interest in the OSR, seeing Fantasy Flight reprint d6 Star Wars and Cubicle 7’s own reissue of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, what do you think about working in collaboration with ICE to reissue all or some of the old MERP material? Obviously, I personally have no idea of the logistics involved in such an endeavor, but maybe someone here might!
http://www.ironcrown.com/ICEforums/inde ... 10.new#new

Otaku-sempai
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Otaku-sempai » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:58 pm

One hurdle I see for such a project is that much of the MERP material seems to have exceeded their licence and violated copyrights held by Christopher Tolkien, though that might not have been true of the core rule book. Also, I'm not sure that any such reprint would be in the best interests of Cubicle 7. TOR and AiMe tend to build on each other; I'm not sure that this would be the same with MERP (even if only brought back in the form of a PDF).

On the other hand, that last is my personal opinion and the folks at C7 might feel very differently.
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Glorelendil » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:18 am

Licensing issues aside (which I suspect are monumental but that's neither here nor there), given that time is finite I don't think I would want C7 to spend any time on it. It is/was high-quality stuff for what it was, but it's very, very different from TOR. In many ways. Anybody who really wants to read it for inspiration can find old copies, or even illicit PDFs.
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CERETH
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by CERETH » Sat Jan 13, 2018 5:34 am

As much as I loved MERP, it really was a setting stuffed into a system it didn't fit. TOR really is 1,000 times more elegant in handling the setting. I do still have piles of MERP stuff I will probably use as inspiration for adventures in TOR, but I think that is where its value ends. Also as Glor said, I wouldn't want any C7 resources pulled away from what they are doing now.

(MERP was the very first rpg I ever owned)

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Tolwen
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Tolwen » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:14 am

There exist several major problems, that make this an extremely unlikely endeavour:
  • Legal Issues: The current ICE has nothing in common with the old one that published MERP. When the latter went bancrupt, the remaining IP from them was bought by Aurigas Aldebaron and a "new" ICE created that re-published and further developed these things (mainly Rolemaster and Spacemaster). You can read the whole story on ICE's website. The IP for MERP was returned to Tolkien Enterprises (TE); now re-named Middle-earth Enterprises (MEE) and remains with them to this day. Anyone wishing to re-publish MERP stuff would have to approach MEE.
  • As already said, MERP modules quite often overstepped their license. Back in the day this wasn't a big deal obviously (the Middle-earth franchise being a niche product), but with the advent of the movies and Middle-earth becoming a billion-Dollar franchise, licensing matters now involve loads of more money. Naturally, this also greatly heightens awareness for breaches in licensing agreements.
  • Even if legal issues might be sorted out, a re-publishing of this stuff would directly compete with the current licensed products (TOR and AiME). It remains very questionable whether this is in the interests of both MEE and C7. IMO both have - fully understande - absolutrely no interest in this.
  • It has already been mentioned that the games were very different design-wise. This pertains especially to the mechanics, but the fluff is also of a very different tone and focus. In addition, MERP's temporal focus (TA 1640) is very far away from TOR's, making cross-system uses even more difficult. Thus it would take considerable effort to make use of the material of the other line. Being thus relatively different (MERP vs. TOR/AiME), the competition point becomes even more pronounced.
Speaking generally, I think that this a very unlikely event, due to the aforementioned topics.

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Eirvit
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Eirvit » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:32 pm

Thanks, Tolwen! I’ve floated this idea through a few venues (and this morning received an email from someone at ICE). The consensus has been that there are insurmountable obstacles to this project, but only you have been able to explain that all the MERP IP has reverted out of the possession of ICE and into the possession of Tolkien (now Middle-Earth) Enterprises! This clears up a lot for me, particularly in light of rumors of how difficult it might be to work with Zaentz.

It’s no surprise that many of the posters in this discussion in the Cubicle 7 forums are aglow about Cubicle 7’s treatment of Tolkien’s material. I own a hardback of the game, but haven’t mustered the drive yet to read through it all. But everyone’s enthusiasm has me willing to give it another go. That said, I’m a bit dubious that, in the event that MERP does get republished alongside TOR, that the two would be in “direct” competition with each other (and, since it’s a matter of republishing, might the diverted resources be negligible or acceptable?). I suppose we should wait and see what results from Fantasy Flight’s experiment of republishing d6 Star Wars right alongside its house system first contained in Edge of Empire. But that company seems to think there is a benefit — perhaps money to be made? — from this interest in the OSR. And I don’t think FF plans any direct, continuing support for d6 Star Wars, just a reprinting. And this is what I would expect were Cubicle 7 ever to do the same with MERP.

(Now, of course, I already own MERP. Personally, I suppose, I would hope to get my hands on some old modules and, particularly, maps, but I agree that this seems to be the most unlikely outcome yet! And, MERP, too, was my first game.)

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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Hermes Serpent » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:07 pm

Ain't never going to happen. M-E Enterprises are too savvy to consider fragmenting their revenue stream for a very niche product in an already niche market. Whereas there is the revenue about to warrant putting out any number of collectable Middle Earth figurines and other things one might describe as 'old tat' the RPG market is extremely small compared to every other source of revenue and the cost of having an IP lawyer or even paralegal oversee the product stream for multiple role playing games is to high for any return.

The market for old MERP stuff is probably limited to long time fans who probably have most of the stuff anyway. The hard core Tolkien fans have moved on to TOR or other game systems that better match the Professor's written material and the rest, who have any interest, are happily playing the OGL/5E version AiME and wouldn't have any interest in a nearly thirty five year old game system that doesn't do an even half decent job of matching the style of the Professor's work besides being way too crunchy for today's players.
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Tolwen
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by Tolwen » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:11 pm

Eirvit wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:32 pm
The consensus has been that there are insurmountable obstacles to this project, but only you have been able to explain that all the MERP IP has reverted out of the possession of ICE and into the possession of Tolkien (now Middle-Earth) Enterprises!
That was the short version. The long one need not be discussed here, but if you're interested, you can contact me by PM or email :)
Eirvit wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:32 pm
That said, I’m a bit dubious that, in the event that MERP does get republished alongside TOR, that the two would be in “direct” competition with each other (and, since it’s a matter of republishing, might the diverted resources be negligible or acceptable?).
In that case - and even if C7 might be interested (very unlikely IMO) - the major issue of license violations remain. It wouldn't be a simple reprint (either hardcopy or PDF version) possible, but one would have to wade through the modules and carefully remove all the license oversteppings. Depending on the individual module, more or less content might then be missing or had to be written anew (which indeed makes a lot of work).
As I said, things have changed much since the 1980s and '90s - and in that respect many of the MERP modules would need a great deal of work to be legally compatible in these days. And honestly, especially the overall quality of the adventures wasn't very "tolkienistic". Many were straightforward generic dungeon crawls (or "rescue the princess from the orcs" types) and only a few ones made genuine use of the unique setting. Only the regional and later the campaign modules were generally better, but they had almost only fluff with very little directly useable gaming material in them.

As both games address Middle-earth quite differently, direct competition might be less, but the point remains that the existence of such material might draw attention away from people who might be willing to use the new material when the old is not available. If that would be there, they would perhaps never try (and buy) the new one... ;)

And finally it is also a philosophical (game-design wise) question: The design and structure of TOR is completely different than MERP and its authors (who have put a lot of effort in that) are IMHO unlikely to support a game with an entirely different appoach than the one they - obviously - love and prefer (otherwise TOR would perhaps look more MERP-like). This last point is IMO a very important one - if you have put a lot of effort and heart's blood in a specific game and approach, why would you go and re-publish one with a radically different approach (probably one you do not really share)?

But if you're interested in material that might be useable for a broad range of Middle-earth gaming interests, the old Other Hands and the recent Other Minds online magazines might be valuable for you (in case you don't already know them). Just follow the links in my signature for more information or drop me a message :)

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Tolwen
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mica
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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by mica » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:30 pm

I loved the ICE stuff but then I had teenage rose tinted glasses. Reviewing the stuff for the most part reveals the system's many flaws. Apart from some of the artwork (including great maps) and some nice settings the vast majority was a generic fantasy shoe-horned (badly) into Middle-earth.
For the most part, updating it would need an overhaul similar to what has happened to Torg (another great game of the era). Considering there is already AiMe and TOR, there seems no incentive to revisit MERP (and we can quietly forget Nolder elves flying over Bree casting shock bolts of our younger roleplaying adventures).

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Re: Republish MERP (Middle-Earth Role Playing) with I.C.E.?

Post by SurrenderMonkey » Thu Jan 18, 2018 7:19 pm

mica wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:30 pm
Considering there is already AiMe and TOR, there seems no incentive to revisit MERP...
I agree with everything in your post, except for this one point. MERP had one thing going for it that AiMe an TOR do not -- support for play in historical periods distant from the main narrative of the books. That's the only incentive I would have to revisit MERP.

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