Licensed from the Tolkien Estate, ''Middle-earth Role Playing'' (or just ''MERP'') was a RolePlayingGame published by Iron Crown Enterprises from 1982 to 1996 using a streamlined version of the ''RoleMaster'' game rules.

Set in the world of ''Literature/TheSilmarillion'', ''Literature/TheHobbit'', and ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', ''MERP'' allowed players to run campaigns in any era of Middle-earth's history--though the default era was the year 1640 of the Third Age, approximately a millennium and a half before the War of the Ring in a time when Sauron is only just starting to rebuild his power. The southern kingdom of Gondor is recovering from civil war, while the northern kingdom of Arnor is under seige from the Witch-King of Angmar. The Great Plague has just ended, drastically reducing the population in northwestern Middle-earth but opening up new opportunities for the survivors. Sauron remains in hiding, but his servants, the Nazgūl, gather forces under his banner. The lands are less settled but also more free, and Elves, Men, Dwarves, and even Hobbits might find adventure.

Because its setting was relatively little-detailed by Tolkien, ''MERP'' was allowed a great deal of creative freedom and developed its own mythos derivative but distinct from Tolkien's, with a close attention to the languages and cultures of Middle-earth.

''MERP'' went out of publication in 1996 and the license reverted to the Tolkien Estate. Other Middle-earth [=RPGs=] have since been published by Decipher (''The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game'', 2002-2005, tying into the [[Film/TheLordOfTheRings Peter Jackson movies]]) and Cubicle 7 (''The One Ring'', 2011-present, taking place shortly after ''Literature/TheHobbit'').

The game had a thriving fan community rallied around the fanzine ''[[http://www.othermindsmagazine.com/downloads/other-hands-magazine-archive Other Hands]]'', which ceased publication in 2001. ''Other Hands'' was succeeded by an extensive [[http://fanmodules.free.fr/ fan module project]] and the current webzine, ''[[http://www.othermindsmagazine.com/ Other Minds]]''.
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'''''Middle-earth Role Playing'' provides examples of the following tropes:'''
* AdaptationExpansion: And how. ''MERP'' just about doubled the information available on Middle-earth from what Tolkien provided, and that's no mean feat. For example, they provided unique and fleshed-out cultures for the "enemy" Men such as the Easterlings and Southrons.
* AllThereInTheManual: Information on the names on [[http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/An_Artist%27s_Interpretation_of_Middle_Earth an early map]] was found only in an unpublished gazetteer, which thankfully can be found in several places online.
* AnimalMotifs: Seven of the nine Nazgūl have a helm based on some sort of animal (Akhōrahil and Ren do not). Khamūl's is dragon, Dwar's is a war-dog, Indūr Dawndeath's is an elephant (or more precisely, a Mūmak), Hoarmūrath's is a polar bear, Adūnaphel's is a falcon, and Ūvatha's is a bat. The Witch-King has a helm in the shape of an octopus because the artist mistook [[http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Tales-J-R-R-Tolkien/dp/B001LFZ7QA/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1335744373&sr=8-13 the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin on the cover of]] ''Literature/{{Unfinished Tales|of Numenor and Middleearth}}'' for the crown of Nśmenor, which she assumed was a cephalopod (Nśmenor being a seafaring civilization; in fact, the crown of Nśmenor was a simple winged helm).
* BigBad: Sauron, naturally--though in the canon setting of T.A. 1640 he's in hiding and is TheManBehindTheMan for his [[TheDragon Dragon]], the Witch-King of Angmar.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: One of the first adventure modules, ''The Court of Ardor'', centered on a cult of Morgoth-worshiping dark elves in the far south of Middle-earth. This was [[CanonDiscontinuity ignored by later products]].
* FantasyCounterpartCulture: MERP's take on the Easterlings was very strongly based on Mongol horsemen. (Ignoring the fact that Tolkien explicitly notes they used horses mainly for pulling wagons and chariots and rarely fielded cavalry.)
* HalfHumanHybrid: In addition to Tolkien's half-elves and half-orcs, MERP introduced the Umli, a race descended from the union of Men and Dwarves, who live in the Northern Waste.
* {{Hobbits}}: Naturally. They're a bit less soft and complacent than they are in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', though--the Shire has only been settled for about 40 years, and a lot of Hobbit clans are still wandering in the Wild.
* LadyOfWar: Adūnaphel, the only female Ringwraith.
* QuirkyMinibossSquad: The nine Ringwraiths, each of whom was given a distinct backstory and personality.
* RedOniBlueOni: Marcho and Blanco Fallohide, the co-founders of the Shire. Marcho's aggressive leadership gathered the many Hobbit clans together, while Blanco's soft-spoken diplomacy convinced King Argeleb of Arthedain to grant them the Shire to live in.
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