A Note on the Nazgul, and the Dark Lands of Middle Earth

MMP Mithril in Middle-Earth The Court of Ardor A Note on the Nazgul, and the Dark Lands of Middle Earth

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      ICE invented the backstories for the Nazgul, and the names of eight of the nine. These backstories, first compiled in Lords of Middle Earth Vol 2, seem to have been designed to plug in to future modules set in ICE’s invented realms of the East and South and North.

      Now there is a thriving MERP fan community who have spent a lot of time and energy creating modules set there. However, while it is fascinating to contemplate the distant dark realms beyond the scope of the Tolkien Legendarium, the ICE created background is a product of 1980s world building and game design and, what is more, much of the background was contradicted (or at least rendered problematic) by later releases of Professor Tolkien’s notes and unfinished works.

      So, after some consideration, I’ve decided that the Nazgul backgrounds as written are to be rejected and rewritten. As far as I am concerned Middle Earth is a: a sort of mythical history of our own world in a distant time before the Ice Age, and b: can really only be discussed in detail in the areas Tolkien described. So, for the sake of simplicity, Middle Earth looks like this:


      Now, there are some wonderful maps out there by fans, especially this one:
      which does lovely things with the Pete Fenlon continental map.

      There are some other maps out there done by fans which attempt to mate Tolkien’s work with the Fenlon map, or replace the Fenlon map entirely. However, the safest bet is to use the default Lord of the Rings map.

      For the sake of any MERP related writings, however, I am going with the following conceits:

      – They key events of the history of Middle Earth happened in the north-west. Events in the dark lands and wild lands are only relevant insofar as the effect they had on the north-west.
      – MERP’s default setting is the 17th century of the Third Age, covering a period roughly from 1636 to 1710. The Lord of the Rings happens in 3018. This means that 1300 years has passed between the MERP legendarium and the legendarium of the War of the Ring. Just as in our world, things change. Tribal names changes, nations rise, nations fall, languages disappear, names become half remembered things. Thus things like tribal names can be gleefully ignored on the basis of the notion that the tribe might have been long gone by the time of the War of the Ring. Or to put it even more bluntly: if its strange, it can be re-written.
      – The histories of the Nazgul, that is the nine kings of Mortal Men who accepted the Rings of Power from Sauron, have been recorded by those writing at a great remove. The stories are accumulations of travellers tales, rumour and outright lies. There have been many lords and many kings who fell under the sway of Sauron the Deceiver, but only nine were given rings of power. Some stories may belong to other servants of Sauron, servants who never received a Ring.
      – The plate armoured Nazgul as depicted by Mithril are the Nazgul as they appeared in the mid Seventeenth Century of the Third Age. In those days they were warlords of the darkness, leading armies and nations against the Free Peoples of Middle Earth. By the late years of the Third Age, the Nazgul went abroad clothed in dark hooded cloaks, agents of Sauron’s malice, bringing terror in the night. (This, despite the depiction of the Nazgul on the cover of the Second Edition MERP rulebooks).

      So, I am going to rewrite at least four of the Nazgul backgrounds. It’s going to take a while.


      MMP Elder

        (I heard all the Nazgul backgrounds may be found in short version, in the “gorgoroth” module)

        also about Pete Fenlon map… this map (and the link you give) is known to be false and enters in direct conflict with the true maps of Arda which appear in History of Middle Earth : The Shaping of Middle Earth. MERP material thus should be used only in the case there are no canonical work from professor Tolkien on the subject… which in this case, there is. (the whole planisphere of Arda does exist in hand-drawn maps by JRRT)
        (besides, Pete Fenlon is a name I do not like to see too often ….)

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      MMP Mithril in Middle-Earth The Court of Ardor A Note on the Nazgul, and the Dark Lands of Middle Earth