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The Inlandsea MERP Module

The Inlandsea MERP Module


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Published by: emsstrand on Jul 07, 2011
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On September 19th

of 1997, Iron Crown Enterprises
regretfully declared a moratorium on its long-standing
Middle-earth Role Playing series. Two years later (almost to
the day), ICE lost its Middle-earth license entirely. One
casualty of these tragic reversals was the manuscript which
you are now about to read. A brief retelling of the heroic saga
of how it weathered this storm, and how it came to be in the
first place, is in order.

Way back in 1989, when MERP was enjoying its heyday,
Jessica Ney-Grimm, ICE's Middle-earth editor, received an
enthusiastic letter from a young gamer named Mike
Campbell. An avid MERP fan, Mike was eager to see more,
especially in the virtually undescribed lands on the eastern
frontiers of Wilderland (Rhovanion). After examining some
notes Mike had written up on the region, Jessica promptly
invited him to write a module himself.

ICE's usual procedure for cultivating new writers was to start
them off with something manageable, so Mike was assigned
the task of authoring Shrines of Rhûn, a short, Ready-to-Run
adventure module set in the strategic corridor between the
Ash Mountains of Mordor and the southern shores of the
Inland Sea of Rhûn. Its adventures were to center upon
shrines built by an Easterling tribe to honor their fallen

But Shrines of Rhûn was destined to become something
greater. Fortuitously perhaps, Mike's manuscript sat unread
upon Jessica's overworked desk for a very long time—long
enough for ICE's publication goals to expand into its second
edition "realm module" format. Having read through the draft
of Shrines, Jason Hawkins, Jessica's right-hand man, gave
Mike an 80-page budget and told him to get cracking on
Southern Rhûn. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Mike, his future
partner in crime was about to be discovered.

In the fall of 1995, Other Hands was approaching its fourth
year of existence, The Kin-strife had been published,
Southern Gondor had been written, and ideas for a Northern
follow-up were germinating in my mind. In the
course of my wanderings, I stumbled across Luke Potter (or
maybe he stumbled across me—I don't remember the
details), who was then devising a history for the Balchoth,
the Easterling hordes that ravaged Wilderland in the late-
Third Age, which set the stage for the heroic entry of the
Rohirrim into Calenardhon.

Luke's history was published in Other Hands 12 (January
1996); and sometime between then and the publication of the
April issue, Jessica Ney-Grimm offered me the job of
assistant series editor for MERP. My first task was to seek
out potential authors for new modules, and Luke was ready
to hand. Like Mike Campbell, he too was interested in
fleshing out the blank spaces on the edge of Rhovanion, and
offered to write a realm module for Dorwinion (an essential
tie-in for Northern Gondor as well as for Sourthern Rhûn).

My new duties as assistant editor ultimately doomed
Northern Gondor to oblivion, but they succeeded in making
Mike and Luke next-door neighbors. From then on, we
coordinated all of our efforts to ensure consistency among

our respective projects. At some point we were joined by a
fourth musketeer, Justin Morgan-Davies, who contributed
additional content to the Forest of Rhûn. Justin had wanted to
write an adventure module set in that area, but Jessica felt it
wasn't "high profile" enough to be marketable, so we just
absorbed him into Mike and Luke's projects.

Then, sometime in mid or late 1997, Mike submitted his draft
of Southern Rhûn. I then discovered a problem with the
whole undertaking. While Mike had produced some excellent
material, it would be artificial to to slice in half a region that
was so clearly unified by its geography, its culture and its
narrative themes to Luke's work on the northern half of the
coastlands surrounding the Inland Sea.

Of course, ICE had readily bisected Southern Gondor and the
second printing of Arnor into separate volumes, but that was
a product of financial necessity, and sales were showing that
it was not a desirable way to market parts of Middle-earth.
Why cut the Inland Sea in half when it could be presented as
a single module? Jessica agreed with this reasoning and
authorized Luke to meld Mike's finished manuscript into his
own (which was nearing completion). The Inland Sea realm
module had been born.

Alas. That decision was to thwart the realization of Mike's
dream; for had I accepted Southern Rhûn for editing when it
was submitted, it would have been finished in time to see
publication. But by the time Luke was nearing the end of his
titanic labor of combining the two, it was September of 1997.
ICE pulled the plug, and The Inland Sea went down the drain
along with so many other promising projects.

But not all was dark. I had Other Hands and a growing circle
of subscribers to help support the independent publication of
Mike and Luke's magnum opus. It was only a matter of time
before The Inland Sea would become a reality.

Unfortunately, it has proved to be a long time in coming. For
the next two years my free time was taken up doing my part
to keep ICE's Middle-earth products alive. But it wasn't what
I wanted to be doing. I wanted to carry on the torch of the
classic realm module genre that had reached its zenith in Wes
Frank's Arnor. Plans were laid, but "one thing or another
drove them out," as Barliman would say.

Not that The Inland Sea was ever forgotten, but when you're
a full-time grad student with a magazine to publish four times
a year, "free time" for other projects is a sparse commodity
indeed. For this reason, the demise of ICE's Middle-earth
lines came more as a relief than a grief. At last I would have
the time to get The Inland Sea done.

Well, sort of; there was still an interminable backlog of other
projects to deal with (like the still unfinished Oathbreakers),
and each project worked to keep the others from completion.
Originally I had intended to publish The Inland Sea as a hard
copy book, complete with lavish artwork and quality binding.
That may still come to pass someday; but for the present, I
think it is better to get it out there so that people can start
using it, rather than sitting upon it until some utopic respite
appears which may never come.

And so we come to it: The Inland Sea version 1.0. "Glory and
trumpets!" Now I think I know what Sam must have felt like



when he first awoke on the Field of Cormallen. I'd like to
thank Mike and Luke for their patience and long-suffering—
and for their friendship. May their eyries receive them at the
journey's end. Long live MERP!

—Chris Seeman

August 1st

, 2000

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