Welcome to "Lord of the Steam," the blog for my gaming group's newest MERP (Middle-earth Roleplaying) campaign. The setting is simple, albeit nearly blasphemous to a die-hard Tolkien fan. Imagine Saruman making the decision to abdicate his responsibilities as one of the Istari 1000 years earlier than the War of the Ring, when the Witch King of Angmar was finishing off the kingdom of Arnor. Imagine an alliance, not between Sauron and Saruman, but between the Witch King and Saruman. Imagine that it succeeds, not because of superior magic, but because of two technological innovations; the discovery of the steam engine, and the invention of gunpowder.
Arnor falls, and in its wake, so does Gondor. The men of Westernesse are scattered to the wind. The elves of Lothlorien, Rivendell and the Grey Havens prepare to leave Middle-earth, but as the Swan ships prepare to depart, they are engulfed in a firestorm. A flight of dragons, (either awakened from the Grey Mountains or machined like the dragons in Michael Swanwick's Dragons of Babel), descend on the Havens with teams of Uruk-Hai bombadiers and "pilots" (taking a page from Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon where dragons are literally like B-52 bombers, with full crews). The elves of Thranduil's kingdom are the last safe haven for elves in Middle Earth. Mirkwood, not yet the abode of darkness it will become with the growth of the "Necromancer's" power, becomes a place for free peoples to hide. The Dwarves make their peace with the new world order, becoming unwilling servants of the Shadow who retain their customs, traditions, and even methods of warfare fiercely, believing their radical traditionalism to be a form of resistance.
The famed underground citadel of Khazad-dum is the last bastion of Dwarves to become servile. While they were able to hold out against exterior assault, there is nothing that can save the Dwarves of Khazad-dum when they delve deeply, uncovering the Balrog of Moria in T.A. 1981. The underground kingdom falls, and the victory Sauron would seek in 1000 years at the War of the Ring is won.
But beneath the surface of occupied obedience, a desire for resistance begins to grow in the hearts of the oppressed people of Middle-earth. And in T.A. 2008, nearly 400 years after Saruman and the Witch-King first made their alliance, the opportunity to strike back has finally come.
This is our campaign, which we'll be sharing with you all here at this blog. We'll be giving our tips and hints on how to launch your own MERP-based Steampunk campaign, character profiles, as well as sharing chronicled versions of our games. We hope it will inspire those of you who love Rolemaster gaming and have access to the MERP sourcebooks to try some Tolkienesque blasphemy of your own.