MERP: Trying to Map Middle Earth

I got pretty obsessed with Middle Earth again when I started playing MERP. Pete Fenlon put together a bunch of great Middle Earth maps that were published through ICE in the 1980s, and I have all of those (I think) but they didn’t have everything, and they didn’t have it all on one big digital map. When I game in my world (Navah), I have maps of different scales, all digital, usually with a multitude of layers (geographic features, water, cities & towns, trails & roads, names, forests, secret features) that let me print off whatever maps I want for either myself or my players. All of the ICE maps are set in the Third Age, and our campaign is in the Second, so names are incorrect, and there’s a lot of things missing that are listed in the ICE modules themselves. So I have now made four abortive efforts to create my wondrous map, and have decided to concentrate on mapping only the Anduin Valley (for our campaign) in the Second Age, and then go back and work on my world. Here’s why:

1. First Attempt: I have all those Pete Fenlon maps, so why not scan them in and just stitch them together? Because production of each of these included a camera, which created lens distortion. The further one is from the center, the greater the distortion. To get Northern Mirkwood to match up with Southern Mirkwood and the Anduin Valley, I have to cut up the Valley into 3-4 pieces, move those about in various layers, then distort those pieces to make them match up, make corrections by hand to the sections that don’t match up, and then merge them all again. It would look good, but it would add a lot of distortion to the image. Also, I’d still want to remove all the names from the map (so I can put those on separate layers — Players, 3rd Age, Referee’s 3rd Age, Players’ 2nd Age, Referee’s 2nd Age, etc.) and again I would be left recreating mountain and forest sections that were written over on the original map.

2. Second Attempt: Remember that great black and white map from the LOTR back in the 1970s? The one with all of the red lettering? Well, there’s a huge scan out there of that. It’s covered with the words, and someone’s green and blue markings, but I can remove all of that and then patch the sections where the words were. So I do that, but what I learn is that the resolution is so poor that I’m basically going to have to redraw the entire map, and THEN add in all the details that ICE made. Not my idea of fun either. But anyway, I got the initial clean-up done, and some of you might want to use it, so here it is. I redrew the trails, added some trees (some well, some not so well — I was about to make a tree template png to redo that), and added new symbols for Minas Arnor and Minas Ithil.

B&W map of Middle Earth, without names

3. Third Attempt: My referee gives me the map he uses. We still don’t know who put it together originally, but Michael Heilemann used it as well and aged it for his One Ring game. Kudos to whoever actually finishing that effort of stitching Pete’s maps together! Here’s the unaged map.

Unfortunately, the resolution on the full map is not as good as I was getting in my stitching effort. Here’s what I mean:
My MERP stitch map compared with the completed one on the web.
You can see the junk at the right showing that mine was still being worked on, but the resolution was better. But it didn’t satisfy my desire for the best MERP map ever. So…

4. Fourth Attempt: I am giving up on a grand detailed Middle Earth map and instead concentrating on an Anduin Valley map for our campaign. When Peter Jackson tried to make the Hobbit into a trilogy of movies (shudder!), he hired some enthusiastic map makers. They came up with a cool Google Earth style view of Middle Earth (go to “Explore the Map”), or at least the area involved with the Hobbit. It’s actually six maps. Four of these make up the physical landscape, and are 4 tiles of equivalent size. I glued those together and will try using that as my map, though there are a lot of problems. Right off the bat I can see that Mirkwood Forest comes way too close to the River Anduin, but maybe I can play that off by saying that this is the Second Age, and the forest is larger. I’ll let you know what happens. The other two maps, by the way, were a map showing the heights of the peaks, and a mask map of the water regions, so they could add sparkle and waves.

And in the meantime, I’ll just reread the ICE stuff and organize my old Pete Fenlon maps so I can find them easier. However, I see that Pete Fenlon released a style pack in The Cartographer’s Annual 2, so I think I’ll buy that as well.


About lostdelights

An old gamer flying his freak flag, I've been playing table-top role-playing games since 1978. I've been building my own system (Journeyman) since 1981.
This entry was posted in Maps, Middle Earth, Middle Earth Roleplaying. Bookmark the permalink.

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