MERP: the simple rulez
Copyright ©2001 George Chatzipetros
Edited for The Guild Companion by Joe Mandala
Casting a spell
CASTING ROLL: D6+(average of spell rating and attribute)-spell difficulty (+bonus-penalty)
SPELL RESISTANCE: If the spell can be resisted, the target rolls a DET check of average difficulty. Any SPs decrease
the SPs of the casting roll. Spell resistance is automatic and doesn't require an action.
BOOSTING A SPELL: The magician may add +1 to the casting roll for every point of Magick he expends (up to +3).
RECOVERING MAGICK: Used Magick is recovered at the rate of one point per day. While the magician has 0 Magick, he can't cast any
RACE: Some races are better in casting certain types of magic than others. Each spell may have modifiers to the
casting roll according to the magician's race.
EXAMPLE: All spells are inspired from instances in Tolkien's books where magic was used. This ensures that magic used in the game
is genuinely "Tolkien-ish". There are examples for most spells that point to instances in the books, so
that the GM can get an idea of what the spell feels and looks like.
Racial modifiers to magic
Some Races are inherently magical (like the elves) or non-magical (like hobbits or orcs). These general modifiers
are applied to all casting rolls made by a magician according to his race. The casting roll may also be modified
according to race by a certain type of spell.
RACE: Elves (+2), Woses (+2)
EXAMPLE: Radagast has been described as having the power to converse with any animal. This spell enables
the magician to converse with animals in their spoken tongue. It lasts for 1 hour per SP.
RACE: Dwarves (+2), Elves (+1), Dunedain (+1)
Enchants an armor suit, thereby increasing its abilities. The SPs are typically divided between increasing the
protection (+1 per SP, up to +3) or decreasing the encumbrance (1 point per SP, down to 0). Other powers may
also be added at a cost that is decided by the GM (a power that resembles another spell means that the magician
must have the other spell too) . The enchantment is permanent but only one spell can affect a certain armor.
RACE: Valar (+4), Maiar (+4), Elves (+2)
EXAMPLE: There are frequent occasions in LotR when the name of Elbereth was used to repel Nazgul. There is also
the example of Tom Bombadil using magic rhymes to banish the barrow-wight that held the hobbits captive in the
This spell is only used by the Free People against servants of darkness, to instill fear in their heart and cause
them to flee. Many different forms of this spell are known; for example elves use the name of Elbereth against the
Nazgul. With 1-2 SPs, the servant of darkness cannot advance towards the magician for 3 turns. With 3-4 SPs, the evil
creature will actually flee from the magician, not returning for at least 1 hour. With 5 + SPs , the spell additionally
causes actual damage, branding the minion with the holy words. It inflicts damage equal to the SPs-1 that bypasses any
RACE: Dragons (+2), all others (-1)
EXAMPLE: In the Silmarillion, Glaurung put a spell on Turin's sister through his glance so as to cause amnesia.
This spell erases a portion of the target's memory. It's usually capable of causing the target to forget a
single event per SP obtained. If the SPs exceed 5, the magician can choose to inflict total amnesia. The duration
is one week, except if the magician spends some SPs on extending it: 1-1 month, 2-1 year, 3-permanent.
RACE: Only fallen Valar (+0) and Maiar (-2)
EXAMPLE: Perhaps the best example is the creation of Orcs by Morgoth, who were a perversion of his elf captives.
This evil spell enables the magician to create a new race of creature by perverting other life forms, much like
Morgoth bred the Orcs from Elves. The spell requires a lot of time, from decades to centuries, to work, along with
great experimentation on a lot of subjects . The result is determined by the SPs ; dragons certainly took more to create than
EXAMPLE: This is the magic Gandalf most often used in LotR. He used it for illumination in Moria and also to start
a fire in the snowstorm near Caradhras.
This spell creates a sphere of illuminating light at the end of a staff, rod or other pointy device. The light
resembles a blue flame, but it's not hot and is bright enough to illuminate an area of 20 m per SP radius. Under
the will of the magician, the cold fire can also be used to start up a fire under the worse conditions. The spell
lasts for 1 hour per SP.
This spell cancels out existing magic. The difficulty of dispel is increased by the rating of the magician who
has cast it in that spell. A failed dispel roll means that the spell is beyond the magician's skill to dispel
and that he needs to increase his dispel rating before trying again.. A magician can always dispel his own spells
with no roll necessary.
RACE: Nazgul (+4), other undead (+2)
EXAMPLE: The dreadful effect of the Witch-King's presence on the Gondorian soldiers after the gates of Minas Tirith
were battered down. Only Gandalf was able to face him; all others fled.
This spell emits waves of terror, causing others to cower or even flee in fear. The spell affects an area of 20 m
radius per SP. Anyone in the area who fails to resist has –1 to all actions and –2 in any action that directly
opposes the caster. Those that score more than 2 FPs in their resistance roll are overcome by terror and flee the
presence of the caster for the duration of the spell.
The spell lasts 10 minutes per SP.
RACE: Dwarves (+2), all others (-2)
EXAMPLE: The dwarven moon-letters in which the map to the Lonely Mountain was written in Hobbit.
This spell conceals the information in a document, so that it is only revealed when certain conditions are met.
An example are moon-letters, which can only be read under the light of a certain phase of moon.
RACE: all undead (+1)
EXAMPLE: The paralysis spell used by the barrow-wight on the hobbits when it took them captive in LOtR.
This spell severely deters movement, causing the target to act as if some invisible force is holding him
down. Each SP gives +1 Encumbrance, reduces movement by 100% and makes running impossible. More than 3 SPs
means that the target is completely immobilized. Duration is 5 minutes per SP.
RACE: Only dragons (+2) and balrogs (+0)
EXAMPLE: This is one of the dragons' natural abilities. I have chosen to make it a spell available to them.
This is also what I did with the Balrogs' ability to cover themselves in flames (see Immolation below).
This spell is used by dragons to produce their infamous attack, the blast of fiery breath. The flames summoned
burst forth from the creature's mouth and travel at a straight line up to 10 meters per SP away. Whoever is
within 5 m of the flames takes damage equal to 2+the SPs, but has a chance to dodge the flames if he immediately
declares a defensive action. This is done by succeeding in a dodge skill check with a difficulty equal to the
SPs of the spell.
RACE: Valar (+0), all others (-4)
EXAMPLE: The raising of the Misty Mountains by Morgoth to deter the elves' journey to Aman.
This spell allows the magician to manipulate the earth. He may open cracks, cause earthquakes or landslides. With
a giant number of SPs, the magician may be able to raise entire mountains, like Morgoth raised the Misty Mountains.
RACE: Ents (+0),all others (-2)
EXAMPLE: The entish potions that were drunk by Merry and Pippin and which made them strong and larger.
This spell changes the size of the magician or that of a willing subject. For every 4 SPs (or fraction thereof), SIZ is
modified by +1 or –1, up to a maximum of +/-2. The spell lasts until the magician wishes to dismiss its effects, but only
one spell may affect a single target at any given time.
RACE: Elves (+2), Dunedain (+1)
EXAMPLE: The removal of the Nazgul's knife and healing of Frodo by Elrond.
This spell can accelerate the healing rate of an injured person and it can also cure some afflictions and poisons. In
the case of injuries, it accelerates the healing rate by x1 per SP (so the healing rate becomes x4 for 3SPs) and removes
the possibility of worsening for serious wounds (ie the injured person doesn't have to roll VIT checks). When used against
poison, the strength of the poison is added to the difficulty of the spell. A successful casting neutralizes the poison. The
same is done for diseases, but the recovery period is greater, ranging from 1 week to 1 month, depending on the severity of the disease.
EXAMPLE: The curse put on the Dead of the Dunharrow.
This spell allows the magician to put a curse on someone (or possibly on a large number of people). The player
describes the details of the curse, including effects and duration, and the GM determines the cost in SPs . Note
that a hex is cast on someone that has wronged the magician. If the magician casts the hex on a "neutral" person,
he receives an additional penalty.
RACE: Valar (+4), Maiar (+2), Elves (+0), all others (-2)
EXAMPLE: Ulmo's control over the waters.
This spell allows control over water and its movement. The magician can cause sea storms or floods and with many
SPs he may perform real miracles like parting the waters.
RACE: Only balrogs and other spirits of fire (+0)
EXAMPLE: Any appearance by a balrog in the books.
This spell is used by balrogs and other spirits of fire to cloak themselves in flames. Due to the flames, an
immolated balrog inflicts +2 damage in melee combat and anyone coming within 2 meters of him is scorched for
+3 damage. The spell lasts for one hour per SP.
RACE: Nazgul and undead (+2), all others (-2)
EXAMPLES: Why, the Ring itself of course!
Renders the magician unseen to normal vision, although he can be easily seen in the shadow world (ie undead and
wraiths can easily perceive him). An invisible character gets a +2 bonus on attack rolls. Others can attack him
if they have a vague idea where he is, but they do so with a –3 penalty. The duration of the spell is 5 minutes
per SP. The spell usually affects only the magician, but by sacrificing 1 SP, the magician may turn invisible
another willing subject.
RACE: Dwarves (+2), Elves (+2), Dunedain (+1)
EXAMPLE: The creation of the Rings of Power by the smiths of Eregion with the help of Sauron.
Enchants an item so as to provide it with various magical powers. The cost (in SPs) for these powers is decided
by the GM. A guideline is 1 SP for every +1 bonus the item gives to a roll. Other powers are also possible at
a cost determined by the GM. If the power approaches the effect of a spell, then the magician must possess that
spell at some rating. The spell is permanent and an item may only be enchanted by a single spell.
RACE: Men and Dunedain (+0), all others (-3)
EXAMPLE: The Mouth of Sauron.
This spell allows the magician to cheat time and halt ageing, perhaps forever. For each SP, the magician will
not age a single day for the next year. The spell may be cast again and again, rendering the magician immortal.
Longevity is considered an evil spell (cheating the will of Illuvatar) and each casting, whether successful or
not, requires foul rituals that involve spilling the blood of the innocent.
RACE: Silent watchers (+4)
EXAMPLE: The sorcery of the Silent Watchers in the gates of Cirith Ungol.
This spell causes the magician to emit waves of presence, repelling other creatures away from them. To
consciously approach the magician, someone needs to score more SPs on a DET check than the casting SPs. Only
one attempt to overcome the spell may be made each turn. The spell lasts for 1 minute per SP.
EXAMPLE: The Great Plague unleashed by Sauron.
This spell afflicts someone (or possibly a large area) with a disease. The SPs needed depend on the severity of
the disease and the area affected. With a great number of SPs, it's possible for the magician to re-create the
Great Plague unleashed by Sauron.
RACE: only Woses (+0)
EXAMPLE: There is a short story about this spell in the Unfinished Tales.
This spell allows the magician to take control of a specially prepared stone statue (engraved with the proper
runes) and use it as an extension of his body, utilizing its senses and moving it around. Such stone statues
typically have PHY +4, LIT that of the magician –1, VIT +4 and REF that of the magician –3. They possess +4
natural armor and their fists strike as maces. The magician can take control of the statue from up to 50 miles
per SP away for up to 10 minutes per SP. While in control, the magician needs to remain absolutely still. Wounds
inflicted to the statue are transferred over to the magician and if the statue is destroyed while he's controlling
it, the magician dies with it.
RACE: Vampires (+3), Beornings (+2), Faeries (+3), all others (-2)
EXAMPLE: Beorn's transformation into a bear in the Hobbit.
This spell transforms the magician into the semblance of an animal. Each Shapeshift spell can transform the
magician into one animal only; a separate spell must be developed for a new form. The transformed magician gains
the physical attributes, the natural attacks and abilities and the senses of the beast, but retains his reasoning
and mental attributes. Wounds suffered while in beast form remain upon passing to human form and may knock out
or even kill the magician, if he has less VIT than the beast. The spell lasts for as long as the magician wishes.
RACE: Huorns (+2), Faeries (+1)
EXAMPLE: The spell put on the hobbits by Old Man Willow in the Withywindle.
This spell causes drowsiness and finally sleep to the target. If the spell is successful, the target will get
sleepy over the course of the next 5 minutes and will finally fall into sleep for 1 hour per SP. The spell causes
deep sleep and only loud noises will wake up the target. The spell can be cast only when the target is at a relatively
relaxed state; casting it in the middle of a combat for example, has no effect.
Spell of closing
RACE: Dwarves (+4), all others (-2)
EXAMPLE: The gates of Moria, which opened only if one spoke the correct word.
This spell seals a gate or other kind of portal so that it can only be opened by someone who speaks the right
password. Lockpicking a sealed door is impossible. Breaking down such a gate is also difficult; the PHY and VIT
rating of the door is increased by +1 per SP of the casting roll. Only one such spell may affect a portal at any
given time and the effect is permanent.
RACE: Maiar (+3), Nazgul (+2)
EXAMPLE: The sea storm summoned by the Witch-King to sink the ship of the last king of Arthedain in the bay of
This spell brings changes in the weather according to the magician's wishes. Small changes require 1 SP, moderate
changes 3 SPs, while severe ones need 5 SPs. The magician also needs to spend SPs on the area to be affected
(basic area is 50 miles radius+another 50 miles per SP) and duration (basic duration is 1 hour+another hour
per SP). The magician can affect areas up to 50 miles per SP away from him.
RACE: Dwarves (+20, Elves (+1), Dunedain (+1)
Enchants a weapon so as to enhance its abilities. The SPs of a typical casting may be divided among increasing the
damage of the weapon (+1 per SP, up to +3) or its Offense (+1 per SP, up to +3). Other powers may also be
instilled in a weapon (such as glowing when Orcs are near) but the GM has to decide how many SPs are required.
The spell is permanent, but each weapon can be under the effect of only one spell.
White lightning/Dark flame
RACE: Valar, Maiar and fallen Maiar (+2), all others (-2)
EXAMPLE: Gandalf demonstrated this spell to drive off the Nazgul outside the gates of Minas Tirith.
This spell directly damages the target using raw magical energy. The version used by "good" beings takes the
form of white lightning, while the attack of "evil" beings is a dark flame. The attack can hit any being within
clear sight of the magician, if he successfully attacks with the throw skill (with a +2 bonus). The attack does
damage equal to 2+the SPs and ignores any physical armor, but the damage isn't increased by the SPs of the attack
RACE: Nazgul and Vampires (+2)
EXAMPLE: The infection of the Barrow-downs by wights caused by the Witch-king.
This spell summons evil spirits to inhabit a dead body and re-animate it. Thus, the magician creates an undead
creature under its command. The SPs needed to depend on the type and the power of the undead creature. Mindless
skeletons and zombies are fairly easy to create (1-2 SPs), but barrow-wights are considerably harder (4-5 SPs).
EXAMPLE: The power of the Palantiri, Frodo's visions of Minas Tirith and Barad-dur.
This spell allows the magician to view distant lands as if he was there. The range of the spell is up to 100
miles per SP and it lasts for 1 minute. The spell can only be used to view open spaces; the magician is unable
to see areas inside buildings, caves etc.
RACE: Ungoliant (+8), giant spiders (+2)
EXAMPLE: The web of darkness woven by Ungoliant to conceal herself and Morgoth.
This spell destroys the ambient light in an area, cloaking it in thick darkness. For the duration of the spell
(10 minutes per SP), no light source can illuminate an area up to 10 m per SP in radius. The magician on the other
hand is perfectly able to se inside the darkness he created.
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