Quick and Dirty MERP Character Creation

Copyright Gavin Bennett © 2009

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"A thick tome of role-playing goodness, it is often overlooked."

The basic Middle Earth Roleplaying ruleset is a somewhat unappreciated gem. A thick tome of role-playing goodness, it is often overlooked in favour of games such as Rolemaster Second Edition. Indeed, the MERP book itself often sends readers to check details in Rolemaster books. MERP players tended to create characters in Rolemaster for use in MERP campaigns. There may be a reason for this: character creation in MERP is somewhat obscure, and certainly scattered. Character creation is spread over two entirely separate areas of the MERP Second Edition book, and neither section is complete. It is confusing, to say the least. With this in mind, and after some frustration attempting to create MERP sample characters for an ongoing project, I decided enough was enough. This is the result: the quick and dirty MERP character creator.

This is not a complete character creator. Essence and Channelling resistance rolls have been lumped into one. There is no attempt to navigate the treacherous waters of Spell List "chances of learning" or anything else. Mage and Animist characters should buy a Spell List as a skill, with 1 Skill Rank equalling 1 level in that spell list. It's not terribly accurate. But it will do for now. As a future project I'd like to do something with the MERP magic system.

This article includes quick and dirty adaptations of important MERP character creation tables. Not all the information that could be there is included. Each table has some "highlight" bonuses for some "highlight" races. The original tables may be found in the MERP corebook. All of the original tables may be found on pages 244-249 of the Second Edition MERP corebook.

Step 1: Concept

Your character's concept is the most important part of creating the character. Who is he? Is she a Hobbit Burglar? Or is he a Ranger of the North? Does he want to become a knight of Gondor? Is he a Rider of Rohan or a doughty dwarf of the Blue Mountains? Write a quick word sketch of the character, and map out some of the more important elements. How smart are they? How warlike are they?

Answering these questions will make the next set of decisions easier.

Step 2: Generate the Primary Attributes (Physical and Mental Stats)

The character's basic form is described by seven Primary Attributes or Mental and Physical Statistics. These attributes are Strength (describing how physically strong the character is), Agility (describing how fast and dextrous a character is), Constitution (describing how fit and how much stamina a character has), Intelligence (describing a character's ability to hold and process information), Intuition (describing how "witty," wise and receptive a character is), Presence (describing a character's charisma, bearing and how impressive to others they are) and Appearance (which is a subjective measure of how physically attractive they are).

Stat Abbreviation
Strength ST
Agility AG
Constitution CO
Intelligence IG
Intuition IT
Presence PR
Appearance AP

Use one of these three methods:


Roll 1d100 seven times, assigning numbers to stats as required. This is the default MERP method. It is also the most unpredictable method.


Roll 1d100 ten times. Assign the seven best results to stats as required.


Place each of the following values to the character's attributes: 100, 90, 80, 70, 70, 60, 60.

Step 3: Choose Race

Choose a race for your character. Apply Racial Modification to your character's Primary Attributes. A common human ("a Middle Man") has a slightly higher Strength bonus. However, a mighty dwarf will have a higher Strength bonus, and a doughty Hobbit will have a higher Constitution bonus. Note that these adjustments can reduce as well as raise your character's Primary Attributes.

Race ST AG CO IG IT PR Appearance
Hobbit -40 +30 +30 0 -10 -10 0
Dwarf +10 -10 +30 0 -10 -10 0
Middle Man +10 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dunedain +10 0 +20 0 0 +10 +10
Half Elf +10 +10 +10 0 0 +10 +20
Silvan Elf 0 +20 0 0 +10 +10 +20
Sinda Elf +10 +20 +10 5 +10 +20 +20
Noldo Elf +10 +30 +20 +10 +10 +30 +20

Step 3a: Calculate Basic Resistance Roll totals.

A character's racial background determines how well they can cope with sorcerous wiles, poison and sickness.

Race Magic Poison Disease
Hobbit +50 +30 +15
Dwarf +40 +10 +10
Middle Man 0 0 0
Dunedain 0 +5 +5
Half Elf 0 +5 +50
Silvan Elf 0 +10 +100
Sinda Elf 0 +10 +100
Noldo Elf +10 +10 +20

Step 4: Choose Profession

The professions available in MERP are:

Warrior (fighter): A Warrior is one born to fight. Most heroes in the history of Middle Earth have been warriors.

Ranger (tracker): A Ranger is at home in the wilderness, tracking game or enemies, knowing the ways of the sky and never loses his way.

Bard (minstrel): A bard is a poet or a singer, an actor or an orator. Bards remember the heroes of the past, and help inspire the heroes of today.

Scout (thief): The Scout is a stealthy character, whose eyes and ears mean the difference between life and death for his or her fellows.

Mage (magician) - the Mage is a rare character, one who knows the secrets of the shadow world and the ways of the enemy. The Mage casts spells and knows the lore of old.

Animist (healer) - The Animist is a character who knows the folk secrets of the world, whether it be the ways of the spirits, or which herb can heal a fever. An animist knows spells for curing ailments and ways to protect his friends from dark powers.

Each profession has a Prime Stat. This is the Attribute that is most important to the profession. If you wish, you can replace the previous value in the Prime Stat with a value of 90.

Profession Prime Stat
Warrior Strength
Scout Agility
Mage Intelligence
Animist Intuition
Ranger Constitution
Bard Presence

Step 5: Calculate Attribute Bonuses

Now that you have totalled up the basic Attribute scores, the racial modification to that attribute, and any changes to the Prime Stat, calculates the character's Attribute Bonus for each Attribute.

Step 6: Calculate Power Points/ Will Bonus

Using the same table, calculate a character's Power Points or Will score based on the character's Intelligence or Intuition score. Use whichever score is the highest. (Will is a score designed to replace Power Points). Note that these values are different from their MERP corebook calculations (due to the somewhat simpler calculation method used here).

Attribute Bonus Will/Power
110+ +35 4
101-109 +30 3
100 +25 3
91-99 +15 2
86-90 +10 2
76-85 +5 1
41-75 0 0
31-40 -5 0
21-30 -10 0
11-20 -15 0
6-10 -20 0
5 or less -25 0

Step 7: Calculate Skills

Skills are calculated in the form of "skill ranks." Each rank represents a +5 bonus. Skill ranks are earned in three ways. The first is in "adolescence" - representing the skills learned during a character's childhood. The second is in apprenticeship - representing skills learned in the years before adventuring. The third way are those skills learned while out adventuring. When a character reaches a new level, he or she earns more skill ranks.

Step 7a: Calculate Character's "Adolescent" Skills

A character's upbringing and background determines which skills he or she starts with. Different races and cultures teach their children different things. Note that Beornings, Rohirrim and Woodmen are all examples of Middle Men.

Dwarves Sinda Noldo Hobbits Beorning Dunedain Middle Men Rohir Woodmen
Movement and Manoeuvre Skills
No Armour 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Soft Leather 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Rigid Leather 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0
Mail 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 0
Weapon Skills
1-H Edged 0 1 1 0 0 2 1 2 1
1-H Conc. 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2-H Edged 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
Thrown 1 2 1 2 1 0 1 0 1
Missile 0 2 1 2 0 1 1 2 2
Pole Arm 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 1 1
General Skills
Climb 1 1 0 2 2 0 0 0 3
Ride 0 1 1 0 0 2 1 8 0
Swim 0 2 2 0 2 1 1 2 2
Subterfuge Skills
Ambush 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Stalk/Hide 0 3 2 5 4 0 1 0 4
Pick Lock 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Disarm Trap 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Magical Skills
Read Rune 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 0
Use Item 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0
Perception 2 3 3 4 1 0 0 2 2
Body Dev. 3 1 1 2 3 3 2 2 2

Step 7b: Calculate the Character's Apprenticeship Skills

These are skill ranks earned from learning your trade before embarking on one's broader career. Check the Apprenticeship table. Skill Ranks are assigned by Skill Category. These ranks may be spent anywhere in that skill category. Thus a Warrior can spend his 5 Skill Ranks anywhere in the Weapons category, increasing existing skills or starting new ones.

Category Warrior Mage Animist Scout Ranger Bard
Movement 3 0 1 1 2 0
Weapon 5 0 1 3 3 2
General 2 2 2 3 4 2
Subterfuge 2 0 1 5 1 3
Magical 0 5 2 0 0 3
Body Dev 3 1 1 2 1 3
Languages 0 2 2 1 1 3
Spells* 0 5 5 0 1 2

Spells: This refers to the number of Skill Points available to the character to buy levels of a spell list. Each level of a spell list costs one Skill Point. Thus to purchase two levels of Wind Law and three levels of Living Change, it will cost five Skill Points.

Step 7c: Assign Extra Skill Points

Assign 10 skill ranks as desired amongst your character's skill list. Since each skill rank is worth a +5 bonus, multiply all skill rank results by 5, to get your basic skill bonus. Now add the relevant attribute bonus to each skill. The result is your total skill bonus. Take particular note of your weapon Offensive Bonus, and Agility-based Defensive Bonus.

Step 7d: Language

Assign your character's starting languages based on their culture.

Step 8 Calculate Important Bonuses

The three most important bonuses on your character sheet are the ones that keep your character alive. They are Defensive Bonus (how well a character can avoid being hit by an attacker), Offensive Bonus (how well a character can fight with a particular type of weapon) and Hits (how much exhaustion, injury or bruising a character can take before he or she falls unconscious).

Calculating Defensive Bonus

Base Defensive Bonus is your character's Agility Bonus. Defensive Bonus can be increased by use of a shield (a plain round shield increases DB by +15) or other magical items.

Calculating Offensive Bonus

One handed edged weapons: Add Skill Bonus (Skill Ranks multiplied by 5), plus Strength Bonus, plus any special bonuses to create a total Offensive Bonus.

Missile Weapons: Add skill bonus (skill ranks multiplied by 5), plus Agility bonus, plus any special bonuses to create a total Offensive Bonus.

Calculating Hits

Add one's Body Development skill total (i.e. the number of skill ranks spent there) by five, and add one's Constitution bonus. This is the character's health level or "hit total."

Step 9: Equip Your Character

Purchase equipment for your character. Your character begins play with the equivalent of 2 Gold pieces worth of equipment.

Step 10: Calculate Encumbrance

Calculate final details such as equipment and encumbrance modifiers.

Step 11: Assign Background Options

Check the Racial write ups in the MERP corebook for background options. Choose background options as appropriate.

Step 12: And Then...

Go play.