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Middle-Earth Role Playing

Middle-Earth Role Playing (abbreviated as MERP) was a table RPG game published by Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) since 1982 until 1997. It was 2nd best-selling fantasy RPG after D&D (according to publisher's statement). Supplement books provided many pieces of lore, both invented specially for the game and taken from J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien books. The majority of modules were set in Third Age after the Great Plague (TA 1636–1650), but ways to adopt to other timelines were usually provided (within the 3rd and early 4th Ages, using 1st and 2nd was prohibited by license). Earliest books (before 1986) were not bound to particular game system and were meant to be played in Rolemaster game system (previous Iron Crown product) or even in concurring Dungeons & Dragons (conversion tables from d100 to d20 were given).

Many words in many languages of Middle-Earth were invented for MERP. The article here discusses only it's Neo-Orkish dialect. Due to popularity of MERP game it had influenced all other dialects, especially Svartiska.

The History of MERP Dialect

The first compiled wordlist was published in “Lords of Middle-Earth: Vol. III – Hobbits, Dwarves, Ents, Orcs & Trolls” (ICE8004, 1989). Out of ~150 words almost a half were Icelandic borrowings and few were Sindarin words. These Sindarin words were pluralized according to Sindarin rules.

The second wordlist was published in 2nd Edition supplement book “Angmar” (ICE2018, 1995). It contained more than 1200 new words, almost 500 of which were Albanian borrowings. However some of these Albanian words appeared in mass at 1st Edition book “Gorgoroth” (ICE3112, 1990) for the first time.

MERP had plenty of NPCs and bosses names (Orcs and Trolls) as well as names for their tribes, with many of them untranslated.


The information under this header is based on supplement book “Gorgoroth” (ICE3112).


It seems that vowels in MERP tend to shift back and lower. Accent marks (acute) are closer to diphtongs, rather than just long vowels, which are marked with circumflex.

Letter IPA sounds
a [æ]
á [eɪ]
â [ɔː], [ɒ:]
e [ə]
ê [ɛ]
i [ɪ], [i]
í [i:]
î [ai]
o [o] , [ɔ]
ô [ɔu], [oʊ]
u [ʌ], [ʊ]
ú [ju:]
û [ʊ:], [u:], [ʢ]1)


Letter Pronunciation
c always [k]
g [g], aspirated [gʰ] at the end of words
h [h], marks aspiration after consonants except “kh”, “th”, “zh”
j [dʒ]
k [k] at the beginning of words,
[k:], [kk] in “kh”,
[x] in other cases
p a little bit harder than in English
r supposed to shift from trill [r] or [ʀ] to [ʢ], but majority of speakers pronounce it as [ɹ]
t [t] in the beginning of words,
glottal stop [ʔ] in other positions in majority of subdialects
th [θ]
z [ʒ]
zg [z], [zʔ]

other letters are pronounced as in English


Information under this header is based on Orcish Nations site

I didn't found any information about orkish grammar in MERP books, but Orcish Nations site provided some rules.

Pluralizing nouns

1st Edition of MERP sometimes applied Sindarin rules on pluralizing nouns (at least borrowed from Elvish languages), but in whole they were irregular. “Orcish Nations” site provides interesting rules of pluralizing nouns which differentiates between subject and object. It used terms “soft” and “hard” consonants, which is usually applied to palatalization, but neither Black Speech nor MERP inventions have them, so I suppose they refer to unvoiced and voiced consonants.

Word ending Subject Object
unvoiced consonant -im -i
voiced consonant -rim2) -ri
vowel -z

Other suffixes

Suffix Meaning
-an forms verbs from nouns
-at infinitive
-hai great, high, superior
-ishi “within”
-ob preposition “of”, genitive case
-ub future tense
-ug present participle, “-ing”
-uk “all”
-ul “them”
-um “-ness”
forms adjectives

voiced epiglottal thrill together with “r”
compare with Sindarin collective plural suffix -rim as in “Rohirrim”
merp.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/07 00:59 (external edit)