What is Tolkien Moot?
Tolkien Moot is an annually held international convention dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts, scholars, and role playing gamers, sponsored by the Inland Empire Tolkien Society ( http://www.nwtolkien.org ) an official Smial of the U.K. Tolkien Society.
Tolkien Moot is an annual international convention dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts and scholars. Some of the events are broadcast live over the Internet via audio and video streams, with live real-time interactive chat rooms for Internet viewers to participate in the Q&A segments for guest speakers.
The event consists of guest speakers knowledgeable about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and related interests, Tolkien inspired music and performance artists, Tolkien inspired fan films, live talk show broadcast from Middle-earth Talk Radio and Raw Hobbit, Tolkien panels, and many other fun and educational Tolkien related games and activities. This is a family friendly event, all ages are welcome.
The event is free but you must RSVP.
2011 will be the final year that Tolkien Moot will be offered free of charge.
Each year the event has continued to expand in size and scope. So far the event has remained absolutely free and open to the public thanks to the hard work, dedication, and personal financial contributions of the volunteers who make Tolkien Moot possible. Tolkien Moot was previously called MerpCon, but began the name transition in 2009 as the venue expanded to a broader range of audience interests. The first event was held in 2005. 2011 will be the final year that the event is being offered free of charge, but it will remain a non-profit event. We are currently working on the paperwork for filing the non-profit organization formally.
The event consists of guest speakers knowledgeable about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and related interests. One of the main focal points is role playing gaming in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, Endor, Arda, Eä, basically his whole universe in which Middle-earth is just a small piece. We have since expanded events and activities to include:
- Guest Speakers
- Tolkien Scholars
- Tolkien panels
- Live performance artists
- Fan Films
- Role playing games (paper and dice)
- Board games
- Card games
- War games
- Video games (offline and online)
- Live talk show Internet broadcasts with both local and online audience participation
The next Tolkien Moot event will be begin Friday, July 15th at 3:00 pm and run until Sunday, July 17th at 6:00 pm.
See the Location page for details on where TolkienMoot will be held.
See the Schedule page for details on when events are taking place.
You may view and listen to previous Tolkien Moot audio, video, and text files since 2005, in the Archives section of the website.
We will once again be offering live broadcasts from Tolkien Moot including real time audio, video, and chat room. Internet audience members are encouraged to participate with the on location audience and speakers during the Q&A sessions by postings questions in the Tolkien Moot Chat Room.
Email (preferred): tolkienscholars at gmail dot com
Phone (USA): (00 +1) (509) 481-5437
See the Location Page for directions to TolkienMoot
Youtube Channel: (pending)
Chatroom (IRC): server: irc.merp.com #tolkienmoot
Yahoo Instant Messenger: merpcon
MSN messenger: merpcon at hotmail dot com
Timeline History of TolkienMoot/MerpCon
TolkienMoot originally began with the name MerpCon (Middle-earth Role Playing Convention). Over the years the convention has expanded the venue and the term MERP became less relevant, so in 2009 we began transitioning the name to TolkienMoot, and expanding the scope of the event.
- MerpCon I (2005)
- MerpCon II (2006)
- MerpCon III (2007)
- MerpCon IV (2008)
- MerpCon V / TolkienMoot 2009
- TolkienMoot 2010 (VI)
- TolkienMoot 2011 (VII)
- TolkienMoot 2012 (VII)
What is Role Playing Gaming?
Role-playing gaming (RPGing) is a cooperative, non-competitive, recreational activity summed up as “interactive storytelling”. Role playing games (RPGs) are cooperative, improvisational, somewhat structured but free form “interactive stories” that take place in the participants' imagination, usually seated around a table and using paper and pencil to track events, locations, and persons of note. Typically one of the participants is chosen to act as the referee, known variously as the Game Master (GM), Dungeon Master (DM), Narrator, Storyteller, or other titles. The GM creates or modifies the settings in which the other participants, the Player Characters (PCs) will interact with each other and various Non-Player Characters (NPCs) under the control of the GM. The group of participants then dynamically unfold a series of social interactions and events for an improvisational-verbal-theater-like experience, without physically acting out any the activities of their characters.
The participants create on paper imaginary characters in a story run by the GM who acts as writer, director and referee of this imaginary, verbal-only play. The activity is similar to childhood “let's pretend” games, but with some key differences. The players are sitting around a table using their imagination and verbally describing their character's actions to each other, and there are clearly defined rules with the GM acting as moderator and facilitator to keep the game play flowing. At Tolkien Moot all of the adventures take place in Tolkien's mythical Middle-earth and beyond.
Below is a brief summary of past TolkienMoot/MerpCon guest speakers listed in order of appearance, from earliest to most recent.
Chris Seeman, Ph.D.
Professor Chris Seeman (Iowa)
Occupation: Professor of Near Eastern Religions
Tolkien Game systems, supplements, and magazine author, editor, and publisher.
Events Attended: Special guest speaker and co-Gamemaster for MerpCon I and MerpCon III.
Author of many Decipher LotR RPG (Lord of the Rings Role Playing Game) and ICE (Iron Crown Enterprises) MERP (Middle-earth Role Playing) books and modules, as well as creator of the quarterly publication (1992-2001) Escape from Numenor!".magazine, co-editor of , and many other contributions. He was a co-GM (Game Master) at MerpCon I. The convention campaign was "
Professor Seeman was running games set in JRR Tolkien's world long before Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) began producing the Middle-earth Role-playing (MERP) series.
In 1992 he established Other Hands: The International Journal of Middle-earth Gaming, which he published on a quarterly basis until 2001. He has edited and contributed to several of ICE's MERP modules, and also some of the more recent Lord of the Rings RPG products by Decipher. He has also been co-editor and author for The Guild Companion eZine with many content submissions. He manages The Tolkien Music List www.tolkien-music.com. Chris holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Religions from the University of California at Berkeley.
He was also co-editor and co-author of a number of ICE modules in the 1990's and and in the 2000's for Decipher's LOTR RPG, including:
- Kin-strife (1995)
- Southern Gondor: The Land (1996)
- Southern Gondor: The People (1996)
- The Northern Waste (1997)
- Hands of the Healer (1997)
Decipher's LOTR RPG (Lord of the Rings role-playing game)
In the "real world", he teaches as a professor in religious studies. He is a noted Tolkien scholar in gaming circles.
Michael Martinez (Texas)
Occupation: Search Engine Optimization Specialist, Tolkien Essayist and Author
Events Attended: Mr. Martinez has been a guest speaker at MerpCon II, MerpCon IV, and MerpCon/TolkienMoot 2009 and GM at TolkienMoot 2009 and 2010. Michael Martinez is also the author of:
* Understanding Middle-earth, published by Vivisphere in 2003.
From Mr. Martinez's website at www.michael-martinez.com:
"Recognized around the world as one of the leading authorities on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Martinez has shared his knowledge and insights on Middle-earth with other fans in the online world for many years. His books and essays have been translated into Polish, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Greek, Hebrew, Portuguese, and Finnish. But though he is best known for his research into Tolkien's chief literary creation, this versatile author has garnered respect and acknowledgement in more than one field.
Most of Michael's early professional career was devoted to the family of Business Basic programming languages which were developed for mini-computers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then ported to UNIX and PC operating systems in the 1980s. A former employee of Basis International, one of the leading vendors of Business Basic, Michael has written numerous technical papers and articles on programming techniques and methodologies. He has worked as a consultant, IT manager, programmer, and teacher for many companies.
You can view a list of his works and contributing works at http://www.michael-martinez.com/articles-and-essays.html "
Thomas Morwinsky, Ph.D.
Dr. Thomas Morwinsky (Germany)
Occupation: Doctor of entomology for the German government.
Tolkien Cartographer, Magazine Editor
Event Attended: MerpCon III
Dr. Morwinsky is author of a number of Middle-earth role playing gaming adventures and magazine contributions to Other Hands magazine and more recently to Other Minds magazine. He is also the designer of several wonderful large-scale, highly detailed maps set in Tolkien's imaginary universe, including the most detailed large-scale map of J.R.R. Tolkien's Númenor ever made.
In the “real world” Dr. Morwinsky is an entomologist for the German Government. He was flown from Germany just for the chance to speak at MerpCon III.
Dr. Morwinsky was born in 1967. He graduated with a PhD in entomology in 2002. He has been working for the German government's armed forces as the government's entomologist since 2003. He has been married since 2004. He first began role-playing in Middle-earth in 1987. He was a GM (Game Master) for MERP/RM (Middle-earth Role Playing / Role Master) in Middle-earth from 1988 to around 1999. He contributed more than half a dozen works to the the Middle-earth role playing gaming magazine Other Hands, from 1999 to 2001.
In addition to his continuing to keep Other Hands Magazine running as editor, his contributions to OH include:
- “Inland Sea” maps in issue #25 (April 1999)
- “Taurinafanto” in issue #27 (October 1999)
- “The History of Monut Gundabad” in issue #28 (January 2000)
- “An Alternative Continental Map for MERP” in issue 29/30 (July 2000)
- Map for “Tol Fuin and the Shadowy Isles” in issues #31/32 (January 2001)
- Supplement “Armies of Eriador” in issue 33/34 (July 2001)
Other works he has contributed to the Middle-earth role playing gaming community include:
- “Population and Urbanization in Eriador” an online PDF
- “Inland Sea” map
- “Númenor” map
He is also co-editor of Other Minds Magazine, a quarterly online magazine (also occasionally available in print) dedicated to enthusiasts of J.R.R. Tolkien's works.
Joe Mandala (Kansas)
Occupation: Project Manager, Criminal Intelligence, Law Enforcement Agencies.
Role Playing Gaming Author and Tolkien essayist.
Event Attended: MerpCon III
Joe has been involved in Middle-earth gaming since the early 1990s when ICE revised MERP for its full second edition. Shortly thereafter, he was selected to pen the mighty tome Races and Cultures of Middle-earth for RMSS, but sadly it was never to be published as ICE lost the license to Middle-earth before project completion. Pieces of that (incomplete) work can be found here and there on the internet, having found homes where they could. Joe began gaming in Middle-earth sometime in the mid-1980s, and has been doing so ever since (with a break now and then).
Joe makes his living currently working with law enforcement agencies on criminal intelligence systems in a project management role. His largest current project involves an inter-jurisdictional statewide Intel system for the state of Kansas that will also interface with national and federal agencies.
Joe was born in 1972. He studied Classical Antiquity at the University of Kansas and has served in the US Army (albeit briefly). He was married in 1996, and has four children with his wife Jill. He lives in northeast Kansas on a small 10-acre farm, and would love nothing better than to be a gentleman farmer, or possibly a Hobbit.
Joe's contributions to the Middle-earth gaming community are humble, and include:
- Early articles written for Grey Worlds, ICQ (Iron Crown Quarterly), and other small-circulation magazines
- Secondary editing and vetting for 2nd-edition MERP source material
- The Mysterious Manuscript for R&C:M-e
- A vast body of editing work for The Guild Companion
- Editing and article vetting for Other Hands
- Content vetting for source material on Decipher's LotR RPG
- Maps of Middle-earth: Cities and Strongholds for Decipher's LotR RPG
In addition, Joe has made an attempt to write several literary essays on
Tolkien's work, some of which have accidentally stumbled into print and
happily gone unnoticed enough to avoid critique.
|Cason Snow (Illinois)|
Role Playing Gaming advocate
Event Attended: MerpCon III
Cason Snow is a librarian for Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.
He has been cataloging for their Rare Books and Special Collections for almost six years, and of course, especially enjoys their sci fi/fantasy collection.
A life long gamer and devote of Tolkien, he has been incredibly fortunate to be able to combine these interests into his professional career.
His main field of research is in tabletop roleplaying and how it can be integrated into the public and academic library.
Cason spoke at MerpCon III in the final Sunday night session. He discussed how everyone can use the tie-in of Tolkien and role playing gaming to encourage libraries and other facilities to allow role playing games to be available to the public in their collections.
Occupation: Full time single father of 3 boys. Retired as a computer scientist in 2003. Studying part time working towards degree as Recreation & Music Therapist and Researcher.
Events Attended: All TolkienMoot / MerpCon events.
Hawke began role playing gaming in 1979. He is the founder of MerpCon & Tolkien Moot, the Inland Empire Tolkien Society, Other Minds Magazine, the Eä Role Playing Gaming System and d20 adaptation, the Númenor Project, Middle-earth Radio, Middle-earth Talk Radio Show, SuiteGM software, and the RPG Research Project.
Hawke considers himself a "nobody" in Tolkienology, especially compared to all the other incredible guest speakers at Tolkien Moot. He puts most of his energy in trying to "facilitate" getting everyone together to share their great ideas and have a great time. He has however contributed a little bit to the Tolkien and RPG communities with a few essays and modules here and there.
- J.R.R. Tolkien's Love of Trees and the Environment (Other Minds Magazine Issue 2)
- Tolkien's Impact on Beowulf (Other Minds Magazine Issue 5)
- The Tolkien Legacy, The Estate, Enterprises, and the Dismemberment of Other Hands
- An Overview History and Therapeutic Value of Role Playing Gaming
- The Battle Over Role Playing Gaming (Other Minds Magazine Issue 1)
- The Potential Benefits and Deficits of Role Playing Gaming
- Role Playing Games Used as Educational and Therapeutic Tools for Children, Youth, and Adults
- The Defamation of Role Playing Gaming and Gamers
- Analysis of Personalities and Alienation of Dungeons and Dragons Game Players
Tolkien Adventure Modules (any game system):
- Uswë Númenorello (Escape from Númenor) (Tolkien Moot 2005 Adventure)
- Umbar-dalad (Under Umbar) (Tolkien Moot 2006 Adventure)
- Gift Bearers of Numenor - First Contact (Tolkien Moot 2007 Adventure)
- Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Tolkien Moot 2009 Adventure)
John D. Rateliff, Ph.D.
|John Rateliff (Washington)|
Occupation: Writer and noted published Tolkien Scholar.
Event Attended: MerpCon IV, Guest Speaker and Game Master.
In addition to being a longtime gamer, John is also a Tolkien scholar,
who has helped organize several Tolkien conferences and symposiums.
He spent many hours working with the Tolkien manuscripts at Marquette, where he earned his Ph.D.
His major contribution to Tolkien studies is probably his edition of the original manuscripts of The Hobbit,
with extensive commentary, in a two volume set published last year by HarperCollins: The History of The Hobbit (Vol. I: Mr. Baggins; Vol. II: Return to Bag-End).
He is currently engaged in a piece on Tolkien's writer's block but having a hard time finishing it . . .
John D. Rateliff discovered the works of J.R.R. Tolkien in September 1973, and role playing gaming in February 1980.
This gaming interest led him to work at TSR, Wizards of the Coast, and Hasbro, as well as freelancing for companies like Decipher, Green Ronin, White Wolf, Guardians of Order, and Chaosium.
Among the projects he has edited are:
- The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings
- Night Below
- Return to the Tomb of Horrors
- Third edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide (which established the core d20 rules)
- He also contributed to Decipher's Lord of the Rings core rulebook
- The d20 Call of Cthulhu project
- and dozens of other titles over the years.
His favorite roleplaying games are Dungeons & Dragons (particularly 1st edition AD&D), Call of Cthulhu, and Pendragon.
Rehtaeh (Heather Downing)
Occupation: Performing Artist (Elven Vocalist and song writer)
Event Attended: TolkienMoot 2010 (scheduled).
From her website biography:
"Performing under the name “Rehtaeh” (pronounced reh-tay-yuh), Heather Downing is a Southern California native who uprooted to the midwest to focus more on writing and exploring her own unique musical style. Since the move a few years ago she has become a featured solo act at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival and chose that venue to release her demo CD, “The Contemplation”, the first full album "Awakened" and most recently her sophmore project "ElementAria".
Previously Rehtaeh has been featured in a couple of student film soundtracks for her distinctive Enya-like style and ability to sing world cultural, fantasy and classical music. Currently she is focusing on writing emotional songs that follow the pathway of Loreena McKennitt, Celitc Woman and Lisa Gerrard, but still with her own unique flavor. Her musical style ranges from epic to intimate, emphasizing on her lyrical skills. She has collaborated with a wide range of musicians and songwriters to obtain the best possible sound experience.
Over time Rehtaeh has become known for her haunting melodic vocals and great love for accoustic instruments and synth orchestration alike. With an enormous desire to communicate her passion for music in any language, she is planning on traveling around the globe to touch as many people as possible. It all started with one song in Tolkien's Quenya elvish and has grown to include many different cultures - real and imagined. Rehtaeh is the true voice of the human spirit."
Listen to samples of her music, visit her website and purchase her albums at
Her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/RehtaehMusic/259553939200
Her Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/heathermdowning
What are the Venues?
Generally, under MerpCon, Tolkien Moot mostly focused on only a few venues for expression of interest in J.R.R. Tolkien and his works. Primarily focused on role playing gaming (RPGing) in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Secondly having anywhere from one to five guest speakers and /or guest performers who are knowledgeable in some area of "Tolkienology" and/or role playing gaming related to Tolkien. Also an issue of Other Minds Magazine is often released in conjunction with that year's convention theme and sometimes special limited print editions are made available exclusively through the convention.
Since 2009, TolkienMoot has expanded the venue to include many other areas of expression for fans of Tolkien. The options are nearly limitless, but a brief list of some include:
- Scholarly Tolkien discussions
- Tolkien-based computer games
- RPGing - "classic" paper, pencil, and dice role playing gaming,
- Board games
- War games (table top)
What have previous Tolkien Moots / MerpCons been like?
The event has grown and changed based on direct participant feedback, and based on those who actually help by volunteering and participating in the event. This is a VERY community-centric event. Below is a listing of each year with a summary of information.
MerpCon I (2005)
Guest Speaker: Professor Chris Seeman
Location: Spokane, WA. Merlyn's Games & Hobbies and North Spokane County Library.
Featured guest speaker was Professor Chris Seeman, author of many Decipher and ICE (Iron Crown Enterprises) books and modules, as well as creator of the 9 years long publication (1992-2001) magazine, co-editor of , and many other contributions. He was a co-Game Master at MerpCon I as well! The convention campaign was "Escape from Numenor!". You can read Professor Seeman's review here.
MerpCon II (2006)
Guest Speaker: Michael Martinez
Location: Spokane, WA. 127 East Mission Avenue (Kung fu For Life school building).
The 2006 MerpCon II Guest Speaker was Michael Martinez. Reknowned in the Tolkien Communities, and author of Parma Endorian, Visualizing Middle-earth Earth, Understanding Middle-earth, and much more! Merp.com is the official authorized host of his many great number of . The convention campaign was "Under Umbar". You can read Mr. Martinez's review here.
The following "prizes" were made available to those who participated all three days:
- Full size black and white printed map of Thomas Morwinsky's Numenor (with his permission). Some received full color as well.
- DVD of useful Middle-earth gaming related content.
- Prize drawings of special authorized and autographed books by Michael Martinez
- Parma Endorian the only authorized (and autographed) printed and bound full color 8" x 11" copies
- Understanding Middle-earth
- Visualizing Middle-earth
- And many other "goodies".
MerpCon III (2007)
Guest Speakers: Dr. Thomas Morwinsky, Professor Chris Seeman, Michael Martinez, Joe Mandala, and Cason Snow.
Location: 127 East Mission Avenue (Kung fu for Life)
Featured a plethora of special guests including (click the names to see their short biography on this site):
The featured campaign was a complex mix of a six part series loosely linked together, with a "big finale" joining the groups together at the end, called "First Contacts". You can read the review from The Guild Companion, by Joe Mandala, here.
MerpCon IV (2008)
Guest Speakers: John D. Rateliff and Michael Martinez
Location: Spokane, WA. 2714 N. Division (Kung fu for life School building).
MerpCon IV had a heavily Dwarven themed, but also had some non-dwarven themed adventures. It was also the first year we had a youth table for players under 18 years old.
The guest speakers were:
MerpCon IV provided several different adventures from different campaign authors and Game/Dungeon Masters. This was also the first year a youth table was provided (players ranging from 8 to 17 years of age). Whereas previous MerpCon events were mostly centered around the Númenóreans and the descendants, MerpCon IV's theme was heavily focused on J.R.R. Tolkien's Dwarves both for adventuring and for the guest speaker topics.
The youth campaign was set in the Iron Hills. The Eä d20 3.5 rules were used.
John D. Rateliff, and Michael Martinez both spoke. First each had a separate solo session on each day, then to wrap up the final day, both spoke together. Mr Rateliff's session was focused primarily on "A Brief History of Tolkien Role-playing Games". You can read his followup from this speech here. The audio and video is available on the MerpCon website.
Role-playing Game Systems Used
MerpCon I and II only used one RPG system, ICE's MERP (Iron Crown Enterprises Middle-earth Role Playing). Since MerpCon III (2007) however, we now run with offerings for multiple role playing gaming systems. Systems have/may include (but are not limited to):
- Ea d20 (adaptation of D&D 3.5 to Middle-earth)
- ICE MERPS 2nd Edition
- ICE Rolemaster/RMSS/RMFRP
- ICE HARP
- Decipher LotR (Lord of the Rings)
- GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System)
- Ea RPGS
- Games Workshop (wargaming system)
A detailed report is provided by Hawke here.
MerpCon V (Tolkien Moot 2009) (July 24, 25, 26, & 27)
Guest Speaker: Michael Martinez
Location: The Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division, Spokane, WA, 99218, USA.
Themes included Elves, Orcs, and Dragons.
This year we were able to provide 4 private gaming rooms, with overflow capacity for up to 8 tables. Thanks to the help of 6 Game Masters we were able to keep the table sizes to a more reasonable level to keep the game play action at a reasonable speed. Some adventures were provided by the game masters, while others used a convention-wide series of connected games.
We had one youth table with ages from 10 to 17, and 3 adult tables.
For take home "loot" this year we offered customized dice with the MerpCon logo (in Ringerbearer font), and some custom t-shirts.
The facilities were much nicer, they were air conditioned, had comfortable seating, a kitchen area, and with each room being separate, able to keep the noise level variable so GM's didn't have to lose their voices over the din. ;-)
In addition to the previous offerings, online participation will not only include chatroom, audio streaming, and video streaming, but also the event was accessible via Second Life interaction.
Other Minds Magazine issue 7 was released, and the latest versions of Ea d20 RPG Races & Cultures, and Magic in Middle-earth books.
Clips from the upcoming fan films "Born of Hope" and "The Hunt for Gollum" (among others) were also shown.
This was planned to be the last year that MerpCon will be a free event, and the last year the name MerpCon will be used, starting in 2010, it will be called TolkienMoot and participation fees will be charged in order to cover some of the costs (up to this point all expenses have been out of Hawke's pocket, ranging from $1,000 to over $6,000 USD each year!). A separate company entity will be formed as a non-profit organization, so that donations can also be accepted. Additionally the 2010 TolkienMoot will have a broader venue, Tabletop RPGing in Middle-earth will still the core attraction, as well as learned Tolkien scholars, but other Tolkien-related venues will be allowed, including computer-based, wargaming, artists, and much more.
Tolkien Moot 2010 (MerpCon VI) (August 13,14, & 15)
Guest Speaker: Michael Martinez
Guest Performer: Rehtaeh (Heather Downing)
Location: East West Fitness World
Still a free event.
We had 2 youth tables, one for ages 8 to 12, and another for ages 13 to 17. We had one adult table. We had a large main events area for guest performers and speakers.
All events were simulcast live over the Internet, and involved live audience participation both on location and via the Internet using the chatroom to post questions and requests from remote participants.
Tolkien Moot 2011 (VII) (July)
Guest Speaker: To be announced
Location: Ramada Suites LImited Newport Highway Spokane
Details: Coming Soon.
Final year that this will be a free event.