Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Jeff salutes: Graham Staplehurst

I don't really know anything about Graham Staplehurst other than his credits: Robin Hood (the Rolemaster/HERO sourcebook), Angmar, Minis Tirith, Phantom of the Northern Marshes, Gates of Mordor, as well as White Dwarf articles stretching from #18 to #93, including all of these MERP articles:

Issue #64 - "The Dawn of Unlight: A MERP/AD&D Scenario in the Forest of Mirkwood"
Issue #73 - "Star Spray" - another MERP/AD&D dual stat
Issue #77 - "A Secret Wish: An Adventure for MERP and D&D"
Issue #79 - "Where and Back Again? Or, Starting a Middle-earth Campaign"
Issue #87 - "Taurëfantô" - also MERP, set in Mirkwood
Issue #89 - "On Ealden Byrgen" - actually a Robin Hood adventure
Issue #93 - "Letters From A Foreign Land: Multi-System Adventure for 3-5 PCs"  Purportedly statted up for WFRP, MERP and Call of Cthulhu!

Back in the day I got Robin Hood when it first came out.  I recall thinking it was pretty dang good, but without orcs and wizards I didn't see much reason to run it for my game group.  I think that's the big problem with medieval historical games in this hobby: they can feel like D&D Minus.  Still, Mr. Staplehurst did great work with the material.

I've got two of his White Dwarf adventures, "The Dawn of Unlight" and "Star Spray" and I think they are pretty excellent.  Each takes an incident in the Silmarillion and explores its ramifications in the age of Bilbo Baggins, giving a real epic turn to the PCs activities.  Another virtue of both is that they're short, maybe 3 or 4 pages each, but easily expandable into large arcs with suggestions how to do so.  And in "Star Spray" there's a side quest where you try to capture a live wooly mammoth for a circus.  How sweet is that?  The only thing that may annoy some is that there's a little bit of the Big Important NPCs The Players Are Supposed To Watch In Awe, but they all have stats so if the party really wants to backstab them they can.

Any other Graham Staplehurst fans out there?  How are his full-blown MERP modules?

Additional: While researching Mr. Staplehurst I came across a MERP article in White Dwarf written by someone else.  Martin Veart's "Up and Coming: A Look at Levels in Middle-Earth Role-Playing" in issue #80 sounds intriguing.  With MERP rating a typical orc warrior as level 3 to 5, I've always wanted to see an explanation for what a first level adventurer represents.  Are you a kid at first level?  I remember one MERP session where our entire party was routed by a single grumpy orc.


  1. MERP sounds interesting, thanks for the tip


    Send him an e-mail:graham.staplehurst@mbi.co.uk

  2. Maybe you're a fool of a Took at first level.

  3. Letters From A Foreign Land is one of my all-time favourite WD scenarios. I'm not sure how well it would sit in a Middle Earth millieu though, it really is much more like WFRP and CoC than MERP. It works by being set amidst backwards peasants in Eastern Europe/Fantasy Eastern Europe with the implied technology difference between the two settings being of no real importance to the scenario.

    It's slightly similar to Dawn of Unlight in that it deals with demonic entities and human sacrifice.

    1. The attempt to make it compatible with three very different games is a bit odd, but I agree, it's one of the better White Dwarf scenarios from the magazine's latter days as an rpg periodical.

  4. Also, ahem, WD80 is "available"

  5. Anonymous9:37 PM

    I'm a fit male in my prime but with no weapons experience and I wouldn't want to go up against an orc as depicted in the Peter Jackson films. Two of me would probably still lose, but maybe 3 would stand a chance.

    Seriously, those guys are mean!

  6. Great post! I was -- and remain -- a big fan of Graham Staplehurst's work. His adventure module 'Phantom of the Northern Marches' is a great low level MERP mini-campaign (3 adventures), and 'Star Spray' is one of my all time favourite MERP adventures. All of his stuff was top notch, IMO.

    Nice to see that others think highly of his work! :)