Art of the Genre

Anyone who reads my work, either here or over on Black Gate, knows of my infinite joy concerning the artwork of I.C.E.’s Middle-Earth Role-Playing game. Today, I’m going to take a look at perhaps my favorite Angus McBride contribution to setting, Thieves of Tharbad.

Now first, I say to anyone interested in playing MERP, take a serious look at both Tharbad and Cardolan as a place to start a campaign. They are extremely old and extensive places to house any campaign while still giving you access to various ‘traditional’ Lord of the Rings settings. Located southeast of the Shire, south of Bree, and bordered on its east by Lorien and Moria, this is the place to go if you want some well-connected adventure. The location is both remote and yet accessible, and you will not be disappointed, especially if your characters/players enjoy Tharbad as a central base of operations.

But back to art! Angus, who does the cover here, paints a scene of incredible dark beauty, a kind of homage to piracy without the tri-corns and Jolly Rodgers. This sets the stage as a smuggler den, and offers a throwback to Lieber and Lahnkmar, and there is no question it is a place of high adventure unlike all the various ‘Minas’ cities of the world.

Inside this 34 page supplement you are provided a very rich history of the city and region as well as detailed scenarios and one of the finest city maps ever produced by Pete Fenlon. I’ve run this city on a couple of occasions, and even stole the layouts for a town in my own homebrew world because I loved it so much.

The interior illustrations, of which there a nearly a dozen, are all done by my favorite black and white illustrator for the game, Steve Peregrine, of whom there is sadly no memory or paper trail from the old I.C.E. officers, including Art Director Rick Britton. A life goal, now that Trampier has passed from this world, is to somehow find Steve, so if anyone has any clues, please let me know.

Peregrine’s work is sublime, and his ink wash is so vivid, deep, and captivating I’m really not sure there is an artist working in the past three decades that could match him.

In all, Thieves of Tharbad receives my highest marks from this blog.

Artistic Rating: 5 [out of 5]

Written by Scott Taylor — April 10, 2014

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