Our group is regularly playing in Tolkiens Middle Earth universe, and we use a combination of MERP extended with Rolemaster as our system. And from what I gathered online, this seems to be a popular choice for fantasy RPGs which take place in Tolkiens universe.
Now, both MERP—to some degree—and Rolemaster—even more so—have quite a detailed and powerful magic system. You might even say that rolemaster somewhat relies upon it, with many many classes/professions being at least part-magical. (I'm not saying rolemaster characters absolutely depend on magic, but a big part of the system would be thrown out of the window were one to entirely forgo magic.)
What I'm struggling with is that the "original" Middle Earth feels (for us, YMMV) like a low-magic setting. If we look at the core source material from Tolkien magic is a very rare occurence reserved to only the oldest and strongest of beings—many of them are of a semi-devine nature (Maiar).
A classical human "mage" character is something which is (almost?) entirely undocumented in the canon. And while Gandalf may actually come very close to a wide-spread interpretation of a "mage" he is
an Istar/Maiar, a semi-divinie Spirit of which there are a total of 5 in Arda.
I am well aware that there is a lot of 'universe' still to fill with our own interpretation, even after all of Tolkien's canon. Large regions and their history and civilizations are essentially undocumented (or only through RPG source books). But for me this essentially boils down to just filling the gaps in Tolkien's world description with magicians, magical items, orders, wizardry schools, ...
I'm interested in how your groups handle magic in Tolkiens Universe.
Do you see a similar discrepancy between rule-system and setting in your Middle-Earth groups? (Maybe things are different when not using MERP/RM?)
Do you avoid magic for the most part and leave it to powerful NPCs, elven lords, half gods and the like (i.e. a low-magic setting)?
Or do you play in high-magic settings, i.e. where magic is common and established?
Maybe to summarize my question:
- How do you reconcile the low-magic setting of Tolkien's Middle Earth with the high-magic game system Rolemaster/MERP?