Popular Meme Came From Lord of the Rings TTRPG

A popular meme making its way around the internet originated from a 1990s tabletop roleplaying game. In recent weeks, you may have noticed a meme image making its way around Twitter, Reddit, and other popular internet sites. The image depicts a wizard staring into a glowing orb, while another figure peeks around the edge of a door. The meme launched on Twitter back in October when a Twitter user posted the image with the caption "pondering my orb." The post went viral, with folks working their magic by adding images to the orb or adding the wizard's face to other memes.

You might be wondering why the wizard pondering his orb looks so familiar. Well, that's because the image is a depiction of Saruman, the famed wizard corrupted by power in Lord of the Rings. Indeed, Saruman is gazing into his palantir, the seeing stone that opened a line of communication to Sauron and ultimately led to Saruman turning away from the forces of good. 

The image itself was originally the cover to Valar & Maiar: The Immortal Powers, a supplement to the Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game, the first tabletop roleplaying game set in Middle-Earth. The artist for the cover was Angus McBride, a well known fantasy artist long associated with various Tolkien works. The supplement detailed the powers and abilities of the various Valar and Maiar, including characters like Saruman, Radagast, Tom Bombadil, and the dread spider Ungoliant. Valar & Maiar was published for Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game's Second Edition using updated stats from the original Lords of Middle-Earth book published when the game first came out in the 1980s. 

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While Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game (or MERP) was popular in its heyday, the game formally ended in 1999 when its publisher Iron Crown Enterprises lost the license to publish material based on JRR Tolkien's work. However, Middle-Earth still lives on in the tabletop space. The most recent Tolkien-based tabletop game, The One Ring Roleplaying Game, will release its Second Edition ruleset sometime in the near future. It remains to be seen if the new The One Ring game will allow players to ponder their own orbs, though.