Mod of the Week: The Middle Earth Project, for Crusader Kings II

"Do you, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, also known as Strider, from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, take Shelob, a huge terrifying man-eating spider, as your wedded wife?" I do. I did . I married a giant spider! And that's just one of the many bizarre fan-fiction adventures you can have with The Middle Earth Project mod for Crusader Kings II. If marrying a spider sounds weird, it'll make more sense when I explain that I began the game playing as Aragorn's liege: a Balrog.

Before I get into my weird, sick adventure, a little info about the mod. It fully converts Crusader Kings II into Middle Earth. The map is gorgeous and detailed, and there's no shortage of characters and cultures and events imported from The Lord of the Rings. Want to play as Sauron himself? You can. Treebeard of Fangorn? He's there. Saurman the White? Ironfoot of the Dwarves? Elrond of Rivendell? One of those crazy looking masked dudes from Rhun? A Nazgul? An Uruk-Hai? A Goblin? Or something lame, like a Hobbit? They're all there.

So, using the Crusader Kings II Ruler Designer, I whipped up a Balrog to play with. Rather than sticking him in that old dwarf dump Moria, I install him in Dunedain territory, and am quite pleased to see Aragorn himself arrive and become my courtier and heir.

As a Balrog, I have a couple ambitions. I'd like to have a daughter. I want to research some new technology. I want to hire a capable council. And, of course, I want to kill Gandalf, that bearded prick who trespassed in my house and then had the gall to smash my bridge -- while I was on it! -- when I came up from the basement to politely ask him to keep the noise down. So, I send an assassin after him.

Yeah, fighting with firewhips while falling though the center of the earth looks cool, but poison is so much more civilized. I know Gandalf's pal, Radagast the Brown, agrees with me, because he immediately poisons me back, and I die. Damn Radagast, you vengeful hippie wizard. Chief Balrog is dead! And just a couple weeks after taking office. I take over as my heir, Aragorn, and quickly swear fealty to Sauron. Because, you know, with Gandalf out of the game, you can forget about marshaling the eagles, or scaring off the Nazgul, or de-witching Theoden, or any of that stuff, so it's pretty clear how this whole war is going to shake out.

I quickly learn that prior to Gandalf's death, he'd already identified the One Ring and sent Frodo off to Bree. Being Aragorn, I naturally meet Frodo there, but the story takes a turn and without getting into too much detail about who did what, let's just say Frodo winds up not having the One Ring anymore and instead it finds its way onto my finger.

The bearer of the One Ring gets quite a few stat effects, like enhanced cunning, faster movement, extended lifespan, and apparently a wee bit of a hit on fertility. Still, I should get married and at least give babymaking a shot. I scour the realm for a suitable wife, though most of my own kind are fairly appalled that I've taken Sauron's side in the war.

I do find Shelob, however, living in some sort of Goblin realm, and since the goblin chief approves of my support of Sauron, and since Shelob has a positive opinion of me, I figure, hey, why not? Why not marry a giant blood-sucking spider? I figure the mod won't let me, but the mod lets me. And then I figure it's a goof, and the mod simply doesn't know that Shelob is a giant spider, but the mod knows she's a giant spider. The mod is well aware.

Sadly, the only option I'm given is to destroy my spider bride with fire, which sort of stinks. I honestly wanted to be married to a giant spider. Who the hell would ever mess with me? You don't invade the lands of a guy who marries an enormous spider. Dude's crazy .

With Shelob dead, I try to marry an Ent, but can't find one that will agree to marry me. I try to marry Arwen, like I'm supposed to, but her guardian Elrond doesn't like me -- for some reason -- and won't agree to the marriage. I have him assassinated, hoping to have more luck with his heir, Elladan, but he doesn't like me either, so I have him assassinated as well, and so on and so on, killing the next four or five successors, in a desperate attempt to find one who will agree to let me wed Arwen. I'm just a romantic that way.

I try the same with Eowyn, killing a bunch of her family members, hoping to eventually find one who likes me, but somehow their opinion of me only grows worse and worse. As it turns out, even I don't like me much. I'm not sure what the source of Aragorn's misery is. Is it the crushing weight of the One Ring? Is it that I married and then destroyed a giant spider? Is it that I killed Elrond and a bunch of other elves in an effort to woo Arwen? Is it my crippling impotence?

Anyway, I notice in my Intrigue panel that I have the option to commit suicide. Considering all the enemies that I've made, and that the One Ring means fathering an heir is almost impossible, and that I attempted to marry a talking tree at one point, killing myself suddenly seems to be the most reasonable option.

Accomplished nothing of note? I assassinated Gandalf and Elrond. I stole the One Ring from Frodo. I MARRIED A GIANT SPIDER. We have a very different definition of "accomplished," video game. Very different .

Installation: I will give you instructions, if you do not know the way. Download the mod. Extract it to your CKII mod directory (even with a Steam copy, look in My Documents > Paradox Interactive > Crusader Kings II > mod). When you start up CKII, just tick the box that says Middle Earth Project, and start playing!

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.