So the second game of the Middle Earth game was completed yesterday, and a few things stood out that made me appreciate the MERP rules.
1) Experience points are pretty much outside the GM's control. Characters get points for a wide variety of things, and all of them are specifically outlined. 1 XP per mile traveled, XP for hits given, etc. Makes it a lot easier to run the game without having to worry about awards.
2) Crits add excitement to the game. Yes, my goblins were killed rather quickly, and in an alarming manner, by a bunch of pugnacious dwarves, but the fact that one PC lost a hand more than made up for it. He also received 500 XP for the loss, apparently because he knows not to rush into battle without support. Crits also make for some hilarious results.
3) 0-level characters are explicitly outlined in the rules. And they're not worthless. PCs start at level 1, which requires 10k XP. 0-level characters, thus, are made exactly like PCs, but only gain adolescent skill ranks to start. This does mean dwarves are the most militant race in existence, as they are all capable warriors before they ever gain any experience. Hobbits, in turn, are natural thieves.
4) Low, almost non-existent, magic is great. I'm not a fan of magic rich environments (Forgotten Realms pretty much nauseates me), so MERP, even with its spell lists and spell-casters, is cool. Further, the manner in which items gain power (per the setting) makes for interesting results. The hand-severing dagger is now "magical", given the deed accomplished in battle. Not really sure how many of the players care to use a goblin dagger of Beorning-slaying, but they now have one.