The One Ring RPG – Second Edition had two big selling points to me. 1. it is Lord of the Rings, and 2. it was published by Free League Publishing. If you don’t know who Free League Publishing is by now and like tabletop gaming then what rock have you been hiding under?
With amazing, award-winning RPG titles like Forbidden Lands, Alien, Symbaroum, MORK BORK, and my personal favourite, Vaesen, they have been knocking it out of the park as of late. So when I saw that they were going to be involved in the publishing of The One Ring it was a real no-brainer that I needed this in my nerdy life.
Now I am sad to admit that I have not played the first edition as when it was released I was not really into tabletop roleplaying games and even if I was none of my friends were so a lot of these amazing types of games passed me by. I am now older with more like-minded friends so I have been trying my best to rectify this over the last few years and it has been an amazing journey.
Now back to The One Ring RPG. As I have discovered, the lead writer and game designers, Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi have returned for the second edition which I think is great for newbies like myself. This is always a good thing in my eyes as it keeps the vision of what the game was meant to be from the start but gives the designers a chance to improve on their work.
Also, this review is all based on the PDF version as I am waiting on the physical copy. So let us dive in and see what this edition has to offer.
We can’t all be the main character
Just like in most TTRPGs, character creation in The One Ring RPG is all about attributes, skills, and virtues. Then you set off on adventures as a member of your very own fellowship. There is the sense that you think of your character as this big hero that will shape Middle-earth but more in line with the teachings of Tolkien that adventurers are just common folk that happen to be born in exceptional times.
They are normal people that do extraordinary things in the stand against evil. In some ways, I think this is better than being the big hero that takes on the big bad at the end. It teaches you that anyone can stand up to any sort of evil or oppression. Something Tolkien himself found out in the first World War. This sets the tone in these adventures, they don’t have to be big world expensing missions, fighting orcs and evil men. They can be just doing small things for your townsfolk or trying to better your loved ones’ lives through small deeds.
Your starting steps into adventure
The first step in creating a character is selecting their culture. The One Ring RPG doesn’t use races and that seems wise because there are different types of “men” here and the foundation for different types of hobbits and dwarves too. There are six options taken right out of the books, Bardlings, Dwarves of Durin’s Folk, Elves of Lindon, Hobbits of the Shire, Men of Bree, and the Rangers of the North.
Each culture has a unique characteristic as well as a special ability called a blessing, that all members of that culture enjoy. The culture you pick also determines your attributes and skills (what they can do and how well they can do it). The three attributes are Strength (physical qualities), Heart (emotional), and Wits (Mental). If you have played any type of TTRPG you will be familiar and this won’t be new or groundbreaking.
You will also have to pick a Calling which is The One Ring’s version of a character class. The Callings, shape the skills and roles of the characters and can be combined with your culture. Each Calling also has something called a Shadow Path. It shows what happens if your character becomes overly influenced by the Shadow (Sauron). If this happens your Calling will begin to twist and become something darker. The Shadow Path feels just right for a Tolkein game and makes the players think a bit more carefully when doing actions as anything can lead you down the wrong path even if you think you are doing good.
Fight for the good of Middle Earth
There are special dice to go with The One Ring. All you really need are d6s and d12s. On the d6, the 6’s have an Elvish rune for additional success. On the d12, the 11 is swapped out for the Eye of Sauron and 12 for the Gandalf Rune. However, you roll a combination of d12 and d6 dice, or “Feat” and “Success” dice.
When your character needs to achieve something, you’ll generally roll a single Feat die. You then add a number of Success dice equal to your character’s rank with the relevant ability. You add up the results and compare that to a predetermined “Target Number” (TN) to see if they’re successful or not. The TN isn’t defined by the Loremaster, but rather, by your character’s own attributes. Each of the three core attributes — Strength, Heart, and Wits — has a TN that’s equal to 20 minus the attribute’s score. If you are familiar with the Year Zero system then you’ll have an idea of what is going on. If not you can find them here.
I found learning about the combat and action rules not overly difficult. They did have their moments of “Hang on, let me just read that again”. Thankfully as I have used the Year Zero System in Vaesen this seemed to be a similar system.
Middle-earth never looked so good
One thing that struck me when going through the core book and accompanied extras was the artwork. It was spectacular from cover to cover and even if I never get to play the game I am glad that it is part of my collection. To me, it feels like a mix of Alan Lee’s iconic Tolkien work and bizarrely the old Lord of the Rings animated film from 1978. It just feels Tolkien and hats off to Alvaro Tapia and all the other artists that worked on the books.
If you are a fan of Tolkien’s works, The One Ring RPG is a must-have and that goes for just collectors of his work as well. The game bridges the events between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and it is your chance to be part of that world and adventure. If you are one of the lucky ones that pre-ordered The One Ring you will be in for a treat with all the bonus materials you receive. Maps, pre-generated character sheets (I won’t spoil the surprise), Loremasters screen, cards, and adventures, it really is an amazing collection. So get out of your hobbit hole and start your adventures now.