Smaug has been defeated, the Battle of Five Armies has been won, and Bilbo has returned to the Shire. The War of the Ring is several generations away. In the relative peace, the Free Peoples of Wilderland look beyond their borders for the first time, establishing trade routes, renewing bonds between their cultures, and bringing prosperity to the region of northern Mirkwood, the Lonely Mountain, and the eastern slopes of the Misty Mountains.
But much danger still remains, and from the Orc-holds of the mountains to the dark and corrupt depths of Mirkwood a darkness waits, recovering its strength, laying its plans, and slowly extending its shadow . . . .
If you were looking for a system that best represented that hard to describe, Tolkienesque feel of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, you’ve found it.
The One Ring is a brilliantly composed, wonderfully illustrated and rich system in which to immerse yourself as a player or as a GM. The mechanics are as close to elegant as I’ve seen in a system that I would not consider rules-lite and the wealth of story from which many fantasy fans can draw in the context of Tolkien’s world means there will be much to do in this game. If this is your kind of setting, you will truly enjoy The One Ring.
Here is a system that actually emphasizes such things as courage, loyalty and friendship – themes that are very strongly present in Tolkien’s works.
It uses an interesting die mechanic – with a 12 sided die being the basis for any skill roll. This die (the “Feat” die) represents an unskilled roll, with a chance at automatic success or failure. Each skill level gives the player an additional six sided die to roll along with their Feat die. The more sixes you roll, the better you succeed.
Characters only have three attributes: Body, Heart and Wits. There are 18 skills (three sets of six) that are divided between these stats. Characters also have Valor and Wisdom which helps the player and GM to understand how that character is regarded by others. There’s also Hope points, which can be used to gain extra dice for rolls, or otherwise influence the game.
Every party is called a Fellowship, and the entire party shares a pool of Fellowship points which can be used to replenish individual Hope points. That right there is a very neat mechanic, and goes a long way towards making this game feel like an extension of Tolkien’s world.
There is also Corruption. Gain too much corruption, and you’re character goes over to the shadow.
Combat is handled quite well and also has that Middle Earth feel to it, with called shots and different combat stances that can be taken, which are quite representative of the characters we all know from the Lord of the Rings. Defensive stances, for instance invoke in me thoughts of Dwarves. The Rearward stance makes me think of Elven archers.
What I really took away from these books are two things. First, that it is an interesting and easily playable system that brings a lot to the gaming table. Second, that it really does bring that Middle Earth feel to the game – it’s a quality that’s hard to define, but the creators of this game have really nailed it. Even the mechanics, the usually dry and statistical part of any RPG, are grounded firmly in Tolkien’s characters. It says something about the developer’s level of commitment when mechanics have a character all their own.
If you enjoy the world of Middle Earth, you will very much enjoy these books. Well put together, illustrations that evoke that instant recognition of Middle Earth and just damned fun to read and play. 5 out of 5 stars.