Few novels have had such a profound effect upon me than the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Growing up, the escapades of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins were deeply affecting and inspired many dreams and adventurings of my own. Indeed, Tolkien is probably largely responsible for my becoming a roleplayer at all.
Over the years there have been many attempts made to create a game to allow people to enter Middle-earth and adventure there. I've played all of those that I have ever come across, including the efforts of Iron Crown and Decipher.
This post is a review of the latest incarnation of roleplaying in the world of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.
We need to start by acknowledging that, so far, I have only had opportunity to read the first of the two tomes that you will receive when you purchase The One Ring: the 'Adventurer's Book'.
Before I go on, however, let's be clear: if you want to buy this game then hit the Cubicle7 website and pay for the books there. You will receive the printed version but, despite paying top dollar for the books, you will also receive a copy of the files in .PDF format. This will be invaluable for you because it gives you not only electronic access to the books but also a printable version of the beautiful maps supplied... and you'll be wanting to annotate those maps as you play, so don't trash the pre-printed ones - print another copy for yourself.
What You Get
You get two beautifully produced books, one for players and the other for the Loremaster. You also get a printed map of Wilderland and a Loremaster version which is filled with additional info. Finally, in the slip case, you will find a set of seven customised dice - a d12 and six d6. Cherish these items, adventurer, for they are wondrous to behold.
Physical worth aside, you also get the most flavorful system for gaming in Middle-earth that I have ever experienced. The author has excelled in creating just the right tone for the game that is drawn strongly from the Professor's works. The system is simple and compelling, and re-imagines fantasy roleplaying to suit Middle-earth.
You can play a Hobbit, a Man, an Elf or a Dwarf. You will hail from one of the cultures surrounding Wilderland, that region east of the Misty Mountains and centred upon Mirkwood. You will create a hero who reflects the tone and style of Tolkien's works but who is also unique and ready to adventure in the Wild.
The basic premise is that it's year 2946 of the Third Age, five years after the events of The Hobbit. You are forming a company of adventurer's to continue the struggle against the Shadow. Adventures are set within Wilderland and feature your hero's growth and development from a lowly suspicious adventurer towards becoming a true Hero of legend.
Simple mechanics allow you to choose a broad outline for your hero and then customise them to fit your own style and vision of play. Details of the core mechanics are available on the Cubicle7 website, so I'll not repeat them here... I will simply say that they are a delight to read and use.
What I Really Like
You will play an character who can rise from humble beginnings to noble heights. The things about this game that really appeal are as follows:
When Can We Play?
- You start out as nothing-too-special but you have a shot at greatness.
- Wizards are not an option... which makes them really special Loremaster characters.
- Every choice matters: the emphases you choose will directly impact play, but not in an obvious way.
- The system rewards clever play and management of character resources.
- It's all about your Body, Heart and Wits... and mostly it's about Heart. What makes a Hero is more than cool shticks.
- Combat is about team-work and co-operation... and it's dangerous too!
- You are going to be discovering... and everything in the game reinforces this sense of exploration.
- Fellowship is vital - there's even an after-adventure phase of the game to gather the Fellowship for rest and character development.
- I couldn't make up my mind which Culture to hail from first... and I wanted to PLAY as much as I fancy being Loremaster. That's a first!
This has become the question nagging at me since I first started reading the Adventurer's Book.
There are not many games that have me itching to PLAY them. I am not talking about GMing or running the game, which I also want to do... but to itch to PLAY the role of a Player-Hero is tangible.
This is the real revelation of the system for me. It makes sense, feels great and nags me to play... like the proverbial One Ring itself, it won't allow itself to be put aside without resistance.
I will undoubtedly invite some people to come to Middle-earth for a day of gaming with this system soon. Until then... The One Ring invites, calls and badgers my wayward heart to return to Middle-earth.
It's got so bad that I started re-reading The Hobbit.
Labels: fantasy, Middle-earth, review