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Review: The One Ring TTRPG is a cozy take on The Lord of the Rings

The tablet role-playing game made a big splash last year, with more crowdfunding campaigns surpassing the million-dollar mark on Kickstarter than in any previous year. Chief among them is A ringThe second edition of the award-winning RPG system was first published in 2011. The campaign made over $2 million, as it of course did: Lord of the Rings trilogy, and its predecessor Hobbitsis the ancestor of virtually all forms of role-playing, one of the genre’s mainstays and one of the most popular fantasy series of all time.

So how do you make a modern tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) out of something so beloved and famous?

In an age of legend – that is, the additional means of association created after the publication date of the original work – it feels like a difficult arc to make Tolkien’s Middle-earth stand out from all. Derivative myths have sprung up around it. Lord of the Rings exists in every size imaginable, on every computer system, game console, television screen, and for all ages. The challenge here is to make sure that this TTRPG appeals to both fans who have grown up with the franchise and fans who have never really struggled with the original texts. It needs to feel appealing without becoming veiled; welcome without being watered down.

The Core Rules of the System, a book titled The One Ring: Immerse yourself in the world of The Lord of the Rings, trying to take a fresh take on Middle-earth by focusing on parts of the Tolkien world that were decided Not Epic. It establishes the first timeline; this is the twilight of the Third Age, a game set after the events of Hobbits no calls yet The fellowship of the ring. This creates a growing sense of dread in the contemporary mundane context. The problems are not the problems of the world; they did not threaten to divide Middle-earth. This is a game written for fans who want related stories based on the extensive lore of Lord of the Rings.

A character sheet for Bilbo Baggins, as well as three other inhabitants of shire.

The Starter Includes eight pre-made characters, custom dice, and a set of warrior cards detailing weapons and armor.
Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon

That’s not to say there aren’t mechanics for epic battles and longer encounters, but no armies, no wars. You won’t lead the Horse-Lords as they reclaim the land of Rohan from Dunlendings, but you and your friends may have to figure out a way to break Farmer Maggot’s barn and still make it home in time for a second supper.

The maps, including inside the book’s front and back covers, are presented both in the parchment style of the original novel and as a field of colorful hexagons, a world map. Old fashioned Dungeons & Dragons. Together, they detail places in Middle-earth that are often shaded to create other, more expansive landscapes. The characters will explore Hobbiton, not Lothlorien; The fighting happened in Weathertop, not Minas Tirith. This game is firmly established in Eriador, the land west of the Misty Mountains, far from the mythical and foreboding Mordor. The cultures in the book are those from the Shire, from Bree, and from Lindon. Ironically, there is no mention of a ring in the book, except for a brief note in Traveling Gear on the pre-created Bilbo Baggins character page. In fact, there are only a few pages at the end of Loremaster’s chapter on the Eye of Mordor detailing what could really trigger Sauron for the player’s small, remote company in the first place.

Lead writer Francesco Nepitello explicitly limits the scope of the game, but doesn’t compromise it. With clarity and attention to detail, the world-building in the book establishes boundaries in the player character’s experience, before focusing on the ways in which they can cross those boundaries. by physical journey through the map. It sets limits, then immediately invests players in breaking them. A ring focus on small stake stories and land travel. This means that the structure of the role-playing game not only has the perfect place in the established norm, but also offers to those unfamiliar (or even uninterested) the media. initial opportunity to explore a wonderfully delicate land in any way they choose.

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The core book includes two different versions of the Eriador map.
Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon and Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon

This is especially obvious with The One Ring: Starter Set, the system’s intro box set. Two of the three pamphlets inside that box, titled Adventures and Shire, both contain pre-made scenarios for the player’s characters to explore. However, you won’t find any magicians or kings in it. Eriador is not a land of sturdy borders and mighty empires, but a rural setting of interconnected friends and family, local legends and segregated communities. . Adventures the book itself is a series of five scenarios starring Bilbo Baggins as a non-player character who guides the player, gives them small quests, and eases them into the journey. longer program to come.

The unique game system uses d12-based dice rolling based on pass or fail, with character stats and skills helping to determine success through additional d6 dice rolls. Each player knows the number of targets they need to hit to pass a certain skill test, so the game controller (called the lore manager here) doesn’t even need to judge result. That tends to speed up play, and it also allows the lore manager to use the quality of a certain roll of dice – 12 being automatic success, 1 being absolute failure – to steer the novel , generating investment for both the player and the lore manager with each reel. The game recommends custom d12 and d6 dice, both of which come with Starterbut it’s also pretty easy to rely on standard dice.

An interior illustration of an elf comforting a dying human underneath a tree.

Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon

An undead monster crawled through a tunnel. Rohan's two riders were at the ready, carved like bas-reliefs on either side of the gate.

Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon

There are two stages in the game structure: Adventure Phase and Friendship Phase. After the game’s more typical Adventure Phase, where the characters encounter situations and have to trick, fight, or run through various obstacles in their path, the Scholarship Stage is a period of time. rest and maintain. Players have the opportunity to gauge the progress recorded on their character’s page, calculating if they’ve raised their character’s mettle or intelligence enough to upgrade their weapons or skills. They also have the opportunity to prepare for their next adventure, raise an heir (in the form of a new character), or change their character’s skills. This reminds me Ryuutama, A cozy Japanese journey game by Atsuhiro Okada, where the player focuses on a journey through the landscape without spending too much time on accuracy. which the landscape they are passing through.

Both games have a sense of some kind of latent darkness at the edges of the map, but don’t approach it with any care. It’s there, but it’s backend. A ring There’s also an earnest feeling to it, the kind of adventure you go on when you’re not dealing with the threat of war or invasion. It’s an interesting space to occupy, in a narrative way, creating a title in the game itself. While the epic legend of Lord of the Rings hanging heavy A ringthe game is very intentionally focused on the pastoral valleys and lands of Eriador, like Ryuutama Created its mythology around discovery and small town drama.

The map of The Shire is in the map drawer.

Large map included Starter is two-faced, with one side a captivating depiction of The Shire.
Photo: Charlie Hall / Polygon

The third similarity with Ryuutama is the existence of a patron. The Legend Manager is encouraged to provide the group with a wise and powerful member of Middle-earth to guide you on their journey. The patrons listed in the book are mainstream characters, some familiar (Gandalf, Bilbo) and others more obscure (Cirdan, Tom Bombadil). They help connect another humble setting with something grand and, if the campaign continues, potentially something truly epic in its own right.

By firmly setting A ring in a microcosm of a large, familiar world, the book pushes the story beyond the traditional hero’s journey – the same push against the traditional heroic structure that Tolkien himself commented in his book. There’s still room for the popular classic magic and sword RPGs that many people love, but it’s also admitted that sometimes the true hero’s journey can be just getting there and back. Again.

The One Ring: Immerse yourself in the world of The Lord of the Rings and One Ring Starter launching on March 22. Both are available for pre-order at Federation’s free online store homepage. The game was evaluated with a pre-release copy of the physical products provided by the Free League. Vox Media has an affiliate partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.

https://www.polygon.com/reviews/22905204/lord-of-the-rings-rpg-one-ring-starter-set-review Review: The One Ring TTRPG is a cozy take on The Lord of the Rings

Aila Slisco

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