Actually Played It: The One Ring 2E

There and back again with Free League's new preciousssss.

What has it got in its pocketses?

The One Ring 2Ed is in the most capable hands of the folks at Free League. It is a roleplaying game based on the Lord of the Rings properties. The first edition and the revised were produced by Cubicle 7. You play a fellowship of folks, but not that fellowship in the Third Age. Biblo is back home with the One Ring. Gandalf and company believe it to still be lost. This is a nice spot to adventure in, darkness is returning and can be experienced in different parts of Middle Earth at this time. The mechanics are a dice pool of D12 and D6s with skills, advantages factoring in how many of each. You have to exceed target numbers derived from your stats (20 - relevant stat). There are critical success mechanics when you max out the d12 or d6s. I like it. Combat takes these base mechanics and makes them a bit cruncher. Different combat stances, being outnumbered, and remembering to use your battle skill to help you and others. Endurance and Hope are two derived stats you’ll always be eyeing. Combat and the amount of stuff you carry impacts endurance which can make you weary. Being weary means 1-3s are ignored on your d6s. Your Hope and Shadow, if ever the twain meet - you become miserable.

That Ol’ Black black sorcery

So far I’ve run eight sessions of The One Ring on We’ve engaged the journey mechanics, combat, skill endeavors, audience(social) mechanics, treasure hoards, and shadow. That’s a complete adventure and fellowship phase. The latter is player-driven downtime where they can advance character stats and development. The plot —looking back was about tracking down the fell sorcerer Gorlanc. I started the series with a task to escort travelers from Bree to Rivendell and followed the players from there as situations developed. They fought a troll, met a ranger of the north, and later they picked up her mission to capture the foul sorcerer Gorlanc. They recovered a Palantir, fought, and escaped a wight. Chased off orcs with trolls and had an audience with the Dunedain then set off to Bree capture Gorlanc. It’ll be close to ten or tweleve sessions when we close that ‘story arc’ I’ve got two more mechanical bits to fit in from The One Ring. Landmarks, and Nameless things. Landmarks are set pieces in The One Ring, think a dungeon crawl with Indie game sensiblities. The Nameless things are horrific creatures of shadow - mentioned in a Gandalf line.

The Rundown

This edition feels mechanically tighter than the previous Cubicle 7 version. The Journey rules use fewer dice in a more interesting way. Players now test how far along the journey they are before the next event occurs. I’m a fan of the council mechanics for social conflicts. Combat in The One Ring has always been gripping fun, like a mini-board game. There are rules for gaining shadow through foul deeds. The Eye of Sauron for when your fellowship is meddling in the affairs of the dark lord! I do not like the character advancement, a standard 3 adventure points and 3 skill points every session. Easily fixed by looking at Forbidden Lands or Mutant Year Zero as guidelines.

I’d play this again, for sure. I’d have more ‘campfire’ scenes, those moments where the player-characters interact amoung themselves and we the audience gain a better depth of understanding about them. This wasn’t happening organically, and there is no game incentive for it —but we know that activity has value. I might make this an adventure point award. On advancement awards, I’d bust up the default three adventure points and three skill points award, you get these at the end of sessions. I’d change this to maybe something like: Did you learn something new about a PC or NPC? Did you visit a new place? Mark an adventure point. Skill points might be awarded for confronting an enemy, overcoming a significant obstacle with a (favored) skill, did you help your buddy? Free League has good examples in Mutant Year Zero and Forbidden Lands.

I would double down on “what are we doing?” Making certain we’re have a hot situation(s) from the start. The One Ring isn’t a sandbox game —you could do it, but I think it shines with an agreed-upon premise. Our game turned out to be hunting down a fell sorcerer. I would make that part of the zero-session conversation, in our game it happened organically —and that’s not bad, it costs a session or two to nail it though.

There and back again

The One Ring is a solid, magical experience. You could run one-shots of it, I’d stick with the core mechanics and combat. With new players, you could be overwhelming them with the game’s subsystems. Four to six sessions is a nice place for a short run, or a small scale experience before committing to something larger, like a second breakfast!

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