Hi, and welcome back to the third installment of our Let’s Study of The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild. Today we’ll be looking at the basic building blocks of a Player-Hero in TOR. This won’t be a completely detailed account, as I wouldn’t want to spoil everything, of course.
There are only three basic characteristics in TOR:
- Body, which governs physical aptitude
- Heart, which governs the force of will or spirit that a Player-Hero possesses, and
- Wits, which represents the mental ability of a character.
While it seems very simplistic to have only three attributes, it becomes important to note that the default resolution system of TOR doesn’t always use the Attribute, instead relying on skill level to determine the baseline ability of a character.
That is not to say that attributes are generally useless. In fact, one falls back to the basic attributes whenever things get dicey, and player characters must resort to spending Hope points to add the apropriate Attribute’s entire rating to their roll’s result.
A lot of rpgs have a skill system, and TOR is no different. However TOR does categorize its skill list into six skill groups:
- Personality – These skills relate to interpersonal interaction. Impressing someone, or cowing another into submission all fall under this particular Skill Group.
- Movement – Skills in this group are used to handle the rigors of travel, overcoming various obstacles and generally getting to where the characters aren’t supposed to be in.
- Perception – It might seem odd to have an entire skill group dedicated to perception, but the skills involved are ones used to passively notice something amiss, to ferret out if someone is lying, and the deliberate act of searching a location.
- Survival – Survival skills are essential in this game, as TOR is ultimately a game about adventuring in the wild (as if the title didn’t give it away) Player-Heroes really should consider making sure that they have at least some skill in this group.
- Custom – I love this particular skill group. Nothing says Tolkien more than having “Song” as a deliberate skill. Songs are powerful things in the Tolkien mythos, as they are a certain means to draw out a desired emotion from those listening to the performer.
- Vocation – These are the skills of various crafts and trade. Knowledge comes in all forms, from tactics to lore and know-how to put together furniture from wood.
The skills don’t end there, as there are also Weapon Skills that determine a Player-Hero’s knowledge in the use of various weapons to fight. All characters from TOR are assumed to be trained well enough to be able to use at least three different kinds of weapons, making them quite capable in a fight, even if their initial concept makes them out to be scholars or other non-combative types.
One of the most interesting aspects of TOR lie in its Trait system. To put it simply, Traits are tags that apply to a character, defining them in some manner by expressing an aspect that is inherent to them. These could be a quality, like Cautious, or a particular form of know-how, like Cooking. These Traits are not just there for show, but rather, they are useful in all sorts of situations, as they can convey several benefits:
- Automatic actions – There’s no need to roll for a mundane task if a character has a Trait to handle that sort of action. A character with Cooking, for example, will consistently be able to cook a filling meal for the party without having to roll.
- Unforseen actions – If there’s a situation wherein a character with a relevant Trait could intervene, then the player may request to be able to roll, even if it normally would not have been possible. Again, a person with Cooking might be able to demand to roll to check for poisons or drugs in food served to them even if normally characters would not have an opportunity to find out.
- Advancement points – To put it simply, a Player-Hero can gain an advancement point by succeeding in a task that strongly supports one of his Traits. In essence, this is a neat little rule that allows for the system to promote role-playing that is faithful to the character concept.
Endurance and Hope
Of all the stats in TOR, Endurance and Hope are some of the ones that really stand out to me. Endurance is basically a character’s hitpoints, which is all fine and dandy except that it also figures into when you count as Weary, a potentially lethal condition that makes you much less competent than you ought to be in a fight (or in anything else for that matter.)
But Hope, oh boy, Hope is a take on the familiar Fate Point / Action Point mechanic, wherein spending this particular resource imparts a hefty bonus to a given action. In this case, a character may spend a point of Hope in order to add the relevant Attribute to the result of their roll. Sounds great, right? Well, it is, except for the fact that it is very difficult to recover Hope during an adventure. To add to the complications, if your Hope rating dips below the number of Shadow points that your Player-Hero has, then they become Miserable, and susceptible to all sorts of moments of weaknesses, much like Boromir went pretty crazy and tried to take the Ring away from Frodo.
I’m very happy with these two stats as it keeps things nice and gritty. Tolkien isn’t always about singing about mushrooms and dancing to music. It’s also about being driven to the very limits of your willpower to achieve a goal that seems so hopeless. TOR keeps those two aspects of the lore and uses them to full effect in this game.
Fellowship is a shared stat, a pool of points that anyone in the group can dip into for extra Hope points… assuming that the majority of the Fellowship agree to let the player do so. It’s an interesting mechanic, and while most groups will just automatically okay drawing from the Fellowship pool, there may also be interesting conflicts that arise when some Players feel that the risk is acceptable, while others prefer to play a little safer. Interesting stuff here.
Furthermore, every character has a Fellowship Focus, a relationship between themselves and another character in the Fellowship. It can be bonds of kinship, sworn oaths of protection or some other purpose, but every character has someone else that matters to them. This is interesting as working towards the protection and safety of your Fellowship Focus is one of the ways to restore Hope points. Of course, this cuts both ways. Should your Fellowship Focus be injured, or worse, slain… then you start gaining Shadow points for your trouble.
TOR is really looking like a game that was built from the ground up to emulate the Tolkien experience. Everything from how Endurance and Hope works, to the choice of skills used in the game (Song, for instance) are all things that have appeared in one way or another in the stories that Tolkien has left us with. I’m very happy to see this sort of attention to detail and effort placed in making a ruleset that helps generate an authentic experience of the Tolkien world.
Tomorrow we take a peek at Character Advancement, and see what benefits Player-Heroes reap when they become veteran adventurers.
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is available at DriveThruRPG for for $29.99 or roughly Php 1230.00