The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild from Cublicle 7 Entertainment, is the latest tabletop RPG related to Middle-Earth. As such, it carries an enormous burden of expectations from fans of the older RPGs and tolkien scholars alike.
The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild is positioned as the first product in what seems to be a trilogy of core sets (and accompanying supplements) that will detail a massive span of years and regions of Middle-Earth, as well as the people and cultures found therein.
The One ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild focuses on the time 5 years after the events of the Hobbit, and on an area of Middle-Earth known as the Wilderland.
As an introductory set, The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is a fully self-contained product. The Physical version has two rulebooks (The Adventurer’s Book and the Loremaster’s Book) two poster sized maps and 7 specially marked dice (a d12 and six d6’s). The PDF version, which I am reviewing, has 4 pdfs, one for each book, and one for each map. Thankfully one doesn’t really need the specially marked dice, as long as one keeps in mind a few special rules with regards to the dice rolls.
The books are well written, with a friendly, approachable tone that takes the time to explain every facet of the game. The language used is easy enough to follow, and the writer takes great pains to introduce each concept and facet of the rules. This comes in extremely handy, as the game rules are a mix of old ideas and new concepts bundled neatly in a package that is uniquely Tolkien in nature.
I’d probably do a disservice to the designer and author by trying to explain the system in depth here, but I will make note of the little things that caught my eye.
I like the core dice rolling mechanic, which focuses on rolling a pool consisting of a d12 (called the Feat die), and a number of d6’s (called Success dice) equal to the skill rating against a target number.
While this doesn’t seem all that innovative, the rest of the fun comes from little details. The Feat die, for example is numbered 1-10, and features the Eye of Sauron symbol on one face, and the Gandalf rune on another. This can easily be substituted in a regular d12 with 11 as Sauron and 12 as Gandalf. For player characters, rolling the Gandalf Rune is an automatic success, while a result showing the Eye of Sauron is treated as a zero.
The Success dice, on the other hand are numbered 1-6, with the 6 also marked with the Tengwar rune. The number of tengwar runes that show up in a successful roll are used to determine the degrees of success. A failed roll isn’t affected by the Tengwar rune.
Another feature of the dice is that it’s affected by certain status conditions. Weary characters for example, can’t count Success dice results of 1, 2 or 3 when making a roll. While Miserable characters suffer a bout of madness should they roll the Eye of Sauron on the Feat die.
The rest of the resolution system is fairly straightforward and easy enough to learn. While I wouldn’t say that this is one of those games that you can read for a few hours in the afternoon then run in the evening, I do commend the writing for making the learning as painless as possible.
Character Creation is a hybrid of templates and point distribution, starting off with picking a Character’s Heroic Culture, making a few choices between the character’s specialties, selecting (or rolling for) the character’s background, and picking two distinctive features. The next part is where you customise the hero by spending experience to bump skills and pick out other aspects of the character, such as a hero’s calling, Valor and Wisdom scores, and recording starting gear.
Each of the Heroic cultures presented in the book are interesting, and discussed at length. They all have things that set them apart from the other, while being broad enough to accommodate a Fellowship with multiple characters from the same culture. The various Backgrounds that accompany each Culture are all interesting, and easy to get into.
Some players might find that having to choose backgrounds stifles their creativity. Given that the backgrounds seem to be derived from the same template, it shouldn’t be difficult for more experienced players (and GMs) to form new Background by distributing 14 points in Basic Attributes, Picking out a Favoured Skill and grabbing two Distinctive Features.
The various Callings, on the other hand talk of the why’s of a character. The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild posits itself as a game of wilderness adventure, where the Fellowships go forth beyond their civilizations to either reclaim lost knowledge, fight sworn enemies, discover what’s over the horizon or other motivations.
I’ve mentioned Fellowships prior to this, but I’d like to make it clear that I am impressed by the focus that the game pays to the idea of having friends to back you up. This is represented by Fellowship mechanics, which in turn help a character by providing them a means to draw on their friends for the morale and courage necessary to endure hardship, or achieve great deeds.
Another aspect of the game I liked was how The One Ring went on to explain that the games often had two phases, the Adventuring Phase, and the Fellowship Phase. The discussion of the Fellowship Phase is actually a long and detailed explanation of what is more commonly known as “downtime.” Several downtime actions are explained in detail, all of which are reminiscent of the books. I like this touch as it plays up the fact that adventurer’s aren’t always out fighting evil in every waking moment. Sometimes they need to find a place to rest and heal and improve themselves.
So far we’ve looked at the Adventurer’s Book, which detailed character creation, aspects of adventuring and the options for downtime in the Fellowship Phase. This is the meat of the game, but it doesn’t mean that the GM doesn’t get attention as well.
The Loremaster’s book is the GM guide and monster manual of the The One Ring. In it, the author goes on to explain the nature of the Loremaster’s job as storyteller and referee, and like in the Adventurer’s Book, the author does a splendid job of easing in a new Loremaster into the task.
The Loremaster’s book also contains additional mechanics with regards to adventuring, including detailed rules for journeys. This involves calculating travel times based on the season, distance, method of travel and frequency of hazards that could be encountered. Given that the game is focused on adventures in a untamed Wildlands, it’s a mechanic that I was glad to see included in this book.
The Shadow is given more attention here, with an explanation of Corruption, and it’s insidious nature. Adversaries such as Orcs and Giant Spiders are also given full treatment here, with variants based on location and tactics.
The Setting of the Wildlands is also given the full treatment in this book, providing an extensive timeline of the events that happened in the Wildlands. Various notable locations are also given one or two paragraphs each, giving a Lorekeeper without much exposure to Tolkien something to use. Fans of the world will be happy to see completely statted NPCs in the book, including Radagast the Brown.
The Lorekeepers book also includes a starting adventure “The Marsh Bell” which should be of great use to new groups who are just getting into the hobby for the first time with The One Ring as their introductory product.
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is a thing of beauty. The artwork is superb, the layout clean, and the writing easy to follow.
The rules for the game are tightly designed, and intereact in new and surprising ways that are a welcome change to tried-and-true mechanics that we see all the time in other games.
The game works hard to remain true to it’s source material, and elements in the mechanics all work to support and encourage the Tolkien feel, while introducing a less commonly explored and understood area of the Wildlands, where player characters can go out and be heroes without being overshadowed by various NPCs.
Cubicle 7 takes on the burden of coming up with a product that lives up to the legacy of the fiction that inspired it, and succeeds effortlessly.
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is available from DriveThruRPG for $29.99 or roughly Php 1230.00