[Let’s Study] The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild part 1 – Introduction

Posted: August 22, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games, The One Ring

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild (TOR) by Cubicle 7 is the latest role-playing game to be set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.  I’ve had a chance to weigh in my thoughts on TOR in my review, but today I start a Let’s Study series where we pick the game apart and see what makes it tick.

TOR is designed to be a roleplaying game that new and inexperienced groups of players should be able to pick up and play after a few hours of careful reading.  As such, the game starts off with the usual essay on what an RPG is, and a simple example of play.  These are succinct and easy to follow, and while the example does dabble a bit into game specific terminology, there’s enough for someone to follow through context.

TOR expressly states that the game itself takes place in the Wilderland, a vast expanse of territory that extends from the Misty Mountains up to the Running River.  It isn’t exacly the most popular of places, but it does allow for a starting band of heroes to go out and make a name for themselves.

I don’t mean this in the “This has great level 1 goblins!” sort of way, as the game doesn’t have character levels for progression (more on that later when we get to characters.)  Instead, what we have is a setting that could benefit a lot from heroes, and there aren’t any NPCs around in that place to do it all for you.  It’s a great place for would-be heroes to go out and do some good.  There’s no shortage of dark things in the region, and plenty of adventure to go around.

For us who aren’t Tolkien scholars, the book then goes on to talk about the timeframe of the game, Year 2946 of the Third Age, five years after a massive confrontation known as the Battle of Five Armies.  I found this as an interesting choice, as this period is pretty much an age of peace and quiet.  The various peoples are settling down, and recovering from the Battle, slowly rebuilding and establishing what will be a new way of life after Smaug.

The Game goes on to give a short 2-3 paragraph description of the various cultures found in the setting, as well as a bit about current events.  Presented are the Bardings, the Beornings, Dwarves of Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood, Hobbits of the Shire and Woodmen of the Wilderland.

The Shadow gets its own treatment, an evil power that wants to claim all of Middle-Earth for it’s own.  This evil has multiple forms and wages an unending war with various heroes.  With the end of the Battle of the Five armies, the Shadow is weaker, but not yet gone.

This part of the introduction deals predominantly with the setting.  It’s a thorough and well thought out presentation of the places and people that the player characters will be encountering, and lays out the mood of the game quite well.  It’s relatively “Safe” after the war, but by no means is the setting boring.  Instead it builds a mood of anticipation, of longing to see what’s beyond that next hill.

The introduction continues on to discuss the crunch side of the equation.  The first thing that caught me by surprise is the term Player-Heroes for player characters.  In some ways it’s a nice touch, a not-so-subtle reminder that the players are meant to be heroes, something that tends to be of paramount importance in a Tolkien fantasy setting.

The Loremaster’s Book is mentioned here for the first time, along with a note that it contains additional rules that the Loremaster would need to run the game and create stories that the players will enjoy.

Another interesting note in TOR is the fact that they expressly discuss the structure of the game, dividing it between two phases:  The Adventuring and the Fellowship phase.  To put it simply, the Adventuring Phase is the part where most of the action happens, where the adventure hook is presented and the Player-Heroes go off to save the day.  The Fellowship Phase, on the other hand, takes place after
the adventure is over.

It’s interesting to see the way the game expressly takes time to play up the importance of a proper denoument for a story… and if you consider the fact that the full title of “The Hobbit” was “The Hobbit: or There and Back Again.”  In this case TOR takes the time to make sure that everyone who reads the game (since both players and the loremaster should be familiar with the Adventurer’s book) should get the idea that the “Back Again” part of the equation is no less important.

The discussion on this matter is actually quite detailed, with the game going on to give an outline of the Hobbit to show what they mean.  Since this game is also geared towards those new to gaming, there’s also some requisite talk on narrative time, as well as a brief discussion on “Storytelling Initiative,” a concept that basically means who gets to have priority in dictating events, with the Loremaster getting the lion’s share, while players get to narrate what their Player-Heroes do during the Fellowship Phase.

Setting expectations is good and I’m really glad that TOR spend a lot of time in the introduction to make sure that not only is the setting adequately introduced to the reader, but the campaign structure is also given equal attention.  Having this sort of writeup can do much to get everyone to align their gameplay expectations of a campaign, and I think that many other games could benefit from having something like this

The last part of the introduction is a walkthrough of the basic resolution system for TOR.  I’ve detailed the specifics of this on my earlier review and as noted I do like the way that the dice were read in multiple ways, as well as how various conditions affect how the dice read.  Despite the fact that it is quite an elegant system, a part of me is a little concerned that the fiddliness of the dice would be tricky to remember if one was running via the PDF.  Given that I live here in the Philippines, I don’t have much else in terms of options.  Thankfully a d12 and d6’s aren’t that hard to find.

So far so good, TOR opens strong, with a solid handle for conveying the rules of a game, without detracting from the sense of wonder of the setting.  I’ll have to admit that the introduction chapter is one of the better ones I’ve read, cutting out all of the fat and conveying the information in a fashion that is easy to understand without being too intimidating.

Tomorrow we take a look at the next chapter: Characters, and we start looking at what’s involved in making Player-Heroes for TOR.

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is available at DriveThruRPG for for $29.99 or roughly Php 1230.00

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Comments
  1. Hi. Thanks for sharing your impressions. I’ll be following your reviews about TOR. A role-player from Chile.

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