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The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/30/2019 10:15:27

The One Ring is a gem. I love it to bits. It's the best, most faithful adaptation of the source material I've ever seen in a game. The authors managed to capture the spirit of the Professor's works, translate them to custom mechanics (!), then present it in a truly immersive way. It's a Middle-Earth game I've always wanted: Beautiful on the surface, yet hiding a bleak post-apocalyptic world right beneath the surface. It's a story of a world that falls to Darkness and the heroes figthing an uneven battle to preserve it, presented with underlying melancholy instead of crude, in-your-face grim-dark imagery.

Also, I struggle to call it an RPG game.

It's slick, easy and extremely fun, yet very faithful to the Middle-Earth. The rules concentrate on things integral to Tolkien's books, treating everything that does not come with the territory as redundant. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it makes The One Ring something of a tunnel vision game. It replicates the experience of a Hobbit-like adventure to a Z, and bars any other kind of gameplay. As a result, it feels more like a paragraph board game, only with a gamemaster in place of a paragraph book. Don't get me wrong, it's terrific. However, if you come to the game with classic RPG expectations, you may find yourself disappointed. There's not much of RPG freedom to be had here.

The game follows a pretty strict narrative structure. Each adventure is a self-contained story, with clear-set objectives. There is an exposition, a mandatory (!) travel phase interrupted with combat and encouter (NPC) phases, a resolution and Fellowship phase where the characters return home. As a rule, the characters may undertake one adventure per year - the Fellowship phase describes everything the characters do in the following months. Each phase is scripted and carried out according to the same exact rules. Dice rolls, random events and refer-the-table resolutions are rife, and executed with polished brilliance.

As an example, the travel phase takes place on a literal board: The players move on a map, which the GM resolves with a hexagonic, colour-coded version they can't see. During combat, there's a surprise / initiative phase, then all enemies are placed so that each PC is fighting at least one of them - there's no tactical movement. The players have to assume one of four stances (which determines both their attack and defence values), then either attack or take a single action ascribed to their stance. Tactical options boil down to the prescribed game mechanics. The Fellowship phase allows the characters to spend experience and recover from some of the ailing effects; there is no character advancement or reducing Corruption during the adventure.

Speaking of Corruption: The One Ring embraces Tolkien's views of sin and human nature in all their puritan, black-and-white, zero-one glory. The game contains a Corruption mechanics similar to Ravenloft's Powers Checks. The characters' trangressions decay their integrity, ultimately making them fall to shadow. I adore the concept, but the standards are set impossibly high. Any voluntary misdeed results in an automatic Corruption gain: For example, lying or deceiving gives automatic 2 points. That's true to the source material but, in my opinion, it undermines the role-playing aspect of the game. It throws moral ambiguity and character development right out of the window, punishing the players for playing anything but the carbon copies of Tolkien's goody-two-shoes. Characterisation is often quoted as the biggest flaw of the Professor's books, and for a good reason.

As you can see, the game really captures the spirit of a Hobbit narrative. As you can also see, it doesn't allow you to do any other kind of narrative in Middle-Earth. It's polished, full of heart and absolutely marvellous at what it does. Do come prepared, however. It's not quite an RPG game in the sense you might be used to. It doesn't make it any less of a terrific game, though.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
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