What I like about “The One Ring”

torThe One Ring – Adventures over the Edge of the Wild” is the latest roleplaying game based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and I dare to say it’s the best so far. For me at least both MERP by Iron Crown Enterprises and the Lord of the Rings RPG by Decipher didn’t have the right feel to it.

When TOR was first announced, I was highly skeptical at first. I thought focusing on the Wilderlands only was a mistake and would only limit the possible customer base. But after reading the majority of the Adventurer’s Book, I am sure they did the right thing. The game is set a few years after the Battle of the Five Armies and is in my opinion a perfect introduction to Middle Earth.

I am currently reading the PDF version of the books that make up this game. I am waiting for the printed copy to arrive before I sit down and write a proper review, but let me assure you that even the PDF looks absolutely gorgeous. I applaud the creators for their decision not to use the movie license. Movie license games usually rely on set photos and movie stills too much. TOR on the other hand contains great original artwork that really fits my vision of Middle Earth.

The rules are pretty light and newbie-friendly. That’s another great plus. There are a lot of people who have read Tolkien’s books or enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy but never played a roleplaying game. Making it easy for them to grasp the game’s concepts is very important if you want to attract non-gamers as well.

The best part of TOR is probably “NO SPELLCASTERS”! There’s a lot of magic in Middle Earth, but just not the flashy kind you see in most other fantasy settings. Magic in Middle Earth is more subtle and usually ties to objects, like magic swords or rings. In my opinion TOR gets it right by not including a spell casting career. There is some magic in form of Cultural Virtues, like the Dwarves rune cutting skills or the magic of the Elves, but it’s not even close to throwing fireballs around.

If you are a fan of Tolkien’s work you really should give “The One Ring” a closer look. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

8 thoughts on “What I like about “The One Ring””

  1. Very good and succint overview of the game. I just received my hard copy yesterday, and while the PDF is gorgeous, the hard copy is down right stunning (and quite hefty).

    I’m looking forward to introducing our Valby group to the game once our key Tolkien enthusiast returns from his holidays 🙂

  2. I am intrigued but the thing is… I am not that big of a Tolkien fan. (Heresy I know, please don’t burn me at the stake.) I liked the novels, and I recognize their importance in literature BUT I have no desire to game in Middle Earth. I know I may not be in the majority and that is ok. I looked at them in Gen Con but ultimately decided I would be getting them and never playing them and hard as it may be I’m trying to avoid that. Enjoy! If does look very good.

  3. My problem with gaming in Middle Earth is two-fold:

    1. If you’re gaming “on the set” so to speak, that is to say in and about the times and areas portrayed in the books you’re left with two, to me, equally unpleasant options. You can either “plot on rails” it, forcing events to unfold as they did in the stories (ugh!) or you can change canonical events and outcomes (which leads to ever-diverging things and dramatically increases the GM’s workload).

    2. If you’re gaming “off the set”, that is to say away from the times and places portrayed in the books, you’re gaming in what is almost, but not quite, just a generic fantasy setting. (This is a tribute to the influence Middle Earth has had on so many fantasy settings, mind, but doesn’t change the result.)

    How does TOR get around this (if, indeed, it does)?

    1. The current game focuses on the Wilderlands shortly after the events of The Hobbit. So it’s probably what you would consider “off the set”. As far as I know there will be two more games/box sets that focus on other areas and eras of Middle Earth. At least the third one will probably be during the Ring War, so it could be considered “on the set”. Of course I don’t know at this moment how the game will circumvent the problems you listed.
      What I can say is that the setting provided with the “The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild” doesn’t fell generic at all. It feels like Middle Earth. The artwork and the rules of the game fit the world perfectly. And I think the world is big enough to allow some interesting stories that haven’t been already told in detail by Tolkien in his books. Of course there will always be people unhappy with what they did, but I still think it was a great choice for this first of many products.

  4. Nice review. I have been waiting most of my life for an rpg setting of Middle Earth that actually felt right. I like that they start the game just after the death of Smaug. Just to shake things up and let you play a part of the game that most people would not have thought of.

    The rules seem fairly simple, which I like. The day of complicated rule sets for me is over. I just want to get the game and play, and not feel like I need to read rules over and over and over again, to understand how to play.

  5. It’s amazing how people that consider themselves Tolkien fans don’t even know how to properly spell the name of his invented world. It is Middle-earth and not Middle Earth.

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