The One Ring roleplaying game is currently in my list of favorite games. I’ve recently ran a mini campaign in my FLGS, Chaos City Comics to a lot of success and after the current season of DnD Encounters is complete we are looking to possibly resume it. What I really like about The One Ring is that, in essence, it is a narrative driven game, but provides a few rules for character customization and advancement to make it interesting to those of us who still like to spend countless hours slaying monsters in dungeons. Loremaster’s Screen and the Lake-Town Sourcebook is a double packaged product that provides exactly what it says on the tin.
The game isn’t without it’s faults (but what game is?). And it might seem strange to release two diverse products packaged into one. What if I don’t want the screen? Or I’m not that bothered about the sourcebook? Well, to be honest, both are needed. As someone who’s run the game before, having these in my hands feels kind of like a relief. For one, The One Ring is a narrative heavy game but within itself doesn’t include a lot of information on how to build narratives for GMs. Yes, the Loremaster’s Book has some general information on locales, movers and shakers and the world history. But when it comes to specifics the game is lacking. There are many locations within the world like Dale, Woodland Hall or Esgaroth, the Lake-Town itself, but none are thoroughly detailed. Whilst this is really not a problem for someone who’s heavy on Tolkien lore, I myself know very little in comparison. I’ve seen the films, I’ve read the books a few times (ages ago), and I stared at the Silmarillion very hard in hopes of penetrating it with my mind. Still I found myself clearly in need of information about the inner workings of locales. It’s not a detrimental problem as all it takes is a bit of creativity on one’s part. But sometimes it’s just nice to open up a book and let it do all the hard work for you.
And this is exactly what the Lake-Town Sourcebook does. And then some. We get a lovely detailed map of the city, with various locations marked on the map with numbers. Those numbers are then referenced within the text, describing the places of interest. The descriptions themselves provide pretty much what you would expect, some detail on the visuals and information on various NPCs that you might find and relevant mini stat blocks with a few skills per character type. The book then proceeds to offer various other little fixes to the game. The one thing my players were always confused about was treasure. The problem for them was not only that it wasn’t tangible (it’s literally just measured in points of treasure), but that there wasn’t that much to do with it. I understand why it’s been written like that. The focus of the game shouldn’t be on monetary gain. The type of characters played in The One Ring are all bold heroes that put material wealth behind them. But I would argue though that it would need to be either removed altogether or given some purpose. To my delight, there’s not only a system that converts treasure points into a form of currency, but also provides new fellowship phase undertakings (for those unfamiliar with the fellowship phase, it’s meant to represent downtime between adventures and allows you to improve your character) that enables you to spend the treasure within the market to purchase items that improve certain skills, which have otherwise been very difficult to improve.
The sourcebook isn’t all patches though. For such a small book there’s a wealth of material and exciting additions to the game. First of all we get a new culture, The Men of the Lake, which itself is a derivative of the Bardings. There’s also cultural rewards and virtues to accompany the new ‘race’, providing some neat abilities for various types of characters. We also get some information on the Day of the Black Arrow, an archery event meant to honor Bard the Dragonslayer. A chunk of the book is devoted to this event and rules are presented on how to GM this specific archery competition with various skill challenges. A fellowship undertaking of herb gathering in the marshes will allow access to various herbs described in the book, with potential bonuses that aid the party. For the adventurers who like to stray too far into the marshes three new monsters appearing in the booklet might pose a big threat, including a hulking Marsh-ogre, who’s mangle ability allows him to hit twice. The book is finished off with a sample player character belonging to the new culture, and a blank character sheet with the Lake-men specifics pre-filled.
The screen is beautiful. That’s it. It’s just gorgeous.
Oh, that’s not enough you say? What’s behind the screen you say? Well, EVERYTHING. Everything is behind the screen. Every little rule thing that you couldn’t remember before is there. From healing, to roleplaying, to monster abilites, to corruption tests. Rules for combat. It’s all there. I can see this screen simply becoming invaluable. I have a love-hate relationship with them as I hate having a barrier between me and my players. But this is just so useful, barriers-be-damned. The quality of the manufacturing is great; the cardboard is possibly the sturdiest I’ve encountered in a screen.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the product because it addresses all the little issues that have been nagging me since I started GMing The One Ring. This is clear evidence that the people at Cubicle 7 listen to their players’ concerns and provide answers. Which is all anyone could ask for from a games publishing company. I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for The One Ring in the future and highly recommend the Loremaster’s Screen and Lake-Town Sourcebook.
p.s. To those of you who do own the game (or are looking at owning it), here are a few handy links that you might have not yet discovered.
If you GMed this game before, you know that the index isn’t quite up to scratch. Here’s an updated index from the developer’s website – Index (right-click to save)
The rules for journeys have been revised and now work much better. If you haven’t yet, check out the new journey rules – Journeys revised (right-click to save)
There’s a thread on the Cubicle 7 forum that combines a lot of useful information + fan made content. Definitely worth checking out.