A Personal Tolkien https://adeptplay.com/2022/11/11/personal-tolkien/
It comes on the heels of losing at least one of my Lord of Rings rpg books and at least one or two of the novels to the cruelty of a cold snap and broken sprinkler pipe that brings us again to Middle Earth and role-playing. The One Ring rpg, call it the newest edition of that specific iteration, is what is on the table and while I do not have a ton of experience with it yet, I have read through the system and done some actual play.
My impression of TOR is that it is a game that wants to invite you to sit down for a long talk. While I have run just two sessions, neither was meant to be a one-shot. This makes it difficult to sell the game to anyone in a short time as its meant to include several phases of play. There is a degree of commitment here that needs to be acknowledged if you want to get the full effect.
If we are looking at its approach to Tolkien, I would say it draws heavily from the cinematic interpretations, but that is a guess. I have strong opinions about what interpretations of the original material I prefer, but this still works for me because focus is on the fellowship of characters. The developers have their own opinions of course and a cinematic approach likely would appeal to the more casual Tolkien fan.
What Caught My Eye
Each session starts with the Loremaster presenting
the current situation to the players. This usually
sets a date or time of the year (when), a location (where),
and defines an introductory situation (what) that should
include information that allows for the involvement of the
The above is quoted from the Adventuring Phase portion of the book and as you can imagine this intrigued me. Like many games, the follow through on Situation building can be hit or miss. There is not a ton of direct follow through, though the text does speak about various elements of what a Loremaster is and does. Most of it focuses on scenes and how to effectively manage them, as opposed to a wider situation.
The quick and easy answer to such concerns is that ‘there
is no such thing as an established Tolkien canon’; however, it
is interesting to delve a little further into the subject, because a Loremaster
can learn a great deal from tackling this apparently
This is another part of the text that intrigued me, because this point of view has been brought up in previous discussions. I would suggest this is the default POV for The One Ring. Instead of retracing the steps of canon, the LM is encouraged to move away from that.
But how does it play? There is a lot to juggle here and the game, much like Adventures in Middle Earth and the newer Lord of the Rings rpg (also from the same developers and Fria Ligan) taps into that loss of humanity as the primary way to harm a character. The game centers around adventuring and fellowship phases. It is not one big quest, but smaller quests against the Shadow that slowly wear a character down and destroying them from the inside.
In both cases the sessions were meant to start longer campaigns and for reasons, they did not. I will say that some players did feel that the game demanded more of their time or emotional commitment than they expected. This might deter some players and GMs.
In the first game, an early version of my Dwarf Rings game where the players, only one an actual dwarf, headed east looking for he Seven or at least the ones that survived. The three players engaged with the system, but only one of them really dived in. The others certainly grok’d play, but didn’t use the system much to push forward any agenda they had.
The second game, which I am refining and want to try again, is my King’s of the East idea, where the players are the children of Sauron’s allies, doing their Dark Lord’s bidding. This one derailed a bit into enjoying the idea of being the bad guys, which they were in abandon. But that ambition to do bad may have clashed with the text a bit, as The One Ring is undoubtedly a game about heroes.
I would not bust out TOR as a casual game night or even Actual Play one-shot. It needs more than that. I want to see how the fellowship phase handles aging characters and compare it to something like Pendragon.