Played “The One Ring” this weekend. Without going into distressing detail, I am playing an elf (!) slayer (no surprise) with a big-ass spear. He’s Middle Earth’s only noir elf, doesn’t like singing (though he’s pretty good at it), and mostly spends his time wandering Mirkwood and sticking said spear into orks and goblins.
Also in the party were a Beorning, a High Elf, a Woodsman, and a Dwarf.
We got to run into a slightly younger version of Legolas, who I got to be disrespectful to and lived. We got to visit Beorn, and discovered that he’s just a big-hearted, cuddly softy (who can rend you to bits fairly quickly and efficiently). Finally, we got to take an epic tour of scenic Dol Guldur, touring their famous pits, sampling their unique native orkish cuisine, and experiencing quaint local customs such as “get your ribs crushed by a cave troll”. I turned out to be particularly good at the latter, though the dwarf clearly beat me in the “throw yourself on the swords of the orc guards” competition. Eventually we decided that we had stayed long enough, and departed, rescuing a high elf princess and bearer of the third of the three so she could drop it off in Lothlorian on her way to catch a cruise ship across the sea.
“The One Ring” strikes me as a system that tries really hard, but ultimately seems to have a few too many bells and whistles to keep track of. You roll a d12 plus a number of d6’s for skill rolls, trying generally to beat a difficulty of 14. But –
– if you roll a Gandalf rune (12) shows up on the d12, you get an automatic success, regardless of the other dice numbers
– if you roll a Lidless Eye (1) on the d12 the result counts as a 0 (which is no big deal, it’s only one point less than what you would have rolled anyway) AND regardless of whether or not you succeed, something terrible happens to you.
– if you roll a “6” on one or more of your d6’s, it increases the level of success.
– you can spend “Hope Points” in order to add one of your characteristics scores to the roll, but when you spend Hope Points you bring yourself closer to despair which seems a bit problematic to me for two reasons – first, Hope Points regenerate very slowly. If you get more than a couple per session you are doing pretty well. Second, the way they are used strikes me as rather counterintuitive. “Ha, I have dug down into the depths of my soul and have pulled victory from the jaws of defeat! I’m da elf! I’m da elf! I’m… so depressed. Life is meaningless and we are but characters in the trilogy of life!”
Weapon damage seems to be similarly complicated, with damage, injury, and edge stats to keep track off, all of which do different things depending on the roll you get on the dice. Combat isn’t a big part of our group experience though, so I haven’t played around with those much.
The setting is, however, quite good. The game is set between “The Hobbit” and “Fellowship of the Ring”, about 5 years after the Battle of the Five Armies, during the last of the good years. Smaug is dead, the Necromancer has been driven out of Mirkwood, and everything is great! New era of peace and prosperity around the corner! Pay no attention to that slimy looking dude wandering around Mirkwood and babbling about “Precious”. There are a lot of creepy, rotten things to fight, lots of quests to go on, and in general you don’t have to worry about messing with the canon.
I think we all had lots of fun being brave and heroic and stupid in the special way that only epic fantasy characters have of being brave and heroic and stupid, secure in the knowledge that if they are going to die, they are going to die cool.