Game Review: The One Ring: Adventurer’s Book by Francesco Nepitello from Cubicle 7 – Part 3

The first two parts of this review of The One Ring focused on an introduction to the world and system and the character creation process. “Part 3: Fundamental Characteristics” focuses on how attributes, skills, and traits work together to describe additional character details. (You can find Part 1 of the review here. And part 2 is here.)

First, we get a bit more about how the attributes – Body, Heart, and Wits. Attribute values can be used a few ways. For instance, Body is used to find the character’s initial Damage bonus as well as an attribute bonus to attack and Protection tests in combat. Heart can be used as an Attribute bonus to any Fear or Corruption tests and during healing. Wits determines how tough it is to hit a PC as well as to determine their base Parry score and determine who acts first when there’s a tie in combat.

Each attribute has a score from 1 to 12 or from “poor” to “prodigious” with various rankings between. PCs apparently start with ratings from 2 to 7, with some modifiers based on whether an attribute is favored or not. Whether an attribute is favored or not is determined during character creation. And of course attributes can be raised during play (most likely after Adventures and during the Fellowship phase between them).

Skills work in a similar fashion to other games. Skill proficiency is rated from 0 (unskilled) to 6 (prodigious), usually starting between 0 and 3. In addition, some skills are chosen to be “favored” during character creation and can choose others during play. Skills are generally categorized between the three attributes – Body (physical aptitude), Heart (force of spirit), and Wits (creativity and quick thinking). Each broad category is then broken further into the six groups listed on the right side of the character sheet – Personality, Movement, Perception, Survival, Custom, and Vocation.

Each skill is then described in terms of its key attribute and major group (for example Awe falls under Body and Personality). Each skill also gets a quote of what looks like text from either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings itself, which I think is a nice touch, quickly tying it back to the source material. And the description for each skill provides an overview of how it’s used as well as how the mechanics work.

For example, the section on “Athletics (Body, Movement)” describes it as “a broad skill, covering most of the physical activities that a hero might undertake while adventuring, including running, leaping, climbing, swimming, and throwing stones or other small objects.” It goes on to say that a successful roll “produces a satisfactory outcome in the physical activity, while a failed roll might even lead to serious harm, depending on the circumstances.” The text doesn’t bog down in the mechanic descriptions, which I’m guessing are covered in more detail in the Loremaster’s Guide.

Film poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fel...

Image via Wikipedia

Weapon skills are broken down a bit differently, lumped into either straight “Weapon Skills” or as “Cultural Weapon Skills.” Weapon skills are just what they sound like – offering the character some familiarity with a type of weapon. But a “Cultural” weapon is one that may be taught more broadly in a particular cultural group. These can only be gained during character creation. Weapons are broken into a few categories – axes, bows, daggers, mattocks (a Dwarven-only weapon), spears, and swords.

Next up is a description of the various traits that can be chosen during character creation. These can be largely descriptive or prescriptive as far as behaviors and talents go, but they offer some hints as to how a particular character can be roleplayed. Traits will give a character an advantage during some particular circumstances. Some are automatic and just need to be invoked during play (and discussed with the GM and players to make sure it’s appropriate), while others may be invoked to intervene in some unforeseen action.

The trait descriptions are broken into two broad categories – specialties and distinctive features. Specialties are those little quirks, tidbits of info handed down, and talents that sometimes come in handy. And distinctive features are more about personality and physical characteristics.

After you get done reading about skills and traits, you get into two sections I think are fairly unique to The One Ring. Endurance has shown up in numerous games I’ve played in, but Hope is a new one. Endurance represents a resistance to fatigue and injury and can be recovered with some rest. As far as Hope goes, apparently Samwise Gamgee had a plethora – a reserve of spiritual fortitude and positivity. Hope points can be spent to invoke Attribute bonuses or trigger Cultural Virtue effects, but when it gets too low, reaching the Shadow level, the character becomes Miserable and gets penalized a bit… And yes, characters do get Hope back – during a game session spending Fellowship points and potentially through other means during Fellowship. Hope and Shadow are an internal battle these characters will have to face regularly.

Fellowship becomes very important to heroes in The One Ring. Without it, they may succumb to the despair of the Shadow and do something unlike their happy, hopeful selves. But as a party gains points in the “Fellowship pool,” players can ask to tap into that pool and use a point to raise their Hope by one – but it has to be negotiated and agreed on by at least half the party. Though I’m not yet drinking the Kool-aid on the whole “Fellowship” concept yet, I have to say that it really does pull in some key elements of Tolkien’s stories. Through story-telling, sharing a smoke, a drink, or a meal, and generally enjoying each other’s company, a group of characters can really bond together. This is definitely something lacking in most RPGs today.

Lastly are a couple of sections on gear, treasure, and character standing.

The “Gear” section finally describes the whole “Standards of Living” concept and breaks it up into poor, frugal, martial, prosperous, and rich. Now I get it. A poor hero might have a hard time gathering equipment for an adventure but be used to sleeping on the ground in the elements, whereas a rich one has plenty of coin but may be used to particular standards of quality as far as sleeping in inns vs. on the ground and having top-of-the-line tools for the task. Choosing a standard of living for a character can really define another level for roleplaying.

This section also goes into great detail about the various arms and armor for the cultures covered in the book. And what makes this section truly stand out are the images. Sure, they’re pretty simple. I mean, a Helm is a Helm and a Sword is a Sword, right? Yet there’s a serious difference between a metal helm and a cap of iron and leather, or between a Dwarven mattock and a great axe. The pictures make those distinctions quite clear.

Treasure comes down to having a way to describing a characters own personal “hoard.” And unlike some games I’ve played in, if you have 10, 100, or 1000 pieces of treasure, it’s going to really count on the Encumbrance side of things. Every point of treasure equates to one point of Encumbrance, so you better have some help carrying your chests laden with gold and jewels. Or you could be like Smaug and simply live atop your hoard under a mountain!

Lastly is the concept of “Standing.” This boils down to how your character is viewed by other members of their community when they come home from an adventure. Are they seen as homeless beggars come home to roost or respected and influential?

The deeper I get into The One Ring, the more taken I am with some of the concepts described – such as Hope and Shadow, Standards of Living, and Fellowship. However, I still don’t have a good feel for how the system plays out at the table. I suspect that I’ll get into some of that in “Part 5: Adventuring Mechanics” but I’ll get there soon enough.

By the way, if you missed part 1 of this review series, you can find it here. And part 2 is here. And for more about the game, check out Cubicle 7′s page here.

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