As I continue to dive deeper into The One Ring from Cubicle 7, I’m finding that there are things I really like about the system conceptually that I’m wondering if I could translate from here to other games… While Part 3 focused on the many skills, traits, and items that can be used to define what characters can do from the start, Part 4 focuses on gaining and spending experience points (XP) and advancement points (AP) to further develop that same character.
It seems that character advancement via XP will occur very gradually over time. Players will apparently receive one or two XP at the end of each session based on participation and any substantial progress made. XP can be spent during the Fellowship Phase to raise Valour and Wisdom, which I’ll talk about in a minute, as well as raising weapon and cultural skill ranks (which is discussed much later in “Part 6: Fellowship Phase”).
AP on the other hand are a bit easier to come by. Each time a player uses a common skill and succeeds or fails in a noteworthy way, the Loremaster can award an AP – the player then puts a little tick mark beside the skill and a total of all those ticks at the end of a session corresponds to the number of AP they receive to spend. I used to use a similar system in D&D, Palladium Fantasy, Vampire, and other games, where I would put a mark beside the skills and characteristics I used in a session. Eventually when I gained some XP or whatever was necessary to advance character traits, I’d rely on my marks to identify the places that would get the most benefit from a bump. In this case, AP can be used to raise common skills during the Fellowship Phase.
In addition to XP and AP, again there’s a serious focus on the Fellowship of the adventuring party or “company.” At the beginning of a session, the players in a group will usually settle on a “company objective” – something relevant to the larger adventure or recent developments in the last Adventuring phase. Like the other concepts of “Fellowship” in the game, I really like the idea of having a player-centric focus to keep them on track.
Remember Valour and Wisdom? I mentioned them a couple of paragraphs ago. Wisdom equates to a character’s confidence in his own abilities and capacity for “good judgment” that hopefully increases as the hero gets older and gains experience. Valour on the other hand equates to the character’s courage and renown. Not all characters are brave or wise, but it offers a way for players to keep a heroic focus and gain more confidence in their PCs as adventures move along.
Valour and Wisdom are ranked from 1 to 6, with 1 being not very confident or brave to a 6 being self-assured and ready to take on Smaug single-handed. These characteristics can come into play when the PC is interacting with a NPC and when they fight the Shadow’s corrupting influence.
The rest of this part of the book focuses on “Virtues and Rewards” which can help offer more unique features to a hero as he or she progresses in the game.
Every time the hero’s Wisdom score goes up one level (i.e. one to two, two to three, etc.) they can choose a Virtue. All Virtues are beneficial, but they may only apply in certain contexts. There are Masteries and Cultural Virtues available and we’ll talk about Rewards in a bit.
Masteries seem to be specific qualities that benefit six different areas. For instance, Confidence raises the character’s maximum Hope score by 2 points and instantly bumps their Hope back to the new max value. Or Resilience raises the character’s max Endurance rating by 2 points and instantly bumps it up to the new max. Each Mastery can be gained more than once by the character, so they could have a character with a ton of Confidence and Hope or enough Endurance to be a pack mule over time.
Cultural Virtues vary quite a bit from culture to culture. For instance, Hobbits can take the “Art of Disappearing”, the Elves of Mirkwood can have “Elvish Dreams” (the ability to sleep while doing repetitive tasks like rowing or walking), the Dwarves can take “Spells of Opening and Shutting” to magically lock and unlock doors, and so on. Each culture has enough of a different focus than the others that there are plenty of unique choices for players to really customize their character the way they want to.
Where Virtues are tied to Wisdom, Rewards are tied to Valour and are usually tied to high-quality equipment given to a hero by his family or some group for services done or heroic deeds. Each time a character’s Valour goes up a level, he or she receives a Reward. Rewards fall into one of two categories – qualities or cultural rewards. With qualities, players can raise the effectiveness of their armor, helm, shield, or weapon. And then cultural rewards are typically items specific to a particular culture (like weapons only used in particular cultures) or unique items of renown or historical significance.
There’s a small set of Qualities that work across all the cultures. For example, a suit of armor with the “Cunning Make” quality is lighter or less cumbersome than its regular counterparts, reducing the Encumbrance rating of the item by 2 (to a minimum of zero). Or a weapon with the “Grievous” quality does extra damage.
Each culture has its own set of cultural rewards. The Dwarves get rewards from Smaug’s hoard, which gives them some cool items like the Axe of the Aznulbizar, which can make a struck opponent weary if hit just right. The Hobbits get “Lucky Armour” which gives better protection against piercing weapons… The list goes on.
The deeper I get into the book, the more it becomes apparent that I’d really need an experienced Loremaster who’s run games of The One Ring before to truly see things in motion and grok them as different concepts arise. I can see where the Wisdom and Valour characteristics in the hands of a good roleplayer could be used quite effectively. But I’d hate to stumble around in the dark and have no clue what I was doing if I started to run a game myself.
- Game Review: The One Ring: Adventurer’s Book by Francesco Nepitello from Cubicle 7 – Part 2 (gameknightreviews.com)
- Game Review: The One Ring: Adventurer’s Book by Francesco Nepitello from Cubicle 7 – Part 1 (gameknightreviews.com)
- [Let's Study] The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild part 4 – Advancement from Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer (philgamer.wordpress.com)
- Review and Video Interview – The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild (gnomestew.com)
- [Let's Study] The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild part 2 – Characters from Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer (philgamer.wordpress.com)
- [Let's Study: Licensed Game Edition] And the winner is… from Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer (philgamer.wordpress.com)