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RPGBOT.News – The One Ring 2nd Edition

Show Notes

In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss the recently-release The One Ring 2nd edition from Free League Publishing. We explore the game’s setting, stories, and rules, and offer our opinions on the new game.

The One Ring is available in digital format on DriveThruRPG.com, and physical copies are available via the Free League Publishing website.

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Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall 

Welcome to the RPGBOT.News. I’m Randall James with me is Tyler Kamstra.

Tyler 

Hi, everybody.

Randall 

All right, Tyler, what is happening?

Tyler 

Today we’re going to talk about the One Ring second edition from Free League Publishing. So recently was kick started and then released just this year. As of the release of this episode, the physical copies will be available for sale now. It is a very, very cool system that I’m very excited about. And we’re going to talk about that today.

Randall 

Yeah, awesome. And late, right, let’s peer behind the curtain. We got the digital copy. And we just finished playing a small adventure with one of our friends. And I felt this system was really cool.

Tyler 

freely was kind enough to provide us with some review copies. So journalistic ethics. Have to say that. Yes, this, the system is very cool. It plays very cleanly. The dice system makes a lot of sense and it’s tells the story of Tolkien’s fantasy very, very nicely. There, there is a lot to love here. If you’re familiar with Tolkien’s works, The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, the Twin Towers, Return of the King, like those are kind of the core. So the One Ring tells stories that will fit into the Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s kind of that level of adventure. So if you read the Lord of the Rings, as the fellowship goes through those three books, the stakes get higher, and the journey moves away from the Shire. The core rules for the One Ring second edition center firmly around the Shire and the surrounding lands, and tell that kind of low… low-power, grounded fantasy that you would get from The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. So characters are very much, like, just starting out on adventures that they might go on. You’re not going to have Aragorn at the end of Return of the King going off to fight Sauron’s army. You’re going to be… I’m Phil from Dale, and I am here to fight some orcs that have come to bother my neighbors. The power scale’s very grounded, relatable. The characters feel competent, but not super heroic. It’s very easy to keep the scale small, keep everything local. And like this isn’t DnD where you’ve got high level characters who can teleport so getting from location to location no matter how far you advance within this game, getting from location to location remains difficult, potentially dangerous. So you can still advance pretty far in this game and you’re still fitting neatly into the scope of The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring. That was something I really enjoyed going through the Starter Kit, going through the book. That journeying has mechanics, and it ties into the mechanics that both impact combat, as well as impact the journey itself. We’ve done an episode where we talked about downtime, and at that point, we didn’t have this rule set available. I feel like this is kind of one of the coolest downtime systems that I’ve seen. Yeah, absolutely. The fellowship phase aspect of the game is really cool. There are group activities that your team takes. That your team… I believe the party is called a “company” in the game fellowship phases are really important because it’s where you’re recovering from long term injuries. Usually you’re recovering from shadow, you’re recharging your pool of hope, identifying magic items, talking to your patron. Like, there’s all this super important stuff that happens during the fellowship phase. You’ll never have a point where the company returns home, has a fellowship phase, and the Wizard goes off to make scrolls, the Cleric goes off to make money casting spells, and the Fighter sits at the bar and drinks I guess. Like, that’s not a thing and this, everyone is busy during fellowship phases. And that’s on top of, you know, whatever background day to day stuff your characters might be doing. Because again, these are very grounded people and a lot of cases during the fellowship phases your company will go back to a meeting ground, a haven, basically somewhere that you consider your home base. But during the fellowship phase, a lot of times your character just goes home. There’s a special fellowship phase called Yule which is basically it’s winter, Yule festivities. Christmas, essentially. The dwarf goes home to the dwarf place, the elf goes home to the elf place, the hobbits go home to the Shire, and then everyone like writes letters or maybe you just don’t talk until you meet up again in the Spring. But yeah, fellowship phases are really cool. The downtime system is very robust.

Randall 

As you’re saying like, Oh, the elf goes to place. Like, oh, the elf goes to Rivendell. When you said dwarf, the first thing that popped in my head is they go to the mines of Moria. And I’m like, Oh, no. Oh, no! That is not where you go to recover hope at all.

Tyler 

No.

Randall 

So I think it’d be cool to like, talk about that a little bit. There’s two ideas, hope and shadow. And hope is useful for everything. So basically, you have a pool of Hope available to you. You can burn that hope to add dice to your dice pool. And if you run out of hope you become weary.

Tyler 

You become miserable,

Randall 

Miserable, okay,

Tyler 

So there’s exactly three conditions in the game. It’s wounded, miserable, weary. If you’re miserable, if you roll an eye on the feat die, which we’ll get to dice mechanics in a second. If you roll an eye on the feet die, normally it is just a zero. If you’re miserable, it’s an automatic failure, if you’re weary, the one two and three on success dice are just ignored. So statistically, like your average roll just plummets if you’re weary. And then wounded, you’re significantly wounded in some way. And if you get wounded again, you’re probably gonna die.

Randall 

Okay, gotcha. Yeah. Okay, my mistake on the the hope and misery, which, I guess yeah, that makes perfect sense. And so it’s this thing where like, great, I can spend my hope and I can improve the quality of my rolls, but at the risk that if I deplenish… is that a word?

Tyler 

Deplete?

Randall 

Deplete, that’s, that’s the word I’m looking for, if I run out of hope, bad things start happening, and so managing that is important. And then recognizing that you can take activities as a group, or you can leverage, you know, like the Yule holiday to recover that. I don’t know, I thought that was a really cool way of weaving all the mechanics of this together.

Tyler 

Yeah, it’s a cool metacurrency. And I like that it’s kind of opposed by that shadow system. You can spend your hope and be more scared of shadow. It’s an interesting tactical decision every time you use hope, which I just absolutely love. You can also use hope to assist your party members on stuff. And within within your company, you have a a “fellowship focus, quote, unquote, which is one other person you’re… in your party who you like a whole lot. And if you support them by spending a point of hope they get to dice instead of one die, which is really nice. But it also means that everybody has to pick a best friend.

Randall 

Yeah, yeah. It’s probably best if that goes in full circle around the company, if you leave a person out, then…

Tyler 

From an optimization perspective, yeah. But like if you get into small parties, it can get weird, like, Legolas is Gimli’s fellowship focus. Gimli is Legolas’s fellowship focus, and Aragorn… is there.

Randall 

Perfect. And actually, so in the little adventure that we just did, one of my first rolls I was exploring because I was trying to find something. So I made my role. And I was literally like, I was two points off it. And I’m sitting there, like, I failed, I failed the first roll. And before I could think that I had hope, Tyler’s character was like, I spend to hope roll another die. And of course I passed. Which also, that’s kind of a cool thing that you can actually make that decision before you declare it over before you see the result.

Tyler 

I need to double check on that one. We may have accidentally cheated. I’ll double check on that to make sure that that’s how that works. I mean, we we’ve talked about metacurrency’s on one of our first episodes on the podcast, and similar to DnD’s advantage we’ve talked about, yeah, let metacurrency be a reroll instead of having to spend them beforehand. If you’re going to play the One Ring, consider that as a house rule, or maybe don’t. Maybe you just leave it as is for the first few games until you get your… until you get a hang of the setting and see how it works out for you.

Randall 

No, that’s yeah, that’s fair. And my bad if we, uh…

Tyler 

I did it, too. I was the one who tried it.

Randall 

Yeah, like Yeah, it’s also, it’s a new rule set. What are you gonna do?

Tyler 

Yeah. So can we talk about dice? I want to talk about dice. Alright,

Randall 

Let’s talk about dice. Let’s do it.

Tyler 

Alright. Click-clack math rocks. So the One Ring has a custom dice system. And there’s two types of dice there are feat dice, which is a spicy d12. And then there are success dice, which are a spicy d6. If you’ve played Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG or their Genesys system, you’re, you are used to looking at a pool of chicken entrails and trying to figure out what to do with that. It’s way less complicated than that, but there are some minor similarities.

Randall 

Yeah, just up most of the things on the faces of the dice are actual numbers. So that’s a great way to start this.

Tyler 

Almost all of the faces. So on your feet die, which is a d12, you have the normal numbers one through 10. And then there is a Lidless Eye and then the Gandalf symbol. So the Gandalf symbol replaces the 12. The lidless eye replaces the 11. The lidless eye counts as zero unless you’re miserable, in which case it’s an automatic failure. The Gandalf symbol is an automatic success. And if you don’t know what the Gandalf symbol looks like, it’s a… a vertical line with two lines sticking upward to the right at a 45 degree angle. It’s like a weird Y kind of. And then the Lidless Eye looks vaguely like an eye with an eyelid, which is confusing. I’m really glad you explained that. And I think you did a really good job of explaining that because I would have just said lidless eye? Whatever’s left that’s Gandalf. I don’t care what it is. Yes, obviously. And then the success dice which represent your capability with whatever skill or combat stat you’re using. Those are d6’s. And the six face also gives you a success symbol. It’s marked in the rules with an elven rune, which looks… imagine a C but the top is flat. I had to look this one up, and apparently it’s the Elven equivalent of the letter L. And it’s pronounced like Lima, or lemma or something. I’m not a Tolkien wonk, so I’m not up on the setting, and I don’t speak Quenya, unfortunately. Google that one.

Randall 

Here, we find ourselves.

Tyler 

We’ve just been calling it the success symbol or the Elven symbol. But you can use those symbols on your dice rolls to get additional benefits. In combat, you can do like a heavy blow to do more damage. Outside of combat, you can use it to succeed on something silently. And, like, there’s a small table of example, things you can do, you still have to succeed on your roll for the success symbols to matter. So like you have to meet a numerical target number, but then you can use those success symbols to do something cool beyond just pass/fail.

Randall 

And one of the things I thought like you talked about that numerical target number. So the skills are pretty well organized. You know, I’ll be blunt. I think the D&D skills more or less make sense, right? I’ve got my six ability scores. To each of those, I have an association to a set of skills. That lines up. What I’ll say is, this is even cleaner. So we have our three core skill numbers. We have six skills to go with each skill number.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

What I thought was a cool thing that I’ve never seen in a tabletop game, which full disclosure, I’ve played Pathfinder 2, I’ve played 5e. And now I’ve played this. One of the things that I thought was really cool is each player character has their own target numbers for skills in that column.

Tyler 

Yeah. There are a few RPGs that do it this way. I’m struggling to think of other examples off the top of my head, but

Randall 

It’s because I put you on the spot.

Tyler 

I know. Nut yeah, your character will have strength is one of the three characteristics, its strength, heart, wits. Let’s say your strength, target number is 14. Any strength-based skill check you make, you want to meet or exceed 14. And with very, very rare exception, that will never change after character creation. So you always know what you’re rolling against. Sometimes there’ll be things that will add or subtract from your dice pool. And if enemies have a parry rating, when you go to attack them, that will add to your target number. But again, rare exceptions, so you frequently can resolve all of your skill checks without your lore master, which is the Game Master title, you can resolve almost all of your skill checks without your lorer master knowing what’s on your character sheet. Which, like, I’m not saying you have to do that, or that you should do that just it’s very convenient for the lore master.

Randall 

You can maintain maintain yourself. Also, like, recognizing that it isn’t… I need somebody to make me a DC 15 Check. The idea to like, well, actually combining my skill set, which I’m very good at that, along with, okay, I have a pretty low target number to get here. I feel very confident, I’m going to see succeed on these types of rol;s more often not. And so, you know, maybe gives you an opportunity for specialization. And when you get to do your party optimization, or I should say your company optimization, I think there can be a lot of fun in how folks specialized to make sure you kind of have full coverage for the adventuring party.

Tyler 

Yeah, absolutely. So if you’re used to D&D and Pathfinder, we’ve got the classic like Rogue Cleric Fighter Wizard party, this is going to be very different. Party composition is going to split mostly along, like, how skills are handled. There’s no class system. Your character doesn’t have a class or a career or a job or whatever you might want to call it. You have your heroic culture, which is similar to a race and subrace in D&D or Pathfinder. And then you have your calling, which is why you started venturing, but calling is a… it’s more like a feat than a class really. And then beyond that, it’s a point-based advancement system. You use points to customize your character and advance your skills and combat capabilities. And you will want to cover all of the skills within your party. So you could very easily say okay, we’ve got a three person party, you do strength, you do heart, you do wits. Or if you’ve got a larger party, you can like split it all up a little more evenly than that. But there’s six skills across each of the characteristics which are the strength/heart/wits, if you’re, if you’re familiar with D&D, it’s similar to ability scores. Characteristics, ability scores, basically the same thing. Yeah. So those are good things to talk about at character creation, like what skills is your character going to be good at? What skills do you want to explore? What role do you want to fill in the party? And everyone gets a collection of skills from your heroic culture so you’ll start with 1 or 2 ranks in a whole bunch of skills, 2 ranks in at least one weapon, and then 1 rank in another type of weapon. Everyone is passable in combat, at the very least at character creation. Everyone will be able to contribute and I have not yet found a way to build a character that is not useful.

Randall 

That’s always nice.

Tyler 

Yeah. Yes, my eight intelligence muscle Wizard is going to be great in Pathfinder.

Randall 

Yeah. Well, and you know, you bring up your your intelligence Wizard, of course, a low magic setting.

Tyler 

Yes. There are no ways to cast spells. The core rules reference the existence of sorcery and mentioned that it can give you shadow repeatedly. Just, like, watch out for sorcery. It’ll give you a shadow. It’s like, where are the rules for sorcery? There aren’t any yet. So it’s possible that sorcery will be, like, a unique mechanic for enemies introduced in published adventures, because it’s not in any of the monsters that I looked at so far. It might be buried in the nameless things rules. We’ll, we’ll talk about nameless things in a little bit. Players can’t cast spells. The most magical thing you can do is you can find some magical items and you… sometimes you can perform what’s called a “magical success,” which is basically I spend a hope, and I just succeed on this thing in a way that doesn’t make any sense. So if you’ve seen Fellowship of the Ring, I’m calling on the movies, not the books here because the visual was good. Fellowship of the Ring. They’re climbing the snowy mountain, everyone’s wading through, like, chest deep snow, except the hobbits, it’s over their head. And the Legolas is just like, oh, yeah, I’m just gonna walk on top of the snow, it’s gonna be fine. That is specifically used in the core rules as an example of a magical success. So it’s just that doesn’t seem physically possible, and yet, you’re doing it anyway. Usually, you’ll need a virtue which is like a feat in D&D to do that, or a magic item that you will let you do that. But elves can just, they can just do it. Like, I’m an elf, I would like to succeed on this thing. But the trade off for that is elves are really bad at getting rid of shadow. So spending hope is really, really risky for that. There’s lots of really interesting trade offs in character creation that way. Like, every build decision feels minor, but still impactful. If you’re choosing between a spear and a sword, the stats are super different. In D&D, the difference between a long sword, a battle axe, and a Trident is you can throw the trident and damage type. In the One Ring, spears are really good at dealing critical hits. But the critical hits are easier to resist. So like they’re really great against unarmored opponents, and if you’re getting a lot of success symbols, the benefits of getting those success symbols are better. For axes… They’re called piercing blows. The critical hits are called “piercing flows.” Axes, don’t score them very often, but when they do, they’re really really good at getting through armor, and then swords fall somewhere in the middle. So like you can balance your playstyle or you could even potentially change weapons based on what you’re fighting. Like if you know you’re going to go fight a bunch of wolves, they’re not wearing armor, grab a spear. If you’re fighting a bunch of, like, orc soldiers, they’re going to be an armor, grab an axe. There’s so many cool little fiddly bits.

Randall 

What I will say though, is that you’re, especially early on, you’re only likely to have success dice to roll for two of the four weapon types.

Tyler 

That’s true, yes. And diversifying your skills can get very expensive. You start with a very small number of points, you can spend that character creation to customize. There’s two pools of experience: skill points for skills and action points for literally everything else. And you get about three of each per session. Advancing your combat capabilities beyond character creation is very expensive. Diversifying is generally not a great idea, so most likely your characters going to have a favorite set of weapons, and then maybe a backup set of weapons. If you come out with two ranks, or if your heroic culture gives you two ranks in swords and one rank and bows that tells you your primary weapons is going to be a sword and you’re going to have a bow to fight at range. And if you’ve got like axes and spears, get a spear that you don’t mind throwing because the opening volley mechanics are going to matter. Most characters will only be really good with one variety of weapon and then you have another variety of weapon that you can use as a backup in a pinch. But there’s also rules for using improvised weapons or just throwing rocks which is just take your best combat, skill drop one success die. You can say like yeah, I have a backup cudghel in case my sword explodes or something, I just bonk people with my stick.

Randall 

In that case you would potentially be better with your cudgel than you would be with your second weapon?

Tyler 

Potentially, yeah. Okay. Of course, the like the improvised weapons and controls the cudgels clubs, daggers, like the non-fancy weapons. They are there, they have a load value of zero because they’re small enough that carrying them around. It doesn’t cause you trouble. But the stats also suck.

Randall 

Yeah.

Tyler 

So you really want to use a bigger weapon, if you can.

Randall 

actually you bring it up. And I think that’s, that’s another interesting part. For all the things that there is randomization on. If you hit there’s not randomization on the damage, other than if having success on a success die adds additional damage, but even that would also be deterministic.

Tyler 

Correct. So in DnD, Pathfinder, you’re going to have a damaged die for your weapon. In the One Ring, it’s just a fixed number. So like a short spear does 3, a bow does 3. I think mattock, which is… think like a great hammer, axe thing, does 6 I believe, which I think is the most base damage you can get from an unmodified weapon. There’s other stuff you can add on to it from stuff like valor gets your rewards that can improve your gear. But yeah, that’s basically it. There’s no randomization of the damage unless you’re spending success symbols to add more.

Randall 

If you do have success symbols, you can create more damage, so to speak, but it is kind of a different game from thinking like, Oh, I’m gonna roll 3d6, and I’m gonna have this huge range of damage potential dealt. It’s like no, if you hit you pretty much know what you’re gonna get out of it.

Tyler 

Yeah.

Randall 

We’ve touched a lot of things. The one thing I feel like we haven’t touched are the enemies of the One Ring. Or I guess they’d be the Friends of the One Ring? Is that…?

Tyler 

It’s frequently just referred to as “the enemy” quote, unquote. Yeah, so the these are like orcs, wolves, sometimes evil humans. Yeah, there’s a small collection of enemies presented in the core rulebook, it’s like 25 pages. So it’s not, like, a massive roster. But if you think about Tolkien’s works, there’s also not a huge number of scary things to fight. I did notice there are no stats for spiders, which personally I am fine with. And then to expand on, like, here’s your orc captain and your orc soldier and, like, those guys, there’s also rules for randomly generating nameless things which are the spooky things that live down in deep holes and come out to eat orcs at night. So those things…

Randall 

the unknowable things, right?

Tyler 

Is it? You know, I wrote unknowable in our show outline because I’m a mess but if I had to check it is called nameless things. Shame on me. But yeah, it’s a cool system. Nameless things can be super scary. Like there’s rules about them like half of them are scared of light. So if you… boy, carry a torch if you go somewhere dark because torches will solve a lot of problems for you in Lord of the Rings. Yeah, nameless things are what the the Loremaster pulls out when the players feel like they’ve gotten a little cocky. Like, Ah, yes, nothing in this game can threaten us. And then a nameless thing pops out. It’s got two heads that breathe poison and now everyone in the party is dead.

Randall 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You’re talking about needing a torch to see these things in the dark so that they can’t, you know, sneak up on you. And I’m imagining, you know, it’s like Legolas What do you see with your elf eyes. Like this.

Tyler 

Well, so… So some of the nameless things and some of the, like, specific static out creatures are actually afraid of light. If they’re engaged in combat with someone who’s holding a torch or another light source they lose Hate. Hate is the monster equivalent of hope and when you get, when they get down to zero hope or to zero hate monsters become weary, which makes them way less threatening combat. So if you figure out that the thing is scared of light, just send someone to go wave a torch in front of it for a few turns and hope for the best.

Randall 

yet my imagining using my action in combat just to light the torch that way that I… Cool. Awesome. Yeah, so the the actual One Ring text?

Tyler 

Yes.

Randall 

is beautiful.

Tyler 

It’s so nice. I love the art in this thing.

Randall 

Yeah, the art is fantastic. The style is fantastic. It feels like you’re opening in aged text, and you’re about to discover something. And so from that it does give you that feeling of the first time that you you open the Hobbit or you open Lord of the Rings, like you know, some book that somebody hands you that’s actually been sitting there for 30 years, and you pop it open. Another cool thing is like at the beginning of every section, they’re actually giving you quotes from the text, quotes from Tolkien. And so you can really feel like you’re discovering another part of Middle Earth. So I loved how they structure this.

Tyler 

Absolutely.

Randall 

Alright, so physical copies of the One Ring are available now. We’ll have links in the show notes so you should be able to go find this. It’s really cool. I’m definitely looking forward to playing it again. Thanks for joining us. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple podcast and rate us on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It’s a quick free way to support the podcast. Helps us to reach new listeners. You can find links in the show notes. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes as well. I’m Randall James.

Tyler 

I’m Tyler Kamstra.

Randall 

And this is the news from Bree.

3 Comments

  1. Keovar March 25, 2022
  2. Rokkas April 9, 2022
    • RPGBOT April 9, 2022

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