We’ll be starting the pre-order for Rivendell, the latest supplement for The One Ring Roleplaying Game, in the next couple of weeks. In the intervening weeks, we’ll be taking a much closer look at all aspects of the supplement. In this preview we showcase the two new playable Heroic Cultures: the Rangers of the North and High Elves of Rivendell.
Ever since we first launched The One Ring, there’s been one question we’ve been asked more than any other: can I play a Ranger? Well, with the upcoming release of Rivendell, players will get their wish, along with the ability to play a High Elf of Rivendell too.
Both these cultures are unique in many ways, for they can be considered more powerful than those presented so far, as Francesco Nepitello, designer of The One Ring, explains:
“Rangers and High Elves do not conform to the standards we defined with the core rules, as a hero belonging to either cultures certainly cannot be described as the typical ‘first-time adventurer’. With their definition as ‘unique’, we want to highlight the exception that their inclusion in a company will represent.
We’re quite explicit in the text in this regard, suggesting to Loremasters that they not allow a Ranger or High Elf to join a brand-new company, nor to allow more than one or two such characters in a group. This both preserves the themes and feel presented in The One Ring Roleplaying Game, and stops these characters overshadowing heroes from other Cultures.
Both Heroic Cultures are exceptional in many regards; they possess higher basic attribute levels, as well as a wider spread of Weapon Skills. So too do they receive more points to define their previous experiences, reflecting their greater prowess. On the other hand, it costs considerably more experience points for a Ranger or a High Elf to increase their Valour, Wisdom or Weapon Skills.
We asked Francesco what prompted him to make the new cultures more powerful:
“The Rangers are the last members of a bloodline of kings, and the High Elves are members of the Firstborn, among the most powerful beings who ever inhabited Middle-earth. They are amongst the greatest enemies of the Shadow, and are blessed with abilities proportioned to the task. The rules for The One Ring were not made to represent their stature, so we had to adapt them accordingly.”
Both Heroic Cultures have a thematic selection of Virtues and Rewards too, similarly powerful to represent their unique status. As with those found in The One Ring Roleplaying Game, each encapsulates a different aspect of the lore, reinforcing what it is that makes that culture special.
Thus the Rangers’ Virtues and Rewards evoke their ancient bloodline and their long years spent in the Wild. Ways of the Wild, for example, grants a Ranger a free Combat advantage die when fighting in the wilderness, and allows him to fill all vacant travelling roles while on a journey. Royalty Revealed, on the other hand, allows a Ranger to reveal his noble heritage at a dramatic point, allowing him to Intimidate Foe as well as attacking, but at the cost of making all foes Hate him. So too might a Ranger possess the Star of the Dúnedain, granting him not only his veteran status amongst the Dúnedain but also knowledge of the refuges hidden in Arnor, where he might take his companions to find much-needed shelter on an otherwise perilous journey.
The High Elves’ Virtues and Rewards represent their ancient tradition and superlative prowess. A High Elf of Rivendell might wield a Spear of the Last Alliance, a potent weapon that allows the wielder to attack multiple opponents when he rolls a great or extraordinary success, as he might have done against the servants of Sauron in the Second Age. The Might of the Firstborn Reward allows a High Elf to cancel out an enemy’s special ability, whilst Skill of the Eldar adds a Tengwar rune to any roll of a Gandalf, elevating his level of success. Finally, a High Elf might have learned to invoke the name of Elbereth, the Queen of the Stars, if one of their companions is Wounded or Miserable, adding Success dice not only to the High Elf’s next roll but also to every other Elf or Elf-friend in the company too.
But, as Francesco explains, playing a Ranger or a High Elf might not be for everyone:
“Who said ‘with great power comes great responsibility’? Rangers and High Elves are no exception. The Rangers are bound by duty and the Elves suffer badly to see Arda marred, and both limitations have definite gameplay mechanics to enforce them... Not every player will want to play with such strictures, and will thus choose to play a different character type.”
Certainly both Heroic Cultures have a number of limitations, going some way to off-set their potency. The Rangers, for example, are obligated to their ancient bloodline and as a result do not easily share their burden with others; therefore Rangers cannot use the Fellowship pool to restore Hope. Instead they must rely on other means of restoring Hope, such as the new There and Back Again undertaking or the Ranger-specific undertaking, Honouring the Fallen.
High Elves, on the other hand, cannot easily forget the taint of the Shadow upon the world and cannot heal corruption as another character might. Instead they reduce the effects of corruption by distancing themselves from the world, reducing their Shadow but at the cost of ‘marking’ a skill. Whenever they try to use that skill and they are not in a sanctuary, a roll of an Eye of Sauron results in them being overcome by sadness and failing the task automatically.
Rivendell is 144-page, hardcover, full-colour supplement written by Francesco Nepitello, with additional contributions from Amado Angulo, Shane Ivey, Andrew Kenrick, Marco Maggi, Thomas Morwinsky and James M. Spahn. It is lavishly illustrated by Jon Hodgson, Jan Pospíšil and Jeremy McHugh, with fantastic maps of Eastern Eriador created by Paul Bourne. Keep an eye on the website for more information and previews over the next week.