We’re gearing up for the release of a new edition of The One Ring Roleplaying Game, and until it goes on pre-order in June we’re publishing a series of articles that each take a look at a different aspect of the game. Today’s article is the first of a two-part article about the core mechanics of the game.
Games of The One Ring are split into two phases: the Adventuring phase and the Fellowship phase. We’ll cover the Fellowship phase in more detail another time, for today we will look at the Adventuring phase. In an Adventuring phase, a company of adventurers heads off from their homes and into the Wild, in search of adventure. Its in this phase where the principle action of the game takes place; where epic journeys across Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains are embarked upon, where Orcs and Spiders and Wargs are fought in combat, and where wits are matched with the Great Goblin and the Elvenking, Thranduil.
The One Ring Roleplaying Game uses a special set of dice: the twelve-sided Feat die, which is marked with numbers 1-10, as well as two special symbols, Gandalf’s rune and the Eye of Sauron, and a six-sided Success die, which is numbered 1-6, with a Tengwar rune on the 6.
These dice are available to buy separately in all good stores where The One Ring is sold or from our web store, or you can just use a regular d12 and some d6s.
Francesco Nepitello, designer of The One Ring: “I love custom dice, this must be said, but for The One Ring the choice goes beyond the simple aesthetics. I wanted a game mechanic that was easy to read and felt completely built around the theme of the game. I think our dice serve the purpose, make for a very quick determination of rolls, and feels 'right', with their flavourful icons.”
When you make a roll, you roll the Feat die plus a number of Success dice equal to the skill you’re using, add up all the numbers shown and compare it to the Target Number of the action (typically 14).
But what about those special symbols? Well, if you roll a Gandalf Rune, the roll is considered an automatic success (and a cheer is likely to go up around the table!). An Eye of Sauron, on the other hand, is not only considered a 0 on the Feat die, but sometimes means something bad has happened to you too (the enemy might get to make a special attack against you in combat, a hazard might befall you on a journey and so on). If you are a player of The One Ring, you will learn to fear the roll of an Eye of Sauron!
As for the symbols on the Success dice, for every Tengwar rolled, any success is made that much better: roll one and its a great success, roll two and its an extraordinary success, and so on. Note also that the numbers 1-3 are hollowed out. This means that, when your character is Weary (the most common – albeit temporary – detrimental effect, caused by losing too much Endurance in combat or gaining too much Fatigue on a journey), you ignore these dice results when adding up your total.
There are a few more twists too, such as carefully preparing for an action beforehand or cooperating with your companions, but perhaps the most evocative thing a player can do is to spend a point of Hope, allowing them to potentially turn a failure into a success.
Francesco: “Hope might be one of the words that recur more often in The Lord of the Rings, and I combed its lines and pages very carefully when I was designing the game. Tolkien didn't choose his wording lightly, and a careful analysis of the text left me with a number of terms I knew had to go into the game, words like Wisdom, Valour, and of course Hope. And the concept of Hope strikes me also as a good meeting point of Tolkien's own thoughts about the meaning of Christianity and the spiritual attitude of his 'pagan' characters.
In game terms, Hope is a very powerful 'game-changing' mechanic that limits randomness, but is a scarce resource the players need to manage, a fact that teaches them to carefully choose when it is the moment for their hero to shine.”
The core mechanics to the game are that simple, and all of the game’s various other mechanics are based on them. We’ll cover those in far more detail next week!
Already Own The One Ring?
The most immediate change you’ll find when you come to the revised edition is that all the rules concerning the Adventuring phase are now found in one chapter, aptly titled Adventuring Phase. This chapter contains the core rules used for most actions, detailing tasks and tests and the various mechanics associated with them.
We’ve clarified loads of things here too, such as whether a character with no Shadow points still becomes miserable when he runs out of Hope (he doesn’t) and exactly what ‘harming a Fellowship focus’ means.
We’ve also introduced something called ‘Preliminary Rolls’, which existed before in different guises in both the combat and journey mechanics, but they’ve now been consolidated into one place and joined by similar rules for use with encounters too.