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 a couple of weeks we’re publishing a series of articles that each take a look at a different aspect of the game. Today’s article is the second of a two-part article about the core mechanics of the game (you can find part one here).
Last week we described how The One Ring is divided into two discrete phases – the Adventuring phase and the Fellowship phase – and went into some detail about how the core mechanics work. Within an Adventuring phase, adventurers are most often engaging in one of three distinct activities: travelling across perilous lands, interacting with wary or suspicious characters, and drawing swords to battle dangerous adversaries. Each of these activities is handled with its own mechanics.
Journeys to far-away lands are perhaps the most iconic parts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and The One Ring has a special set of rules to handle them too, helping the players evoke the feeling of setting off on such perilous voyages. When embarking on such a journey, players pore over a map and plan their route, while the Loremaster uses the rules to determine how long it will take and how dangerous it is. The players then decide how they will proceed, taking on the role of the company’s guide, perhaps, or acting as its look-out, before rolling dice to see how the journey unfolds.
Sometimes, the journey will pass without event, and days and weeks of travel are narrated without complication. More often, however, one of the players will have rolled an Eye of Sauron, and this means one thing: a Hazard episode is triggered! Such an event might be as simple as the guide having lost his way, causing the party to become tired, or perhaps their provisions have run out. More deadly is when a Hazard leads to the company crossing paths with a monster, such as an Orc raiding party. And that is when swords are drawn and combat is joined…
Battles in The One Ring are fast, heroic and deadly. After determining whether it is the company or the enemy who have the initiative (and hence who goes first and who goes second), players pick a stance for their character. Each stance is a measure of the hero’s approach to the oncoming battle, determining not only the order in which they fight, but also how easily they can hit the foe (and how easily the foe can hit them) as well as offering up different non-combat options to them too.
For example, a hero in the Forward stance is right in the thick of the battle, and so goes first in the round and can strike the enemy relatively easily with a roll of a 6 (plus the enemy’s Parry score) and he also has the option to Intimidate the Foe, perhaps forcing the enemy to reconsider his attack and run away or back down. However, fighting at the front means a hero will also be hit on a roll of a 6 (plus their own Parry), and that’s where rules for endurance and wounds come in, as games designer Francesco Nepitello explains:
“The combat rules have their roots in Tolkien. Reading the books you definitely get the impression that a traditional ‘hit points’ mechanic cannot work if you want the game to feel ‘Tolkienesque’; heroes either survive combat relatively unscathed, or are ‘wounded’. Getting wounded sounds relatively innocuous – all you need is to protect yourself after all – but this idea lasts until you receive your first Wound - suddenly you wake up and feel vulnerable, exactly as I guess it must feel when you get smitten by a sword in the heat of a battle!”
The final of rules in The One Ring are used for encounters, which might be used to resolve riddling with a Goblin king in a dark tunnel, persuading Beorn to lend you his might in a coming battle or even to bargain with a Dragon to let you leave its lair unscathed. These rules describe how the heroes interact with other characters or creatures, typically when their opponent is wary, suspicious or downright hostile towards them, or when the company is asking for something in return, be it assistance, information or treasure.
Each encounter begins with the heroes introducing themselves, telling tales of their adventures or singing songs of their deeds, to impress their adversary. It then proceeds to a series of interaction tests, wherein the characters try to extract information or persuade their opponent of their good intentions. Once the heroes have failed a number of tests greater than the Tolerance rating of the encounter, they have done as well as they are going to and the number of successes are totted up and used to assess the outcome.
Does the Goblin king believe your lies, will Beorn march by your side and will you escape the Dragon’s lair? Well, that’s for you to roll the dice and find out…
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Perhaps the most immediate change you’ll notice to the rules for the Adventuring phase is that they can now all be found in one place, so you won’t need to flip between the two guides to find what you need to play through an encounter or a journey.
Once again, we’ve made a multitude of tweaks and changes to improve the clarity of the rules, but we’ve also made a number of revisions too. Most notable of these are a completely new set of rules for Hazards. Now, a Hazard episode is triggered whenever an Eye of Sauron is rolled on a Travel test, its target and effects determined by a couple of rolls on a new pair of tables. It makes for much faster play, and is far more intuitive too.
This was the change Francesco was most pleased with:
“The old system was well and good, but to my eyes it felt incomplete. You had the rules to trigger dangerous episodes during travel, but eventually were left to your own devices to determine what the consequences were in game terms. The fans liked the old system, and filled the gap providing lots of pre-generated Hazard episodes, but the system was not truly complete.
Now, we have integrated a mechanic tested in our Hobbit Tales storytelling card game, giving the Loremaster a quick way to set up Hazard episodes from start to finish, leaving him free to improvise the storytelling details without worrying about the minutiae.”
While the rules for combat haven’t changed substantially, they’ve benefited the most from being consolidated in one place, especially with the addition of a plethora of handy reference charts. We’ve also tweaked some of the combat actions too, so Intimidate Foe now causes more Hate loss (and Rally Comrades more Endurance gain), and we’ve clarified exactly how Escape Combat and Protect Companion work too.
Finally, we’ve not only added rules for preliminary rolls for encounters (as mentioned last week), but we’ve also incorporated the optional rules for assessing the outcome of an encounter that were first published in Tales from Wilderland. Many players – including us! – used these rules as standard, so it made sense to bring them into the core rules too.