As we announced last week, we’re gearing up to release a new edition of The One Ring Roleplaying Game. The third in our series of articles looks at the art of The One Ring.
The One Ring features art from renowned Tolkien artist John Howe, along with Jon Hodgson and Tomasz Jedruszek. The new edition features some previously unseen art from John Howe, along with additional pieces from Andrew Hepworth, Jon Hodgson, and Jan Pospíšil.
The core approach was simple: the text, the text, the text. Fidelity to what is written in the source was our key goal. Where Tolkien’s own words didn't provide direct visual descriptions we turned to Tolkien’s own aims and inspirations to inform us as to how we should visually depict Middle-earth. And so Beowulf and the Nordic Eddas all played a role in helping us depict Middle-earth in The One Ring.
We drew from historic cultures from the real world, like the Romano-British with Norse, Celtic and Frankish influences too, to make something new, but with one foot always firmly rooted in history. Armour, weapons, costumes and buildings speak of a credible history - fantastical in some places but ultimately grounded in a mythic reality. Just like Tolkien did with his work, which we are seeking to evoke.
When it came to depicting the kinds of characters players can create one of our foremost concerns was that we should include female characters on an even footing with male. Tolkien’s work has something of a reputation as being very male-focused. Whilst one could make the point that characters like Galadriel and especially Eowyn offer a robust argument we wanted to make sure that female gamers felt confident that they could play too. We took especial care to depict realistic characters who appear as well-rounded people.
Monsters are a key part of any roleplaying game, and for these we dug deep into childhood memories of reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - a book we all found somewhat frightening as children. We sought to regain some of that original horror that we felt on first hearing of Orcs and Spiders.
There have been many well-loved interpretations of Middle-earth down the years, but very few have taken this “Beowulf” approach. As it turned out this direction has been warmly welcomed as a return to the source, and on release the game won a Gold Ennie for its artwork and a Silver for its production values. The artwork for The One Ring Roleplaying Game was created over a span of years and was truly a labour of love. Happily The One Ring has been almost universally heralded as a beautiful roleplaying game. We hope you’ll agree.