The One Ring RPG Review – This Free League Publishing RPG is our Precious
And in the End of the Third Age of Man, A Free League forges a new One Ring…
The One Ring RPG, Second Edition, from Free League Publishing, is the newest tabletop journey into the world of The Lord of the Rings. In it, a group of adventurers (called Player-heroes) are led by a Loremaster as they tell tales in Middle Earth. The game shines with a multi-turned exploration system with simple mechanics and character-focused play. The system is designed to emulate the world- and time-spanning works of JRR Tolkien, and it delivers with each new page turn.
The game is driven by 12- and 6-sided dice and features an exploration and roleplay story. The “crunch” is relatively simple: for all task resolution, a Player will roll a default of 1 Feat (12-sided) Die and a number of Success (6-sided) Dice equal to their rating in their appropriate ability (1 of 15 different features). Additional situational effects will increase or decrease these numbers, such as being Favored by the grace of the land or by drawing the Ill-Fated gaze of the Shadow. The Target Number (TN) to defeat is based on the Player-hero’s own Attribute rating, making a game that scales alongside the Player-heroes as they journey.
This “player-forward” approach rightfully puts the control of the story into the hands of the heroes rather than the Loremaster, which adds to their agency. These Player-heroes are the protagonists of this epic, a Fellowship determining their own fate, and it really works in its directness.
The mechanic is fluid and graceful, and doesn’t spend time being bogged down with additional fluff found in more mainstream fantasy systems, which truly captures the simpler approach of Tolkien’s Hero’s Journey. The path from one destination to the next is varied, but the rules are direct.
The Game assumes 2 or more players telling a collaborative experience. But, in a dash of ingenuity, the designers also feature a separate “Strider Mode” that allows a single character to shape a tale on their own. This supplement can really enrich the game and provide a lone RPGer to tell their own fable.
Journeys in The One Ring RPG are contained to the region of Eriador, home of the Hobbits and their homestead, the Shire, as well as the surrounding areas. Although not a full-Middle Earth experience, Eriador has plenty of room to narrate: its inhabitants, customs and traditions, and Virtues (another unique rule that allows your character to stand apart from his fellows), are highly detailed with the attention of a sage of the library of Gandalf himself. No stone is left overturned in this tome, so Loremasters (or Tolkien aficionados) will have plenty to digest with their second breakfast.
The area is the main setting throughout the Core Rulebook and features as the default of the equally-penned Starter Set. The Starter Set expertly details additional information about the area, complete with fold-out maps and pre-generated characters. A series of 5 stand-alone or joint Chapters allow you to explore The Conspiracy of the Red Book and begin your very first journey with the system. It’s also brimming with posters, a complete dice set, item cards, and additional cards for the Core Game. The Starter gives you everything you need to get started and is beautifully packaged to showcase.
The true star of this show, however, is the art. As with all other Free League Publishing products, The One Ring RPG is beautiful to look at. The full-color poster maps from Mattioli and Brandt alone are worth the price of admission. The rulebook and supplements feature a distinct “parchment” look complete with ink-drawn sketches and page borders that seem to be nestled beside Bilbo’s favorite chair next to the hearth. Additional Chapter Inserts straight from fan-favorite Symbaroum artist Martin Grip, who also puts his touch to the breathtaking cover, complete this package and seal its place as a true gem.
With a host of great options for beginning players, a bevy of eye-catching art, and group and solo play modes, The One Ring, Second Edition is a must for a newcomer to the world of ttrpgs or an experienced Middle Earth scholar alike.
In a word: Precious.