The Manglers are starting a new campaign this year. We finished off our FFG Warhammer game at the end of last year and have now embarked on playing Francesco Nepitello’s The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild, published by Cubicle 7. We’re also now using Google Hangouts to bring Robert in from his new town in another state.
Last week, we got together and made characters–which was a relatively straight-forward process. What we wound up with was a UN-like fellowship, with a Barding, a Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, a Hobbit of the Shire, and an Elf of Mirkwood.
I’m not going to review the whole game here. Some other people have already done that work quite ably:This week, we played our first adventure, “Blood in the Waters,” a fan-made adventure by Eclipse on the Cubicle 7 forums. (The forum post about the adventure can be found here.) The adventure is a good starter that connects nicely with the campaign I’ll be running. It does a good job of being quick and showcasing the three major parts of the rules in a relatively low-stakes way. It also has a nice tone that helps make the transition between playing typical fantasy adventures and adventures in Tolkien’s world. (It’s a standard rescue the hostages kind of plot, but with some nice chances to fill in the atmosphere of Tolkien’s world–especially at the end where the players get the chance to briefly hobnob with some big names.)
- Game Knight has a very thorough review starting here.
- Martin’s review on Fire Broadside!
- GGG’s review on Geek’sDreamGirl
What I will do is point out some things that I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the game in our first session.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Book organization! This is a top concern for many players of this game, judging from what I’ve seen on forums. While the two game books are beautiful–lush artwork, great fonts, and an awesome (and sturdy) slip-cover–they are also maddeningly organized. Cubicle 7 has released a more complete index that combines topics from both books, which is quite useful. But, frankly, I think the game should have been a single book. There’s an odd attempt to separate player information from GM (or “Loremaster”) information, which might make sense if the books had been sold separately, but given that they are a single product, it would have been nice, for example, for the Combat mechanics to be in a single location instead of three different places: part is in the player’s book under combat–except for weapon stats, which are with character generation, but not with the descriptions of the weapons, which are in the Gear section–but another part of the combat rules are in the Loremaster book, except for the part about how creatures fight, which is in the “Adversaries” section, along with the rule that explains how long it takes to recover a dropped weapon. And if you want to know what happens with your Endurance stat when you lose points in combat, you’ll need to look in the Character Development chapter.
Luckily, the mechanics are pretty simple once you start playing, and the page flipping will slow down as we play more. And this is really the only thing I didn’t like much.
Things I Liked:
- The dice. I’m a sucker for games with cool dice (Dungeon Crawl Classics, FFG’s Warhammer, Fudge, etc.). While the dice here are mostly normal d12’s and d6’s (with a couple of runes that replace/add to numbers), the way they are used really helps drive the game. A brief example of what I like: If I have no training in a skill, I can still succeed by rolling a Gandalf rune (11) on the d12 that you always roll for checks. So, no one is ever shut out from the action by not having the “right” skill. However, how well you succeed is determined by the number of 6’s you roll on your d6 skill dice. So, if you have no skill training, you can squeak by, but you won’t even be able to get the best results until you have at least two ranks in a skill.
- The sweet spot between player and GM-control. The Manglers aren’t real big on games that give too much control to the players. Narrative games are playable as one-shots, but we tend to like a bit more crunch and rules support. The One Ring is a nice fit. It’s a traditional RPG in the sense that the Loremaster creates adventures and plot, but players have a lot of opportunities to add their own input. The Fellowship phase (what happens between adventures) is entirely run by the players as they describe what they have been doing in the meantime. Also, players are encouraged to explain how great and extraordinary successes are better than their regular successes. And, players can use their traits (distinctive features or Lores) to get automatic successes by describing how their traits affect the action. (In our game, Paul’s hobbit spotted an ambush by using his Small trait to suggest that his size meant that he was looking at a different angle than his taller companions when they came over a hill.) Alternately, players can choose to roll their skill test and then explain how their trait helped in order to gain advancement points to upgrade their characters later.
- Interesting choices. Whether it’s the decision to activate a trait to get an auto-success or to roll and try to get experience, or the decision to get knocked back or take the full amount of damage, or what stance to assume in combat, or whether it’s better to be wearied and armored or energetic and squishy, the game is filled with interesting choices for players.
Overall, I enjoyed the first session and am looking forward to future sessions.