This is the first book in the rules set is the Lore Master book by Francesco Nepitello. The first thing to note is the beautiful wrap around artwork by John Howe, showing elves along the path through Mirkwood. The same artist is on pages 6-7, with a lovely two page painting of the Town of Dale and the River Running. The artwork is something that sets these books apart; Jon Hodgson and Tomasz Jedruszek also provide some stunning pieces throughout.
The book has 6 chapters, which I will run through in their parts.
Part 1 – Prologue
As is now common in rulebooks, the first part talks about Roleplaying Games in general, discussing the genre and giving an example of play. It is a point of discussion as to whether these are strictly necessary now, as most people have an idea of what is required in a RPG and whether this would be a first purchase for people new to the hobby. That being said, it is a very brief overview and gives a good foundation for the game.
The next part talks about the setting. It tells of the timeline and what has happened in the five years since the Battle of the Five Armies. It then takes the reader through the playable races, the impact of the shadow and the wilderness (with map). Finally an overview of the structure of the game is given, with a glossary of terms. The unique dice are then shown and how they work within the system.
Part 2 – Characters
Here we go with the start of the crunch – the rules of character creation. However, initially the book takes the player by the hand and guides them through hero creation. It gives a summary of how to build a character but does it in a way that is totally different to more “traditional” systems.
The first part is to select a culture for your character. The reason for culture is that there are three different types of humans in this base book – Bardings, Beornings and Woodmen. Also there are dwarves from the Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood and Hobbits of the Shire. Each culture has pages dedicated to them, with lots of information and initial data to build a character. It is nice that the view of the other cultures are given by leading lights from each culture (Bilbo, Eleven King, Beorn etc)
Once a culture has been chosen then the player begins the customisation to tailor the character into something unique. First part of this is the calling (or class) – Scholar, Slayer, Treasure Hunter, Wanderer or Warden are the initial choices. But each has a Shadow Weakness, which is a nice touch!
The final crunch of giving points to attributes and skills, polish off the character, with points for Endurance, Hope, Valour and Wisdom calculated and the starting Gear distributed.
Company Creation is the final part of this chapter. It is nice that the circumstances of the party coming together form part of the book, rather than leaving it to the Loremaster or falling back to the normal Inn troupe.
Part 3 – Fundamental Characteristics
Though the chapter previously takes the players through character creation, this chapter goes into a lot more detail for each part. Attributes, Skills, Traits, Endurance and Hope, Fellowship and Gear are given a lot more detail. There are nice quotes from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which add flavour and show how these fit into the feel of the books.
Treasure is also discussed in this part, with a rating system of 1 (enough for an adventurer to spend in one month) to 1000 – A hundredth share of Smaug’s hoard). It is interesting that encumbrance is also mentioned in this part.
A hero’s standing within his own community is the final part. This is important in dealing with his own folk, especially during the Years End segment of a Fellowship Phase.
Part 4 – Character Development
Characters gain experience points through play and then spend them to improve their abilities or acquire new ones. Advancement points allow common skills to be improved.
Valour and Wisdom may also be raised by spending experience points. These help to measure the heroic stature of a character and how they are judged by their peers. Whether wise or brave, these are raised as a character advances.
Virtues are awarded each time a character’s wisdom goes up a level. Virtues are either Masteries (open to all) or cultural - depends on the culture chosen by the player. Again these are all well described and many include quotes from the books to add flavour.
Rewards are given each time a player goes up a level in valour. Superior gear and named weapons can be gained this way. Also cultural rewards are also available for player’s to take advantage of.
States of health and getting better are the final parts of this chapter. There are different levels of conditions relating either to their endurance or Hope levels.
Part 5 – Adventuring Mechanics
Action Resolution takes players’ through the crunch of resolving tasks and gives examples as to how this works. Detailed die-rolling sequences show how many dice to roll and what different results may mean to the final success or failure of a task. Also there are additional player options that can help to influence a certain result.
All players will need to journey throughout Middle Earth as part of their quests, either to reach destinations or to discover certain goals. How maps can be used, the planning and execution of a journey is well covered and something that could be taken over to other systems to cover long journeys. Gear, types of travel, hazards and encounters are well covered in this part of the chapter.
Combat is then reviewed and the idea of stances and how these work. There is enough data to help player’s understand how combat works but I prefer the section in the Loremaster Guide as this is more detailed and takes you through better examples.
Encounters are not always combat and this is covered in the final section of this chapter. Different abilities can be used to influence the encounter and help give the player’s an advantage.
Part 6 – Fellowship Phase
One of the unique parts of The One Ring is the Fellowship Phase. This covers the times that player’s are not adventuring and helps show events that occur in these periods and how the passing of time affects the characters. These can last a week or a season and can take place in sanctuaries or if the group disbands for some reason.
As part of the fellowship phase, the characters’ can undertake any Heroic development they wish, by spending their experience points (as previously described). A player can also do an Undertaking. This is an endeavour undertaken by the character to help the fellowship in the long-run; from meeting a patron to opening a new sanctuary.
When a Year finally passes, the players are informed of what has happened in the wider world. This can be a good role-playing opportunity and players can state how they have influenced the wider picture. There is also a chance that wider actions can be narrowed to bring in the players, adding more adventuring opportunities and setting up the next phase of the campaign.
The book ends with example characters that can be used as templates for players. I am very happy with this book and though there are some things I would improve (combat etc). However there is plenty in here that any RPG enthusiast would enjoy to read through. I think the system is fresh and exciting, having played a few sessions I know it runs well. If you can find other Tolkien buffs then the fun in this setting is endless.
What do you think of the Adventurer’s Book?? Please post your comments below.