The second 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 the gate to the Lonely Mountain and the water pouring out if it’s gateway. The same artist is on page 3, with a lovely two page painting of Lake Town. The artwork is something that sets these books apart; Jon Hodgson and Tomasz Jedruszek provide some stunning pieces throughout.
The book has 5 chapters, which I will run through in their parts.
Part 1 – the role of the Lore Master
This first part goes into detail about how to run an adventure in The One Ring. It is well written and gives some excellent tips for any one looking to run a RPG. It shows what the Loremaster’s (LM) role is and what should be expected of them during the game session. From setting the scene, describing the action and listening to your players. It recommends reading Tolkien’s works before play, to get the flavour of Middle Earth.
It then lists the qualities of a good LM and how to be a good director, referee and Narrator. Again more tips on how best to do these at the table. It ends with some overall tips for a campaign in Middle Earth, how to keep the world’s integrity but that there are still many areas briefly touched and character’s briefly described that can be fleshed out by a creative LM.
Part 2 – Game Mechanics
This is one of the main parts of the book, where the bones of the game are laid bare, for the LM to review and get familiar with. It explains how the Adventuring Phase works and how it is structured. The structure is broken down into When, Where, What, Why and Who. By answering these and using the guidelines given, anyone can produce a memorable game. It then explains briefly how to bring these together into the game and how to give experience points at the end of the session. It also outlines what to do if time gets the better and a game has to be left part-way through an adventuring phase.
Rolling dice is fundamental to any RPG system (though the FATE system is a move away from this). The dice for TOR are unique and need to be understood by the LM. It is noted in the text that rules are there to support and not constrain but this is a bit hidden so worth noting here. Resolving Actions is the main content of this part, with target numbers and difficulty ratings given to whatever actions the players were trying to complete.
Loremaster Characters or NPCs are then highlighted in the book. This is a guide how to design and add the proper feel to the people your players will meet as part of your campaign. Only three and a half pages are dedicated to this part, so the method is quite quick and easy to follow.
Resolving tests (skill tests??) broadens the scope of the ratings and what attributes should be used. This is an important part to read through as it is vital to use the proper characteristic at the proper time. If the player manages something extraordinary, then you can award Advancement Points.
Journeys and journey map shows how journeys through the expanses of wilderness can be easily managed, without the tedium of everyday travel. Sample journeys are shown and maps are given to give the LM a great overview of the system.
The final sections take the LM through Combat and Encounters. Plenty of examples and tips ensure that this is actually very easy to follow and combat is shown to resolve quite quickly and fluidly. Where as combat with monsters is straightforward, the encounters with other individuals is given only two pages and given a roll chart to show reactions. I am not a big fan of this as I prefer to see how my players play the scene rather than rely on the roll of a die.
Part 3 – The Shadow
One of the mainstays of Middle Earth is how certain races are corrupted and the insidious effect of the Shadow. Stars and Shadows, sources of corruption and consequencies of corruption are sections the LM need to read through carefully, several times. It is one of the key parts of the game so please make sure you are fully familiar with the mechanics and how to play this in the game. Shadow points lead to madness and flaws, risking a character falling into the grip of the Shadow.
Adversaries are given a special section, with Orcs, Spiders, Trolls, Wolves, Vampires of all types carefully outlined and the stats for them clearly given.
Part 4 – The Campaign
The Setting contains all the background material needed to start playing a game set at the end of the Third Age. The main events are placed before 2946TA and give the LA 5 years before the shadow returns to Mirkwood. Tale of years lays out the chronology of Middle Earth throughout the Third Age. It focuses mainly on Mirkwood and the Lonely Mountain and the main events in that area. It focuses more as it reaches the time of Bilbo and the dwarves and ends at 2946, giving the LM tips as to how best to fit the players into the setting. The final part of this chapter gives more detail of the main places of interest in the Wilderland. There are good adventure and campaign ideas here and the main characters (Radagast, Beorn etc) are all here.
Finally The Darkening of Mirkwood has additional material, supplementary chronology and ideas for further adventures
Part 5 – Introductory Adventure
The Marsh bell is a simple starting adventure, that takes the party through into the Marshes close to Mirkwood, looking for missing dwarven messengers.
Overall this is a very well written book. There are plenty of tips for novices as well as examples to show how certain game mechanics work. Combat is very well explained and the detail here makes the running of the game a breeze. The art is very well done and the quality of the book is of the highest calibre. As a life long Tolkien fan, I was very impressed with how sympathetically the setting and the mechanics are handled and a lot of effort is given to ensure the flavour of Middle Earth is captured. I hope you buy this to support a great product. I highly recommend it!!
What do you think of the Loremaster’s Book?? Please post your comments below.