One RPG to rule them all…
I’ve always been a bit leery of games that are set in huge franchises. I’ve seen them go amazingly (I quite like Babylon 5 for example) and go horribly (the less said about most of the D20 games, the better) but there’s an element of ‘oh now, come on, there’s a board game, computer game, war-game and now a new RPG based Lord Of The Rings to contend with. And I went into it expecting to hate it.
This isn’t an actual play look – in fact, I didn’t get to run it once since I received the review copy – that’ll come later in one of my actual play articles for Big Game Hunting, but what I did do was look at the mechanics from a GM's point of view, and what I saw was really nice.
I’ve played both previous incarnations of an LOTR RPG, and while they were solid, the One Ring wasn’t exactly coming in handicapped – each had its flaws, and neither really made the most of the most extensive and influential (some might argue) property in fantasy. It’s kind of like they’d bought up the prime beach property then let weeds grow in some ways. Along comes ‘The One Ring,’ and holy cow, it’s good.
It’s not set in the times of the War of the Ring. It’s long before the tales of the Shire that everyone knows from LOTR/the Hobbit. There are decades before the world goes pear-shaped like that.
Due to the review copy I had, I didn’t have the special D12 that came with the box set (mine is a PDF) but it didn’t stop me from understanding the instructions and getting enough of a feel for it that I want my full copy now. I thought all of the mechanics were laid out well, and have touches of other games about them, but is blended enough to be unique. The PDF is nice and clear and renders well on my eReader and iPad, which is one of the more important things for me when looking at rules issues in PDFs.
One of the problems though with reviewing like this, is that I didn’t actually get to play – which is why we’re going to get a full copy soon and do a play through and offer an actual play game at some point. With strong background and rules that are integrated rather than bent to fit the world this is a fitting and strong homage to Tolkien’s universe, without becoming too heavy or difficult to manage. There’s plenty of scope for adventure and fun, or building into disasters that start small and end the continent, including leading your characters – eventually into the events surrounding the books that fans love and cherish.
Next week, Kai’s going to be reviewing Dragon Age and its expansion - while staunchly ignoring the EA nonsense brewing over the Mass Effect DLC.