The One Ring Roleplaying game is a great game set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, taking place after Smaug has been defeated and the Battle of Five Armies won. The Shadow is rising nonetheless and it’s up to the PCs to fight back its influence. The One Ring Roleplaying Game is published by Cubicle 7.
Cubicle 7 is a UK based RPG publisher, founded in 2006 by Angus Abranson and Dominic McDowall. They have many great games, including Doctor Who and The One Ring Roleplaying game, which both have been well received.
The company has seen some changes throughout the years. In 2009, it announced that it had joined Rebellion Developments, an English video game designer and comic book publisher. Abranson left the company in 2011 to form Chronicle City publishing, who have later published games like Space: 1889. Late 2014 Cubicle 7 left Rebellion Developments. Dominic Mcdowall, CEO, led a successful management buy-out.
Cubicle 7 is among the most interesting RPG publishers in UK. Their games are fun and a good testament to their manifesto, which is to invite everyone to the fun. In recent years, there has been an awakening in the rpg community and industry, to make sure that people of all ethnic groups, gender and sexuality feel empowered and part of the community. You can see this e.g. in how artwork in roleplaying books has changed in recent years.
Our hobby community will always face challenges in making sure that everyone is invited to the fun. Over the last 5 years we have quietly but consistently taken steps to ensure our games represent as many different groups of people as we can. And we never forget there’s always more to do.
See Cubicle 7’s manifesto here.
The One Ring Roleplaying Game Setting
There have been made a few roleplaying games for Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, e.g. Middle-Earth Roleplaying or MERP from 1984, though these have not gained the same popularity as Dungeons & Dragons or Call of Cthulhu. One can only speculate as to why this is, since Tolkien’s fantasy world is enormously popular.
Cubicle 7’s The One Ring is set in Middle-Earth and takes place after Smaug has been defeated and the Battle of Five Armies won. Though the people around Mirkwood feel the faint spark of hope, the Shadow is still there and growing. Danger still remains and the orcs are on the move.
The game is set in the Wilderland, few years after the Battle of Five Armies. People are rebuilding and trying to make things better, after the dark period when Smaug ruled in the Lonely Mountain. Players will quickly recognize locations from the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, e.g. Erebor, Mirkwood, Lake-town and Dol Guldur, and have a chance to meet and get to know some of the beloved characters of the books, e.g. King Bard and Radaghast the Brown.
The One Ring Roleplaying game was first published in 2011, two books in a slipcase. Three years later the game was revised and republished. Both editions have been well received and received numbers of ENnie awards and nominations.
The system is simple and easy to learn. Character creation doesn’t take too long and it’s simple to write up a character and find traits that fit with the build. For seasoned rolaplayers the character creation should come natural, though there are two special traits that every character possesses, i.e. Hope and Shadow. Hope allows a companion to add one of his considerable attributes to the results of a skill roll, which often is what determines whether a character‘s action is a success or not. Shadow represents how tainted by the Shadow each character is. Every group of characters is called a fellowship and every character chooses one other character as her focus, which can have beneficial effect for your character or strengthen the Shadow‘s pull. Every Fellowship has a pool of Fellowship points, which can replenish Hope, but the Fellowship has to be in agreement on how to spend these points.
The game is split into two phases, Adventuring phase and Fellowship phase. I feel that this is one of the best part of the game. In the Adventuring phase, you travel across the Wilderlands to complete some missions, but in the Fellowship Phase you tend to your lands, family and friends. This is something I miss from many other games. Making sure that the characters are a part of something larger, some community where their honor is important, helps the character to act heroic and make decisions based on something more than either lust after treasure or hunger for vengeance. Perhaps this also means that The One Ring isn’t suitable for power-players eager to go “murder-hoboing” through some dungeons, dark castles or dragon’s lairs in hope of gold and other treasures. The Adventuring Phase can be a bit problematic, since the Loremaster needs to do some calculations and make sure that the related skills come into play, but after a couple of sessions or so, you get the hang of it.
The One Ring uses a skill-based system and a set of novelty dice, which include a few d6 and a d12. For success, players need to beat a certain difficulty number. The d12, called a Feat die, is always rolled with number of d6 and it has 10 numbers and 2 symbols, the Eye of Sauron, which, if rolled, always means something bad happens, and the Gandalf Rune, which means that the character automatically succeeds her action.
Combats are cinematic and fast, and what’s even more interesting, far apart. As it says in the rulebook, combats should happen every other session or so. Combats can get quite intense. Opposing sides act one after the other and the system has rules for both attacking and defending, different combat stances etc. Combined with Hope, Fellowship Focus and the rigors of travelling, combats in The One Ring are fun and relatively easy to handle.
The One Ring is a great Tolkienesque roleplaying game. It’s true to Tolkien’s storytelling and themes and I think that the system represents it very well. Simply put, it’s not your every-day fantasy system, it’s more than that. Even better, the rulebook looks great, the over 300 pages are beautifully laid out and the artwork is awesome.
If you’re looking for a combat heavy, high-magic fantasy setting, then The One Ring is probably not for you. But if you’re into low magic, low combat and roleplay heavy settings, rich with lore and myths, then you’ve hit it big with this game. For every Tolkien fan out there, this is a game you should, no, you need to check out.
You can buy The One Ring here.
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