The One Ring – Session #1

The One RingA few weeks back, John H, Emma S, Colin and Ben came over for our first session of The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild.

For anyone who doesn’t know, The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild, from Sophisticated Games and Cubicle 7 Entertainment, is the latest tabletop RPG set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and (in my humble opinion) makes the best effort yet to evoke Tolkien’s work. The art is stunning and the game system is clearly designed to emphasise and complement the Middle Earth setting, as opposed to being just another roleplaying engine with a veneer of Tolkien on top.

The core setting is Wilderland (Rhovanion), east of the Misty Mountains and west of the Running River, and the year is 2946 of the Third Age, five years after the dragon Smaug was slain and the Battle of Five Armies was won. It is a new age of adventure and great deeds when evil is sufficiently diminished for long-deserted paths to be trodden once again.

Fellowship Creation

After a brief introduction to the setting and the obligatory discussion about how much each of us knew of Middle Earth canon and whether we liked or disliked Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations, we set about generating the Fellowship for our game.

Hero creation was fun and flavourful. Since I was the only one who had a copy of the rules, there was quite a lot of book-sharing or me paraphrasing various options so that everyone could choose what they wanted, but it still only took a couple of hours to create the four heroes, which I reckon is pretty good going.

I particularly liked how much setting colour is built into the characters right from the start, since the majority of each hero’s defining attributes, traits and skills cascade out of a fairly small number of evocative core choices; the foremost of these being which of the six Heroic Cultures they are from (Man of Dale, Follower of Beorn, Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, Hobbit of the Shire, Elf of Mirkwood or Woodman of Wilderland). Once you’ve made these cascading choices you finish up with various additional customization options such as increasing skills due to previous experience, choosing starting weapons and gear and then calculating various game factors such as Encumbrance, Endurance and Hope.

The Fellowship my group generated consisted of two Beornings, Malaric and Grunehild, (played by John H and Emma S respectively), Oinarin, a Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain (played by Colin) and Grimald, a Woodman of Wilderland (played by Ben).

Name: MALARIC the Reckless  (John H)

Heroic Culture: Beorning
Cultural blessing: Furious

Background: Keeper of Tales

Calling: Wanderer      Shadow weakness: Wandering Madness

Specialties: Story-telling, Fishing, Folk-lore
Distinctive features: Reckless, Hardy

Attributes: Body: 6/7 Heart: 5/7 Wits: 3/6

Common Skills:
Awe: 3 Inspire: 3 Persuade: 0
Athletics: 2 Travel: 0 Stealth: 0
Awareness: 2 Insight: 3 Search: 1
Explore: 0 Healing: 1 Hunting: 3
Song: 1 Courtesy: 2 Riddle: 1
Craft: 1 Battle: 0 Lore: 2

Weapon Skills:
      Great Spear: 2, Axe: 1, Dagger: 1

Rewards: –
Virtues: Twice-baked Honey Cakes

      Great Spear, Axe, Dagger, Bow, Mail Shirt, Cap (Total Enc: 20)

Endurance: 29   Hope: 13

Wisdom: 1   Valour: 2

Damage: 6 Ranged: 6
Parry: 3 Shield: +0
Armour: 3d Headgear: +1


Name: GRUNEHILD  (Emma S)

Heroic Culture: Beorning
Cultural blessing: Furious

Background: Light-foot

Calling: Warden      Shadow weakness: Lure of Power

Specialties: Beast-lore, Cooking, Shadow-lore
Distinctive features: Swift, Curious

Attributes: Body: 5/7 Heart: 5/6 Wits: 4/7

Common Skills:
Awe: 3 Inspire: 1 Persuade: 0
Athletics: 2 Travel: 1 Stealth: 3
Awareness: 2 Insight: 3 Search: 1
Explore: 0 Healing: 2 Hunting: 3
Song: 0 Courtesy: 0 Riddle: 1
Craft: 1 Battle: 0 Lore: 0

Weapon Skills:
      (Axes): 2, Spear: 1, Dagger: 1

Rewards: Long Hafted Axe is Fell
Virtues: –

      Long Hafted Axe, Spear, Dagger, Mail Shirt, Cap, Shield (Total Enc: 22)

Endurance: 29   Hope: 13

Wisdom: 2   Valour: 1

Damage: 5 Ranged: 5
Parry: 4 Shield: +2
Armour: 3d Headgear: +1


Name: OINARIN  (Colin)

Heroic Culture: Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain
Cultural blessing: Redoubtable

Background: A Penetrating Gaze

Calling: Scholar      Shadow weakness: Lure of Secrets

Specialties: Trading, Fire-making, Rhymes of Lore
Distinctive features: Robust, Bold

Attributes: Body: 6/7 Heart: 4/7 Wits: 4/6

Common Skills:
Awe: 0 Inspire: 2 Persuade: 1
Athletics: 1 Travel: 3 Stealth: 0
Awareness: 1 Insight: 2 Search: 3
Explore: 2 Healing: 0 Hunting: 0
Song: 1 Courtesy: 1 Riddle: 2
Craft: 3 Battle: 1 Lore: 2

Weapon Skills:
      Mattock: 2, Short Sword: 1, Dagger: 1, Bow: 1

Rewards: –
Virtues: Broken Spells (Prohibition and exclusion)

      Mattock, Short Sword, Dagger, Bow, Mail Hauberk, Helmet (Total Enc: 32)

Endurance: 32   Hope: 10

Wisdom: 1   Valour: 2

Damage: 6 Ranged: 6
Parry: 4 Shield: +0
Armour: 5d Headgear: +4


Name: GRIMALD  (Ben)

Heroic Culture: Woodman of Wilderland
Cultural blessing: Woodcrafty

Background: The Hound

Calling: Wanderer      Shadow weakness: Wandering Madness

Specialties: Mirkwood-lore, Leech-craft, Folk-lore
Distinctive features: Elusive, Hardy

Attributes: Body: 3/6 Heart: 4/5 Wits: 7/9

Common Skills:
Awe: 0 Inspire: 1 Persuade: 0
Athletics: 3 Travel: 0 Stealth: 2
Awareness: 2 Insight: 0 Search: 1
Explore: 3 Healing: 3 Hunting: 2
Song: 1 Courtesy: 0 Riddle: 1
Craft: 1 Battle: 1 Lore: 0

Weapon Skills:
      (Bows): 3, Long-hafted Axe: 1, Dagger: 1

Rewards: Great Bow is Keen
Virtues: –

      Great Bow, Long-hafted Axe, Dagger, Bow, Leather Corselet, Cap (Total Enc: 16)

Endurance: 24   Hope: 14

Wisdom: 1   Valour: 2

Damage: 3 Ranged: 3
Parry: 7 Shield: +0
Armour: 2d Headgear: +1


Since everyone fancied getting to do some actual play before the evening finished, we skipped developing any real background for the Fellowship and simply agreed that the four travellers had met somewhere on the road to Esgaroth. This seemed to suffice and allowed us to plunge straight into The Marsh Bell, the introductory adventure included at the back of the Loremaster’s Book.

*** SPOILERS ***

The Marsh Bell – Part One

Shortly after the Fellowship arrived in Esgaroth, they heard rumours that two Dwarven messengers had vanished without trace in the nearby Long Marshes. Oinarin made some enquiries and discovered that Gloin, the Dwarven envoy in Esgaroth, was offering a rich reward to anyone who provided news of his missing kinsmen.

Oinarin swiftly declared that he intended to aid in the search and his three companions volunteered to accompany him. The group headed off to Gloin’s mansion to find out what they could.

Encounter with Gloin

As the only Dwarf in the group, Oinarin took the lead in the encounter with Gloin and acted as Fellowship spokesman. His goal was to obtain as much information about the missing Dwarves as he could.

[At this point Colin rolled an EYE OF SAURON on the Introduction test for a total of 4 and therefore FAILED big style. This was an outcome I confess I was unprepared for and I found the rules to be somewhat lacking in explanation as to what implications a failed Introduction roll had for the remainder of the Encounter. Consequently I struggled to reconcile the test result with the need to impart details of the missing Dwarves in order to initiate the planned adventure. Ultimately I pretty much abandoned the Encounter mechanics at that point and simply roleplayed the exchange, endeavouring to accommodate the failed roll by playing Gloin as unimpressed with the group of novice adventurers who had no noteworthy deeds to their names. However, as Gloin was keen to see the return of his kinsmen, he did reluctantly provide sufficient information for the search to go ahead.]

Gloin expressed his reservations at such an inexperienced group going into the Marshes and was openly sceptical of their ability to get the job done, but he nonetheless revealed that Balin and Oin had passed through Esgaroth a few days earlier, on their way to deliver a letter from King Dain Ironfoot to the Lord of the Eagles. Perhaps rashly, Balin had intended to follow the dangerous route south through the Long Marshes and then investigate and possibly traverse the long disused Old Forest Road. However, as of two days ago, ravens sent out from the Lonely Mountain to search for the two Dwarves could find no sign of them.

Armed with this information the company departed, resolved to show their mettle and prove Gloin wrong in his estimation of them.

The Journey South (Day One) – Esgaroth to the Stair of Girion

The next morning the four bold heroes borrowed a small, round-bottomed boat from one of the Lakemen and set off southward along the Long Lake. At the end of the first day they reached the Stair of Girion and disembarked on the western shore above the falls. They made camp near the small cluster of huts belonging to the Lakemen who lived there and, thanks to Malaric’s fishing skills [Fishing speciality trait], they ate a hearty supper of cooked fish before settling down for a restful night’s sleep.

The Journey South (Day Two) – Into the Long Marshes

The next morning the Fellowship descended the stair and continued their journey from where the Running River resumed at the base of the falls. Through the day the course of the river took them ever deeper into the dangerous and unexplored Long Marshes and closer to the dark trunks of Mirkwood. At dusk they set up camp on the edge of the wood. The second night passed uneventfully.

The Journey South (Day Three) – Entering Mirkwood

When they set out the following day they passed into the eastern eaves of Mirkwood and boating became increasingly difficult due to the tangle of submerged roots and dangling branches. It was only thanks to Grunehild’s expert guidance of the skiff that they were able to travel onward without upset. [She achieved an Extraordinary Athletics test.]

Around mid-morning Oinarin, who was acting as Lookout, spotted a group of four Wood Elves shadowing the boat along the western bank. [He achieved an Extraordinary Awareness test.] After observing them for a few minutes, Onarin hailed them and Grunehild steered the boat over to the bank.

Encounter with Galion

The members of the Wood Elf patrol proved to be both surly and suspicious, and their leader, Galion, demonstrated a particular dislike for Dwarves. He sourly informed the company that the Long Marshes were no place for idle travellers and then questioned them about what business they had there. Malaric answered on the Fellowship’s behalf, speaking openly about their purpose while endeavouring to divert attention away from Dwarvish matters by focusing on the fact that the missing messengers were on an errand to the noble Lord of the Eagles.

[I abandoned the Encounter mechanics for a second time here and resolved to look into how to use them properly before my next session.]

During the ensuing exchange Galion was gradually worn down by the Beorning’s affability and eventually revealed that a few days earlier the patrol had been following the two Dwarves, until one night they had mysteriously disappeared from their camp. Galion believed that the Dwarves had discovered they were being followed and had chosen to sneak away under cover of darkness. Malaric then convinced Galion to lead the Fellowship to the abandoned camp where the Dwarves were last seen, which the Wood Elf patrol did before leaving the company and departing back into the trees.

“Conclude your business with haste and leave here while you can,” Galion warned as the Elves departed. “The woods are no place to tarry.”

Balin’s Camp

The abandoned camp was on a patch of dry land rising to the west of the river, near to where a foul smelling stream with dark and muddy waters descended from the Mountains of Mirkwood. In the growing twilight a quick search of the immediate area revealed signs that the Dwarves had set up camp but never slept there.

Oinarin discovered a small ivory jewel case concealed in a rotten tree stump. The box was adorned with intricately carved images of Great Eagles and protected with a spell of secrecy. Oinarin did not open it however but instead carefully re-wrapped it in the cloth he found it in and stowed it in his gear.

As the shadows between the trunks of Mirkwood lengthened, the Fellowship set-up camp for the night, planning to search the area more thoroughly the following morning.


And that’s where we left things for the evening.

Despite the couple of issues I had with the rules, I really enjoyed this game and I think it went down well with the others. I’m looking forward to session 2.

One criticism I have of The One Ring as a whole is that the rules aren’t always made particularly clear. The aim seems to be to present a set of simple, flavoursome rules that give the players and Loremaster a fair bit of narrative control, which I really like, but the core books are rather poorly organised and often rules seem incomplete or can only be fully understood by combining information that is split across different sections of the books. This means that in practice a degree of interpretation is required and it’s easy to misunderstand how things were intended to work. Plus it’s a nightmare to reference anything during play.

That said, I’m very very taken with The One Ring, which has all the makings of an incredibly beautiful, clever and thematic game, and from what I’ve seen thus far it is without doubt worth persevering with the above issues to get to all the goodness within.


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