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Tabletop Game / The One Ring

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A tabletop role-playing game based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It has now published two editions, the first designed by Sophisticated Games and published by Cubicle 7 from 2011-2020, the second published by Swedish publisher Free League Publishing and released in 2022.

The One Ring 1E was initially set in the TA 2940s, shortly after Bilbo returns from his adventure to the Lonely Mountain and approximately seventy years before Frodo leaves the Shire in The Lord of the Rings. The Second Edition jumps forward to TA 2965, with Sauron back in Mordor, his Nazgûl reoccupying Dol Guldur and the Shadow on the rise once more. In 1E, most of the focus is on the lands of The Hobbit, though over time maps and setting information were published for other areas. Second Edition moves the focus west to Eriador, to the lands around the Shire and Bree all the way north to the old haunts of the Witch-King.

The game uses custom dice, but is completely playable with regular d12s and d6s. The basic game mechanic is to roll the d12 "fate die" and a number of d6 "skill dice" equal to the skill you are using to beat a given target number, usually 14 for average tasks. A 12 on the fate die is an automatic success, indicated by the Gandalf rune on the custom dice. Roll an 11, however, and you get the Eye of Sauron instead, which isn't an automatic failure but usually means that bad things happen if you did fail the roll. If you succeed, the number of 6s you rolled on the skill dice indicates if you had a great or extraordinary success. This is indicated by a "tengwar" rune on the six face of the custom dice. If you fail a roll, you can spend a Hope point to add the appropriate attribute rating to the final result, possibly turning failure to success. Spending too many Hope points, however, leaves you open to becoming miserable or the corruption of darker powers.


Another notable game mechanic is the travel system. The maps of Middle-earth show the difficulty of traveling through given areas, and long days of travel slowly drain a character's endurance until they are fatigued and half their skill dice stop working. Even worse, traveling through areas under the influence of the Shadow can give characters shadow points that slowly corrupt them. Recovery from long journeys requires staying in a sanctuary - places like Rivendell or the House of Beorn. There are no spellcasting player characters. Player characters can learn some talents that are obviously magical, but there are no spells or spell lists. Some NPCs are spellcasters, though.

A sister game called Adventures in Middle-earth with the same setting and artwork but using the 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules was also published by Cubicle 7. It has even had some of the same adventures adapted to it. See also Middle-earth Role Playing , the 1981 game from Iron Crown Enterprises that is mechanically very different.


This game provides examples of:

  • Ability Depletion Penalty: An adventurer who has spent all their Hope points is completely emotionally drained and will automatically flee any struggle or conflict until they can regain a point.
  • Action Initiative: a three-tiered version:
    • The defending side goes first unless the company collectively succeeds on a skill test to ambush the enemy (if possible) or to detect an enemy ambush (if applicable). Combat then alternates between sides.
    • On its turn, the company fights in order of Combat Stance: heroes in Forward Stance first, then Open, then Defensive, then Ranged.
    • Within each Stance, characters go in order of highest to lowest Wits score.
  • Adaptation Expansion: As might be expected.
    • The Woodsmen of Mirkwood and the followers of Beorn, who receive a passing mention in The Hobbit come into their own here, with entire campaigns centered around them.
    • The Darkening of Mirkwood also goes into Bard the Bowman's story, covering his entire reign and the continuation of his dynasty, another area barely mentioned by Tolkien.
    • Radagast the Brown becomes a major patron of the players, and is one of the only important NPCs fully statted-out in the core rulebook.
    • King Thengel and the problems of his court are the subjects of Horse Lords of Rohan and Oaths of the Riddermark. Théoden appears as a boy of 12.
  • After-Combat Recovery: Downplayed as non-Wounded adventurers can take a half-hour's rest after a combat to regain Endurance Points equal to their Heart score.
  • Alliance Meter: Heroes have a Standing score that represents their status in their culture, which grants both numerical bonuses and the ability to declare how they've affected events in their homeland offscreen. They can also gain Titles, which apply their Standing score to another culture than their own.
  • Anti-Hoarding: Your armor and weapon are the main part of your encumbrance rating, but treasure weighs a lot in this game as well, making it difficult to carry a large amount.
  • Arbitrary Augmentation Limit: Each piece of war gear can be upgraded with a total of three special qualities by spending Experience Points. These can be general qualities, like increasing a weapon's chance of a Critical Hit, or rewards unique to a specific Culture.
  • Arbitrary Equipment Restriction: Equipment that costs Experience Points, such as cultural rewards or magic treasure, can only be used by the adventurer who first bought it. In the latter case, it's Hand Waved as a matter of predestination. The side benefit is that the item has Plot Armor against loss or destruction.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: The Dunlendings' unique "Heart-Seeker" spears deal an automatic Wound against a human enemy on a Gandalf roll, with no chance for the human to resist. This is usually a One-Hit Kill.
  • Artificial Insolence: Shadow corruption gives characters permanent Flaws, such as "Brutal" or "Thieving". The Game Master can invoke a Flaw to increase the chance of a roll failing or aggravate the effects of a failure, representing the character's darker impulses taking over.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Each page of the books features a line from the rhyme on the One Ring, in the Dwarven runes of The Hobbit.
    • The maps in the core rulebook feature lines from the song the Dwarves sing in Beorn's house in The Hobbit written in dwarven runes along the edges.
  • Brown Note Being: The Nazgûl's presence forces everyone nearby to pass a Corruption test or pass out and gain a Shadow Point. On a Critical Failure, the unconsciousness lasts for days and can be fatal.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Technically, Endurance is both Hit Points and Stamina at the same time, given its interaction with Fatigue: Attacks other than Critical Hits only drain Endurance; characters take heavy penalties if their Endurance falls below their Fatigue score and fall unconscious at zero Endurance.
  • Canine Companion: Woodmen of Wilderland can acquire a Hound of Mirkwood, which is faithful enough to Take the Bullet for them and can be trained to help out in other roles.
  • Cast from Sanity: A major game mechanic is the use of Hope points to turn a failure into a success or power other abilities. Spend too many Hope points, however, and your character risks bouts of madness, despair, or even eventually becoming an NPC.
  • Cast Speciation: Downplayed in that the rules for journeys (which tend to be a major component of an adventure) have four different party roles for player characters to fill: the guide, scouts, hunters, and lookouts. Duplicate and unfilled roles are allowed, but the latter gives the company no chance to avoid related hazards.
  • Combat Exclusive Healing: The "Rally Comrades" action lets a character make an Inspire or Song roll to restore their allies' Endurance Points, but can only be performed in combat. Presumably other situations are insufficiently inspirational.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Adventurers raise their Standing score by spending huge amounts of Treasure in their homelands "as a demonstration of their worth, affluence and loyalty to their culture".
  • Cool Horse: Riders of Rohan begin the game with a palfrey and can learn to teach horses new abilities. The Rohan supplement contains a variety of breeds and rules for training your horses to do new tricks.
  • Cope by Creating: A game mechanic to heal the Shadow Points that Player Characters accumulate through misdeeds or traumatic events. The character spends a few months of downtime on a Craft or Song skill check, which represents them rebalancing themselves through creative work.
  • Coup de Grâce: An enemy can kill an unconscious or helpless hero if it has a full combat turn and a means of doing so efficiently.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted for player Adventurers:
    • Adventurers become Weary when their Endurance total falls below their current Fatigue score, causing all rolls of 1, 2, and 3 on any of their six-sided skill dice to count as zero.
    • At zero Endurance, adventurers are only unconscious unless they've also become Wounded from a Critical Hit or similarly serious harm, in which case they will die within hours but can still be saved with prompt medical treatment.
  • Critical Failure: All rolls include a twelve-sided Fate Die, which includes an "Eye of Sauron" face. If a failed roll includes an Eye, it goes badly wrong somehow, such as by leaving a combatant open to an automatic called shot from an enemy. Also, Eyes get tallied up; once enough Eyes are accumulated, something goes awfully wrong at the worst possible time.
  • Critical Hit: Two varieties:
    • All attacks have an "Edge" rating. If you roll over the Edge rating on the d12 when making an attack then your target has to make a Wound check, which is based on what armour they are wearing. Most enemies that fail a wound check are killed. PCs can take one wound and survive, but the second will knock them out on the spot.
    • A Great or Extraordinary success on a weapon attack causes the attack to deal extra Endurance damage. Some weapon and character traits add further abilities to these strikes, like the option to make a follow-up attack.
  • Cursed Item: When a Player Character finds a magic item in a treasure hoard, it has a 50% chance of being tainted by the Shadow. Until they complete a Sidequest to lift the curse, it brings some form of misfortune on the bearer, like worsening Critical Failures, distracting them, turning its intended benefit into a penalty, or luring in creatures of darkness.
  • Dashed Plot Line: Each story is broken up into Adventuring Phases of active gameplay and off-screen Fellowship Phases where Player Characters use a few months of downtime to do things like visit their homelands, recover from a strenuous journey, research obscure lore, undertake minor Sidequests, and so on.
  • Death as Game Mechanic: If an experienced adventurer dies (or retires), the player's next character starts with bonus XP proportional to the old one's, as they're assumed to have been mentored by the deceased. A Barding character with the cultural virtue "Birthright" also passes it down to their successor as a bonus.
  • Dirty Coward: Creatures with the "Craven" ability, like some orc Mooks, try to flee the scene as soon as they run out of Hate points.
  • Double Weapon: High Elves have access to a unique double-ended great spear, which allows them to make a bonus attack at the cost of a Hope point whenever they make a Great success with an attack.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The game was first released as a pair of softcover books in a slipcase with room for the custom dice, but it was fairly quickly replaced by a more standard hardcover revised version.
  • Easy Logistics: Downplayed. Adventurers' traveling gear is assumed to include anything that would make sense for a long journey, as well as anything appropriate for their career and wealth level. However, there are detailed mechanics to plan and execute a journey, and any trip through the wild longer than a week needs to be supplemented by hunting for food.
  • Equipment Upgrade:
    • Adventurers can spend Experience Points to add special qualities to their equipment, like reducing its encumbrance or increasing a weapon's damage, to a maximum of three qualities.
    • A rare few adventures, like specially trained High Elves or dwarves with access to the Forges of Erebor, can spend downtime to add enchantments to items, like enabling a sword to harm ghosts.
  • Evil Mentor: Although Saruman hasn't yet fallen to the Shadow, characters can gain a bonus proficiency in Shadow Lore from him at the cost of a permanent Shadow Point.
  • Fixed Damage Attack: Attacks deal a fixed amount of Endurance damage that's determined by the weapon, while a Great or Extraordinary success on an attack roll also adds one or two times the attacker's Damage Rating to the damage. Damage Rating is typically the character's Body score, but some Virtues can improve this.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Player Characters, who are heroic by definition, can apply a skill specialty in Smoking to relax, concentrate, or enhance a social encounter with a nice bit of pipe-weed.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: As the overarching force of evil in Middle-Earth, Sauron operates beyond the scope of any adventuring company, but his servants are nearly always the opposition to the players.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The Heart attribute governs your endurance and is also your store of Hope points, which is the major game mechanic for turning failure into success. Hobbits, with their high Heart rating, tend to have more Hope points than anyone else.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Downplayed. Wearing helmets increases your fatigue, like any other armour or weapons you care to carry. Unlike other gear, though, you can cast aside your helmet during battle to undo some of that increase, which is most useful if your Endurance is getting low and you can't cope with as much fatigue without getting weary. So you might see adventurers start off wearing helmets, but then taking them off when things start getting really dangerous.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Rivendell, of course, along with a few others. To enter Rivendell you must either have Elrond's invitation, or a sufficiently skilled guide who knows the elves.
  • Hit Points: "Endurance Points" represent the character's overall will and ability to carry on. Endurance loss in combat represents general strain and demoralization rather than outright wounds, and a character starts to flag when their Endurance score falls below their Fatigue score. However, a character at zero Endurance is only unconscious, not dying, and can quickly recover.
  • Hobbits: One of the major player cultures. Hobbits give any group they are in extra Fellowship Points and they are resistant to dark magics and fear.
  • Item Crafting: A rare few player characters, like High Elves with the correct cultural Virtues and dwarves with access to the Forges of Erebor, can create their own magic items, although doing so risks calling the attention of the Shadow.
  • Karma Meter: Shadow points are used to track despicable acts by characters or the influence of Sauron. Get enough of them and your character will have a bout of madness and acquire a new flaw. Get too many flaws and your character finally gives in to despair and becomes an NPC.
  • Lady of War: Several of the sample characters, such as The Bride of the woodmen or Frida, daughter of Finnulf from Laketown, are female adventurers.
  • Lord British Postulate: Gandalf notably has no stats in the game, though he appears often as a player patron. Neither Sauron nor the Balrog known as Durin's Bane have received stats either. Smaug the Golden doesn't have stats, but as most campaigns are set after The Hobbit he doesn't need them anymore.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Several player cultures can acquire these.
    • The woodmen of Mirkwood can have a hound of Mirkwood, which is very handy in hunting or fighting.
    • Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain can summon ravens to use as messengers or scouts.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: Under the Eye Awareness rules, using magical abilities and traveling with powerfully supernatural beings like High Elves draws the attention of evil forces, which can cause creatures of Shadow to seek out the adventurers or the land itself to turn against them somehow.
  • Magnum Opus: A skilled dwarf with access to the Forges of Erebor can create an enchanted item, replicating some small fraction of the great works of old. It takes years of work, often with an additional cost in experience points and permanent Shadow Points, and can only ever be done once in a dwarf's lifetime.
  • Mook Chivalry: Combatants engage each other one-on-one when possible. They only gang up if one side has more combatants than the other, and even then, a maximum of three enemies can engage a human-sized combatant.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Player characters who act evil too often will succumb to bouts of madness and eventually become NPCs.
  • Non-Combat EXP: Combat skills and all others have different "experience tracks". Non-combat skills are improved by succeeding at skill use. Combat skills are improved by achieving adventure goals, which may or may not involve actual combat.
  • Non-Health Damage: Adventurers can replace a normal attack with an attempt to intimidate their enemy, reducing its Hate points. This can make the enemy unable to use its special abilities, make an otherwise unkillable enemy vulnerable, or force a Craven enemy to flee immediately.
  • Non-Standard Skill Learning: Adventurers who win the trust of certain tutors, like Gandalf, Saruman, or the Ents, can spend a Fellowship Phase with them to learn specific Specialties with no need to swap out one of their existing ones.
  • No-Sell: Dunlendings have the unique cultural ability to negate an Endurance loss that would render them Weary or unconscious, at the cost of a point of Shadow.
  • Onesie Armor: Body armor counts as a single unit, with five different types offering scaling levels of protection against becoming Wounded. Downplayed as adventurers can also wear a helmet for a minor bonus.
  • Only Mostly Dead: A hero who falls to zero Endurance or suffers two major Wounds is merely unconscious. A hero with zero Endurance and a Wound will die within hours unless they receive proper medical care.
  • Our Elves Are Different: High Elves, from the Rivendell supplement, really are better mechanically, as are Rangers of the North. They attract more attention from the forces of evil as a result. Wood-elves, on the other hand, are comparable to the other player types.
  • Pals with Jesus: It's entirely possible for the company to gain Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, and Radagast the Brown as Patrons. Whether they realize that they're dealing with angelic spirits clothed in flesh is another matter.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Characters from cultures with a Frugal standard of living, like Woodmen of Wilderland, can generally see to their needs as traveling adventurers, but can't afford amenities like upscale inn rooms without a more affluent comrade's support. They can invest Treasure to raise their standard of living temporarily, but this requires a precious Downtime phase to do.
  • Player Headquarters: A company of adventurers can use their downtime to establish a "Sanctuary" where they can spend future downtime periods for certain mechanical advantages, such as a bonus dice roll to heal Shadow points. Sanctuaries can be anything from a remote outpost to an existing tavern in the middle of town.
  • Plot Armor: Equipment that costs Experience Points, like cultural Rewards, is supposed to be safe from loss or destruction, as it's an important part of the character.
  • Point Build System: Two of them. Advancement Points are earned by performing well on skill rolls (e.g.: Stealth) and are spent on training in skills, while Experience Points are gained by advancing the story and are spent on training in weapons proficiencies, Equipment Upgrades, and unique personal abilities called "Virtues".
  • Poisoned Weapons: Some orcs and other creatures of darkness wield weapons that can cause poisoning on a Critical Hit. This inflicts a Status Effect that duplicates the effect of a serious Wound and can cause other penalties, like temporary partial blindness from orc-poison.
  • Poison Is Evil: Many creatures of Shadow have poisonous attacks or Poisoned Weapons, but adventurers aren't allowed the option.
  • The Power of Hate: Creatures of darkness have a Hate score instead of a Hope score, and many have special powers that are fueled by Hate points, ranging from unique attacks to outright Black Magic. Some, like Wraiths, can ignore being reduced to zero Endurance as long as they still have Hate.
  • Power-Up Food: Beornings can learn to cook honey cakes that are healthful enough to reduce the difficulty of Fatigue tests and boost the Company's Fellowship score.
  • Random Encounters: The travel rules include the possibility of random hazards when a player rolls the Eye of Sauron on their custom twelve-sided die. Also when the party builds up enough "Eye Awareness", the Loremaster is instructed to make something bad happen.
  • Reduced-Downtime Features: Traveling Gear is kept abstract and is assumed to include anything that makes sense for a traveling adventurer to have, as well as anything appropriate to the Player Character's profession and wealth level. Gear is assumed to be replenished whenever the characters visit a settlement.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Bardings with the "Birthright" cultural Virtue get a single-use Unexplained Recovery from otherwise certain death, but their Standing score is reset to zero because they're presumed dead.
  • Resting Recovery:
    • Adventurers recover some of their Endurance Points when they can take a half-hour's rest after combat and with every subsequent long rest, such as a night's sleep. If they've suffered a life-threatening Wound, they regain a more limited amount, and only with long rests.
    • The Fatigue score represents long-term strain of adventuring, so adventurers recover one point by taking a prolonged rest in a safe refuge like a town — not by resting on the road.
  • Ring of Power:
    • High Elves of Rivendell can own a Lesser Ring, which boosts one of their attributes at the cost of a permanent Shadow point.
    • The Bree adventure includes the Ring of Seven Jewels, a potent artifact forged shortly before the Great Rings. It dramatically boosts the wearer's abilities and lets them achieve outright supernatural effects, but carries two powerful curses. The current bearer tries to use it to heal the sick, albeit not without major complications.
  • Role-Playing Endgame: If an experienced adventurer retires from play, the player's next character starts with bonus experience points, as they're assumed to have been mentored by the retiree.
  • Schrödinger's Gun:
    • At the end of each in-game year, the Storyteller narrates changes that have occurred offscreen in the world at large; heroes with a Standing score can intervene and explain how they would have influenced events, within the limits of their rank and abilities.
    • Traveling Gear is kept abstract, so the player can argue that it would make sense for an adventurer of their character's profession and wealth level to have had a given item on hand.
  • Sourcebook: So far we have books for Laketown, Rivendell, the Lonely Mountain, Rohan, and Bree. A Moria book is on the way.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Beorn the Skinchanger has this talent and can teach a trusted adventurer to speak to some types of animals. It's not quite "fluent" though, requiring a skill check to work out what the animal is saying.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: The Ringwraiths and several other creatures of Shadow have this power, which can have such effects as rendering adventurers unable to use Hope. Hobbits and Shieldmaidens of Rohan are particularly resistant to fear effects.
  • Taking the Bullet: A hero in defensive stance can choose to intercept a hit against another hero and become its target instead. However, if the original attack roll isn't high enough to strike them, it misses entirely.
  • There Are No Tents: A night's rest out on the road is sufficient to begin recovering Endurance loss from a fight or other hardship, but long-term Fatigue from a journey can only be reduced by resting in a safe refuge like an inn — sleeping rough in potentially dangerous locations is part of the hardship of a journey, not a respite from it.
  • Three-Stat System: Characters have three stats - Body, Wits, and Heart that range from 2 to 7. There are three important secondary stats as well - Valour, Wisdom, and Shadow.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Downplayed, since adventurers aren't allowed to be evil, but Dunlendings have some shady abilities and come from a people that sides with Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. In particular, one of their cultural Virtues lets them engage socially with creatures of the Shadow.
  • True Companions: Much like the Fellowship of the Ring, players are expected to form a company of adventurers that can rely on each other. Fellowship points generated by the company can be traded for Hope points to help individual characters succeed at their tasks.
  • Unknown Item Identification: Some properties of wondrous items can be deduced by Player Characters. Others, such as the nature of a Cursed Item, can only be determined by spending downtime to consult an NPC Loremaster like Elrond or Gandalf.
  • Wise Tree: The Ents of Fangorn will instruct trusted adventurers in the lore of nature and history. Each lesson takes multiple Fellowship Phases, as they're as long-winded as they are long-lived.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: As in The Lord of the Rings, Arwen's beauty is unsurpassed, even among the Inhumanly Beautiful elves. It's so striking that people who see her for the first time recover a Hope point or gain an Experience Point.