The One Ring is set roughly 60-50 years before Lord of the Rings, and most of the focus is on the lands of The Hobbit, though maps and some setting information is available for all of the lands in Lord of the Rings now.
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.
Interestingly, 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 has also been published by Cubicle 7. It has even had some of the same adventures adapted to it.
A second edition of the game was announced in May of 2019. All adventures and prior source material is expected to be compatible with the new edition.
This game provides examples of:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Big Bad: Sauron, naturally. He's The Man Behind the Man for the most part, but his servants are nearly always the opposition to the players.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool Horse: Men of Rohan naturally use these, and the Rohan supplement contains a variety of breeds.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dirty Coward: "Craven" creatures try to flee the scene as soon as they run out of Hate points.
- 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.
- Fixed Damage Attack: Attacks deal a fixed amount of Endurance damage that's determined by the weapon, while a Critical Hit 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 grease the wheels of a social encounter with a nice bit of pipe-weed.
- 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 (hp) 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" are a slight variant in that they 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Morale Mechanic: Characters can give in to despair if they have endured too much, which makes all of their rolls more difficult because they no longer count the "1", "2", or "3" on their six-sided skill dice.
- 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.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: Player characters who act evil too often will succumb to bouts of madness and eventually become NPCs.
- Our Elves Are Better: 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. Woodelves, on the other hand, are comparable to the other player types.
- Pals with Jesus: It's entirely possible for the PCs 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.
- Player Headquarters: A company of player characters 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.
- 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".
- Poison Is Evil: Unlike adventurers, many creatures of Shadow have poisonous attacks or Poisoned Weapons.
- 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.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Beorn the Skinchanger has this talent and can teach it to a trusted character. It's not quite "fluent" though, requiring a skill check to work out what the animal is saying.
- Story And Gameplay Integration: The core rules book cover (seen above) shows a battle that legally follows all of the combat rules of the game:
- There are two characters with ranged weapons and four with melee weapons. In-game, one character may take a rearward stance for every two characters who take a melee stance and stand in front of them.
- There are eight enemies, which is less than twice as many enemies as player characters. This means that the enemies do not outnumber the players by so much that they could prevent the players from using ranged weapons at all.
- Sourcebook: So far we have books for Laketown, Rivendell, the Lonely Mountain, Rohan, and Bree. A Moria book is on the way.
- Supernatural Fear Inducer: The Ringwraiths, of course, but several other creatures can do this. Hobbits and Shieldmaidens of Rohan are particularly resistant to fear effects.
- 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.
- 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.