Wednesday, 28 March 2012

There and (Maybe) Back Again

After a few weeks of giving it a try, we've decided to put The One Ring aside for a while; I was running the game, and I do have to admit to pressing the issue a little, as I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with it. I do like the general design of the rules, as it's a clever and robust system, but it also feels a little detached, as if the players are not in direct control of their characters. This is evident to some extent in the abstract combat system -- which I liked more than the players did -- but is even more prominent in the travel rules; they are very good rules but they feel more like a strategic board game than anything, and while I'm confident that we could in time get used to this feeling of detachment, the game has another problem that has prevented us putting in that time.

From the perspective of the GM, the game seems quite limited in scope. Although The One Ring comes with a large map of the Mirkwood region, the GM's book contains very little information on what lurks under the eaves of the great forest, and seems to expect the GM to either make up the rest, or have extensive knowledge of Tolkien's works; from my I admit limited knowledge of the canon, it seems as if there never was much detail on the Mirkwood area. So what's the problem? Why not just make it up? Well, the challenge is in inventing new elements while maintaining the tone of Middle-Earth -- it's not the kind of setting where a hex can be populated with 2d12 kobolds -- but at the same time keeping things a bit more interesting than "oh look, more orcs!" I struggled with that challenge -- a hunting expedition for a psychedelic human-owl hybrid thing was, in hindsight, perhaps not in keeping with the good professor's works -- and the GM's book was of little help. Perhaps indicative of the haphazard GM support is the fact that the two introductory adventures -- one in the book and one available online -- are set at opposite ends of Mirkwood, making their integration into a single campaign rather difficult.

All that said, Cubicle 7 have at last announced their plans for expanding the game and it's good to see that they're going to provide some more adventure material, including two campaigns; perhaps when these are released, my group will return to Middle-Earth and give things another go. In the meantime, we're investigating other options while our regular group is disrupted by summer trips and the like, and looking forward, we've decided to try the remake of The Enemy Within when it comes out, albeit with WFRP2, since co-author Graeme Davis says it should be easy to convert back to the older ruleset. I've also got a half-formed inclination to run TSR's classic sword-and-sand Dark Sun setting under Savage Worlds but I often come up with ideas of that sort -- such as an ill-fated attempt to run a Ravenloft game using the SAGA system -- and not all of them make it to the table. I think a bit of post-apocalyptic swords and sandery might be quite fun, so I'm keen to give it a go, unless the boxed set is a complete turn off.