|Did you hear me "squee"? Did you?|
Yesterday, I went down to my FLGS and picked up a copy of The Darkening of Mirkwood supplement for The One Ring RPG. I've been waiting for this one to hit the shelves for a while, let me tell you. I was repeatedly tempted to pre-order it from Cubicle 7, but the money was always better spent on necessities... until today.
I absolutely adore The One Ring. As a long-time Tolkien fanatic, it's the first time I've seen a Middle Earth game that is so close and faithful to the source material. Iron Crown's Middle Earth Role-Playing game (MERP) was plenty flavorful, but the system was a clunky, indecipherable version of Rolemaster that Middle Earth had been grafted onto.
Don't get me wrong, I love the wealth and depth of information in the MERP supplements, but I could never get past the system mechanics, or the way magic items (and spells) we so damn prevalent. In my mind, the only magic-users in Tolkien's world were powerful being like the Istari, Sauron, or the Witch King of Angmar, and the only magical weapons were things like Glamdring, Anduril, and Sting. Why does Lobelia Sackville-Baggins need a magical umbrella, anyway?
After MERP, I picked up Decipher's The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game. Unfortunately for me, it hewed too closely to Peter Jackson's films and not closely enough to what I consider canonical Tolkien. The system wasn't all that impressive, either, and 98% of the illustrations consisted of still photographs from the films. As much as I like Jackson's adaptations (which is to say I have a love/hate relationship with them), I have a hard time considering them to be something I'd want to spend my time playing or running.
In the intervening years, I've attempted a number of times to adapt Tolkien to other game systems, from West End Games' D6 system to Chaosium's Stormbringer and Avalon Hill's Runequest. Those attempts never turned out quite right, and I never put any of them to the test. The closest I came was running a 2nd Edition AD&D game set in Middle Earth where the players portrayed orcs attempting to retrieve a bauble in a barrow for one of the Nazgul (I later adapted that adventure to Midnight and ran it for FFG at one GenCon or another).
With The One Ring, I don't have to fake it anymore. The game is marvelous and I can't say enough good things about it. The only trouble I have is when players inevitably make comparisons to Jackson's films, but even then I can smile, nod, and let it pass. If anything, Jackson got the visuals and grandeur of the setting down pretty well, and if that helps folks imagine the game better, more power to them.