I’ve spent a lot of time with Cubicle 7‘s latest book for The One Ring RPG, a sourcebook for Loremasters and players called the Adventurer’s Companion, and I’m really impressed by it. As usual, it’s a gorgeous book and full of excellent information and resources. There is some information already published in other books from this game but the majority is new and amazing.
The best summary of what the Adventurer’s Companion is all about comes from the book’s Introduction. ” The Adventurer’s Companion brings a wealth of new ideas, new systems, and new cultures to The One Ring Roleplaying Game. While much of the material here is for players, Loremasters will find a great deal for them as well within these pages, including complete summaries of the various systems that players regularly use in the game.”
In short, this book doesn’t have new adventures or enemies but it has many different tools for people on both sides of the screen to take narrative control of their One Ring game. This is exactly the sort of supplement I love for games, something that transforms how your game functions on a fundamental, at-the-table level. This can be tricky to pull off but in this case I think they really produced something great.
Part One: Characters
This is the big, shiny part of the book with the biggest, shiniest additions to the game. Depending on what books for The One Ring you already have, this part adds between six and thirteen different cultures to your game! The reason for the range in numbers is that a lot of these cultures are already in other books. Still, it’s really good to have them all in one place.
The Dunlendings and Riders of Rohan are, of course, from the Horse-lords of Rohan book and honestly they’re a little lesser without having all the areas and options in that book. The Dunlendings are the hill-folk of Dunland (you might remember Saruman stirring them into a frenzy in The Two Towers movie) and setting them to burn down the Westfold (producing adorable orpans in the meantime). The Riders of Rohan… well if you don’t know who they are you have bigger obstacles to your game than this review will go into. Both of these cultures are awesome and really fun but if you aren’t going to be anywhere near Rohan they lose a little. Of course, you can use the maps in Journeys and Maps to good effect and who doesn’t like a good quasi-Celt or painted barbarian in the company?
The Dwarves of the Grey Mountains and Dwarves of the Iron Hills are both in the Erebor: The Lonely Mountain supplement and they are instantly useful for any game of The One Ring. In fact, they work so well with the other Dwarven culture introduced (more on that later) that you could easily have an interesting all-Dwarf company. The Men of the Lake (originally in Lake-town Guide) and the High Elves of Rivendell and Rangers of the North (both originally in the Rivendell supplement) are likewise great additions to your game even if you’re exclusively in Wilderland and you don’t have the original sources of the cultures.
The big news, though, is the six new cultures that expand the game. The Dwarves of the Blue Mountains are from the far west past the Shire so they are a little far afield in Rhovanion but still fun. They add some great options to your game, especially as a Dwarven culture not totally obsessed with Smaug’s legacy. They can also potentially be Dwarves who end up in Rohan since they are considerably closer than those from Erebor (let alone farther north or east). I only wish they came with a little information (read “any”) on the regions around the Blue Mountains.
If you like Eriador, you also be plaesed with the Men of Bree who are surprisingly fun despite what you might be thinking about (and what I was expecting). My next character might indeed be a stalwart armsman from Bree. The Men of Minas Tirith and the Elves of Lórien need little introduction, though I will say that they’ve done an excellent job with both of them.
The last two cultures are a little different. The Wayward Elves of Mirkwood are more of a subculture or a variant on the core Elves of Mirkwood. They are Elves who concentrate on the beauty of the world and the majesty of their forest home, rather than the Shadow and the evil of Middle Earth. You might think they are poets but many other Elves see them as wastrels. Regardless, they have more than enough new material to make them distinct from the other Mirkwood Elves and they are really worth a look.
Similarly, the Wild Hobbits of the Anduin Vales share a lot in common with their sedentary cousins in the Shire but they are a wild folk who have fought the Shadow in Mirkwood for centuries. They’re sort of a mix between Hobbits of the Shire and Woodmen of Wilderland with some anti-Shadow powers from the High Elves of Rivendell thrown in. Plus, they live in secret holes and caves and many living directly near them don’t even realize they exist! A fun option.
Part Two: New Rules
The biggest element of this part is the Leader, a new calling that can inspire and persuade. Coupled with this is a new mechanic for Taking Courage where the more experienced characters (literally the characters with more experience points) can provide points of Courage to their companions at the beginning of each session. This also so wonderfully evokes Aragorn and Boromir with the Fellowship of the Ring that it falls very neatly into place in The One Ring.
Another section covers some Additional Combat Rules that are also about protecting other company members. This provides opportunities for the new Leader calling but also for keeping squishier characters from getting… well, squished. The Champion draws in the most powerful fighters and the Captain draws in ranged attacks. The Ward, on the other hand, is being protected by the others either because they are seriously injured or because they aren’t the fighting type (lookin’ at you, Pippin).
Some more Combat Tasks and an option for Combat Advantage and expanded Called Shots should give you all the tactical options you’ve been craving. The section ends with Expanded Masteries including Corruption Mastery and Fear Mastery to stop the Shadow from pushing your company around like a bunch of n00bs.
Part Three: Between Adventures
A brief overview (slash, review) of the Fellowship Phase might clarify things for the Loremaster but there isn’t a whole lot of new information in this first section. It does gather everything into one book, however.
The next section, Fellowship Phase Undertakings, is probably my favorite part of the Adventurer’s Companion. There’s a new undertaking (Confer with Radagast the Brown) but the real gold is the four pages of tables that list every single Fellowship Phase undertaking published to date! Not only do they list the undertaking and the page reference but they note who you need to talk to or where you can do it, as well as a brief summary of mechanics for the undertaking. This should be a major source of excitement for anyone playing The One Ring on either side of the screen.
Part Four: Curious Diversions
This section is very much for the Loremaster but it should be of interest to players too. First of all, there is an optional step to character creation that offers more defined Distinctive Features for your hero. For example, if you have a Beorning who is Determined you can choose or randomly roll another adjective for more detail. Maybe you’re determined because you’re so serious or it might be because you’re a tenacious hunter. You might be determined in the sense of resolute, not so focused day-to-day but unwavering in your ideals.
Second of all, the charts for Travelling Gear offers useful items for players based on their Standard of Living. To see what’s in their packs, you roll to determine quality and then roll to determine what item you get. This adds more detail to the abstracted “travelling gear” in The One Ring and also makes for a good random item generator for Loremasters and players alike.
A two-page section on Musical Instruments might be one of the best parts of the book. Do you know what sort of instruments a musically-inclined Dwarf might play? How about a Beorning minstrel? It’s cool, I don’t either. If you need to add flare to a hero or to a musical Scene in a sanctuary.
The last set of tables is really just a fun generator for seeing what you might find in a random pack, a body found in the woods, or even your own jacket. It is entitled, inevitably, But What Has It Got in Its Pocketses, Eh? and has a series of rolls to generate everything from a stone disc given to me long ago to a whistle from Gondor.
Part Five: For Reference
This last section includes some excellent reference materials for Loremasters and players, useful charts to just print out and have on hand.
The first is a Call to Arms guide, helping the harried Loremaster move through combat quickly and efficiently. Similarly, The Road Beckons and Taking Counsel walk the Loremaster through the mechanics of a Journey and an Audience respectively to keep the game fast and engaging.
There are Armour, Weapons, and Shields charts for more easy reference, but these seem a lot less useful to me since these items are already gathered together in one place.
This book is very densely packed with information and is a serious rules expansion like Rivendell and Erebor. At the same time, it also has some serious setting additions like Horse-lords of Rohan and Lake-town. The new cultures will make the mouths of diehard Tolkien fans in your gaming group water. It also has a lot of new combat options for strategy gamers and narrative elements for storytellers in your group. In short, it’s got it all! This project got delayed a lot but I think it was definitely worth the wait.