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An RPG Resource Review

*****

In the world of The One Ring, not everyone is cut out to be an adventurer. Many of those who do tread that path feel that it chose them rather than the other way around. This book brings a wealth of new ideas, new systems, and new cultures aimed primarily at players, but Loremasters will find plenty that is of use to them as well. The Introducion explains the five parts that make up this work.

Part 1: Characters is concerned with the process of and options available when creating a character, beginning with an overview of the process. Then there is a section that looks at the choices that can be made as a character is crafted to ensure a unique and memorable character, with ways to tap into the inspiration many get from characters in literature and other good ideas, also material on forming a group in ways that seem natural rather than forced. Most of this part of the book, however, is jam-packed with no less than thirteen Heroic Cultures from which your character might come. Revel in them, they make fascinating reading.

The next part contains New Rules. Want to be a Leader? There's a new calling to let you do just that. New combat rules and expanded masteries give new ways to use your skills to good effect both on and off the battlefield. There's also some neat ways of handling a party of mixed experience.

In the third part, Between Adventures, there is a focus on what you do when not adventuring. There's an excellent and clear explanation of how the Fellowship Phase works, and a comprehensive list of the things you can do, collated from all the material published so far. Handy to have it all in the same place. There's also a collection of potential patrons and some famous companies who have achieved renown in Wilderland - maybe characters will want to join them if not emulate their exploits. There's also discussion of the passage of years and the concept of multi-generational campaigns.

Then, part four - Curious Diversions - contains an odd assortment of things, from ranomised travelling gear to musical instruments and the things you might find in the average adventurer's pockets.

Finally, part five is For Reference. Here are things like the steps Loremasters and players go through when engaged in combat, giving ideas for turning a brawl into an exciting narrative not just a lot of die-rolling and table-consulting. Another section does the same for journeys, a pivotal part of this game. There's also a detailed account of how an encounter should play out. All this material is designed to enhance the role-playing and story-telling aspects of the game, to embed them into everything that occurs on the table-top.

This is not only a book worth reading, it's worth dipping into again and again. The rules here are in the main optional, but without exception they enhance an already good game, elegant and nuanced. If you play The One Ring, you should really get this.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

The settlement of Bree always conjures up a cosy, welcoming feel... yet there's a feeling of being on the edge of adventure. This supplement matches that feeling well, with plenty of detail on Bree itself and in particular The Prancing Pony Inn, as well as three adventures and a wealth of ideas for things to do in Bree, be you adventuring or in the Fellowship Phase.

The Introduction puts this all in context, pointing out that Bree is to the west of Rivendell, a good stopping-off point for travellers, and with a history of meetings and encounters. Those who fancy playing a hobbit or a man of Bree will find all the details they need to create their character, while Loremasters (for whom this supplement is really intended) will find plenty to bring a new area to life in their game. Suggestions are provided for how to use the adventures: the default is that they should be used with a new party setting out from the area and, run in the order presented, take three or more years to complete in conjuction with Fellowship Phases, but at least the first two adventures may be run as stand-alones or the party may consist of more seasoned characters who have arrived in Bree. Plenty of options there to weave this material into your campaign.

We start off, however, with A History of the Bree-land. Opinions are divided it seems, some say Bree's ancient, settled by descendants of the first men to ever tread these lands, others say different. The Bree-folk themselves aren't too bothered, scholarly pursuits are uncommon amongst them although a hobbit historian has put together an extensive history for those who care to search out a copy and read it. He traces evidence of the existence of Bree back to the reign of the last king of Arnor, in the year 843 of the Third Age. Hobbits arrived somewhat later, around 1300 or so.

Next up is the geography of the area. Bree is a bastion of civilisation, a little island in the middle of the empty wilderness of the North - and the majority of the inhabitants are content to stay there. The East Road and the North Road cross nearby bringing plenty of travellers through (and allowing any locals with itchy feet a way out). There are some irregular patrols by the Rangers of the North, and characters spending a Fellowship Phase in Bree can help out if they're of a mind, and if the Rangers like them. There are plenty of other ideas for activities based in and around Bree too. Plenty of places and people are described, facilitating exploration of the area (particularly for non-local characters). The Prancing Pony gets a whole section to itself, complete with floor plans. This is followed by material covering the empty lands around Bree, and a section about adventuring in Bree.

Then, Men of Bree covers the people who live there, including background about them and all the information you need to create your own characters - hobbits as well as men.

The three adventures follow. Old Bones and Skin sends the party on the trail of a monster first encountered in tales told in The Prancing Pony, but grim and real enough... and so naturally enough begins in the inn itself. Of course, there's much more to it, enough to challenge the bravest adventurer and with real risk attached. Then Strange Men, Strange Roads is set set on the Road west of the Forsaken Inn, involving travelling to both the Chetwood and to Bree, and it all starts in the Forsaken Inn when the party is due to meet a Ranger who doesn't show up. Plenty of action and a spot of courtroom drama await. Finally, Holed Up in Staddle involves travelling the roads and entering Bree itself in the pursuit of some evil men.

This is a coherent and evocative supplement, ideally suited to the gentle yet epic feel of The One Ring, and comes recommended highly as another worthy expansion to the known world. There's lots to do in Bree...


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

The pollution in Fair Haven is getting really bad... there's this blue mist that is killing some of the inhabitants and sending many of the rest insane. It seems to be coming from the sewers, so of course any adventurer worth the name will be straight down there to find out what's going on.

The DM notes begin with an overview of the adventure, there's an encounter list, scaling information, and some notes on how best to get the party involved. This adventure can be run as a sequel to DCC7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove, but if you don't want to do that there are a couple of other ideas to propel them in the right direction. There's also plenty background material to make sure that you're clear about what's actually going on and how it came about... underpinning it all is a devilish plot to turn the world into another plane of Hell!

The adventure proper begins with an investigation into the noisome sewers of Fair Haven. They're cramped, smelly, and there are always traces if not pockets of the deadly blue mist. Also, there are wandering monsters to contend with. There is also a magnificent puzzle/trap that appears to be the key to dealing with the mist. This includes a riddle that appears almost out of thin air, for which a handout is supplied. It's noted that a particularly harsh DM might show it only to the player of the character who sees it, and snatch it away after the 30 seconds for which it appears (I had a DM play a similar trick on me once... the poor dear didn't know I have a near-photographic memory and just wrote out the message that had faded before my character's eyes!). There's a lot more to find, to fight, and to puzzle out down here. And the smell never gets any better!

As the riddles of the sewers are solved and the inhabitants put to the sword, eventually the party should open a portal to... well, somewhere else. They get sucked in, it's unavoidable. It's a dimensional prison, caging something that really, really ought not to be allowed out; and it's full of cryptic traps and puzzles. They are partly to keep the inmates in and partly to stop anyone breaking in to rescue them, and there's a third, darker, purpose (which could lead to further adventures...). A mix of aggression and cunning is needed here. Nothing is what it seems, but all is extremely dangerous. Indeed, it's likely that not all the party will survive. There is layer upon layer, you think you've reached the end and yet another level opens before you...

The end is suitably dramatic, with the party returned to a sunny Fair Haven with an enigmatic voice ringing in their ears. There are some ideas for follow-up adventures too. If you want a wild ride of deadly danger with the well-being of the very world at stake, look no further!


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

This is a first-level adventure, but as usual the challenges facing the party are not trivial. A bunch of bandits calling themselves the Broken Knives has been purloining treasures from local temples and have made their base in a ruined castle. A party cleric may serve one of the burgled temples, or the party may just see notices advertising for adventurers to raid the bandits in the local town (Grozny if you're using the default world of Aereth).

The information for the DM includes an encounter list, scaling information, location notes and extensive background mainly centred on Castle Churo, explaining why it is in such a battered state and what effects result from that... it used to belong to a magician called Churo, whose experiments with high-powered magic were ultimately his downfall. This was some thirty years ago. Meanwhile, in town there are five religions competing for power and worshippers, and these recently started suffering losses of valuable relics from their temples...

Rather unusually for this series, the adventure itself begins with the party being brought before the town's religious council, which has representatives of all five religions - three of which have been robbed. The thefts were carried out by subterranean tunnels into their storerooms and although the tunnels collapsed behind the thieves, they appear to lead back to Castle Churo. After they are briefed on the missing items, they might want to gather rumours before heading on up there. And that's where the real fun starts...

Room descriptions paint the picture well, and there's a lot going on wherever the party should venture. This is all backed up with details of monsters/NPCs, their stats and likely reactions to party intrusions, and notes of what's available to loot if the party is victorious. A few handouts are included to help players understand what their characters can see. There are some innovative traps and effects for the party to navigate... and this is before they venture into the catacombs beneath the castle ruins. The adventure is wound up neatly with several alternative outcomes, with the possibility of further action if the fellow behind the thefts evades them, or goes undetected.

It's a coherent adventure, with every encounter having a good reason to be where it is. A neat way for a new adventuring party to start building their reputations.


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An RPG Resource Review

***( )( )

Be careful what you read! You often find magic tomes that have an effect on those that read them, but here's a truly evil effect... being dumped into a bizarre adventure based on children's fairy stories. A bit trite even if you like them, pure torture if you don't.

The DM is provided with a synopsis of the adventure, a list of encounters, scaling information, and some plot hooks to get the party trapped... er, I mean, involved in the adventure. As the adventure involves a visit to a demiplane, you can run it from anywhere although there is a suggestion for a start-point if you are using the default world of Aereth. This demiplane consists of a massive dark forest and there's plenty of information to help you set the scene. It's not just the strange location, weird things happen to the party too - but there's full coverage on how to handle that as well. Turning them into children, perhaps... but SIX years of age sounds a bit young.

The adventure proper begins when the party examines what turns out to be an animated book of children's stories. It proves to be very chatty and friendly, and eventually asks if it may tell a story to the whole party when they are together - perhaps of an evening seated around a campfire or otherwise taking their ease. And so it tells the tale of The Warty Witch and the Forest of Lanterns, about two young children who got lost in said forest and defeated the Witch to escape. The book then suggests that it might be fun to see it all firsthand...

Needless to say, the Forest of Lanterns to which the party are transported (whether or not they think it might be 'fun') is darker and nastier than the storybook version. There are plenty of wandering monsters and set-piece encounters to keep the party 'entertained' and even those who will talk rather than fight are unfriendly.Indeed there's a nasty undercurrent through the entire adventure, with assorted creatures attempting to toy with the party, messing them about for their own amusement. Somewhere in the middle is the Witch's cottage (made out of gingerbread of course), which has two floors, a tower and a dungeon underneath.

The adventure should end with the defeat of the Witch and the discovery of a way to get home, but there are other options... even the dire one of continuing in similar vein with a series of such adventures - a couple are outlined and suggestions of other modules you could adapt are provided. Be sure your group actually like this sort of thing. It's well put together but the whole concept is one that they may find repellant. It's not for me... although I may be inspired by the magical book to create one that can transport a party to places I'd actually enjoy visiting!


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