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Lord of the Rings tabletop RPG The One Ring is getting a second edition

From Free League, the award-winning publisher of Tales from the Loop and Alien RPGs

A stylized portrait of the Fellowship of the Ring in the Mirkwood. From the publisher: There’s only one hope against the Enemy, and that lies in unity. The Free Peoples must make a stand, and fight back. Image: Free League
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Award-winning tabletop role-playing system The One Ring is getting a second edition. Designers Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi are working with Free League, publishers of Tales from the Loop and Alien: The Roleplaying Game, to revitalize the game that was first released in 2011. A core rulebook and boxed starter set are planned, both with new art throughout. Preorders will begin Feb. 11 on Kickstarter with delivery expected before the end of 2021.

Titled The One Ring: Roleplaying the World of The Lord of the Rings, the new core rulebook will include all the necessary mechanics needed to run a game. Fans should expect it to contain much of the same material as was originally published in 2011. That product, titled The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild, won multiple industry awards for art and presentation.

This new book will also focus on the timeline, which is set during the 70-year period between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. The boxed starter set will even come with multiple pre-generated characters based on historical figures from the lore. Players will be able to take on the role of Drogo Baggins, father of Frodo Baggins, and Paladin Took II, father of Peregrin “Pippin” Took.

Game designer Francesco Nepitello told Polygon in a video conference that this new version of The One Ring will be based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, not Peter Jackson’s movies. Nepitello said that the system will lean into its “purist” approach to the source material this time around. If it’s not in the books then it’s simply not an option for players, which could lead to a bit of a surprise for those who want to play as spellcasters.

Recall that vanishingly few characters in Tolkien’s books actually cast spells — namely Gandalf, Saruman, and Radagast. Nepitello sees them as “a different order of being” and therefore off limits for character creation.

Rather than having individual magical spells at their disposal, player characters will instead have access to feats called Virtues. It’s these Virtues that will help hobbits to hide themselves and give elves their uncanny gracefulness in combat. Players should also encounter plenty of magical items, but overall expect a more gritty medieval world than the one portrayed in the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons or Paizo’s Pathfinder.

The first wave of The One Ring’s second edition, Nepitello said, will focus on the northwestern region of Eriador, which is home to the Shire and Rivendell. Subsequent books and modules will expand to other regions of Middle-earth. Fans should expect more information Tuesday on the Free League website.

Update (Mar. 2): With just two days left in its crowdfunding campaign, The One Ring: Roleplaying the World of The Lord of the Rings has so far earned more than $1.5 million. That will almost assuredly make it one of the highest earning tabletop role-playing games on Kickstarter this year. Multiple stretch goals have been offered by Free League, including a new map of the Shire, enhanced world detail and lore throughout, extra dice, and custom character sheets “based on the distinctive graphical element designed by Alvaro Tapia, for Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits and Men.”

The campaign will end on Mar. 4 at 2:00 p.m. CT. The game is expected to be available at retail.