Part one of this review covered mostly character creation. Part two covers some of the basic rules of system including, Journeys, Shadow, Audience, and Fellowship.
The idea and concept of journeys are basic to both roleplaying games and Middle Earth. However, I find the mechanical rules confusing and restrictive. There’s too much calculating pluses and minuses that make it feel of disconnected from the actual journey. Why should the roll of one player have that much effect on the outcome of the rest of the party?
The table of results is a treasure trove of options for any game (lore) master. It includes options for shadow, party interactions, and complications that could lead to many of their own adventures.
The flavor of the chapter on Shadow is amazing. These are the conflicts of a good session spelled out for a player or Loremaster to use. However, it has my least favorite passage from the entire book:
“When this happens, the player relinquishes control of their character to the Loremaster for a short period of time. The Loremaster plays out the crisis, making the character do something they will later regret.”
Taking control of a PC can derail a game. I would much rather see the Loremaster present some options to the player and have them pick. Presenting options lets the Loremaster influence the outcome of the takeover by Shadow, and it gives the player choices.
Otherwise, I love the Miserable condition. It feels like somewhere between sulking and throwing a tantrum – both options that we see on the novels. It’s great flavor for the game that falling to The Shadow is an almost inevitable consequence for any character that plays to their flaws.
I’m not sure that Audience is the correct name for this section of the book. It deals almost entirely with relations between the races and groups, and then gives some flavor and rules for seeking reaction rules. I think this could have been moved to the Cultures section and then have the reactions be part of the skills.
A specific fellowship phase was one of the main things (besides The Shadow and some of the classes) that made this game feel new. The actions in this phase are totally character driven and require almost no dice rolling, just simple storytelling. Just reading through this section gives me ideas for my own home game, and makes me think of the novels in a new way. Trying to envision Beorn’s Hall as a sanctuary gives new meaning to that portion of The Hobbit.
I’m not sure every player would take advantage of the narrative portion of The Fellowship phase, but those that do will dig right in for their and the groups benefit.
The final section of the book has a selection of iconic character sheets. They are interesting but I was hoping for a little more background and perhaps a walk through of creation with some notes on potential differences if other traits or virtues were selected.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book, and found many things that I will use in my home game. I hope to try a short few sessions or perhaps a game at GenCon – although I’m not sure that a 4 hour session is enough time to get through all the phases of the game.
I will certainly be picking up the Loremasters Guide when it is available on DriveThruRPG.