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The One Ring™ - Tales from the Lone-lands $19.99 $15.99
Average Rating:5.0 / 5
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The One Ring™ - Tales from the Lone-lands
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The One Ring™ - Tales from the Lone-lands
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Daniel [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/12/2024 08:23:32

As always, Free League knocks it out of the park. The adventures in this collection are excellently written and can be dropped individually into your games or played as a campaign. The artwork is great and the layout and design are what you expect from a Free League product: simply the best.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The One Ring™ - Tales from the Lone-lands
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Austin C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/14/2023 10:59:31

This review contains spoilers. It was originally posted on my website, akhelas.com.

Following in the footsteps of last year’s Ruins of the Lost Realm, this year Swedish publisher Free League has released another adventure compendium for The One Ring 2E (TOR). Drawing deeply from Tolkien’s works, TOR is a game which I’ve fallen in love for its evocative mechanics, varied story opportunities, and high-quality production. TOR is a great example of why I admire Free League’s work.

A note—I read these adventures, but have lacked the opportunity to play them.

That said, how does their latest adventure into Middle-Earth fare? Let’s find out.

WHAT’S INSIDE?

Tales from the Lone-Lands is a collection of six connected adventures. Each adventure’s core is a landmark (in the style of Ruins of the Lost Realm) which could be run independent of the adventure’s other material. This book also provides support for playing the entire adventures independently, but they’re at their strongest as a cohesive story.

And really, the story told in Tales from the Lone-Lands is exactly the type of campaign I wanted. It’s a somber tale, filled with minions of the Enemy, heroic quests, and a wonderfully on-theme finale.

The focus of each adventure is split between the journey, and the destination. Across the six adventures of Tales the Player-heroes will find themselves traveling widely across Eriador, the land west of the Misty Mountains. Even for Tolkien enthusiasts this campaign will likely enter unfamiliar territory while sailing onto the Great Sea or traveling into the frozen wastelands beyond Angmar. The focus on both journeys and landmarks suits TOR well given the game’s “There and Back Again” adventure structure. Most adventures have character drama or custom events which take place while traveling. Advice to the Loremaster on lacing the adventures together can be found throughout each adventure’s elements. In particular, I can see journey events being lifted easily and used during travels associated with other adventures.

At the heart of this campaign is Amon Guruthos, the Hill of Fear. This antagonist thrusts a deeply “Tolkien” feel into the whole campaign. The return of the Enemy haunts each adventure, and forebodes the growing power of the Hill of Fear. Unlike trolls and orcs, the Hill of Fear is not a monster (although there are several options for cool boss fights). The Hill of Fear is an ancient remnant of Morgoth’s evil, like the famous Balrog of Moria. It is not a creature to slay, but a force to confront.

This confrontation is interlaced with TOR’s mechanics. In TOR, exposure to the Shadow or committing Misdeeds can accrue Shadow points to a character. This often reflects forces beyond the scope of a Player-hero. The Eye of Sauron might be resisted, but its gaze isn’t a spell to counter or a sword to parry. Shadow is a moral force, a force of horror and corruption and despair. The Hill’s malevolence is present throughout Tales‘s adventures. This weaves the players’ journeys into a quest of resistance against the dark.

This tale seems, to me, bleak in the same ways as The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, the possibility of eucatastrophe is suggested twice in the final adventure, through the light of Eärendil. Resistance unto breaking, and beyond breaking, resistance to the last against Shadow and Evil. This book’s adherence to Tolkien’s themes presents a way to meaningfully play out a “Tolkien-like” story at the game table.

In terms of general polish, the text is well-written, with very few errors. These are mostly textual oversights (such as the text’s “Vale of Gold” being labeled the “Hill of Gold” on the map). Such errors never caused me confusion. I found each adventure’s presentation hit a sweet spot between linearity and openness. Tales provides enough options for player agency, but few enough that the Loremaster can follow the adventures easily. I feel confident to run any of these adventures after a single read-through the night prior to the session.

Always hunting for adventure? Then check out my RuneQuest work! The Queen’s Star sends players into the fiery Cinder Pits to save a fallen star. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the support!

PRODUCTION QUALITY

As with Free League’s other TOR products, the quality of Tales from the Lone-Lands is excellent. The volume is a 112-page hardcover with, I believe, a cloth-bound cover on which the cover illustration is printed. The interior is the same high-quality paper as the prior releases, with a focus on presenting a “tome-like” feel. Tales illustration is more satisfying to me than Ruins due to the increased focus on illustrating characters and creatures encountered during the adventures (such as the delightfully nasty Worm-wight). Most interior illustrations are grayscale sketches, punctuated with full-color spreads to start each adventure, and color cartography.

Overall the illustration is strong. In particular I like how Free League’s design choices have remained consistent. The heavy use of grayscale (sketch?) artwork adds a continuous feel to the game line. Likewise, it seems from the credits that the same collection of artists have worked on each hardcover. This consistency in style and quality is a strength I hope to see continue.

The only production critique I have is that at times the cartography feels a little unclear. This is more due to the mesh of cartography and game design, rather than the illustrations themselves. For example, some adventures note a large ruin at a landmark as a single location, with a few notes for portions of the ruin. Although TOR isn’t designed for “hallway by hallway” dungeon-crawling in the style of Pathfinder or Dragonbane, I do think a little more detail (or less massive ruins) would clean up the descriptive presentation.

CONCLUSION

I heartily recommend Tales from the Lone-Lands to anyone interested in more adventures for TOR. It’s a splendid book which weaves Tolkien’s themes into a meaningful story which allows the players to impact the future of the Free Folk.

This book meshes well with Ruins of the Lost Realm, without excessively overlapping in scope. I feel the books work best together. Ruins provides a geographic setting, and Tales an interconnected story. Laced throughout with landmark adventures from Ruins—and of the Loremaster’s own design—I feel excited to take these books out on a campaign into Eriador.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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