Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Organic High-Level Characters

I was reading through some of the magic items in my DMG as I was contemplating Yet Another AD&D Campaign (tm). This is a biannual event that brings me much delight initially but usually fails to materialize on some level . Anyway, I noticed that no game I'd ever been a part of included most of these items. Nearly every game has a Bag of Holding or Ring of Invisibility at some point, but no Robes of the Arch Magi nor Drums of Panic. And that's a real shame because some of this stuff is pretty interesting and would generate a lot of amusement value. I do remember running a game wherein the ranger found a Ring of Delusion and thought he could fly. That added all sorts of family entertainment. I suppose most of this stuff would destroy a low-level game, so that's probably why I've never seen it or used it.

This led me along the path of wondering about high level characters and if people ever really did/do play campaigns long enough to cast 9th level spells or become the Grand Druid. I've certainly been a part of games that had these features, but usually they started at a high level initially. This is only related to AD&D specifically for some reason. One summer when I was in high school we played D&D all the way through 36th level before the characters became immortal, but I've never had an AD&D character who experienced the same thing. My 15th level assassin started at 10th level, which kinda sucks because playing out all the lower level murdering would have made for a better back story.

Anyway, browsing through The Rogues Gallery, I noticed the stats for some of the original D&D characters like Bigby and Erac's Cousin. Obviously these characters progressed organically, meaning they gained power and ability in-game. And you can tell looking at their stats and equipment. Further, most of them are around 12-15th level max, a far cry from the 20th level characters I've played in "high level" games, all 18 stats and crazy amounts of magic items. Browsing through some of my old character sheets, it's apparent which ones were started at 1st level and which were written up at a higher level.

I suppose the question here is if it's possible to simulate an organic character development process in order to create some high level characters that aren't patently cookie-cutter. I've used the tables in the DMG before, but haven't really been satisfied with the results; they resemble whatever I'd come up with off the top of my head. When I say cookie-cutter, I mean characters who have +3 swords and +2 platemail and rings of protection. My high level D&D fighter used a +4 club and some +5 chainmail because that was the best stuff he ever found. Apparently, looking at the sheet, he also had a +2 club. No idea where all these clubs came from. That character owned a large dominion at one point, gained during the course of play. I suppose I could create a high level fighter who looks similar, but that land...I remember him smashing a lot of orc skulls to clear it out.

A lot of gamers write extensive backgrounds for their characters, and I've never been a fan of such. In fact, I think it's annoying. But if I'm making a high level character, there has to be some existing background to justify the character's current state. Unlike my fighter above, the character never actually did anything within the game. Surely the character can be treated like an NPC prior to being played as a PC, an existing history referred to when necessary. But again, it's not the same thing. Even a system like Central Casting isn't satisfactory. Playing is a much richer experience vs. writing up something or rolling on tables, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to duplicate the actual play to create a character that "feels" right. What's the solution?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rule Zero 4 Lyfe

I just cannot help myself...I keep reading Dragonsfoot, even though it usually annoys the hell out of me. Perhaps it's because there are some good ideas to be found amongst the idiocy; more likely, I am simply a masochist who enjoys becoming constantly irate. In either case, this thread dealing with "ending multi-classing" got me thinking, specifically about Rule Zero. Rule Zero, of course, is the primary unwritten rule in rpgs: the dungeon master is always right. Some people really hate this idea, but I don't think you can truly play the game without having some final authority. You start a game, any game, with specific rules in place. If something happens that isn't covered in the rules, the DM has to make a ruling. If a rule creates a stupid result, the DM must have the authority to overturn that result to ensure the game continues.

Anyway, there are two posts in that thread that bother me. Relevant quote #1: "...Gary suggested we all do that in his manuals." I don't disagree with the first part of the quote, which essentially says to change the rules to whatever you want, but this portion annoys me. Not to be a total dick (which I am, anyway), but seriously, what the fuck do I care about Gygax? Appeal to Authority [Gygax] is a bullshit fallacy people use when they have no real reason to support their argument. I don't really care what Gygax said as he is irrelevant to the game I'm running. Rule Zero basically nullifies anything anyone has ever said about any game I'm going DM. I appreciate that he was wise enough to understand this point, but I also am beginning to understand why he grew tired of answering rules questions in the later part of his life. The DM is the absolute final authority for his game, no one else.

The second post is even more problematic: "Tell the players to roll up new characters." Why? If you read the first post, it's obvious the players aren't familiar with AD&D, and instead coming from a 3rd edition mindset. It's not necessarily the fault of the DM (he may not understand AD&D that well himself), and truly the players could be taking advantage of the system, but you know what...fuck it. The DM can simply say, "Okay, you fucked up but we can retcon the characters." Perhaps consolidate XP or something. Anything is possible, there's no need to roll up new characters. Again, rolling up new characters might be the end result, but the implication of this post is that the AD&D rules are immutable and the DM has no real authority to just hand-wave some stuff to get the game back on track. That's dumb as fuck. Rule Zero. The DM can do whatever he wants, ESPECIALLY when there might be some need to ensure everyone has a good time. I'd go so far as to say that a DM who adheres to the rules to the detriment of everyone's fun is pretty awful. This isn't to say DMs can't kill characters or have to give out tons of treasure or whatever, but if there is a dispute like this that could easily be resolved through a thoughtful ruling and one way results in fun and the other a bunch of pissed off players, it's obvious to me which one is best.

Once again, I feel like I'm ranting in response to people whose mindset is adherence to some sacred cow called The Rules. Less complex games can get by with rigid rules, but a game like D&D must allow the DM to do whatever needs to be done. If you're playing D&D with a DM you don't trust, find another game. Corollary, if your players are troublesome jackasses, find new players. Players should let the DM make rulings per Rule Zero and the DM should definitely take player input on those rulings seriously.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Redefinition of Roleplaying

So, I watched this D&D movie thing a couple days ago and thought a lot about what the term "roleplaying" actually means within the context of gaming. Just within the confines of the sorta-documentary format short film it's obvious that roleplaying has changed scope through the years.

Initially it was fantasy wargaming, or whatever the hell you want to call it. A boardgame much like the numerous other games that existed, but within the confines of a specific genre, namely swords and sorcery. I know that there's much dispute behind the original intent of D&D, but after doing "research" for my finely produced clone (release date indeterminate), it's fairly obvious taking a role did not mean bad amateur acting. As time progressed, rpgs moved into the realm of pseudo-performance art, LARPs and all sorts of other crap that seem to undermine the original intent. I suppose these are legitimate expressions of playing a game, but to be perfectly honest I wish they weren't associated with rpgs. This is probably the same way grognards felt about being associated with all the D&D upstarts, and most likely why a new term was invented. Unfortunately, the new playing styles aren't dissociated with the older ones, and instead passed off as "better", by a lot of people. The OSR movement (whatever you want to call it) essentially is the rediscovery of the original rpg gaming style, but really, it IS the rpg gaming style. In toto. If anything, the newer games aren't rpgs, they're something else. Instead of redefining the term roleplaying game, another word needs to be used.

I reread what I just wrote and decided it's nearly impossible to decide where to draw the lines on what games to include/exclude from the conversation. A game like Amber, while extremely dissimilar from D&D, at least mechanically, is still what I'd call an rpg. Burning Wheel, I don't feel the same way. There are others who'd disagree completely. The main consideration, I think, is intent. The intent of D&D is to create a character who gains power and survives within the confines of a gaming world. My Life With Master seems to be an exercise in creating a story. In the first case, the game itself is played, and the story is whatever we talk about when it's over. In the second case, the game is played under the assumption that the characters are part of an interactive novel, creating the story as they proceed. Surely a D&D game can have similar elements, as any system can be used for storytelling. But the primary goal is to see how long the characters can live before their demise (or retirement), the finality of the game. Perhaps they have more immediate goals, as is the case of a one-shot or specific adventure, but if they live, they won. The storytelling games don't have the same intent, instead focused on how good the story is. It's a collaborative effort between the gamemaster and players.

So, should we separate rpgs into genres, or simply redefine more modernized rpgs with a different name? Storytelling games, stgs? One of the main issues I see with more enlightened gamers is the absurd notion that computer rpgs aren't roleplaying. When I was a kid, Bard's Tale was very much an rpg in every sense of the word. Now it is seen as a poor excuse for computerized D&D, and valueless as a true rpg. Bard's Tale isn't an stg, but it's an rpg for sure. Perhaps a simple split and renaming would help for cases like this. My main problem isn't the appropriation of the term rpg by storytelling systems (they're natural outgrowths so have every right to use it), but instead the conceit that storytelling is the evolution in rpgs and thus better. I guess I really wouldn't care if there were a new phrase as long as the storyteller people would step the fuck off and stop acting superior. If you're having fun, you're succeeding at playing a game. Magic might be a "better" card game than poker, using their logic, but poker is much more fun. I don't see poker players defending their game from Magic players, so why do any of the OSR guys feel like they need to promote D&D-like games in a similar manner? The focus on differences, instead of the inherent enjoyment a particular game provides, is in fact the problem. So either rename the new crap or accept it as a similar, yet different, form of rpg and leave it at that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: BLUDGEONS & FLAGONS TO BE PUBLISHED!

It is with great joy I announce that work has begun on BLUDGEONS & FLAGONS, a recreation of the Original Rules (tm) that are even MORE original. I started this project several days ago after reading the comments on some of my previous blog entries. It became apparent to me that I was "missing the point" of the Original Rules (tm), so I began examining the Original Rules (tm) at great length. After much thought I  decided to distill down everything that made those rules great and make them even greater. Supreme, if you will. BLUDGEONS & FLAGONS will be the most primal expression of the Original Rules (tm) ever published, and provide the truest roleplaying experience possible. Unquestionably these rules will change the hobby forever.

The creative process does not exist in a vacuum, but in this case it did. I worked on these rules alone for countless hours, editing and collating literally billions of ideas into this new format. There is one individual who offered a bit of help, but his incoherent babbling was lost amongst the insanely great ideas I formulated out of my own head. I have included his name in the credits as a matter of civility, but take no heed for I am the originator of these rules and final authority rests on me.

As a teaser of great things to come, I am making the first six pages of BLUDGEONS & FLAGONS available to download and read FOR FREE! TODAY! Once you see these rules you will plead with me to preorder the published copy. Your gaming life has been made much brighter today, by me, for I provide the FUTURE IN FANTASY WARGAMING!




Monday, November 14, 2011

Misplaced Retro-Love

So, in light of some comments made previously on my blog about the original version of D&D (and a discussion I had with some friends on Saturday), I decided to go over all my older D&D books and figure out what I liked about each version, and for what reasons. I fully intended to outline specific rules, quirks, styles, etc., that appealed to me for each version. What I really discovered, though, was the Original D&D (OD&D) books sucked major ass. Presentation-wise, writing, content, pretty much just horrid pieces of crap. I honestly have no idea how OD&D became so insanely popular given this fact, but I do realize the many reasons Gygax et al made a serious push to support the game through rules clarifications and eventually Holmes' edited D&D and AD&D. It also became evident why many other rpgs came into being so quickly. I've read interviews with Ken St. Andre and he directly stated that Tunnels and Trolls came about because he couldn't decipher D&D. Plenty of other games cropped up soon thereafter, each essentially a response to the crappiness of D&D. My guess is this is why Gygax pushed so hard to get the Monster Manual out the door, because he knew the original game was popular simply because it was the first, not for any other reason. It had name recognition, not quality, and a professionally written and edited version was necessary lest another company take over in popularity.

My question, then, is why do so many people have weird justifications to defend a pile of crap? I'm not saying they shouldn't LIKE OD&D, nor ignore the nostalgia they feel for the game, but it sucks. It's historically significant and should be treated that way, but there sheer reverence I see for OD&D is fucked up. There's nothing wrong with liking something you know is low quality, at all. I truly enjoy Miller High Life, I admit it. It is my second favorite beer, even though I know it's awful. I'd never say it's a quality beer, however. The point here is "recreating the OD&D experience" seems pretty stupid to me. Why would I want to recreate a hot mess of inanity? Couldn't I simply play AD&D, removing all the parts that overcomplicate the game? Like I said, I've read OD&D and the supplements; AD&D took all that crap and made it readable. If you think otherwise, you're fooling yourself. I understand a game like Labyrinth Lord: it exists as a vehicle for people who want to play B/X but need something in-print. I suppose I'm at a loss to understand a game like Swords & Wizardry, though, because OD&D was terrible shit to begin with so why anyone would want to play it is beyond me. B/X came about because no one could decipher OD&D without having already played it, if that even makes any sense. I remember when I got the Redbox...laugh all you want, the examples of play seriously helped a lot. You cannot read OD&D and have the faintest clue of how to play whatsoever. Is there any need to duplicate this stupidity?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Places In My Mind

Chris keeps posting stuff about specific places being the inspiration for stories, gaming, etc. I wish he'd stop because it really makes me want to play a lot more rpgs; I'm getting frustrated. To the point that I started to contemplate becoming a psychology professor and starting a course where the main project is creation of an extensive D&D campaign I get to play in. I figure with 20-25 students, there would be four good groups which means four games a week. Perhaps Dr. Barker has it all figured out. Can anyone find justification for a philosophy professor to play D&D? I can't come up with anything, but I'm working on it.

The whole point of this post was to specifically talk about a place I envision each and every time I want to play a fantasy rpg. The problem is, I have no idea where it came from. It's not a real place (I'm pretty sure of that); I think it was inspired by some artwork I saw when I was in grade school. But, again, I can't be sure as I've looked through every Dragon magazine, every D&D module and rulebook, every single collection of fantasy art I could find and haven't seen it again. The image is so vivid I maintain I saw it somewhere, but who knows...years of alcohol abuse could have fooled my brain.

That said, my ideal campaign world for fantasy rpgs, and D&D specifically, is always sort of gloomy. Even though spring eventually comes, for whatever reason the PCs never see it. Overcast skies, cold but not freezing. The sun never shines through the clouds. At night, no one goes outside. There is one town, dimly lit at all times, maybe ten buildings with the proverbial inn at the middle. Adventurers need only look beyond the line of trees in the distance to see an ominous landscape. It starts with a dead forest, a barrier to broken terrain that glows softly in the dark. Closer examination reveals ruins; a maze uncovered after destruction of a massive keep, possibly obliterated by dragon fire. Goblins hide within the shadows, spying on those who would enter their realm. For whatever reason, they never venture beyond the dead forest which serves as a barrier between civilization and a time forgotten. Exploring the ruins can result in great fortune but imminent death awaits. The villagers eke out a minimal existence in their town, but bold parties travel forth, never to be heard from again. There is a road that leads to the next town, but no one ever uses it. The adventurers themselves might have come that way to reach the town but their knowledge of the lands beyond is lost; the current environs cloud all memory, only fortune and fame on their minds.

Essentially, my ideal environment is nothing more than a dungeon and a town; everything else is irrelevant. To me, at least, this seems to be the essence of Old School rpgs. A massive board without fixed squares, but still confined to a specific space the pieces cannot leave. Is there any real need for a whole world in which to put this board? What justification is necessary beyond "the place exists to facilitate adventuring"? Sandbox gaming now assumes the PCs can go wherever they want, the DM responsible for a world for them to explore at their whim. Sandbox gaming when I was younger was just what I described: you have this dungeon and that's it. Clean it out and go to town to sell your crap.

I'm not saying the simpler way of creating a game world is better, but it's certainly not worse. When I first started playing D&D, we created a new campaign nearly every couple weeks. Someone else would have a dungeon they wanted to run, we'd make new characters and attempt to tackle it. After either TPK or success, another kid would be the DM with his own dungeon. After dismissing this style of play as "unrealistic" over the course of several years, I've finally come to terms with the fact that it's not. It's no more unrealistic than creating a fantasy world out of whole cloth, complete with detailed rules for flora, fauna, how magic works, scientific theory, whatever. It's a game, nothing else, and as long as the DM arbitrates the game in a fair manner there's no need to "justify" anything.

In all honesty, I think a game like Magic Realm is a better rpg than anything I've seen in ten years. I'm sort of getting annoyed with the idea that roleplaying means funny voices and playing "in-character". Certainly it can mean that, but that's not the only valid interpretation. The older I get the more I long for the days in the cafeteria, traipsing through yet another killer dungeon in an attempt to beat my friend's new best attempt to kill us all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making stuff up is apparently bad

Yep

Seriously, dude, get a fucking grip. I fully understand that different styles of play appeal to different people, but directly calling people who wing it (and make stuff up in what you call an illogical manner) idiots is just asking to be called a douchebag. I would have posted this in the comments, but I'm sure it would have been deleted instantly.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delving Deeper?

So I had heard about the Delving Deeper over on the Goblinoid Games forums some time ago and it piqued my interest. From what I could tell, it was supposed to be a more direct clone of Original D&D, the old boxed set I never got a chance to play when I was a kid. I like Original Edition Characters for Labyrinth Lord, but would prefer some sort of consolidated rulebook. Swords & Wizardry Whitebox is better in presentation, but the unified save and ascending armor class annoy me. I was looking forward to Delving Deeper to correct these issues and provide a better crusty-old school gaming experience. Then I saw some sample pages on the blog and came to a realization: I already have all this crap. Ten times over I have all of this. That's not to say I think DD will be a waste of money (I'm certainly going to buy it), but I don't think it's going to really DO anything for me other than sit on a shelf. What ideas will this game provide that I don't already have in some other book? I complained a while back about retro-clones becoming too prolific and diluting their own usefulness; how many iterations of a Sleep spell or stats for Ghouls do you need? DD is going to have that stuff, just like every other edition of D&D in existence. Is there a compelling reason to play it?

For once I'll end with an open-ended question as opposed to answering it myself...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bloggers: No One Cares

There are two types of bloggers (there are two types of everything, depending on who is doing the classification, but just humor me):

1) Those who write to share their ideas, to foster legitimate discussion and encourage critical feedback

2) Assholes who want a captive audience that agrees with them, lest they delete negative comments

I am firmly in the first camp, even though I'm also an asshole. When I write stuff, I like to think whoever reads it gets some use out of it. If they think it sucks, I'd like them to say so in ye olde comments section of that particular post. Except for deleting spam, I'd never moderate anything. Idiots are easy enough to spot, and sometimes negative criticisms are accurate.

Some people, however, are completely incapable of dealing with criticism. When I read their blogs, it's obvious they have an axe to grind, and want nothing contrary said about their stupid opinions. And stupid opinions they are. Pretentious, stupid comments made as a matter-of-fact, shrouded in some sort of superior ability to discern the chaff from excellence. Nine times out of ten, they make disparaging, no, outright scurrilous, remarks about things, and nearly always their opinion differs from the masses. I think the common term for this is now "douchebag hipster", people who dislike what's popular simply because it's popular. I'm not an expert on aesthetics, having only had a couple graduate classes on the subject, but I am a dedicated student of classical philosophy and understand that many times things are appealing to a large group because they are objectively appealing. At least in whatever sense objectivity can be used to describe pleasing things.

For example, football is an extremely popular American sport (gridiron football for anyone dumb enough to think I'm talking about soccer). In fact, it is the most popular sport in the US and regularly leads television ratings in every single category. Game Seven of the World Series beat Sunday Night Football this year, but not by much. Anyway, football is watched by millions of people. Some of the Type-2 bloggers listed above, well, they hate football. They'll make posts about how much football sucks, how they think it's a stupid game, how dumb people must be for watching it. I'm never one to say anyone has to like watching football (you're missing out!), but the notion that hundreds of millions of people are idiots because they enjoy a game the blogger in question finds boring...that's just pretentious bullshit.

The comments thing, even worse. Post a comment that disputes their post, deleted! Or attacked then deleted. Why even have a fucking blog? Oh yeah, I almost forgot: to post crap for people to read and agree with. If you want to post useful information, why does it have to be laced with pseudo-tirades and come with some sort of condition, refraining from criticism? I get it, you're putting this shit out there for free, but look: if you put it on a blog, it is now open to public debate. If you don't like that, post it to a private blog or message board no one can see. I really don't understand the issue here, but yes I do...Type-2s are narcissistic. That's the only thing that makes any sense.

But really, to everyone blogging (especially me), the real conclusion is that NO ONE CARES. No one in the meaningful sense of the phrase. So what, a thousand people read your shit. That's statistically insignificant. Frank Mentzer told me the Red Box sold twelve million copies. Twelve fucking million. Most well-known authors don't sell that many books in toto in their lifetimes, much less one title. When he says shit, people do care because he's relevant. But bloggers...unless you're cranking out rpg titles with the same quality as the Red Box and selling millions, no one cares. No one gives a fuck, sorry. Pretending you only produce quality stuff that should be accepted and cherished, devoid of critique, that's why you're insignificant. Being criticized is the only way you will ever get better. And none of you are any good, obviously, or you'd leave the basement, cranking out blog posts, and start publishing legitimately. With a few exceptions. To all the guys who have actually published stuff and have sold it for dollars, well, kudos good sirs. At least you have the balls to put your work out there and have it deconstructed and analyzed in the most meaningful way possible. If anyone spends a buck on your product, you have succeeded. Say what you want about James Raggi (for instance), but when I read his blog I get the sense that he sincerely cares that people like his stuff. He seems to take criticism seriously and tries to improve. That's probably why he's making money off this hobby.

To reiterate: no one cares. If you want someone to care then start listening to the negativity. Take it seriously and try to improve your work. Or don't and be a pretentious dick who thinks everyone else is an idiot. Friends? Who needs 'em.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The One Ring: A Short Critique

As already stated here, I didn't have much hope for The One Ring, yet another Middle-Earth based rpg published after the demise of ICE. I've made a few posts on this here blog about the few sessions of MERP I've run recently; I like the system, it's Middle-Earth and it's deadly and dark. After re-reading LotR yet again for the 50th time last month, I can honestly say MERP does a really good job of capturing the utter futility inherent in the environment. Heroes are born, not made, which is probably why a lot of people dislike adventuring in Tolkien's world...unless the DM goes out of his way to make the PCs important, they aren't and never will be. Published worlds are at a disadvantage because of this fact. Any published world, I think, suffers from this problem. Even Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, initially "homebrew" settings (I'll really never understand why this term is used disparagingly when compared to published settings as unless the setting has a literary base, they all share the same origins) have developed into comprehensive worlds filled with characters, history, locations and gods. It's hard for a PC to fit into these without either altering the world or just dealing with being a peon. So, to reiterate, I don't think Middle-Earth is any different in this regard, when compared to ANY published world. Perhaps the background pushes the action more due to the history being very detailed, but people will bitch just as much about changing Aragorn as they will Elminster (probably more).

SO ALL THAT SAID, what about The One Ring? First of all, the presentation is nice. Very nice. The slipcover contains two books (Adventurer's Book, Loremaster's Book), two maps (both of NW Middle-Earth, one with a hex grid superimposed over top) and some dice. The dice aren't that special, although there is a 12-sider with the Eye of Sauron and a a glyph for Gandalf. It's essentially a d10 that allows for what boils down to special successes and failures (you can figure out which is which). Overall, the appearance of the game is top-notch and the production value is fantastic. The books feature mostly drab colors that evoke the proper feeling expected of the environment. The artwork reminded me of the new Dragon Warriors rpg (out-of-print already, yeesh), which isn't surprising as it was the same artist. Enough of this, you get the point: presentation is an A+.

What about the actual game? Well, I haven't played it yet, but honestly I don't think I ever will. The system reminds me somewhat of Tri-Stat with a bunch of skills thrown in. I feel much like I did when first reading 4th Edition D&D, that I couldn't figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing with this game. There are a lot of mechanical systems in place setup to "force" a character into a certain way of play. I don't like that sort of stuff, others might, but to me background systems in rpgs is overrated. We already know how Tolkien's dwarves act, there's no need for mechanics to encourage the stereotypes. The skill resolution system is nothing new, a basic die-pool that requires the included dice. Except there are a lot more factors involved, like being Weary or spending Hope, all new names for old concepts. It's obvious that the naming conventions used are specifically to, again, encourage the proper tone in the game. I can appreciate that but it doesn't do much for me. Blah blah blah, I don't like it. It's not a terrible system, but it's not ground-breaking, either. I find no compelling reason to use this game over something like the Star Wars d6 conversion I did a couple months ago. Die-pool systems are good, die-pool systems that require special dice are annoying. There are a lot of reasons to like it, but all those don't add up to a good game, in my opinion.

Oddly enough, I think The One Ring is worth the money because reading the rules provides plenty of ideas on how to run a Middle-Earth game, but I wouldn't run a game using those rules. My suggestion is to buy the game, read it, use the maps and concepts, but dump all the extraneous crap that tries to turn a game into an exercise in literary analysis. And I suppose that's exactly why I dislike the game given my approach to rpgs. I don't want to recreate Tolkien, or anything at all, I merely want to kill orcs and find treasure. Games that try to accurately recreate stories already told are doomed to fail unless they alter some aspect to encourage PC importance. Trying to achieve both (remain faithful to the source yet have PCs in the forefront of the action) almost always result in a failed attempt for both. The One Ring is like plenty of other games that came before: a valiant effort that falls short. This is through no fault of the writer, I think, but instead a fault of the incongruous nature of using published works as rpgs settings.

To sum up, buy The One Ring, but don't pay full retail. Amazon has it for $38, the maps alone are worth $15 - $20, and the concepts within are valuable. As a game, I dislike it. But I'm also a crotchety wargamer, so those with more delicate sensibilities might find it just what they need.