What The One Ring Roleplaying Game Means to Me

I bought the original slipcase edition of The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild (that’s what it was called at the time) by Cubicle 7 soon after its release in 2011. Much like the books on which it is based, I immediately liked it.

I read and re-read the rules, ran several one shot demos, bought all subsequent releases, formed a Meetup group, and eventually ran a 16 month campaign before becoming a player in a Darkening of Mirkwood campaign being run by my friend Marco Rafalá.

Like a lot of systems, running and playing The One Ring are different experiences. I recently sat down and wrote up my thoughts on what playing the game means to me. The results follow.

Fangorn by J.R.R. Tolkien

I started reading Tolkien sometime in the early 80’s with the 1973 Ballantine Books Lord of the Rings box set with original cover art from the author himself. I was taken from the start. Those covers with their muted colors seemed like glimpses into another world. I read those books over and over again until they eventually fell apart. Thus began my lifelong love of Middle-earth.

The One Ring Roleplaying Game is the one thing that gives me the same sense of wonder as those first readings. The wild and lonely places, the ancient, abiding sadness of a world marred before it was ever made, the breathtaking beauty, the pervasive peril, the will to strive against the shadow whether victory is achievable or not — it’s all there.

As a result, the manner in which I approach this game is different from all others as is what I want to get from it. I approach it, by my own admission, with a good deal of reverence. I don’t want to conquer it. I want to inhabit it. When I’m done, I want to feel like I’ve been there and back again.

I’ve had some additional thoughts since writing the above…

I think it’s easy to agree that we live in a bitter and cynical age. I think it’s also easy to agree that most of us spend far too much time staring at screens of various shapes and sizes.

That experience of going there and back again can provide much needed respite. Sitting around a table, creating stories together forges and deepens friendships as we create a time and place in which we can explore aspects of ourselves not always (or never) surfaced in our day to day lives. Doing this in the context of Middle-earth, with its somewhat unique set of constraints, serves to enrich our exploration and can help to create a deeply satisfying gaming experience.

It’s easy to say it’s only a game. I’m often guilty of downplaying my love of gaming in just that manner. But, I don’t actually believe it’s only a game. We’ve been sitting in circles telling stories with the darkness at our backs for as long as we can collectively remember. I like to think that, in its purest form, gaming can be a formalized, post-modern version of that uniquely human activity. We certainly could use something to keep the darkness at bay.

I’m leaving my apartment in Brooklyn shortly to go play The One Ring with some good friends. I recommend you do the same sometime soon.

I’d love to hear what The One Ring means to you. Please join the conversation on Facebook and/or Twitter.