Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Guide

My Pendragon guide was very popular. One of my top three blog posts! So I’m doing more for other RPGs I love.

Thus, I present to you, Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Book Guide!

I adore The One Ring (also called TOR.) My love of Tolkien runs deep and nostalgic, and TOR captures everything I adore about Tolkien into a game that I consider near perfect. Cubicle 7 crushed it. Their team has made an amazing game that I’m always excited to buy and play.

I’ve divided these into categories, start with Must Buy, and getting all the way to Optionals. You can click on the titles or the pictures for links to the purchase site (all of them on Cubicle 7’s website). I’ll primarily focus on The One Ring Edition (not Adventures in Middle-Earth, but AEM is amazing!) because it’s both readily available in PDF and Print and because I’m wildly biased (again, my favorite Tolkien RPG ever).

Note, just because something isn’t “Must Buy” doesn’t mean I think it’s bad or don’t use it. Often the opposite! But if I am coming into the game, or recommending purchasing orders to folks, this is how I would recommend it.

 


MUST BUY

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The Core Rulebook: You have to always start with the corebook! Luckily, this scorebook is a 336 page tome full of gorgeous full-color art, easy to read and learn rules, and everything you need to play!

Bestiary, pregens, a small adventure, storytelling advice. It’s pretty much spot on and perfect!TOR_Dice3

 

The Dice SetWhile the dice set is not officially required, I really like having the official dice for this game. They make play much smoother, it’s easier to teach, and it generally improves the experience.

I consider them a must buy if you’re going to play TOR. You won’t go wrong.

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The Adventurer’s Companion: Us roleplaying fanatics love our options, and The Adventurer’s Guide gives us so many more options. A useful book if you want to expand outside of the core options, this book is a must have at any table.

It also includes some unique Fellowship Phase options, and some extra rules to add a bit more crunch and character development to the very streamlined ruleset.

It also has a catalog of all the Fellowship options up to that point, and it adds Generational Play (a favorite of mine design-wise.) Yes please.


BEST OPTIONS TO BUY FOR MORE AWESOME

If you want to add more awesome to your already awesome The One Ring game nights, these books will serve you nicely. I have all of them and regularly use them all.

JourneysAndMaps600Journeys & MapsI love this product. Big, folded maps that I can lay on the table and teach folks with, or show their travels and journeys? Yeah, this is a win.

With the beautifully thought-out travel rules in the core, I consider this product just below Must Have, and it’s an absolutely valuable resource at my table.

The only real issue is that future & new maps aren’t/won’t be in it. Here’s hoping for a Journeys & Maps II or similar product.

 

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The Loremaster’s Screen: Well, how are you going to go wrong with a Loremaster’s Screen for TOR? The back end of it is fantastic, with tons of useful rules information and guides to playing.

Plus as a bonus, you get the Lake-Town rules (for playing Men of the Lake) and some new Fellowship options.

Unfortunately (kinda?), those are reprinted in The Adventurer’s Companion, so if you aren’t the sort of LM who wants a screen, you might not find full value in this.  It’s still beautiful, and I still consider it useful, but I don’t consider it a must have.

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The Heart of the WildThis book introduces River Hobbits, so it’s pretty much perfect from the get-go!

However, it also adds a lot more detail to the Wilderland (the default locale in the corebook), more enemies, more Cultures, and lots more excellent options, like those above.

However, lots of this book (new cultures, added Fellowship phase options) is repeated in The Adventurer’s Guide, so it’s hard to justify on the table at times (for me.)


MORE AWESOME OPTIONS (BUT LESS ESSENTIAL THAN ABOVE!)

So, this is where it gets weird. These options are pretty great! And I love and use them all, but they’re a bit more…precise in what you might want or need.

The books below expand the core experience out of the Wilderlands (the area around The Lonely Mountain) and add new cultures and locales to the game.

However, if you’re not planning to travel to these locations in the game, nor play a culture from there, they are relatively superfluous in your game.

Instead of going over which is in each of these in particular, I’m going to simply show you what they are, and give you a brief overview of how these are all set up.

  • They generally introduce a new culture or two.
  • They introduce specific rules for that culture (such as Horses for Rohan, Dragons & Dwarven Artifacts for Erebor, etc.)
  • They add a new map and new pregenerated characters.

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ADVENTURES!

The One Ring has oodles of adventures. Just so many. And they’re all great. But if you don’t do premade adventures, they’re less useful.

So, mileage might vary! Most of the adventure books are tied to one of the locale expansions above (Tales from the Wilderland being tied to the Corebook, and The Darkening of Mirkwood being stand alone.)tfw_fc800.jpg

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That art though… *faints*

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Book Review: Lullabies for Dungeon Crawlers

6196yU0iPgL.jpgSo here’s a thing I haven’t done in a long time, a book review!

Lullabies for Dungeon Crawlers by M. Todd Gallowglas is a collection of roleplaying game, fantasy, and dungeon crawling inspired poetry. The book is slim, only 60 pages, and laid out in a minimalist manner.

I haven’t done this recently, so let’s get right to the point. I had a great time reading this book.

I’m not a poetry critic, so I can’t get into if Gallowglas’s words fall into some nebulous category of “good” or “bad”, but I can unequivocally state: I had fun, I laughed, I nodded in agreement, and I saw a reflection of love for the hobby and industry where I’ve been living in some part for the last 20 years.

Gallowglas has an insight into the world of tabletop RPGs, and even when he’s poking fun, it’s with a very loving smile towards an old friend, no malice or ill intent.

I should probably close this review, with some sort of RPG based pun, like how this book rolled a natural 20 to win my heart, or Gallowglas clearly didn’t make poetry his dump stat, but that’d be cheesy….

I fully recommend this book if you love tabletop RPGs, and I don’t think you’ll go wrong with it. It’s an excellent, loving and tongue in cheek analysis of our beloved hobby through an unique medium.

You can read the eBook for free on Kindle Unlimited or buy a hardcopy here.

Pendragon Halloween Game Recipes

Cooking with Alan Time!

Some folks asked for the recipes I used for the Pendragon Halloween Game. Here they are!

You’ll have to bear with me, I’ve never written recipes on this blog before.

These recipes are deliberately medieval-styled, but obviously benefit from modern advances. I used this site to do my best to use ingredients that were as authentic as possible. But I didn’t break my back, as I was more concerned about “feel” than accuracy.

The stew (except for potatoes & the Lea and Perrins) is fairly authentic to some historical recipes that have been studied/cataloged. Obviously Guinness wasn’t around in the same way, but one can safely assume some form of beer was. Now, I’m not a scholar, so that information might be outdated, but I did do some research (yay internet and some free books!) to figure out how close I was.

The Berry crumble is a take on a Scandinavian recipe, and is a pretty reasonable extrapolation of a possible dessert (but there’s no evidence they actually ate dessert in the way we consider it now.)

As for the cider, well, that’s just really good. And it has the benefit of being possible. There’s Saxon and other cultural chronicles that indicate cider was drank regularly! So….yeah.

Not accurate, but a lazy effort!

Continue reading

Halloween Game 2017 – Pendragon

This is a really late update, but hey. Here we go.

I ran a Pendragon one-off for my Halloween game in 2017.


Rules Changes for MOAR HORROR

I introduced a new “Curse” mechanic to the players. I had a giant d20 on the table set at ‘1’. Every time a player rolled a result equal to that number on the d20 (or lower) I increased the D20 by 1 and then they had to draw a Curse Card from the Curse Deck.

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There were 4 types of curses. They had more “purple” names on the cards, but functionally:

  • Blood Curse (They took more damage and dealt more damage.)
  • Corruption Curse (big penalty on rolls.)
  • Cowardice Curse (had to make severe Valorous checks to do certain things.)
  • Death Curse (only one of these in the deck, but you had to make a Valorous test or take damage for each curse you had, then all the Curses in play shuffled back into the deck.)

The basic setup put them in a cursed faerie forest, trying to rescue their wives, who were kidnapped by an evil Fae-Skeleton.

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FOOD!

I made the following meal for them:

  • Guinness Stew consisting of carrots, beef, potatoes, a Guinness broth with a few secret ingredients of my own.
  • Homemade Apple Cider with a spice recipe I learned from Mom.
  • Cloudberry Crumble, a dessert made from green apples, cloudberry jam, brown suger, and flower.

There was various assorted modern drinks too. You can find the recipes here.

We ate on wooden dishes and utensils for extra immersion!

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Cider

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Stew

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Cloudberry Crumble


The Game

It was a blast! We had a great time, full of awesome moments. All of these players learned Pendragon for the first time (except one.)

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In the other room, I’d set up the castle I’d bought and painted along with special minis for them and their knights (plus all the enemies) which ended with a climatic battle, where all the Knights but one died, and the survivor was cursed to be a werewolf (some seriously bad luck.)

It was a blast and I’m already mapping out this years Halloween game.

On Impossible Standards, Failure & Success

It’s been a very long few weeks.

If I’m being honest, it’s been a very long few months.

It all started with some fairly large misses on my end on the production of Tiny Dungeon 2e. In fairness to myself, I’m working two jobs, while conducting a job hunt.

But fairness to myself isn’t something I’m good with. That’s just an excuse.

I screwed up. And then I screwed up on something else (a few somethings). And then tonight, again. It feels like a trend lately. And when I mess up, I start to read into conversations through the lens of failure. It’s almost impossible to get around it. Every email is a job I’m losing, every conversation is someone wanting to quit working with me.

Logically, I know that it’s a byproduct of two cons in 6 weeks, two ongoing jobs, two ongoing fulfillments for Kickstarters, and no breaks and no vacations.

I know that GKG has a pretty good reputation and most of our customers like us. At least I think so. Most people would call my career at this point successful. I’m really good at ignoring bad reviews. But my own mistakes? Not so great. I mostly feel like a failure.

I can’t remember the last time I felt recharged and ready to go.

But like I said. I’m not good at fairness to myself. I hold the work I do in the game industry to a very high standard. I mean, the idea of asking folks to give me money for a game is based on a level of ego that I have to have, and I’m asking them to trust me. I take that very seriously. Trust is a sacred and important thing.

So when I mess up, I take it hard. Very hard. I don’t like messing up, and I especially don’t like making mistakes I feel are stupid.

Self-care and self-forgiveness are hard. I’m very aware of my weakness, especially as they relate to bipolar. What I’m bad at is letting stuff go when I make mistakes and failure hits.

I’m not sure how to get over this hump. I realize I’m holding myself up to an impossible standard of no mistakes, and experienced and veteran companies make these same mistakes (or worse ones), but that doesn’t feel better. I’m not them. I’m me. And I made the mistakes.

I don’t have some grand illuminating point to this. I don’t have some solution or reference, or quip that’ll fix it. I wish I did. But I know doesn’t work that way.

I do have a few days off where I’m not bringing any electronics, no work, just quiet, the wife, books and movies, and recharging myself.

I hope it helps. I need something to work here. Cuz I feel like I’m not.

LTUE Schedule!

So starting tomorrow, I’ll be at LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything). I have several panels, and will be around just chatting and running our first Gallant Knight Games booth!

Thursday, February 15

1pm- Kaffeeklatsch with Alan Bahr

Boardroom (Provo Marriott), 1pm – 1:45pm

Kaffeeklatsch: From the German for “coffee” and “gossip”, an informal social gathering at which coffee and other beverages are served while chatting. Join your favorite presenter for all their insights. Seats are very limited so sign up outside the Boardroom ASAP.


4pm- The Art of Fun: Intro to Game Design

Elm (Provo Marriott), 4pm – 4:45pm
Tags: Gaming

Games are powerful tools to create positive social experiences. What causes fun, and how do we get folks to have fun with games? Is “fun” always the goal of a game?

 

Friday, February 16

2pm – Board Game Recommendations

Elm (Provo Marriott), 2pm – 2:45pm
Tags: Gaming

Come and hear about these panelists favorite board games. Then you can share your favorite board games too.


6pm – Leveraging Principles of Psychology in Game Design

Canyon (Provo Marriott), 6pm – 6:45pm
Tags: Gaming

Using what we know about the brain to make your games interesting & engaging.

Saturday, February 17

10am – How to Run a Killer Game Kickstarter

Amphitheater (Provo Marriott), 10am – 10:45am
Tags: Gaming

How to effectively use Kickstarter to fund your new game.


5pm – What Don’t We Know about the Books Coming Out?

Elm (Provo Marriott), 5pm – 5:45pm
Tags: Books

What are some of the newest trends in the industry? How quickly do they change, and how do agents, publishers and authors anticipate them?

Planet Mercenary – A retrospective?

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Planet Mercenary is a game I helped to write and did a majority of the rules design on, especially the initial engine and concepts.

It’s a game I’m very proud of. Exceptionally so, and I consider it firmly in the “Best Work” category of my career (which while small, is growing rapidly.)

Last night, the Game Chief Secrets PDF was delivered to backers.  That marks the last big item from the Kickstarter owed to backers.

It also marks at least three months of downtime without thinking about Planet Mercenary (the team is taking a break.)

With the looming conclusion of the first round of the Planet Mercenary lifecycle, and the break hanging over my head like the famed Damocles Sword, I find myself reflecting about Planet Mercenary and the journey it set me on.


That’s September, 2013. That’s is the day I sat down with Howard at the Dragon’s Keep (a game and comic store) in Orem Utah, and we talked about how I’d approach a Schlock Mercenary roleplaying game.

He told me a mechanic he had in mind that had been roughly outlined (Mayhem), and basically put me in a on-the-spot job interview, asking how I’d approach the design problem.

Howard has a mind for story telling, humor and understanding what an audience needs as opposed to their wants. It’s these qualities (among others) that make Schlock Mercenary amazing, and it was apparent even in that first conversation, that those qualities were going to be core to how he approached Planet Mercenary.

You all know the phrase: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” That’s exactly what this meeting was. Years of homebrew, entering online adventure and RPG writing contests, and dinking around as a freelancer or consultant made for a fun hobby.

Suddenly, it was a job.

And when Howard sent out those tweets that night after our meeting, it was a job like one I’d never had.

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This was the day I had to sell Sandra Tayler on Planet Mercenary (to the best of my recollection.)

If you don’t already know, Sandra is…sort of the gatekeeper for Hypernode Media. She’s business-minded power behind Schlock Mercenary, and her and Howard handle all of it together.

This was the day where the project would live or die. Kinda a big deal. Sandra has a mind for business and potential I find myself jealous of. She understands what she does in a way I can only hope to approach.

In the Game Chief Secrets PDF, Sandra talks about this day and meeting, so I’ll avoid it. Just one note.

She says I was focused and sharp. All I remember is throwing up on the way to the meeting from nervousness, and the rest of the meeting is kinda blurry.

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This cover mock-up is an older one, and it wrongfully omits Sandra’s name (which thankfully, the actual book has printed on there.) I’m terribly at google-fu. No skill points there.


The Schlock Mercenary fandom is rabid (in a single word.) There’s an active reddit, Facebook group, forum thread, all the pieces. They support Howard and Sandra, and were exceptionally welcoming.

There’s even a whole, very active Facebook group for Planet Mercenary. It’s one thing to make something, it’s another to be able to watch it be embraced, criticized, and commented on.

It’s apparent that Planet Mercenary has a life of it’s own.


At the core of the experience are Howard and Sandra.

At points we were talking once to twice a week, with emails every day in between.

When you work with someone that much, you either learn to appreciate and love them, or you learn to hate and dread them.

Luckily, on my half (and hopefully Sandra & Howard’s), I landed squarely on the love and appreciate side.

Sandra & Howard are wonderful collaborators, among the best I’ve worked with (and I’ve worked with some serious talent.)

They’re supportive, understanding, engaged, and passionate about all their projects and all parts of their jobs. Even the ones that grind on, or drag, or could be considered tedious. They bring the same zeal and drive to everything they do.

I couldn’t have asked for better partners, and I’m grateful that they invited me in to their world and let me play around in their sandbox for bit.

I count myself lucky in some ways I never thought I would.

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One quick note. I often comment on how only a handful of folks know how the popular sophont type of Esspererin got named.

During the Kickstarter, one of the stretch goals was more playable sophont types. We hit it, Howard and I were reviewing the list (at this point, we had something like 30 sophonts prepped for the game.)

Howard sent out an email listing the sophonts we hadn’t included, and some requests for “something robotic”, “something small”, and some other requests. I sent back a something small that became the Queltro (a popular sophont in it’s own right.)

With a wry joke (I’m not funny like Howard or Sandra), I also sent in a bonus small sophont (because “two Something Smalls, make a Regular Sized Sophont.) I had asked my wife for some feedback before I sent them over (as I’m wont to do.) She mentioned the game needed gremlin space fairies.

Below is the original pitch for the Esspererin (dated 5/12/2015.)

Extra Something Small: Extra Something Smalls are tiny little humanoids with 4 wings. They can actually survive in the vacuum of space without breathing, and LOVE mechanics (their home planet never developed technology like that, due to their size). They’re considered bad luck, and tend to act like pilot fish, following ships around space ports and repair station, doing “unauthorized repairs, which usually go horribly wrong.”
  • Gremlins: Anytime a Extra Something Small does a Mechanic, Engineering, or Computer’s check, invert the color of the Mayhem dice. That’s right. The two regular dice are now Mayhem dice. The mayhem dice is now a regular dice. However, the GM automatically gains the Mayhem card before a player can look at it and this card can’t be negated by a player. The Extra Something Small gains a RiPP every-time they make one of those skill rolls. 
  • Flight: Extra Something Smalls can fly. Simply allow them to move in 3 dimensions. No biggie here.
  • Skill Bonuses: +1 Dodge, +1 Computers, +2 Engineering, +1 Mechanic.
  • Skill Penalties: None. 

Obviously it changed. I have to confess, I’m exceptionally proud that the Queltro and Esspererin are such integral parts of the Schlock Mercenary canon, and that I could provide the story seed that Howard was able to take and spin into something wonderful and unique. Every time they appear in the comic or a player raves about them, I smile. Knowing something I helped start is going to last a long time and bring enjoyment to others is a feeling I never thought I’d have.

And since I promised: Esspererin stands for “As Per Erin”, since the base idea of space gremlin fairies came from my wife in a conversation with her.

Howard says: “Small correction. Esspererin is not “as per Erin.” It’s “Extra small something, per Erin.” E.S.S., per Erin.”

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You can buy Planet Mercenary here. And I think you should. Not just cuz I get paid if you do (I do), but because it’s the smart thing to do if you like good, clever, unique games.