Last night I got to run my first session of The One Ring for the group I usually play Savage Worlds with. None of them had played before, but one of the players had bought a PDF of the Adventurer's book (the game includes an Adventurer's book and a Loremaster's book) and had made a character for himself and his son.
There were only three players, so I added a Loremaster character to give them a solid 4 in their party. They started out in Dale, and I sort of let them organically check out what interested them, and one of the characters gravitated toward a Hobbit I had created before-hand (I came with 6 pre-generated characters, though only one was used) and he ultimately became their fourth.
The party consisted of a Dwarven Treasure-hunter, an Elven Scholar, and a Woodman Warden. Their fourth, Wiseman Took, was a young Hobbit Wanderer.
I basically ran the introductory adventure in the back of the Loremaster's book - The Marsh Bell, which centers around tracking down and then rescuing Balin and Ori (yes, that Balin and that Ori) who were waylaid on their way to invite the King of the Eagles to send a delegation to Dale on the five-year anniversary of the Battle of Five Armies. I don't normally use published adventures, but I have a sick baby and as a result much less time to plan than I usually have.
The opening bit was all just improvised with the player-characters exploring Dale and making a few basic dice-rolls. The Dwarf Treasure-hunter ended up checking out the Toy-Market with Wiseman Took. The Elf Scholar visited the Ravensgate District seeking a library, curious about what passes for history and lore among mortals. He met a well-to-do retired guardsman who had spent his reward for standing with Bard to fight Smaug on a big new house and on recovering scrolls and books from the ruins of Dale. The Woodsman Warden got pulled into an archery competition with some of the King's Guards, and won. As a result, many of the guards who made money betting on him to win took him out for a bender.
After a scene in the court of King Bard when the PCs all meet each other, they went right into The Marsh Bell adventure, pretty much as written. We got about halfway through, and should complete it next session.
Since this is my first time running The One Ring, and I never really understand a system until I run it a few times no matter how much I read it, during the course of the session I was doing a lot of referring back to the books. I tried not to let it bog down the game too much, and for the most part things kept moving. There were a couple water breaks while I searched for one rule or another.
I'd love if the index in the back of each book was rewritten. It's kind of like the Yellow Pages back in the old days - nothing is under the heading I'd think it was under.
That being said, I don't think the session was bogged down, and considering I only did about 5 hours of preparation for a 3 hour game, including creating 6 characters for it, it was a lot smoother than most games would be. Trying to run D&D or GURPS, Burning Wheel or Dresden Files for the first time under those conditions would be a nightmare. With The One Ring, it was very possible.
I personally like the system a lot. I like the simple dice mechanic, the easy cues for when good or bad things should happen (there is an Eye of Sauron and a G-rune for Gandalf on the Feat die, a d12 that is used for every roll). It's easy and intuitive to see when you have a great or extraordinary success, especially with the custom dice that come with the game, but the custom dice themselves are still very simple. I'm a big fan of the 3rd Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay or the tactical board game Descent, but the custom dice with new symbols can present a bit of a learning-curve.
The only thing that threw the players off is when some of the cues for good things came up but they still failed the roll. This wasn't a big deal, but was a bit of a mixed message. Otherwise, they seemed to perform pretty well for new characters - a squad of four Orcs were dispatched without a ton of trouble, but still had a couple of them scared. They still felt relatively heroic when doing things they were very good at (the Scholar using Lore, the Warden using Hunting, and so on).
My main wish is that they had extra sets of the custom dice - they aren't necessary, but they're cool and quicker to use, but the one that comes with your boxed set is all you can get for now.
I am a huge Tolkien fan, and I like this game a lot. I can see a ton of research and care that went into the game text, the trait choices, the words used to describe things and so on. The books are replete with quotes and references to passages from the books, and I love it.
There are aspects of the game we haven't gotten to yet - Corruption for example, and advancement, but from reading them I think they will continue to be interesting and fun. I especially want to see how Corruption works - I can absolutely see how that system in particular was inspired by characters like the Master of Lake-Town, Thorin Oakenshield once Smaug is dead, Denethor and even Smeagol/Gollum. Love it.
I'm going to give the characters some Shadow and see what happens. They're all afraid to spend their Hope, partly for that reason, so I doubt we'll see any significant incident, but I'm curious what the impact will be of making a few Shadow tests.
I'm also psyched about the Fellowship Phase, maybe for a third session. It's something that the players have never encountered before (not having played Pendragon or Mouse Guard, or other games with this kind of "down-time" mechanic spelled out) and I'm curious if they'll be able to use it or if they'll just kind of wait for me to throw out the next challenge or situation.