Review – The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying (5E) – Tales from Eriador/Ruins of Eriador

Short cuts make long delays.

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Designer Gareth Hanrahan

Artist Antonio De Luca, Jan Pospisil, Federica Constantini

Publisher Free League

Category RPG Suppliment

Length 116/125 pages

Release Date 2023

Player Count 2+

Back in 2022, Free League published The One Ring, a roleplaying game set in the time between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings where players could role-play as different Hobbits going on increasingly dangerous missions from Bilbo and other well-known Tolkien characters. Later, that same game was adapted into the D&D 5th Edition, also known as 5E. Tales from Eriador and Ruins of Eriador are expansion books to that 5E world, giving players new missions, characters, story hooks, and locations to explore.

Content Guide

The books contain images and descriptions of enemies including orcs, trolls, undead fiends, wolves, wizards, and other evildoers. Occasionally there is an image of someone locked in combat with one of these enemies. One of the chapter headings in Tales shows several dead dwarves’ bodies left on pikes in the ground. 

Review

While I enjoyed learning the new system introduced in The One Ring, it’s understandable why they’d release a 5E adaptation and continue to support it with supplemental books; people like D&D and don’t want to give up their 20-sided clicky-clacks anytime soon. So with the 2 Eridor books, players will have a chance to experience 6 new stories that can be played as 1-shot games or a long-form campaign, as well as having the tools to learn more about the different locations mentioned both in the game world as well as familiar spots from the movies such as Weathertop and Saruman’s tower. 

In Tales from Eriador, players are slowly drawn into a storyline that culminates with them facing the foreboding Hill of Fear, which represents a growing evil that must be checked before it takes over the Northern Wastes of Middle-Earth. Much like the starter stories, this quest-line starts out simple enough (helping travelers suffering at the hands of a family of Trolls) before quickly becoming much more epic. The 6 stories are geared towards players level 3 through 7 plus, so it follows that they assume you played the Shire quests already. 

Players will also have a chance to become a chosen heir, unbeknownst to them, who is central to the main storyline and can inherit a sword almost as cool as Sting (you’ve probably seen it before). The players can all suffer from visions and dreams relating to the Hill of Fear, but the heir will end up playing a significant role for games where you play out the whole storyline. Also, different characters may end up treating the heir differently depending on how the different quests play out. To the writer’s credit, it seems like depending on the player’s actions different characters might live, die, or end up meeting entirely different fates. 

Ruins of Eriador fleshes out the game world by describing in detail many of the locales and points of interest across Middle-Earth, including the town of Tharbad (part of the campaign), Saruman’s tower, and certain Ranger-controlled places such as Weathertop. Playing with Saruman as a patron would actually be a lot of fun, because even though the players know how he eventually turns, at this point in Middle-Earth History he is still a good guy, head of the Istari, and leader of the White Council. Players could happily spend many sessions being his spies, reconning for ring-lore or getting information on the enemy. It would take some work for the person running the game, but it could be interesting to see his slippage into shades of gray. I also would love to play a game where my party goes out to see Weathertop, only to run into some Rangers or a group of goblins (ideally, both). 

Both of these books make excellent additions to the Lord of the Rings 5E Roleplaying universe, and will add many hours and sessions to any game table they come to. If you can only get one, I would probably suggest Tales from Eriador, since it has the 6 missions and would be the easiest to use. Ruins of Eriador adds a lot of great locations and information, but you would have to work a bit harder to weave it into a story or hook for the players. However, both are well-done, and if you’re looking for more Lord of the Rings Roleplaying, you can’t go wrong here. 

Review copies were provided by the publisher

The Bottom Line

If you're looking to add more LOTR to your roleplaying schedule, these books will help you do that in spades.

 

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Author: Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.