Review – The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying (5E)

We must away, ere break of day...

Center of the LM's screen.

 

Designer Francesco Nepitello

Artist Alvaro Tapia, Antonio De Luca, and others

Publisher Free League

Category RPG Books

Release Date 2023

Player Count 2+

In 2022, Free League released The One Ring, a roleplaying system set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. The Starter set led players through a series of escapades in Hobbiton, while the Core rulebook expounded upon the rules and gave players a chance to create their own characters in detail. The game relied on a D12 plus a number of D6’s to try to reach success; now Free League has re-released it as a 5E D&D compatible product for anyone who wanted to play but didn’t want to put down their D20’s. 

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. Most of the pictures are black and white, but the chapter title pictures in the Core Rulebook are in color.

Clockwise from top left: The Core Rulebook for LOTR Roleplaying 5E, Shire Adventures, Rivendell booklet, and Loremaster’s Screen.

Review

Free League has three products for this review: The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Core 5E Rulebook, Shire Adventures, and a Loremaster’s screen that came with the Rivendell book. Some of the art is different for this 5E edition, but not in a bad way. The One Ring had a dark theme to much of its art, and it’s been lightened up some for this edition. Also, the Starter Set turned into the Shire Adventures book, with the characters sheets being pages in the back instead of loose paper. In addition, the large fold-out map that I still want to frame is in the back of the Core 5E book. And, as I mentioned in my One Ring review, while all these products look great and have a wealth of information, if you were going to skip one you could probably skip the Rivendell book and Loremaster’s screen, unless you really wanted a detailed trip to Elrond’s house. 

Some of the biggest changes for players coming in blind to LOTR Roleplaying will be your Fellowship score, Shadow points, and dealing with the all-seeing Eye. Many other changes are present, but will just require an updating of the player’s vocabulary. For example, the Dungeon Master is a Loremaster, the characters are Player-heroes, races are now Cultures, and classes are renamed to Callings. Also the gameplay is distinctly broken up into Adventuring and Fellowship phases – Fellowship is when the heroes have downtime, time passes, and the adventure is wrapped up. Adventuring is broken up into Combat, Council, and Journey. Combat is straightforward, Council is social interaction with the wise and learned NPCs of Middle-Earth, and Journey takes the heroes to far-off lands, where they must rely on their skills (and a small hex map) to get them there in one piece. 

A party’s Fellowship score is a numerical representation of the bond between the Player-heroes as they adventure together. While adventuring, heroes can use 1 point of Fellowship to gain advantage on rolls. They can also use Fellowship to activate your Patron’s special advantage. For example, if Tom Bombadil is your patron you may spend all your remaining Fellowship to call Tom or Goldberry to intervene on your behalf anywhere in Tom’s country. Each Patron has a different bonus to the party’s Fellowship points, and different advantages, agendas, and favored callings. 

Shadow points represent each character’s personal pull of the evil enemy. Witnessing or committing heinous acts will add to your Shadow points, while other actions might lift their spirits or improve their wills. Players may also use “Harden Will” to remove all their gained Shadow Points, as long as it doesn’t match their Wisdom score, and instead gain a Shadow Scar. Shadow Scars are semi-permanent points that can only be removed by the Heal Scars undertaking during a Fellowship phase. The main sources of Shadow points for most heroes will be Dread or Greed, both of which can be resisted with a saving throw. They may also get Shadow points with misdeeds, which might be the only thing keeping your band of Hobbits from turning into murderous thieves. Players who have a Shadow score equal to their Wisdom have a bout of madness, giving into betrayal, fear, material lust, or rage. Heroes who succumb to the Shadow will develop permanent flaws, or if they progress too far, become taken out of the party entirely (see also Boromir). 

Roleplaying with the all-seeing Eye requires the Loremaster to keep track of both the members of the party and their past exploits. Depending on the heroes’ cultures, the eye may be more aware of them. For example, an all-Hobbit party is a +0, while one containing a High Elf is +3. Rolling 1’s, gaining large amounts of Shadow points, or using large displays of magic will all add to the Eye’s awareness of the party. Should the party finish the adventuring phase without the Eye becoming aware of them, they remain hidden. Should the Eye become aware of them, the party will have to have a Revelation episode, where something goes badly for the party. An ally becomes an enemy, a request is made much harder, enemies are made stronger, and basically everything is harder for the heroes. 

The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying 5E is a great jump-on point for anyone looking to keep playing with D&D rules that they’re used to, but wanting to inject more of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world into their tabletop games. While I do wish the player sheets were separate or removable, that’s my one issue with this version of the game. Anyone interested in LOTR and D&D should definitely look into this one. 

Digital and Physical Copies were generously provided by the publisher.

The Bottom Line

If you slept on The One Ring because it didn't use a D20 system and you love LOTR, you should absolutely check out LOTR Roleplaying for 5E!

 

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Author: Andrew Borck

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