Friday, September 16, 2016

Rivendell - A Review

I know that I've said that previous The One Ring books are amazing and fantastic and blah, blah, blah.  I'm here to tell you that THIS book is is a standout among a whole line of rich products.  This is an outstanding resource, there is so much history and world content, new rules, new enemies and new cultures that Rivendell stands above its predecessors.  Rivendell is the first supplement that takes the players outside of the Wilderland region, you get to head over the Misty Mountains and explore Eastern Eriador which includes the ancient kingdoms of Arnor, Angmar and Eregion.  The map covers from the Misty Mountains to the Brandywine Bridge.  This opens up a whole new area with new challenges and lots of new ground to explore.  Lets get into it, more after the break!

Vale of Imladris
The first chapter focuses on Imladris or The House of Elrond.  Great detail is given as this is the main sanctuary in Eastern Eriador.  There are rules for finding the secret valley in which Rivendell resides, maps of the compound and then full page maps of the House of Elrond and the Cellar, Crypts and Caverns underneath.  Statistics are given for Elrond Halfelven, Arwen Undomiel, Glorfindel and a number of other residents of Rivendell.  Staying at Rivendell has great restorative properties for tired and weary heroes and there are several new Fellowship Phase undertakings for those staying through the end of the year including Writing a Song.  How fun!

The second chapter is called A History of Eriador and goes into great detail on the histories of Angmar and Arnor, how the Dunedain go into hiding, the rise of the Rangers, the Orc Wars, the Long Winter and an update as to what's been happening in recent years.

The Regions of Eastern Eriador chapter follows the same layout as The Heart of the Wild, Eriador is broken down region by region.  Each region has wildlife, inhabitants, notable characters and notable locations detailed.  There is a TON of information in this chapter, this book is a must buy if your fellowship is interested in crossing west of the Misty Mountains.  Are they interested in exploring the Barrow-Downs? Want to trek to Carn Dum?  This is the book for you!  Though the map covers all the way to the Brandywine Bridge the area of Bree-Land is not covered.  I read on the Cubicle7 forums that this would be covered in a future product, so no Men of Bree-Land culture in the Rivendell book.  Boo to that!

Minor quibble aside the next chapter deals with New Monsters.  Goody, goody.  The enemies described in this chapter are considered powerful adversaries, these are tougher, meaner and nastier baddies to throw at your players.  These match up well with the two new heroic cultures detailed towards the end of the book.  There are new monster enhancements and powerful special abilities listed.  The monster of Eriador are; Bloodstump the Hunter, a hill-troll chief responsible for killing the Chieftain of the Dunedain.  Dreorg the Wargling, a Hill-man turned Warg that leads a pack of cruel wolves.  Ettins, oldest of Troll kind.  The Ettins are barely distinguishable from piles of rock and pack a wallop.  Goblins of Carn Dum are a small vicious breed of Orc's that live in the ruins of Carn Dum.  The Hill-men of Rhudaur are an ancient race of men that served the the Witch-Lord of Angmar, they are cruel and corrupt.  Orcs of Mount Gram are power hungry Orcs that were beaten by Bullroarer Took, a fact they never forgot.  There is also a chapter on the Undead which explains Wights, Wraiths and Ghosts.  Barrow-Wights get a stat block as do Bog Soldiers, Fell Wraiths, Spectres and The Wight-King.  Last but certainly not least is the Lord of the Nazgul.  He's a bad mofo that will challenge the toughest fellowship, new powers and his two forms are detailed.  His deadly Morgul-Knife also gets a write up.

Lord of the Nazgul
Magical Treasure is a fun and fantastic chapter.  How to roll for magical treasure is described, including rules for Hoard Ratings.  Hoard Ratings and the Magical Treasure Index are tools used by the Loremaster to control the power and rarity of magic items in your campaign.  Each magic item is hand crafted by the Loremaster, if you are looking for pages and pages of magic items to look through then you are playing the wrong game.  For me this is a very welcome approach to magic items.  I always found MERP magic items a bit to common and unremarkable.  With this system each item is crafted for the players and has a history which includes several levels of power that grow with the players so they are not constantly discarding magic items for the next bigger, badder item.  Good job Cubicle7, very well thought out.  There are also rules for precious objects, these are special items that are of extraordinary beauty or exquisite craftsmanship but are not magical by nature.  Using these rules it is also possible to create Cursed items, again these items are created one at a time, so the Loremaster can tailor the items to his campaign.  This is an awesome chapter that adds some much needed rules for special items.  What was Aragorn without the Sword of Elendil? Or Bilbo without the One Ring or Sting?  This is fun stuff that your players will love!

As we near the end of the book we next come across the Eye of Mordor rules.  This is a mechanic that provides a way to determine the level of hostility the game world presents to the players.  Eye Awareness is determined by the number of players in the group and their cultures, it is increased by rolling Eye's if Sauron on the feat die during play or by gaining Shadow points and using magic.  It gets reset at the end of the adventuring phase.  This number is compared to the Hunt Threshold, which is different depending on the region that the players are currently in, if the Eye Awareness exceeds the Hunt Threshold then the fellowship is Revealed, the Loremaster at this point does a Revelation Episode which changes the heroes predicament for the worst.  This may be ill news, temptation, betrayal or some other dastardly event.  Once this event is played out the Eye Awareness is reset.  I like these rules, they add a small bit of record-keeping but help to keep the players aware that the enemy is always out there and looking to foul their best laid plans.

The last chapter includes two heroic cultures, Rangers of the North and the High Elves of Rivendell.  These cultures are more powerful that the ones in the core game, you would need to run a party of just heroic cultures or add them to a more seasoned fellowship.  They start with higher base attributes and more previous experience points.  Both have draw backs though, both need to spend more experience points to increase their Valour and Wisdom ranks and their weapon skill ranks.

Both cultures also have other drawbacks, The Rangers of the North have the Allegiance of the Dunedain.  Due to their long, solitary dedication to fighting the Shadow they do no easily share their obligation with others.  This results in them being unable to use Fellowship points to recover lost Hope.  The High Elves of Rivendell can never truly forget the taint of the shadow, they can never choose Heal Corruption during the fellowship phase but they are able to reduce their corruption score by distancing themselves from the world by choosing a common skill and drawing an eye next to it.  The higher the skill rating the more corruption they reduce, the problem is when they again use that skill in the future they become overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness if they roll an Eye of Sauron on the feat die.  This results in an automatic gain of one Shadow point.  I like these drawbacks, the Ranger of the North suffer from a melancholy that they cannot share with their fellowship due to their long war with the Shadow and the High Elves of Rivendell find themselves slowing retreating from Middle-Earth due to their inability to deal with evil in the world.  Cool stuff and very thematic.  Both cultures also include new backgrounds, rewards and virtues, skill lists and applicable names.

Overall this book is a must buy for anyone interested in The One Ring, its a great resource with great new rules, background information and new cultures.  What more can you ask for!  Next up will be a review of Ruins of the North, the adventure companion to this book.  I'll leave you all with the beautiful cover piece created by Jon Hodgson.  Enjoy!

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