Saturday, March 4, 2017

Adventurer's Companion - A Review

Jon Hodgson working his magic!  Great cover!
Heya folks,

I'm back again (I can never seem to stay away) with ANOTHER The One Ring product review, this time its the brand new Adventurer's Companion!  It's so new that my copy just arrived today hot off the presses!  This book is 160 pages long and covers everything character related, all of the previous cultures are included as well as several new ones, there are also new rules, new stuff to do during the fellowship phase and a chapter called Curious Diversions which is a lot of fun.  The book closes out with some reference material that should be welcome in any The One Ring group.

Lets get started after the break!
The Adventurer's Companion in all about the players, there's some information within this book that the Lore-master can benefit from but by far this book is focused on the players and their heroes.  There are five parts to this book;

Part One: Characters.  This chapter starts with a section on creating your hero.  It's a step by step guide that will help you from start to finish.  Everything from picking a culture, figuring attributes, rewards and virtues and right through to picking your starting gear and choosing a name.  There's also a chart that includes all of the languages spoken by the various cultures and notes for each.

The next few pages deal with rounding out your character, developing backstory, common knowledge and then six character archetypes, like mentor, reluctant hero, etc. Then comes two pages of Forging the Fellowship which essentially is a list of reasons why your character has joined a fellowship, these are all nice details that can help you flesh your hero out but will most likely be of little use to seasoned role-players.

The meat of this section is in the breakdown of the playable cultures.  The are in the following order; Dunlendings, Dwarves of the Blue Mountains (new), Dwarves of the Grey Mountains, Dwarves of the Iron Hills, Elves of Lorien (new), Men of Bree (new), Men of the Lake, Men of Minas Tirith (new), Riders of Rohan, Wayward Elves of Mirkwood (expanded), Wild Hobbits of the Anduin Vales (expanded), High Elves of Rivendell and Rangers of the North.  That's a total of thirteen cultures with four of them being new and two of them expanded from a previous product.  Each culture gets the full workup just like in the other The One Ring products with each culture being five to six pages long with beautiful character art by the amazing Jon Hodgson!

More Dwarves, yaaaa!
A quick word on the new cultures.  First, there are no new advanced cultures like the High Elves of Rivendell and the Rangers of the North.  Second, two of the cultures are expansions of variants that were included in The Heart of the Wild supplement.  The new and expanded cultures are;

The Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, hailing from Ered Luin they are interested in restoring relics of the past and spend their time searching for for bits of their lost history.

The Elves of Lorien, denizens of Lothlorien they are ruled by Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel and are a secretive people.

Men of Bree, villagers of Bree-land, including Bree, Staddle, Combe and Archet in the Chetwood.  They are farmers and traders.  There is also a small side-bar here on playing Bree-Hobbits.

Men of Minas Tirith, defenders of Gondor and descendants of the Men in the West, they are warriors and leaders of men.

The Wayward Elves of Mirkwood, kin to the Elves of Mirkwood they are enamored with pleasure and seek to live life to its fullest, this is one of the two cultures that is expanded and originally appeared in The Heart of the Wild.  Wild Hobbits of the Anduin Vales are the second expanded culture, they are Hobbits that live hidden in the shadows under the eaves of the mighty Mirkwood.

En Garde!
Part Two: New Rules - This chapter has lots of new stuff for heroes.  It starts off with a new calling: The Leader with a new trait of Leadership.  This character can win the trust of others and spur them to action.  This new calling is much needed, it fills a hole that the other classes did not cover and fits very well with the new Men of Minas Tirith culture, though in truth it can easily be used with any of the cultures to represent not just a military leader but also a leader in the community.

Taking Courage is a new mechanic, at the beginning of each game session a check is made to find which hero has the highest total experience points, each companion that has less experience gets a courage point for each full difference of ten experience points (ex: highest experience is 60, other player has 40, he gets two courage points).  They can be spent instead of Hope or to gain additional Experience/Advancement points at the end of the adventure, they are lost if not spent.

The bulk of this chapter is spent on additional combat rules.  Combat Roles are new and can be assigned differently each fight, they are Captain, Champion and Ward and are assigned by spending a fellowship point.  They provide benefits to the heroes assigned to the positions but can end up generating shadow-points if misfortune strikes!  Next up are New Combat Tasks, the list of available combat tasks just got considerably longer and more exciting!  They are; Challenge Adversary, Two-Weapon Attack (finally!), En-hearten Comrades, Sudden Attack, Full Defense, Stand Ground, Harry Foes and Seek a Mark.  Lots of new and interesting choices should make combat a bit more spicy.  The Called Shot rules also get expanded with the following new options; Break Armor, Maiming Strike, Pummeling Attack, Rain of Arrows, Savage Blow and Swift Strokes.  Some of these are tied to specific weapons such as Break Armour which can only be done if wielding an Axe or Mattock.

The last part of this section deals with Expanded Masteries, how to gain them and a new expanded list.

Lord Elrond of Rivendell
Part Three: Between Adventures is all about the Fellowship Phase including an overview of the phase and how to run it.  Advancing your heroes is covered as is a new and expanded list of Fellowship Phase Undertakings broken into five charts; Common Undertakings, Individual Undertakings, Eriador Undertakings, Wilderland Undertakings and Rohan, Isengard and Fanghorn Undertakings.  There are plenty of things to do and it's all nicely organized.

This section is followed by the Of Patrons and Patronage section which deals with finding patrons and the benefits of having one and then a list of notable Patrons.

Famous Companies of the Wild comes next, this includes the descriptions of five adventuring companies.  Each one has a name, years active, first meeting place, detailed history, special rules for the company and finally a list of motivations broken down by the cultures as to why they might want to join that company.  This is great world building stuff, these groups can act as NPC's for the heroes to interact with or the heroes can become direct members of these groups providing a whole host of opportunities for a Lore-master to advance the story.

The Passage of Years is the last part of this section, it introduces new rules for Yearly Events, this helps to add a bit of unpredictability to the passage of time, some years can be Grim and others Worthy Years with some variation in-between.  There are also rules for The Heirs of Heroes which includes a new Fellowship Undertaking called Name an Heir much as Bilbo did with Frodo.

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll!
Part Four: Curious Diversions is a fun chapter!  It starts out with an optional rule for further defining Distinctive Features.  Essentially you can take one of your heroes Distinctive Features and either roll or pick a more distinctive feature.  For instance if your hero has the Gruff distinctive feature than you could pick Gruff (Surly) or Gruff (Grumpy).  There are three defining features for each Distinctive Feature and one additional one for Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves.  So a Dwarf could have Gruff (Curt) which none of the other races can.  These are just to help further define your character and differentiate them from other heroes and to provide additional role-playing opportunities.

Traveling Gear is next, this section provides a bit more detail on what the heroes are carrying, depending on your standard of living you receive a number of fun traveling gear items.  Poor heroes revive one additional item while Rich heroes receive five additional items.  You roll on a chart to determine the quality of the item and then roll for the item on another chart.  The categories are camping, clothing, food and herbs, tools, utensils and fire-making supplies.  Its minor stuff that provides a bit more originality for your hero.

Musical Instruments are up next.  Differences between the various cultural musical instruments are discussed with Hobbits preferring horns, pipes and flutes and Dwarves enjoying drums, fiddles and the harp.  No rules here, just some world building type information.

There is a wonderful chart on the next page that is titled But What Has It Got In Its Pocketses, Eh?  A couple of rolls helps to determine what items you have in your pocket!  I bet Gollum wishes he had access to this chart!  Here's a quick roll;  5 on a success die gives us a Useful Item.  Roll again (4) and I have a pipe.  I roll again (3) which gives me the result of Which I Keep, and one last roll (4) gives me For a Rainy Day.  So I came up with a Pipe which I keep for a rainy day!  Fun stuff!

Preparing Second Breakfast.
Part Five: For Reference is page after page of very useful looking flow charts.  Each take you through a process in the game, for instance the first one is called Call to Arms, it goes through step by step how to conduct a combat encounter.  It starts at surprise/ambush works though battle roles, opening volleys, charges, combat stances, attacks and then how to finish combat.  It ends with a side-bar on Dynamic Combat which explains the narrative of combat.  There are flow charts for Journeys (The Road Beckons) and formal encounters (Taking Counsel).  The last page has three charts with all the armour, weapons and shields listed.

This is a really, really fantastic book, I know I say that a lot but they keep getting better and better.  Its a wonderful resource, one that pulls together all of the cultures and provides lots of fun and interesting things to customize your character.  The flow charts at the back are really nice and should help new players to understand the step by step actions for the different mechanics of the game.  Double thumbs up!

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