The One Ring: Effing Encounters

Okay, I’ve thought through all the bits and bobs about Encounters that bug me and I’ve got some ideas. Specifically, the main issues I want to address are the lack of tension, lack of choices, and over-mechanization of the process.

And here we go.

My goal here is to hew as close as possible to the RAW and bring in every tool at the game’s disposal to squeeze some life out of what is, IMO, a lifeless, tension-free, decision-free mechanical exercise.
I’ll make notes as I go indicating where I’m veering off RAW, by how much, and why.

  1. Opening Insight roll to generate bonus dice: remains unchanged. (RAW)
  2. Set the Encounter intent: it needs to be explicit and it needs to be a call to a single action (semi RAW). If the NPCs have their own goals, state them here as well (to help figure out future compromise; NOT RAW).
  3. Introduction Rolls: TN varies by the NPC’s customs and traditions (RAW)
    a. May make a Lore test to determine which skill will have the lowest TN (RAW)
    b. Ask the company how they’ll be introducing themselves, then GM declares TN (RAW)
    c. Establish clear consequences for failing the Introduction (typically but not always means the encounter can’t take place).
    d. Notes and limitations of each Introduction option:
    • Awe: made by a single hero, and only that hero will be making Interaction rolls. Usually but not always a sign that the NPC’s Tolerance is Valor based (semi RAW). Usually but not always the required Introduction when the Encounter starts unfriendly. No other Introductions can be made (semi RAW).
    • Courtesy: made by any hero who wants to participate. Usually but not always a sign that the NPC’s Tolerance is Wisdom based (semi RAW). Usually but not always the required introduction when the Encounter starts friendly. Any hero who wants to participate must roll.
    • Riddle: made by a single hero, and only that hero will be making Interaction rolls. Failure doesn’t end the Encounter but counts as the first failure against Tolerance (not RAW, but based on a reasonable interpretation of the text). No other Introductions can be made (semi RAW).
  4. Establish Tolerance: remains unchanged and depends on who is talking (take all participating heroes into consideration). HOWEVER, some clarifications.
         a. Tolerance is set in secret and is cued to the players through roleplay (RAW)
         b. Breaking Tolerance (i.e. failures = Tolerance) almost never carries with it an inconsequential outcome, but at the very least means the entire Encounter ends in failure (NOT RAW). Let It Ride is in effect, though, and the same request cannot be made should the Encounter end in failure.
         c.  I’m tying Tolerance failure outcomes to the Shadow level where the Encounter takes place (NOT RAW), with the Free Lands being the least consequential and the Dark Lands being the most. Rough ideas:
    • Free Lands: polite close to conversations, barring specifically offensive failures within the Encounter itself. TN16 for future Introductions.
    • Border Lands: shunning, further Encounters in the area more difficult (TN18 for future Introduction rolls)
    • Wild Lands: immediate expulsion, TN 20 Introduction rolls in the future (assuming someone’s Trait can create an opportunity at all).
    • Shadow Lands: threats of violence unless the heroes leave immediately, future Encounters outright impossible at this level and higher
    • Dark Lands: immediate and unreasonable escalation to extreme violence
  5. Interaction rolls
    1. Every roll must have an associated intent and failure consequences. If you don’t have an intent in mind, you can’t make the roll. No rolling just to generate Encounter successes! (RAW) Keep the Encounter’s overall goal in mind when setting intents, and don’t set one where failure makes the Encounter impossible.
    2. GM decides if the roll is passively or actively opposed by an NPC. (Semi RAW)
      • Passively opposed = roll against a TN. Determine the difficulty as normal (TN 14 by default, as low as 10 or as high as 20 based on how much is being asked, set by the GM) (RAW)
      • Actively opposed, ie the NPC wants something related to the task/encounter as well = Opposed Action! (semi RAW). Set the TN as above, active character rolls. On a fail, challenging character automatically succeeds. On a success, challenging character rolls against same TN. Break ties in the usual way: number of 6es, then the Feat die. If the active character (PC) doesn’t win, this is also a failure and is counted against Tolerance (semi RAW).
      • Let it Ride (Repeating an Action, p148) is in effect as always! Pay attention! (RAW). However, the GM may decide a task (passive or active) requires a Prolonged Action (semi RAW in the case of an opposed roll). If a task takes 3 rolls, reduce TN by 1; 4 or 5 rolls, reduce TN by 2; 6+ rolls, reduce TN by 3. Count additional successes on any given roll toward the total # of rolls required to be made. Good way to reduce the TN of an excessively difficult ask. # of required rolls = # of earned successes for determining the outcome (NOT RAW).
  6. Intent determines the required skill, set by the GM. Start with intent, move on to task (RAW). See the typical list: insight, inspire, persuade, riddle, song.
  7. Encounter outcome: Assuming Tolerance has not been met (NOT RAW), add up total successes. Compare per the existing table: 1 success = compromise (semi RAW), 2-4 = Success, 5-6 = Great Success (intent and a bonus), 7+ Extraordinary success (intent, bonus, and a complication due to overshooting – semi RAW).

* * * * *

The overall theme of all this is to slow the process down and make the individual rolls matter more. I think, for me, the big problem is that it’s sort of implied that the rolls don’t matter, that they’re just color as you grind toward the final # of successes you’re trying to earn.

The other deal is that I skipped a couple important things about Encounters, specifically the fact that Tolerance is a secret number. That’s a big deal. Pushing your luck really needs to be at the center of the system

Okay, TOR heads, tell me where I’m tripping over myself or how I could make it better. Again, my goal here is to stay as close to RAW as possible! (Which is why I didn’t go with Tolerance = the total # of rolls you get to make, which I think is elegant but is way off RAW).

0 thoughts on “The One Ring: Effing Encounters”

  1. “it’s sort of implied that the rolls don’t matter, that they’re just color as you grind” – I got that feeling too, and it tripped me up playing through this.

    The Push your luck thing is interesting!

    “Tolerance = the total # of rolls you get” IS way off RAW, but might simplify things considerably! 

    I like where this is going.

  2. Have you seen the part about boons. That’s the revision that made it work for me. It was an official revision in one of the books, but I don’t know if that system made it into the new core book.

    If you want I can dig out the encounter rules we used (actually they’re probably on my 9 page rules reference you probably already have). I think I incorporated the boon system there.

  3. I’m also curious about the boons rules. I only got into ToR with Revised Edition and haven’t come across it.

    For me, there are two really big deals about encounters…

    (*) The TN doesn’t always have to be 14.

    (*) The “push your luck” mechanic, which is kind of implied RAW and kind of not…running out of Tolerance is bad, and ruins things or leads to different bad consequences, regardless of the number of accumulated successes.

    Without the first, it can be too easy. Without the second, I find the whole thing “blah” with no choices involved and no consequences (or really possibility) for failure.

  4. The extra rules for Encounters is found at the beginning of Wildlands.  I still refer to Boons because that’s what the original fan hack called them.  The version that made it into Wildlands didn’t call them that, turned it more into using successes in Encounters as degrees of success to determine how helpful the NPC is.

    I liked the boon system better and that was the root of my Encounter rules.

    My rules summary (which is no longer pure RAW) is here:

  5. Here it is for reference:


    Setup: Encounters deal with demonstrating good intentions to important NPCs or groups who are prone to be wary.

    1) Players should determine the desired outcome / purpose of the meeting. They should outline the primary thing they are asking for and an additional thing it would be nice to have.

    2) LM should create a short list of Boons, things the NPCs may be convinced to provide. The list should be ordered so that the easiest / most likely thing the NPCs are willing to grant is first, and the most unlikely is last. The list may include the items the players are seeking and may also include avoiding negative outcomes (like forgiving slights, or not being taken prisoner). Some of the Boons may come with conditions with higher order Boons offering the same thing without conditions.

    3)  LM should determine if NPC will react best / worst to introductions dealing with Awe, Courtesy or Riddle. One is set to favoured, one to normal, and one to unfavoured. Also whether NPC values Valour or Wisdom in Interactions.

    4) Players may test Lore or Insight to determined favoured approach: Failure = increase TN 1 level, Success = identify unfavoured approach, 1(T) = identify favoured approach, 2(T) = also increase Tolerance by 1

    Introduction: Players may select 1 spokesperson to handle the introductions or may each introduce themselves.

    1) May test Awe, Courtesy, or Riddle. Favoured = TN 12, Normal = TN 14, Unfavoured = TN 16
    Awe: can overcome early negative reaction, frame terms of discussion, and discourage unwanted questions. Typically involves a litany of deeds and lineages. If failed Tolerance reduced by 1
    Courtesy: can establish smooth relations, but may require revealing true intentions. Best used with favourably inclined audiences. If failed player cannot participate in Interactions.
    Riddle: can elicit information with cunning questions while avoiding revealing much with clever answers. TN for interactions increases by 1 if failed.

    2) Spokesperson Rolls: Failure = proceed to Interactions with difficulty increased 1 level, count towards Tolerance
    Success = Proceed to Interaction with normal difficulty, introduction does not count towards Tolerance
    1(T) = Proceed to Interaction with Tolerance increased by 1
    2+(T) = Proceed to interaction with Tolerance increased by 2

    3) If Group Rolls as individuals treat as a Prolonged Action. Reduce TN based on number of participants.
    Each (T) rolled allows player to recover 1 other player from failure.
    If less than ½ of players succeed treat outcome as “Failure” above. If ½ or more succeed treat as “Success”
    If all players succeed treat as 1(T), if all players succeed without needing recovery treat as 2(T).

    Tolerance: Equals maximum number of rolls audience will last (minimum of 1)
    Base = Highest Valour or Wisdom in Party (whichever target most favours)
    Standing = Highest standing of Companion who belongs to target culture
    Prejudice = -1 if group includes distrusted member (Beornings & Elves distrust Dwarves, Dwarves distrust Elves)

    Additional Modifiers:
    +3 if arrival recalls a local legend, song or prophecy
    +2 if party already known and appreciated by target
    +1 if carrying message or on errand from someone target respects
    +1 to +3 for appropriate gifts
    -1 if arriving from an area target fears or shuns
    -2 if openly carrying weapons in violation of custom or courtesy
    -3 if asking for something forbidden

    Interaction: Only properly introduced characters can participate.

    1)Roleplay out interaction with participants making rolls at TN 14 (modified by introduction). Audience is brought to an end when Tolerance = 0.

    2) Loremaster should reward Boons from list for each successful roll (typically from least to most and altered to fit roleplay as necessary) and may work the boons into the encounter in whatever manner fits the situation best.

    3) Results of Player Rolls: Failure = no boon, -1 Tolerance, Success = Boon earned, -1 Tolerance,
    1(T) = Boon earned, do not reduce Tolerance, 2+(T) = 2 Boons earned, do not reduce Tolerance (at LM option may add additional Boon to list).

    Insight: gauge emotions, read between lines, judge intentions, best when emotional state is provoked by others. On (T) may target specific Boon if known or reduce next player’s roll by 1 difficulty instead of normal result.
    Inspire: raise spirits, rally support, objective must be obvious and compelling, best when capitalizing on positive introduction else TN increased 1 level.
    Persuade: may make up for poor first impression or solidify position. On 1(T) my reduce TN penalty from failed introduction by 1, on 2(T) may earn 1 Boon and increase Tolerance by 1 instead of normal result.
    Riddle: pick-up details and assemble tidbits and news into bigger picture. Each (T) result can reveal one available undisclosed Boon from list
    Song: can solidify a relaxed social relationship or drive home a message with the right selection or carefully crafted lyrics. Player may choose effect of (T) results including adding additional Boon option inspired by roleplay.

  6. Ralph Mazza Is the -1 tolerance on a success RAW? I didn’t see that, either. However, I was actually toying with doing that anyway, because I think it would make social encounters go much better. It would also really change the dynamic for using traits.

  7. No.  My rules are probably 60% hack at this point.  

    The addition of the boons means that you can drop tolerance with every roll unless its exceptional because success gives a thing instead of just avoids tolerance drop.

  8. Also boons are super flexible.  Like if you were to show up at Bjorn’s house unannounced the first boon would be something like “Bjorn doesn’t immediately kill you as a servant of the Enemy”.  Then “Bjorn doesn’t imprison you in the cellar while he figures out what to do with you”.  Then “Bjorn doesn’t run you off”.  Then “Bjorn gives you leave to spend the night in the barn”  and so on.

  9. Ah, yes, reading more critically, I do see other changes as well. On the whole, I really like them! My intuition for tweaks was heading in a somewhat similar direction, so I’m going to try this approach!

  10. Yeah, I’m maybe gonna revise my draft as well.

    I think it’s telling that literally everyone has an opinion about Encounters, and they’re all negative. Nobody, nobody likes them as written. And it’s not even like “ehh, you know, we just fumble through it.” Then again maybe those folks don’t feel like writing 200 line posts about their ambivalence.

  11. Ralph Mazza I want to talk a little more about this Boon stuff.

    In your Bjorn example: I love the list! It’s perfect. But who’s setting that? Not the players, I assume. And if it’s the GM, that seems like a lot more work.

    Here is my concern: in my play group/local culture, an invitation to cook up a bunch of Boons would not start with a bunch of anti-bad stuff. I mean, unless they knew in advance that Bjorn (ex) is prone to just knifing his guests. Instead, it feels like it’d be gameable by my guys: how much cool shit can we get? I also totally get, of course (!), that the GM can nix inappropriate intents. Just saying this feels iffy without a lot of groundwork laid in advance (which in RAW is left to Lore rolls and such).

  12. I made up most of the boons on the spot. When playing with the published material they’re built right into the color text. Like in Wilderlands there’s a crazy old hermit who lives in a tree. A lot of the color text is all the faux pas you can do that will make him attack. Other color text is about being caught out in the storm. Then there’s the axe. So the boons pretty much write themselves. Plus it was generally easy to add more on the fly based on what actually came out of the roleplaying. Like if a player role played being condescending to the elf King and failed the roll, I might respond with something like “choose your next words carefully if you don’t wish to wind up in my dungeon” and boom that becomes the next boon…avoid being thrown in the dungeon.

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