The One Ring: Additional Debrief (Pt 2, pt 2)

Additional observations, now that I’ve had time to sleep on our session:

* The three players who had spent Hope last session were absolutely terrified to spend any this session. The fourth one, you know, he’s new! So he was perfectly okay spending Hope (especially once he got Weary and the failboat set out to sea). So that was interesting. But the ever-dwindling Hope economy is the big reason why I think I was wrong to diddle with the advancement point system: as Hope goes down, I think the incentive to use Traits for non-great successes goes way up already. Messing with the APs just speeds that process up. I don’t love that, because it mirrors similar (boring) results in other (success/failure oriented) games where character capability becomes so fail-proof that rolling is pointless. 

* Feeling iffy about instant-success Trait use. Like, why not just skip the Journey phase rolls entirely if you can be Hearty (or Bold or Herb-lore or whatever) the whole way? Don’t risk hazards, don’t risk extra Hope spends. Counterpoint: I do get that earning Advancement Points is the main reason why players need to keep rolling. And that filling up AP tracks is probably a practical countdown to how long an Adventure Phase “should” be.

I feel like it could easily become an undesirable GMing challenge for me to cook up situations where either Traits don’t really work (unlikely, there are too many of them) or where extraordinary successes are needed.

* I’m feeling dissatisfied with Encounters as written. The more I mess with them the more undercooked they seem. Like…having both the pre-encounter Insight (for bonus) and the Introduction roll feels narratively redundant: two rolls before things start happening? I mean that’s not a show-stopper, it just feels bloaty. And then I’m not super sure what to do with the Introduction roll results. Does failure mean the encounter doesn’t happen? It probably should, right? So then return to falling back on no-fail Trait use. I can’t find any reason to generate great/extraordinary successes in the introduction, other than for advancement purposes, so yeah, that’s probably gonna happen.

Adding up total successes and running a tally against Tolerance also seems pointless. Rolling and rolling and rolling, to my Burning Wheel damaged brain, also feels dumb once you’ve established your intent (which, you know: yay! I’m glad TOR does this). Basically Encounters are an oversimplified Duel of Wits. Boo.

I think that’s everything. Yay insomnia.

0 thoughts on “The One Ring: Additional Debrief (Pt 2, pt 2)”

  1. Eloy Cintron I wouldn’t mind if they just let things fail, you know? Then at least new and interesting problems might crop up. But Traits are very, very flexible and easy to invoke when you don’t want to spend Hope, don’t need extraordinary success, and/or don’t need advancement points. When all three of those are in place, there’s literally no reason at all to roll if you can make a Trait do the work.

    I’m assuming this is entirely by design. I’m not sure what the design is trying to accomplish! I would have preferred a system in which the Hope/Trait decision wasn’t so easy. Right now it’s really easy to just opt out of the gamble, therefore shutting down the reward cycle.

  2. If one was interested in a major hack, I think you’ve identified good starting points. I might begin by decoupling Traits from the pass/fail mechanic, and making them Hope-engines instead.

    I get the impression that the Introduction step is a nod to the source material. Whenever new people meet each other in Tolkien, the first thing they do is brag about their names and their exploits, from whence they have come and to whither they go. I think the text is missing a few explicit “roleplay here” flags, as part of the ongoing bugginess in the core book that you’ve previously-noted, assuming “everybody knows how to play a roleplaying game.” So, I might restructure it this way:

    1. You encounter someone new and you want something from them! What is it?
    2. Roleplay sizing each other up. Roll Insight, and the Loremaster will narrate some details about the other party that you can determine. Get your bonus dice and set them aside for now.
    3. Introduce yourself! Are you bombasic, sly, direct? Do you all introduce yourselves, or do you have a spokesperson?
    4. Based on your choice in the introduction roleplaying, roll Awe, Courtesy, or Riddle. This does whatever it does.
    5. Roleplay the discussion. Every time you make a salient point, roll whatever. Add bonus dice if you integrate some of the details from the sizing-up phase.

    I know this isn’t in the text, but I feel like it’s meant to be?

  3. Oh yeah, totally agreed, that is definitely a Tolkieny thing to do! I think they added the “bonus dice” mechanism to 2E and that’s the part that feels excessive. The introduction should = the bonus die roll IMO.

  4. Ohh, I gotcha. Yeah, reading the section now (I had forgotten I had the PDF on my work computer), I’m seeing that the introduction roll doesn’t do anything at all, except in a RP sense. That’s… uhhh… baffling. It should at least add or subtract a point of tolerance or two.

  5. And if you’ve done an awesome job of Awe-ing (say) your audience, by gum that should look like more dice going in.

    I think with a tiny bit of fuss you could also build “Tolerance” into that system, and give up on this whole “# of failed rolls before it’s over” business (given how unlikely it is that you can force a fail at all, and as you spend XPs your audience’s Tolerance is just going to go up and up and up).

  6. I think my big useful takeaway from looking at how the trait/hope/advancement cycle is, rather than how I might wish it to be, would be “when the players stop gambling against spending Hope, wrap up the Adventure Phase and let them do Fellowship shit.” Which, you know, is a very useful metric! I kind of love figuring out signals like that in games.

  7. I don’t remember being anywhere near that generous with Trait success. I think that got used maybe 3 times (maybe a couple more I’m forgetting) over 10 sessions.

  8. Probably because I was stricter about letting traits apply…or more accurately, I had a reputation for being so, so players didn’t often ask.

  9. The ones under “distinctive traits” seem much more difficult to apply than the uh…other ones. Like “bold” and “curious” and stuff. Like, Bardings get “hearty” or something and that seems like a slam-dunk to just opt all the way out of journey rolls.

  10. I have a reputation for rejecting rubber-banding. I’m much more likely to permit a check related to a roll because you flavored the roll in line with a trait than I am to grant an auto.

    “Every time I do a thing boldly I succeed because I’m bold” wouldn’t cut it. For me auto success requires “show me how being bold uniquely positions you to be way better at this than someone prudent could be”.

    In practice I suspect that would lead to the more specific traits being easier to ping for autos and harder to ping for marks while the broader ones are easier to ping for marks (they apply more often) but harder to ping for autos (because they are only rarely ‘just the perfect thing you need right now’)

    But I freely admit that mostly my own standard and completely anecdotal.

  11. I confess I sort of hate the vibe of systems that rely on pure gm discretion. Like setting target numbers, or deciding whether a trait works or not. But especially regarding a highly abstract roll like travel/fatigue during a journey. I feel like there’s just not enough information to go on.

    Tbh I think my main beef comes down to the ease with which I think you can opt out of one of the most important systems in the game.

  12. Just a thought but if a skill check is noted, maybe applicable traits could be used as a bonus die or as single die re roll option. If my character is hearty then it implies I’m good at traveling under duress and hold up better in those situations and there should be a tangible bonus. Allowing a reroll of one six sider doesn’t break the math badly.

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