The One Ring: The Heart of the Wild
Publisher: Cubicle 7
Page Count: 128
Cost: $19.99 ($14.99 PDF)
Release Date: 07/18/2013
Get it Here:DriveThruRPG.com
First off : I need to clarify that I am doing a review of the PDF version of the product rather than the physical copy. Now, products for The One Ring have been slower than anticipated so far, with Adventures Over The Edge Of The Wild (Main Rules), Tales From The Wilderland, and the combined Loremaster’s Screen/Lake Town combo preceding it. This makes The Heart of the Wild the fourth release.
For those that are not aware, The One Ring is the latest in a series of roleplaying games that have directly allowed players to explore Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. The previous games (Middle Earth Role Playing by Iron Crown Enterprises and Deciphers’ short lived Lord Of The Rings) each had their own take on the setting, and were met with some acclaim by fans of the books. Unfortunately, the edition released by Decipher never really got off the ground, but did show some promise. After the lapse of the license, Cubicle 7 picked up the reins and released the new rules set back in August 2011, with a tentative release schedule that was very ambitious considering the size of the company, and one that it couldn’t both maintain and keep the quality of. For myself though, I really would prefer one excellent release to several poorer ones.
So, how does this stack up and what is it all about ?
Well, The Heart of the Wild is a sourcebook rather than a campaign or series of adventures. It details the area of Middle-Earth known as Mirkwood and its immediate surrounding area in some considerable depth. It offers new options to players and introduces some fresh Fellowship Phase actions for the environ as well. It is intended as a companion to The Darkening of Mirkwood, a forthcoming Campaign, but is usable in its own right.
First impressions : Like all the other releases, The Heart of the Wild looks gorgeous. Cubicle 7 really excels with presentation and layout. Most other companies should look to them and use them as a benchmark for their own products. The background texture to the pages enhances rather than detracts from the content. The colours used are easy on the eyes, as is the font, and the art fits the setting perfectly. On PDF, it is truly a very attractive looking book, and I am sure the hardcopy with the high grade paper that Cubicle 7 uses for this product line will push the production standard up even higher.
Heading more in-depth now : The book consists of 128 pages, including covers, which is split into the obligatory Introduction, two gazetteers: The Lands of the River and The Greatest of the Forests; a bestiary entitled Monsters of the Wild and, finally, an Appendix. I will cover each of these separately.
The Introduction is just that. It consists of two pages and explains how to use the book. I must say, though, that the accompanying artwork below the text really does set the scene in itself. It depicts an Adventuring Party looking out over Mirkwood itself.
The two gazetteers break each larger area down into more sizable chunks and provide a general overview of the terrain, then go into more detail about the locale, giving information about the features, flora and fauna to be found, notable NPC’s that may be encountered as well as specific locations.
The first of the the two gazetteers, The Lands of the River, covers the area to the west of Mirkwood: The valley of the river Anduin. After the overview and history of the area, it is separated into eleven separate regions, each laid out in the format previously stated. The text is crisp and to the point, yet entertaining. You can certainly see Gareth Hanrahan’s style of writing coming to the fore. In addition to the standard content, there are several sidebars that present adventure ideas in the form of snippets of additional information, such as one entitled “Forgotten Treasures” and another called “A Campfire Tale”. As well as these, a “new” set of player options are presented, including the option to play Woodmen of Mountain Hall and Wild Hobbits. Add into this a nice map of Beorn’s Hall and more background on the Eagles and you begin to realize the ambitious scope of what is a 128 page book.
From the river, it moves into Mirkwood itself: The Greatest of Forests. This section consists of eight geographic regions within the borders of the the forest, again following the same layout as that found in the preceding chapter. The history section here is very well researched and has taken Tolkien’s works and notes for the area and expanded on it in such a way to keep the flavour, and more importantly, the essence of Mirkwood intact. Side bars here cover the Elves of Mirkwood, presenting more options for them but not overpowering them, making them a “must play” race (which other game companies are wont to do with a new release), more adventure ideas and further background. The sections that really jumped out concerned the Elf Realm, Rhosgobel and Dol Guldur. I do need to say here that, although the maps for Rhosgobel and Dol Guldur are excellent, I found the map for the Elf City to be less so, and not to the same standard of the rest of the illustrations.
Next comes the Monsters of the Wild. These are excellent and worthy additions to the bestiary. Each is well written up, statted and illustrated, with a personal favourite of mine being the Wood-Wights. I will say there are enough variations on spiders here to give even the most stout-hearted fly nightmares.
Finally The Appendix, which is basically the map from the core rules but with the locations mentioned in the gazetters added on there, making life a bit easier for the Loremaster.
So, there we have it. To sum up: This is a lovely product and a great aid for Loremasters in running a game in the Mirkwood area. Players will find it less useful and reading it will remove a lot of the mystery for them, making their travels here less fun. The only part I can find fault with is the aforementioned map of the Elf City but even that is not bad by any stretch. Well done to the authors, artists, layout people and Cubicle 7. A superb release and well worth the wait.