Rivendell

by - July 09, 2019


Rivendell is a sourcebook for the One Ring role-playing game. I've heard good things about The One Ring, and I always want to know more about Rivendell, so I picked this one up. For the most part it's a pretty good sourcebook- a little on the general side, but all in all a solid product. It helps to be familiar with the game rules, though- I went into this book blind, so to speak, and a lot of the rules stuff was therefore unfamiliar to me. That's okay though, as long as the lore is compelling- that's what I'm really after, frankly. And I'd say it's a mixed bag in that area. There is some good stuff here, but it's just not in depth enough. 

I want to stress though that's just my slant. If you play The One Ring then this is probably invaluable- it's got details on Rivendell, as well as the eastern lands of Eriador, and there are new rules for magical items and new Heroic Cultures as well. In other words, you can now play as a Ranger of the North or a High Elf of Rivendell, and the later parts of the book give you a lot to work with there. In fact I thought the book got better as it went along. It opens with a fairly general survey of Rivendell, complete with maps- the only problem for me was that other than Elrond's house and nearby buildings, there was almost nothing on Rivendell itself. No real adventure hooks, not a lot of source material. The house itself- the heart of Rivendell- felt sparsely detailed. 

There are some nice touches, to be sure, including the vaults underneath Rivendell and a few similar details. But it didn't feel like Rivendell to me, and the map of the valley itself felt off somehow. It's just not how I picture Rivendell to look. That will be subjective, of course, for each reader, but just my take. I've seen various versions of Rivendell in various game supplements and whatnot over the years, including a pretty impressive version in the old I.C.E. (Iron Crown Enterprises) game line from years ago, and this one doesn't compare favorably to that- but again, that's just my take. 

I have to say something about the book binding here, as it felt flimsy and every time I cracked the book open I was afraid the binding was going to split. Not sure if it's just my copy or if the print run had issues, but it's definitely a concern.  

As I mentioned we start off with a general look at Rivendell. The maps are fairly comprehensive but there's almost no details on Rivendell itself. There are brief mentions of important persons, such as Elrond and his household, and then we have a section on new Fellowship undertakings. I don't know what those are but clearly they're important to the game rules, and they seemed well presented. Following this we get a relatively comprehensive history of eastern Eriador- I always enjoy reading about stuff like this, and frankly this is what I'm looking for. There are general maps of the area but nothing in depth- no real details on settlements or adventure locales, other than some brief mentions for each area. 

I was surprised by this. An area as vast as Eriador, even if they're only covering the eastern part of the land, needs a much more comprehensive treatment. The short write up on Eregion doesn't even mention Ost-in-Edhil! I mean it's very general. There is some nice atmospheric writing to evoke a mood, but that's not really enough for me in a book like this. There's a place in the Trollshaws called the Refuge of the Dunedain that sounded promising- the hidden sanctuaries of the Rangers get mentioned a lot- but there was no detail, only about two paragraphs. Likewise with the Etternmoors- a promising area with a very lackluster write up. 

Mount Gram is mentioned in passing as an orc stronghold but we get no real in depth information. Same for Angmar. The land to the north is covered in broad strokes, there's talk of Carn Dum but no details, no maps- nada. There are rules for making magical treasures that fit the tone of the campaign, including a brief look at the role fate and predestination play in Tolkien's world- this is not a world chock full of random magical items, and I like how they handle this common problem. The rules seem like they would work well at keeping the magic feel rare and special, which is of course crucial in a Middle- earth setting. So I was pleasantly surprised with this section. 

Following this are notes on creating Ranger or High Elf characters, with useful info on cultural traits and other background information. I found myself enjoying these rules sections more than I did the sourcebook material, which is usually the opposite of what I'm looking for, so I imagine if I wanted to play the One Ring I would probably look favorably on the rules system. Alas, I am not looking to try a new game system, I'm more interested in lore on Tolkien's world, so this was a mixed bag for me in that regard.  

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