Developer interview: The One Ring – Ruins of the Lost Realm

The world of Tolkien’s Middle-earth continues to fascinate and lure in fans, with a high profile Amazon show launching earlier this year. Rings of Power wasn’t the only thing that gave us new content to enjoy though – Free League’s tabletop role-playing game The One Ring also just received a new expansion. Ruins of the Lost Realm provides another engaging way for players to interact with this world across three chapters, and the book features gorgeous artwork as well as a detailed foldout map. We’ve been loving it, and spoke to game designer Francesco Nepitello about the new expansion.

How do you look back on the launch of The One Ring RPG?

I am extremely satisfied with how it went! The Kickstarter was a resounding success, and the reception in general was very favourable. I finally feel that The One Ring has reached a level of popularity it struggled to enjoy in its first edition incarnation.

What were some of the starting points when you started thinking about how to design an expansion for The One Ring?

Ruins of the Lost Realm was designed to further clarify the design goals that shaped The One Ring in its second edition. Players approaching games based on The Lord of the Rings run the risk of feeling excessively burdened by the weight of ‘canon’ – Ruins is an example of how you can play games in a well-known and beloved setting like Middle-earth, without feeling constrained by what the author wrote.

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To what degree was the region of Eriador a conscious choice when exploring Tolkien’s work?

The choice of Eriador as the starting point for The One Ring 2nd edition comes from two needs – I chose it to provide players with a ‘blank slate’ for their own stories, and also because Eriador is where it all began – it’s from there that both Bilbo and Frodo leave to go on their adventure. It’s a setting that is extremely familiar with all readers of Tolkien.

From a gameplay perspective, what are some of the elements that players get to explore with this expansion that weren’t a (prominent) part of the base game?

The ‘Landmarks’ structure that replaces adventures presented in scenes is the main focus of the supplement, and serves to highlight the ‘sandbox’ nature of the gameplay of The One Ring, an approach that again serves to reinforce the freedom that players can enjoy in a setting like Middle-earth.

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With The Lord of the Rings so visually engrained in popular culture now, how did you approach the art and design side of the project?

Our approach to graphic design shares the same vision I had for writing the game – delve as deeply as possible into the roots of the world as Tolkien created it, searching for his own sources of inspiration. Alvaro Tapia and the entire team of artists looked at real-world cultures, and tried to paint a landscape that felt both familiar and strange. I think they succeeded in making the book look almost like an in-world artefact, a notebook compiled by some scholar in Rivendell…

What are some of the ideas that you could see yourself exploring for possible future expansions?

Middle-earth is a vast world, and Tolkien gave us so much to explore that we might produce dozens of supplements without the fear of breaking canon. So, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific place as a favourite one – unless we’re talking about Moria… 😉 😉

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