I got to run The One Ring (TOR) for the first time today, and overall I'd say it was pretty successful. There were 3 PCs - Edrahil, an Elf (Warden), Lofar, a Dwarf (Treasure Hunter), and Bondi, a Barding (Scholar). It took about 2 hours to explain the basics of the game and to create 3 characters (with 1 book). Then we played through The Marsh Bell, which took about 4 1/2 hours. I'm not used to running published adventures, but my players assured me that it ran pretty smoothly.
Overview (CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!)
Part 1 - Where Noisome Waters Pour
The Marsh Bell is the adventure in the back of the Loremaster's Book, and I particularly like it because it's based on one of Tolkien's poems, The Mewlips. It begins with an encounter with Gloin in Esgaroth, so I had the players come up with a reason for why they were all in the city and how they knew each other. Lofar is a procurer and trader of rare treasures, and he often comes to Bondi's small library in Lake-Town to do research and to get appraisals for his finds. Edrahil is somewhat of a bodyguard-for-hire, and has accompanied Lofar on expeditions in the past. Lofar's player was very intrigued with his "Dragon-sickness" Shadow Weakness, and started off the game trying to sell a worthless trinket to a shopkeeper as a valuable treasure (he failed, and got his first Shadow point right off the bat for lying and deceitful behavior). Bondi was disapprovingly waiting outside of the shop, and when they got back to the library there was a messenger with a summons for Lofar (from Gloin). I'd created a vague history between Lofar and Dain, and decided that Lofar owed "community service" to the kingdom of Erebor for "past deeds." His service would be to find out what happened to Balin and Oin. On the way to Gloin's, they ran into Edrahil, who had just come back to Lake-Town after a patrol in Mirkwood.
I'm not sure how I feel about the encounter rules. The encounter with Gloin had a Tolerance of 3 (1 base + 1 since he's eager for help + 2 for Lofar's Valour -1 for the presence of Edrahil). Strike 1 was that the PCs all decided to introduce themselves individually (which irks Gloin as written), and to boot they all failed their Courtesy rolls. I believe that by strict reading of the rules that would be encounter over (failing 3 rolls), but I just counted it as 1 knock against the Tolerance. Only Bondi passed his Insight check to determine that Gloin was more concerned that he was letting on, but he wasn't able to use that at all in his interaction with the Dwarf. Lofar managed to annoy him some more with questions about the reward, and I had to shoot down the metagamey questions inquiring if Gloin had a son because the players were curious whether Gimli had been born yet. I'd actually planned a remark regarding Gimli, but decided that Gloin was too put-off at this point to be even remotely friendly with the company (they went a few bad rolls and missteps below the Tolerance of the encounter). But, this being their first try and all, I didn't deny them Gloin's patronage. They got the free boat and everything.
Part 2 - A Long and Weary Way
Edrahil managed to score a great success while planning the route, so he reduced the TN for his own travel rolls and shortened the journey by a day (plus he invoked his Mirkwood-Lore trait for an AP). The players then rowed to the Stairs of Girion in a light drizzle which abated by midday, and fared much better with the porters. Edrahil wanted to row through the night, but Lofar and Bondi insisted that they needed sleep. So they hung out with the porters, traded news, discussed the details of Balin's journey a week ago, and attempted to entertain the Lake-Men. Bondi failed his Riddle roll, but I still had a few riddles exchanged. Edrahil rolled a 12 for his Song attempt, and I ruled that it was good enough since the Lake-Men were eager for new blood (justifying the "easy" TN). So he sang a song of Elvish adventure, and one of the porters brought out his father, who would "enjoy the song very much!" This was Nerulf, and he yammered his gibberish until reciting the warning about the gallows-weed. I had the players make song rolls to recall the relevant stanza of The Mewlips, and Bondi invoked Rhymes of Lore to get an AP. They talked with the porters until they retired for the night, and then in the morning were escorted down the Stair of Girion. Edrahil failed his Awareness roll to notice the place where Balin and Oin had camped below the stair.
It was during this day's travel that I had everyone roll Fatigue tests (I think everyone failed, but no hazards triggered). I had Edrahil lead the company to a straight, swift-flowing channel through the marshes that bypassed the meanders of the main river (saving them an extra day from the successful Lore roll). I had Lofar to use Travel to steer the boat instead of Athletics, since that just made more sense to me and that's the skill that the Guide tends to use. Rolls to notice signs of the Dwarves all failed, and all Awareness rolls to notice Galion and the other Elves following them failed. So the company was never aware of them, shaving off that whole encounter. I ended up giving the Scout and Look-out a bonus roll in the evening as a last chance to find the camp, and they finally were successful. Lofar was the one who searched the camp, and his regular success was enough to reveal the treasure box (since he's a Dwarf). Another point of shadow, lol (I think he ended the session with 5, and his total Hope is only 8!). I had the company automatically notice the swamp lights before deciding on watches, but they decided not to do anything about it during the night. Edrahil investigated in the morning, and I'd decided that the forest canopy was dense enough to block the sunlight, allowing the Stone Troll to actually show up. Edrahil succeeded in his Awareness roll to avoid being surprised, and got a free volley with his Woodland Bow. The others immediately rushed in. The Troll's hatred toward Dwarves was fun to play (especially with Lofar in the Forward Stance!), though eventually Bondi wounded the troll with his Longsword and attracted his attention. Luckily for the troll, after being wounded and with his endurance nearly depleted he scored an extraordinary success against Bondi, knocking the wind out of him (he took knockback to reduce the 18 damage to 9). Lofar finished him off with an arcing slash of his axe to the kneecaps.
Part 3 - Beside the Rotting River
The company had asked multiple times already if they noticed any plants that could be gallows-weed, and once they were forced to go on foot and I started describing the old, knotty willows they asked again (exactly when the plant would show up!). So they got to avoid that hazard. Bondi was able to find the wrecked boat after a little exploration, and soon they came to the first ruins (which Bondi invoked Old Lore to learn was a trading village of the northmen near the Old Forest Road). I had everyone roll Awareness shortly after, and oddly enough Edrahil succeeded and the other two both got Gandalfs. So all at once they looked up to notice the Gore-crows, and I revealed another Mewlips stanza by invoking Bondi's Rhymes of Lore trait.
When the bell started ringing, only Lofar passed his Wisdom test. He tried to restrain Bondi, but was unsuccessful. Bondi and Edrahil both disappeared into the pool, and Lofar dove right in after them. He couldn't wake them from their enchanted sleep in the flooded chamber (to be fair I don't think Song was a terribly intuitive solution), and so decided to explore the rest of the ruins by himself. He noted the claw marks on the wine cellar door but didn't attempt to get in, instead heading down the passage to the treasure chamber. Given that he was the only character conscious, I ignored the Corruption test that could have dazed him into a stupor at the sight of the treasure. The horde of mewlips was bad enough! As he ran down the passage back to his companions, I eventually just had his stomping noises arouse the Dwarves in the cellar, causing them to make some noise that Lofar could notice without needing to roll Awareness. He headed to the door, found the Dwarves, and then they all dragged Edrahil and Bondi into the cellar just as the mewlips were emerging into the main chamber. I had Balin mention that he roused Oin with an old Dwarven dirge, and Lofar actually got a good roll with Song to waken his companions after that.
With the mewlips scratching at the door, the company and the Dwarves decided to wait them out despite extremely low food supplies and virtually no more water. They spent a night barricaded in the wine cellar, and then carefully peeked out the next day. At this point the players discussed possible options for a fairly long time, despite the fact that their only two choices were to head for the flooded chamber or the chimney. Finally after wondering whether or not he should "waste it" Bondi's player invoked his Woeful Foresight virtue, and I provided his character with a vision of the company trying to escape through the chimney, but the rope only rang the bell and with as long as it took the first PC to escape that way, the others were devoured in short order (they hadn't even checked the chimney yet, so didn't know that the bell was up there). So I went easier on them than I normally would have when they decided to make for the flooded chamber (and good thing, too!).
I had 8 mewlips set up in the main chamber, and Edrahil was the only one who succeeded his Athletics check to get across the chamber quickly and so faced the majority of the creatures (but also got his free volley). The party divided up amongst their foes, with Balin and Oin cowering in the corner waiting for an opportunity to flee. A few enemies were felled, but eventually Edrahil took a few nasty hits and was reduced to just 2 Endurance. He fell back into rearward stance and fled the next round with the Dwarves. Too bad, since he's the only one with Athletics ranks worth writing home about. Lofar managed to get lucky and roll well enough to flee, but it took Bondi 3 or 4 attempts. He was 1 attack away from falling (after reinforcements arrived from the treasure room), but managed to get away in the end. Earned him an Advancement Point for his heroic rear-guarding.
Since we were short on time at this point, I fast-forwarded the return journey (didn't even bother with Fatigue tests since that would be cured in Esgaroth soon, but I did force another Corruption test on the way back through Mirkwood, and everyone failed). I also gave a really hasty explanation of the Fellowship phase, and I don't think that the players really "got it." Bondi was interested in raising his Standing but didn't have enough treasure by a long shot (Gloin gave them each 5 points). Edrahil made 2 attempts (since Esgaroth is a sanctuary) to heal his Corruption through Song, but failed them both (unfortunately). Lofar was interested in seeking a new Patron, but the player misunderstood the point of the undertaking and basically just wanted to get rid of some counterfeit goods (hello, Shadow point). It didn't help matters that this whole adventure only lasted 1 session, so nobody could really do anything with XP or AP. Oh well. I'll probably start the next session with a "re-do" of this Fellowship Phase.