I'm new to the One Ring RPG (never played, just reading through it) and I'm having trouble understanding Shadow points.

It sounds like Shadow points accumulate for a variety of reasons, making it harder to use Hope without becoming Miserable. Eventually you become Miserable, have a bout of Madness, and all your temporary Shadow points are healed, and then you gain a "permanent" shadow point that doesn't go away when you have another bout of Madness. And, as far as I can tell, you can never get your permanent shadow points to go away.

My questions are,

  1. Is the above accurate?
  2. Is there any other way to get rid of temporary shadow points other than to max out and have a bout of Madness?
  3. Is there any way to get rid of permanent Shadow points?
  4. Is there a cap to the amount of permanent Shadow points and Hope you can have?
  5. I ask these questions because it sounds like, on a long enough timeline, all characters become hopelessly corrupt, as a mathematical inevitability. Is this accurate?

If "yes" to no. 5, that sounds a lot more fitting in a Cthulhu game than a Tolkien game. Anyone else have any experience with this that contradicts my unfounded, first-glance reading of the game?


2 Answers 2


To answer each of your questions in order:

  1. Yes, you understand correctly.
  2. Yes, there is an undertaking that you can perform during the Fellowship phase that removes temporary shadow points.
  3. No, they are permanent.
  4. There's always a cap on hope. There's a functional cap on permanent shadow as well, because your character goes insane and becomes unplayable.
  5. No, because of 2. You do have to be WARY of Shadow and it is possible to have a character 'Go Denethor' and succumb to the Shadow by way of permanent Shadow points, but it would take a very long time.

I'd also argue that, actually, fighting a long, slow, losing fight against the Shadow is completely in theme for Tolkien, as that's basically what the elves have been doing for thousands of years.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You said that it "would take a very long time." Does that mean that characters don't have bouts of madness very often? In your experience, how often does that tend to happen, and what sort of circumstances usually bring it about? (e.g., more through player negligence or more through encountering really bad stuff?) \$\endgroup\$
    – doctorw0rm
    Nov 24, 2014 at 19:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Characters certainly SHOULDN'T have bouts of Madness very often - remember that this only happens if a character's temporary shadow exceeds their Hope. Players are in COMPLETE control over their hope score, so a character is really only susceptible to a bout of madness if: A) They have failed a lot of corruption tests and therefore accrued a lot of temporary shadow AND B) Have spent a lot of hope, causing their hope to drop below their temporary shadow. In order for this to happen, you have to BOTH encounter lots of bad stuff AND be negligent. Neither one by itself is likely to suffice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airk
    Nov 24, 2014 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Based on this description, my knee-jerk reaction is that shadow is a mechanic with a lot of bookkeeping that doesn't actually manifest itself that much / is somewhat irrelevant. Or would you say that the threat of it creates a significant impact on gameplay, even if bouts of madness never come up? \$\endgroup\$
    – doctorw0rm
    Nov 24, 2014 at 21:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Like most knee jerk reactions, yours is a bit off base. The threat is completely relevant; Spending Hope is one of the major things players can do to succeed on things, and adding Shadow points causes it to become a much more precious resource. Also, using your Undertaking to remove Shadow Points means you are not doing something else with your Fellowship phase. So even if you never go anywhere near taking penalties, the actions you take to avoid taking those penalties carry a cost. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airk
    Nov 24, 2014 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, that's what I thought. Glad my knee-jerk was off-base. Thank you for the clarification. \$\endgroup\$
    – doctorw0rm
    Nov 25, 2014 at 4:33

With regards your second and third questions, I disagree with Arik's answer:

Permanent Shadow points can be healed by the Heal Corruption undertaking - just not all of them

Several books have introduced ways of obtaining permanent shadow points without undergoing a Bout of Madness. For example the 'There and Back Again' undertaking from the Rivendell source book (p.23):

But staying close to one’s family and friends bitterly reminds an adventurer of what he is going to lose should he fall in his struggle against the Shadow: the companion gains 1 permanent Shadow point

or the 'Confer with Saruman' undertaking from The Darkening of Mirkwood (p.50):

Saruman may educate one hero in the dark ways of the Enemy: the character gains the Shadow-lore Trait - at the cost of a permanent Shadow point.

The 'Heal Corruption' undertaking calls out a specific kind of permanent shadow point as impossible to heal:

Permanent Shadow points gained when suffering from a bout of madness can never be healed

This implies that, rules-as-written, permanent shadow points obtained via routes other than the 'Bout of Madness' route (such as a permanent shadow point gained via conferring with Saruman) can be healed by the 'Heal Corruption' undertaking


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