Monday, 27 February 2017

T8 Morale Essences on the Auction House

One of the features I miss from World of Warcraft is their API that lets people explore the data deeper. For example, there's a really useful website called The Undermine Journal which uses that data to monitor auction house prices on every server.

LOTRO doesn't make that sort of information available but I was suddenly wondering how hard would it be to try and manually collect auction house information and would it be useful?

I started by looking at Tier 8 Essences and was surprised at the lack of variety available - the majority by far were morale essences, so I recorded the morale essences for sale today (27 Feb 2017) on an European server (Evernight) and an American server (Arkenstone).



Morale EssenceEU QuantityEU Market Price (Mean)US QuantityUS Market Price (Mean)
Major1920g (32g)1125g (42g)
Supreme34186g (231g)10158g (191g)
Ithilien6450g (483g)24300g (343g)

Interesting how there are less Ithilien essences on Evernight and the price is much higher than on Arkenstone. I wonder why? Do they have less people farming essences, do they prefer to sell in Trade chat or could it be due to the time or day when I checked the auction house?

My next mission is to check prices on different days and start building up some data over time. Let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions about other products or servers I should monitor.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Introducing the Burglar: Level 1-20

Introducing Class X Series


I love creating alts and playing through low level zones and I need some LOTRO points for my free-to-play account so I thought I would create a new character of each class, level it to 20 and describe my experience. 

I think every class in LOTRO is interesting, but they do all have their pros and cons, and some classes or specs may suit certain situations or play-styles more than others.

To start this series, let's look at the burglar:

The Burglar


The most famous burglar in LOTRO is Bilbo Baggins, who stole the precious Arkenstone gem from the dragon Smaug under the Lonely Mountain.

Burglars are stealthy melee fighters and specialise in debuffing their enemies.

Here I'll record my experience levelling as a burglar from level 1 to 20, talking about skills and specs and anything else that might be useful to know.

Level 1 Hobbit Burglar

Here's our brand new burglar and some basic information about her:
  • Wears medium armour
  • Wields daggers
  • Primary stat is Agility
  • Starting abilities are: Sneak (enter stealth mode out of combat), Surprise Strike (a strong single attack that does more damage from behind or when stealthed), Cunning Attack (a bleed attack that causes damage over time, extra if burglar was stealthed) and Subtle Stab (a basic single attack)

The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that gives you two daggers to dual-wield. You are sent to improve your fighting skills at the Burglar Trainer, who tells you about how you can do more damage if you attack from stealth, and critical hits will also enable special follow-up attack ("Critical Hit Chain") abilities such as Double-Edged Strike (which becomes available at level 4). At level 5, when fighting level 5 Blackwolds in Archet, my typical dps from stealth was 19 and without stealth was 15.

At level 6 you can choose a specialisation:
  1. Blue = The Gambler - increases stealth movement speed and evade chance; focuses on activating gambles (a damage over time (bleed effect) debuff on the enemy that can vary in potency depending on tier 1-6; several abilities and traits can increase the damage of gambles)
  2. Red = The Quiet Knife - increases stealth movement speed and reduces the chance of being detected; focuses on attacking from stealth or from behind, getting increased critical hits and also allows some attacks to be used when not stealthed
  3. Yellow = The Mischief-Maker - focuses on applying tricks (debuffs and crowd control) to the enemy then removing them to buff or heal the burglar

My interpretation: blue line is all about DoTs and is probably good at sustained damage; red line has strong burst dps but relies on stealth, positioning and getting critical hits - good for grouping when they can focus on dps with lots of buffs and support; yellow line is more about crowd control and weakening the enemy and has more healing, morale and mitigations so may be useful for soloing.

I will try all the specs but I have had the most experience with yellow line previously.

After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed and some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

At level 7 you gain the ability Find Footing which is a self-heal and buffs evade chance if you've been disabled by a stun, daze or knock-down. It has a 5 minute cooldown but may be a good get-out-of-trouble skill to keep handy. You also get your first trait point to spend in the specialisation you chose.

At level 8 you gain the Riddle ability which dazes a target for 30 seconds. Good for taking one mob out of action while you deal with someone else. Could also be helpful for isolating a mob away from others or delaying a fight until your cooldowns have finished (so that they're not hurting you while all you can do is autoattack). Note that it breaks stealth and if you use Riddle on one mob in a group the others will want to attack you.

At level 10 you gain the Touch and Go ability which buffs evade chance but doesn't require you to have been disabled first like Find Footing does. You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled to level 100, without all the equipment slots filled and with limited abilities you will be very vulnerable, so it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience (e.g. I died in two hits when I tried to join in, but when I stayed stealthed and let the NPCs do the fighting, the NPCs got overwhelmed and the event failed).

At level 12 you get Exploit Opening which is a 5 second stun that also starts a fellowship manoeuvre if you're in a group.

At level 14, Burgle (pickpocket mobs while stealthed) and Addle (a 20m ranged interrupt that also slows enemy casting) become available.

Around level 13-15, you'll get several quests sending you to Bree-land, including a class quest in the mail at level 15 from the Burglar Trainer in Bree, to go visit Atherol Took at Adso's Camp.

Atherol Took - master burglar of Bree-land

Atherol Took has heard that some brigands are planning on raiding Farmer Maggot's mushroom farm. He wants you to stop the brigands and collect some of the mushrooms for him instead. Succeed and you'll earn the title "Thief in the Night". Try burgling some of the brigands while you're there ... I found one had a Helm of the Burglar in his pocket!

At level 16 you get the useful ability Cure Poison which you can use on yourself or an ally. You might still want to carry some potions for removing disease and fear though.

At level 18 you gain Safe Fall which helps you avoid falling damage - just remember to use it before you hit the ground! You also get Diversion which distracts/dazes a target for 10 seconds without breaking stealth - useful for crowd control (and they turn their back to you so can sneak up from behind!).

I reached level 20 helping Rob Thornley escape from orcs in the Northern Bree-fields. At level 20, you gain the ability to Track Treasure which shows where treasure chests are located on your minimap. Note you can only track one thing at a time so if you have a gathering profession you have to choose whether to track ore/wood/crops/artifacts etc. or treasure.

You also gain a new passive ability to use "Clever Devices" such as caltrops (which slow enemies' movement speed and deal damage over time) and marbles (which stun an enemy and start a fellowship manoeuvre). These are consumed on use and have a cooldown.

I didn't have all my equipment slots filled and some gear was still rather low level, so the first thing I did was visit the Skirmish Camp vendors to get any upgrades I could. Here's how she looks at level 20:

Level 20 Hobbit Burglar

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (starting from stealth with Surprise Strike then following the priority list below), and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking (otherwise the time would be ~ 3 m 15 s and dps would be lower). For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and one tier of Honour active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

Here are my DPS results (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):
StatisticsThe Gambler (Blue)The Quiet Knife (Red)The Mischief-maker (Yellow)
Damage24,14121,00719,530
Time3 m 0.6 s3 m 0.4 s3 m 0.6 s
Average DPS133.7116.4108.1
Minimum Hit141514
Average Hit626257
Maximum Hit255420205
Attacks384335342
Critical Strikes (%)90 (23.4%)65 (19.4%)81 (23.7%)
Skill Priorities
  1. Double-edged Strike
  2. Lucky Strike
  3. Gambler's Advantage
  4. Surprise Strike
  5. Cunning Attack
  6. Hedge Your Bet
  7. Subtle Stab
  1. Double-edged Strike
  2. Feint Attack
  3. Surprise Strike
  4. Cunning Attack
  5. Subtle Stab
  1. Double-edged Strike
  2. Surprise Strike
  3. Cunning Attack
  4. Trick: Disable
  5. Subtle Stab

For my final adventure as a level 20 burglar, I took part in the Skirmish training and then completed a skirmish: Siege of Gondamon. I went yellow line and chose a Warrior for my solider and it went quite smoothly. I first debuffed the mobs with Trick: Dust in the Eyes or Trick: Disable and the warrior held the attention of several mobs while I stabbed them in the back one at a time ... mwahaha! Burglars might also like archers (ranged damage, good single target dps and unlikely to break crowd control) or bannerguards (tanks, deals damage, buffs you and provides some healing) as their soldier companion.

General Observations


Bleed and DoT effects on you will break you out of stealth.

Single targets near or below my level died fairly quickly, but when fighting several mobs or an elite on my own, my abilities seemed to be on cooldown a lot so I was rather helpless, and my health started dropping. Health potions and eating food or using buff items with regeneration effects before battles were helpful.

According to the character sheet, I only had about 2-4% critical strike chance and I didn't get to use Critical Hit Chains very often in the wild (the critical strike rate was much higher against the target dummies, but they don't move or have the same stats as normal mobs).

One-handed weaponsmith vendors sell throwing knives or axes that can be used to initiate combat and make a mob come to you. Players with the weaponsmith profession can make better quality throwing weapons, caltrops and marbles.

Specialisations


Blue - The Gambler: I didn't get to use Lucky Strike very often but when I did it usually killed the mob. I often didn't even bother with starting from stealth because they were dying so quick. When mobs have more health the DoT effect will probably come into play more. Hedge Your Bet was useful as an extra ability in the basic rotation and dealt more damage than Subtle Stab. Overall, I had quite a few abilities to use, and it felt pretty solid and hard-hitting. Still vulnerable to multiple mobs though. I'd be interested to try it out at higher levels.

Red - The Quiet Knife: I used stealth more and noticed that I was detected less often. I found the specialisation abilities Feint Attack and Knives Out weren't very useful - I didn't get enough crits against mobs while questing to be able to use Feint Attack and when I did it didn't seem to do much (it increases the damage of Surprise Strike, but if that was on cooldown I probably missed out on the benefit). I did use Knives Out when faced with several mobs as it is a multi-target ability that reflects damage, but it has a 2 minute cooldown! It also prevented me from parrying/evading and I felt like I took more damage from multiple mobs compared to when I was using other specs. I only had 3 abilities in my basic rotation and I was waiting a lot for cooldowns and crits so I would have something to do. Overall, I didn't enjoy it, but it could get better at higher levels with better gear and more abilities.

Yellow - the Mischief-maker: Dust in the Eyes is a great little multi-target debuff with a short cooldown that slows mobs and increases their miss chance. Trick: Disable is also a useful single target debuff with a short cooldown that reduces the target's damage, and Mischievous Glee was a very handy heal when fighting multiple mobs or elites. I had more abilities to use and could reduce the damage I took, so I felt more durable. I wasn't quite as stealthy as in red or blue specs, so it takes a bit more care to stay out of sight and not get too close to mobs. Overall, I don't think I hit as hard but I was harder to hit and I felt more actively involved so it was more fun.

Stats


  • Agility - your main stat that increases your damage
  • Critical Strike - essential for activating certain abilities (and increasing your damage)
  • Evade - activates certain abilities in The Gambler spec, also reduces damage taken
  • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken
  • Morale and Vitality - bigger health pool increases survivability 

These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for medium armour or jewellery with agility and critical rating, morale or vitality. If a piece of gear has Fate on it, it will also increase your critical strike chance. You might not find much Evade on gear yet, but increasing Agility also increases your Evade chance. The best place to get Mitigations and Resistances at low levels is probably from virtues.

Also, try to get matching daggers with the highest dps and agility you can, but if you can't, put the best one in your main hand.

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for burglars and how to get them by level 20:

VirtueActivityDeed
INNOCENCE
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
TOLERANCE
(agility, tactical mitigation, in-combat morale regeneration)
Explore all the farms in The ShireFarms of the Shire (The Shire)
COMPASSION
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 15 quests in The Shire

Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
DETERMINATION
(agility, morale, in-combat morale regeneration)
Defeat 60 slugs in The Shire

Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 barghests in Bree-land
Slug Slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Barghest-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
ZEAL
(morale, physical mitigation, armour)
Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
HONOUR
(resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire

Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

Pros of the Burglar Class

  • Fun being stealthy and sneaking around
  • Reasonable single-target damage
  • Utility includes crowd control and debuffing enemies

Cons of the Burglar Class

  • Very limited AOE or multi-target abilities
  • Very limited ranged abilities
  • Reliance on critical strikes/stealth/positioning for optimal damage
  • Squishy 

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new burglars in the comments below.

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Captain.

Monday, 13 February 2017

VIP Gift: Steed of the Eldar

I couldn't help myself - the limited edition Steed of the Eldar that is gifted to VIPs who log in between February 6 and March 13 looks really nice and would be very useful for all my characters, so I re-subscribed to LOTRO. I don't regret it - Standing Stone Games seems to be making an effort to enhance aspects of the game, such as housing and quality of life things like binding phials of flower extracts from North Ithilien to account instead of character, so I'm happy to support them and look forward to the new and improved LOTRO of 2017.

Steed of the Eldar
Steed of the Eldar warsteed appearance set (caparison and halter dyed navy)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A Quick Guide to Reputation - Gondor

Here are some comments and suggestions on earning reputation with various factions in Gondor.

Dol Amroth

  • Questing, deeds and tasks in West Gondor
  • Defeating warbands in West Gondor 

Men of Ringló Vale

  • Questing in Ringló Vale, Central Gondor
  • Orcs and Roving Threats in Ringló Vale drop rep tokens

Men of Dor-en-Ernil

  • Questing in Dor-en-Ernil, Central Gondor
  • Corsairs, Haradrim and Roving Threats in Dor-en-Ernil drop rep tokens

Men of Lebennin

  • Questing in Lebennin, Central Gondor
  • Corsairs, Haradrim and Roving Threats in Lebennin drop rep tokens

Pelargir

  • Questing, deeds and tasks in Central Gondor
  • Defeating warbands in Central Gondor
  • Epic Battles (Retaking Pelargir, Defense of Minas Tirith, Hammer of the Underworld) 
  • Some Volume 4, Book 3 epic quests

Rangers of Ithilien

  • Questing, deeds and tasks in Eastern Gondor
  • Defeating warbands in Eastern Gondor
  • Some Volume 4, Book 3 epic quests

Defenders of Minas Tirith

  • Questing, deeds and tasks in Old Anórien
  • Defeating warbands in Old Anórien

Riders of Rohan

  • Questing, deeds and tasks in Far Anórien
  • Elite mobs (such as Mordor Uruks in the Beacon Hills) in Far Anórien drop rep tokens
  • Defeating warbands in Far Anórien

Host of the West

  • Questing, deeds and tasks in North Ithilien
  • Defeating warbands in North Ithilien

      Thursday, 2 February 2017

      Linux Graphics Drivers and LOTRO Performance


      While debugging why LOTRO crashed on me in Linux, I made an important discovery which has led to a huge improvement in performance.

      So, LOTRO froze while my character was just running through the Southern Bree-fields in Bree-land. I could move the mouse but the computer wouldn't respond to keyboard or mouse activity and I couldn't open a terminal or anything - I had to hard reboot the computer. The next time I logged into LOTRO, a similar thing happened to a character in Ered Luin, just running along, then the game froze and wouldn't respond. This is no good, what's going on?

      I checked the PlayOnLinux debug file and found a lot of messages about a problem with wined3d - so maybe it's a DirectX graphics issue. I also googled the situation of running a Wine program that freezes and makes the computer unresponsive. Somebody suggested checking the system logs as they claimed that the problem must be deeper than Wine to cause the computer to become unresponsive. I checked the system logs (Linux Mint conveniently has a Log File Viewer available from the menu) and found a message about a PGRAPH engine fault on channel 6, then on the next line it said that lotroclient.exe was using channel 6. Then there was a message about "reboot crash terminate-all-tasks memory-full-oom-kill". So there was a memory overload? I looked up PGRAPH and found out that related to nouveau, the open source graphics driver for NVIDIA graphics cards. Someone else had got a similar error message and they were advised to check the size of their swap partition to make sure they did have plenty of memory (at least 3GB was recommended). I checked mine - I've got 8GB which should be enough. I found some bug reports for nouveau causing this issue dating back to 2014 - apparently still not fixed. Finally I found someone who said that they changed to using the proprietary NVIDIA graphics driver instead of nouveau and the problem went away - their applications didn't freeze anymore. Hooray!

      They said to change graphics drivers, select the recommended NVIDIA driver from the Driver Manager (also readily available from the Linux Mint menu) and reboot. I did that and the next time I logged into LOTRO I got a message that it had detected my computer hardware could support DirectX 11 and did I want to enable it? Wine doesn't support DirectX 11 yet, so I said no and the client crashed to a black screen. Fortunately, I could close the client and do some more research. I found a report that you could go into the LOTRO UserPreferences.ini file (in the [home]/Documents/The Lord of the Rings Online folder) and change the settings about DirectX. There, I found out that my game had been running with the UseHighResolutionGameData=True. Well maybe that might account for some of my low frame rates! I set that to False. Down in the [Render] section, there were options for GraphicsCore=D3D9 (good: it's using DirectX 9, which is supported by Wine), and HavePromptedForD3D11AtStartup=False and HavePromptedForD3D10AtStartup=False. We don't want to use either DirectX10 or DirectX11, so don't prompt us - I changed them both to True to make it think it already had, saved the changes and went and launched LOTRO.

      The game loaded fine and I got back into the game world and everything ran so smooth and looked better than ever! I checked the frame rate and it was at least double what I was getting before! I went from around 25-30 fps just running around to over 60 fps. I know my computer isn't the best, but that's a huge improvement.

      A few weeks ago I was trying to tweak performance in LOTRO and I downloaded the free Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 software for Linux. I tested my system (when it was using the nouveau driver) and was appalled - it really struggled with the animations and was very choppy. I tested it again after changing to the NVIDIA graphics driver, and the results were much better. Here's a Before and After report:

      Jan 2017 - using the nouveau graphics driver
      Feb 2017 - using the NVIDIA graphics driver

      So, final conclusion: low frame rates and freezing in LOTRO may be a symptom that the graphics driver is not ideal. Nothing against the team behind nouveau - it's great they're developing an open-source alternative, but NVIDIA still knows how to get the best performance out of their hardware.

      Wednesday, 1 February 2017

      Website Update - Guides Condensed

      Hi. Just a quick note to mention that I have been spring cleaning (it's summer here, so maybe I'm late or really, really early) and condensed the list of guides on the right hand side but the guides are all still available! There's even a few new ones added recently.

      I now have a Class Guides section that has links to my guides and other community guides for each class.

      All the crafting guides are now in the Crafting Guides section, so if you want information about farming, scholars, how many ore you'll need to process to reach Master Anórien Prospector, or galleries of armour and weapons that can be crafted, this is the place to look.

      I hope this makes the site a little more streamlined and easy to navigate. Thanks for visiting and for your feedback.


      Wednesday, 25 January 2017

      Work in Progress

      While Myndariel relaxes in the gardens of North Ithilien, I have been playing a few other characters.


      My second Beorning has just got her starter legendary weapon and is eager to head into Moria. I think she expects it will be a nice cosy cave to hibernate in after questing in the cold Misty Mountains and Forochel.


      My minstrel has finally left Moria and is trying to earn the respect of her distant kin in Lothlórien. She's not fond of the "run to the orc camps and back" over and over again, but she thinks her instruments sound purer and more poetic in the Golden Woods. Or maybe everything just seems brighter and better in the sunlight.


      My little hunter-scholar has been out and about hunting for artifacts and recording how many and where she found them. Her results so far are shown in the Scholar Artifacts page. It's a work in progress and it means exploring pretty much all of Middle Earth, but she's enjoying it, even if there are a lot of giants involved (some of the best places for T4 and T5 artifacts are in Giant Valley and Giant Halls respectively). She's found a few treasure caches along the way too which is a nice bonus.


      My free-to-play characters are feeling the TP (or I guess LP for LOTRO Points now) grind to unlock more content. My captain has quested through the Lone-lands and done the Epic Quest in North Downs but isn't high enough level to do the Epic Quest in the Trollshaws, so she will have to go back and do slayer deeds etc. in the starting zones. Or I could start a new character on another server, do the Ered Luin deeds which are fairly quick and easy, delete them and rinse and repeat. It's going to be a looong journey.


      My characters on Arkenstone are all in one kin, and when I was visiting my house there the other day I noticed the kin house next door was up for sale - in fact the neighbourhood was looking rather empty (I hope my former neighbours found nice new homes in Cape of Belfalas). I hadn't planned on getting a kin house, but what an opportunity! So now my kin have a mission to collect more housing decorations. I guess Bingo Boffin adventures, and Hytbold, Dol Amroth and Minas Tirith dailies are on the schedule for the foreseeble future ...