Sunday, 15 October 2017

Fall Festival and Bingo's Return

There's been some drama this week with Update 21.2. This update includes two new Mordor dungeons, new max level gear, a new improved Mount Collection interface, new filtering options for quests and items, removal of the crafting quest required to unlock Artisan crafting, and many other fixes and quality of life changes.

The drama is about the new max level gear having the wrong price and/or stats. This is being fixed, but some players are not happy with how it has been handled. Standing Stone Games decided to offer everyone 50 Mithril Coins per account by redeeming the code MORDORMITHRIL at the LOTRO Store before October 22.

The Harvestmath/Fall Festival has arrived with some nice new goodies. The Autumn Leafmail armour set (hauberk or dress, shoulders, shield and a hooded or unhooded cloak) and the new steed look great and matches the outfit too with the pale golden leaf theme.


Autumn Leafmail Dress and Cloak

Steed of the Eldar Autumn

Bingo Boffin makes a return with an interesting new spooky quest-line! I hope there is a follow-up - it left me curious to know more about the Spectral Vision's threat.

Bingo Boffin telling tales around the campfire

My Burglar got the Steed of Gloaming Autumn and I'm impressed - at night its eyes and the pattern on the blanket glow orange, which looks awesome. Only 30 Fall Festival tokens too!


Steed of the Gloaming Autumn

Steed of the Gloaming Autumn (glows in the dark!)

I'm very happy about the new improved Mounts Collection interface. Finally we can see all the mounts available, preview what they look like and find out how to get them in-game.

Updated Mounts Collection interface

There seem to have been quite a few crafting changes, particularly for Doomfold crafting, such as making daily crafting recipes available to more professions that use those materials, increasing stack-sizes for food, reducing the amount of daily-gated materials needed for jewellery, and making Doomfold materials drop from some Mordor mobs and items that were previously giving Anórien materials. Removing the quest for unlocking Artisan crafting will eliminate a roadblock for many new players who get Expert Proficiency then don't understand why they can't progress any more. While I'd like to see more crafting quests, I think they should be optional and perhaps reward rare recipes for cosmetic skins or "flavour" items that are not essential but are fun to collect.

Apart from the new gear drama, I think there's a lot of good stuff in this update. I especially liked seeing Bingo return for the festival - it's like catching up with an old friend.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Farmer's Faire, Mordor Allegiances and the Mount Sale

So the Farmer's Faire has come and gone. There wasn't much new stuff this time, so I sent a couple low level characters on my free-to-play account to participate so they could get some cosmetic gear and a mount.

Farmer's Fancy Dress and Circlet of Fresh-picked Flowers cosmetic gear.
Goat of the Harvest Sky mount.
Farmer's Second Favourite Steed mount.
Surcoat of the Yield, Gardening Gloves and Gardening Boots cosmetic gear.

Myndariel has reached level 110 in Mordor - I know, she's going slow, but she has struggled to complete the quests in the fortresses like Durthang in Udûn and Barad-dûr in Dor Amarth. The mobs take so long to kill and respawn so fast and defeat means a long run back and fighting through all the mobs again. She'll get it done eventually. She's taking breaks and going back to North Ithilien and The Wastes to do the 250 repeatable gardening quests so she can get the mount reward (which I've heard is beautiful).

Meanwhile, she's chosen the Elf allegiance and the introduction to that is great. The Court of Lothlórien looks amazing and it's interesting to see more of Thranduil and Galadriel and what they have been up to while we were fighting through Gondor towards Mordor.

Court of Lothlórien (Elf Allegiance Hall)

And finally, I decided to splash out on a new mount in the LOTRO store mount sale. I thought my High Elf Hunter needed a mount that suited her ancient armour and after much deliberation, decided on the Obsidian Steed. I think it's perfect!

Obsidian Steed

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Introducing the Hunter: Level 1-20 (High Elf Edition)

Hunters are ranged archers, shooting their targets with bows from afar or using traps and decoys to control their opponents' position. They have melee weapons ready for close combat and a range of utility skills, including transporting themselves or a group to many important cities or camps throughout Middle Earth (see Travelling Around Middle Earth for more information). They are a strong DPS class with three interesting specialisations.

Here I'll record my experience levelling as a hunter from level 1 to 20, talking about skills and specs and anything else that may be useful to know. The High Elf starting experience is a little different from normal but once you complete the introduction the levelling should be similar between races.

Level 1 High Elf Hunter

Here's our brand new hunter and some basic information about her:
  • Hunters wear medium armour
  • Primary stat is Agility
  • The main weapon is a bow, but also dual-wield one-handed melee weapons such as daggers, swords, or axes.
  • Starting abilities are: Quick Shot (a ranged attack that generates focus), Penetrating Shot (a ranged attack that costs focus and bypasses enemy mitigations) and Blindside (a melee attack followed by a close-range ranged attack).

Focus is a key resource used by hunters. You build it up and then spend it on powerful attacks. At higher levels you will gain abilities that let you build it up quickly before or during battle. You could also gain bonus focus or reduce focus costs when using certain skills.

The high elf is initially scaled up to level 110 in the introduction in stats but not skills, and starts with a bow and a pair of daggers (one of the daggers is in your bags). When you return to Elrond's House, you are returned to level 1 stats. You receive a gift from Elrond which contains your old armour from the Second Age, some armour dyes, a housing decoration (a Radiant Basin), some basic food and some healing potions. You also gain the Milestone skill, automatically set to Celondim in Ered Luin, and the novice passive skill.

Arrival in Celondim, Ered Luin

The high elf is boosted to level 5 on arrival in Celondim. You also gain several skills:
  • Set Trap: place a trap at your feet that will deal damage and root enemies in place for 30 seconds, giving you time to get away.
  • Stance - Strength: this stance can be toggled on or off and increases your damage and critical chance. It also gives Quick Shot a slowing effect.
  • Barbed Arrow: a ranged attack that generates focus, causes a bleeding effect (damage over time) and slows enemies.

At level 6 you can choose a specialisation. Here are the different specialisations you can choose:
  • Blue = Huntsman - you can shoot while moving; you also gain Barrage (a ranged shot that costs focus and deals more damage each time it is used) and Scourging Blow (a melee attack that deals more damage if the enemy is bleeding from Barbed Arrow).
  • Red = Bowmaster - you can attack faster and have greater range; you also gain Pinning Shot which roots an enemy in place for 5 seconds.
  • Yellow = Trapper of Foes - you have many crowd control options and can cast traps while moving; you also gain Lingering Wound (an instant ranged attack that causes a bleed effect and stacks up to 4 times) and Decoy (an object that causes enemies to attack it instead of you).

I've played all the specs on various hunters and they're all good, with different playstyles. Blue offers great mobility and sustained damage, Red needs to stand still to shoot but has high burst damage, and Yellow has lots of crowd control and defensive buffs.

At level 7 you get your first trait point to spend in your chosen specialisation. You get additional trait points every odd level from now on, as well as from some quests and deeds.

At level 8 you gain the Focus skill which lets you fill up your Focus before combat so you can start with some strong attacks.

At level 10 you gain a couple of skills: Swift Bow, which generates 2 focus and hits hard, but has a long cast time (can be a useful opening skill, if the enemy doesn't know you're winding up a big shot), and Passage of Nature, which lets you track beasts (good for finding rare mobs or quest objectives). 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.

You get a great skill at level 12: Find the Path. This is a toggled ability that gives you and your nearby fellowship members a run-speed buff when out of combat. You probably want this on all the time, so when you log in, change specs or get defeated you may need to turn it on again.

At level 14 you can Purge Poison (as well as wounds, disease and fear debuffs) from yourself.

By the time you get to level 15 you've probably got several quests sending you to Bree and Bree-land. At level 15 you get a quest in the mail suggesting you should visit a hunter trainer. The hunter trainer urges you to seek out Gytha Lainey at Adso's Camp in Bree-land who needs you to track down a wolf in the Old Forest.

Track down and defeat Yellowfang in the Old Forest

On completing the quest, you receive a furry helmet and the title "Swift Arrow".

At level 15 you also gain some passive abilities, namely that you can now wield clubs, hammers and maces, and you can also use Hand-wrought Traps (except these weaponsmith recipes and items are obsolete and no longer in the game).

I had been levelling as Yellow, but I switched to Red. At the Brigand's Watch camp in Bree-land, it seemed almost unfair that I could stand there, fill up my focus bar and then one-shot three of the brigands as fast as I could cast Penetrating Shot three times. They didn't even have time to warn their friends standing right next to them.

The Precision stance becomes available at level 16. With this stance toggled on, you gain some focus every 5 seconds, a brief finesse buff upon activation and Quick Shot has an increased critical strike chance.

At level 18 you get an AOE melee attack, Low Cut, which also slows enemies. I still had quests to do in Vale of Andrath and Adso's Camp, but I decided to head to the Barrow-downs because the rewards are better and I knew I would reach level 20 quickly there.

Usually there are racial deeds to be completed before gaining racial trait skills, but at level 19 I automatically got the High Elf skill Wrath of the Firstborn which, when slotted, gives you and your fellowship a 5% damage boost for 10 seconds on a 10 minute cooldown.

At level 20 you gain several skills which aid survival. Cry of the Hunter dazes and slows nearby mobs and gives you a morale "bubble" which absorbs damage and a speed boost to help you get away. You also get Desperate Flight which lets you travel instantly to the nearest rally point, on a 30 minute cooldown. Then there are also some new passive abilities: you can use Fire-oil when causes some of your shots to do extra fire damage to mobs. Fire-oil can be made by scholars or bought from Hunter Trainers. You can also use spears now.

Great view of Bree from the Dead-man's Perch
I went to the skirmish camp to upgrade any gear I could and found that skirmish gear is invisible on High Elves, at least in the character window. Fortunately I still had cosmetic armour showing or that might be embarrassing!

Here's how my hunter looks at level 20 now:

Level 20 High Elf Hunter (with invisible skirmish armour)

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and found several other people using the dummies so I did the skirmish training and Siege of Gondamon instead. It was quite easy picking enemies off as they approached, but when I was casting Focus before the next wave of mobs arrived, the channelling would get interrupted if my skirmish soldier started combat.

I returned to the Training Hall and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (or until power runs out), and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and three tiers of Charity active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

Here are my DPS results (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

StatisticsHuntsman
(Blue)
Bowmaster
(Red)
Trapper of Foes
(Yellow)
Damage364663856532179
Time3 m 0.3 s3 m 0.8 s3 m 0.4 s
Average DPS202.2213.4178.3
Minimum Hit353334
Average Hit219206191
Maximum Hit206113171317
Attacks166187168
Critical Strikes (%)41 (24.7%)40 (21.4%)27 (16.1%)
Skill Priorities
  1. Focus
  2. Barrage
  3. Quick Shot
  1. Focus
  2. Penetrating Shot
  3. Quick Shot
  1. Focus
  2. Penetrating Shot
  3. Quick Shot

For the test, I started in Strength Stance, filled the Focus bar, cast 3 Penetrating Shots and then went into building up focus with 3 Quick Shots then spending it on Penetrating Shot (or Barrage). A very simple rotation, but in normal combat you should consider all your skills and which is most useful for the situation.

I was surprised that I was able to keep fighting for the full 3 minutes without power issues (10-30% power remaining at the end), as many of the other classes run out sooner.

I also tried using Barbed Arrow every 10 seconds in the rotation to keep up the damage over time debuff, but DPS ended up being about 17% lower in Red spec, possibly because it has a longer cast time and deals less damage up front. Even in Yellow spec which has bonuses to damage over time early in the trait tree, it was still a DPS loss to use Barbed Arrow or Lingering Wound. This may change at higher levels (for example, with full traits and legendary item legacies, Barbed Arrow may do more damage than Quick Shot or Swift Bow).

For the Blue spec, I tried both Penetrating Shot and Barrage as the focus spender skill and the average DPS was very close (199.1 for Penetrating Shot, 202.2 for Barrage). Average hit damage were similar, but Barrage had much higher maximum hit damage. Barrage used slightly more power than Penetrating Shot but after 3 minutes, with Penetrating Shot there was still 29.9% power left and with Barrage there was still 24.9% power left.

General Observations


Hunters have a lot of utility from early in the game - speed buffs, slows, purges, defensive bubbles, crowd control, mob tracking. Plus, the simple rotation but lots of options and having both ranged and melee abilities - hunters can deal with almost anything. They are very easy to level.

Strength stance seems to be the best in general, but learn when to use Precision or Endurance (becomes available later) stances.

Be careful not to break crowd control by using AOE abilities like Rain of Thorns (becomes available later). Also be careful not to pull threat off the tank when in a group situation, although it may be helpful to pull threat off the healer.

Specialisations


Blue - Huntsman: With good mobility and good damage, this spec is popular in instances and groups, but also very suitable for soloing - for tough mobs, you can kite them if necessary. Overall, I think this is the best general-purpose spec for hunters and if you're not sure which spec to use, try Blue.

Red - Bowmaster: I see this spec as a marksman - carefully positioned, they are deadly at picking off targets from afar suddenly. For soloing or PvMP, they don't have as many escape options as Blue or Yellow, so positioning and assessing the situation ("Can I deal with this quickly?" Yes - give it everything, No - flee and fight them later under more favourable circumstances) are important. Overall, I think this spec may be situational or suit a specific play style.

Yellow - Trapper of Foes: This reminds me of the engineer class in Guild Wars 2 or the engineering profession in World of Warcraft - they've got a gadget for everything. It's a fun change in play style and still very effective as you use traps, tripwires, explosions, decoys and more to destroy your enemies. With some planning, you can create quite a minefield that will lock down a number of mobs so you can pick them off, but if something goes wrong, you get some defensive bonuses to help you survive their fury. Overall, I think this spec is better for solo play, PvMP or maybe group questing in landscape areas than instances.

Stats

  • Agility - your main stat that increases damage
  • Critical Strike - increases damage
  • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken
  • Morale and Vitality - bigger health pool increases survival

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. The best place to get Mitigations and Resistances at low levels is probably from virtues.

For ranged weapons, you can use bows or crossbows, but bows tend to have more offensive stats and crossbows tend to be more defensive (better for tanking classes like guardians). For melee weapons, consider the stats and DPS, then what racial bonuses you get from using a specific weapon type (e.g. Men and Elves get a bonus with swords, while Dwarves get a bonus with axes).

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for hunters 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)
CHARITY
(physical mitigation, resistance, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 10 quests in Ered Luin

Complete 30 quests in Ered Luin

Complete 30 quests in Bree-land
Ally of Ered Luin
(Ered Luin)

Hero of Ered Luin
(Ered Luin)

Bree-land Adventurer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
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
(physical mitigation, morale, 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
(tactical mitigation, resistance, 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 Hunter Class

  • Good single-target damage
  • Utility includes tracking mobs, speed buffs, fast travel
  • Variety of playstyles
  • Good survivability (mobility, crowd control, self-healing, stealth, threat-dumps)

Cons of the Hunter Class

  • Limited defensive abilities

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

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Lore-master.

    Saturday, 5 August 2017

    Walked into Mordor

    The Black Gate is open!

    Hooray! The Mordor expansion is here!

    I bought the Collector's Edition - I wanted a special mount and the high elf, and the extras in the Ultimate Fan Bundle would be nice, but too expensive.

    Steed of the Alliance of the Third Age
    Alliance of the Third Age cosmetic armour

    So far, Myndariel my Lore-master, Tyravorth my Beorning and Letycia my Captain (who used the Aria of the Valar to get boosted to 105) have entered Gorgoroth and are questing in Udûn. I've also created a new High Elf champion.

    Mordor First Impressions


    Session play was used quite well to show us key moments in the final stage of Frodo's journey, especially Gollum with Shelob and the battle between Gollum and Frodo for the ring. The Field of Cormallen looked stunning in glorious colours. Radanir was funny with his speech about an important to decision to make (which inn will the Rangers meet at for drinks?).

    Gollum and the Ring
    Field of Cormallen

    Walking into Mordor (yes I did originally try walking into Mordor from The Wastes - not recommended - you'll die!) by taking the horse from the Field of Cormallen to the Black Gate, it's dark, but not as bad as I expected. I like the purple shadows around the player when they leave the beaten track; they emphasise the sense of potential danger. The soot-smudged pages to find and audio lore excerpts are nice - if I could be patient enough to stand still and listen to them fully. I read them though. Briefly. Then rush off to explore some more. So much to see and do.

    The introduction of new NPCs with their own goals in Mordor is interesting and I look forward to journeying alongside them and seeing what mischief they get up to. I love crafting so I'm happy to see new resources and recipes and less reliance on essences. I'll have to wait and see whether the disenchantment system (breaking down unwanted gear into Ash of Gorgoroth) is good - will we get enough excess gear drops? Other than quest rewards, I've only had one piece of gear drop in the wild and I can't wait to use it (it's for level 107). I've found lots of chests that apparently contain Gorgoroth Crafting Bundles - but you need level 106 to open them. I hope they will be worthwhile.

    Udûn

    The mobs have been difficult because my characters aren't that well geared. Myndariel has had the easiest time so far, but the mobs still take a while to defeat. I feel like I'm hitting them with wet noodles and they avoid so many of my attacks. Once I get new gear with the stats balanced appropriate for the zone I'm sure it will get better.

    So far I'm enjoying it. It's tough but it should be. I'm looking forward to new gear and exploring new regions and learning more about the allegiance system and the Black Book of Mordor.

    High Elf


    Taurileth in the Second Age

    I created a High Elf champion and played through the starting area. After having just been through the finale of the War of the Ring on Myndariel and Tyravorth, it gave me goosebumps and that déjà-vu feeling playing through the High Elf intro set in the Second Age during the last battle against Sauron. It was awesome!

    High Elf Intro - Second Age

    And Elrond's house! Oh my! It looked amazing compared to the version we are familiar with, and that was pretty good to start with.

    Tham Send in Elrond's Last Homely House
    Taurileth in Tham Send

    I'm so glad we get the beautiful armour to keep. I love how you get sent to Celondim in Ered Luin with Elrond's sons - and a pile of books to catch up on a couple thousand years of history that occurred while you were sleeping! It's hard to imagine what that would be like. I've decided to make her a scholar as a result. Imagine poking around ruins and remembering them as beautiful buildings like it was yesterday - maybe she'll find "ancient" artifacts that were created by her friends or family, or even by her!

    I almost wish I had used the character boost on her, but from reading the Patch Notes, it looks like there are quite a few quests that have minor variations for High Elves, and it might be fun to experience those.

    Aria of the Valar


    When I logged in after the expansion launched, I was missing my Aria of the Valar package. There was an announcement that it was a known issue, and would be fixed soon. I transferred crafting materials to my bank to make room in my bags for Mordor stuff, and my bank was nearly full, so I bought some more shared storage, and then my Aria of the Valar Package arrived. So I used the Aria of the Valar character boost to take my level 18 Captain to level 105 so she could head into Mordor. I'll have to level her crafting skills later.


    It included (all character-bound):
    • Aria of the Valar (instantly boosts character to level 105 and transports you to Camp of the Host in The Wastes so you can pick up the Epic Quest Volume IV, Book 8 from Aragorn that leads you into Mordor; you also get 12 tiers of each virtue, trait points, promotion points, over 300 marks, a Westemnet Iron Coin, at least 10 LOTRO points from auto-completed deeds, an Anórien lootbox and a sturdy key).
    • Aria of the Valar Armour Pack (contains a full set of item level 294 armour and jewellery appropriate for your class, but no pocket item).
    • Aria of the Valar Weapon Pack (contains a item level 294 weapon set appropriate for your class (e.g. a sword and shield), plus 3 Unidentified Third Age Legendary Item Boxes so you can choose a weapon, a class item and a war-steed bridle).
    • Aria of the Valar Item Pack (contains 25 Dale-men's Crams, 25 Rejuvenation Potions, 25 Mithril Coins, Map to Eastfold - Aldburg, Map to the Sutcrofts - Snowbourne, an Anfalas Star-lit Crystal, Trait: Riding Characteristic (gain riding skill), Steed of the Citadel and war-steed appearances). 
    • 3 Giant Piles of Silver Scraps (worth 5 gold 400 silver).
    • 5 Tomes of Extraordinary Experience (XP boosters).
    • Map to Rivendell.
    • War-steed.
    • Trait: Mounted Combat (can use war-steeds).
    • Trait: Legendary items (can use legendary items).

    Camp of the Host, The Wastes
    Steed of the Citadel
    Captain boosted to level 105 wearing equipment from Aria of the Valar Package

    Saturday, 15 July 2017

    July: Month of the Hunter

    This month is all about hunters in Middle Earth for me: I'm currently levelling three hunters through various parts of the game and really enjoying the class. I usually play blue spec because I like the mobility, but I've been having fun trying out the yellow spec traps and decoy lately too.

    Level 100 Robinya (VIP) - West/Central Gondor


    Robinya doesn't really like fighting, she likes collecting artifacts. Fortunately, her quests in West Gondor recently took her to Edhellond where there were corsairs running around and nearly trampling priceless old elven artifacts amongst the ruins, so she had no compunction about putting an end to them when necessary.

    Edhellond

    Then she went to Dol Amroth and met up with Jajax again, who told her about the corsairs down on the coast at Hashadîr, so she went to their camp and found some crates of artifacts and she wasn't going to let any corsair slavers or pillagers stand in her way of returning them to the library in Dol Amroth for further study. Then Jajax got kidnapped so she had to go rescue him from Abedec's Watch, and they had been stealing artifacts too, so she reclaimed them as well.

    Robinya reached level 100 in Ethring, Ringló Vale in Central Gondor. It would be nice to get her to level 105 before the Mordor expansion launches, but I don't think I have enough time.

    Mordor Expansion

    I watched some streams of people playing the Mordor beta and saw that there is still a lot missing, placeholder text for quests, character appearances looking worse than before (fat faces with less expression, flat chests and big bellies), class skills needing balancing or fixing etc. so I figured the expansion was a still a little ways off - this is Mordor: I hope it will be really polished. Then we see the announcement for preorders and in the fine print it mentions the release date at the end of this month - July 31st. The fine print! <shakes head in disbelief> I love LOTRO but sometimes I despair over how the game is run.

    For most MMOs, expansion release dates is a big deal and they usually give you a fair bit of notice to build hype and let people prepare for it. When I used to play WoW, I would arrange to take my holidays during the first week of a new expansion so I could play it non-stop and enjoy all the new content without interruptions (oh server crashes or major bugs were inconvenient but also bonds players who were there together as they commiserate and help each other on voice chat, in-game chat or forums).

    This will be the first expansion in LOTRO since I joined, and I'd love to dedicate several days to it, but I won't even be there when the gates of Mordor open because I've already made other plans - visiting my family in New Zealand. Normally I would hope expansions launch on time and be complete (unlike Rift's latest expansion which was missing most of the advertised expansion content), but this time I hope the Mordor launch is delayed, for both selfish reasons and so they can make it the best it can be.

    Level 35 Mystrandos (F2P) - Evendim


    Evendim

    My free-to-play hunter Mystrandos is questing through Evendim, working on the Epic questline and saving up LOTRO points to unlock Angmar next.

    I don't really enjoy the quests in Northcotton Farm - so much traipsing back and forth - but at least she got quite a bit of XP from it. She completed some Shire deeds by questing around Oatbarton and the Glassblower's Camp near Dwaling, so those LOTRO points will help. Now she's based at Tinnudir and I'm looking forward to visiting the ruins throughout Parth Aduial.

    Level 1-20 Hunter


    I actually levelled a hunter from 1-20 at the start of the month so that I could create a little kin for crafting alts and invite myself into it with two accounts and two instances of the game open at the same time. However, I was already level 10 before it hit me that I should have screen-shotted and documented her levelling for the Introducing X Class guides. Oops. Opportunity missed. Ah well, I'll just make another hunter and take notes this time. Never can have too many hunters right?

    Thursday, 29 June 2017

    Introducing the Guardian: Level 1-20

    The guardian class is inspired by Samwise Gamgee who was a loyal protector to Frodo Baggins.

    The guardian is a team player who defends their allies from foes. Typically, they wield a sword-and-board (one-handed weapon and shield), but there is a two-handed tanking option as well. They have strong defenses but damage output tends to be lower than other classes.

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

    Level 1 Hobbit Guardian

    Here's our brand new guardian and some basic information about her:
    • Wears heavy armour
    • Wields a one-handed weapon (club) and shield
    • Primary stat is Might
    • Starting abilities are: Guardian's Ward (buffs block and parry chance and deals some single-target melee damage) and Sting (a basic single-target melee attack).

    The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that gives you an axe and shield. At level 2  you get Shield Swipe and Retaliation. These abilities will be very important as they can start a chain of events. Shield Swipe becomes available when you successfully block an attack, while Retaliation becomes available when you successfully parry an attack. Also at level 2, you are sent to see the Guardian trainer who wants you to practice attacking a training dummy and use Shield Swipe. They suggest using Guardian's Ward to increase your chance to block so that Shield Swipe will become available.

    At level 4 you get a basic AOE melee attack, Sweeping Cut, which hits up to 3 targets in front of you. At level 6 you get another AOE melee attack, Whirling Retaliation. Like Retaliation, this is activated by parrying an attack, but it hits up to 5 targets in a circle around you.

    Also at level 6 you get to choose a specialisation. The options are:
    • Blue = The Defender of the Free (1H/shield tank) - specialises in protection and survival, with multiple taunts and buffs. Shield skills have a chance to apply a fortification buff that increases your mitigations and stacks up to 5 times. You also gain Shield-Taunt which taunts several mobs after using Shield Swipe, and Litany of Defiance which slows the attacks of several mobs, gives you a temporary buff to mitigations and deflects some of the damage intended for your allies to you.
    • Red = The Keen Blade (DPS) - specialises in applying bleeds and hard-hitting finishers. Critical strikes apply a stacking bleed effect. You also gain Force Opening which lets you use skills that rely on a successful parry response, and Overwhelm which requires you to have used Retaliation or Whirling Retaliation, is a strong finisher that removes bleed effects from the target but applies a stun on a critical hit.
    • Yellow = The Fighter of Shadow (2H tank) - specialises in debuffing enemies and dealing Light damage. You gain the abilities Force Opening, which lets you use skills that rely on a successful parry response, and Take to Heart which marks a target, causing them to have a higher chance to miss, and you have a chance to restore some morale when you attack them.

    My interpretation is that Blue is the main tanking spec, Red is for DPS and Yellow is sort of a hybrid, or maybe an off-tank. Yellow might also be good for soloing tough mobs. You can also use a one-handed weapon and shield as Yellow, as the option to block with a two-handed weapon is only available through Set Bonuses (which requires VIP player status or a purchase from the LOTRO store).

    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 get your first trait point to spend in your chosen specialisation. I've started off in the Red tree, and all the options in the first tier look useful - crits restore some morale, increased parry chance or increased skill damage.

    At level 8 you get a ranged ST ability, Let Fly. Note: you need a bow or crossbow equipped in your ranged slot to be able to use this ability. You can get a ranged weapon from a bowyer or the auction house (or trade chat, or a friend/kin-mate), make one if you have the woodworking skill or get one as a quest reward or random drop from mobs. I'll have to buy one. With a ranged weapon equipped, you can also pull mobs from a distance with the auto-attack key (`), which may be useful until you get a proper taunt (or shoot them in the back if they run away).

    At level 10 you get another AOE melee attack, Vexing Blow. You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, however it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience because even though you get scaled to level 100, without all your gear slots filled and with only limited abilities, you will be quite vulnerable.

    So far I'm finding the Guardian a bit frustrating. Already there are quite a few skills and there are so many cooldowns and pre-requisites and abilities flashing up on the Auto-skill bar that it can be hard to tell what to do next, so combat feels rather chaotic.
    • Single target scenario (as Red spec) - I start with Guardian's Ward then Sting. If I haven't blocked or parried, I hit Force Opening to enable the parry chain then use Retaliation, followed by Overwhelm. If I block, I use Shield Swipe. Once I've used Shield Swipe, Retaliation or Overwhelm, they have rather long cooldowns, so even if I block or parry again, I might not be able to use them, so I have to go back to using Guardian's Ward and Sting, or use AOE abilities. Or maybe I block one attack and parry the next so now I have both Shield Swipe and Retaliation and Whirling Retaliation available - which do I use first (I would go with Shield Swipe because it hits harder)?
    • AOE scenario (as Red spec) - I start with Guardian's Ward then use Sweeping Cut and Vexing Blow. If I haven't blocked or parried, I hit Force Opening then use Whirling Retaliation and Overwhelm on my main target. If Sweeping Cut, Vexing Blow and Force Opening are still on cooldown, I have to use ST abilities. If I block, I can use Shield Swipe on my main target, but if Whirling Retaliation is available that would be my priority because it hits more targets. I'm taking a lot of damage in AOE situations (with 3 mobs I might drop to 50% morale).

    Writing down what skills I would use in different scenarios actually helped it to start making more sense. With a couple more levels under my belt, it isn't feeling so chaotic anymore.

    Nevertheless, I decided to try out Yellow spec with a sword and shield. I enjoyed it more than Red and I think part of that is because of the target marking (which also taunts the mob) and getting morale back when hitting that target felt like a survivability boost, and partly because the DPS seemed a bit better.

    At level 13 I decided to do a little test and compare Red and Yellow DPS against wolves in The Shire. I killed 5 wolves of the same level and recorded DPS and time to kill (from the CombatAnalysis plugin).

    SpecialisationAverage DPS (range)Average Time to Kill (range)
    Red17.14 (14.6-20.9)11.18 seconds (8.8-14.1 seconds)
    Yellow17.92 (16.4-20.9)10.02 seconds (9.0-11.3 seconds)

    It was only a small test, but I thought Red would have higher DPS; instead it seemed to be more spiky whereas Yellow was more consistent.

    At level 14 you get the Charge ability which is a sprint. When I saw the skill name, I thought it was a gap-closer that lets you charge at a target, like in other MMOs, but the sprint is nice, even if it has a long cooldown.

    Around level 13-14 you will get offered some quests to go visit Bree-land. At level 15 you get a class quest in the mail, asking you to visit the Guardian trainer in Bree (in Bree-land). The Guardian trainer is in the jail and sends you to assist one of his guards, Oswin Leek. Oswin wants you to protect a farmer, Burle Pierson, from brigands who are trying to scare him off his farm south of Bree.

    Pierson's Farm

    After defeating the brigand leader, you get a helmet and the title "Shield Against Adversity".

    At level 16 you get the Challenge ability which lets you taunt multiple mobs. There are no new skills for a few levels but you do get a couple of trait points.

    At level 20 you get Turn the Tables which lets you deal damage and stun an enemy if you are knocked down, dazed or stunned yourself. In a group, this also starts a fellowship manoeuver. You also get some passive abilities - you gain Critical Defence which reduces the chance of being critically hit, and you learn to use Shield Spikes which can have various effects such as increasing critical hit chance or changing the damage type (which may increase the effectiveness of your attacks against certain types of mobs). Shields spikes can be bought from the Guardian trainer, or crafted by a weaponsmith.

    My gear obtained through questing wasn't very good at level 20. I still had level 5 gloves and was missing several pieces of jewellery. So I went to the Skirmish Camp and upgraded everything I could.

    Here's how my guardian looks at level 20 now:

    Level 20 Hobbit Guardian

    I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (or until power runs out) with a sword and shield, and with a 2H-sword, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and one tier of Charity active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

    Here are my DPS results with a 1H and shield (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

    StatisticsDefender of the Free (Blue)The Keen Blade (Red)The Fighter of Shadow (Yellow)
    Damage1063392009611
    Time3 m 0.5 s2 m 9.2 s2 m 42.6 s
    Average DPS58.971.259.1
    Minimum Hit241324
    Average Hit51.148.953.1
    Maximum Hit125137125
    Attacks208190181
    Critical Strikes (%)32 (15.4%)26 (13.8%)32 (17.7%)
    Skill Priorities
    1. Shield-swipe
    2. Retaliation
    3. Guardian's Ward
    4. Sting
    1. Shield-swipe
    2. Overwhelm
    3. Retaliation
    4. Force Opening
    5. Guardian's Ward
    6. Sting
    1. Take to Heart (pre- combat)
    2. Shield-swipe
    3. Retaliation
    4. Force Opening
    5. Guardian's Ward
    6. Sting

    Here are my DPS results with a 2H-sword (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

    StatisticsDefender of the Free (Blue)The Keen Blade (Red)The Fighter of Shadow (Yellow)
    DamageN/A1187111188
    Time
    2 m 21.3 s2 m 59.4 s
    Average DPS
    84.062.4
    Minimum Hit
    1433
    Average Hit
    60.365.8
    Maximum Hit
    201157
    Attacks
    200170
    Critical Strikes (%)
    23 (11.7%)23 (13.5%)
    Skill Priorities
    1. Retaliation
    2. Guardian's Ward
    3. Sting
    1. Overwhelm
    2. Retaliation
    3. Force Opening
    4. Guardian's Ward
    5. Sting
    1. Take to Heart (pre-combat)
    2. Retaliation
    3. Force Opening
    4. Guardian's Ward
    5. Sting

    Note 1: Blue spec with a 2H weapon only had 3 single target abilities and when all were on cooldown and she had to wait a few seconds, CombatAnalysis kept resetting, assuming she had left combat (hence why the results are marked N/A; not available). Based on multiple attempts, she was not going to run out of power, and average DPS was around 55-60.

    Note 2: Because my guardian is on a free-to-play account, I didn't have set bonuses unlocked so could not block in Yellow spec with a 2H weapon, but VIP players could (I would prioritise Shield-swipe over Retaliation if available).

    General Observations



    Playing the Guardian requires concentration to monitor what abilities are available and the play-style is more reactive than proactive.

    The Yellow spec mechanism of spreading debuffs from your main target to nearby mobs made it easy to switch between single target and AOE damage or take down a strong enemy and their minions/weak allies.

    Armorsmith would be a useful profession for Guardians because they can make heavy armour, shields and legendary Guardian belts (which go in the class slot later).

    Specialisations


    Blue - Defender of the Free: Strong defences which is great for groups but boring and slow to play solo. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this spec for levelling solo but it should be good for tanking in instances.

    Red - The Keen Blade: DPS can be a bit spiky depending on how frequently you trigger block and parry chains. Parry chains seem to be more important, so you could use a 1H and shield or a 2H weapon. I think I would use a 2H most of the time and swap to a 1H and shield for tough mobs. Unfortunately, from what I've heard on the forums and seen from my own experience levelling various classes, the DPS is low compared to other classes. Overall, I think while this spec is not ideal for instances, it should be fine for levelling or questing solo. 

    Yellow - The Fighter of Shadow: I found this the most enjoyable spec to play. As mentioned above, it could easily switch between single target and AOE damage. It also had some defensive buffs so it felt tougher but the DPS didn't feel much weaker than in Red spec when questing - the difference was more noticeable on the training dummies. If you don't have the set bonuses unlocked, stick to 1H and shield, but otherwise 2H is a viable option and alternative to Red spec. Overall, I think this spec would be fine for levelling and would probably be good for group quests because you debuff and weaken the enemies, but I'm not sure about instances because it seems to be a hybrid DPS/tank.

    Stats

    • Might - your main stat that increases your damage and your block and parry (activating various abilities and bonuses)
    • Critical Strike - increases your damage
    • Mitigations, resistances and critical defence - reduces damage taken
    • Morale and vitality - bigger health pool increases survivability

    Here are some virtues that may be helpful for Guardians 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)
    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)
    DISCIPLINE

    (might, physical mitigation, resistance)
    Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

    Defeat 60 hendrovail in Ered Luin

    Defeat 60 sickle-flies in Bree-land
    Wolf-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Hendroval-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Sickle-fly Slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
    PATIENCE

    (physical mitigation, resistance, in-combat power regeneration)
    Explore Dwarven settlements in Ered Luin

    Retrieve spoiled pies in The Shire

    Deliver mail between settlements in The Shire

    Explore the ruins of Bree-land

    Explore the Barrow-downs in Bree-land
    Places of the Dwarves (Ered Luin)

    No Place for Spoiled Pies (The Shire)

    Restoring the Quick Post (The Shire)

    The Ruins of Bree-land (Bree-land)

    The Barrow-downs (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)
    FIDELITY

    (tactical mitigation, vitality, power)
    Explore landmarks in The Shire

    Explore Dourhand strongholds in Ered Luin
    The Sights of the Shire (The Shire)

    Scouting the Dourhands (Ered Luin)

    Pros of the Guardian Class

    • Good survivability
    • Blue spec tanks are popular for instances
    • ST and AOE abilities and debuffs

    Cons of the Guardian Class

    • Low DPS
    • Limited ranged abilities 
    • Reactive play-style

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

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

    Saturday, 17 June 2017

    Anniversary Scavenger Hunt Finale

    Armour and Steed of the Reminiscing Dragon

    The Year 10 Scavenger Hunt quests are now available as well as the final rewards for completing scavenger hunts from each of the 10 years which include the title "Versed in Yesteryear", a package containing 7 pieces of cosmetic Armour of the Reminiscing Dragon (with both a hooded and unhooded cloak), the Steed of the Reminiscing Dragon and the Majestic Stag pet.

    Reginald, the Majestic Stag

    Not mentioned is that you also get the war-steed appearances for the Reminiscing Dragon and the blue parts are dyeable!


    Warsteed of the Reminiscing Dragon

    Warsteed appearances dyed forest green

    I love the colours on the Reminiscing Steed (I know it's pretty similar to the Unflagging Dragon, but I prefer silver to gold) and I think this will be Myndariel's favourite mount for a while. Although I have completed scavenger hunts from every year, I still have a few quests to finish - mostly the ones involving instances and skirmishes - so the hunt continues.

    I'm still curious about what the scrap paper is for too...

    OK. I found out. I don't want to spoil it for people who haven't done it, so for more specific information, visit LOTRO-Wiki. In general terms though, the scrap paper is a clue about where to go to find the final quest in the scavenger hunt.

    Here's a hint:


    The final quest is timed (you have 30 seconds to complete it) and involves a companion, a rock and some emotes. And as a reward for completing it you get this:

    and it makes noise

    Thanks to Standing Stone Games for the scavenger hunt. It's been interesting and fun to revisit some iconic locations and events in Middle Earth. For everyone still taking part in the scavenger hunt, may you reminisce on many good times in LOTRO during the last ten years, and for those whose characters weren't high enough level to complete the scavenger hunt this year, may you be inspired to keep levelling and know that there is lots to see and do in Eriador, Rhovanion, Gondor and Mordor.