Monday, 25 April 2016

LOTRO's 9th Anniversary

Lotro's 9th Anniversary is here (April 22 to May 8) and Robinya is keen to take part in the festivities and collect some more mounts. They have a wicked-looking Windfells Goat I want - it looks like the Druggavar from Enedwaith, so different from the other goat mounts. Robinya also likes the new fireworks anniversary cloak as it almost matches the colours from her farmer's faire outfit - two of her favourite events of the year.

Anniversary Mounts at Hengstacer Farm (also available at Market Square in Bree)
Fire Flower Cloak

Several of my other characters have got involved too. My rune-keeper was thrilled to get the Steed of the Woodland Realm to match her turquoise and gold dress, and my original beorning got a new black outfit that would look good with the black goat (she'd been neglected for a while, so it was good to get excited about playing her again too).

Steed of the Woodland Realm
Windfells Goat

Tokens can be earned from repeatable quests - it looks like you can get at least 20 tokens per day, so it shouldn't be too difficult to earn enough for a couple of mounts, costumes and/or decorations. There is also the Anniversary Event quest that takes you to the main event locations and some deeds for lighting fireworks or brawling in the Thorin's Hall Festival Arena that reward tokens once per character.  

Quests starting in Bree near the market:
  • Lost Invitations (2 tokens - and the envelopes aren't blowing around this year)
  1. Gift - A Delicate Bracelet (1 token) starts in Bree, finishes in Combe
  2. Gift - Delicious Pastries (1 token) starts in Combe, finishes in Combe
  3. Gift - Beautiful Carving (1 token) starts in Combe, finishes in Michel Delving
  4. Gift - A New Hammer (1 token) starts in Michel Delving, finishes in Hobbiton
  5. Gift - A Dwarf Shield (1 token) starts in Hobbiton, finishes in Frérin's Court
  6. Gift - A Lucky Goat's Horn (1 token) starts in Frérin's Court, finishes in Thorin's Hall
  7. Gift - A Pint of Ale (1 token) starts in Thorin's Hall, finishes in Bree

Quests starting in Bree at the fireworks area near the farms:
  • Sparking an Interest (2 tokens) - server day-time only, repeatable every 3 hours
  • Fireworks in Bree (2 tokens) - server night-time only, repeatable every 30 minutes

Quests starting in the Shire at the Methel Stage:
  • Fireworks in the Shire (1 token) - there needs to be at least 3 people doing the quest at the same time or the quest fails: "Not enough fireworks were launched to impress the crowd."

Quests starting in the Festival Arena at Thorin's Hall (quests repeatable every 3 minutes while beer-fight is active - best way to farm tokens as long as there are plenty of people participating):
  • The Mightiest Blow (Basic) - 1 token
  • The Mightiest Blow (Intermediate) - 2 tokens
  • The Mightiest Blow (Expert) - 3 tokens

And don't forget the anniversary races:
  • The Delving Fields Anniversary Run (2 tokens) at The Delving Fields, The Shire
  • The Bree-fields Anniversary Run (2 tokens) at The Festival Grounds,  Bree-land  

Happy Anniversary LOTRO!

UPDATED 27/4/16 - I just opened a Lost Invitation and found a War-steed Cosmetic Set - Reveller's Gilded Appearance! This includes a halter, caparison, saddle and accessory. Wow - what a nice surprise! And something for my character to look forward to as she is only level 40 (the items are all character-bound).

UPDATED 28/4/16 - Robinya just got the Reveller's Gilded war-steed cosmetic set too! Here's how it looks:
Reveller's Gilded Appearance

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Scenic Tour: Eastern Gondor

Until recently, Eastern Gondor was somewhere I passed through on the way to Minas Tirith or if I wanted to collect some Anórien resources (lots of nodes and not a lot of mobs). In leveling Myndariel up to 105, I decided to catch up on the Epic Quest which did a good job of guiding me through the zone.

First, Upper Lebennin and a visit to Tumladen to check in on the refugees from Minas Tirith. Tumladen is a large city but it feels rather empty and spacious, nestling into the mountains and spreading out on both sides of the river Sirith. It shares the name with the vale of Tumladen in Beleriand, which was the site of the hidden elven city, Gondolin, built by Turgon in the First Age. *updated*

The entrance to Tumladen at night

Lossarnach is beautiful - so many pretty trees and bushes and wildflowers amongst the grass in a riot of colour. The best blossom of Lossarnach must be Imloth Melui - Myndariel wouldn't mind retiring there after the war; her pets could roam the gardens and protect the town while she could help the healers in the Hall of the Gentle Hand or work with the Captain of the Guard training new recruits.

The entrance to Imloth Melui
The central fountain in Imloth Melui
Forests of Lossarnach
Luntil's Ferry

Luntil helps allies of the Rangers of Ithilien cross the Anduin river into South Ithilien. The Rangers have set up camp at Bâr Húrin, but the inhabitants of the area have fled the invading Haradrim and their mûmakil.

South Ithilien
Mûmakil in Ithilien

Finally, the Rangers send you to Osgiliath and the Osgiliath Culverts to look for Captain Faramir. Osgiliath is ruined and swarming with enemies - orcs, trolls, mûmakil, Easterlings, Unseen, corrupted beasts and more.

The Great Bridge
Rómendacil's Square

The entrance to the Culverts is right in the middle and there are several dungeon instances, but no Faramir. The Rangers of Ithilien still hope to find their missing Captain and delay the enemy's onslaught against Minas Tirith.

Eastern Gondor is diminished by the Dawnless Day and destruction spreading across the region, but it must have been lovely before the War of the Ring, and no doubt will be again after.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Instances: Moria Cluster Part II

The Moria instances do not scale with level and were designed for groups of 6 or 12 players between level 54 and level 58.

The instances are located throughout Moria and tend to drop a lot of loot, especially Moria reputation tokens, legendary item relics and heritage runes.

There are also a lot of deeds to be done so they can be a good place to gain some extra titles, virtues and Turbine Points.

The Forges of Khazad-dûm - 6 person instance, level 58

In Durin's day, the Forges of Khazad-dûm produced marvellous metal creations, but now the place is over-run by orcs and it now creates weapons to be used against the dwarves.

The entrance

The first area has a constant stream of mobs entering from the left and right doorways. The black powder kegs should be carried to the doorway, but be careful to quickly return to the main room or be crushed by falling rocks. When both doorways are blocked, the gate at the back will open.

Narkû stands in the middle of the next room while large trolls carrying heavy loads move around following pipework on the floor. The daily challenge is to defeat him then defeat Kranklûk within 30 minutes. Narkû summons many minions to help protect himself. Once defeated, hug the wall and head down, watching out for trolls as they will stun you if you get in their way.

On the next level down, Dhaub oversees the trolls from an elevated bridge. There are several doorways and black powder kegs. Block the doorways in the correct order. Once four doorways are blocked, trolls come in to fight. Dhaub keeps healing them, so you need to block the remaining doorways quickly before you get overwhelmed (use crowd control on the trolls if possible). Finally, Dhaub comes down from his bridge to fight you himself. Once he is defeated the trolls should be easier to take out.

Again, hug the wall and head down to the bottom. Thrug is relatively easy to defeat, but watch out for the fire debuffs, jets of fire and trolls. Kranklûk is on the other side of the forge, behind some Ghâsh-hai troll guards. When you attack the trolls, he joins the battle and gradually moves around the forge in a clockwise direction, going through short periods where he cannot be attacked as he summons more trolls to his aid. In the last phase, fire jets start erupting from the forge as well.

The forge

After defeating Kranklûk, a gate opens into a small tunnel to the exit. A brazier in the tunnel can be lit to summon Ruingal, a fire grim for the level 58 Lore-master class quest chain The Path of the Ancient Master.

The Sixteenth Hall - 6 person instance, level 58

The Sixteenth Hall in Nud-melek was once home to many dwarven labourers but is now inhabited by orcs who are being infected by the strange fungal plague spreading through the halls and corridors. Disease is rife, so come prepared.

Keep an eye out for unusual spores - there is a deed called "Investigating the Blight" that involves finding four different types of spore.

Defeat the Orcs known as "The Shunned" in the corridors of the 16th Hall, gradually working your way downstairs to Tramug's room. Tramug and his servants will wait on the podium while you clear the room. Tramug coughs, leaving puddles of disease, and his servants heal him, but without them he is quite easy to defeat if kited from range.

One of the halls

Beyond Tramug's room, globsnaga now fill the corridors. Up the curving stairs, the path leads to a large room followed by an intersection with a locked door in front and rooms to each side filled with globsnaga guarding wheels that need to be turned to enable access to Dhûrz. His room is damp and has many toxic mushrooms that can explode on contact, causing a knock back and disease debuff. Dhûrz drains power levels and summons crazed globsnaga minions that also explode revealing a group of aggressive crawlers.

Defeating Dhûrz unveils a cave tunnel which leads to a large cavern with several grodbog fungal queens and their fungal guards. Killing the queen makes her guards de-spawn.

The daily challenge is to defeat The Lost One without killing the fungal workers - don't use AOE attacks or reflect damage! However, killing the fungal workers weakens The Lost One. Mushrooms spawn during the fight and should be eliminated before they can explode as they debuff the players and buff the numerous fungal workers so they are faster and do more damage.

The Lost One's cavern

Dark Delvings - 6 person instance, level 58

Deep in the Foundations of Stone in Moria, the Nameless dwell. The Elves of Lórien have tried to restrain them, but their ancient evil casts a shadow over those that would reclaim Moria for the dwarves. Just by entering their domain, you will be afflicted by Grasp of Darkness which decreases run speed and increases attack duration and induction time. Rune-stones throughout the instance provide light, which removes the Grasp of Darkness debuff and also protects you from Gurvand's Challenge (another debuff increasing damage taken, associated with a vile gust of wind sweeping through the passages).

The entrance to the Dark Delvings
After crossing a retractable bridge onto a platform with several rune-stones, the Void Eater emerges from the ground. He does wound damage and a knock-back, so fight with your back to the rune-stones, so you don't get knocked off the platform.

In the next large cavern, the Doom-speaker emerges when you approach the green rune-stone. He douses the light from the rune-stone, summons minions and causes significant debuffs. Fight in the light of a rune-stone, cleanse debuffs, remove corruptions, kill minions and burn him down before all the rune-stones are extinguished.

Gurvand's chamber
The daily challenge is to defeat Gurvand with activating any of the rune-stones on his platform. This means surviving the escalating debuffs as the fight progresses.

The battle commences by talking to Gurvand. He does significant shadow damage, has a knock-back (prevented by light) and a periodic self-buff called "Bleeding Ears" which reflects 200% of damage received (so don't attack while he has the buff - it can be very deadly: Myndariel had Sic'em active when the buff started and her health went from above 80% to 0% in a few seconds). If you are using the rune-stones, make sure Gurvand can't destroy them with his club (e.g. face him away from the stone). Gurvand enrages when he reaches about 20K health.

Timing and positioning are critical for this encounter.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Comparing Games Review

I've been having a short break from LOTRO and started playing Guild Wars 2 again after a long (4 year) break. I've found myself comparing different aspects of the games and thought I'd make a little summary about what I like in a game and how LOTRO stacks up.


Lore is important to me. I want the game world to be believable and for there to be a good reason why we're being asked to do certain things - actions should be meaningful. I want NPCs to have histories so that we feel like we get to know them and can sympathize with their decisions and actions - we don't have to always agree with them but it's good to understand them, whether they're the good guys or the villains. I like discovering lore out in the world - a hidden shrine in a remote area, a sword lying around with a poignant inscription, a diary of an NPC's last days ... I think lore and story-telling is key to what makes a game feel like more than just a game.

Note: * = poor, ** = ok, *** = great

LOTRO***Tolkien created an amazing world
World of Warcraft***Azeroth is really well-developed
RIFT**Factions have lost meaning
Guild Wars 2**If you skip the Personal Story you skip most of the lore
Path of Exile*Wraeclast has history, but it's mostly peripheral to the game

Both LOTRO and World of Warcraft have a significant literary collection of works supporting them and it shows in-game. The story is important, the characters are important, the factions have distinctive cultures and histories. These games are really immersive.


Unless you power-level and reach max level in a matter of days, characters will be spending a significant portion of time leveling. This is where your character develops and learns about the world and their role in it. Sure there is going to be some repetition and grind but the journey should still be enjoyable and smooth. It's frustrating when there are roadblocks or sudden changes in difficulty/gear requirements etc in the leveling process. Replayability with alternative characters should also be considered - if the leveling process is super-linear it's not as much fun doing it the second or tenth time around.

LOTRO**There are some awkward transitions with expansions
World of Warcraft**There are some awkward transitions and heirloom gear has a huge impact.
RIFT***You can scale character level up or down and have lots of freedom where to level
Guild Wars 2***You can scale character level down for lots of freedom where to level.
Path of Exile*While the zones themselves vary, the process is very linear and progress can be halted if you don't have the right build/gear.

The major hurdles for LOTRO I think are the introduction of legendary weapons with Moria and the introduction of mounted combat with Rohan. At some levels of the game there are limited options about which zones to quest in, so it can get repetitive, but there are other ways to level such as skirmishes, dungeons and big battles, which helps.

For World of Warcraft, some classes have a gear transition around level 40 where they go from wearing leather to mail or from mail to plate armour. This means they may not be wearing the ideal equipment for the content. It's pretty much always been that way so the leveling experience is designed with that in mind, but it's still an awkward and unnecessary transition. Heirloom gear has had a huge impact on leveling and can make it difficult to play with other people not wearing heirloom gear because the rates of experience gain is so different. People with heirloom gear very quickly out-level the zone they are in long before they finish the quest-line.

RIFT and Guild Wars 2 both have great character scaling technology which creates a lot of freedom while levelling and offers lots of different experiences for alternative characters. RIFT has instant adventures and zone events and Guild Wars 2 has dynamic events which give that massively multiplayer feeling but the player can still come and go as they please.

Character Development

We all want to be special snowflakes and feel like our character is unique. Cookie-cutter builds may be the most efficient way to make a character as powerful as possible, but having the freedom to experiment and try different builds without being too disadvantaged is a good thing.

Right back at the character creation screen, it's good to have different hairstyles and body types to represent our avatar. Appearances matter - we'll be staring at these characters for hundreds of hours potentially and we want them to be pleasing/amusing/horrifying to look at - and nobody wants a game full of clones. Wardrobe systems with a variety of armour, weapons and colours to choose from is also pretty much expected nowadays.

LOTRO***Good wardrobe/appearance system, variety of builds possible
World of Warcraft**Good transmogrification system, builds have limited variety
RIFT***Great wardrobe and character build systems
Guild Wars 2**Good wardrobe system, variety of builds possible
Path of Exile**Poor character appearance options, huge variety of builds

LOTRO and RIFT have the best wardrobe options as the appearances are not bound to gear items - you can upgrade your gear without disrupting your outfit.

Path of Exile has a very deep passive tree plus the skill gems and random stats on gear and the presence of uniques with special effects means there is huge freedom in creating a character build. Guild Wars 2 offers quite a few options with different specialisations and how changing weapons changes your skillset. World of Warcraft has almost eliminated variety of builds with their current model of talent trees - it really epitomises the cookie-cutter builds - "if you play this spec, take this option, this and this". I still wish WoW would bring back the old talent trees with depth and breadth of choice, and I know a lot of people feel like that about LOTRO too.


I love crafting and making my own armour and weapons in-game. It is generally my prime reason for creating alts - so I can cover all the crafting professions. I also like collecting resources myself - when I go questing with others, they'll often see me go darting off the path, maybe with a "ooh, shiny" as I spot some ore or herbs I need for crafting.

LOTRO***Can often choose from range of stats
World of Warcraft**Good gear gated by recipes/materials from raids
RIFT**Good gear gated by recipes/materials from cash shop/raids
Guild Wars 2**Don't like discovery system, good XP, lots to make
Path of Exile*Very RNG dependent, Masters help alleviate this a bit

LOTRO has my favourite crafting system. It's not perfect and could use some improvements, but it has a good foundation with the processing methods to quickly level up and recipes are available automatically when achieving a skill level or as drops or from factions and festivals. Being able to choose from several stat options for the same recipe is good - prevents having a huge long list of recipes to sort through to find the one you want. And every profession can make items useful at max level so crafting remains relevant.

World of Warcraft and RIFT makes most recipes available, but some are gated behind raids or the cash shop. Gating crafting behind a cash shop really annoys me - I think that crafting should be a core part of the game not an extra you have to pay for.

Guild Wars 2 has a huge long list of recipes and many of them have to be "discovered" by combining ingredients and checking if it makes something. This seems like a waste of materials to me. But, crafting can can help with levelling (provides reasonable XP) and unlocking appearances for account-wide wardrobes and achievements.


Finding unexpected items or experiences when you go off the beaten track adds a lot to a game's interest factor. Exploring and discovering unexpected treasure or challenges can provide many hours of enjoyment at any stage of the game.

LOTRO**There are hidden tidbits of lore throughout Middle Earth
World of Warcraft**They've recently started adding hidden treasures to find
RIFT***Artifacts and lots of achievements for exploring
Guild Wars 2***Lots of achievements for exploring
Path of Exile**Random subzones are a nice surprise. Maps offer lots of mystery.

RIFT and Guild Wars 2 again are both great places to explore, with lots of hard to get to places, jumping puzzles and items to find and collect from across the world.

LOTRO and World of Warcraft tend to have more items that provide those geek-out moments when you discover something awesome from the books or lore that you didn't expect would actually be in-game. There are some very poignant shrines or memorials for NPCs, game developers and players that make you stop and think, "wow that sounds like someone special I would like to have known".

Surprises like random subzones, maps and treasure chests with random attributes, and the appearance of rare mobs is what helps break up the monotony of playing through the same zones over and over in Path of Exile.


I'm not a fan of some of the modern action-oriented combat systems with complicated combos or super-fast reaction times required. I don't play console games and I don't want my PC games to have the same kind of controls. I like having lots of different abilities and choosing the right one for the situation. I like having a sequence and getting into a rhythm and watching a mob's health go down while I keep mine up. I don't like being punished with being one-shot if I don't get out of the way fast enough, although sometimes it is necessary to teach you what to look out for, so you can improve and avoid that attack in future.

LOTRO***Traditional MMO style combat
World of Warcraft***Traditional MMO style combat
RIFT***Traditional MMO style combat
Guild Wars 2***Skill swapping and blocks/dodges makes combat fun
Path of Exile*Mostly involves spamming 1-2 abilities

By traditional MMO style combat I mean having a full toolbox to choose from - lots of abilities and action bars and using the right ability at the right time. I mean having the typical trinity of dps/tanks/healers (and support who may be a hybrid or swap roles as needed). This is what I'm familiar with and enjoy.

Guild Wars 2 has less abilities available at a time, but having to choose which abilities are available is an interesting choice. Being able to swap weapons in combat is great - it makes sense to use a bow or rifle from range and then swap to a sword or axe when the mobs are close, and each weapon has appropriate skills. Again, choosing which weapons to equip is an interesting choice. Blocking abilities are very useful but need to be saved for the right moment. Dodging out of the way is basic compared to in some of the MMOs, but it's not too difficult to learn and adds another option for reacting to a situation. I don't really like the reviving in-combat and downed state mechanism - I prefer the traditional "once your down, your down" and you have to run back and try again (unless there is a limited in-combat rez available) rather than getting a second or third chance but getting weaker each time, but in some zones, waypoints are so far away it could be difficult to get back to the area.


What do you do when you reach max level? What keeps you playing the game or playing the same character? For me, I like working towards achievements, visiting content I missed while I was leveling up, maximising my crafting skills and finding challenges to overcome - which might be in max-level zones, soloing old raid bosses or elite mobs. I enjoy taking part in large-scale zone events too. I used to raid and do dungeons but now I don't want to be committed to achieving a certain gear level and doing homework on boss fights and being available at a certain time for a certain length of time - that seems like more work than fun to me. Also, I've been in a few great guilds and I've been in a lot of bad guilds with drama, or no-one talks or the guild slowly dies because there is nothing to hold it together and people keep quitting. So now I don't bother with guilds much - to be social I'll take part in zone events or join in the chat channel discussion or offer to help someone who is having difficulty or is new.

LOTRO**Finishing achievements, improving legendary weapons, dungeons, raiding, skirmishes, big battles, roving threats/warbands
World of Warcraft**Finishing achievements, world bosses, dungeons, raiding, PvP
RIFT**Finishing achievements, zone events, dungeons, raiding, PvP
Guild Wars 2**Finishing achievements, zone events, fractals, dungeons, raiding, earning mastery points, earning ascended/legendary gear, PvP
Path of Exile**Finishing achievements, maps

Most MMOs offer similar sorts of activities at max level. For LOTRO, improving your legendary weapon is the main form of progression. For RIFT it is completing your planar attunement, for Guild Wars 2 it is increasing your mastery rating. For World of Warcraft, raiding and especially mystic raiding for world rank is pretty much the pinnacle. For Path of Exile, completing harder and harder maps and defeating Uber Atziri is the end-game - but just getting to max-level is very difficult - careful character planning and gear and skill choices are required.

I'm not going to rank them and say that one game is better than others because that's not how I see it. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and I enjoy each game for different reasons. Since this is a blog about LOTRO, I think it appropriate to summarise some of what I like about it:

Good Aspects of LOTRO:

  • Story/Environment - Tolkien has designed an amazing world with so much history and lore that comes through in the game and creates a really immersive environment most of the time.
  • Character Development - You can create a good looking character and have lots of options for changing your appearance. You have choices about how to build your character so you can focus on being really good at one thing or reasonable at multiple activities if you wish.
  • Crafting - It's easy to level up a crafting profession if you have enough raw materials and then you have access to a range of recipes, often with stat variations.You need to join a crafting guild and gain enough reputation with them to make legendary items, but it's worthwhile and all professions can make useful items for end-game players.
  • Combat - the combat system will feel familiar to people familiar with other MMOs and there are generally a variety of abilities available to deal with different situations. Each class has a more-or-less unique feel to it.