Initial LOTRO Timeline Oddity

In which the author gets to display some minor Tolkien nerdiness.

I have found my first nit to pick with The Lord of the Rings Online when it comes to deviating from the books.  It is probably pretty minor, but it is one of those things I love to carp about, like people who write up all those errors about movies on the Internet Movie Database.

The game is called, of course, The Lord of the Rings Online.  That means, to me, that not only do I expect to be running around in Middle Earth, but I expect I will be doing so in a given time frame.  Since I have read that I will be interacting with members of the fellowship of the ring, my expectation was that the game’s story line would probably start a little before Frodo leaves the shire.

So when I created my first character, Nomu the dwarf, I was rather surprised by my first vision in game.  So surprised I took a screen shot right away, lest it disappear.


Gloin is who I am supposed to be talking to, but in the background is Balin.


I walked up and took a closer screen shot.


Yup, it is Balin alright, if one is to believe the golden drop cap letters floating over his head.

The problem here, for me, is that in the Third Age time line, Balin is already dead before you read page one of “The Fellowship of the Ring.”  He died in Moria.  Yet here he is sitting around the initial starting area.  He doesn’t have any lines to read, he is just hanging out.

So I look around the starting area and who else should I see but Thorin Oakenshield!


He’s off to one side, talking to Gandalf about finding a burglar.

My first thought is, “Oh, crap, I’ve been sent back to “The Hobbit” by mistake!”

Silly me, I guess, thinking I might start within 50 years of the first page of the books on which this game is based.  Still, what the hell, why not start further back.  It isn’t like the world stood still between the two books.

And, true to “The Hobbit” you run around in the noob area killing goblins rather than orcs while you learn how to play.  All fine and good.

Eventually you learn that one clan of dwarves is making nice with the goblins and you have to run around with Dwalin to thwart them.  This is the quest bridge between the beginner area and the main world.  I was playing my elf by that point, but I assume the quest is the same for dwarves in the area.

At one juncture between fights Dwalin has to stop and rest.  He complains that he really hasn’t done any fighting since the Battle of the Five Armies.


Of course, one of the more notable deaths at the Battle of the Five Armies was Thorin Oakenshield.  Thorin whom I saw talking to Gandalf not 90 minutes ago my time.  And Dwalin is talking about the battle like it was some years ago.  (How long does it take for a dwarf to get out of shape?)

Maybe I missed something along the way, but I got no sense that that much time had elapsed between my coming into the game and getting to this quest.  Furthermore, members of Thorin’s party have been around the whole time.  When did they find the time to run off and have this little adventure?

And now that I have finished that quest and have been dumped into the real world, what day is it?  Where am I in the story?

I suppose I am only confused because I know too much.

16 thoughts on “Initial LOTRO Timeline Oddity

  1. mrrx

    Shoot, I only recognized the characters, I couldn’t place them in any kind of a timeline. Don’t remember Balin at all.

    Although I should be fair – I don’t think I’ve re-read The Hobbit in quite a number of years.

    I’m going with “you know too much” . :p


  2. Tipa

    Over in the Shire, we tricksy hobbitses were definitely in the post-Frodo’s departure timeframe. Ring Wraiths prowling around, the Sackville-Bagginses in Bag End (and they fired the Gaffer!), and no mithril coat in Michel Delving. Durn it.

    I heard many times, though, that the Shire had the most care given it, and there weren’t any annoyingly anachronistic characters from the books hanging about, though many of the minor characters were there. Still, where was Sam’s future wife, Rose, in the Green Dragon?


  3. darrenl

    Thou thinkist too much :)

    But yeah…the Ring Wraiths on on the move at the start and are looking for the Ring. So maybe either Turbine made an oopsie or they just used creative license to move the story along. Heck, TV in the 80’s use to bring dead people back all the time (ever watch Dallas)…maybe they’ve just gone retro on us.


  4. p@tsh@t

    I’ve heard a few comments about this and the Elf starting sequence regarding the Refuge of Edhelion– neither as clear as the burning of Archet (i.e., a very clear visual before and after).

    Something I found in the forums I’ll need to check out:

    “In the quest text of the quests you do after the starter adventure, it says it’s been some 70 years later.”

    “The stuff in Thorin’s Gate and the Dwalin instance happened 70 years after the stuff with Gimli. Go back and check the quest text In fact there’s a cinematic after you finish the part with Gimli and Gandalf that explains it, too!”

    “Elves do something similar; their starter event is several centuries before the stuff at Thorin’s Gate.”

    There’s another comment to the effect that the cinematics to help with this may not be in game yet too. Frankly, I don’t remember whether I saw this stuff when I rolled up my dwarves. Clearly the current state, whatever it is, is not getting the message across yet.

    Now I’m very confused and will have to roll yet ANOTHER alt to find out…;).


  5. collinevan

    Ya know, I do have to say this..

    Normally I wouldn’t care. I would really say “meh it’s not that big of a deal”. But since this game is clearly not trying to revolutionize the genre, and resting on the IP so heavily… well it is quite a big deal.

    LOTRO is a place for the WoW and Middle Earth fan to join those to chunky nerd morcels into one unified nerdiness. Lore-related items should not be overlooked at all.


  6. JoBildo

    I think their facts are all in order… it’s just plainly enough not portrayed very well without reading carefully. And let’s be honest, most people won’t read it. :)


  7. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    Yes, I will freely admit blazing through a bit of the opening to get into the game, so I probably missed the continuity statements.

    On the other hand, a transition of 70 years (or several centuries) ought to warrant a bit more attention than they gave it.


  8. Meghan Rodberg


    Since we’ve seen this brought up before, one of our content guys wrote up an explanation for the beta forums that I’m going to quote here:

    “Hi there! I’m Jonathan “Berephon” Rudder from the LOTRO team.

    Apparently, there’s been some confusion about the timeline in The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, due to the content of the elf and dwarf starting instances and newbie experiences. I wanted to clear up concerns that we’re mixing our time periods into one lump.

    As many quests within the newbie experiences explain, the starting instances mentioned above take place long before the main action of the game. In fact, the elf starter takes place sometime during the Watchful Peace, which began in 3A 2063 and ended in 3A 2460, 600 years before The Lord of the Rings.

    The timeline of The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar proceeds as follows:

    • Elf Starter (600 years prior to The Lord of the Rings)
    • Dwarf Starter (77 years prior to The Lord of the Rings)
    • Elf/dwarf Newbie Experience (2 years prior to Frodo Baggins leaving the Shire)
    • Man/hobbit Starters, Newbie Experience, and Epic Prologues (immediately prior to Frodo Baggins leaving the Shire)
    • Epic Book 1 (Just after Frodo Baggins leaves the Shire)
    • The Lord of the Rings has begun in earnest

    So for those concerned about our use of Thorin Oakenshield and his company in the dwarf starter, or the sons of Elrond hanging out at Thorin’s Hall, rest assured we have it covered!”

    Hope that clarifies things. :)

    Meghan Rodberg
    Online Community Manager
    The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar


  9. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    Very nice. Thank you for adding that!

    I think the issue is that the time transitions are not highlighted very well in the game itself. Moving forward in time 598 or 75 years is something that ought to be a bit more noticable.

    Maybe it doesn’t need calendar pages streaming, seasons changing, or a time lapse view of the shire, this being a tiny fraction of the actual game content, but it needs something.

    Firey letters across the screen saying “600 years hence” maybe?


  10. Meghan Rodberg

    It finally occurred to me why people were confused. :)

    Until recently, we stripped out a lot of the cinematics for the beta version because the size of the download was already so big. There are short vignettes that explain the time difference, and those have only recently made it back into the game.

    Anyway, if you patched up to the latest version instead of downloading it as a fresh install, you may not have seen them!


  11. Galinbor

    I think one of the best things about this game is the fact that there is no “universal” time frame. Each character has his own separate date. Its really the only way to go. If each day had an actual date in game then the game would have a half-life of about 2 years max. But by placing the time-frame on the players we can go to work and go on vacation and when we come back pick up right at where we left off. I envision an expansion in a few years that could even allow High lvl players into the fourth age. It would work much like the intros do now just on the other end.


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  13. max1991

    waauw! this game truly sucks, anything u said is 100% right. I already assumed that the game would suck, as it is just imposible to make Middle Earth an online multiplayer game: its too detailed. and just like BFME people who make it dont know shit about the whole tolkien-world. These things really blow my mind… how can u be so stupid to put such things in the game… really, i thought it was ok, but now im really not gonna buy it; IT JUST SUCKS!!!


  14. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    A click on the category link “Lord of the Rings Online” might help you answer that question yourself.

    Go on. It is there in the right margin under the heading “Categories.”

    You’ll find a few posts about it that are less than a year old.


  15. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Closing the comments on this post to keep illiterate morons who cannot read the date or the comments explaining state of the game (beta, with cinematics explaining the time transition missing), from spewing forth ignorant nerd rage.


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