Tag Archives: Evendim

There is Something About Sara

So there I was in Agmar having sent Mordirith packing back to Mordor and sitting around with Golodir wondering if I should just shuffle off to Forochel or Eregion to finish out my run to level 50.  I was already well into level 48 by then, had explored deeper into Angmar than I had ever done before, and was starting to feel as though a bit of a break might be in order before SSG decided to unlock Moria for us.

Have I had all of the Legends I can stomach yet?

But there was the starter for the Volume I, Book 9 series of quests, complete with a new set of related deeds indicating that Volume I stretched out into a total of 15 books.  And, well, I’ve never finished Volume I of the epic quest line before, but I’ve done Eregion and Forochel in the past, so I figured I might as well go with something new… new-ish… to me.

Also, UtlrViolet is clearly daring me to carry on with this.

As I left off last post we had Sara Oakheart appear out of nowhere and steal the palantir from Carn Dum without any rhyme or reason that I could grasp.  So, of course I had to go to Rivendell to seek advice.  The change up this time was speaking to Gandalf.  I guess we cannot have Elrond carrying the whole load on the Rivendell rubber stamp front.

Gandalf was about as helpful as I had come to expect.  After a bit of “Wait, what?” from him, he sent me back to Golodir.  You know, back where I just was.  I did stop for a bit to way good-bye to the fellowship, as the start of the Volume II quest line was at hand.

Good luck storming the dark land

After that, it was back to Angmar to carry on.

Golodir hadn’t been idle while I was away.  His scouts had found Sara Oakheart out by Barad Gularan, that creepy multi-spired place I commented on in the last post.  It looks very cool.

In Golodir’s office at Gath Forthnir

Naturally, my job is to go find her.

Fortunately, in that last round of quests about Barad Gularan, where I had to fetch Golodir’s missing gear, I had gotten a feel for how to get about without getting stomped by an elite master giant or anything, so I was able to wend my way around to where Sara was waiting.

Sara just waiting for me… looking a little low-res

Naturally, on checking in with her, she asked me to follow her.  This was just what I was dreading, another Sara Oakheart slow motion escort quest.  But this time Sara doesn’t hang about.

Sara proves she has the moves

She led me off to a room inside the tower with an altar and some people in rows like pews and some clearly Mordor-esque characters hanging about.  There she stuns me… again… and stars he routine.

Sara’s setup

And, as it turns out, she is not Sara Oakheart at all… and probably never was… or something.

Amarthiel revealed

So there we go.  That slow walk escort quest way back in Bree… it WAS a plot by Mordor just to annoy us.

Anyway, in her Amarthiel guise she immediately gets on the palantir to Mordor to speak directly with Sauron, just in case anybody wasn’t clear on which side of the war she was on.

Calling Mordor, come in Mordor…

Her thing is apparently the ring Narchuil, one of the lesser rings.  Not the one or the three or the seven or the nine, but one of the practice rings made by the elves when Sauron was in his Annatar guise and helping the elves along with their ring lore before they figured out his scheme.

Then, after the whole Bond villain reveal sequence she kills me.

Well, that is that… also, I still have a pile of mithril coins there, don’t I?

Well, she doesn’t kill me.  She defeats me.  Or something.  I don’t know.  Nobody dies in LOTRO, you don’t have health points, just morale, and when you lose that you retreat.  So while this seems like very much a point in time where a baddie might try to kill the hero, necessitating an unlikely rescue or escape scenario, here Turbine just defaults to the rules of the game and lets me be defeated to re-appear elsewhere.

Seems like a bit of a cheat, really.  But there you go.  We’re well outside of Tolkein’s works with this already.  This is all Turbine “keep people busy while we finish Moria” lore.

And speaking of keeping people busy, the whole thing devolves into a search of the various zones in Eriador in an attempt to find Narchuil before the forces of Angmar.  This starts off with finding and slaying some random champions of Angmar salted about in some earlier zones.  They’re related to Mordirith who is tied up in this somehow.  So there is a guy holed up in a corner of the Lone Lands with the trolls, who seem surprisingly chill about this guy just setting up in one of their caves.

Just hanging out with the trolls

He isn’t much help.  I slay him… or maybe I just defeat him… and his buddies hiding in Ered Luin and in the North Downs.

Eventually we end up in Evendim because Annuminas is key in this somehow.  There we eventually track down Sara or Amarthiel and hatch a cunning plan to get back the palantir.

Wait, that’s our plan? Just grab it and run?

But there is no “you’re all crazy” dialog response option in LOTRO, so off we went into Barad Tironn Worlds to find the palantir.

Even Amarthiel seems a bit surprised that we have arrived.  But there is the palatir sitting in its regulation size palatir stand.  Seriously, it is identical to the one in Carn Dum.

You and me both Amarthiel

Then the fight starts and Laerdan says to grab the damn thing and I do and it looks like I am running through Annuminus with a bowling ball.

I do not look happy about this either

I make it to the finish line, the instance is declared a success.  Palantir secured.

Of course, Laerdan gets captured and we eventually have to rescue him.  We also have to get the whole story, via an instance full of flashback creating braziers, to tell the story of Laerdan and his daughter Amarthiel and the ring Narchuil… and Sara freaking Oakheart.

In the flashbacks we learn, ever so slowly, how Laerdan hid Amarthiel away because she had been possessed with the evil in the ring and how Sara Oakheart had one simple set of instructions to follow.

This is all you have to do. Do not color outside of the lines

Of course, she screws this up.

Books? Why not just give her a gun?

And so on.  We find that Amarthiel gets away, but is as pissed about having to be around Sara Oakheart as the rest of us… she was probably as ploddingly slow with the room service as she was with that prologue quest… so she burns Sara’s house down on the way out.

Look, who hasn’t fallen back on arson in such times?

And… well.. a bunch more stuff happened, I ran around the Trollshaws quite a bit, turning level 50 along the way, then it was back to Angmar to rescue Laerdan and eventually end up in Barad Durgul where I found half of the ring Narchuil.

Wait, only half of the ring is here?

Apparently though the ring halves still have some power and could still aid the enemy.  Anyway, it was back to Rivendell after that for a grand consultation and discussion.  You know it is a big deal when you get both Elrond AND Gandalf in the same room.

Wait, which of you said that? And didn’t Gandalf leave Rivendell further up the page?

There we got some more exposition straight from the mouths of various people in the room before we ended up with the idea that the other half of the ring is in Forochel.

And so, at last, I set out for the coldest zone in Eriador to find half a ring.

Tinnudir and Annuminas

Tinnudir is the hub of Evendim, the central point from which most of the tale of the zone is told.  Oatbarton, Dwaling, and High King’s Crossing lead you into the Evendim, but Tinnudir is where you are set up for the long haul.

Annuminas feels legendary

Tinnudir isn’t much of a place even.  It lacks the pastoral charm of Oatbarton and the overwrought epic nature of High King’s Crossing.  Esteldin is sprawling compared to it, Ost Guruth feels like a fort when set against it.  Tinnudir is barely a place at all, some minor wreckage in a zone filled with the epic structures of the kingdom of Arnor.  It is just so much dirt and a few broken walls.

Tinnudir at night

It has all the requisite NPCs you need to hand, a task board if you feel you need to work on your standings (you won’t), a stable, a dock, and the usual crafting stations and skirmish camp off on the periphery.  While you’ll speak to many NPCs about quests, Orchalwe… whom I call “Ollie” in my head… is the main focus.  He sends you thither and yon around the zone.

Evendim as a zone

If you do every quest… and for maybe the first time ever I gritted my teeth, determined to do every last quest I could… you will pay a visit to nearly every acre, trod on every island, go up on  every hill and down into every dale before you’re done.

In the past I have always done everything to the east of Tinnudir, and all the islands, but I am generally getting so far ahead of the leveling curve by doing that that I tend to skip the Eavespires at the north end of the lake and the swathe of quests that lead down the western side to where the wood-trolls live.

This time I did the whole thing, even stopping at the wood-trolls long enough to make some headway on one of the dwarf racial deeds.

Advancing enmity of the trolls

I spent a few nights working my way around the zone, playing for an hour or two tops on any given night.

I even made it over to the blue lady and her corner of the zone.

Show respects

She is a bit out of the way and doing her quests require some swimming, something that will be familiar to anybody who did the zone in the early days before boat travel was added.

The number of places you are sent off to visit and the plethora of quests that await you make it feel like you’ll be there for a long, long time.  But, in the end, you don’t really travel that far… except to go to and fro with Gwindeth… and the quests go by quickly enough.

Soon enough I was on the boat to Men Erain, the way of the kings, where the tombs of the kings of Arnor lay.  Arriving there is the sign that the end phase of the zone is nearly at hand.  There is a series of quests to run there that send you in and around the tombs as well as way up into the hills behind, far enough that you can look over the peaks and see the bridge and the way back to Oatbarton.  Meanwhile you’re practically hanging over Annuminas, slaying the inevitable tomb robbers.

Fighting on a slope

At one of the peaks your quest objective is simply to use the /look emote to see what you can see about the state of the tomb robber infestation.

Looking out and reporting

But even that long trek takes less time than you think it will.  And soon you’re done with Men Erain and are back at Tinnudir speaking to Orchalwe again.  But this time he isn’t going to simply send you off on another task.  This time you’re to meet up with him in Annuminas, the final area of the zone.

Annuminas Map

Annuminas was the capital of Arnor, and while it lays in ruin it is still an amazing site.  In a way it is crazy that Turbine spent the time to create this area, something that is barely a footnote in the books most of us have read.  But it is really the highlight of the zone, the payoff for tracking about after the various and sundry foes.  Here the forces of Angmar congregate.

I spent a mithril coin to take a swift travel trip to the camp of the Wardens of Annuminas within the city just to avoid picking up too much along the way.  The camp is spare, though still arguably nicer than Tinnudir.

The Wardens camp in Annuminas

It doesn’t have all the amenities, but there is a task board and vendors and a few quest givers standing about the place.  But you really only need to speak with Orchalwe.  Once you start with him he joins you as an ally in your exploration of the old capital city.

Standing with Orchalwe

WoW has had quest givers like this, ones that accompany you along the way, letting you turn in quests and pick up new ones as you go.  I’m not sure who had the idea first.  But I haven’t had a quest giver quite like Orchalwe anywhere else.

In Annuminas you have a few larger scale quests and Orchalwe has some specific tasks for you to open with.  But the real adventure is the exploration of the city as, in each district or area Orchalwe will pop a quest for you.  But you only get the quests if you get to the right places.  So I always make an effort to get into every nook and cranny.

Some areas of the zone are fairly challenging, featuring groups of signature mobs.  Orchalwe assists you, and throws some heals in battle that can keep you going, but I rolled in there at level 38 which is a bit behind the curve, so there were some tight fights.

Orchalwe providing vital intel

However, I was fairly lucky during my explorations.  While by this point I was well behind the main pack of players, many of whom were already lingering about at level 50, I still managed to run into fellow travelers along the way at key points, forming ad hoc fellowships of need in order to tackle challenging objectives.  A level 45 bard showed up to assist me with the one small fellowship quest I needed to tackle.

I actually reached the point where Orchalwe was done.  I had achieved his over-arching objective and could have dismissed him and headed back to the camp.  But I knew from memory that I still had four or five of his location based quests left to do, so I dragged him along as I sought them out.

I didn’t really need those quests.  I had long since finished the final quest count deed and I had hit the kinship level of faction with the Wardens of Annuminas Men Erain.  I even had the advanced slayer deed for invaders from Angmar done.  But I really wanted to get in and see and do every last quest.  Given how long it had been since I had run through the zone last and the small likelihood that I was going to be doing it in this depth again anytime soon, I felt I had best treat this like it might be my last visit.  You never know what the future might bring.

And when I the control points had all been take and I finally got to that last boss on Tyl Annun and defeated him, I dismissed Orchalwe and made my way back to the camp, done with Annumiunas in just an evenings play.

From there Orchalwe says to meet him back in Tinnudir, which he pretty much has to say since he’s going to be there when you get back anyway.  From there it was a final quest turn in with him.  Then I hit the faction vendor to make sure and pick up the mount from them.

Then my quest log had tasks pointing me at Rivendell and the Trollshaws.  I was still shy of 40, which you need in order to take the stable mount to Rivendell, so I went to the Trollshaws.  I left behind me quite a few deeds left undone.  The numbers needed for the slayer deeds start to add up, sitting at 270 total kills needed for some.  I had no problem hitting that number with the ubiquitous tomb robbers and the invaders from Angmar, but others I let be.  I got all the titles and basic deeds, but the advanced deeds I’ll leave for another time.

And so it was off to the Trollshaws, a zone that is always a bit problematic for me, to get level 40 and continue the epic story line.

Through the Shire to Evendim

Having discharged my epic story line duties in Esteldin, I was free to follow the two quests inviting me to come to Evendim.

A zone with its own set of legends

One of the odd things about Evendim as a zone is that it isn’t exactly all within Evendim.

The Evendim experience itself is, in its way, very much a post-WoW designed zone that sends you from one quest hub to another, advancing you through the story of the zone.  But Evendim starts in Oatbarton, which is part of The Shire and all that implies.

Evendim as a zone

First, Oatbarton isn’t a major stable master destination.  If you want to take what I consider the “correct” way there, you have to travel to Michel Delving first.  Then, from there, you either ride (or walk) up to the Greenfields and the road north through there that leads to Oatbarton.

Or, if you happen to have all of the stable master routes in The Shire already, or if you don’t mind spending a Mithril coin or three to get them, then you go from Michel Delving to Hobbiton, Hobbiton to Brockenborings, and from Brockenborings on up to Oatbarton.

The route to Oatbarton

I chose to ride the route on my own since, in addition to being cheap, I was also still looking to catch up on apprentice level crafting materials and a week or so into the life of the server The Shire seemed pretty dead.  My progress to Oatbarton was slow due to many harvesting side trips, but I did arrive there eventually.

When I say that Oatbarton is part of The Shire, it is not just because it looks like The Shire and because hobbits live there.  Slaying wolves or goblins there count towards deeds from The Shire and the task board quests increase your reputation with the Mathom Society, the key Shire faction.

The quests though, those do not count towards your quest deed total for The Shire.  But they are very Shire-like quests that send you about to round up sheep, milk cows, churn butter, light lamps, put up scarecrows, and collect mis-laid farm implements, all in the maze of paths, hedgerows, and little fields that make up much of the settlement.

Your allies in the Shire can be… odd

I have to admit, though I sometimes scoff and the non-stop series of murder for hire quests that make up the content of MMORPGs, there is a simplicity to that sort of thing.  But I can take a break from that for a while to help some silly hobbits order their lives.

Encouraging pipe weed use? That’ll cost you with the ESRB

One wonders how they get along when I’m not around… or if they depend on bribing gullible passers-by with their dusty old mathoms to get their work done as a matter of course.

And, sure enough, the return to slaughter comes soon enough.  While in Oatbarton it is mostly limited to the local pests… and some wolves… when you move along to Dwaling and the glass blowers camp the killing gets stepped up a notch.  Not that there aren’t other things to do, like collecting sand for the glass blowers.  But to color their glass they need bits and pieces of the local fauna.

Why here for a glass blowing camp?

Then there is the matter of Dwaling itself, taken over by ruffians.  Nobody says you have to go kill them wholesale.  You’re only asked to serve them notice of eviction, giving the hobbits plausible deniability I am sure.  But the ruffians are all hostile and attack on sight, so what did you think was going to happen?  Murder by bureaucratic pretense.  Even with the goblin camp up the hill they never tell you specifically to kill anybody.  But they goblins aren’t going to hand over those documents and let you set fire to their concoctions just because you say “pretty please?”

Well, I didn’t run out there with my sword and shield and plumed chapeau simply to look cool.  Death to those who get in the way of due process.

It isn’t until you get to High King’s Crossing that you start in with the rangers and their faction, the Wardens of Annuminas.

The High King’s Crossing Bridge

That is seriously the most overwrought bridge I can recall from anywhere in Middle-earth.  I cannot help but imagine the engineer looking at the specifications for it and pointing out exactly how many bridges could be built out of all the decoration that goes on it.  And then there is how much the bridge will have to be reinforced to handle the load.  In the end, the actual, useful bridge part of the structure is just the little arc across the river at the front, the with path leading away.

But all that extra space gives the rangers as place to set up camp.  They all pointedly avoid looking up the king’s robes though.

It is from that camp that quests move more into the vein of the zone, where making safe the relics Numenor and securing the monuments of the Kingdom of Arnor are high on the agenda.  That and swimming.  Even with the boat service on the main lake you still end up swimming… in my case wearing a full suit of heavy armor and holding a sword and shield… across various stretches of water.

The theme of tombs and tomb robbers kicks off in a big way, and it is these buildings that represent the Arnor that make the zone so memorable.  It also explains why the kingdom really fell; too many public works projects.  There is a big city, an elaborate tomb for every king, and all of those defense works.

Deeds have also kicked over into full Evendim mode, though the counts required are up quite a bit from the Lone Lands.  It doesn’t matter so much when it comes to tomb robbers, you’ll probably slay all 270 you need for the basic and advanced deed just doing the main quest line.  The zone is rife with them, to the point that you have to wonder how they feed themselves.

Other mobs… there are some you’re going to have to spend some time hunting to get the advanced deed completed.  I’m looking at you Limrafn.  They are weak, non-aggro spirits floating about and you need 150 of them.  I hear hanging out in Barandalf in the evening is the way to get them and salamanders knocked out.

High King’s crossing doesn’t last too long though.  Once you get through the quest chain there… which includes a chance to climb up and stand on the king’s head, a task I enjoy probably more than I should… you are sent off to Tinnudir.  That is the heart and hub of most of the rest of the zone.  It has vendors, crafting, full service stable access to all major points, and a bank NPC for storing away all the drops you want to save for later.  It is from there that the real zone begins for me.

The Man from Annuminas

In preparation for the coming Mordor expansion, and specifically what plans our potential group should have come the launch, I have been back and playing in Middle-earth.

It is the usual mixture of wonder and exasperation.

I got out a champion in our guild who was in the midst of Evendim, one of my favorite zones in the game.  Sigwerd the man champion, for men are men and human isn’t a word of Middle-earth, still dressed up in a selection of cosmetic gear from past expansions and the Lone Lands.

Sigwerd in Evendim

The chest piece is clearly from the Lone Lands… dyed olive green… but I cannot remember where the hooded fur cloak came from.  Just don’t tell PETA, they’ll sue me claiming the former owner of the pelt holds its copyright.

Anyway, the idea was manifold.

I wanted to get back into the game itself, with its various quirks.  I wanted to get a feel for the state of the game.  I wanted to try out a class I might play going forward.  I wanted to work with the new talent tree thing.  I wanted to get a sense as to how quick levels were given that one of the possible plans was essentially “walk all the way to Mordor.”  And I wanted to enjoy myself.

It is no doubt a telltale of my somewhat conservative nature that I like to go back and run through enjoyable zones and quest lines.  As I have noted in the past, nothing makes you feel more like a ranger… or in this case a champion… of Middle-earth than going through a zone like you own the place.  This is as opposed to wandering about the place half lost with the map up and muttering something about, “If that is the goblin camp over there, then the wolf den must me off to the left.”

I must have more than a dozen characters beyond level 30, so the Lone Lands is like a second home to me, with Evendim not far behind.  Once a zone known primarily for the amount of swimming you had to do in order to get around, it was revamped and given a boat transport system and a re-work of quests, all of which turned it into a great zone.

Looking out on the lake

I picked up where I left off with Sigwerd… left off about six years ago… with him picking up the quest trail in Ost Forod.  He was level 35, so ready for the quests there.  I ran through those, then the quick set on the island of Rantost, then up at the north end of the lake, before picking up at Men Erain and what I consider the start of the grand finale of the zone.

Evendim map

Men Erain starts in with tombs of the Kings of Arnor and leads you into Annúminas, the highlight of the zone.

The ancient fallen city, once the capital of Arnor, is such a great area.  When you arrive there are not many quests handed to you, just a couple of general ones that will take you about the area.  But one of the quests teams you with the ranger Orchalwë.  He travels the ruins with you and, as you reach certain points, give you additional quests as well as assisting you when fighting.

Sigwerd and Orchalwë in the ruins

The whole thing is so organic in its way that really puts me in the game.

And you need the help of Orchalwë.  Many of the mobs you face are elites.  While they aren’t too tough… you can solo one, though it takes some effort… they often come in groups of two or three and singletons wander about leading to surprise adds.  Three at once was a tough fight for me, even with Orchalwë throwing me a heal now and with me having taken the Martial Champion spec, which is a damage dealing tank.  Any mistake and the wheels come off.

However, the elites do not become locked encounters, to use the EQII term, when you tag them. (Also similar to how WoW handles named mobs in Legion.)  This is very handy as it encourages casual group efforts.

Sigwerd versus an elite

At a couple points I was standing, looking at an objective when another player of showed up, their own copy of Orchalwë in tow, and we were able to take on the area and finish the local quests.

The whole thing is so well done, perfect for a small group like our, it makes me wonder why more of the game isn’t like this.

Not that there are not flaws, the first of which is that Orchalwë goes away if you finish his main quest, something that left me in the lurch before I was done with the zone.  That is the reason I am soloing the elite in the screen shot above.

Finishing up in Annúminas, though without having hit all the possible quests, left me almost level 41.  I learned a few things along the way.

The first was that after picking a spec I really should have assigned points to the skill tree.  That would have made life easier.  Still, I managed to muddle through with a small set of default skills.  Once applied my available points my options on the hot bar expanded.

Champion skill at level 40

The icons haven’t changed much since I made my humorous/mocking post about them over eight years ago.  They are still hard to see and when I can see them they still don’t tell me what a skill really does.  The one with the box communicates, as does punching Amy Tan, but the rest still could mean any number of things.  As I understand it, the fact that I have what might be termed a “vintage” monitor means that it isn’t as bad as it could be.

And second, don’t hit the “x” key or your camera will lock in on whatever you are targeting.  I did this by accident during a fight and spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out why I had lost control of the camera.  I had to Google the issue to fix it and then unmapped “x” from that function.

On the key mapping front, I had to map both “b” and “i” to open my bags because by this point I can never remember which game uses which and my brain seems unable to cope with this.  LOTRO uses “i” by default, but I kept hitting “b,” so I changed the key… and then I kept hitting “i,” so clearly I have some bad wiring as well.

However, I remain impressed how often I end up getting LOTRO Points for completing deeds.

Hey, more money!

But while the world is still quite worth touring, I did run into more graphical glitches than I expected.

The haunted pixellated forest looms!

More on point to planning, I did get a bit of a feel for leveling up.  With VIP blue bar daily and a 25% experience booster from a past expansion in the pocket equipment slot it was easy enough to get a level a day with a reasonable play session of about an hour.  The blue bar goes away pretty quickly, so doing two levels a day means more than double the play time.

Also, I did this under ideal circumstances.  As noted, I feel like the hero in Evendim and I know where to go for any given quest more often than not.  So, operationally, I was very efficient.  That efficiency drops off considerably past Evendim however.

That means going will be slow, or slower, past a certain point.

I think we could, as a group, power on through to level 50 by doing every last thing in Evendim, including the three person version of any instance, picking up the latter half of the Trollshaws, and then pressing through the Misty Mountains.  The last has Goblin-town, which is another ideal place for a small group.  We’d still probably need to hit Angmar or Eregion to get to 50.

At 50 we could decided to try Moria or get a discounted Blessing of the Valar boost to level 95.

Going much farther than 50 however means postponing Mordor for a long time, and getting there through all the content between there and where we stand would likely test our stamina as a group and the life expectancy of the game.  There are a lot of zones between us at level 40 and Mordor.

And even the ten levels between the Blessing of the Valar and Mordor might be a challenge.

Anyway, the plan is still under discussion.  We have at least another week before the expansion lands, and maybe a bit longer given the tentative launch date given with the pre-order.  I likely won’t feel pressed to buy anything until this coming weekend.

Outfitted by the Wardens of Annuminas

What with a war on in EVE, I haven’t spent as much time in LOTRO as I might have otherwise.  But I still manage to get into Middle-earth now and again when fleets are not forming or I do not have the time set aside for what might turn out to be a multi-hour operation.

My last post on LORTO was saying, “Oh wow, I am in the Lone Lands already!

This time around I am saying, “Oh wow, I am done with the Lone Lands already!”

I have been trying not to pass the guild designated goal levels, which hasn’t been that hard, since it seems like every time I get close they go up.  I thought I might stop in the Lone Lands, but then the bar was raised to 35.  And once I hit 30 around Ost Guruth I decided to wrap up my time in the Lone Lands.  There was more to do.  I had not yet finished up the Red Maid or the swamp area.  But I was ready to move on.

I like the Lone Lands as a zone.  There is a comfort going through it, knowing where to go for all the quests.  It is the one zone where I really feel like a ranger, so familiar am I with the terrain.  But at best now it ranks as my second favorite zone, at when I hit level 30 I was ready to go to my current favorite: Evendim.

Revamped Evendim that is, not the original which caused so much pain… and required so much swimming… back in the day.

You can certainly make the case that it should not be my favorite.  It is designed in a way that has been declared “bad” by those who purport to know best.  In a game where the now maligned quest hub structure is common, Evendim takes the quest hub idea almost to extremes.

You show up at a quest hub, you get a quest with a big reward that essentially tells you that you must do the quests of a handful of other NPCs in order to get that reward, and then you are stuck servicing all their varied whims.

That might have ended badly had the quest design not been above par for the game.  There are the requisite “go kill an oddly specific number of something” quests, but they are well leavened with all sorts of other different, and sometimes goofy, tasks.  Like collecting farm animals for hobbits.

Hen teaser coming through!

Hen teaser coming through!

You also get to set things on fire now and again.  The zone seems to set you against the idea of boats.

Must have been carrying something volatile

Must have been carrying something volatile

And occasionally being asked to go to some high point in the zone simply to look (/look command) at the zone around you, which if nothing else puts the grandeur of the zone right in your face so you can’t miss it.

The quests are also pretty well focused around the story line of the given location.  They give a feeling that there is a legitimate task at hand and that you are helping them along with something more urgent than, say, collecting lynx pelts so they will have warm clothes for winter.

And then there are the rewards for the zone.  The Wardens have their own currency which can buy three pieces of very nice gear and getting your standing with them up to the “kindred” level opens up some more options.  Finally, finishing out the quest line in the zone fills in a few more pieces, leaving you rather well equipped if you finish the zone.

So far I have managed to horde enough of the currency to buy the three pieces of the Forgotten Hope armor set available from Cannuion.

I also managed to make it “kindred” status with the wardens rather quickly this time around.  In the past I have been well into the final set of quests in the heart of Annuminas before getting there.  This time around I was a “made warden” before I got to the series of quests at the tombs of the kings.

Vikund, now a Warden

Vikund, now a Warden

That opened up my next weapon, the level 40 halberd from the reputation vendor as well as the special mount.

The Wardens favor a simple mount

The Wardens favor a simple mount

I am now level 39… because our goal level got raised to 50… and on the last couple of quests in Annuminas, after which I will have the final piece of the captain’s Forgotten Hope armor set and be done with the zone.  Of course, that last bit is a doozy, even with Orchalwë and my herald in tow.  Actually, especially with those two in tow, as they seen to find joy in pulling in adds.  But even if they were perfect, the the Banners of the Iron crown is a tough nut to crack alone, and I have to go in there no matter what, as it is also the final location to finish off Orchalwë mission.  I might have to get Gaff over to help me.

Then I will be fully outfitted, level 40, and ready for the next zone.  I am clearly not playing enough alts if I am moving this fast.  And, honestly, I have stopped so often in the past at this point, I am not quite sure what the next zone is.

Angmar I think.  Off to Angmar.

No, Really… We Still Kill Orcs Now and Again…

Contrary to what you might have assumed from reading this blog of late, I have not totally given up on playing fantasy based massively multiplayer online games.

Yes, of the the last couple months posts, very few have been about me actually playing such a game.  Anniversary related items, Driving virtual cars, Star Wars coming out on Blu-Ray, the trials and tribulations of the Fippy Darkpaw time lock progression server, and the Storybricks logo seem to be more active topics recently than, you know, actually swinging a sword to kill a few orcs.

The instance group is still on hiatus.  The changes in Cataclysm which made WoW such a massively solo online game were unfortunate.  The game had been the cornerstone of our group, the home to which we would oft return.  Only now, it no longer seems like home, and a replacement has yet to be found.

And real life gets in the way now and again as well.

But once in a while, when the stars align and the old folks aren’t too sleepy, a few of us do actually get together and play.

And so it has been, the last few weeks, as we have slowly been working our way through the Lake Tahoe of Middle-earth, Evendim.  My goal of seeing all of the revamped version of the zone is well under way.

I started off with my champion as the tank of the group, but later switch to my guardian whom I caught up to the group via Oatbarton. (Okay, that wasn’t my guardian in the post, but it was Oatbarton.)  I found the champion to be a bit finicky as a tank, as opposed to the guardian who is all about the tanking profession.

So our group has been:

  • Enaldie – Rune Keeper
  • Garfinkel – Minstrel
  • Nomu – Guardian

And we have been taking on the zone in short, quest-hub sized bites.  That and the fact I haven’t been taking many screen shots (that often drives what I write/remember) has lead to few posts on the topic. (I installed FRAPS again to get better screen shots of LOTRO, but I keep forgetting to launch it.)

Anyway, we’ve been across quite a bit of the zone so far.

Evendim - Oh The Places We've Been!

We started off at the great bridge of Numenorian overcompensation as a group.

There is a bridge underneath that guy... somewhere...

One of the highlights there is the great big obvious rope hanging down in the midst of the quest hub.

Please do not pull rope

You run around doing some quests, eventually launching something up to the top of the great kings head via a captured Angmarian catapult (the Wardens of Annuminas are fans of Rube Goldberg) that eventually lets you climb the rope and stand at the pinnacle of the bridge.

Way up high

The view is pretty nice.  I never got around to being able to prove if I was really on top of the bridge in the actual zone (i.e. could people see me up there?) or if I was in a special room instance version of the place.

You cannot fall off the top of the bridge.  There is a Blizzard-approved invisible barrier all the way around. (A nod to all those invisible barries in instance in WotLK.)  You could, however, get some interesting camera issues if you moved to the wrong place.

A flying elf inside the king's head

The quests at the bridge took us one evening and were, for the most part, good to do as a group.  There is a series of things you have to do/find in some ruins across the river where it is easy to get overwhelmed by individual wandering mobs if you go in solo.

Hanging out in the river

That quest line ends up sending you to Tinnudir, which I end up pronouncing as “Tuna, dear!” on Skype.  It is good to get to Tinnudir, since that is the place with the stable route that connects to the rest of the world.  It is the hub of the hub and spoke system in Evendim.  Without it, getting around can be a challenge.

Tinnudir has a great quest thread that sends you around to the various ruins like a package tour.  At each ruin there is another set of quests you can pick up.  All in all it works well, as you don’t have the giant shopping list of things to do, but rather get a task that unfolds and develops into other tasks.    That and a trip to Ost Forod was another evening.

Showing off Isengard pre-order horses in Ost Forod

Up at Ost Forod the whole meta quest thing… you get a quest to help a few other people who have quests for you… starts to get a bit out of hand.  It started to become an accounting task to make sure everybody had spoken to all the right people and had picked up all the correct quests.  Fortunately makes the audit process pretty easy.  I recall similar tasks in New Halas being a nightmare.

Ost Forod remained the center of our tasks for most of two sessions and took us on a tour of the East and Northeast sections of the Evendim including the rather lush, green goblin encampment.  You wouldn’t think filthy goblins lived there.

This is actually pretty nice...

We paid our respects by slaying them in wholesale lots.  And goblins are almost orcs in the Middle-earth mythos, so there we go.  Orc slaying accomplished.

We took some time out while we were way up in the Northeast corner of the zone to get the stable route to Forochel.  We successfully acquired it, we just could not use it.

You must be at least level 40 to go on this ride...

That was a bit awkward as far as travel went, but we made our way back to Ost Forod and wrapped up the quest lines there, with the multi-stage turn-ins proving a bit of an accounting task as well.

From there we were sent of to Rantost, an island in the lake, where we met with the usual party of rangers, eager to hand off work to gullible strangers.

Rangers of Rantost

This actually turned out to be another area where having a fellowship along proved to be a boon.  The three quests were of the slay/collect/burn variety, but in the midst of the area where you do this is a clump of signature mobs, including a named one, that would pretty much do in anybody attempting to solo them at level.  For us the group, which came as a surprise add, lead to a vigorous workout.

Upon returning to the three beach rangers, we were given an instanced, small fellowship task to take on.  We completed that and called it a night.

All of which brings us up to where the group stands as of this moment.  I believe we only have two more areas to face before the big battles in Annuminas.  We keep on advancing.  I just have not been playing much LOTRO on the off nights.

We will very likely all be kindred status with the Wardens of Annuminas by then.  I think we are ally at this point.

I might have to take the Isengard pre-order bonus experience boost item out of my pocket, as we are climbing up a level or two every session and I do not want to out run the zone.

And speaking of Isengard, that is pretty close.  I will have to start figuring out what changes are coming and how it will impact me.

Finding Hoes in Oatbarton

After getting into the revamped Evendim more than half way through, I was interested to see if the whole zone had been truly improved or if I had managed to go straight to the good stuff in Annuminas.  The zone has been updated since the last time I ground through it.

But what % less suck?

Previously Evendim had a dubious reputation, having plenty of those “run/swim across the zone, kill something, run back, get update that tells you to run/swim back and kill something next to the thing you just killed” sort of quests.

Now though, some of that has been amended.  The quest hubs tend not to send you so far afield.  And sometimes those that do send you far can be completed in the field and new objectives gained.  There is also a new pattern to quest hubs, where you will speak to one central person at a given hub, and they will give you a quest to help certain people in his area, giving you a sort of meta quest for the area.

So I made it a goal to get through all of the quest hubs in Evendim.

Fortunately, I had a couple of characters at level 30, which looks to be about the optimum level to start, despite the zone being advertised for levels 32 and up.

You arrive in Evendim following the famous/infamous Lone Lands Oatmeal Problems quest, which leads you to the first quest hub in Oatbarton.  (I think this may be the first time I actually completed that quest!)

Oatbarton is in Evendim, but it is part of The Shire as well.  I received updates for Shire deeds while in the area, but got credit for completing Evendim quests.

The first hub is a very Shire series of quests, where you have to help a group of hobbits tidy up their little enclave in time for some sort of hobbit event… like 3rd lunch or something.

As such, the quests are more of the fetch, find, and carry variety, focused on things that hobbits like… such as sheep and hoes.

Picked up so often it has a handle!

You can view this as an amusing distraction from the usual find and kill quests… or you can view it as tedious and time consuming, just like real farm work.

The actual area where most of these quests take place works against you though.  Its tight and tiny maze of hedgerow surrounded fields make the Bocage seem like West Texas.  You will spend a good bit of time figuring out how to get from point A to point B while you harvest, round up stray animals, and generally tidy up after the hobbits.

Magical levitating chicken!

You do end up having to kill a few animals as you run around.  They have problems with rodents it seems.

Won't be taming this shrew

For pests like crows, you will have to slay a few, but will eventually be offered another solution.

Why didn't they have me put these out first?

The only problem I had was that one of the meta quest objectives is to help a couple of hobbits that are not in the general area but are, in fact, on the far side of Oatbarton.  Once I figured that out, I was able to find them without issue, but there was some frantic running around looking for the missing hobbits for a bit.

Those quests are in more of the usual find and kill vein, though each with their own twist.  Once I accomplished those, I was able to head back to the initial meta quest giver and collect a nice purple Runekeeper stone for my guy.

There is a task board in the middle of town, and the tasks in Oatbarton raise your standing with the Mathom Society, the Shire faction.  However, you slay so few creatures that you will be lucky if you have enough drops to fulfill more than one or two of the tasks.

Still, if you want to get in with the Mathom Society, you are still set, as each of the quests in Oatbarton has as a reward, a gift mathom.  You can head back to Michel Delving to the Mathom Society house and turn those in to raise your standing.

Getting back to Michel Delving is a bit of a pain.  There is no direct flight to Michel Delving, and unless you have the stable master at the main hub at Tinnundir on your list, you end up taking a few hops before you get to your destination.

But once there your standing will get quite a boost.  I had 27 gift mathoms when I completed the area.  There is a quest at the Mathom house to turn in your first one, which gets you 1,200 points of faction.  After that, each gift mathom you turn in gets you 700 more points, which adds up quickly.

Mathom Mania!

That was enough to get me from 300 points of faction and neutral standing (I completed ONE task in Oatbarton) to past half way into Acquaintance standing in one shot.  I am well on my way to having a bunch of hobbit pals.

After that it was bunch of connecting flights back to Oatbarton where I had a quest to head on down the road to the next quest hub at Dwaling.

I left it there for the night.  The next hub looks like it is facing trouble and will require more fighting and less collecting.

The Oatbarton section of Evendim took me about two hours to run through the first time, though I was admittedly lost trying to find the last two hobbits for a good chunk of time.  My second run went through the quest line, now that I had figured out the kinks, in about 75 minutes.

As to whether this section was improved, I cannot say.  I never ran it before the zone was updated.  It certainly has a Shire quest feel to it though, so if you like that you are set.

And if you don’t, well… there is some fighting to be done just down the road.

I Suppose That is Role Playing of a Sort…

The other day Potshot and I each had a character lined up to finish the main quest line in Annuminas.  This was the ranger banner quest, and there are two areas that are covered by signature level mobs which make a solo approach very challenging.

Too challenging for me, anyway.

But as a pair I figured this would result in a series of good, but manageable fights, and we could knock out this quest line.  The new and improved Evendim quests are like that; you want to finish them.

There was another group forming up in Annuminas, and they asked if we would like to join with them.  Knowing that we had very specific goals, and a weekday night time frame, I politely declined.

And, well…

I guess “screw you” is not one of the built-in emotes.

But I certainly took this as a sign that I had made the right choice.  Kohath was awfully quick there on the “/screw you.”

I sometimes forget that there are segments of the LOTRO community that take not being WoW to extremes, which includes an attitude somewhat akin to, “This is LOTRO and we group here and if you refuse to group aren’t playing the game right and should go back to WoW.”

I have run into this problem on a few occasions for failing to group on demand.

Fortunately, it is a reasonably rare occurrence, and has come up even less often since the game went free to play.  Either there are more people with whom to group or there has been an influx of less demanding people.

And, for the record, we did complete the quest line.  While we did face a defeat on one objective, that just made knocking it out at last all the sweeter.

The Grand Geode of Khazad-dûm!

Everything about the dwarven halls of Moria is extreme.

(For a headline I will drag out the dwarven name, complete with circumflex, but for the body of a post, Moria will do.  Plus that is the generally accepted name of the place in the late Third Age.)

The sheer size and scale of the works of the dwarves… well… dwarfs just about everything.

Giant Wall Dwarves

You can’t really get the scale, but if I could jump up there with the dwarf and stand next to him my character wouldn’t go much past the cuff of his boot.  And you get a bit of scale on the height of the ceiling in Moria as well, which is even more obvious when my hunter Silinus actually gets in the picture.

Mortal man for scale

With the camera pulled all the way back and you can just see the boots of that dwarven carving.  Big dwarf under a very high roof.

I can see why the men of Numenor (screw your acute accent mark, so-called men of the west) built things like that over the top bridge in Evendim.

The bridge part is between his feet

They no doubt felt they had to make their mark on Middle-earth as well.  Or maybe they too were compensating for something.

The dwarves like to go big.  So it was no surprise that they also treasure gems and the like of extraordinary character.  Remember the Arkenstone?

And thus we present the prized Geode of the dwarves.

Giant Geode

Or I assume it is their prized geode.  It is up there on a nice, well-lit display on the main path through Moria.

Again, the geode by itself does not give scale very well, so here is Silinus, a man of average height (for LOTRO) standing before the geode.

Silinus give a sense of size

That is one big geode.  Even the torches and glowing crystal holders around it are huge.

That is the sort of scale that things in Moria have.

One wonders if the dwarves had been more modest in scale if they might have been able to keep the balrog penned in the caves.  The place seems well made for giant, demonic creatures to roam at will.  But I digress.

Given that the biggest geode known to modern man had an internal cavity of less than two meters in length, it would be one for the Guinness Book if it were in the real world.

I do wonder where the dwarves found it.  The rock I have seen in Moria looks to be igneous, but geodes are more commonly found in sedimentary rock.  Maybe they found it elsewhere.  Or maybe I cannot reliably tell one sort of rock from another in a video game.

Still, that is still one massive geode.

Somebody Gets to Moria

Our latest drive towards Moria continues, with varying degrees of success.

Gaff, who has a lot of free time in the summer, has actually made it into the expansion, going from level 33 to level 52 in under two weeks.  His main character, Rarik, has even picked up some interesting equipment on the way.

Horned Rarik

And, as of last night he had finished the preliminaries and was into the Khazad-dûm proper.

So one of us is in!

Gaff has been good about trying not to spoil things for me as he has moved along.

And how have I been doing?  I had a serious head start on Gaff, with a level 44 hunter loose in the Misty Mountains.  You would think with more than a 10 level head start I would be there as well.

But no, Selirus, my hunter is still in the Misty Mountains.

Less mist, more snow

He is level 46.  So some progress was made.  And it is not as though I have not been playing some.  I just got distracted.

Selirus is a hunter, but he is also my weapon smith and woodworker.  And while the ore in the Misty Mountains has kept him going on weapons, he needed wood for wooden weapons, like bows and spears and javelins.

And to get him the right wood meant getting my warden, Terentia, into the Misty Mountains as well.  However, she was only level 38, a bit low for that, which meant a detour into other zones.

One of the tricks to smooth progression in LOTRO seems to be finding the right group of quests.  You really want to be in a range of quests that are about +/- 1 level from you.  Running quests more than two levels lower  and you start to see some serious drop off in the experience rewarded.  The same goes for the mobs you have to kill.  While any quest more than a couple of levels high than you slows you down through difficulty and there is clearly a cap on the experience you receive, so it is better to wait until they get closer to your level range.

Terentia, at 38 ran around a bit looking for the right fit.  She was in that gap in the Trollshaws where she had finished one set of quests but the next were four or so levels above her.  Likewise, Angmar started at about the right level, but quickly skipped up a few levels.

In the end it was back to Evendim, the land of the lake.

Looking out in Evendim

Evendim has a bad reputation.

The last time I wrote about it, I heard some moans about it in the comments.  And it sure does have more than its share of annoying, multiple round trips across the lake or half way across the zone, quests.

The thing is, the zone also hides some of the better quest lines I have seen in the game.

After running her through the quests around the tombs of the kings, which was a joy in that the second and third rounds of it were concentrated in a small area, the quest chain pointed me in the direction of Annuminas.

Just getting there was a pain.  While there is a stable master at the ranger camp deep in the heart of the area, you have to fight or sneak your way through a mass of Angmarian invaders.  Previously this was enough for me to go elsewhere with Selirus, but I decided to stick it out with Terentia.

And, in doing so, I was rewarded.

Most of the quests there were of the ordinary sort; go find things or kill things.  There is a task board there, so you can turn your trash drops into reputation and experience.

And then there is Orchalwe’s Mission.

Orchalwe wants to go kill some things and hang some ranger banners around Annuminas.  But unlike your typical LOTRO ranger, Orchalwe actually comes along to help.

Hey, I pulled a muscle! Give me a break!

And that is the reason it is a pain even getting to this quest, becuase everything in the area is tuned to you and him fighting through to various objectives.

And, as a variation, that is nice.  He is tough, hits hard, and heals now and again.  But as you pass through various locations, he comes up with a quests for the places you visit.

So rather than stacking up an armload of quests and running all over, you end up following one main quests, hanging ranger banners, and get a steady supply of side quests as you go.

The whole cycle with Orchalwe is challenging.  Mobs come in groups of two or three and it is very easy to get in over your head if you are not careful.  The side quests as well run the gamut of burn, kill, collect, rescue, and defacement, so add a nice bit of variety.  I began to look forward to each new area just to see what quest would come next.

The only problem came at the last banner, out on an island which required us to cross a bridge.  The area before and around the bridge was populated by signature level mobs, tougher than standard mobs, but still manageable.

Orchalwe and Terentia

At that point the groups started showing up very close together as well.  Adds started coming in on almost every fight.  We were defeated several times at the foot of the bridge.  That left us having to fight our way there again in the hope that we could make it this time around.

Eventually I decided to move on and do something else, which was disappointing.  If I had been close to getting through it might of been one thing, but we were getting pounded to pulp at the bridge every time.

And by this point Terentia was 41 and ready to hit the Misty Mountains to harvest black ash.  She did that and passed it on to Silinus, who in turn mastered the 5th tier of woodworking.

Silinus was thus able to arm himself with a new bow and a pair of new daggers, as well as making Terentia a new spear and javelin.

Silinus was now armed for his assault on Moria.

Of course, in the time it took to do all of that, he probably could have made it there without the new bow.  His old bow wasn’t that bad.  The perils of a completionism I suppose.

And Potshot has himself patched up and is threatening to make his own assault on Moria.  He will be starting from level 34 or so.  I have a couple of characters in that range, so I hope we can coordinate things to meet up in Evendim and finish off Orchalwe’s quest.  I would like to see that one through.