Tag Archives: Lone Lands

Deeds of the Lone Lands

As I felt I was falling a bit behind in levels relative to the quests I had been chasing in the Lone Lands, having rushed into the zone a bit early, I decided to take a level or two off from questing to pursue some of the deeds available in the zone.

You know which server I’m talking about

In LOTRO deeds are something like achievements and something like quests and they come in a few regular flavors.  You can finish them by doing quests in a zone, by visiting points of interest, by slaying some of the nearby mobs, by gaining reputation with the local faction, and by simply using some of your skills a bunch of time.

Pretty standard achievement stuff these days… except for maybe the skills thing.

The difference is that they sometimes come in different levels, they are very zone-centric, and that can pile on a lot of rewards.  You get titles, but WoW will give you titles for some achievements.  However, you can also get faction, boosts to virtue traits, faction boosts, skirmish marks, and even LOTRO Points for use in the cash shop.

North Downs Orc-Slayer Advanced Deed

As an aside, the fact that deeds hand out skirmish marks like candy means that you really don’t need to do much crafting to keep your gear up to spec.  The local skirmish camp… and they are outside every major settlement… will sell you armor, weapons, and jewelry that will keep you going.  So you have that, virtues to improve your character’s combat abilities, cash for the store, and reputation that will unlock items at the local faction store.

And still I don’t always do them, or concentrate on them at least.  But this time I thought I would take a day or two off to just work on those.  And while, as noted elsewhere, grinding mobs isn’t as good for xp as quests, if you persist at it you will get your due there.

I had also gotten a deed accelerator writ as a daily Hobbit present.  For 90 minutes each kill would count double.  So I decided to use that wisely.

The Lone Lands

On the list was a deed for slaying trolls.  Those are tough, signature mobs and, aside from the one you meet at the summit of Weathertop, they only show up in the swampy eastern portion of Harloeg, in the southeast of the zone.  I headed out there to find some trolls.

He is a big boy

I needed 40 trolls for the first deed, which included a title, a 80 more for the advanced deed.  But with the writ running for 90 minutes and one in the bag already, I just needed to kill 59 trolls to get there.  So I found a quiet corner of Harloeg with plenty of trolls close by, put on a podcast, and set to work.

Thanks to another troll hunter who happened by for a bit… casual team ups are definitely a thing in LOTRO… I actually finished up the trolls more quickly than I thought I would, getting the advanced deed done with an hour still left on my writ.

I headed over to Haragmar, a bit to the north, to use the remaining time on the writ to get the advanced deed for wights out of the way and then get stuck into the bog lurkers for another deed.  Bog lurkers are a bit rare, but both deeds together need just 90 overall.  I managed to knock out the first deed for 30 and get 30 out of 60 for the advanced deed before time ran out.

I was keen to get the slayer deeds done as they wrapped up into a meta deed that I had never bothered to do before.  With four months or so to get ready for Moria I figured I could spend the time.  In addition to trolls, wights, and bog lurkers, I needed to kill craban (those spying birds), goblins, orc, spiders, and wargs.

Craban are everywhere in the zone.  Goblins are all over the western half, and I was well into that deed, while orcs are all over the eastern half of the zone, so I wasn’t worried on that front.  What I really needed was bog lurkers, though I was pretty set there, and spiders, which are pretty common, though you need a 180 for both deeds, and wargs, which are not uncommon but you need 150.

It was easy enough for me to run around and finish off the goblins and the orcs and the craban.  Then I made a pretty big dent in the spiders, though the wargs were giving me some trouble.  They spawn in a range of areas, but seem to share the spawn table with other mobs that people don’t care so much about, so they tend to be hunted off the map unless you want to stand around and work the spawn table by clearing out the other mobs so wargs can pop.

Spending time with that got me up to level 29, at which point I decided to pick up with quests again.  I had about exhausted all the quests in Ost Guruth save for the story line quest with Radagast the Brown.  So I followed him through the Red Pass.

Radagast and his little animal pals

That gave me access to the quest lines into Agamaur where, among other things, I was set to hunt bog lurkers.  I was successful in that, as well as in finding another rare creature of the realms.

The idle level 31 bard in the Red Pass

Having managed to knock out the bog lurkers, I was left with only spiders and wargs, and I was about 30 shy on each.

I headed back out to work the spawn table a bit more, sitting in a little dell where orcs, spiders, and wargs shared the same spawns.  I just cleared out anything that spawned, collecting spiders and wargs as they appeared.

I was not alone in my quest for wargs.  I spotted at least three people passing by again and again, on the roam for wargs, tagging mine if they were in time, but not touching any other mob, and so basically populating all the spawn points with things other than wargs.

Spiders finished up first, but not too long later I finally got that last warg.

The last warg done

And that, in turn, popped this.

Slayer of the Lone Lands

The rewards that show up in the first screen shot are for both deeds.  That got me two out of three of the meta deeds that would unlock the finish off the final deed for the Lone Lands.

All the meta

I just needed the explorer deed.  So I headed back up to the Red Pass, which was the only place I hadn’t explored, and carried on with the quests there.  I soon hit level 30, which is actually required to even get the final exploration deed.

However, it was not going to be as easy as all of that.  I managed to grab the first few locations fairly quickly, but the balance of them are deep in the east side of Garth Agarwen, which is an area for fellowships.  The quests that would lead me through to the points I wanted to visit were not viable for me at level 30, and certainly not alone.

All group quests

However, on hitting level 30 I also received the second quest aimed at getting me to Oatbarton and Evendim.  I figured that probably ought to be my next major destination.  I would return to the Lone Lands to get that last set of deeds done later.   Though, in doing the quests I could, I did get to kindred status with the Eglain, the local faction, which allowed me to purchase their signature mount.

The mount of the Eglain

I can ride that on into Evendim.  But first I had to make a detour to Esteldin in the North Downs as the story line required me to check in there for a few tasks.  But after that, Evendim.

Rushed to the Lone Lands

Back to the LOTRO Legendary server.

Just going to be in every Legendary post

It has been long enough since I have played the low level game in LOTRO… still the best part of LOTRO to my mind… that I have lost some of the “feel” as to where I ought to be for a given level.  I have to take the game’s word for where I ought to go next.  I last left off heading to the Old Forest.

Very atmospheric, but the fog machine only covers some of the zone

I was rolling through there, slaughtering as usual, when the game popped up a quest for me pointing me at the Lone Lands.  I had just hit level 19 and was starting to level out of the Old Forest, the quests having all gone that aqua blue color.

Visit the Lone Lands

I still had the Barrow Downs and Tom Bombadil to see to however, the latter being part of the main story line, so I figured I would put off heading out for at least a level while I worked on that.

The leveling and quests have always been a bit off, but with the experience reduction set for the server it was more on track than it has been for a while.

40% of quest sale

And it did seem pretty spot on as I moved through the opening quests out of Thorin’s Hall.  There is that odd set out of Gondomon where you’re level 8 or 9, get a level 12 quest in a chain, but then the quest after it goes back to level 10, but for the most part I was on track through there.

Things seemed to get a little off the rails in Bree, though I suspect that gaining experience through harvesting and crafting wasn’t helping me.  I can’t remember when harvesting and crafting started giving you experience.  It wasn’t there at launch… I don’t think it was.  Anyway, it showed up at some point and the Blizzard copied the idea for WoW.

Anyway, I left some quests behind in Bree and a few more in the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs.  Some of them I didn’t mind.  I wasn’t going to chase Lalia all over again.

The lost leading the... short?

Must suppress this memory…

I did run up to Hengstacer Farm to do the quests up around there.  That wide range of open and almost empty land around Nen Harn is something I couldn’t pass up.  Then there was that odd quest that asked you to speak to Elrond in Rivendell, which I figured I would pick up and look into later.  I don’t recall Gandalf teleporting you up there, he not being all that big on overt magic.  But there I was!

Wait, I just skipped a few chapters I think

But eventually I ran down the quests up at the north end of the zone of the Bree fields and wrapped up things in Rivendell. Having hit level 21 along the way I was feeling a bit worried about getting too far ahead, so I started out for the Lone Lands.  Soon the Forsaken Inn was in sight.

Still have to fix that roof

Of course, on arriving I found I was anything but too late.  The first couple of quests were about on level, but most everything to hand was three or four levels up from me.  I ran through a few… being a guardian means I can take a punch and keep going, and the Forsaken Inn drops a good dozen quests on you right away… but eventually I started thinking that maybe I had missed something along the way.

Then, looking in my quest log, I found that quest about getting to Trestlebridge.  You get that as part of the intro quest lines on your arrival at Bree.  The mayor seems almost indecently eager to send you on to some other jurisdiction, like he thought I was there just to… well… I guess I was there to cause trouble and murder the locals.  He might have been on to something.

Anyway, that quest was already fading into blue so I figured maybe I ought to go up there and get a few levels before getting stuck into the Lone Lands.

Of course, on arriving there, I found the quests equally above my level.  I knocked out a few, managing to level up myself, before deciding to head back to the Lone Lands to just see what I could do.

Back at the Forsaken Inn, I started cleaning up around the area, ending up with my friend Pengail, who cannot bear to see a living goblin.

Still better than Lalia

At that point I had fallen behind the curve with everything but the main story.  So I made my way around to Candaith’s camp and helped him out with his work around Weathertop.

That put me ahead, to level 24, so when I was done there I could start clearing out the quests at the west end of the Lone Lands fairly steadily.  I did notice that experience started to taper off noticeably at about that point as well.  That was bad timing as I was really at a point when I felt I needed a bit of a boost to catch up to the zone.

I supplemented my experience gain with the local task quests… I was bypassing those… and carrying on with trade skill harvesting and processing.  I also took another ride around to the North Downs to run down some quests there for a bit of an additional boost.

Still, as noted, the guardian is a strong solo class.  My guy does decent damage and his mitigation skills keep him from taking too big of a hit from higher level mobs.  And, of course, the Lone Lands are practically like home to me.  I know where to go, how to get there, and generally where to find the things in the zone.

As of last night I stand at level 26 and am facing the quests between Ost Guruth and the Trollshaws.

The Lone Lands, little flags marking where I have been

Keeping with how things have gone, the quests are levels 29 and 30.  I’m tempted to put that xp boosting item in my pocket for a couple of levels.

Continuing on with the same “too early” trend, in Ost Guruth you immediately get the quest chain that eventually sends you off to Oatbarton, at the far end of the Shire, which starts you off towards Evendim and Annuminas.  That, too, is an area in which I very much enjoy questing.  But I will hold off on that… the starter quest itself is level 30… until I’ve finished up in the Lone Lands… and maybe the North Downs as well.

On the plus side, I have managed to stick with my second character so far.  I do tend to alt like crazy at some point when playing LOTRO.

Suddenly in the Lone Lands

I have made it to the Lone Lands already, twice over.

There was a bit of a push in our kinship to get to level 25 ASAP, with the intent of doing the Great Barrow in kinship groups… erm… fellowships.  Kinship fellowships just sounds odd.

So I put in a bit of effort to get there, though not as much as I expected I would have to.  The levels flew by.  If I spent time running down quest lined in one zone it inevitably pushed me beyond the level requirements of the next.  I hit 20, which is when the game prompts you to head out to the Lone Lands, having completely bypassed Adso’s camp and almost all of the north and south Bree fields as well as The Old Forest and the Barrow Downs, except for my visit with Tom Bombadil, which is part of the epic quest line.

All my old friends are so happy to see me!

All my old friends are so happy to see me!

Granted, it helps that by this point in my relationship with the game I know most of the quests.  Not a lot of time is wasted figuring out where to go or what to do, though I do get ahead of myself once in a while.

And it also helps having the right rock in your pocket.

Bonus Rock

Bonus Rock

Of course, it is hard to tell exactly how much that pocket item hurried me along.

Traditionally, LOTRO has given the lion’s share of experience for quest completion, while monster kills have tended to be a pretty meager second source of experience.  Likewise, they have added experience to harvesting and crafting, but the actual experience per action is pretty small.  However, I did go explorer with my two highest level characters, so I did do a lot of harvesting and processing, so quantity probably made up for the small individual contribution of each action.

I suppose I will see once I catch up with the group and swap that rock out with something else.

Interestingly, the LOTRO store also sells a pocket item that turns off all exp.  I am not sure I would spend Turbine Points on that yet.

Despite my start with a hunter, and then a short diversion with a lore master and then a champion, I think my group character this time around will be a captain.  I have never played one in a group, though they seem ideal for such.  A test with a skirmish showed the benefits.  I was even able to keep Pengail alive during his goblin murder spree without much effort, thanks to the captain skills.

Pengail and his obsession

Pengail and his obsession

They actually seem to have tweaked Pengail a bit.  I seem to recall him going half a mile out of his way to gank a goblin who he thought might have looked at him cross-eyed, but now he seems to be content just to murder those who get within aggro radius.  Still, he is easily one of the more aggressive escort quest mobs in the history of the genre.  He does hate goblins.

So, plumed hat at a jaunty angle and my armsman in tow, my captain is just about set for the Great Barrow.

Redraw has been a bit slow in town...

Redraw has been a bit slow in town…

Now to see if I can keep the alts under control.  Those crafting materials pile up and it is always tempting to make an alt just to use them up.

Fellowship in a Wine-Dark Land

We were back in the far end of the Lone Lands again on Saturday night and exploring an area still relatively fresh to the whole group.  None of us have gotten very deep into Agamaur in the past.

We were a bit late getting started.  Impatient, Earl and Sigwerd went scouting ahead a bit and ended up defeated after taking a wrong turn.  The corner of Agamaur we were headed to is fellowship quest territory, so there are many elite mobs with which to contend.

The post title is an apt description

Earl and I actually didn’t start off too bad, but then a wandering elite interrupted our party and we tasted defeat.

In about the time it took us to get that sorted out and ourselves to a safe point from which to launch the evenings adventure, Garfinkel and Enaldie showed up, so our group for the evening was:

  • Earlthecat – level 29 dwarf Guardian
  • Garfinkel – level 30 elf Minstrel
  • Sigwerd – level 31 human Champion
  • Enaldie – level 31 elf Rune Keeper

Our first task was to get ourselves into our target area.  Therein we found a little camp with a couple of additional quests, we picked up those quests and headed out.

Around the fire of the unlikely outpost

And promptly faced defeat.  Again.

There are three elite water elementals on the path to where we needed to head and, it seems, if you pull the front and center of the three, you get the whole bunch.

Pull this one, get all three

That proved to be about one elemental too many and we panicked, fell apart, and were defeated without managing to slay a single one of them.  Not an auspicious start to the evening.

Fortunately there people who could revive Earl and I, who had recently used up our free revive, still had theirs.

We did find that we could sneak around them.  The picture above is obviously taken from the bypass.

We also found that the back two can be pulled individually, at least from the steps behind them with an accidental proximity pull.  We were fighting on those steps.

Earl runs ahead to pull another bad guy

And mid-fight, Enaldie stepped a little too far back and we got an elemental add.  However, by that point we were starting to get back into the rhythm of battle and were able to take a single elite add in stride.

Things went along smoothly from that point.  Smoothly enough that I was able to turn off the UI at times when I should have been fighting to take some screen shots.

Stubborn elite...

...stomped by fellowship maneuver

You can see that a patrolling mob has walked up behind Garfinkel and clouted him a good one.  It did not do him much good however and he was quickly dispatched.

The area was hostile enough, with mobs powerful enough, that we had to use care threading our way through the ruins.  Along the way we picked up the items and drops we needed for several quests while tracking down the main guy we were after, Temair the Devoted.

The way was circuitous and we ended up having to back track at several points as we navigated our way through the ruins.  The in-game map and quest tracker give you a general idea where you need to go without providing too much detail, a mixture that balanced nicely in this set of circumstances.

Have we been down this way already?

We did eventually find our way to Temair, who turned out to be an elite master mob, which is sort of and open-world boss level of difficulty, if I remember correctly.

About to test Temair's devotion

The trick with Temair, it seemed, was that around his raised, circular dais roamed several elite patrollers who seemed to respawn with unnatural speed.  We killed them all twice over before we finally thought we had hit enough of a pause to go in after Temair.

The fight with Temair, while he was a handful, was never in doubt.

Battling Temair

We didn’t hold back and managed to get him down before the next respawn got to us.

Then it was time to work our way back out and to the camp where we started.  Along the way, Earl hit level 30.

Earl hits 30, spawns a tree

A long while back I complained that LOTRO was pretty subtle in its marking of levels.  You used to just get something in your chat window with the message “Your level has changed to 30.”  Now though, levels get a bit of pizazz, and round levels, like 30, get an extra special flare.

We threaded our way home, collecting the last few drops we needed along the way.

Then it was time to travel a bit, to close out a couple of quests.

First we headed to the opposite end of Agamaur to steal a vase from some undead.  What did they need with it anyway?

Vase in hand, surveying the route back

Then it was time for a trek south across the breadth of the Lone Lands into the camp at the south end of Harloeg.

Riding into Harloeg

There we turned in our final quest and called it a night.

And, in turn, we might be calling it a wrap in Middle-earth, at least for the time being.

The shattering has occurred in Azeroth.  The Cataclysm expansion is just days away.  The fifth member of the group, who was out all summer as the realities of both moving and having a new child in the house kept him busy, is ready and eager to return.

There could be one more Saturday in Middle-earth, but it seems more likely that we will be back in WoW figuring out the composition of the next version of the group and  sightseeing around the various zones to see what has changed.

But Moria will have to wait for another time.

Crafting Adventures in Middle-earth

(By “popular” request, a version of Thursday’s post without anagrams.  Messages both public and private seemed to indicate that perhaps not everybody finds anagrams as amusing as I do.)

Yes, it was again late in the eve of another Saturday and we were still hanging out in Ost Guruth, warming up with a little music while trying to avoid the gaze of the ever-disrobing Frideric the Elder.

And in the usual course of things I went over to The Fat Lue to see what new songs had been added since our last adventure.

I was quite happy to find a two part version of White Rabbit, a classic of the Jefferson Airplane.

We occupied ourselves with that for a bit, then tried a version of Hazy Shade of Winter.

Music in Ost Guruth

Though written by Paul Simon, I always associate the song with The Bangles. (I had a friend in college who took one course merely because there was a girl who looked like Susanna Hoffs in the class.)

We played for a bit while waiting for Enaldie to make her way up to Ost Guruth and for Earlthecat to log on. He was logged into Skype, but didn’t seem to be inclined to make an appearance in Middle-earth.

That was a shame, because we had some high adventure in mind. Adventure of the sort that Stargrace mentioned recently, of a sort where you end up heading some place you have no business being at your level. We would just have to do it sans Earlthecat.

So the line up for the night was:

  • Garfinkel – level 29 elf Minstrel
  • Sigwerd – level 30 human Champion
  • Enaldie – level 30 elf Rune Keeper

with a special guest appearance by one of my alts:

  • Nomu – level 28 dwarf Guardian

We were going to head out of the Lone Lands for a bit, as each of us had a crafting quest to go after.

Crafting in the game is surprisingly relevant and useful, at least on the group level (I do not have the patience to try to make money at it at the Auction House), but to really make the best stuff you have to stretch out beyond the crafting in your current level range and get access to the tier above you. That unlocks the ability to get critical successes when crafting in your own level range.

And that meant, for us, a pack of level 40 crafting quests to conquer in zones comfortably above out current levels.

On the danger side, we would be threading our way through areas where the mob ran from level 35-40. But on the plus side, in LOTRO at least, as a group mobs 8-10 levels above you are surmountable, as long as they are taken individually. Adds are death.

The first course was east from Ost Guruth in the Lone Lands and into the Trollshaws. Therein lay the goals for a level 40 cooking quest that both Garfinkel and Sigwerd needed as well as a level 40 metalsmith quest that Nomu needed to advance his armor crafting skill.

We decided to do the cooking quest first. The target, a boar (of course) of extraordinary magnitude, lay beyond the Ford of Bruinen in the Giant Valley that is off to one side of the High Moor.

Getting to the Ford of Bruinen was not a big problem. We stuck to the main road, diverting only to pick up the stable master route at Thorenhad.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, unlike in the books, crossing the Ford of Bruinen only puts you in more danger, not less. The path up the far side is patrolled by bears, lynx, and giant mosquito-like flying insects that look like they could drain a hobbit dry with a single prod of their… blood sucking… prod… thingy.

We had to dismount and fight our way up into the High Moor, one fuzzy creature at a time.

Once securely in the High Moor, we had to scout out the Giant Valley, for only therein lay the porcine pal with whom we had come to play. It was not too far off the main path. But danger lay in the Giant Valley.

First there were the giant signature level lizards, who were around level 40. Signature is somewhere between solo and elite. Possible to take on, but tougher than the standard mob. We worked our way carefully around them. Carefully and successfully. Did they reduce the aggro radius of mobs in the game when it went free to play? I seem to be skirting danger more successfully since that change.

And then there were the elite dragons. We gave them a very wide berth when possible, diminished aggro radius or not.

We were able to find our way, and soon the message went out, “Sighted Swine, Sank Same.”

Carving Up Porky

The pig was butchered, producing just enough meat to fulfill the quest needs of both Sigwerd and Garfinkel.

A boar has at least two flanks, right?

We then retraced our steps back out of the Giant Valley.

Already in the High Moor, we decided we should take the opportunity to visit Rivendell.  We could hardly pass up the chance to visit the home of Elrond and Glorfindel. Surely you recall Glorfindel, who faced the Balrog at the fall of Gondolin and who himself fell, but later returned after some time in the Halls of Mandos in Valinor. I mean, there can’t be two Glorfindels, right? He’s got to be the same one.

So through the rest of the High Moor we rode until we reached Rivendel. (Imladris, in the elven tongue.)

Behold, Rivendell!

There we stopped for a short time, looked around a bit, got our bearings, then headed to the stable master.

Does the same guy do all these maps?

Our first ever visit to Rivendell was short.  We had tasks still to accomplish. It was time to ride back to Thorenhad.

Through The Woods Again

Once there, I logged out Sigwerd and brought in Nomu.

The quest for Nomu involved wights up in Nan Tornaeth, in the north part of Trollshaws. To reach that, we had to take some narrow paths, so there was no sneaking around things. As with the path from the Ford of Bruinen to the High Moor, it was a creature by creature slog.

We reached the area of the wights and spotted one immediately. This level 38 shade put up a tough fight, and it was Enaldie’s huge damage output that saved the day. Nomu was able to hold aggro, but only just. But our victory was hollow. The item Nomu needed did not drop. The crafting quest drops are usually close to 100%, but not this one it seems. We would need another wight.

The next one we spotted was level 40. Given the tough fight the last one put up, we were a bit cautious. We made sure we had buffs going, then headed in.

The two levels, putting the wight 12 levels above Nomu, was telling. Nomu landed very few blows, and since a lot of his aggro management relies on connecting with his shield, the wheels started to come off the situation. Garfinkel tasted defeat and the wight was advancing on Enaldie who was putting out a veritable storm of magic while Nomu tried to get the attention of the wight.

Hardcore Wight

Two taunts in a row hit and the wight turned on Nomu. Meanwhile, Garfinkel revived and rejoined the fight. The wight was slain and the item for the quest was recovered.

That left only the quest of Enaldie, which was over in Trestlebridge. We decided that recalling to Bree was in order.

Nomu retired for the evening and Sigwerd came out again as we rode up to Trestlebridge.

There Enaldie found that her quest was rather simple. It was not the quest to access the next tier, which takes place up near Angmar, but just the quest for superior workbench access. We’ve seen that one before, where you gather some wood down in the river below Trestlebridge and then patch up the bridge. I did that quest with Terentia a while back.

So while Enaldie collected wood, Garfinkel and Sigwerd went back to music, playing a little Blues Brother.  Gimme Some Lovin’ didn’t sound quite right, but we were only playing two out of the three parts.

Which One Is Elwood?

Once Enaldie was done, we rode on to Esteldin, which is home to the crafting hall with superior workbenches. It is also one of the most convenient crafting halls in the game as it has a vault keeper and a mail box close to hand.

There, I closed up the night with a solo version of Margaritaville, which actually drew in a few role players.

Take Us Out Sigwerd!

And that was about it.  I didn’t even get to make fun of our pal Radagast.

Next week, iambic pentameter!

Oh, and maybe how the game looks on the new machine with DX11 and such.

We’ll see if Turbine has anything about which to brag.

Weathertop with a New Lineup

Saturday night found the regular Middle-earth group back in the game.

I had missed out the previous Saturday because… well… I was too damn tired to stay up late.  Getting older ceased to be fun about 20 years ago.

Anyway, while I was away… well, while I was asleep… Earl, Enaldie, and Garfinkel ran around the Lone Lands a bit and killed spiders.  If you know the Lone Lands, you know what I’m talking about.

This past week though, it was time for a change up.

I should learn my lesson.  As with the the original set of instance group characters, I chose a rogue-like class, a Burglar in this case, and found it not really in line with my play style.  And, as with the original set of characters, I ended up substituting in a heavy metal melee class character instead.

Back with the original group, Blintz was my rogue, but he was replaced by Vikund my paladin around level 40.  And while we occasionally missed not having somebody along with the lockpick skill, Vikund went on to greater glory, hitting level 80 with the group, while Blintz still languishes around level 40.

Now it was time for Roderigo to go.

Replacing him was my champion, Sigwerd.  Another nordic name, another heavy armor wearing melee class.

 

Sigwerd - Man Champion

 

The champion seems to be the closest match to the retribution pally when it comes to LOTRO classes, being melee dps focused with some good area attacks and able to take a punch.

Plus, we all know how much I love the champion’s skill icons!

So the lineup for the night was:

  • Earlthecat – level 26 dwarf Guardian
  • Garfinkel – level 27 elf Minstrel
  • Sigwerd – level 28 human Champion
  • Enaldie – level 28 elf Rune Keeper

And we thought it was about time we headed back to Weathertop.

The last time we tried to help Candaith sort out things on Amon Sul, it did not go so well.  Heck, it didn’t go so well in the skirmish version either.

Now though, we had a few more levels.  So it was off to Candaith’s camp, which is a happening place on a Saturday night lately.

 

Candaith's Watering Hole

 

We took the quest, Retaking Weathertop, to help move us along in the epic quest line.  We were sadly behind in that regard.  It was a bit of luck that Sigwerd happened to be at just that point in the quest line as well.  So we met up with Candaith at the base of Weathertop.

 

Questing in the Rain

 

It is a good thing that Sigwerd had something akin to a real cloak, as it was suddenly raining in the Weather Hills and you hate for your armor to get rusty.

We followed the usual path up, let Candaith run off and do his thing, met up with him at the summit where he claimed he sprained his ankle or had rabies or some such.  Anyway, he couldn’t join us for the final battle.

And a battle it was.  While we were now above level, this is still an instance for a full fellowship of six players, and there was only four of us.

We ended up getting a little too spread out, which makes it tough on the tank to keep aggro when something gets past.  With the final troll, things started coming apart.  Sigwerd and Garfinkel felt the sting of defeat.

But Earl and Enaldie held on and managed to defeat the troll and pull off a victory.

 

Defeat and Victory

 

Candaith gave us a golf clap and sent us on our way with a one-way ticket to the Forsaken Inn.  He was so eager to get rid of us that he let us use his extra fast horse.  No doubt he was embarrassed by his part in the final battle.

There we were directed back up to Ost Guruth.  It was a good thing that we all now have the fast mount from the LOTRO Store.

 

Cross country in the Lone Lands

 

There we had to meet the possibly mad Radagast the Brown.  He has possibly one of the most expressive faces in the game… but it seems to express something to do with mental unbalance.

 

The White Hand stole the strawberry ice cream!

 

Radagast, along with half of Ost Guruth, had a little mission for us.  It was off to the north in the midst of the undead.  That area has a set of quests, most of which are flagged as solo, but which are much better done in a group.  So we tore into the undead, slew them with abandon, surmounted their highest point, and got our wight supremacy merit badges.

 

Soon not a corpse had a nose to call its own!

 

And of course, the bagpipes came out.  We had to go the extra mile to taunt the undead it seems.

That done, we were left with what Potshot calls the Bear/Boar/Wolf problem, wherein we have to go decimate the local fauna to satisfy the whim or larder stocking needs of some random yokel.  This time it was various bear parts, various warg parts, and gore crow eyes.  Those last are considered a delicacy in Evendim I hear.

We even headed over to smite some spiders, since it was found that Sigwerd was deficient in his spider slaying.  Enaldie called it a night before we got stuck into the spiders, and it wasn’t too long before Sigwerd was caught up and we were loitering around Ost Guruth playing Riders on the Storm and Istanbul (Not Constantinople) on a corner hoping to collect some spare change from the locals.  Bunch of tightwads, really.

 

Busking in Ost Guruth

 

And that was about all of Middle-earth we had in us for the night.  Next week we’ll see what else Radagast has in store for us.

Into The Tasty Center of the Lone Lands

Meanwhile, back in pre-Free-to-Play LOTRO last weekend, the instance group was still in the Lone Lands.  The four of us on were:

  • Earlthecat – level 21 dwarf Guardian
  • Roderigo – levl 23 human Burglar
  • Garfinkel – level 24 elf Minstrel
  • Enaldie – level 25 elf Rune Keeper

We had to travel back to Bree and then to the Forsaken Inn from Esteldin, where we had left off previously after our horse purchase.

At the Forsaken Inn, we had to head deeper into the Lone Lands to the second quest giver encampment.  There we really started our work in earnest for the Eglain.

The quests were a series of collect so many items, kill so many bad guys, pick up so many drops that are the standard fare for MMOs.  This set happened to be well tuned for a group, for while all of the quests were marked solo, there are a few in there that are pretty risky unless you are in a group.

And so we tramped about the the center of the Lone Lands, a place that reminds some of us in the group of the central coastal area of California, scenery you see if you take Highway 101 south to LA.

Did we just pass Salinas?

The quest path took us through a stronghold of the Dourhands, where we defeated their leader.  This also helped us along with one of the memorable (in a bad way) quests in the area, the one where you collect Dourhand axes, which seem to be unpredictably rare drops at times.  And it moved Earl along with Enmity of the Dourhands, which yields the great dwarf attack, head-butt.  Great as in a great animation.

We also discovered a door in the stronghold that lead us out to another key quest location, Iorvinas.

It's the big rock with the door in it

Iorvinas had been added in since we last ran through the Lone Lands as a group.  It consists of a an underground area where the Dourhands are apparently cooperating with the orcs, meaning there are plenty of both to fight.

Inside Iorvinas

The geography of Iorvinas stretches the imagination a bit.  The distance between the two doors that lead into the underground seem a lot further apart on the surface than they do underground.  But the area is well done and it is good to do as a group, as the bad guys are clumped and wander around so it is very easy to get in over your head if you are solo.

We suffered our only defeat of the night in Iorvinas due to an accidental proximity pull.  We were less in over our heads than we were simply not used to keeping an eye on our morale.  Earl, especially, as the lowest level and the tank hadn’t had to pop an athelas potion so far and was defeated in this fight.  The rest of us managed to finish off the bad guys, but it was a reminder that we need to keep up with things.

Many Dourhands were slain.  We finished up the quests down there, but had to keep killing Dourhands for another 15 minutes or so until everybody had all 24 of their Dourhand axes.

Then it was off to the half-orc encampment, stopping to slay some lynx on the way.  They are apparently “good eating.”

At the half-orc camp we were there to… well… kill half-orcs and their leader in particular… but also there to clean up any piles of junk of mis-laid crates of goods.

More crates over there

We did have the usual Saturday night problem here.  Another group had rolled into the camp just ahead of us, so we spent some time hanging about waiting for orcs, junk piles, and crates to respawn.

In a classic LOTRO slow quest update scenario, in the fight with the boss and his minions, where you needed to kill five specific mobs, they each counted for two different quests.  After the fight, there was a shout of, “Hey, I only got three of the minions” in the group because the updates were rolling in on screen so slowly.  They do, of course, update in the chat window immediately, but when a fight is done for a bit and you finally get the 3 of 4 message, one can take it the wrong way.

Then it was time to retrace our steps back to the various quest givers.  We were then pointed towards the next bastion of the Lone Lands, Ost Guruth.

Ost Guruth as seen from Highway 101

We rode there, picked up the stable master route, collected some quests, then called it a night as far as adventuring was concerned.  We all still had to head back to our trainers and such, since we all gained a level or two.

The most ominous skill learned had to be Garfinkel’s new ability to play the bagpipes.

Shall I play "Scotland the Brave" again?

As the saying goes, centuries ago the Irish introduced the Scots to the bagpipes… and the Scots still haven’t gotten the joke.  (source: Dave Allen)

And thus ended our last instance group night in Middle-earth before the change over to Free-to-Play.

This coming Saturday we will have some new options to explore.  Skirmishes are now open to levels 20 and up, so we might try that.  Or we might just go insane listening to the OOC channel around Bree, which is already lighting up like Barrens chat on a Saturday night.

Or maybe the whole thing will crash with the onrush of new players.  We’ll see on Saturday night.

A Sweep of the Lower Lone Lands

After the previous weekend’s failure at Weathertop, we decided it was time to work on getting a few levels before attempting to move on with the epic quest line again.  With four of us looking at a 6 person event, we need to get well ahead of it in levels before we go back.

The whole team was out on Saturday night:

  • Earlthecat – level 19 dwarf Guardian
  • Roderigo – levl 21 human Burglar
  • Garfinkel – level 23 elf Minstrel
  • Enaldie – level 24 elf Rune Keeper

And we were headed to the Forsaken Inn.

Smoking outside the Inn

The Forsaken Inn has developed into a serious quest hub over the life of the game.  There is a pile of quests there, all of which are flagged as solo.  You get to kill the ubiquitous boars as well as wolves, wargs, and goblins.

You get to slay many goblins.  There are several overlapping goblin quests, a couple of which are repeatable and which give trade skill item rewards.  And while, as I said, they are all marked as solo, there are a few on the list that are pretty tricky without some help.

The first task at hand was to root through some sort of Annorian junk yard which, conveniently enough, is overrun with wargs and wolves, knocking off a couple of lupines with a single stone.

Then, just next door, is a further set of ruins that has been overrun by goblins.  This is one of the areas in which one should take care is going in solo.  You have to delve fairly deep into the ruins to collect all the missing trade bundles that Anlaf has sent you after, and it is quite easy to get adds if you are not careful, especially from goblins that are above or below your location.

However, this was Saturday night and two other groups had swept through the ruins just ahead of us, so there wasn’t much in the way of drama for us.

Goblin free ruins

We did manage to find enough goblins to finish off all of the “kill goblins” quests we had, so it was back to the Forsaken Inn for the second round.

The second round sends you off to a goblin encampment which, like the ruins, is conveniently located for patrons of the Inn.

Like the ruins as well, there are lots of goblins and wargs wandering the area, which can make things tricky if you are solo.  As a group however, things are pretty smooth.

We made a circle of the camp, poisoning the goblin food supply as we went, until we made our way to the center ring of tents.

In that circle we were to face a named goblin, Luz, as well as find a human who had been captured by the goblins.

Unfortunately, both seemed to be otherwise engaged when we arrived.  So we waited.

Fire + Pipes = Role Play

We had actually seen the human captive, Pengail, go off with a dwarf who rushed past us to get to him.  The dwarf was level 21 and, judging from his morale bar, had just attempted and failed this quest.  He went on to fail it again while we were in the area.  Rushing past a group to grab a quest rather than asking to join up and do it together is a decision a player makes.  We respected his desire to do the quest solo and let him go off to defeat by himself yet again.

The line-up for the quest mob is one of those open world items that MMOs just fail on.  When ever somebody is ranting away against instancing in any form in MMOs, this is the first thing that pops into my mind.

Luz showed up while we were waiting.  In fact, he showed up three times.  More things you have to deal with in an MMO.  We slew him on purpose the first time, then by accident twice more.  We tried not to hog the quest mob, but he pops right there in the camp next to Pengail.

Pengail did, eventually show up.  We returned his amulet to him then asked if he wanted to, you know, stop being a captive.

Of course, like most people being rescued, he seemed a lot less interested in getting the hell out of the goblin camp and a lot more interested in figuring out where he left his keys and wallet.  And sword.  He wanted his sword.

So we followed him around as we walked through each clump of tents in the goblin camp, showing the same sense of self-preservation that escort quests mobs have been showing for ages now.

But Pengail goes it one better.  One you find his sword… or his father’s sword… the blood lust is upon him and rather than just high-tailing it, he has to go wreak vengeance upon the goblins.

Pengail Attacks!

We chased him around… literally… until he finally reached the road, having gone after every goblin in sight.  I guess when you have backup, you become brave.  Eventually though, he thanked us and went on his way.  And we went on ours back to the Forsaken Inn.

By this point, Earl had already hit level 21.  We decided it was time to go look into a horse.

Earl had saved up enough silver to buy his Bree pony, which goes for 220 silver pieces.  He did have to forgo training two skills.  Fortunately, the Bree pony does not require the whole riding quest scenario that the level 35 horse does, so we made it to the horse fields and Earl was soon astride his pony.

Bree mounts for all

After that, we were mostly done for the evening.  We did talk a while about game mechanics and went over the whole traits and virtues thing with Earl, at which point we felt we needed to visit a bard.

We headed off to Trestlebridge, it being the nearest town, only to find there is no bard there.  At least there was none that we could find.  So, being already in the North Downs, we rode out to Esteldin, picking up the stable master points along the way.

Riding to Esteldin

There we were able to find a bard, train up traits, and call it a night.

Next, on the last Saturday night before free-to-play goes live, we will probably head deeper into the Lone Lands.

Loitering in the Weather Hills

We had what is essentially the whole available team online and together in Middle-earth on Saturday night.

Our group for the night was:

  • Earlthecat – level 17 dwarf Guardian
  • Roderigo – levl 20 human Burglar
  • Garfinkel – level 22 elf Minstrel
  • Enaldie – level 23 elf Rune Keeper

Due to absences and alts, we have managed to get ourselves a bit spread out with regard to levels.  While LOTRO is somewhat self-correcting in this regard, lower level characters get more exp for the same, quest both in absolute terms and relative to their exp needed for the next level, than higher levels characters, having a six level gap over four players would prove to be trying.

I did have a suit of armor for Earl and a new weapon ready when he hit 18, which he did pretty quickly, so he was at least equipped as well as we could manage.

Before the topic of what to do came up, somebody said they were headed to Saeradan’s cabin.  We followed that lead and started in on Volume I, Book 2 of the epic quest line.

At Saeradan's Cabin

That first quest in the book 2 line used to be one of the more annoying redirects in the game.  You are in Bree and are told to go out into the North Bree Fields to Saeradan’s Cabin.  Saeradan then tells you to head to Candaith’s camp.

Candaith’s camp is in a remote corner of the Lone Lands, quite a long walk/ride from Saeradan.

To compensate for this, Saeradan is now a limited availability stable master as well as a quest giver.  When you have the quest that sends you to Candaith’s camp you can speak to Saeradan and get a lift.

Riding the horse to Candaith’s camp is considerably faster than walking, but it still takes a few minutes.  Well all adjourned for snacks and bathroom breaks while our horses carried us on.

Riding To Candaith's Camp

The riding route is not only shorter, but probably not a viable choice to walk at our level.  There are some hazards.

A pack of wolves in the Weather Hills

At Candaith’s camp, we had little problem dealing with his initial requests.

Kill some orcs.  No problem there!

Kill some craban and collect their eyes.  Eeew.  Plus each craban had four eyes.  Odd birds.

Kill the orc messenger. Does every fantasy game have to have at least one “kill the orc messenger” quest?  Is this a rule?

Assault an orc camp, kill their lead, steal their plans.  Loads of fun for the whole family!

The gate is open... is anybody home?

Scout the pinnacle of Weathertop.  Always nice to see the sights.

And then we got to the sticking point of the evening.  Retaking Weathertop.

Not a job for the four of us, not at our levels.

Sure, we had all gained a level or two since we set out, but this is a quest that needs a full fellowship of six, and we were but four.

Still, we were out there, the evening was still young, and it was a long hike to get to any other alternative activities, so we decided to give it a try.

Of course, as soon as we got there, it began to rain.

And Earl is wearing his brand new armor too...

The first stage involves one of the grand MMORPG traditions, the escort quest with the suicidally insane target.  It is like being Teddy Roosevelt’s secret service detachment, the guy just keeps charging up the hill after the goblin in the back row.

I realize that the code is a compromise when it comes to these things, but Candaith behaves bat-shit crazy at times.  The best, and probably safest moment for us, was when for some reason, Candaith went into orbit around Enaldie, circling her in a frenzy of movement until we rested up and moved forward.  Too much espresso or something for the ranger.

Eventually we got Candaith safely to the point where he goes one way and the rest of us go another.  No more escorting the nut case.  It was just a matter of killing off a couple of named guys, then meeting our ranger buddy at the summit.  We could handle that.

Up the hill

Getting to climb Weathertop is one of the many great points of the game for people who are fans of the lore.  We talked about how we imagined Weathertop to look.

When I read the books for the first time some 30 years ago, I never pictured Weathertop to be so big.  But then I did not get the real feeling for the Numenorian need to overcompensate on a grand scale… and apparently stimulate their economy through massive defense and public works projects… until I finally managed to struggle through the Silmarillion years later.  That book starts slower than Braveheart.

Anyway, we made it to the top to find Candaith waiting for us.  Only now Mr. Run-Ahead-and-Aggro-Everything seemed to have a change of heart.  He claimed to be wounded, though his limp seemed to change sides as he spoke, and said that he would cover us while we went in and took care of the rest of the mission.

Candaith weasels as the enemy musters

We stared at him, waiting for the “just kidding.”  But no, he was serious.

He said he would take care of anything that got past us.  We stared.

We attempt to move Candaith through peer pressure

But he wasn’t coming along.  It was up to us.

And so we gave it a shot.

We died…  erm… We were defeated.

Stone Trolled Again

It wasn’t a total, instant wipe.  It seemed like we might be able to get a handle on the fight if only we could just get things to roll our way.  But we never could.  Aggro would be lost, adds would go after the healer, crowd control would get broken, or that damn troll would just get a big crit and stomp somebody into a pulp.

We tried a few variations, but we just didn’t have enough oomph to finish off the event.  So when Garfinkel’s equipment started to go red in the paper doll, we called it a night.  (Pity the poor healer.)

In the end, we probably should have opted for one of our other choices from the previous week, finishing off the Barrow Downs or starting in on the Lone Lands quests around the Forsaken Inn.

We will need a few more levels before we run up the hill with Candaith again.