Tag Archives: LOTRO Legendary

Book XV Denouement in Eriador

Book XV is the final final act of Volume I of the epic quest line Lord of the Rings Online.  Getting past it wraps up the tale of the game before the Mines of Moria is unlocked.

They’re just making up their own legends at this point

We left off previously with Amarthiel defeated, deprived of the ring Narchuil, the lesser ring that corrupter her, and forced to watch her father, who had strove so hard over these last few books in order to save his daughter, struck down before her.

Mordirith awarded the ring to Mordrambor and they both left, confident in their victory.

There on the ground the narrator told us that Amarthiel was taken into custody, which ended Book XIV.

Book XV starts off with Elrond ordering an investigation of Amarthiel, who has decided to return to her original name Narmeleth, to see whether or not she poses a threat to the free peoples.  This got delegated down the Rivendell hierarchy until it landed back in my lap.

The first thing was to go out and speak with her at her prison in Delossad, where she had been held by her father previously… so lots of good memories there… and possibly where she murdered and took the guise of Sara Oakheart.

Setup for the final book

That sets you on a course through the next few chapters of investigating and reliving formative points, including when Antheron… Sauron in a fair disguise, name changed from Annatar probably due to Turbine not holding the rights to works outside of the trilogy… tempts her to the dark side by offering to teach her to make wonderful things.

Oversell much?

Feanor made the silmarils, the jewels which captured the light of the two trees, Laurelin and Telperion, which were deemed the greatest work of craft by the elves, the theft of which was the root cause of the problems of the Third Age.

Given that, I’m not sure a ring would really be beyond the imagination of Fearnor.  And while it is within every salesperson to shade the truth, you’d think one of the Noldor, the kin of Fearnor might smell a rat in that.  But given that they forged all those rings of power, maybe not.  Elves.

The highlight of this set of investigative and marginally informative interludes is that even the devs seemed to have realized by that point that making you run, ride, or recall all over Eriador was really getting old, so the quest chain actually teleports you around.  You accept some of the quests, like the one telling you to report in at Esteldin, and you just get sent there.

You still have to go do the ground work, find people, count noses, pick up a broken sword from a grave… I wasn’t aware that there would be so much broken gear and grave robbery when I signed up for this gig… but at least the whole series cut back on the whole need to travel to talk to somebody who will then send you off to do the actual task thing.

This all winds up with you and Narmeleth being sent off to defeat Mordrambor, destroy Narchuil, and throw down Mordirith, lest they overrun Eriador in the name of Sauron.

My thought on the plan was along the lines of, “Didn’t we get our asses handed to us by this duo a couple of times already, even when Narmeleth/Amarthiel had the ring helping her?”  I mean, our ace in the hole was the broken blade of the sword that didn’t slay Mordirith back in Book 8.  How it that going to work out well?  But you go where the plot dictates, so I followed Narmeleth into Gador Gularan.

Narmeleth at least dropped the “must walk very slowly” trait she used when in the guise of Sara Oakheart.  I will give her that.  But one of the elements of this instance was keeping her alive and, in the grand style of LOTRO escort quests, she showed all the usual subtly in passing through danger… which means she couldn’t have drawn more aggro if she had walked into an Orc bar in Mordor clad in her elven finery and took a whizz on the symbol of the unblinking eye.

Keeping her alive was a chore, as she chose to run headlong into every room like a tank in a WoW Dungeon Finder group, intent on grabbing ALL the aggro right away.  Fortunately, as a guardian, I can pull aggro back, but she seemed intent on swapping to target the mob I had the least hold on so as to beat on it until she got aggro back.

And to top that off, her speedy gait… literally running to the next fight at times… meant that she was headed into danger with half health as well.  This must be a painful instance with a hunter or a burglar.

Still, I managed to shepherd her through the preliminaries despite her death wish, only to have her drop the usual NPC bombshell when the big fight looms.

Wait, after all that you’re not going to get close to him?

Playing “the ring might still have a power over me” card, Narmeleth said she would be there ringside for the fight, but there would be no tapping her in.

There was a bit of good news to go with this however.

Wait, how many of us do you see?  How many fingers am I holding up?

For the square off against Mordrambor apparently only one member of your fellowship is supposed to get in there and fight him.  This was good news, to me at least, since doing this solo I had been buffed up to have the strength of a whole fellowship in a single dwarf.  In the classic Sir Robin, “That’s easy!” frame of mind I dove into the battle.

Fighting Mordrambor wasn’t really a chore.  With the buffs, and being a guardian, I was handling him pretty well.  Only after a while did I realize what the rest of your fellowship is supposed to be doing while one of you fights Mordrambor; protect Narmeleth.

I suddenly realized that her health bar was extremely low.  Fighting with my back to her I hadn’t noticed that she had attracted some mobs and was literally standing in the fire, quietly dying.  I ran back to her and cleared off the attackers, but her health bar was dangerously low.  After that I had to shuttle back and forth between her and Mordrambor.  But her health was too low to last, and soon disaster struck.

Me either… say something next time!  Also, get out of the damn fire!

So it was back to the start again.

This time, knowing her style, I immediately ran ahead to grab mobs before she got in the room, saving myself a lot of hassle in trying to rescue her every time the cave got wide enough for some orcs to hang out.

We faced Mordrambor again.  This time I positioned myself to fight him while watching her, running back and forth as needed.

I’m watching you… don’t stand in the fire!

Mordrambor just stays in his spot when you run back to her, which seemed pretty sporting of him.  It would have been easy for him to just stick me in the back while I was attending to other issues.

Forewarned of the dynamics, Mordrambor was defeated.  Narmeleth took the ring from him and, after the usual reminiscing over the power the ring gave her, tossed it into the molten pool, destroying it.

That left Mordirith.

He was deeper in Gador Gularan and, when we arrived, acted the smug host saying that our arrival was not unexpected.  The usual villain puffery.  And so we got stuck into fighting him.  His trick for the battle was to summon up people from past chapters in an effort to throw Narmeleth.  But that wasn’t going to throw me.

Slay Sara Oakheart? Dare I live the Middle-earth dream?

Those multiplied in number with each round, though the individual illusions grew weaker as they were split, so five Laerdans were no more difficult than three Sara Oakhearts.

Talk about your daddy issues!

After that played out… who was he going to use after Laerdan… Narmeleth called out Mordirith to come and face her like a… whatever he is… and he didn’t, knocking her down, stunning me, and taking control of the camera to keep it focused on him.  And then he proceeded to monologue.

Gloating villain mistake… soon you’ll be telling her your plans

During this whole speech the character models interact in a very odd way, with Narmeleth’s head lolling about, eyes open and an awkward look on her face, as Mordirith seems to move her about like he is rubbing her head on his torso.  I realize that it is just that the models… and human bodies… just don’t bend that way gracefully, but I have to admit I found it a bit distracting.

This ends in the expected way, with the delay letting Narmeleth rally while the content of the monologue only enrages her, letting her anger and determination combine so that when he starts making fun of her father she strikes.

In with the red currents!

She sticks him with the sword and he is reported as “thrown into the void… never to return” as Narmeleth lays there.  She declares that her time no Middle-earth is ending as well and asks me not to weep, though by this point I think she is delirious and mistaking relief with sorrow.

After that it was back to rewind up the chain of command, back to Elrond, who gives you an epilogue task that has you rooting around Laerdan’s room for a package he has left for you.  That awards you a cosmetic cloak, a mount, some legendary item experience (wasted, since I don’t have one yet), a portrait of Narmeleth to hang in your house (also wasted, as LOTRO housing does not appeal to me), and a title to commemorate your deed.

Champion of Eriador

And so it goes.

At that point I had pretty much accomplished what I had set out to do on the legendary server.  As with any run through content I’ve done before… some of it many times when it comes to LOTRO… I managed to go through some old favorites while seeing some bits I had not done before.

I had some idea about doing an alt or two through the original content as well, but at this point I am feeling more like taking a bit of a break.  I played pretty regularly over the last three month, logging in nightly to play over the first eight weeks at least.  That tapered off some towards the end as the end of the epic quest line came within sight.

I might go back and finish off some lower level deeds as the month goes by, but I doubt LOTRO will rank as high in my play time this month as it did last.

The main question is probably whether I will return for the unlocking of The Mines of Moria, currently slated for “March-ish.”  That is in doubt.  Most of my affection for LOTRO lays in the first fifty levels.  I don’t dislike Moria, but neither do I yearn for it or the annoyance of the legendary item system.  And beyond Moria there isn’t much to pull me.  I found Mirkwood a bore, its dark tedium a barrier between me and any further content.

But the main issue is that come March we will be getting into the EverQuest 20th anniversary events, and there is a distinct possibility that my focus will lay there rather than in Middle-earth.

So we shall see where I end up come the end of the month I suppose.

To the Ring Forges of Eregion

Eregion shouldn’t be there.  It shouldn’t be in the LOTRO Legendary server yet.  I shouldn’t be able to access it.

We’ll just stick with Legendary I think

As a zone, it was not part of the original launch content, or even a post-launch addition like Evendim and Forochel.  Eregion came in with the Mines of Moria expansion in early 2009.  It is the starter zone for Moria, the warm up that sets your location relative to the fellowship of the ring as well as the place where you pick up your legendary weapon so you can start that endless grind.

Not that the fellowship is all that hard to follow…

Also, as you progress through the zone, you start getting quests where the reward is experience for that millstone about your neck, your legendary weapon.  Only you can’t get one of those yet, so doing those quests are something of a waste.

Anyway, if you are keeping a list of all the ways that the LOTRO Legendary has included things that weren’t there at launch… and that must be a very long list by this point… you can add Eregion to it.

On the flip side, it would be hard to keep Eregion out.  Since SSG was determined to keep the effort as low as possible for this server, Eregion pretty much had to stay in because you can walk there if you so desire.  So, short of having a different map for the server… and I don’t think the patcher is up to even that level of complication, given how it seems to need to take its shoes off to count to twenty some days… we were just going to have to deal with Eregion being part of the first chapter of the server.

Eregion is also a bridge zone, a link between what happened in the original Shadows of Angmar content and what was to come in Mines of Moria.  It is where you prepare for your new life under ground.  It is also where the hand-off between Volume I and Volume II occurs, so I suppose it isn’t a stretch to argue it ought to be there.  You need to go there in order to finish up Volume I in any case.

And so it was that I launched into Book XIV of the epic quest line.  This book doesn’t center around a single zone, but rather sends you out again on a grand tour of various locations in Eriador.  We have the two halves of the ring Narchuil, so now we have to find out what happens next, all of which starts with Laerdan.

So, what’s it going to be Laerdan?

There is much running about across the landscape and a series of instances that tell what happened between Laerdan and his daughter Narmeleth, possessed by Amarthiel (and who can appear as here… or Sara Oakheart… as needs require) that I am sure would take years of therapy for either of them to work through all of what happened.

Questioning daddy before an audience

Trying to play nice, before getting rough

The whole thing is drawn out too far and makes you play as other characters with different abilities from time to time, something that always gets on my nerves when over-used.  You even have to run around and wake up sleeping orcs with a good, swift kick at one point, which might remind you of early quests in Durotar.

Eventually though it is off to Eregion, to the ring forges found there where the one ring… edit: nope, not the one ring… its companions (the three, seven, and nine), and an unknown number of lesser rings (including Narchuil) were made.

Map of Eregion

That all comes together at the instance at Tham Mirdain, down near Mirobel, in the southwest corner of the zone.  As before, this is a fellowship sized instance which, if you attempt it solo, you get a buff that makes you powerful enough to master it.

The instance is straightforward enough.  If you take on each group around an area it will save you some bother as they’ll all come to help if you go straight for the obvious main NPC there abouts.

In the end I made it through and found myself facing Amarthiel.  But Narchuil had already been reforged and she now wore it.

Pretty much the story of this whole quest line so far

She kindly offers to let me be the first to die to her new toy when Mordrambor, who has been running around after the ring himself shows up.  He also seems pretty confident that he holds the upper hand despite Amarthiel having the ring.  He has a backer, some power in his corner now, some heavy ammunition in his camp, but he isn’t saying who quite yet.

Interrogation is not her strong suite, let me tell you

And then we find out as Mordirith, who I thought Golodir and I had defeated back at the end of Volume I, Book VIII in Carn Dum deep in Angmar.  Reports of his death, however, were greatly exaggerated.

The trio re-united in Eregion… Mord has a dragon mount now!

To cut to the basics, this was all a ruse to test Amarthiel.  She failed, Mordrambor is awarded the ring by Mordirith.  Amarthiel is rightly pissed and tries to defy Mordirith, which works out about as expected.

Mage fight! Mage Fight!

It was kind of like the duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort… only they are both evil and you’re probably screwed no matter who wins.

The power of the Nazgul prevails and Amarthiel lays broken and sobbing on the ground as Mordrambor takes the ring from her.  And then Laerdan shows up, because this is the grand finale I guess, and promptly gets himself smote by Mordrambor because he called Mordirith by his middle-school nickname or something.

And so the scene ends.  Mordirith flies off on his dragon.  Mordrambor disappears… I guess the ring gave him that power, as previously he had to exit scenes on his own two legs.  Laerdan is… well… not dead.  Elves don’t die, being tied to the fate of Arda for all time, so he could come back.  But his current body was laying there lifeless. And Amarthiel is just sprawled on the ground, her plans undone.  The narrator says you capture her, but that is played off screen.

And that was it for Book XIV.  Just one more book to go to finish out Volume I of the epic quest line.

The Ride Across Forochel

At the end of Volume I Book XII the cut scene intoned that the other half of the ring Narchuil, the current focus of the epic quest line, was somewhere in Forochel.

If it involves this server, it gets this graphic

However, the narrator pronounced as though it was spelled “for oh hell,” which was odd because I had always thought it was “for oh shell” or maybe “for oh chill.”  But that is what happens when you see a word written for many years without anybody saying it aloud I suppose.  And the same cut scene also pronounced “Narchuil” as “nar hu will” so I guess the silent “c” is a thing.  I only remember the hard “c” from the appendix when applied to names like “Cirdan” and “Celeborn.”

While I have been to Forochel before and have run a lot of the quests there, that was quite a while ago. Like, back in 2011. But I have a screen shot to prove I was there.

What I had forgotten was how big the zone is.  And the maps in the game do not really convey size very well, as they are all the same size in the game and do not have a scale listed.

An older Forochel map from the wiki because it is cleaner

Seriously, Forochel is a deceptively large piece of real estate relative to other zones. I rode into Forochel from Evendim, which was not that long of a ride. Book XIII, chapter 2 sends you to the first Lossoth encampment, Kauppa-kohta. There you check in, only to be sent on to Suri-kyla, the capital of the Lossoth people, to speak to the chieftain. I could ride on my own or pop a mithril coin for the stable master to get me to the next stop. Having a pile of mithril coins still, I opted to just ride, heading to the next stable master down the road and… that took a while.

Kauppa-kohta to Pynti-peldot took nearly five and a half minutes, stable master to stable master.

Pynti-peldot to Suri-kyla, my actual destination, was a further five minute ride, stable master to stable master.

To put that into perspective, going from the Foresaken Inn to Ost Guruth in the Lone Lands takes three and a third minutes. I would estimate that is about 75% of the length of the zone, so the whole of the Lone Lands end to end ought to be about a four and a half minute ride.

So the distance between stops in Forochel are pretty much the length of the Lone Lands.  You could basically fit the Lone Lands in between Kauppa-kohta to Pynti-peldot. Yes, the rides are not exactly as the crow flies, but then the road through the Lone Lands does a bit of twisting at the end as well.

And then where you need to go eventually is Kuru-leiri, which is way around on the other side of the bay… and you can’t just go all Evendim and swim there because the frozen water will defeat you… another case where defeat stands in for death… which means you need to make another ride back to Pynti-peldot and then a further ride to Zigilgund, something that closes in on ten minutes of riding again, and which still leaves you a fair walk from your destination.

Or you can spend a mithril coin and use the swift travel Kuru-leiri. Except that once you get to Kuru-leiri you cannot get the stable master stop. That requires you to finish a quest back at Suri-kyla which, in the usual kick in the nuts approach that the Turbine team seemed to prefer back in the day, the quest requires you to go all the way over to just shy of Kuru-leiri, do a few things, the go all the way back to Suri-kyla before you can get the stable master. Book XIII sends you over that way repeatidly, so you really want that stable master, and while I could just toss mithril coins at the problem, I feel the need to paraphrase the punchline to an old joke by saying, “Darling, do you think I’m made of mithril coins?”

Anyway, now that I have beaten that to death, suffice to say that I spent more time traveling back and forth than I would have preferred.  I’ll just sum it up in map form.

Your direct travel options in Forochel

This, of course, points out a problem I always have.  While the game is trying to tell me this epic tale, a series of background tasks that helped make the victory over Sauron possible, I am always more interested in my own story, the odd situations, and the petty inconveniences I have to face along the way, and riding all over Forochel makes that list.

Snow zones…

Seriously, I try to imagine the books written to conform to how some of these quest chains run.  What if the fellowship of the ring had to run back to Rivendell and consult with Elrond every third event.  Oh, the Redhorn Gate is snowed in, better ask Elrond.  Damn, the door to Moria is locked, better ask Elrond.  Hrmm, Gandalf is dead, everybody back to Rivendell for a consult.

But there I was in the snow, looking for the other half of the lesser ring Narchuil and hoping not to have to report back to Rivendell any time soon.

With the revelation that the remaining bit of the ring was in Forochel the usual cast of characters seemed destined to follow on.  First on the scene was Mordrambor, agent of Angmar, and special guest star in the epic quest line since Book X and the running about in Evendim.  He showed up to throw his weight around in the usual way.

Yeah, yeah, defy Angmar and face the whatever

Given that my fate so far has been that of glorified messenger between various NPCs, the locals ought to be wary of sharing it.

After doing various tasks to gain the favor and trust of the Lossoth eventually Saija consented to lead me to the missing ring.  This is another instance that was supposed to be fellowship only, but which you get the now usual buff in order to handle it solo.

And the end of the instance Mordrambor shows up, because of course he does, and Saija opts out on fighting him, so I am there to face him alone.

He obviously isn’t familiar with the mechanics of LOTRO

But first, of course, we have to have the monologue about the futility of my task.

This is your elevator pitch, isn’t it?

Then we fight.  With all the buffs and a decent rotation I am wearing him down, when suddenly Amarthiel appears, stuns me, and squares off against Mordrambor.  How many ways into this place are there?  Did we have to take the long way?

At this point my failure to pay close attention to the story starts to show, since I am a bit hazy on why these two are fighting again.  I get it, they both want the ring.  But don’t they essentially play for the same team?  I mean, Mordrambor is there declaring himself a servant to the Great Eye and Amarthiel was just on the palantir to Mordor to speak to his Eyeness not so far back in the tale.  I guess this is more of an office politics thing on the dark side.

Mordrambor, for all his talk, isn’t keen to stick around, though he leaves on an implied promise of a return visit.

You’ve not seen the last of me!

Amarthiel also departed, leaving me alive and/or undefeated this time.  Why? I don’t know.  But there I am and there is an ancient chest to hand… because nobody every stores things in a recently built chest.

Inside I found… uh…

Fragment? What does that mean?

At that point I was done with the instance and, as far as the epic quest line was concerned, done with Forochel for the moment.  The next step was, as expected, a run back to Rivendell to consult with Elrond.

I didn’t jump right on that however.  Elrond is a patient man… elf… half elf I guess.  I had done enough to get pretty well along with my reputation with the locals.  This was a bit of a surprise since you start with a factional deficit.   However, the mobs in the zone drop lots of trinkets that, when consumed, raise your reputation, so I was able to get the Lossoth to kindred without a ton of effort.  I was a bit disappointed that their mount wasn’t a moose or something, but I’ll take a tundra pony in a pinch.

That done, I headed back to Rivendell to tell my tale.  There I learned that “fragment” meant “the other half” and that basically all of Narchuil had been secured.  Laerdan was all giddy to get on the road to Erigon, where the rings were forged during the second age of Middle-earth, and get to work putting Narchuil back together.  And so it seemed that I might be headed to Eregion at last, the final zone in the pre-Moria content.

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.

The Angmar Shuffle

Having entered Angmar and gotten the stable master stop in Gath Forthnir, I was ready to continue on with the epic quest line.  Getting to Gath Forthnir was the first chapter for that.  From there on it was a lot of running around.

Legendary quest line time

The basic plan involves getting Lorniel into Carn Dum in order to find her father, Golodir, a ranger in Angmar who has gone missing.  This is setup in chapters 3 through 6 which sends you to Rivendell to speak to Elrond, then to Thorin’s Gate to speak to Dwalin.  The dwarves need to forge a key to Carn Dum, but of course Dwalin’s smithy doesn’t have all the parts, so you have to go to Michel Delving and Archet in order to pick up pieces.  Then it is back to Thorin’s Gate to make the key, with a side trip to Skorgrim’s Tomb, before finally heading back to Gath Forthnir to tell Lorniel you have the key.  I would dearly love to find out the burglar class gets to skip all of that by simply picking the lock, but I suspect that wouldn’t pass muster.  Surprisingly, after riding across all of Eriador, she still remembers who you are when you finally return.

Sorry I’ve been gone for what must have been months

All of that gets you on the way to the Carn Dum instance where you must escort Lorniel and keep her safe as she searches for her father.

We’re going to Carn Dum

Like many of the quests in the epic line, this one has been change to give you a special boost to allow you to do it solo.

And so you use the key and enter Carn Dum and follow Lorniel as she runs directly into danger.  So it goes with escort quests.  I actually failed at the very end of the instance when I wasn’t able to pull aggro off of her at one point and she was defeated.  So I had to do the instance all over again.

Whatever.  With that boost at least I could kill the trolls in Carn Dum, which helped me move a deed along.  The second time I was more careful.  You get an opportunity to run ahead at one point at clear the path, so you don’t face so many mobs at once.  And so we made it to the end of the instance to face Mordirith.

Wait, what others? I’m the only one here.

And, of course, Mordirith slays Lorniel, because irony demanded it I suppose.  I worked so hard to get her there safe and this is what I get.

Yeah, thanks man

But I did get Golodir back.  That finished up Book 7 and led into Book 8 which, as you might guess, involves Golodir going back to get Mordirith.  But not before another set of collections.

Not that Golodir was having it to start with.  In his misery he sent me off to Laerdan who had a plan… a plan that involved me finding yet more trinkets.  I was off to Barad Gularan out in Nan Gurth for another repo job.  Golodir’s gear was being held and I was tasked to get it.

I have to admit that Barad Gularan is one of the more badass locations in Middle-earth.  Admittedly, I haven’t been to Mordor yet, but this place is pretty neat.  It is a set of towers that you have to approach individually via various winding paths and bridges.

Barad Gularan from one side

The screen shots don’t really do it justice.

Barad Gularan around the other side

The trick here is that this area was set up for raid groups.  At least I assume it was set up for raid groups, since elite master mobs are wandering around near the base of the whole thing so if you take the wrong path you can end up in a world of hurt.

I don’t even know what an Elite Master mob really is

You have to find Golodir’s sword, shirt, and shield, each of which is behind a door up one of the paths to the tower.  The key is that each is held by a different type of mob (hill man, goblin, and dwarf), so you can tell you’re on the right path when you spot those mobs.  Follow them up the path to the door, behind which is the instance where you get to defeat the champion of each.

I’ll take what’s behind the red door I guess…

Each encounter has its own mechanic, which seems easy enough to figure out.  The buff you get makes you more than powerful enough.  So I was able to best each of them and collect all of Golodir’s missing gear.

Outside of the Goblin door there is a quest.  Dirdre wants you to release her and escort her to safety.

This is going to be an escort quest, isn’t it?

However, since the first thing she did upon being released was run straight into a mass of goblins, I left her to her fate.  She wasn’t on my list of things to acquire.

Back in Gath Forthnir it was found that the gear needed some sprucing up before we gave it to Golodir, so I was back on my horse to visit various locations in Eriador.  It turns out there is no one-stop repair shop for gear, so it was Esteldin for the mail shirt and the shield, then Rivendell to get an elf to work on the sword.

I’m not sure dunking it in there will help

With all the gear now looking good we were able to revive Golodir’s spirits and get him out of his room and on his way to challenge Mordirith.  And so we were off into the palace within Carn Dum.  Golodir had a warning as we arrived.

Yeah, I’m on it

Mordirith’s main plan seemed to be to monologue us into defeat.  That and to toss some of his minions at us in every room as we advanced to the main chamber.  So it went, quip, kill, quip, kill, until we arrived in the big room.

Look, are you going to fight us or what?

There, in the throne room, before the dais on which sat his throne, we finally got stuck into Mordirith.  Again, there is a mechanic to the battle that is pretty simple to figure out once the event is on.  You cannot damage Mordirith until Golodir does his special thing, so you just kite the big guy around until he is vulnerable and they lay into him with all you’ve got while you have the chance.

Mordirith doesn’t hit too hard, but the level of dread is high… and I didn’t have anything besides the good old Glass of Aglaral to counter act that… special edition for the win I guess… so my hit points were essentially cut in half.  That was enough that I had to get on my bicycle and stay out of range so the solo buff would heal me up some.

Mordirith continues to talk and sends visions of Lorniel out to torment Golodir, but it is to no avail.  We have his number and soon enough he realizes the jig is up.

Golodir, he’s behind you

There was a bit more dialog as Mordirith assured us that he was down but not wholly defeated before he fled.  Then the fight was done and I was wandering around, taking a few screen shots of the throne room and wiping my backside on the tapestries of Angmar.

Pretty sweet setup Mordirith had here

Golodir had the flaming ring above his head, which I assumed was just going to be the end of the instance, let’s go home part of the event.  But when I interacted with him, rather than the usual cheers all around, he announced that the east gate of the throne room had opened.

Indeed it had.

And who should walk in through the gate but Sara freaking Oakheart.

Enter Sara stage right

I did a search and found that I have not mentioned Sara Oakheart on the blog.  I feel remiss in that, since she is the prime reason to roll up any race besides that of man.  In the epic quest prologue out of Bree called The Hideout, she is the target of an escort quest.  As usual, she won’t leave until she has fetched some nick nack taken from her, a stick in this case.  Everybody is always so worried about their possessions when you’re trying to save them.

But the big deal about her is that she may be the slowest escort target ever in the history of fantasy MMORPGs.  The mobs arrayed to stop her escape are practically tapping their feet and fidgeting with impatience waiting for her to make her way to them.  She is practically legendary in her slowness and stands as a measure against which all other escort quests measured.

I go on about Pengail in the Lone Lands or Lalia in the Barrow Downs, but creeping along with Sara Oakheart is the real misery.  Even Dirdre up the page here, she may have headed straight into a mob of goblins, but at least she was quick about it.

She also, oddly enough, appears in the Elf/Dwarf prologue, but you don’t have to escort her.  She is just a captive of the goblins… seems to like being a captive I guess… and thanks you for releasing her.  Then she grabs he stick and goes while you deal with Skorgrim.

So color me surprised to have her suddenly show up at the end of the instance.  I feel like I must not have been paying attention.  And then double down on that surprise when she stuns us then runs… actually gets up and moves in a way one wished for back when doing that damn escort quest… and steals the palantir from the throne room and scampers off.

Did I not mention the palantir?  Yeah, Mordirith had one.  It was his bat phone to Mordor and he used it to torment Golodir with visions.  It came up a few times, but wasn’t exactly key to the events… until Sara Oakheart stole it.

But now the instance was done, though Golodir had a few words of dread to dispense.

Ever would really be too soon in my book, but I guess now it will be

But at least Mordirith had been thrown down.  That was it for Angmar I suppose.  It was certainly the end for the initial set of epic quests.  With the end of that I had finished the deed for Volume  I of the epic quest line.

Epic Deed Complete

At that point I already had the prologue and opening for Volume II in my quest log.  That features the fellowship of the ring packing up in Rivendell to head out towards Moria.

But I also received the forward to Volume I, Book 9, and that had Sara Oakheart written all over it.

The Shadows of Angmar

Angmar has a problem in that the level 40 to 50 content in Lord of the Rings Online, incomplete though it might have been at launch, now suffers from some overlap.

As with the situation between the Trollshaws and Evendim, if you commit to the other zones in the same level range as Angmar, which goes up against Forochel and the Misty Mountains to start with, you may find yourself above level before you even arrive in the zone.  On a standard server, where the experience is much more generous, and Moria is in the offing, Eregion might be where you head instead, as it also overlaps with the high end of the 40-50 range, allowing you to bypass Angmar altogether.

Into some legends this time…

Angmar also suffers from its position in the actual story line of the books, which is to say it is pretty much outside of the books save for the occasional historical reference by the likes of Aragorn.  There are no memories from the core books of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to relive there, no landmarks to spot, no adventures to relive.  Who wants to go to Angmar when Moria awaits?

On the flip side, the game’s initial title was The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, making Angmar arguably the raison d’etre of the first 50 levels.  It is your goal, your final destination, the end game content of the pre-expansion era of LOTRO.

The funny thing is how little time I’ve spent there over the last dozen years.  It is on the far side of Rivendell which, as I mentioned, is a place few of my characters have managed to approach over the years.  I also think, as I said with Goblin Town, it used to be more focused on group content.  Certainly the epic quest line was a fellowship only affair.  So, with the Misty Mountains closer to Rivendell, Forochel more inviting, and Eregion on the direct path to Moria, I have managed to avoid most of Angmar.

This time around though I was intent on getting through the epic quest line, and that sends you to Angmar, so it was off to Angmar I went.

Arriving in Angmar

I was a bit disappointed on arriving at the first stop in the zone, Aughaire.  Having run myself up to just shy of level 46 in Goblin Town I found myself considerably ahead of the curve when it came to quests out of there.  They started in at level 40, way below my level.  This leads me back to a working theory I have had about the original design of the game.  I suspect that somebody felt that having players run from zone to zone, doing a few quests in here then a few quests there, was somehow a desirable state of affairs.

That may work for some, but I prefer to settle into a zone and play it through.

Also on the disappointment side of things was the fact that there was no swift travel option from Aughaire to Esteldin or Rivendell.  If you get sent on a “Go check in with Elrond” quest… and, of course you get sent on those… the ride back to Esteldin is guaranteed to test your patience.

Angmar as a zone is different from much of the game up to that point.  You’re now in a land that is a suzerainty of Mordor and has been for a long time.  There are no silly hobbits hanging around or reminders of the time of elves and abandon works of the men of Numenor.  The place is a colorless as the Borean Tundra and as spiky as the Blades Edge Mountains with some Stratholme like architecture thrown in for kicks.

Seriously, is this not the Borean Tundra?

The sky is an odd shade as well.

And outpost in Angmar

This is Mordor junior and, while it may be a dark gray shadow of that black land, it is the local focus of evil so when you cut your way through its denizens you’re stabbing at the groin of evil in the region.

The environmental sounds in the zone however are most excellent.

Not having done much in Angmar, I was determined to buckle down and see the sites no matter how many times I had to go back to Rivendell for and advise and consent session.  So you run around slaying plenty of orcs and wargs and men who have sworn allegiance to Angmar.  Oddly though, one of the deeds you get is to slay actual citizens of Angmar who, at first, are pretty sparse on the ground.

The quests were of the normal variety for the game, with the some variation.

Angmarian Jumping Puzzle

I started running into more and more of a bias towards fellowship quests in the mix along the way.  I finished up what I could and followed the epic quest line to the next settlement, Gabilshathur.

Gabilshathur is a niche in rock populated by dwarves who, like the earth-kin in Aughaire, seem mostly interested in setting you to clean up the countryside.  My patience with the fetching lost items and slaying ten of this mob or collecting the gizzards of a dozen of another was starting to wear thin.  I decided to just follow the epic quest line for a bit, a plan that quickly took me to Gath Forthnir in the north of the zone.

Map of Angmar with additional notation

There, of course, I found myself a little in over my head.  I had made it to 47 by this point, but the quests and mobs were closer to 50.  Also, I couldn’t get the stable master stop at the encampment until I had raised my faction with the Council of the North, the local Free People’s franchise in Angmar.

Travel Requirements

This put me back on the “do all the quests” path though, again, fellowship quests were popping up a lot.  Something about it being an end game zone I am sure.

Also, you’d think I’d get something for the kinship I’m in

Fortunately, while the quest lines were not advancing my reputation very much, the local mobs tend to drop lots of tokens that can be consumed for Council of the North reputation.  I just had to take care.  In addition to the whole fellowship quest thing the land had more than its share of elite trolls wandering around.  For the most part I steered clear of them, though occasionally things didn’t go as planned.

Just have to keep running…

Soon enough I was acquaintance level with the Council of the North, so I was able to get the stable master stop.  I was going to need it because the epic quest line had a lot of running about in store for me.

Down Down to Goblin Town

While the holidays and other distractions broke up my daily play streak on the Lord of the Rings Online legendary server, it didn’t break my stride completely.  I did manage to find the time and inclination to get back into Middle-earth at various points.

We’ll just stick with Legendary I think

I left off last time in the Misty Mountains, the snowy highlands north of Rivendell.  I was complaining a bit about the needed to ride all the way back to check in with Elrond every fourth or fifth quest, and I will continue to do so here.  It seems that moving forward from Gloin’s camp near the entrance of the zone merely extends the chain of check-ins you need to get when anything of even mild importance comes up.  You end up checking in with Gloin first, who then refers you once more to Elrond, who nods his head and stamps you quest log then sends you back to Gloin who sends you back to where you started.

After running back and forth across the zone a few times, in between expeditions to each corner of the zone, often in a bit of a haze, I got another “Go speak with Gloin” quest, so rode back to his encampment.  Only, once there, he didn’t want to speak to me.  I had to go back and read the quest text, which I had skipped having seen the oft visited destination, to find that Gloin defies space and time by existing in two locations at once in the Misty Mountains.  There is a dearth of Inns and such in the zone, so they couldn’t hide him behind locked doors.

The Misty Mountains Map, me in Gloin’s encampment

His second manifestation in the zone is at a little camp up at the north west end of the North High Pass area, past the goblin camps out in the snow.

Gloin’s outpost with a bigger tent

There he had a new destination for me, Goblin Town.

Goblin Town is just yards from his little encampment, which made me wonder a bit why Gloin didn’t just wander over and do some of those tasks he set me himself.  I found the documents he was looking for on the first Goblin inside the door.  But that isn’t the way of the quest giver.  So it was I who would be penetrating into Goblin Town.

Just another cave, don’t let your imagination show you something else

Goblin Town is both true to what was described in The Hobbit and not.  It is a winding maze of underground passages in which one can easily become lost, filled with goblins and ramshackle structures.  On the other hand, it is surprisingly well lit and spacious.  I realize that these were supposed to be natural caves that the goblins took over, but the whole thing is very uniform in appearance.

Some very big caves

I’ve been to Goblin Town before, but it has been a long time.  I noted in passing back in 2011 that the place was all signature mobs that came in groups so it was a very tough place to go solo at level.  Also, there is no deed in the Misty Mountains for slaying goblins, which is really strange given the presence of Goblin Town.  Whatever.

Since that mention the dev team seemed to have something of a change of heart about Goblin Town.  The goblins strewn about the place, and their warg companions, are all normal mobs now.  Named mobs, which you need for quests now and then, are still signature mobs, as are some special guests, like trolls.  But, otherwise, the whole thing has been dialed back a bit so you can go at it solo without being defeated every third pull.

I decided that I should run as much of the Goblin Town quest chain as I could manage.  This would be new territory for me and, since I rather suspect this might be my final run at the game, this was an opportunity that I should not let pass.

Some of the initial quests were pretty easy.  Kill some goblins, get a drop, scout a place, go back to Gloin and report.  I managed all of that pretty well just wandering the caves on my own.  However, things soon develop into things like, find a specific place, talk to a specific captive, slay a named creature, and such.  I was soon wandering about the place lost.  In addition to being well lit and spacious, Goblin Town has about as much asset variation as the background of a running scene in a 60s Hannah-Barbara cartoon.  Every cave looks the same.  Sometimes the goblin mob names change, but not that often.  All the stairs and platforms and bridges use the same models.

And, to add on to all of that, the whole place is multi-level, so even as I went around trying to fill in the in-game map, I was getting lost and didn’t seem to have much chance of finding specific locations.

Fortunately, we live in the age of informational miracles and there is always somebody on the internet who has done the work for you for such things.  So over on the LOTRO Wiki there is a map of Goblin Town that has the various sections of it marked with items and individuals of interest.  I bookmarked that map and saved off a copy just in case.

The map isn’t perfect.  As I mentioned, Goblin Town is multi-level in layout and the map is strictly 2D, so it really doesn’t give you a sense of how a given area might be laid out.  You see multiple exits from the big rectangular areas, but some are up steps of down below the room.  One of the area you end up going to multiple times is the slave pens, which looks like an open cavern on the map.

Slave Pens area map

What isn’t well illustrated is that it is multiple levels deep and the various loops represent ramps up and down the site.  The map, which was assembled from the various in-game maps, has hints.  You can see bridges and open areas.  But you really don’t know what you’re facing until you get there.

The full map also gives you a sense of the size of Goblin Town.  It isn’t exactly Goblin Moria, but there is a lot more there than I expected.  I mean, Thorin and Gadalf got through the place with just a dozen dwarves and a hobbit for support in not much time at all.

The slave pens are something of a quest hub within Goblin Town, along with Gloin’s camp just outside.  As such you end up running back and forth to both locations after finding things or slaying individuals or groups.  And, of course, at one point you end up having to go all the way back to Elrond just one more time to get his deep insight on some bit of trivia.  I started spending some mithril coins to avoid long travel times after a bit.  You got me SSG.  You found the threshold of my impatience, the point and which I’ll spend a mithril coin just to avoid yet another round trip out of Goblin Town and back in.

Eventually I started wrapping up the various quest chains, with the slave pens ending on the expected yet dreaded escort quest.  I had to get Aeglas out of Goblin Town it seemed and I didn’t know how this was going to play out.  Was this going to be the slow torture of Sara Oakheart?  The aggressive zealousness of Pengail?  Or some new twist on the quirks of escort NPCs?

Okay Aeglas, let’s see what you’ve got

As it turned out, Aeglas mostly has his act together.  There are a few stops along the way, but he isn’t obsessed with his father’s sword or some trinket that sits in a box situated behind half the goblins in the zone.  Getting him free about finished off what I could accomplish in the Misty Mountains.

There were some quests left, but they were all group quests.

My quest log entries for the Misty Mountains

And while I have been pretty good about being able to find ad hoc partners to get through some areas, there didn’t seem to be anybody to hand ready to go after these.  The one non-group quest is just an introduction to Forochel.  Another one, in case I ignored the one I got when I was Evendim… which I did ignor.

Goblin Town also was enough to get me to kindred level with Rivendell, as many faction boosting banners and trinkets drop there.

What also drops a lot in Goblin Town is lock boxes.

A bit of loot

I think I picked up a total of three lock boxes… or lootboxes if you prefer the in-game name… between setting out on the server and arriving in Goblin Town.  Once in Goblin Town I picked up at least two dozen more.  I ended up deleting them for the most part.  The keys to open them do not drop with similar abandon and the price of keys in the cash shop is more than I care to spend.  You could run through your LOTRO Points pretty quickly buying keys for every box you found.

So that left me just shy of level 46 and ready to move on.  While I have a couple of invites to Forochel now, I think the next stop will be Angmar, as that is where the epic quest line wants to send me.