Tag Archives: The Great Barrow

Adventures with An Unwanted Guest

If you have not played Lord of the Rings Online, you might not know that there are a variety of different quest types in the game.

There are, of course, the standard help the locals quests, what they call the regional quests.  You show up in town or at somebody’s camp site and somebody wants you to help them out by killing ten rats.  Or boars.

I think I have only been asked to kill rats once, in the Barrow Downs.  But boars, every zone seems to have its boar infestation issue.  In fact, after Terentia hit the Trollshaws and got the inevitable “kill boars” quest almost immediately, I started rewriting in my head the old song Smoke Two Joints to reflect the apparent situation in Middle-earth.

Here is what I have so far:

I kill 10 boars in the morning.
I kill 10 boars at night.
I kill 10 boars in the afternoon, for the meat that’s white
I kill 10 boars in time of peace, and 10 in time war
I kill 10 boars before I kill 10 boars,
and then I kill 10 more

But I digress.

In addition to the standard quests, you also get class quests every 10 levels that give you a new trait and generally a nice piece of equipment.  And there are crafting quest, some of which help you advance your abilities to the next tier, and others which reward you with faction or crafting supplies.

And, amongst there there are fellowship (group) quests and even raid quests.

Then, finally, there is the epic quest line.

This is the line of quests that follows the plot of Tolkien’s tale and gives you a part in the war against Sauron and the quest to destroy the one ring.  The quests in that line are divided into Volumes, which contain a given number of  books, each of which is divided into a number of chapters.  Book 1, for example, has a forward and 13 chapters, each of which represents a quest.

This is the differentiator for LOTRO.  This is, along with the three basic game play pillars common to MMOs, combat, exploration and character progression, is the fourth pillar in the equation.  This is the story element.

Wait.  Where have I read that before?

Anyway, this is the thread that winds through the game.  You do not get to be in the fellowship of the ring, but you can play a supporting role and take on the many side tasks that went unmentioned in the books.

What’s that?  You want to be the hero?  The star?  The warrior king tanking the Lich Witch King?  Sorry, that game is down in Irvine.  This game knows there is no “I” in “Fellowship.”

And the plan for the instance group in Middle-earth is to follow the eipc quest line.  We will certainly do other things, but that is going to be our guiding thread as well.

So on Saturday night, we were all ready to begin Volume 1, Book 1.

We had all done the epic prologue quests, which are specific to different racial starting areas, but which all, in the end, lead you to the Prancing Pony in Bree to speak with Barliman Butterbur.

Our fellowship for the night, standing there in the common room of the Prancing Pony, was:

  • Roderigo – level 14 Burglar
  • Enaldie – level 15 Elf Rune Keeper
  • Garfinkel – level 15 Elf Minstrel
  • Rarik – level 16 Dwarf Champion

While Earl couldn’t make it this week, we did pick up Rarik (also known as Meclin or Gaff) who got our of his pod in New Eden and joined us in Middle-earth.

The book starts at the Prancing Pony and our first task was to go and speak to the Unwanted Guest at the Prancing Pony, Strider.  He was there in his room waiting for Frodo to show up.  But there was more brewing between around Bree.  We first had to help Strider with find Amdir, a ranger who had come under the power of the Nazgul.

That actually takes place in an instance and wraps up the prologue quest line around Bree, which focuses on Amdir.

In the instance we faced several of the Nazgul.

Paralyzed with dread

They left us for Amdir to deal with while they went to continue their search for the ring.

Without his new Nazgul friends though, Amdir did not stand a chance.

Sorry Amdir

After that, we followed the quests in the lands between Bree and Buckland, meeting up with other rangers and even Fredegar Bolger in Crickhollow.  Eventually we ended up at the home of Tom Bombadil.

Tom Bombadil - Jacket Blue, Boots Yellow

Tom, in his Bombadillian fashion, sent us after a few odd items, water lilies and such, before getting around to the task at hand.

The Willow in the Old Forrest

Tom finally came to the real task, at which point we ran into a problem.

While the experience over these quests had been very good, Roderigo had just hit 14 before we started the evening and was already half way into 15, we all needed to be 16 to get this next quest.  So we took a side trip to the Barrow Downs.

There is a lump of quest givers on the path between Tom’s house and the Barrow Downs.  We picked up all of their quests and headed in.  We’d all been through the Barrow Downs before, so there was a common feeling in the group.

It certainly does Lalia...

This approach turned out to be serious over-kill.  Roderigo hit 16 while we were still working on the quests and was half way to 17 once we turned them all in.

Like I said, the experience was good.  And in LOTRO, when you are in a group… erm, fellowship… they don’t divide the experience from each kill by the number of group members.  You get the full experience you would if you were solo.

Thus leveled up, Tom was happy to send us along to… the Great Barrow!

Well, the version of the Great Barrow used for this particular quest.  It is something of a starter version of the Great Barrow, and while this quest is flagged as a small fellowship quest (3 players) I have done it solo a few times with well equipped characters.

It is a story telling event, though at the end you face Sambrog the Wight Lord who is seemingly undefeatable.  And then Tom shows up again, banishes Sambrog and leads you all out of the instance.

Uh, why did you need us then?

Done with Tom’s tasks, we were directed back to the Prancing Pony to speak with Strider.  However, when we got there, we found that Strider had left along with four hobbits from the Shire.  Gandalf had just shown up though, and was glad to speak with us.

Sit a while and listen...

And that ended Book 1.

Gandalf gave us the lead-in to Book 2, but seeing that that quest thread starts off with a level 22 quest, we might spend this upcoming Saturday night getting a few levels and perhaps looking into doing the Great Barrow for real.

In the mean time, Earl will have a bit of catching up to do.

Return to the Great Barrow

Sunday afternoon I was given an opportunity to reverse a route, to replace the sting of defeat with the thrill of victory.

18 months ago when our Saturday night instance group decided to take a trip to Middle-earth, we got kicked in the teeth when we tried our hand at the Great Barrow.

There were many things wrong with our attempt, which is documented in the post Defeat at the Great Barrow, and once we left, we never went back to that instance.

So it was with some satisfaction that I was able to return to the Great Barrow on Sunday afternoon.

I logged on with Tistann to clean up a couple of dangling quests.  Primarily I wanted to find that orc messenger that is part of the Weathertop quest chain.  I spent some time searching for him previously and failed, but was able to find him at last.

As I went to the next step of the quest, there was a group of five looking for one more person to do the last stage of the chain, Retake Weathertop, which Gaff and I had done just a month back on Windfola.

I was on the stage before that, which requires a run from Weathertop to the fields outside of Bree and back, but asked if I could join the group if they still had an empty slot when I got back.  Their leader said okay, and off I went.

I recalled to Bree, ran off to the right NPC, headed back to Bree, took a horse to the Foresaken Inn, and finally headed back across country to where I had started from.  As I approached Candaith’s camp, I asked if there was still a spot in the group.  The answer was an invite.

And as I got there, I noticed that much of the group was the same team from the Sons of Durin kinship that had been blazing a trail for me the night before outside of Trestlebridge.

We got rolling and did Weathertop about as well as you could have wanted.  I gathered from their chat that they had failed at it earlier in the day with a short fellowship, so it was doubly good that it went well for them.

After wrapping that up, somebody in the fellowship asked if anybody wanted to go do An Ancient Story of Evil.

The Great Barrow!  With a full group!

It was Sunday afternoon, my wife and daughter were out and not due back for hours, so I threw my lot in with them.

We shared out quests to make sure everybody was set then ran through the Barrow-downs, ending out run at the Great Barrow with a huge train of wights behind us.  We jumped into the instance and got ourselves squared away.

First there are the spiders.  Big spider.  Scary spiders.

Fortunately, our tank, Dorr, was scarier.

Yarr! Dorr the Pirate!

Yarr! Dorr the Pirate!

The fights through the barrow went smoothly at the start.  It was nice to be able to use some of the group support skills that the captain has.  I also got to use one of Tistann’s new level 22 skills, shield brother.  It let’s Tistann designate somebody in the party as his “shield brother” and gives Tistann an attack that, when used, raises the morale of the designated person.  Dorr, our tank, was the designated person, of course.

We pressed on, deep into the barrow.  I still like the fog effects in the zone.

Spooky Fog

Spooky Fog

The only mishap came when Tistann got out a bit ahead of the party and got himself defeated.  We were on a ledge over some wights and everybody else was just using ranged weapons to attack.  Tistann, who only has a shout for a ranged attack, jumped into the fray with his halberd and ended up with a couple of adds.

Tistann needs a longer handle on his pole arm.

We made it all the way to the fight that defeated the instance group 18 months back and handled it without issue.  We stood there with the left half of the key, the first of two quest items to obtain, in very short order.

Half a key is how much?

Half a key is how much?

Then we ran into a few issues.

Trying to work our way across the barrow to the second half of the key, we ended up in a fight way over our heads and had a wipe.  It was the wight Sambrog and his retinue.  Not a party to go into uninvited.

That at least put us back at the entrance to the instance, which actually made it easier to get to the second half of the key.

Then a member of our fellowship had to leave.  She was the other “pick up” member of the fellowship and, as happens, wasn’t planning to stay on quite so long.

So we idled for a while as we cast about for another person to fill out the final place in fellowship.

Eventually we picked up a level 30 minstrel that Dorr knew and headed out again.

We ran into some spiders along the way.  Bits of the barrow seems to respawn, but not all of it.

We pushed on fairly well, arriving in the biggest fog covered room I have seen in the barrow.  It looked like a concert venue.

When does Spinal Tap come on?

When does Spinal Tap start warming up?

The room had groups of two or three wights scattered about along with a couple of patrolling wights.  We picked off the walkers, than took the fight to each to the groups individually until we had cleared a path to the door we needed.

We walked through the door, around the corner, and wiped.

That meant another run back through the barrow.  Fortunately we managed to kill at least one of the group of wights that slammed us, so the next time around it went our way.

And then we stood looking at the wight that held the second half of the key, Thadur the Ravager, minion of misery.  Just slay him and we would be done.

Hadur was waiting for us.

Misery loves company?

Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

The fight was interesting.  You beat down Thadur until he has lost about a small chunk of his morale, then he runs away and summons some non-elite wights to tackle you.

You slay them, then he comes back fully refreshed.  You knock down about even more of his morale, and he flees again.

After a couple of rounds of this, he finally sticks it out until the bitter end.

However, I messed up our first attempt.  When we were attacking Thadur, I was usuing my usual solo routine of just laying down as much DPS as I could.  This turned out to be enough to pull aggro off the tank at a couple of points, which got Tistann defeated.

Tistann down was just enough to tip the balance against the fellowship.  One of the minstrels went down, got revived, then the other went down.  Slowly it turned into a wipe.

Nobody pointed fingers, but I knew I had screwed up the attempt.

We ran back for another attempt.

This time around, I concentrated on the shield brother attack which kept a small but steady stream of morale boosts hitting the tank and kept Tistann from pulling aggro.  With everybody focused and knowing now how the fight would play out, things went very well and soon we all held both halves of the key.

I called for everybody to line up for a victory screen shot.  This is one thing that the regular Saturday night instance group is well trained at.  This group, however, meandered and faced in all different directions as I panned the camera around, trying to get a shot.  This was the best I could get.

Victory in the Dark

Victory in the Dark

At least we’re all in the shot.

And then it was time to collect the rewards, the fruits of our labor.

For Tistann, it was a big upgrade to his weapon, a nice new halberd.

New and Old Halberd

New and Old Halberds

All the better to pull aggro off of the tank!  I’ll have to go look up what Beleriand damage is however.  Some sort of serious second age whoop-ass I hope.

Some people had to head out so our fellowship broke up.  Then it was time to see about the repair bill.

When Tistann first checked, it was 80 silver to repair.  Aiyee!

Then I realized that I needed to sell some items from my bags first.  Things you carry get damaged when you are defeated, and I did not want to repair a pile of stuff that I was just going to vendor.  So out went all of that, including the old halberd.

That got the repair bill down to 60 silver.  Still a lot to me, but better than before.

At the end of all of that, Tistann stood very close to level 23.  I am still disappionted at how little experience the elite mobs in an instance like the Great Barrow yield, relative to how difficult they are.  That still seems out of balance.

Still, the few quests and all of the mobs killed in the barrow added up to almost a level of experience.

So I ran Tistann back out to the Lone Lands, to Ost Guruth, and started in on one of the quests from there.  That got him to level 23 in short order.

So another level in Middle-earth, another step closer to Moria, some new things seen, and a honking new pole arm!

Defeat at the Great Barrow

After a month long run of at least one of us going missing for the Saturday night play time, we at last all showed up and were ready to go.

We had been talking about the Great Barrow for some time.  We all had three quests for the Great Barrow, we were now securely in the level range of all three of those quests (which are ranked levels 22, 23, and 24) and we were all together and ready to go.

We had been to the Great Barrow, or a subset there of, as part of the Book I epic quest.  That was the run which Tom Bombadil sent us on, then showed up and finished for us, demonstrating that he did not really need our help, he was just trying to keep us busy.  Whose side is he on, anyway?

While we got our posteriors handed to us several times during that run, we had all gained a couple of levels since then and felt we were up to the challenge of the full on, industrial size, Great Barrow.

And it is a great barrow indeed.  Large.  Sprawling.  Full of twisty passages.  Populated by just the sort of horrors you would expect, and a few you might not.

Facing this new challenge was the following lineup:


And that was the way our lineup looked at several points.

And, in case you’re not up on the icon/class linkage, our group, from the top, was a guardian, a captain, a hunter, and a bard.

Once in the barrow, we faced a series of elite spiders that were a couple levels below us.  They were also very disappointing when it came to experience.  In fact, the experience factor for many of the mobs in the instance was disappointing.  A level 20 elite spider was worth all of 36 exp to me, and that was with the double exp bonus.  At level 23 that is bunk exp.

And, as if to prove that they were dangerous, we ended up with five elite spiders on us not too far into the instance and got ourselves defeated for the first time of the evening.

We found other gangs of creatures to assail us once we got through the spiders.  We were jumped by large groups on non-elites.  These included worms, rats, and disembodied arms!

Believe me, nothing gets the bad puns going like being attacked by a room full of disembodied arms.


Despite the bad exp and the bad puns, the Great Barrow is quite visually interesting.  You do not get that Diablo II feeling of repeating terrain tiles, or even the World or Warcraft level of reuse. (Though I understand that after the Great Barrow, some locations look suspiciously familiar.)

I particularly like this low fog/dry ice effect in one of the hallways:


We chopped our way through the mobs as we explored the sprawling underground that is this zone.

Eventually, of course, we found our way into trouble.  Double trouble.  Trouble with the names Gaerdring and Gaerthel.


They start out nice at first, with a little speech that sounds like they are trying to sell you a barrow time share.  Then they get to the catch.


And then their nice little room turns into the killing floor.  Only, completely against our plan, we were the ones getting killed.

On the good side, only Gaerdring, a signature mob, attacks you initially.  I would guess that, once you defeat him, Gaerthel tries to get in on the fun.  That is only a guess because we never defeated Gaerdring.

We went zero for three vs. Gaerdring.

Why did we do so badly?

Once you engage him, more undead start shooting up out of the floor to attack you.  The fight was on!  Here you can see some of the extra undead, including the now inevitable creeping arms, starting to swamp us.


They were not elite, but there were enough of them to make life very hard.

We changed up our tactics with each attempt, but at no time were we even in the same area code as victory.  After the third round we were tired, mobs were beginning to respawn along the route to the killing floor, and Shooty’s pants went red, so we were done for the evening.

You just don’t want to be hanging around with pantsless elves.

So we skulked off in defeat.  Not only in defeat, but with not much to show for it except some very minor exp and some very large repair bills.

We’ll be back, once we get a couple more levels… at which point the mob exp will no doubt be infinitesimal.  That’s life in Middle-earth.