Saturday, 22 April 2017

LOTRO's 10th Anniversary

Happy 10th Anniversary LOTRO!

The scavenger hunt starts at the Party Tree

The Anniversary event runs from the 20th April to the 8th of May.

To celebrate 10 years, there are new special scavenger hunt quest chains (that may be difficult to complete for characters less than level 105 as it takes you all over Middle Earth), with some nice rewards for completing all 10 sections of each scavenger hunt.

Lower level characters can still take part in the normal Anniversary activities including fireworks at the Methel-stage in the Shire, fireworks in Bree, lost invitations in Bree, the gift-giving quest chain (Bree-land, The Shire, Thorin's Gate), the beer-fights in Thorin's Hall Festival Arena, and horse races.

There is also a new dragon themed steed (war-steed appearances also available) and matching dragon-themed cosmetic armour set to buy with Anniversary Tokens.

Steed of the Unflagging Dragon

To help you (and me) with the scavenger hunt, here are some tips on where to go. Note this is a work in progress as I complete the scavenger hunt too.

The Path of the Fellowship

Complete all ten years worth of Tales to earn 3 anniversary tokens, 3 ashenslade green dyes, 3 lórien gold dyes, and the title "Devoted to Company".

Year 1 Tales: Frodo

  • Collect Remembrances in Bilbo's Home - Hobbiton, The Shire
  • Pat Grip and Fang at Farmer Maggot's farm - near Stock, The Shire
  • Eat a meal at Tom Bombadil's House - The Old Forest, Bree-land
  • Dance on a table at the Prancing Pony - Bree, Bree-land
  • Faint at the ranger's camp near Weathertop - Candaith's Encampment, The Lone-lands
  • Talk to Frodo in Bilbo's Room - Rivendell, The Trollshaws
  • Sit on the chair at Amon Hen - near Parth Galen, East Rohan
  • Kill some Fell-wights in the Dead Marshes - Cave of the Avorrim, West Gondor
  • Collect Remembrances in Henneth Annûn - Henneth Annûn, North Ithilien 

Year 2 Tales: Sam

  • Bow to Gaffer Gamgee - Hobbiton, The Shire
  • Eavesdrop at the window in Bag End - Hobbiton, The Shire
  • Fetch a small beer for Rosie Cotton - Bywater, The Shire
  • Challenge Old Man Willow - The Old Forest, Bree-land
  • Visit Bill the Pony at the Prancing Pony - Bree, Bree-land
  • Kill some Neekerbreekers in Midgewater Marsh - Midgewater Marsh, Bree-land
  • Talk to Sam in Rivendell about Oliphaunts - Rivendell, The Trollshaws
  • Talk to Sam on Cerin Amroth in Lothlorien - Cerin Amroth, Lothlorien
  • Shake your fist at Gollum near the Anduin - Thinglad, The Great River
  • Cook a stew with 3 taters and 2 coneys (frypan provided)

Ten Years of Travels

Complete all ten years worth of travels and earn 3 anniversary tokens, 3 belegaer blue dyes, 3 lavender dyes, and the title "Wanderer of Middle Earth".

Year 1 Travels: Towering Monuments 

  • Collect 20 Remembrances from near the monuments
  • Visit the Bounder's Bounty Statue - Michel Delving, The Shire
  • Visit the Falconer's Tower - Fields of Fornost, North Downs
  • Visit the High King's Crossing - High King's Crossing, Evendim
  • Visit the Giant's Needle - The Giant Halls, The Misty Mountains
  • Visit the Gate of Shadows - Carn Dûm, Angmar
  • Visit the Dwarf-lords' Gate - The Great Delving, Moria
  • Visit the Gate of the Seven Fathers - The Flaming Deeps, Moria
  • Visit the Argonath - The East Wall, East Rohan
  • Visit the Stone of Erech - Blackroot Vale, West Gondor
  • Visit the Cross-roads - The Cross-roads, South Ithilien

Year 2 Travels: Tavern Crawl, Eriador

  • Collect 22 Remembrances from taverns (1-3 at each tavern)
  • Have a drink of ale at each tavern
  • Visit Thorin's Hall Inn - Thorin's Hall, Ered Luin
  • Visit the Bird and Baby Inn - Michel Delving, The Shire
  • Visit The Ivy Bush - Hobbiton, The Shire
  • Visit The Green Dragon - Baywater, The Shire
  • Visit The Floating Log Inn - The Frogmoors, The Shire
  • Visit The Plough and Stars - Brockenborings, The Shire
  • Visit The Golden Perch - Stock, The Shire
  • Visit The Prancing Pony - Bree, Bree-land
  • Visit The Comb and Wattle Inn - Combe, Bree-land
  • Visit The Forsaken Inn - Forsaken Inn, The Lone-lands

Ten Years of Trifles

Complete all ten years of trifles and earn 3 anniversary tokens, 3 dark clay dyes, 3 moria silver dyes, and the title "Bustling Adventurer".

Year 1 Trifles: Old Foes

  • Defeat Baugarch - Chetwood, Bree-land
  • Defeat Jagger Jack - Blackwold Headquarters, Bree-land
  • Defeat Svalfang - Svalfang's Hut, Bree-land
  • Defeat Mangemaw - Rushock Bog, The Shire
  • Defeat Skíthi Blackhand - The Grimwater, Ered Luin
  • Defeat Morrafn - Fields of Fornost, North Downs
  • Defeat Dhît - Stone-troll's Glade, The Trollshaws
  • Defeat Rothlúg - Southern High Pass, The Misty Mountains
  • Defeat Farathlúg - Talvi-mûri (NE of Kuru-leiri), Forochel

Year 2 Trifles: Reflections I

You can access these instances by completing the relevant quests or, if already completed, by visiting the appropriate Reflecting Pool.
  • Complete instance: Beneath the Greenfields - Vol. 1 Prologue (The Shire) or Michel Delving Reflecting Pool, The Shire
  • Complete instance: The Infiltrator's Surprise - Turtles in the Soup quest chain in Bree, Bree-land or Bree Reflecting Pool, Bree-land
  • Complete instance: Othrongroth - Vol. 1, Book 1 or Bree Reflecting Pool, Bree-land
  • Complete instance: Retake Weathertop - Vol. 1, Book 2 or Ost Guruth Reflecting Pool, The Lone-lands
  • Complete instance: Red-pass - Vol. 1, Book 2 or Ost Guruth Reflecting Pool, The Lone-lands
  • Complete instance: A Formal Complaint - Hob Hillbrow's quests near Dwaling, Evendim or Tinnudir Reflecting Pool, Evendim
  • Complete instance: The Tomb of Elendil - The Blade that was Broken quest chain (starts with Aragorn in Rivendell) or Tinnudir Reflecting Pool, Evendim
  • Complete instance: The Twisted Heart - Longbough's quests in The Eavespires, Evendim or Tinnudir Reflecting Pool, Evendim
  • Complete instance: Fire and Ice - Vol. 1, Book 5 or Rivendell Reflecting Pool, The Trollshaws
  • Complete instance: Mordirith's Fall - Vol. 1, Book 8 or Aughaire Reflecting Pool, Angmar

A Journey Through Middle Earth

Complete scavenger hunts from all ten years to earn 3 anniversary tokens, Armour of the Reminiscing Dragon (cosmetic armour set), Tome of the Majestic White Stag (pet), Steed of the Reminiscing Dragon (mount) and the title "Versed in Yesteryear".
  • Complete any Year 1 scavenger hunt and earn 1 anniversary token, The Stone of Erech (housing decoration), Farmer Maggot's Dog (pet) and Scrap Paper.
  • Complete any Year 2 scavenger hunt and earn 1 anniversary token, Little Old Man Willow (housing decoration), Bill the Pony (pet) and Scrap Paper.

Apparently the Year 3 scavenger hunts should be available later this week. Have fun!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Introducing the Captain: Level 1-20

Captains are melee fighters who can buff and heal their allies. They also have a herald as a companion in battle who can buff the captain as well. They are support characters that really shine in a group situation because of their buffs and versatility. They can heal, tank or dps as needed but are not as good as specialists in those roles.

Here I'll record my experience levelling as a captain from level 1 to 20, talking about skills and specs and anything else that may be useful to know.

Level 1 Woman Captain
Here's our brand new captain and some basic information about her:
  • Captains wear heavy armour
  • Primary stat is Might
  • Captains use a lot of power so Fate (which provides power regeneration) is also quite important
  • Captains are the only class that can use halberds, but can also use most one- or two-handed melee weapons
  • Starting abilities are: Battle-shout (a cry which buffs damage dealt and activates the "Battle-readied" state) and Sure Strike (a basic melee attack)

The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that gives you a two-handed sword to wield instead of the one-handed mace you start with. At level 2 you gain two new abilities: Devastating Blow (a strong melee attack that requires the Battle-readied state and reduces damage taken) and Rallying Cry (a heal-over-time ability that affects the captain and fellowship). From now on, when you defeat a mob, Rallying Cry will be more powerful and will be displayed on the auto-skillbar as a reminder to heal up after a battle.

At level 2 you get sent to the Captain trainer who wants you to practise activating the Battle-readied state using Battle-shout and following up with Devastating Blow.

At level 4 you get the Cutting Attack ability which is a bleed that causes damage over time.

Level 6 is pretty important - you can now summon your herald companion and you can choose a specialisation.

You get three abilities so you can choose which herald to summon. You can only have one active at a time and you can give them different names (right-click on their portrait to rename or dismiss herald) and even customise their appearance later on. Call to Arms: Herald of Victory summons a herald who decreases the power costs of your abilities. This may be useful on occasions where you find yourself running out of power, but ideally you would find other ways to avoid that situation (such as having enough Fate, using buff foods or potions and watching your ability usage so you don't waste power). Call to Arms: Herald of Hope summons a herald who increases your mitigations. This may be useful when you're fighting tough mobs or if you're tanking. Call to Arms: Herald of War summons a herald who increases your damage dealt. Until you get the Archer as a herald, this will generally be the most useful companion to summon.

Herald of Hope
Herald of Victory
Herald of War

You get a pet bar to give commands to your heralds. When the herald is set to Passive he just stands near you holding his banner and does nothing but provide buffs unless you tell him to. If you set him to Guard he can help defend and assist you while you fight and if you set him to Aggressive he will attack anything nearby (which can be dangerous). These three heralds are melee fighters with only basic attacks that deal minimal damage. The herald may die occasionally but you can re-summon them in combat. They may also get stuck behind an obstacle such as a wall so there is a Rally! button that will instantly transport them to you if out of combat. Heralds are considered part of your fellowship and will receive the benefits of any fellowship abilities and buffs.

Here are the different specialisations you can choose:
  1. Blue = Hands of Healing - increases your healing abilities; you gain Valiant Strike which is a melee attack that also provides a fellowship heal-over-time, and if you use Sure Strike in the Battle-readied state there is a chance of gaining the Focus buff for your fellowship which provides a heal-over-time, increases healing received and tactical mitigation and reduces attack duration.
  2. Red = Lead the Charge - increases your damage-dealing abilities; you gain Shadow's Lament which is a powerful melee attack, and if you use Sure Strike in the Battle-readied state there is a chance of gaining the Relentless Attack buff for your fellowship which increases critical rating, physical and tactical mastery and outgoing healing.
  3. Yellow = Leader of Men - increases your tanking/defensive abilities; you gain Threatening Shout which is a taunt, and if you use Sure Strike in the Battle-readied state there is a chance of gaining the On Guard buff for your fellowship which reduces damage taken and power costs.
Red is pretty good for levelling - you can still heal and have defensive buffs but the extra damage from traits will help you kill things quicker. Of course, if you feel you or your group need more healing, go for blue, or if you want to protect your group, go for yellow.

After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed and some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

At level 7 you get your first trait point to spend in your chosen specialisation. You get additional trait points every odd level from now on, as well as from some quests and deeds.

At level 8 you get two new abilities. Routing Cry is a short range AOE cry that does more damage if you have just defeated an enemy and will be displayed on your auto-skillbar. Make Haste is a fellowship sprint (+25% speed for 20 seconds) with a 2 minute cooldown.

At level 10 you gain some more abilities: Pressing Attack is a melee AOE attack that requires Battle-readied state. Blade-Brother (red spec), Song-brother (blue spec) and Watchful Shield-brother (yellow spec) are spec-specific abilities that lets you buff the stats of an ally or herald. You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled to level 100, without all the equipment slots filled and with limited abilities you will be very vulnerable, so it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience.

At level 12 you get the Withdraw skill which lets you break out of a daze, stun or knock-down on a 2 minute cooldown.

By this stage, I have started finding the cooldowns on most abilities seem rather long and you can't just go from mob to mob mowing them down - you have to wait for those cooldowns or all you can do is autoattack, which is a little annoying. The lack of ranged abilities also makes initiating combat a little more dangerous - if your Battle-shout is on cooldown then basically you have to run up to the mob and either avoid other nearby mobs or be prepared to take them on as well (and you have limited AOE abilities, some of which rely on Battle-shout with its 20 second cooldown, so you'll be mostly fighting them one by one and needing all your healing). You could send your herald in to start attacking, but they don't always have the best pathing and may pull other mobs.

At level 13 I decided to try the Retaking Pelargir Epic Battle that became available at level 10. I helped kill a few mobs but once they focused on me, I died quickly and then the NPCs got overwhelmed and died so the mission failed. I also decided to do the quests in the Cape of Belfalas housing area (there is a quest-giver in Bree near the fountain). It was a lot of running around but it was beautiful scenery, some nice housing decorations as rewards, and I made about half a level of XP.

Cape of Belfalas
Sailing off into the sunset

At level 14 you learn the Words of Courage ability to apply healing-over-time to an ally.

At level 15 you gain some passive abilities - you can now wield shields or the Captain's iconic halberd. You also get sent a letter to visit your class trainer who asks you to assist Hazel Kenton in Bree, by retrieving a badge that was stolen by the brigand Aldis Oatbearer and returning it to its rightful owner. If you haven't already done Grimbriar's quests north of Bree, they send you to the same area as the class quest so you might want to do them all at the same time.

Aldis Oatbearer at Brigand's Watch

As a reward for completing your class quest, you get a halberd and the title "Inspiration to Men".

Level 16 provides some more group utility - Muster Courage removes a debuff such as disease, fear, poison or wounds from the Captain and allies, while Motivating Speech is a fellowship buff that can be toggled on to give increased maximum morale.

At level 19 I was questing in the Barrow-downs and tried out all three specs. Blue (healing) was pretty good - there was a lot of passive healing so I barely needed to use Rallying Cry (only when fighting multiple mobs or elites) and it didn't feel much slower than in red spec. In Red (DPS) I could take on a few mobs and used Rallying Cry occasionally, but there were still some times when I was waiting for abilities to become available. Yellow (tanking) is supposed to make you tougher but I found I was taking more damage, needed a lot more healing and fights were noticeably longer so it wasn't as enjoyable.

There are no new abilities until level 20 and then you get two resurrection abilities: Escape from Darkness lets you revive an ally in-combat and Inspiriting Call lets you revive an ally out of combat. You also get some passive abilities: a critical defence bonus that reduces chance of receiving a critical hit and you can now use armaments. You can get a Simple Standard of War to go in your ranged equipment slot from the Captain trainer which increases your physical mastery and morale. Tailors can make armaments which let you change the appearance of your herald and give them armour buffs. For more information on how to customise your herald's appearance, see my guide on Captains and Custom Heralds.

Once I reached level 20 I visited the Skirmish Camp vendors and replaced most of my questing gear with upgrades. Here's how she looks at level 20:

Level 20 Woman Captain

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's DPS with no consumable buffs active over 3 minutes, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. For virtues, I had two tiers of Loyalty and one tier of Charity. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible. For all specs I had the Herald of War summoned for the buff, but set to passive so it didn't contribute any damage.

Here are my DPS results (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):
StatisticsHands of Healing (Blue)Lead the Charge (Red)Leader of Men (Yellow)
Damage11,85216,43914,249
Time2 m 20.2 s3 m 0.4 s3 m 0.1 s
Average DPS84.591.179.1
Minimum Hit393940
Average Hit777878
Maximum Hit265466436
Attacks154209183
Critical Strikes (%)22 (14.3%)29 (13.9%)24 (13.1%)
Power (%)22/1016 (2.2%)275/1016 (27.1%)487/1016 (47.9%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Battle Shout
  2. Sure Strike
  3. Devastating Blow
  4. Cutting Attack
  5. Valiant Strike
  6. Routing Cry
  1. Battle Shout
  2. Sure Strike
  3. Devastating Blow
  4. Cutting Attack
  5. Shadow's Lament
  6. Routing Cry
  1. Battle Shout
  2. Sure Strike
  3. Devastating Blow
  4. Cutting Attack
  5. Routing Cry

I had to stop the Blue spec assessment early because I ran out of power. I didn't think it would be a fair comparison to use a potion or wait for in-combat power regeneration, but I think the Average DPS gives a reasonable indication of it's potential if you can maintain your power. Red spec was also running low on power (almost down to 25%) and couldn't have kept going much longer without some help. I guess this reflects how Captains are designed more for support than sustained DPS.

My skill priorities were based on activating the Battle-readied state with Battle-shout (which can also be useful for engaging mobs from a distance),  Sure-strike provides a nice buff when in the Battle-readied state, and Devastating Blow requires the Battle-readied state to trigger the Battle-hardened buff. Then I want to get a bleed on the target with Cutting Attack so damage keeps ticking away, apply some burst damage and additional buffs with Valiant Strike/Shadow's Lament and finally, use Routing Cry when a defeat response is triggered or if there is nothing else available.

General Observations


Heralds are weak (they die easily if fighting a mob on their own) and stupid (they run straight into walls and mobs). They're like level 1 newbies, all enthusiasm but no skill yet. Give them some guidance and they can be valuable allies. Plus, it's nice to have some company, especially if you're soloing.

Potions, especially power potions, are very helpful to have on hand.

You can use Marks (Revealing Mark/Telling Mark/Noble Mark) before you enter combat.

Try to keep your buffs up and make the most of the defeat response opportunities.

Specialisations

Blue - Hands of Healing: It's great to be able to heal while dealing damage (health hardly dropped), but it's easy to run out of power. If you're having power issues, try to use Valiant Strike and Rallying Cry only when needed, and/or switch to using the Herald of Victory. Additional methods of regaining power will become available at higher levels too. Power management is the price for having so much utility (healing, damage and buffs). Overall, I think this spec has good survivability and makes you pay attention to how you play, which may help you become a better Captain.

Red - Lead the Charge: The melee DPS is so-so, but you should be able to take on a few mobs at once, with your AOE abilities, buffs, heals and your herald. A 2-handed weapon is probably best for damage output, although a sword-and-board may be useful for facing tough mobs. Overall, I think this is probably the easiest spec to level a Captain with.

Yellow - Leader of Men: Despite the defensive buffs this spec provides, I found myself taking more damage and dealing less damage with more waiting-time than in red or blue specs. While you can get a trait bonus that lets you block with a 2-handed weapon, perhaps sword-and-board would help, or perhaps this spec gets better at higher levels with more suitable gear, abilities and traits. The only good thing I could say about it was that it had no power issues. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this spec for levelling, but it may be useful in some situations.

Stats

  • Might - your main stat that increases damage and healing
  • Fate - increases power regeneration and critical strike chance
  • Morale and Vitality - increases survivability
  • Mitigations and resistances - reduces damage taken
These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for heavy armour with might and maybe some jewellery with fate. Morale is always helpful (vitality also increases morale). The best place to get mitigations and resistances at low level is probably from virtues.

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for Captains and how to get them by level 20:

VirtueActivityDeed
INNOCENCE

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
COMPASSION

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 15 quests in The Shire

Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
DISCIPLINE

(might, physical mitigation, resistance)
Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

Defeat 60 hendrovail in Ered Luin

Defeat 60 sickle-flies in Bree-land
Wolf-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Hendroval-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Sickle-fly Slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
PATIENCE

(physical mitigation, resistance, in-combat power regeneration)
Explore Dwarven settlements in Ered Luin

Retrieve spoiled pies in The Shire

Deliver mail between settlements in The Shire

Explore the ruins of Bree-land

Explore the Barrow-downs in Bree-land
Places of the Dwarves (Ered Luin)

No Place for Spoiled Pies (The Shire)

Restoring the Quick Post (The Shire)

The Ruins of Bree-land (Bree-land)

The Barrow-downs (Bree-land)

ZEAL

(morale, physical mitigation, armour)
Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
HONOUR

(resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire

Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
FIDELITY

(tactical mitigation, vitality, power)
Explore landmarks in The Shire

Explore Dourhand strongholds in Ered Luin
The Sights of the Shire (The Shire)

Scouting the Dourhands (Ered Luin)

Pros of the Captain Class

  • Versatile - can heal, DPS, tank and provide buffs
  • Has a customisable pet (herald)
  • Good survivability
  • Popular in group situations

Cons of the Captain Class

  • Limited ranged abilities
  • Not specialised (i.e. don't expect to be the best healer/tank/DPS)
  • Power management

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new captains in the comments below.

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Champion.

    Sunday, 2 April 2017

    Spring Festival and Update 20

    I love Spring Festival in LOTRO! There's so many activities and there are usually some very nice rewards. This year does not disappoint!

    One of my little hunters was delighted to see the Steed of the (Moon) Moth has pretty green and brown decorations and the Cloak of the Moth is amazing how it shimmers and changes colour as it moves!

    Steed of the (Moon) Moth - Spring Festival 2017


    Cloak of the Moth (green/purple)

    Cloak of the Moth (yellow/orange)

    The dresses are nice too, but not in the same league as the cloak. I've got what I want from Spring Festival so now it's time to check out the new zone in Mordor ...

    Update 20: Battle of the Black Gate includes a new zone The Wastes (Camp of the Host is now in The Wastes instead of North Ithilien), plus two new resource dungeons (Carchost, the Towers of the Teeth and Skoironk, the Maggot-holes) with solo and group options. The Epic story has a new episode, the raid gear from the Throne of the Dread Tower can be upgraded further, there are a couple of new recipes for each profession and there are new rewards for helping the Host of the West prepare for the Battle of the Black Gate.

    The barren Wastes
    Ruins dot the landscape
    Looking towards the Black Gate
    There are many ruins scattered across The Wastes, different types of flowers such as Bonemallow and Mournweed that yield phials of violet or golden extracts, and new resource nodes that yield scraps of Dagorlad weapons and armour, wood, cloth, onyx, artifacts, edible plants and occasionally Rangers' crafting journals that are used in new crafting recipes with a cooldown that make items to barter for reputation tokens which can be used to increase reputation with The Host of the West beyond kindred level or traded for new items and gear (including epic jewellery, shields and off-hand weapons).

    I tried the Carchost resource instance but couldn't find any resources, only orcs and bats. There were a couple of items that seemed to be part of a quest but I couldn't interact with them or find any quest-givers. Maybe I didn't explore far enough, but my initial impression is confusion as it wasn't what I expected based on previous resource instances.

    I don't really like how the zone revolves around collecting items and converting them into other items then converting those into other items that you can then use to get the items you want in the first place. It seems very convoluted and more complicated than it needs to be - there's not many quests in the zone so instead you have to grind items for something to do. I also don't really like the idea of having to earn rep beyond Kindred status - that also just increases the grindiness of the zone. Ah well, maybe they couldn't devote too much creative effort to this Update because they're working on making the Mordor expansion really good. One can hope.

    Monday, 27 February 2017

    T8 Morale Essences on the Auction House

    One of the features I miss from World of Warcraft is their API that lets people explore the data deeper. For example, there's a really useful website called The Undermine Journal which uses that data to monitor auction house prices on every server.

    LOTRO doesn't make that sort of information available but I was suddenly wondering how hard would it be to try and manually collect auction house information and would it be useful?

    I started by looking at Tier 8 Essences and was surprised at the lack of variety available - the majority by far were morale essences, so I recorded the morale essences for sale today (27 Feb 2017) on an European server (Evernight) and an American server (Arkenstone).



    Morale EssenceEU QuantityEU Market Price (Mean)US QuantityUS Market Price (Mean)
    Major1920g (32g)1125g (42g)
    Supreme34186g (231g)10158g (191g)
    Ithilien6450g (483g)24300g (343g)

    Interesting how there are less Ithilien essences on Evernight and the price is much higher than on Arkenstone. I wonder why? Do they have less people farming essences, do they prefer to sell in Trade chat or could it be due to the time or day when I checked the auction house?

    My next mission is to check prices on different days and start building up some data over time. Let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions about other products or servers I should monitor.

    Sunday, 26 February 2017

    Introducing the Burglar: Level 1-20

    Introducing Class X Series


    I love creating alts and playing through low level zones and I need some LOTRO points for my free-to-play account so I thought I would create a new character of each class, level it to 20 and describe my experience. 

    I think every class in LOTRO is interesting, but they do all have their pros and cons, and some classes or specs may suit certain situations or play-styles more than others.

    To start this series, let's look at the burglar:

    The Burglar


    The most famous burglar in LOTRO is Bilbo Baggins, who stole the precious Arkenstone gem from the dragon Smaug under the Lonely Mountain.

    Burglars are stealthy melee fighters and specialise in debuffing their enemies.

    Here I'll record my experience levelling as a burglar from level 1 to 20, talking about skills and specs and anything else that might be useful to know.

    Level 1 Hobbit Burglar

    Here's our brand new burglar and some basic information about her:
    • Wears medium armour
    • Wields daggers
    • Primary stat is Agility
    • Starting abilities are: Sneak (enter stealth mode out of combat), Surprise Strike (a strong single attack that does more damage from behind or when stealthed), Cunning Attack (a bleed attack that causes damage over time, extra if burglar was stealthed) and Subtle Stab (a basic single attack)

    The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that gives you two daggers to dual-wield. You are sent to improve your fighting skills at the Burglar Trainer, who tells you about how you can do more damage if you attack from stealth, and critical hits will also enable special follow-up attack ("Critical Hit Chain") abilities such as Double-Edged Strike (which becomes available at level 4). At level 5, when fighting level 5 Blackwolds in Archet, my typical dps from stealth was 19 and without stealth was 15.

    At level 6 you can choose a specialisation:
    1. Blue = The Gambler - increases stealth movement speed and evade chance; focuses on activating gambles (a damage over time (bleed effect) debuff on the enemy that can vary in potency depending on tier 1-6; several abilities and traits can increase the damage of gambles)
    2. Red = The Quiet Knife - increases stealth movement speed and reduces the chance of being detected; focuses on attacking from stealth or from behind, getting increased critical hits and also allows some attacks to be used when not stealthed
    3. Yellow = The Mischief-Maker - focuses on applying tricks (debuffs and crowd control) to the enemy then removing them to buff or heal the burglar

    My interpretation: blue line is all about DoTs and is probably good at sustained damage; red line has strong burst dps but relies on stealth, positioning and getting critical hits - good for grouping when they can focus on dps with lots of buffs and support; yellow line is more about crowd control and weakening the enemy and has more healing, morale and mitigations so may be useful for soloing.

    I will try all the specs but I have had the most experience with yellow line previously.

    After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed and some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

    At level 7 you gain the ability Find Footing which is a self-heal and buffs evade chance if you've been disabled by a stun, daze or knock-down. It has a 5 minute cooldown but may be a good get-out-of-trouble skill to keep handy. You also get your first trait point to spend in the specialisation you chose.

    At level 8 you gain the Riddle ability which dazes a target for 30 seconds. Good for taking one mob out of action while you deal with someone else. Could also be helpful for isolating a mob away from others or delaying a fight until your cooldowns have finished (so that they're not hurting you while all you can do is autoattack). Note that it breaks stealth and if you use Riddle on one mob in a group the others will want to attack you.

    At level 10 you gain the Touch and Go ability which buffs evade chance but doesn't require you to have been disabled first like Find Footing does. You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled to level 100, without all the equipment slots filled and with limited abilities you will be very vulnerable, so it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience (e.g. I died in two hits when I tried to join in, but when I stayed stealthed and let the NPCs do the fighting, the NPCs got overwhelmed and the event failed).

    At level 12 you get Exploit Opening which is a 5 second stun that also starts a fellowship manoeuvre if you're in a group.

    At level 14, Burgle (pickpocket mobs while stealthed) and Addle (a 20m ranged interrupt that also slows enemy casting) become available.

    Around level 13-15, you'll get several quests sending you to Bree-land, including a class quest in the mail at level 15 from the Burglar Trainer in Bree, to go visit Atherol Took at Adso's Camp.

    Atherol Took - master burglar of Bree-land

    Atherol Took has heard that some brigands are planning on raiding Farmer Maggot's mushroom farm. He wants you to stop the brigands and collect some of the mushrooms for him instead. Succeed and you'll earn the title "Thief in the Night". Try burgling some of the brigands while you're there ... I found one had a Helm of the Burglar in his pocket!

    At level 16 you get the useful ability Cure Poison which you can use on yourself or an ally. You might still want to carry some potions for removing disease and fear though.

    At level 18 you gain Safe Fall which helps you avoid falling damage - just remember to use it before you hit the ground! You also get Diversion which distracts/dazes a target for 10 seconds without breaking stealth - useful for crowd control (and they turn their back to you so can sneak up from behind!).

    I reached level 20 helping Rob Thornley escape from orcs in the Northern Bree-fields. At level 20, you gain the ability to Track Treasure which shows where treasure chests are located on your minimap. Note you can only track one thing at a time so if you have a gathering profession you have to choose whether to track ore/wood/crops/artifacts etc. or treasure.

    You also gain a new passive ability to use "Clever Devices" such as caltrops (which slow enemies' movement speed and deal damage over time) and marbles (which stun an enemy and start a fellowship manoeuvre). These are consumed on use and have a cooldown.

    I didn't have all my equipment slots filled and some gear was still rather low level, so the first thing I did was visit the Skirmish Camp vendors to get any upgrades I could. Here's how she looks at level 20:

    Level 20 Hobbit Burglar

    I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (starting from stealth with Surprise Strike then following the priority list below), and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking (otherwise the time would be ~ 3 m 15 s and dps would be lower). For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and one tier of Honour active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

    Here are my DPS results (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):
    StatisticsThe Gambler (Blue)The Quiet Knife (Red)The Mischief-maker (Yellow)
    Damage24,14121,00719,530
    Time3 m 0.6 s3 m 0.4 s3 m 0.6 s
    Average DPS133.7116.4108.1
    Minimum Hit141514
    Average Hit626257
    Maximum Hit255420205
    Attacks384335342
    Critical Strikes (%)90 (23.4%)65 (19.4%)81 (23.7%)
    Skill Priorities
    1. Double-edged Strike
    2. Lucky Strike
    3. Gambler's Advantage
    4. Surprise Strike
    5. Cunning Attack
    6. Hedge Your Bet
    7. Subtle Stab
    1. Double-edged Strike
    2. Feint Attack
    3. Surprise Strike
    4. Cunning Attack
    5. Subtle Stab
    1. Double-edged Strike
    2. Surprise Strike
    3. Cunning Attack
    4. Trick: Disable
    5. Subtle Stab

    For my final adventure as a level 20 burglar, I took part in the Skirmish training and then completed a skirmish: Siege of Gondamon. I went yellow line and chose a Warrior for my solider and it went quite smoothly. I first debuffed the mobs with Trick: Dust in the Eyes or Trick: Disable and the warrior held the attention of several mobs while I stabbed them in the back one at a time ... mwahaha! Burglars might also like archers (ranged damage, good single target dps and unlikely to break crowd control) or bannerguards (tanks, deals damage, buffs you and provides some healing) as their soldier companion.

    General Observations


    Bleed and DoT effects on you will break you out of stealth.

    Single targets near or below my level died fairly quickly, but when fighting several mobs or an elite on my own, my abilities seemed to be on cooldown a lot so I was rather helpless, and my health started dropping. Health potions and eating food or using buff items with regeneration effects before battles were helpful.

    According to the character sheet, I only had about 2-4% critical strike chance and I didn't get to use Critical Hit Chains very often in the wild (the critical strike rate was much higher against the target dummies, but they don't move or have the same stats as normal mobs).

    One-handed weaponsmith vendors sell throwing knives or axes that can be used to initiate combat and make a mob come to you. Players with the weaponsmith profession can make better quality throwing weapons, caltrops and marbles.

    Specialisations


    Blue - The Gambler: I didn't get to use Lucky Strike very often but when I did it usually killed the mob. I often didn't even bother with starting from stealth because they were dying so quick. When mobs have more health the DoT effect will probably come into play more. Hedge Your Bet was useful as an extra ability in the basic rotation and dealt more damage than Subtle Stab. Overall, I had quite a few abilities to use, and it felt pretty solid and hard-hitting. Still vulnerable to multiple mobs though. I'd be interested to try it out at higher levels.

    Red - The Quiet Knife: I used stealth more and noticed that I was detected less often. I found the specialisation abilities Feint Attack and Knives Out weren't very useful - I didn't get enough crits against mobs while questing to be able to use Feint Attack and when I did it didn't seem to do much (it increases the damage of Surprise Strike, but if that was on cooldown I probably missed out on the benefit). I did use Knives Out when faced with several mobs as it is a multi-target ability that reflects damage, but it has a 2 minute cooldown! It also prevented me from parrying/evading and I felt like I took more damage from multiple mobs compared to when I was using other specs. I only had 3 abilities in my basic rotation and I was waiting a lot for cooldowns and crits so I would have something to do. Overall, I didn't enjoy it, but it could get better at higher levels with better gear and more abilities.

    Yellow - the Mischief-maker: Dust in the Eyes is a great little multi-target debuff with a short cooldown that slows mobs and increases their miss chance. Trick: Disable is also a useful single target debuff with a short cooldown that reduces the target's damage, and Mischievous Glee was a very handy heal when fighting multiple mobs or elites. I had more abilities to use and could reduce the damage I took, so I felt more durable. I wasn't quite as stealthy as in red or blue specs, so it takes a bit more care to stay out of sight and not get too close to mobs. Overall, I don't think I hit as hard but I was harder to hit and I felt more actively involved so it was more fun.

    Stats


    • Agility - your main stat that increases your damage
    • Critical Strike - essential for activating certain abilities (and increasing your damage)
    • Evade - activates certain abilities in The Gambler spec, also reduces damage taken
    • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken
    • Morale and Vitality - bigger health pool increases survivability 

    These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for medium armour or jewellery with agility and critical rating, morale or vitality. If a piece of gear has Fate on it, it will also increase your critical strike chance. You might not find much Evade on gear yet, but increasing Agility also increases your Evade chance. The best place to get Mitigations and Resistances at low levels is probably from virtues.

    Also, try to get matching daggers with the highest dps and agility you can, but if you can't, put the best one in your main hand.

    Here are some virtues that may be helpful for burglars and how to get them by level 20:

    VirtueActivityDeed
    INNOCENCE
    (physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
    Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
    TOLERANCE
    (agility, tactical mitigation, in-combat morale regeneration)
    Explore all the farms in The ShireFarms of the Shire (The Shire)
    COMPASSION
    (physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
    Complete 15 quests in The Shire

    Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
    Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

    Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
    DETERMINATION
    (agility, morale, in-combat morale regeneration)
    Defeat 60 slugs in The Shire

    Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

    Defeat 90 barghests in Bree-land
    Slug Slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

    Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Barghest-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
    ZEAL
    (morale, physical mitigation, armour)
    Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

    Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

    Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
    Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
    HONOUR
    (resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
    Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire

    Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
    Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

    Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

    Pros of the Burglar Class

    • Fun being stealthy and sneaking around
    • Reasonable single-target damage
    • Utility includes crowd control and debuffing enemies

    Cons of the Burglar Class

    • Very limited AOE or multi-target abilities
    • Very limited ranged abilities
    • Reliance on critical strikes/stealth/positioning for optimal damage
    • Squishy 

    I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new burglars in the comments below.

    Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Captain.

    Monday, 13 February 2017

    VIP Gift: Steed of the Eldar

    I couldn't help myself - the limited edition Steed of the Eldar that is gifted to VIPs who log in between February 6 and March 13 looks really nice and would be very useful for all my characters, so I re-subscribed to LOTRO. I don't regret it - Standing Stone Games seems to be making an effort to enhance aspects of the game, such as housing and quality of life things like binding phials of flower extracts from North Ithilien to account instead of character, so I'm happy to support them and look forward to the new and improved LOTRO of 2017.

    Steed of the Eldar
    Steed of the Eldar warsteed appearance set (caparison and halter dyed navy)

    Sunday, 12 February 2017

    A Quick Guide to Reputation - Gondor

    Here are some comments and suggestions on earning reputation with various factions in Gondor.

    Dol Amroth

    • Questing, deeds and tasks in West Gondor
    • Defeating warbands in West Gondor 

    Men of Ringló Vale

    • Questing in Ringló Vale, Central Gondor
    • Orcs and Roving Threats in Ringló Vale drop rep tokens

    Men of Dor-en-Ernil

    • Questing in Dor-en-Ernil, Central Gondor
    • Corsairs, Haradrim and Roving Threats in Dor-en-Ernil drop rep tokens

    Men of Lebennin

    • Questing in Lebennin, Central Gondor
    • Corsairs, Haradrim and Roving Threats in Lebennin drop rep tokens

    Pelargir

    • Questing, deeds and tasks in Central Gondor
    • Defeating warbands in Central Gondor
    • Epic Battles (Retaking Pelargir, Defense of Minas Tirith, Hammer of the Underworld) 
    • Some Volume 4, Book 3 epic quests

    Rangers of Ithilien

    • Questing, deeds and tasks in Eastern Gondor
    • Defeating warbands in Eastern Gondor
    • Some Volume 4, Book 3 epic quests

    Defenders of Minas Tirith

    • Questing, deeds and tasks in Old Anórien
    • Defeating warbands in Old Anórien

    Riders of Rohan

    • Questing, deeds and tasks in Far Anórien
    • Elite mobs (such as Mordor Uruks in the Beacon Hills) in Far Anórien drop rep tokens
    • Defeating warbands in Far Anórien

    Host of the West

    • Questing, deeds and tasks in North Ithilien
    • Defeating warbands in North Ithilien