#LOTRO: The Fires of Archet…

If I hadn’t left Bree that day to visit old Roper the trainer in Combe, I would never have ended up in Archet as it burnt.

Some might have cursed their bad luck at this, resentful that their poor choice of time or direction should have led to their capture and rough treatment by Blackwold thugs. They might have raised their fist to the sky and railed at the fates for assailing them; for conspiring against them, turning on them and betraying them.

Not I.

If I had chosen another time to visit, or postponed my training altogether, content instead to gather crops in the fields and make merry in the Pony like so many of my brothers and cousins and friends, then I would never have discovered the full extent of the terrible danger my beloved hometown of Bree faced. No, I was glad then and am glad now that I found myself in the stinking goal of the Blackwolds, for without them, and the assistance of the Ranger who freed me, I would never had had the opportunity to play my part in not only the defence of Archet, but of Bree and all the lands to the east.

So I thank the Blackwold scum for taking me alive that night or I would not have found myself fighting by the side of Strider, Atli, Jon Brackenbrook & his father, not to mention Evenwyn the brave warrior who became my blade-mate that night, as the town burnt around us. And although the Captain of the town and many others fell in the battle, we saved the town and its people and finally had our complacent eyes opened to the evils that were waiting unseen in the shadows, ready to pounce and devour us all at a moment’s notice.

And now I am irrevocably locked onto a path, a javelin streaking towards the heart of my foe, and this journal shall serve as record of my journey and testament to not only my achievements, but those of my sword-bothers who share my path. My friends and I may be few, but we are resolute and determined, our steel tempered by the fires of Archet until even our passing will wound our enemy.

I am Keltorn, son of Willdayne, Warden of Bree and today I train in Combe for tomorrow I go to seek out and crush the Blackwold threat once and for all.

Keltorn 001

LOTRO: Oh Dear God… What Have I Done?

Only ruddy well made a new character, that’s what! Say hello to Rolcko Harfoot, uncle of one Hocko Harfoot and retired Yeoman Guardian to the Horse Lords of Rohirrim and now gentleman farmer & aspiring chef in Michel Delving.

[Picture to be added once I upload it to flickr which I should have done last night but forgot. Dope.]

Here it is:
Rolcko Gravatar 001

This guys is going to be less of an adventurer and more of a bank & Auction House organiser as well as a supreme farmer & cook to provide everyone with top flight nosh, not to mention selling said nosh in the AH for gold of course 😀 I managed to get him through the Battle for Archet intro and to Michel Delving to clear his crafting tutorials in one evening (I was knackered at the end of it, mind) and as it stands now he is level 9 and looking forward to blasting his farming & cooking professions up to artisan in one mad session (and joining the Cooking Guild, of course). After than I don’t think he’ll see much action outside of a few RP trips I have plans for him such as clearing out wolves and tackling the Dourhands which would fit his character. The idea is that as a young man he went a-wandering and ended up fighting with the horse-lords before retiring and heading home. Now he is back home his quiet retirement is constantly disturbed by stories of the strange, un-Hobbity happenings through the Shire and he finds himself putting down his ladle & hoe and once more taking up his sword and shield. I’m sure there will be several recountings of his tales in this very blog, Hobbit fans 😀

LOTRO: Combe and Around

So, after the Battle for Archet you find yourself able to go to the next village (slightly bigger than the hamlet of Archet but still quite small – I like the way the game ramps these things up at just the right pace). Most places seem close enough to walk/run to but there is no doubt that a horse speeds things up – it was in Combe that my free trial horse ran out and I had no hesitations in buying one from the integrated web-store which I suspect could easily be a micro-payment cash sink-hole for the weak of will (i.e. me!) so be warned 🙂

Combe is a nice little place and the game designers were smart enough to arrange for the final quests of Archet to be tied into your trip to Combe, including one that gets you into Crafting. Now I’m no expert on these things but basically crafting involves signing up to a set of skills that ultimately lead to you create items in the game which you can use, trade or sell. These can be weapons, food or clothes, etc but also more esoteric items such as knowledge of the past or the ability to compose & play music and these can also prove to be a source of income and power. The crafting system is complex but not complicated and involves finding, gathering or buying raw materials and then using a designated area (forge, library, farm, etc.) to craft these materials into a finished item – as you get better the items you produce become worth more and have a greater chance of being more powerful. I plumped for Historian which involves a bizarre mix of weapon manufacturing, farming & historical research – I’m quite the Indiana Jones, dontchyknow!

Also in Combe are a barrow-load of quests that lead you out into the depths of Chetwood forest, the entrance to which is pictured below.

The forest is quite pretty but also a little dark and foreboding, wolves prowl all over and there is a nasty little spider den where I managed to pass a spider killing deed amid a flurry of legs and mandables that I’d rather not dwell on. Also in the forest is a Blackwold hideout (as well as many small camps with roving guards – take care!) where my mate Lirwen helped my complete a few quests and beat the tar out of several brigands, scouts, captains and ruffians. At this point I was still trying to master targeting and fighting (who am I kidding, I am skill trying to master that!) and it is with some measure of pride I managed to defeat three brigands who jumped me at the same time, especially as not long before a single spider had killed me on the edge of the Midgewater Marshes, the swine!

Away from Chetwood and back to Combe the land is hilly and full of huge trees. And huge bears! After a lot of close calls and several bouts of mano-a-oso action I managed to get to the Staddle gate and with Lirwen headed out to Bree. But more of that in another post 🙂

LOTRO: First Days – The Battle for Archet

I thought I’d put down what happened from my first moments in this new game world in case any one else is interested in joining in and trying it out, but before I begin I should explain that I’ve never played a MMO before, not one one, never. SL was my first ever foray into an online world of any sort so you’re going to have to expect some “Well dur!” statements from me, especially if you play WoW and the like. But hey, you’re grown ups and I’m sure you’ll cope 🙂

Once the software had downloaded & installed (a frankly very long process, although I suspect a Saturday afternoon on a Bank Holiday weekend may not have been the best time to judge to be fair. Also I was tweeting whilst an upload was in process and crashed the install meaning I had to start again (d’oh!). Anyhoo, once done & installed I jumped in and created a character. I had read a fair bit about the game before the install had finished so I knew a little of what I was going to do but I still managed to chose a poor character class given I was going to be playing alone. Not that The Captain is a poor class, just that given the game is a lot about beating monsters and baddies to death, a better choice is the Champion. The free account allows two characters to be created so after a while with El Capitano I started again with a Champion and immediately noticed the difference in battle – where the Captain rallies others and demoralises the enemy making him better in a team, the Champion just twats the daylight out of anyone daft enough to stand in front of him which is perfect for lone exploring in a MMO (and better fits my clumsy gaming style if I’m honest 🙂 )

The character creation was a breeze – all the customisations beyond body/head/hair type are in game meaning you can be up and running in a minute or two if you know what race & class you are going for. If not there are extensive notes and even videos for each to help you choose – but choose wisely as they can’t be changed and a free account can only create two characters. Take a look under “Getting Started” here for some excellent help: For my second choice I plumped for a male Man and made him a Champion from Dale (I’ve always felt an affinity to the North of Tolkien’s Middle Earth… but then I *am* from the North of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth) and made him a wee bit Viking-ish. From here the next step was to actually jump on in and start playing. I have read that each of the four races (Man, Elf, Hobbit & Dwarf) have their own starting point/town & storyline (I’ve only played a Man so far and can’t say, but I intend to play at least one of each to soak up the scenery and all the quests on offer) and as a Man you start out near a Bree-land hamlet called Archet where you help Strider rescue some Hobbits caught by brigands for the Nazgul looking for Frodo and the ring(1) before coming to the aid of Archet itself.

The first part, the Hobbit saving, is just a training exercise to get you used to basic moving, interacting & fighting and as the end as the Hobbits are saved you end up going to the town of Archet where your tasks and quests begin. Quest structure seems standard fare – talk to people who ask you to run errands which result in rewards and experience points being awarded. Along the way you fight various beasts or bad guys for more XP and loot until you can level up and improve your character’s stats, etc. Of course there is a little more to it than that as there are various ‘degrees’ of quests with some being designed to help your character learn things like skills and hobbies, some designed to keep you interested in the game and to level up, and with some being part of the actual “epic” storyline. Each help you level up in one way or another but you’ll be unsurprised to hear that levelling up hold no interest for me – I want to be part of the various story lines (not just the ‘epic’ arc of the game itself, but the smaller local dramas unfolding in the towns you visit. I also wanted to be interacting with other (real) people so I could join up with a group and play with them – but more of that in a bit.

So far so good – with the Hobbits saved & basic training done, Archet proved to be a well paced training ground where you can get to grips with the flow of tasks, the UI, combat, skills training and a ton of other things to get your head around. It’s testament to the company & testers behind the game that at no point in this did I feel over-whelmed or under-skilled as I had done in Call of Duty: Black Ops. In that game I quickly lost interest as all that happened was my constant, repetitive (& boring) pwnage whereas in LOTRO I *didn’t* get my arse handed to me in a basket yet I still felt a frisson of danger with every fight. Also worthy of a note is that the company behind the game (Turbine) are quite adept at giving goodies to you to encourage you but then also lead you to their online store where you can spend your real life moolah with them. Case in point being the horse whistle you get after the Battle of Archet (see below) that calls a stead to you enabling faster travel – only it runs out after 24 RL hours and whilst you *can* get by without a horse, travel in Middle-Earth is certainly faster and (even) more gorgeous on horseback. So kerching! Here’s four English pounds for one of your basic Bree-land ponies, Mr Turbine… oooohhh look at his lovely mane… look at it! It’s lovely!

But back to Archet, which proves to be a town in a great deal of trouble – Blackwold brigands are set to strike but the town constable isn’t in the mood for listening to doom-mongers like you & Strider and so it falls to you to pull various people together in an attempt to save the town. This sees you running about town and out in the countryside (killing wolves and giant spiders and other insects as you go, not to mention a few surly brigands for good measure) until you finally find yourself standing in the burning town fighting for your life. It seems these set pieces are created just for you so I didn’t see any other players in the battle (or in the saving of the Hobbits) where as the section in between (pre-battle) and afterwards (post-battle) was full of other people all running hither and non, all on the same quests as you, all figuring out how the hell things worked just like you and it was here, after the battle, I met my first friend who turned out to be an oldbie running a new av (sorry, character 😀 ). Lirwen, or rather her typist, has been in the game since the beta-testing days and as such a brilliant help to me as I blundered about and only managed to survive fights with blind luck rather than any actual skill. She started a Fellowship with me (A temporary group of adventuring friends – I’m still reading up about Fellowships & Kinships so I’m not too sure what the differences are yet) and came adventuring with me through the final stages of the Archet quests before we moved on to the larger town of Combe together. I’ll cover Combe later but it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have had half as much fun in LOTRO if I hadn’t have met Lirwen (and if Lirwen hadn’t have been so patient with my noobness! 😀 )

So there you have it, my first day or two in the game and I’m a fan. Having been in SL for so long does help, but really they are very different beasts. One odd think I have yet to figure out is why I can not stand a cluttered UI in SL, yet the huge bastard screen art that passes for LOTRO’s UI doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Very strange.

In my next post about LOTRO I’ll tell you a little about Combe and my adventures with Lirwen – we are planning to do the next ‘epic’ quest together tonight (another great thing about LOTRO is that I chose a European server so most of the folks using it are in my timezone. Imagine that – people from my part of the world online at the same time as me and *not* just stood somewhere in another bloody dance!


(1) It’s worth saying at this point that unlike the old ICE MERP books I played through in various kitchens as a squeaky voiced youth, this online game is set very much in the universe & time of the Lord of The Rings books and the designers have been very clever to write you into the plot in such a way as you get to meet and interact with key members of The Fellowship. You help with missions that happen ‘off camera’ in the book, some mentioned or hinted at, some made up but fitting with the logic of the original storyline. So it is that as a Man you are asked to save Hobbits captured in error and thwart the Witch King’s attempts to locate the ring and destroy the old lands of Eriador. You can see a map of these places here: