LOTRO: Scenes from Haragmar

Before I start let me explain that the tales of daring do, lucky escapes and painful losses you are about to read are not presented in-character, but rather as a straight (if occasionally dramtically emphasised) retelling of gameplay incidents separated by several days. It’s possible some of the elements contained may well find their way into my in-character entries from Ranhold’s journal, but for now it’s best to see these as the daily ‘rushes’ of a film we are working on together with the eventual editing, condensing & distillation of their content the grand project we shall show acros the silver screens of the Nation to an enthralled and rapt public. What? Aww come on! Leave a man his dream, won’t you?

Anyhoo, east of the ruined refuge of Ost Guruth, the last retreat of the Eglain people besieged and battered by the atacks of orc raiders and corrupted nature in the Lone Lands there lies Haragmara strange swamp in a deep, terraced hollow. The waters of this marshy bogland are stained a deep red, it is said by the blood of an ancient & terrible battle, and its inhabitants are wild and fierce. As you rise back out of the hollow on your eastward path, travelling parallel to the Great East Road to your south you find your way blocked by a fallen stronghold, crumpled and ruined and now entirely in the vile hands of lesser Gaunt Lords and their undead thralls. This Nan Dhelu is and you enter only with caution and preferable companions…

Scene 1: A Need of Friends…
My first trip here I knew something was amiss when the steep terraces that led up away from The Circle of Blood were crawling with bloated, rotting wights. I battled a few, but they were tougher than the last ones I had encountered in Bree-Land and I soon found myself staring at the imposing edifice of the ruined fort and wondering how I would make it through alive if these were just the guards! Luckily my prayers were answered as with a cry of challenge and a crack of metal on sheild a warrior came charging up the hillside and began to lay into the walking dead as though possessed! I ran over and lent him my swords and over the crumbling corpses of the slain wights I offered him a Fellowship. Now whether he too had his doubts about pushing on alone, or he just took pity on one a few levels below himself, I do not know but he agreed and offered to help me in my explorations and quests.

And believe me when I say I needed all the help I could get! The wights are packed in tight so attacking one usually draws the attention of one or two others . The archers stay back and pick off your armour and health with cruel, hard shots. The spewers belch out clouds of rotting gasses in a great, monstrous roar to leave you weakened and susceptible to further poisons. The bloated ones, as they approach their final moments on the end of your sword, buckle backwards and from their distended bellies explodes an enormous curled multi-legged worm-like insect that immediately bites and stings. In a tight spot, with poor planning and bad luck, you can easily find yourself facing five enemies at once and those odds can be hard to beat.

Still, together my companion and I made it through my first run at the fort with no loss of life (well, on our side at least – we sent plenty of wights on their way let me tell you!) and soon we parted, he back to the Great East Road and I back to nearby Ost Guruth to repair my gear, sell my loot and carry on with my quests. Little did I know how soon I would have to return to the confined horrors of Nan Dehlu…

Scene 2: A Rear Guard Assault…
The tasks seemed simple enough – enter Nan Dehlu, kill x-number of wights, y-number of Gaunt Lords and retrieve z-number of various items. I was by now a couple of levels higher so this should be easy, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. I had been sent into the ruins by a lonely Eglain guerilla Northrim from his holdout in Dol Vaeg on a series of quests. As I skirted the edge of the ruins, attempting to work out my best point of entry I heard the unmistakable sounds of battle nearby. I rounded a corner and found a young woman, a captain of her people it seemed, battling undead wights with her bannerman. I leapt in and helped dispatch her enemies and asked if she would consider joining me. I was mightily relieved when she said yes and we pressed on together retreading the frantic path I had taken before… except this time I pushed on further than before and with every step deeper into the fortress we drew more enemies towards us. The battles were many and fierce, my companion had her work cut out healing me fast enough to allow me to cut the wights and Gaunt Men down, but in the end we were victorious and our time had come to leave… and that is when our woes began.

I knew a short cut out, one the captain may not have been aware of but one I had used a few times before. I leapt down one wall, skirted a roving wight and leapt down onto a raised mound of earth at the edge of the inner court below – from there it was a simple run through the gaps in the ruined walls and we would be out. Except this time two wights had found their way to this normally quiet spot and launched themselves at me! Still, two wights were no match for my swords and I dispatched them relatively quickly, a sudden green glow of light around me telling me the captain had found me and was working hard to heal me as I fought them. I turned to say thanks and was horrified to see, charging over the mound towards us having been alerted by the captain’s carelessly wandering banner bearer, 3 wights and a gaunt man!

The fight that ensued was hard, bitter, dirty and nasty. A bile wight poisoned us badly, the two rotting wights loosed crawlers at our feet, the gaunt man sent in his skeletal warrior and raised a badly decomposing wight corpse to attack us. I did everything in my power, I used every combat skill I’d ever learnt and sent my fingers dancing across keys as though they were on fire, but alas it was not enough and the the banner man fell. He was closely followed by the brave captain and suddenly I was alone. My power was low, my health failing but I fought like a man possessed! I didn’t put a skill wrong as I used every AoE trick in the book to burn down the foul undead around me until I was left facing just the Gaunt Man. By this point it was hard to say who was in the worse condition, both our morale/health was dipping low and our power was all but burnt out, but I had three things he did not, the Second Wind skill, one remaining power pot and the “Oh Crap!” button otherwise know as Dire Need.

As the last of the wights fell I hit Second Wind and the pot in rapid succession and watched my blue bar rise back up to just over 50%, not much but it would have to do. Next I hit the Dire Need button, my power vanished and my morale/health rose by the corresponding amount. If the previous rise in my power had been less than large, this morale boost was worryingly small but it was all I had left and would have to do.

I began to lay into the snarling Gaunt Man with everything I had left. I doubt more than thirty seconds could have passed, but they felt like thirty minutes as I watched our respective health bars hold their morbid race to the bottom. At 1% of my remaining health, a mere 90 points at the time, the Gaunt Man yielded to one last final blow from my swords and as he collapsed into a pile of leathery bones I sat back unable to quite believe my luck. I never saw my brave captain friend again, but let her defeat serve as a warning that if you venture too far east in the Lone Lands you will do well to take some friends with you.

And if you think Nan Delhu is tough, it’s a walk to the shops when compared to Garth Argarwen