the shire

#LOTRO A Love Song for The Shire

Ok, not actually a song. Trust me, you wouldn’t want that, you really wouldn’t. But I *do* love The Shire and I don’t care who knows it. I’m not talking about The Shire of the books or films (although I do love them as well) but rather The Shire of the Lord of The Rings Online game and I really, really do mean I love it.

But why o why are you telling us this, Lord Burro the Irrelevant?

Because my loyal Gazellings I have seen a lot of anti-Shire sentiment in my kin chat of late and whilst defending the place to my kin mates I realised this would make a good post. Or a post at least. Beggars can’t be choosers, mate now sit down and listen.

It seems to me that most of the Shire ill-feeling is generated by, and directed toward, exactly what these misguided folks should be celebrating about the place – it’s almost transcendent sense of whimsy. Let’s face it, if you read Tolkien’s books the Hobbits and their beloved homelands are whimsical to the point of absurdity. The Shire is given over as some form of English rural paradise chock full of the types of folk you expect to meet in the (very real!) village of North Piddle: eccentric, blustering, loud Squires; hrumphing, superstitious salt-of-the-earth farmhands; nosey old fishwives and an ever-flirtatious Rosie beckoning you over to the hay barn with a jar of cider and flash of sun-kissed calf. Ahh, Cider with Rosie… so formative…

Sorry, where was I? North Piddle, wasn’t it? Anyhoo, the point is Tolkien drew on all these archetypes and locked himself away in a lab with a DNA splicer until, one moonlight All Hallow’s Eve, The Shire was born. And its first word was “Bloomers!”. The Shire has to be whimsical in the game because The Shire Tolkien created *is* whimsical. It is a place where, no matter your level, skills with a sword or prowess at killing Dragons, if you can’t deliver a fruit pie to the next village in time then what use are you? Really? I mean, all that buff and bluster about fighting this silly bugger and killing that sillier bugger and you can’t carry a fruit pie from an old lady to the nearest pub? Useless. Now, if you can chase a squirrel out of a library or rescue a chicken from a wolf, well that’s a different matter…

You see too many people go into The Shire expecting it to be Angmar. They have their Hero Heads on. They want action and drama and killing – lots and lots of killing. What they get is errands. Errands and vignettes into the life of a Hobbit, which is most assuredly not about running all over Middle Earth punching Orcs into a coma. The life of a Hobbit is far more important than that, thank you very much and this is the mindset you have to enter The Shire with – you are not just entering another region with quests in another MMO, you are entering one of the most whimsical places ever committed from imagination to paper. If all you want is to power up the levelling chart and wave your big manly sword about then you probably are not going to take kindly to an old Hobbit granny asking you to take her grandson his butties, are you? See The Shire as a holiday from the endless violence of other regions – see The Shire as an oasis – See The Shire as the refuge Tolkien created it as.

Once you do that, you’ll grow to love The Shire too. And if you don’t, well The Shire doesn’t care as neither The Shire nor the Hobbits are impressed with you one little bit. You know nothing about growing pipe-weed.

p.s. Listen to Shipwreck’s cracking Shire-based podcast here.

p.p.s. I, for one, want to extend a huge and heart-felt WELL DONE! to Turbine’s creators who have done a bloody amazing job. Seriously, get the books or the audiobooks and read/listen through the descriptions at the start of The Lord of The Rings (the parts where Frodo leaves) and see just what a bang-up job they have done. Hat’s off to you guys, and thank you for enabling me to walk in the places I’ve held in my imagination and heart for so long.

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:
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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: Relaxing in the fields…

Extract from Ranhold’s Journal.
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After the horrors of Haudh Iarchith it has been a blessing to return to the Shire, despite my earlier grumbles and gripes. My soul was greatly affected by the terrors I & my friend Enthallion faced and I have slept poorly ever since. It was as I wandered the hills south of Michel Delving in an effort to keep my promise to my mother and stay out of the local taverns that I found myself watching the industrious locals of that town toiling in the fields and I was taken back to my youth helping my grandfather on his small holding.

Before I knew it, and almost without a conscious decision, I found myself asking if I could help. The halflings, whilst surprised, were most generous in their acceptance of a tall stranger treading their fields and soon I found myself dressed in a hastily stitched smock working the land with them. After all the death and killing, it felt good to be working on giving something back to the land, something clean and alive and uncorrupted.

I worked in all weathers to sow the sow the seeds of many a crop, from simple vegetables to the halfing’s most prized breeds of pipe-weed…
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I showed such an aptitude (my Grandfather had tought me well and would be proud) that farmer Proudfoot sent me over to Hobbiton to seek out one of his relatives, Olo Proudfoot, and I have spent many a happy day working on his farm learning new skills and helping to grow much improved crops.
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Master Olo is a wise and kind teacher and grows some of the best pipe-weed in the district (although I would be careful how loudly I say that and who may be in earshot – these Hobbits can be mighty fearsome in their loyalty to one type of pipe-weed and it is a brave man indeed who would challenge them on their choice!). Form my part I have a particular, and to my kinsmen from Dale a no doubt perverse, liking for the Dragon’s Breath weed…
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Still, whilst it has done my heart and soul good to step back from the fire and fury of combat, I know this lull is but temporary and I have many roads yet to travel. But for now I am going to remain in the Shire, especially as these wee folk are all a-flutter in the planning of a great Summer Festival due any day. After that… well then I shall see… I think I shall make my way either to the east as I have an invitation from the Scholar’s Guild to honour in Rivendell, or north towards my heart’s desire of Annúminas on fair Evendim.

LOTRO: The Course of True Love…

Extract from the journal of Ranhold, Champion from Dale.
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Whilst I’ve been running hither and yon all across The Shire (mainly delivering pies or post!) I’ve seen many a wonderful sight in this beautiful part of Middle Earth, but none has warmed the heart of this old warrior as much the following exchange I witnessed in Overhill recently…
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LOTRO: A Hat Full of Hobbits…

Extract from the journal of Ranhold, Champion from Dale.
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Gods… The Shire… If anywhere makes me wish I were back in the Old Forest being chased by rancid bears, screeching bats, howling wolves and murderous trees it surely is The Shire. Oh there’s nothing wrong with the Shire itself. Lovely rolling hills, babbling brooks, shaded glades; the whole landscape is the very antithesis of the dead Barrows or the wild Forest, but its residents are infinitely more maddening!
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From the moment I arrived in Brandybuck I have been assailed by half-pint Hobbits seemingly intent on driving me to the brink of madness with their incessant wittering about food and drink or their endless empty-headed gossip about the wrong-doings of other Hobbits or failings of various family members. And if they’re not chundering on and gossiping then they are dipping into what seems to be a bottomless well of errands they require doing and appointing me their odd-job man and all-round run-around! And they only seem to pay in food!

In the Downs I was asked to rescue a lost child afore she was eaten by wolves. In The Shire I have had to rescue a pig called Sally from nibbling shrews!
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Outside Bree I had to rescue a farmer’s daughter kidnapped by Brigands. In The Shire I had to rescue a sheep from some mangy old goblins!
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In The Old Forest I had to do battle with a spider queen the size of a cart horse. In The Shire I had to scare a big toad back into her cage!
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By all that is holy, I’m a warrior! My line can be traced back to Arnor and the nobility of Annúminas and yet these halflings ask me to deliver their mail (avoiding the ever-eager eyes of their kind’s nosiest gossip-mongers, of course) or collect spoiled fruit pies (all the while staying away from the ever-twitching noses of their kind’s perpetually hungry, naturally)!
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And what do I have to show for all my efforts? Why, a feathered cap from the Bounders. A feathered bloody cap.
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Is it any bloody wonder I’ve turned to drink?
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LOTRO: Weekly Update (13-06-11)

A busy week at home (as opposed to work for once) saw my online time reduced – oddly not in terms of being online often, but rather online for extended periods. Consequently I hardly got to do anything of any real worth until this weekend. Still, what time I was in-world was great fun – here’s a run-down:

Ranhold (Level 29 Man Champion Historian)
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  • Finally completed the pie-delivery quest in The Shire. Yay. This one came after I’d completed the the quick post quest last week which also sees you running all over the place unable to use a horse and always watching for quest-ending nosey or hungry hobbits. Take my advice, use the special pie you are given to avoid hungry hobbits and buy a mail sack from the Mathom House to get past nosey hobbits – I didn’t realise about these until *after* each quest was finished and they really would have helped. Still, despite the grind of endlessly trudging through the very beautiful Shire, these quests did allow my five year old lad to play with me (the missus tells me off if I let him help kill goblins) and now “You hungry hobbit!” is a common insult at the Antfarm dinner table 😀
  • Had a good stab at clearing up as many of the last Shire Quests as possible – I really want to move on, but not until I’ve milked this brilliantly designed place dry! I now think there might be another sub-quest involving all the pubs in The Shire and am planning to do them all and drink all their beer (which makes your vision go wonderfully squiffy).
  • The one night I managed to get a prolonged spell in-world I went to a large Barrow in the Downs to clear up a couple of monster slaying quests. Christ what a slog that was! Luckily a kinmate, Enthallion, came to help me and being a high-level hunter he saved my arse many many times over. We were in that place longer than we expected (I had over 250 to kill!) but now it’s done I only have one more Barrow quest out standing – 300 spiders… if only I can work up the energy… *sob*
  • This weekend I decided to (finally) take Ran up through his farming skill and in a series of marathon grow-reap-sell sessions got him from zero to nearly the top of Expert. I thought this would be dull but honestly, I’ve LOVED it! You can sell what you grow through the auction house because cooks need it to make their foods, but you can also grow pipe-weed (which is tobacco to you and me) and everyone in Middle Earth loves pipe-weed! There are lots of different breeds of pipe-weed and while only one is really useful for magic, the rest are great fun! When you buy a puck & click on it your character starts to smoke a pipe and, depending on the type of weed you’re smoking, blows a lovely smoke ring effect or even more complex shapes such as this beauty 😀

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Gorfrik (Level 12 Dwarf Hunter Armourer)

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Poor Gorfik didn’t really get a look in this week. The little I did get to do with him involved:

  • Exploring the lands around the Dwarven outpost of Gondamon, he managed to level up with a mixture of the extra blue XP boost from Turbine and the +25% XP boost item I got for pre-ordering the Isengard pack. It’s funny switching from Ran in the Shire to Gorfrik in Erid Luin as Ran is way above level there and nothing is really a problem whereas I have to really think things through with Gor lest he ends up as a bear’s dinner.

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Other Stuff…
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Two big events and one long thought this week:

  • I bought the Isengard pre-order. It made really good sense to me as it unlocked all the previous quest packs so my newly upgraded VIP world will now be wholly playable. There’s no chance I’l be ready for Isengard when it downloads in September though 😀 As a side note, I spent the 1000TP on a shared character storage spot which is proving very useful! Also Ran is not using the horses as his horse is just as good so he’s sticking with that, but Gorfrik is because they are faster than his starter pony. I’m not using the title because I feel it is important to earn titles not buy them. I am using the XP boost because I want to level up as fast as I can. Ran is wearing the red armour set where as Gorfrik won’t be wearing any. Phew, I think that’s about it on Isengard ;-D
  • I’ve also been thinking a lot about Ranhold’s Journal and his story style & arc(s). I’ve been reading a lot of other folks blogs over at my.lotro (such as this great one from Charazan) and wondering where I can go that feels fresh. I want to cover the actual key story, but I spend the vast majority of my time in off-main quests and want to reflect those as well. Also I like the humorous tone to both Ran’s & Gorfrik’s and want to keep that but, and for old readers of this blog this will come as no surprise, I want to introduce a darker element… something to reflect the constant state of danger these guys face. I’ll see how it goes but I welcome your thoughts 🙂
  • Finally, using the profits from Ranhold’s farming splurge I bought my first house! It’s just a basic, starter house with one chest but both my characters (and any more I create) can use it. Another bonus is that my lad likes to jump off the cliff into the waterfall just to hear my legs break at the bottom 😀

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LOTRO: Trouble in Tuckborough – Take 1

Ranhold had a nice surprise waiting for him when he logged in – Lirwen sent an invite to join her in a skirmish in The Shire called “Trouble in Tuckborough”!

Now as I mentioned before, skirmishes are a game within the game – a stand alone fight to capture and hold ground from the enemy in which you can earn experience points to help you level up and skirmish points with which you can buy gear and/or level up your skirmish soldier.

In Tuckborough a band of goblins, Dourhand dwarves and rough men have taken over the quiet Hobbit hamlet and it’s your job to free the wee pie-eaters from their plight. The village is essentially a large, terraced hill divided into key zones by gated barricades you must storm, clear and hold, raising a flag to indicate your victories as you go. The flag areas and gates are guarded and once the guards are overcome you need to hold off wave after wave of reinforcements, some of which bring a Lieutenant with them who have a special power with which to bolster their troops and ruin your day.

God help Lirwen but I’m such a noob! It takes me ages to react and in a skirmish you haven’t got ages and poor Lirwen saw me die at least twice – the first time within seconds of actually starting! Still, I made it through and Lirwen taught me a lot – I now move and fight just with keys as this makes combat so much faster. I am thinking not just about combat ‘buffs’ but health and protection ‘buffs’ too. I need to get a bow. Change my soldier to a healer. Keep away from large area of effect magic attacks. Learn to use the targeting keys more effectively. And give my son a sleeping potion so the little bugger let’s me play undisturbed!

Anyhoo, that was my first real skirmish and I can honestly say I loved it! I can see how fighting with a group of friends must be great fun and I hope Lirwen takes me back for another run – I’ll get better mate, I promise!

Waiting outside Tuckborough…
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Heading into the fight…
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Getting my arse kicked (and singed)!
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Victory at last!
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p.s. When you get the attacks flowing correctly, the Champion is a thing of beauty; a perfect pattern of flowing metal that just cuts anything in his way into small, wet chunks. When it comes to playing a Champion damage per second (DPS) is everything – hit you enemy faster, harder and then even faster than they can hit you.

p.p.s. Lirwen introduced me to the brilliant Fellowship Manoeuvre system – a combined icon-pressing exercise that can result in a variety of attacks being launched at the target. By chance I hit the same ‘button’ as Lirwen and we were rewarded with a huge ghostly red Ent appearing and stomping on the goblins around us – verrrrrrrrrry cool! You can read even more on the LOTRO Lorebook here.