Bloggy Christmas: Unexpected Parties

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Community.

The thought of it fills me with a warm and fuzzy glow, which makes it rather hard to think of what to say about it. It’s something pervasive and intangible, part of the atmosphere of life, but hard to home in on in concrete terms. Maybe it’s a little bit like the music that plays in our MMOs, something that provides a background that shapes and enriches our experience without our always being aware of its presence or importance.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to find any of that when I first started playing MMOs a little over three years ago.

Beginnings

I was a latecomer to MMOs for various reasons. For one thing, I wasn’t all that keen on paying recurring subscriptions; for another I’d heard the stories about people getting hooked on World of Warcraft and I could well imagine that could happen to me. But another reason, and the most relevant to the topic of community, is that I didn’t know anyone who played an MMO. Now that certainly seemed like a barrier to playing and enjoying a genre which as far as I knew required a lot of cooperative play over a period of months or years.

In time I gathered that MMOs were becoming more solo-friendly, and when I discovered that LOTRO had become free-to-play, being a big Tolkien fan I felt the time had come to go take a look.

When I started I wasn’t expecting to group much at all, nor to join a guild, let alone discover a community. I remember researching which classes were the most solo-friendly, and that if anything I avoided the busiest servers. It wasn’t that I had anything against grouping, I just assumed everyone was playing with their friends, and there’d be no particular place for me in their circles.

I did have my first taste of the LOTRO community though, even before I ever grouped. That was via Googling for information and coming across the wonderful, now shuttered, mmorsel for Lord of the Rings Online and Lotro-Wiki, which is thankfully still going strong! I got a sense that there were people out there who loved the game, enjoyed pondering it, and liked sharing their know-how. This was still a “read-only” experience however, I didn’t imagine even the possibility of interacting with these folks any more than I would imagine interacting with someone I saw on TV.

Groups and Kins

I can’t remember how I first found myself in a fellowship. Did someone invite me to group? Did I take the initiative? I don’t know any more, but I wasn’t long in LOTRO before I had a lot of fun playing in ad hoc duos with people who were going through the same areas as me. It probably helped that there were a number of designated group quests included in the Epic storyline, which naturally led people to find others if they could.

And of course, completely contrary to my expectations, I got a lot of random invites to join kinships. Since I was enjoying grouping when I could, it seemed a good idea to give one of these a try. Unfortunately my first kinship experience was not such a good one. The person that recruited me was nice enough, and so were many of the other members. But it was hard to really connect with an in-group who already knew each other so well, and on top of that there were a few members that were pretty childish and at times obnoxious. (Turned out that one actually was a teenager, so perhaps the childishness was understandable.) So after a short while I dropped out of that kin, and went back to my soloing and ad hoc grouping.

Eventually I lucked out. After ignoring lots more invites to kinships, one day I did respond to one. Maybe it was worded in a way I liked, I don’t know why I actually started chatting that time instead of ignoring it like all the other random invites. It was an enormous stroke of luck! I became part of a wonderful small kinship, hit it off with the others, and never looked back.

There’s not a lot more to say about that. Though I met them in-game, this is how I imagined people played MMOs, with a small group of good friends, enjoying the company and the laughs as much as the game itself.

Eventually I did have characters on other servers and in other – larger – kinships as well. Maybe I got better at picking which to join because I only ever had that one not-so-great experience in a kinship, and even that was not really so bad either.

To anyone that is hesitant about guilds and kinships, my advice is go try, and if at first you don’t succeed, don’t worry. Go try a few until you find one you love – it really makes a game.

Out of Game

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For a long time, “community” would have meant mostly my in-game community to me, my friends, my kinnies, the people I ran into in PUGs and so on. I did gradually become aware of a few blogs, especially when I went looking for information about various parts of the game. It was probably Pineleaf’s Skirmish Guides that first led me to Casual Stroll to Mordor (CSTM).

CSTM became the hub of the out-of-game LOTRO community for me. At first I’d visit to get info on the game, later I dropped by every day, and soon it became the place to discuss the game.

It’s hard to pay proper tribute to CSTM in the space I have here. Without it, I wonder if there even would be a true LOTRO community? Certainly any community that arose would have been very different than it was. Merric and Goldenstar were the couple who started the site and hosted the podcast. I’ve referred to them before as the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of the LOTRO world, such is their superstardom! They helped bring the community into being not only through their own posts and podcasts but by providing a welcoming venue for others such as Pineleaf to get started. That created a critical mass so that there was plenty for everyone to talk about, and a lively and friendly place to hang out and discuss the game.

As with all things, time moves on, Merric and Goldenstar’s priorities changed and the CSTM site is no more. However because of the kick start it gave the community, its influence lives on. Many of the contributors to CSTM went on to create LOTRO Players, which now has a similarly important role as CSTM formerly did.

Perhaps this is the key thing about community: It has a life beyond that of any individual. We can all contribute in ways large and small, and our contributions become part of the evolving stream of community life. Some like Merric and Goldenstar make a huge and long-lasting contribution, so even after they’ve moved on we remember and salute them. I daresay it is one of the most satisfying and enduring accomplishments that a person can have.

Which brings us to another esteemed community member who has done much for us all, and is about to reduce his own participation.

Blogging, Podcasting, Twittering

Roger has not only created a thoroughly enjoyable podcast and blog, he has directly helped many of us get started in our own efforts. Without the Newbie Blogger Initiative of 2013, this blog would not exist, and nor would I be participating in Twitter today. Therefore without Roger’s drive and commitment to make the NBI 2013 and 2014 happen I wouldn’t have the delightful community that I have today, which is not only the people that I play with directly, but even more so the people I’m connected with via blogs, podcasts, Twitter, WordPress.com, and other networks, many of whom don’t even play the same games as I do.

This community is, as I said earlier, a little like the music playing in the background of our MMOs. Without it maybe life would go on much as it is, and would be pretty enjoyable regardless. Nonetheless its constant presence adds an extra layer of richness, enjoyment and sheer fun that would otherwise be lacking.

So many many thanks to Roger, to Merric and Goldenstar, and to all those who’ve helped create our community, to make it what it is today, and make it welcoming to all. Thanks also to everyone who participates in the community in ways large and small.

I couldn’t have foreseen any of this when I first decided to give LOTRO a try. My experience in the world of MMOs has truly been of a series of wonderful, delightful, and completely unexpected parties!

Happy Christmas to you all!

Roundup: The Bloggy Christmas Series 1-5

Bloggy Xmas

I’ve been looking for a place where all the Bloggy Christmas posts were collected together in a nice list and easy-to-click format. There probably is such a place, but I haven’t stumbled on it, so I thought I’d make my own collection of links, with a few taster snippets from the posts together with the odd comments of my own.

Originally I planned to cover all posts to date, and then keep the list updated as new ones came out. But it’s turned out that the way I liked presenting the list, that is really going to be too long for anyone’s comfort, so I’ll try to gather around ten posts per roundup. Here goes with Dec 1st to 5th…

  • Dec 1st… Telwyn at GamingSF: Gaming and Community
    “…there is some je ne sais quoi, some mix of ingredients that online gaming brings and I think community is a central part of that… Interactions with real players can often be fleeting or negative, but they can also be very positive and memorable”

  • Dec 1st… Ikralla at Grimoires of Supremacy: Community
    “I’m not the most social of people… Without World of Warcraft, without this little blog of mine, without that behemoth that is Twitter, I don’t think I’d have met (in a manner of speaking) so many awesome people.”

  • Dec 2nd… Talarian at Gamer by Design: A Family Like No Other
    “So getting into a guild that was LGBT friendly, and active about it, was immense for me. I could be myself without having to worry about what other people think. Folks to talk to in cases when I felt I had nobody else, really.”

  • Dec 2nd… Aywren at Signus.org: Self Discovery and Personal Growth in FFXIV
    “This game was pushing me out of my comfort zone, and I wasn’t giving up. I was succeeding!…I was also learning things about the community and other players. I discovered that there were other people who were new to the dungeons, who seemed relieved to hear me announce “Hey, this is my first time.” Many times I heard “Yeah, mine too.” Or “My first try on a tank. Please be gentle.”…These people weren’t those raging leetists that I feared. In fact, I saw very little of that at all… “

  • Dec 3rd… Tremayne at Tremayne’s Law: The Faces Behind the Avatars
    “Insofar as there’s a moral to this rambling tale… think about maybe meeting up with some of the faces behind the avatars…. it’s not nearly as scary as it might seem”

  • Dec 3rd… Izlain at Me, Myself and I: A Sense of Belonging
    “Just knowing that people read my opinions and care enough to comment or write retorts on their own blogs makes me feel like I belong to something greater, and that’s been my goal for a long time.”

  • Dec 4th… Scree at The Cynic Chronicles: How Gaming led me to my Wife
    “Gaming and the communities it created for me has been an enormous personal blessing to me… It gave me my best friend… It gave me a brother-in-law… It gave me happiness…Best of all, it gave me my wife.”

  • Dec 4th… Ranni at The Flaming Bard: Community is Family
    “When I think in terms of my ‘gaming community’ I think “My PEOPLE!”. People who get me, people who make me laugh, people who take an interest in the same things I do even outside of gaming. I’m included in this wonderful bunch of geeky gamers and it feels incredible”

  • Dec 5th… Asmiroth at Leo‘s Life: An Old Soul
    “With so many games available for our attention, the odds of a single community in a single game are long gone. The bonds last across games but you still need a mechanism to share stories. Blogs are an amazing way to do that.”

If you’ve not read the posts, there is much more to each of them than is conveyed by the short snippet that I chose to give a flavor of them. So do go ahead and read them!

Looking at the collection as a whole I’m struck my how much community has meant to everyone, and the sheer number of extraordinary stories people have to tell. Seeing them all in one place brings it home to me even more than reading them individually did.

There really is something magical about true community.

Play is more than just fun

I’ve mentioned before that I think play is an important and much underestimated part of our lives. Here’s a TED talk by Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and researcher into play, that has lots of interesting things to say on that topic.

Some points that struck me

There’s a useful transcript of the talk on the TED site, and here are some key points taken from that, which were interesting to me…

  • “So what does play do for the brain? Well, a lot…. Nothing lights up the brain like play.”

  • JPL, NASA and Boeing, before they will hire a research and development problem solver — even if they’re summa cum laude from Harvard or Cal Tech — if they haven’t fixed cars, haven’t done stuff with their hands early in life, played with their hands, they can’t problem-solve as well.”

  • the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression

  • “So I would encourage you all to engage not in the work-play differential — where you set aside time to play — but where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour, with body, object, social, fantasy, transformational kinds of play

  • “And this is where my chasing animals for four, five years really changed my perspective from a clinician to what I am now, which is that play has a biological place, just like sleep and dreams do.”

I’m going to be looking more into Stuart Brown’s work, so expect more posts about this in the future.

A Year of Blogging

TP Blog Trophies

Today is the final day of my first year of blogging at Thinking Play! My first post was published on Oct 17th, 2013, though I was working on the site for a couple of days before making everything public.

I’ve had previous attempts at blogging about various subjects, but I don’t think I’ve ever kept going for a whole year before. The difference this time around is undoubtedly due to the excellent advice and wonderful community provided by the Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Thanks NBI!

The NBI of course is actually people… so most especially thanks to Roger Edwards of Contains Moderate Peril and Doone Woodtac of XP Chronicles who ran the NBI 2013.

Thanks also to everyone who’s taken the time to follow the blog, comment on posts, tweet or share them, or just hit the “Like” button from time to time. Without that bit of encouragement and feedback, quite likely I wouldn’t have persisted in my blogging efforts.

It’s knowing that there are people finding the posts interesting and enjoyable, and wanting to have conversations about the topics, that makes the whole thing worthwhile.

A Year in Numbers

As of drafting this post on Thursday October 16th, there are 25 posts, with 151 comments, 52 likes and 47 blog followers on WordPress.com. There have been just over 6,000 pageviews recorded by WordPress. I wish I knew about the amount of reading that happens via RSS feeds, but if there’s a way to discover that, I haven’t stumbled on it yet.

There also 6 draft posts that were started but not finished yet, including this one.

Page Views by Month

One Year WP View Stats

Top Pages for the Year

One Year WP Top Pages

Followers

One Year WP Follower Stats

Planet Pasduil

One thing worth mentioning is that I’ve also started a second blog, Planet Pasduil. The jury is out on whether it’s actually a good idea to have two blogs rather than putting everything in one! Planet Pasduil covers everything I feel like writing about that doesn’t belong here. So far the topics most covered are books, reading and technology, but in theory any topic is fair game. The posts there tend to be more frequent and shorter than here. If you like what you read here do pop over and see if Planet Pasduil appeals to you as well. If you share any of my non-game interests I’d enjoy having your company in both places.

The Future

One year over, the blogging journey continues. And it continues among the fellowship of bloggers, which is what makes the journey possible, enjoyable and worthwhile.

Survey: The State of LOTRO

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Following a couple of fairly gloomy posts on the present and future of LOTRO over at Contains Moderate Peril and Paste Magazine, I’ve been wondering what people generally think about the state of LOTRO. Personally I’m more upbeat than those posts, despite my post The Shadow of the Future back when Turbine announced layoffs in February.

To find out what people generally think, I thought I’d create a survey.

Part 1 – How much you’re playing now

Pick the category that applies best below…

Pick up to 4 reasons that fit best…

Part 2 – Your server

Pick up to 3 choices if you play on multiple servers…

Part 3 – How do you feel about the future?

Pick whichever is closest to your feelings…

Part 4 – What kind of player are you?

Choose whatever fits best…

Choose what fits best…

Choose as many as fit what you like…

Choose whatever fits best…

Please comment and share

Thanks for filling out the survey! If you want to expand on your answers, please do comment below. Also it would be great if you could share the survey so we can get lots of answers and find out what people are really doing and feeling.

GW2: Free Trial Impressions

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Guild Wars 2 (GW2) recently had a free trial week, along with a 50% off sale, so I decided it was finally time to go take a look at this game that I’ve been hearing so much about for so long. These are my quick impressions about the trial and the game.

Background

The trial lasted a week, which for someone like me who wants to play pretty casually is not really a very long time to try it out. I had to make a conscious effort to try to get in enough play sessions to form an idea about the game, and I’m not sure I really succeeded.

I tried out one character, a human of the engineer class, and I think I’d only just hit level 9 by the time the trial ended. By that point I had four weapons skills available.

I heard that with the GW2 megaserver technology, you can easily hop to other servers to play with friends, but only within your own region, i.e. North America (NA) or Europe (EU). That was a tricky choice for me, because there are probably people I’d like to play with in both regions.

There are no designated RP servers in GW2, which I normally prefer to roll on, despite not being much of an RPer myself. From Googling it seemed that RPers have decided to make Piken Square and Tarnished Coast their unofficial places to congregate. It turned out Tarnished Coast was closed to new signups, so I went for Piken Square.

The trial wasn’t long enough for me to try any instances, or to see if I could find a guild I liked hanging out with.

What I liked about GW2

  • It ran very smoothly on my PC, always an important consideration for newer games.

  • Graphic quality and overall visual style is very good and to my liking. I don’t like overly cartoony worlds, but this has more of a grown-up graphic novel vibe than a kids’ cartoon feel.

  • There seemed to be plenty of people around in the starter area. Of course it’s hard to say whether that’s normal or a function of the one week trial period bringing lots of people in to take a look.

  • Dynamic events were pretty fun. For example, there’s one where a big ox cart carrying a bunch of trade goods makes its way from one town to another, a sort of group escort quest. It feels like a meaningful thing to do, and it’s nice to be doing things with other people.

  • I found it’s possible to enjoy playing this game in very short bursts. As an experiment I tried a 15 minute play session. That’s 15 min from clicking the icon to launch the game, right through to signing out. It helps that there aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through to start and end the game! (In TSW I seem to have to click through about 4 screens just to get the heck out of the game.) In GW2 the content also tends to be bite-sized enough that you could do a couple of things from beginning to end in that time. At least that was true in the starter areas, I guess it may change at higher levels.

  • I was intrigued by what I saw of the story. But I didn’t get to see very much really.

What I disliked about GW2

  • I was often confused about what I should or shouldn’t do next. Are there things that are vitally important to do while I’m in this area? Is it time to move on? Is that place too high-level for me? Too low-level? What’s happening with my personal story arc, it hasn’t been mentioned in quite a while?

  • Although you have some of the pleasures of grouping with dynamic events, it’s watered down compared to traditional grouping. There’s not much talking or coordination, and the relationship – such as it is – only persists for a short while until the event is over.

  • Events seem to become a zerg fest, where sheer numbers of people and spamming skills at random is sufficient for success.

  • The chat channels (from the admittedly little I saw of them) were on the childish side, somewhat depressing and immersion breaking.

  • Dodging is an important thing in GW2, and I’m never particularly fond of that mechanic. Maybe with some classes and builds you can avoid having that as a big part of your playstyle, but there’s no way to tell from the limited trial experience.

What I noticed

  • I always forget how much of a learning curve it is to get to grips with a new MMO. Take basic things like “How do I take a screenshot?”, “What happens when loot won’t fit in my inventory?” etc and multiply by all the things you routinely need to know, and you realize there’s a lot to learn before you even get to anything of tactical importance, like stats, builds or whatever. Learning any new MMO to my own satisfaction would take a lot of time.

To buy or not to buy?

Overall I felt I didn’t have enough info from the trial period to really tell if I would like this game long term or not. Maybe it could have a place in my life as a game to go to when I want a short session of undemanding, chill-out fun. On the other hand, if it’s not just going to wind up on the pile of bought-and-barely-played stuff, it’d take a fair investment of time for me to learn its ins and outs to my satisfaction. Knowing me, if I don’t take the time to dive right in and dive in deep at the start, the game will inevitably end up on the unplayed pile.

Right at this moment, I don’t want to be putting in that time to dive into learning a new MMO, so I decided to skip it. Maybe I’ll pick it up in a future sale sometime.

See also: Inner Adult, Inner Child

LOTRO: Quest Pack Recommendations

Quest Pack Sale

This week there is a 50% sale on LOTRO Quest Packs! (Note – the headline on the linked sale page says it’s only a 20% sale, but the body says 50%, and the prices in TP back up the 50%-off figure. The picture above is a screenshot of the actual store prices today.)

Back before I had all the packs I used to love sales like this, and look forward to them. But in the early days when I didn’t have a lot of TP to spare it was always a conundrum which packs to get next. How would I know which I’d enjoy without trying them? Of course I Googled around, and checked out what info I could find to help me.

Now that I’ve been around a bit more, and seen a lot of the content for myself, I thought I’d offer my own brief reviews and recommendations for the latest generation of LOTRO players.

List of Quests Packs

Here’s the list of Quest Packs from the ever helpful Lotro Wiki, along with their regular prices and the level range they’re for.

Quest Packs LOTRO Wiki

I needed the list to refresh my memory, and make sure I did them all in a sensible order!

Level 30-40

Your options are North Downs, Trollshaws and Evendim.

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Evendim is highly recommended. It has a huge amount of content, an interesting storyline, some fantastic scenery, and a bit of lighter fun stuff. There’s so much there that I ran three or four characters through the zone before I’d done everything there is to do. A few highlights worth mentioning:

  • The ruined city of Annuminas is crawling with invading forces from Angmar while being defended by the rangers. Lots of challenging fights to figure out how to win. At first there don’t seem to be a lot of quests there, but there’s one that gives you a ranger companion and then lots of quests open up from that.

  • There’s a hobbit at the glass-blowers’ camp who is an in-game tribute to Tolkien himself. I’ll leave you to find out more.

  • Nothcotton Farm makes a nice change from combat quests. You can gain a whole level just helping them get everything ready for the market day. Be warned, first time I tried to do it I got so frustrated at getting lost in the maze-like farm complex I gave up. Second time I made a map to figure out the layout, and had fun seeing how fast and efficiently I could tick things off. Now I always enjoy taking an alt there.

  • You get three scalable instances, and they’re good ones. I don’t see them being run too often mind you.

North Downs was revamped earlier this year, and I haven’t run it since then, so some of what I’m going to say may not apply any more. (Anyone who’s done it recently, please add your thoughts in the comments.)

Overall I found North Downs pretty disappointing. The area didn’t have too much of a distinct character, the stories didn’t add up to anything coherent, and the quest flow didn’t make a lot of sense. A few things that ND does have going for it…

  • You can go there in the low 20s, so if you’ve already done Lone Lands enough times and want a change, ND is the other option.

  • You get the Fornost instance cluster. There are four scalable instances, though you might have trouble finding a group to do them because I don’t see them being run very often. Personally I also like soloing instances, but you need to have high-level chars for that.

  • There are a lot of deeds to be had to help with getting your virtues, and being a relatively low-level zone, the slayer deeds are less painful to do here than in most places.

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Trollshaws was also revamped earlier in the year, so the same caveat applies – some things may have changed since I last ran it.

I’d say Trollshaws is more enjoyable than North Downs, but not as good overall as Evendim. Some of the upsides of the region:

  • You get to hang out in Rivendell. And while you’re there, you can play some games of riddles with Bilbo Baggins himself. If you love your Tolkien lore as much as me, that alone might be reason enough to get the Trollshaws!

  • There’s some good questing at the higher end of the zone around Tal Bruinen.

  • Music and scenery are very good in this zone.

On the downside, Trollshaws is a region that is very hard to get around. The map is almost useless, and I spend a lot of time getting lost and backtracking. And that’s even after having been through the zone several times on different characters. Even when you don’t get lost, you spend far too much time getting to quest objectives.

It also seems to be a very hard region in which to complete deeds or get reputation. Part of the reason for that is that you don’t get any instances with this quest pack, so none of the kills and rep that you might get from instance runs.

My Recommendation

Overall, if you’re only going to get one region in this level range, I’d say Evendim is the standout choice. Trollshaws comes next, and North Downs is for when you’re looking to complete your collection.

Level 40-50

This is the hardest level range to make your choices, not least because there are four regions to choose from:

  • Angmar covers the whole range from 40-50
  • Misty Mountains used to cover the whole range, but was revamped earlier this year and now seems to cover just 40-45.
  • Forochel covers 44-50
  • Eregion covers 45-50

Angmar has big pluses and big minuses.

The biggest minus is that since the place is basically Mordor-lite, hanging out there for any length of time is liable to get you down. It’s dark, desolate, devoid of greenery, and crawling with nasty creatures. And no sky should look like that.

On the plus side, there is a heck of a lot of content, and plenty for all tastes and playstyles. That includes so many good instances that I struggle to remember them all. Urugarth and Carn Dum in particular are some of the best instances of all time. Sadly they haven’t been made scalable yet, apparently because Turbine has yet to figure out how to do that while still keeping their original flavor which people like so much. But if you like doing instances then I’d say definitely get Angmar.

If you’re going to do the Epic you’re going to spend a lot of time in Angmar anyway, so that’s another reason to get the zone. While you’re there, you might as well quest, and rack up deeds. (And the Angmar part of the Epic is one of the best parts of all, so if you’ve not done it before, it’s highly recommended not to skip it.)

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Misty Mountains was also revamped this year. Again I’ve not re-run it since the changes, but this time I’m more worried that the changes will have taken away what I loved about the zone than I’m wondering how much they improved things. Anyone who knows more, please do comment.

Pluses of the zone, as it was:

  • Nice mountain environment, with snowstorms and such.

  • It’s hard to figure out how to get around through the mountain passes, but very satisfying once you do. Unlike Trollshaws, once you discover your way around it’s fairly easy to remember and find it again the next time.

  • Goblintown. Opinions were mixed on this place, some people loved it, some hated it. I was one of those that loved it. The people who hated it found it too hard and too confusing. For the confusing part, you definitely need a really good map. As for the hard part, I think it was made with duos and trios in mind, and it’s fun to do that way. Like a lot of small group content it is also very enjoyable to solo if you like a challenge, especially if you’re playing a class that can cope well with crowds. Sneaking around with a burg is a blast!

  • There’s some Tolkien lore, via meeting Gloin and from exploring Goblintown. Who wouldn’t want to find Gollum’s Cave? (Not that it was easy to find!)

  • As far as I can remember you only get one instance, the Goblintown Throne Room, but it’s a good one. A lot of it can be done in a trio or even solo, though it is officially a full fellowship instance.

I understand the Misty Mountains changes have made the zone a lot easier, reduced the level of the mobs in there, and added easier travel options. Some might like it that way, but I’m not sure on that. One day I’ll go back and see.

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Forochel is very pretty. The Northern Lights that are often playing there are wonderful, and sometimes it’s more tempting to just gawp at them than to do any questing.

Overall there are some nice storylines and some good questing in Forochel, but the main downside is that there’s just less content than elsewhere. Which includes a total lack of instances with this pack. It feels a bit unfinished, like a good TV show that was inexplicably canceled before it got to the finale.

Eregion is a sort of middling zone, with nothing either outstanding nor anything horrible about it. In theory it should be a lore-fest, but the opportunity has mostly been missed. I’d have loved to hear all about the Noldorin elves who once lived there, and made the three Elven rings.

The high points for me are:

  • There’s a quest to save Bill the pony from wargs.

  • You get two scalable small fellowship instances, known to all as “School” and “Library”. They’re good instances, are pretty quick to do, and give good rewards. That might be why they still seem to be popular to this day, and you probably won’t have a hard time getting a group for them.

My Recommendations

In summary, in this level range there are pros and cons to each of the options depending on what you most like to do, and what you most want to avoid. Personally I’d say get Angmar as the default choice. It’s by far the most bang for your TP buck, and has fab instances. If you can’t bear to hang out in all that gloom for so long, pair it with one of the others for a change of scene.

After that, Misty Mountains and Forochel both have a lot going for them. Unless you like to play instances often, in which case Eregion has the edge.

What about Level 50+?

I’m not going to give you my thoughts on the quest packs above level 50 in this post. I might well do that another time, but there are a couple of reasons to skip them for now:

1) This is already a rather long post… at the rate I write I may never get finished! Or everyone will have already spent their hard earned TP, and my recommendations for the sale will be moot!

2) Over level 50, there aren’t that many choices of what to get at any given level. Basically you will want to get Moria, Mirkwood, Isengard and Rohan, because that is the main path through the game. The other packs were originally added to keep people going in-between expansions, and for anyone that doesn’t have them yet, they are somewhat of a sideline. Enjoyable maybe, but not the priority if you don’t have TP to throw around.

Final Thoughts

By now I have all the quest packs, and I don’t regret getting any of them. Unless maybe I regret that I don’t have enough time to play through all the good stuff that I’ve got!

While I mentioned various irritations and frustrations with some of the zones, if you like LOTRO you’ll probably find lots to enjoy in each zone. But I do remember what it was like when I was first getting into the game, and especially at sale time, when I was tempted this way and that, but didn’t have a lot to spend. I hope my recs will help people that are where I was a couple of years ago.

As for the old LOTRO hands, I hope you found the post entertaining. If you feel like vehemently disagreeing, wantonly agreeing, or just want to add something, esp about the updated zones, please do!

I’d love to know what zones are your favorites and your pet hates too.