From Azeroth to Middle-Earth is a series dedicated to presenting Lord of the Rings Online to World of Warcraft players suffering from Cataclysm fatigue who may want to look at a different game. The first post in this series addressed account types and character creation. Today we will look at early character development and crafting.
Leveling from Creation to Mid-level
The first half in terms of levels (the game currently caps at 65) is very straightforward. After creating a new toon, an optional tutorial will be proposed, followed by a prologue. The tutorial is specific to each character race but its story links to the introduction, which is common to two races each time: hobbits and humans share their intros, while dwarves and elves share theirs.
Who levels where - the level flow for all new toons in LotRO
Tutorial and Introduction are instanced – the tutorial is a solo instance, which means no other players will be present. The Introduction is shared with all other new players of the same racial pair.
Which leads us very nicely into background lore. Lord of the Rings Online is sustained by an Epic Storyline centered through a series of quests that players can follow. Through the Epic quests, the player character shadows and supports the Fellowship of the Ring as they progress towards Mordor. The tutorial and Introduction give some backstory for each race, and it is highly recommended to play all four tutorials and both Introductions to get the full picture.
After the Introduction, your character will begin the Prologue in their respective starter areas. Those aren’t instanced, but each race will begin their Prologue in a different area (though Elves and Dwarves merely begin at the opposite ends of the same zone). It’s also worth noting that nothing really stops you from hopping over to a different Prologue zone and start questing there instead of where the game places you by default – in fact, there are some distinct advantages to broadening your horizons, as we’ll see in a latter post.
If you stick to your starting area, the Epic quest line will eventually send you over to Bree, where all character converge at last, questing in Eastern Bree-land until about level 20. From there, depending on your account type, you will have two options. The Lone-lands is available to all players for free, while the North Downs require either a VIP account or unlocking through the LotRO store, with Turbine Points. North Downs is likely to be less crowded and thus offer better mob spawns for specific kill quests. If you’re more after immersion and following Frodo and his band of merry hobbits, though, the Lone-lands is where they passed through on their way to Rivendell.
Boars - a staple of many MMOs, are also on LotRO's most hunted species list
Fellowship and Instances
After completing the tutorial, as seen previously, characters will be joined with other players, which opens up group play. Groups, or more accurately fellowships as they are called here, are quite an informal affair (which leads to a perpetuation, in LotRO, of that seemingly universal bad habit, blind invites) – in fact, there seems to be, at least in appearance, a higher readiness for players to group whenever they have to kill specific quest mobs, in particular named ones on a fixed respawn rates. Of course, there’s also a counter-example in the Elven / Dwarf introduction, which at one point asks the player to kill four sickly bears, which have exactly four spawn points, about a minute respawn rate each, and are fought for by every single player in the area on that specific quest leg. Can you even build a fellowship during the Introduction? To be honest, I have no idea, and have to admit that I just ran around that specific frozen lake for 10 minutes like a headless chicken, trying my best to tap a bear before anyone else. But then again, I’m a bit thick myself, as any reader from two years ago will remember.
The first group instances, the Great Barrows (advertised as GB in the LFF – Looking for Fellowship – chat channel), will unlock for your character at level 20. Those first runs are designed for a full 6-man fellowship, whereas later ones, starting at level 32, will support “small fellowship” play, aka 3-men teams. Once a fellowship is assembled, an interface allows one of the members to create an instance, and upon accepting the invite, all members will be ported in without any further ado.
As most MMOs, Lord of the Rings Online has crafting. Unlike many others, though, players don’t select individual crafts but instead take up a bundle of three, called a vocation, which groups one or two gathering crafts (Farmer, Forrester, Prospector and probably also Scholar) with production crafts (Cooks, Jeweller, Metalsmith, Scholar, Tailor, Weaponsmith and Woodworker).
Again without any surprises, the gathering professions are the money-makers, whereas the production crafts are more of a money sink. But since every vocation has at least one gathering skill in there, it remains up to the player to decide what to make of what he collects. Done properly, money is really easy to come by in LotRO, much easier than in WoW. For reference, I just broke the Premium account gold cap two nights ago, at 5 gold, without even trying, just by selling unneeded ores, after buying two horses and a house, which amounts to another 2 gold, while I had a lot more issues getting money in Azeroth.
Each craft is separated in several tiers, and you can craft any recipe within a specific tier without any other requirements (provided you have the ingredients of course). Once you have completed a tier, a quest will unlock the next tier (very short for gathering, increasingly long for production crafts), and also enable to work on mastery on the previous tier. Mastery will produce critical results when crafting – for gathering professions, 3 of the intended products instead of 1, and for production crafts, a higher quality item.
What craft is good for my character?
Beyond the obvious choices – cooking is good for everyone, tailoring produces light armor & medium armor while metalsmiths produce heavy armor and so on, a few points to consider:
- Farming grows ingredients for cooking
- Woodworking produces shields, bows and musical instruments, which is interesting to tanks, hunters and minstrels
- Jewellers produce rings, trinkets and baubles for everyone, but also the weapons for Rune-keepers and special trinkets for Captains
- Scholars produce scrolls and potions good for everyone
- Leather used by tailoring is first tanned using the Forrester profession.
- Fishing isn’t a profession at all, but a hobby that can be taken up by everyone in addition to the rest.
Three more things to note:
- Each craft requires an appropriate tool to be equipped (there’s a special slot for tools so you don’t need to swap your weapon for a pick-axe), and the default tools you get when you pick a vocation are more or less worthless – better to get at least the appropriate Bronze tool off the AH as soon as you can (or better yet, pick Armoursmith as your first vocation, create the tools for your intended vocation, then change vocations).
- When you change vocations, you keep the mastery level of any crafts that are common to both vocations. You will lose mastery and recipes in all others
- In the later tiers of production crafts, several high-end recipes are single-use only.
And this concludes today’s entry on the “From Azeroth to Middle-Earth” series. In the next post we’ll talk about character builds and much more.