the_gneech: (Default)
Maedhroc deals with the local spider problem.

So LotRO has a new paid expansion coming out, titled simply Mordor. And I have to decide what, if anything, I'm going to do about it.

Once upon a time, I love love loooooooved LotRO. I wrote stories about Maedhroc Thornhollow, my little hobbitey warden, tromping all over the world.

Then they scrambled wardens and I didn't know how to play him, so I had to re-learn from scratch...

And then they did it again and I gave up on wardens, but champions had become OP so I went back to one of those.

And then MadeOfLions, the Tolkien ubernerd head writer left somewhere in the development of Rohan IIRC.

I choked down Rohan, a vast country made up of the same story over and over and over and over again, mostly on the momentum of happier days. I got stuck on the "battles" system, which threw away everything good about skirmishes and so never got through the battle of Helm's Deep.

You can skip Helm's Deep to a certain extent, so I moved on figuring I'd come back to it... but then I got to northern Gondor, in which there was no story, just infinite endless daily quest grinding...

...and stopped.

Other than logging in every few months to pay the rent on Maedhroc's house, in the forlorn hope that I may one day get back into it, and the occasional lowbie re-running of Ered Luin to remember happier days, I have not played LotRO in something like two, three years.

I miss it. But like so many other things, I miss the LotRO of 2010, not the LotRO of today. And with no income other than what I can scrape up with my writing and art, do I really have any excuse to buy an expansion to a game I don't play?

Now I have to admit, I am impressed LotRO has made it to Mordor. Lots of people didn't think it would happen, especially when subscribers started dwindling somewhere around late Moria/Mirkwood. But it also means that the game is nearing "The End." Even if they do the Scouring of the Shire, there simply comes a time when there is no more Lord of the Rings for them to do online. What then?

But I also find it interesting that where I lost interest in LotRO is also where I tend to lose interest in the books. "The world of men" is the LEAST. INTERESTING. THING. about Middle-earth! I'm all about elves first, hobbits second, dwarves a distant third, and fuck humans. The more the fantastic elements fade away and it just becomes a series of battles, the less I care. Fellowship of the Ring has barrow-wights and ringwraiths and balrogs and and and... Gondor does have an army of the dead, so that's neat. But mostly it has much fighting and killing of the orcs by the knights in general.

Anyway, I dunno. Like I say, I used to love LotRO and I wish I still did. But the idea of forcing myself to learn the game again and having to grind my way through Gondor just to get to Moria...? Oh, honey, I dunno...

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
Pathfinder Ultimate Combat cover

I remember the moment I was done with Pathfinder. I was trying to get my sputtering Eberron game to fly and I'd picked up a PF module, and one of the foes– not even the "boss fight" at the end mind you, but just a normal encounter in the middle of the adventure– had a stat block that was more than a page and a half long. Three-plus columns of 10-point type. I don't remember what the creature was, other than a general feeling of it being something along the lines of "fiendish half-golem mutant dreamlands giant oracle 4/barbarian 3/inquistor 2".

I literally looked at the page and said, "Oh, shut up."

People who've known me for a long time know that I jumped on the Pathfinder bandwagon early on and stayed with them for years. Given the options at the time, there were a lot of good reasons for doing so. But near the end of my run as a Pathfinder GM, my games were floundering. I kept trying to co-opt Star Wars Saga Edition for everything, or if that failed, switching to things like Savage Worlds so that there wasn't so much overhead in game prep and to keep fights from lasting hours... with varying amounts of success.

Now here's the thing. 3E was amazing in its day. Providing a framework to not only allow but to encourage all kinds of mixing and matching of creatures, classes, and templates threw open the gates for all kinds of new and interesting encounters D&D had rarely seen before. In 2E a vampire lizardfolk being the twist villain at the end of a module was enough to make it a "fresh and exciting classic." (I won't spoil it by saying which one, but grognards probably know already.) With 3E, you could do that all the time and feel relatively confident that the ruleset would support it.

So when Bruce Cordell tossed a vampiric gibbering mouther into Heart of Nightfang Spire (if I'm remembering correctly– it might have been Monte Cook's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil?) it was kind of neat as gimmick, but also got snorts for being kind of silly. I myself used a similar trick when the players in my group destroyed a cursed magic item by feeding it to a gray ooze– only to have them attacked by a fiendish gray ooze for their trouble.

But that kind of thing is like cayenne pepper: a little bit gives the encounter a kick, but any more than that and you can't taste anything else.

Pathfinder, especially latter-day Pathfinder, is cayenne pepper soup with a side of cayenne pepper chips and a coffee with cayenne pepper cream. Most game systems tend towards inflation and bloat as they age, and 3.x was creaking under its own weight by the time Pathfinder rolled out. [1] PF cleaned up some of the clunkiest bits, which helped, but as the years rolled on and the pressure to keep adding new things carried on, it became this giant lumbering mess of a game, perfectly captured in visual form by the baroque and overwrought Wayne Reynolds art that is its hallmark.

What brings me to all this right now is that I've been invited to join an online Pathfinder game. Now I'm grateful to be a player in anything (and I promise not to kibitz about PF at the table!), so yesterday I pulled out Lachwen and statted up a 3rd level version. Thankfully, it's a "core" game, and I had Hero Labs to work with because I had forgotten (or blocked) so much of how 3.x/PF worked that it would have taken me hours to do it by hand. Using the "PC wealth by level" guidelines, she started with 3,000 gp and with that she bought... three numeric bonus items. Because that's how PF magic items work. I might go back and toss one of those out for a dozen spell scrolls or something that add a little more interest than a random +1.

It was the first time I'd looked at Pathfinder in any significant way in two years, and I was surprised at just how strong my reaction was to it, and what a difference 5E has made in how I look at the game. It also kinda makes me wonder what the gaming world would be like now if WotC had released 5E in 2008, instead of what we actually got. I have no doubt there would have still been edition wars, with nerds being the way we tend to be; but I don't think it would have torn the community so wildly apart.

-The Gneech

[1] This is one reason WotC is being very slow and deliberate with its 5E releases. They don't want to have to make a new edition and risk another 4E schism again any time soon. 5E's deliberate modularity is also a hedge against this– just because a given subsystem exists, doesn't mean that you're expected or required to use it. A third of the DMG is systems like Sanity that only a few outlier games will ever bother with.
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Lachwen blasts a troll, while Legolas ducks for cover
I hear a lot that people sometimes miss the character variety/options of 3.x/Pathfinder compared to 5E, but I've never really understood that. With very few exceptions, I haven't had any character ideas that I thought worked really well in 3.x/PF that couldn't be translated to 5E pretty easily, especially given a DM who was flexible about allowing homebrew or third party content. It's not always a 1-to-1 correlation, but it's usually "close enough" that the character feels pretty much the same.

So far, the biggest exception I've found to that, is Lachwen, my Badass Lightning Girl. Now keep in mind, she was originally a runekeeper in LotRO, so already a translation to tabletop is going to be a little wonky. (With the exception of bards, there pretty much aren't any D&D classes that can swap back forth between damage and healing the way RKs do. But in practice, I rarely played her as a healer, almost always going DPS. So when the time came to convert her, I simply dropped the healing all together.)

Now, I never got to play her on the tabletop, but I did stat her up for Pathfinder, and with the various splats (honestly I don't even remember which ones, but they are from Paizo books, I didn't use outside material), she worked really well. Affinity for the elemental plane of air gave her all the zappy-blasty she needed, especially with the ability to convert other elemental spells to lighting as desired. Fireball for instance, became lightning burst... waahahaaaa!

Alas, 5E doesn't really have a good "elemental sorcerer" setup– which I thought from day one was a strange omission. It has the draconic bloodline, which kinda-sorta does it, while also adding scales, wings, and a lot of other baggage. But my vision for Lachwen was always that she just bristled with elemental energy, kaboom!

The closest thing I've found, even from third party materials, is the storm sorcerer from The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, which in terms of fluff is exactly the same as her PF incarnation, right down to the tie to the plane of air. But the powers it gives are weird ones... randomly flying at 3rd level, for instance, and mostly-fluff minor weather control powers at 6th [1].

So that's how she's been built. I made her 6th level to be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison with her PF incarnation. I tweaked her a bit, making her half-elf instead the high elf she was in PF, partially for the CHA bump but also because Lachwen is not stately or refined in any way. If Obsidian is Rarity as a bard? Lachwen is Rainbow Dash as a sorcerer.

Lachwen Shimmerlight (CR 2; 450 XP)

Female humanoid (half-elf) sorcerer 6, chaotic good
AC 13*; hp 38 (6d6+12)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 10 (+0), DEX 15 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 12 (+1), WIS 8 (-1), CHA 17 (+3)

Feats Elemental Adept (Lightning)
Saving Throws Con +6, Cha +7*
Damage Resistances Lightning, Thunder
Skills Arcana +4, Athletics +3, Insight +2, Intimidation +6, Perception +2, Performance +6
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common, Draconic, Elvish, Primordial

Elemental Adept. Spells Lachwen casts ignore resistance to lightning damage. In addition, when she rolls lightning damage for one of her spells, she can treat a roll of 1 on a damage die as a 2.
Font of Magic. Lachwen can draw upon a wellspring of power, giving her 6 sorcery points which may be used to create spell slots or fuel her metamagic abilities.
Heart of the Storm. Lachwen is resistant to lightning and thunder damage.
Metamagic. Lachwen knows the Careful Spell and Distant Spell metamagic abilities.

Spellcasting. Lachwen is a 6th-level spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). Lachwen knows the following spells:
Cantrips (at-will): dancing lights, fire bolt, lightning lure, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
1st level (4 slots): thunderwave, witch bolt
2nd level (3 slots): gust of wind, hold person, shatter
3rd level (3 slots): fireball, lightning bolt

Storm Guide. Lachwen may subtly control the weather around her.

Dagger +1. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20 ft./60 ft., one target. Hit: 1d4+3 piercing damage.

Bonus Actions
Tempestuous Magic. Immediately before or after Lachwen casts a spell on her turn, she may use a bonus action to fly 10' without provoking attacks of opportunity.
*Ring of Protection

Soooo, yeah. Not exactly the same, but she's a workable facsimile– although I really miss that ability to change other energy damage to lightning. This version is more physical (running, jumping, climbing) than the Pathfinder one and less social, although she still has Intimidate and Performance, to create scary (or awesome) Tesla-style lightning displays and firebreathing routines. I also gave her fewer magic items, just 'cause that "feels" more 5E. She could use some bracers of defense or the like, tho.

If I were going to make her closer to the LotRO version (and had a willing DM) I'd probably change her tempestuous magic's flying to some sort of shocking bolt that stunned [number up to Cha bonus] creatures within 5' until the beginning of their next turn if they failed a Con save, to give it that same "I can escape being swarmed!" thing without randomly turning her into Supergirl for short hops. (But really, do you even need that, with thunderwave on the spell list?) Of course, that would have the side-effect of setting up the party rogue for free sneak attacks on dazed opponents, but it would have the saving throw as a counter to that (and keep Lachwen's feet on the ground). (I picture her hold person being very similar to that, a magic taser, basically.) But she's already got one splatbook thing going on as it is, and her skill proficiencies came from a third-party background (Mercenary) because none of the official ones really fit, so I wouldn't be surprised if a DM said no.

(In a "core only" game, she'd be draconic with a blue dragon ancestor and the Entertainer background. But she'd also have scales and eventually sprout wings, which is even less like Lachwen should be than this version is.)

-The Gneech, bzzaaap, bzzaaap

[1] Not totally useless, but how often is "make it quite raining in a 20' radius" going to be useful in most D&D games? I can at least see the ability to cause and/or cancel wind having use for dousing/spreading fires and the like.
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)

(To the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire…” by Billy Joel)

Celedras, Arcangalad

Arshan’s always kinda mad

I haven’t played you for a while

Obsidian kills her foes with style

Maedhroc gives his foes the boot

Elsa’s tough but awfully cute

1E rules are dumb and hard

but they made my super-bard


Referees don’t get to play much

We get all excited, tho we try to hide it

Referees don’t get to play much

But there’ll be no game, if I’m not DM

Playing Lachwen was a blast

but MMO fun doesn’t last

I don’t wanna spend the cash right now

to play my panda monk in WoW

But oh on tabletop to play again

Or just once for my paladin

The 3E rules were quite a cage

for Theran, my poor fighter-mage

My halfling ranger doesn’t have a name

I’d love to play him all the same

My human ranger had a plot device

but tough luck I suck at rolling dice

Natural 1’s all day!

No foes I’ll slay!

What else do I have to say?


Referees don’t get to play much

We get all excited, tho we try to hide it

Referees don’t get to play much

But there’ll be no game

If I am not



-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
"Yeah, yeah, fine, go kill the warg pack-leader, I'll do it in a minute. But can we PLEASE talk about getting me a boat to go up the Anduin?"

Lachwen decided today that she'd backfilled enough of her Volume I story quests, after one too many "ride halfway across Middle-earth to talk to X, who just sends you right back to the other end of Middle-earth to talk to the person who just sent you there" quests. Unfortunately, most of the latter half of Volume I is like this, and when she got a request to go down, down to Goblin Town to grab a bag of gems in the middle of what's supposed to be a time-sensitive chase after a magic ring, she just said, "You know what? To heck with this."

I then tried going back to Enedwaith, a zone which she only stayed in long enough to outlevel, but only a few of the quests awarded enough XP to justify the time investment and none of them particularly interested her (or me-- Enedwaith was a fun zone the first time around, but only that), and there were no deeds there worth the doing. Looking at both her quest and deed log, it turns out she'd be better served by going back to Southern Mirkwood and finishing it off. There are multiple explorer deeds there, the warg-slayer deed gives her a useful virtue point, and there are a fair number of green quests and mobs, so she can actually earn some XP and do some combat with things that actually fight back.

So I figure, what the hay, I'll pick up the "Tales of the Fire Maiden" thread pretty much where I left it, with Lachwen stuck in southern Mirkwood and trying to get back to the northern part of the forest, just in time for her sister Rufaniel to come tromping up out of Moria and drag her off to Rohan.

...which of course means I need to get busy on levelling up Rufaniel as well. Oops.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
I must be enjoying LotRO again, I only take screenies when I'm really getting into it.


Here we see Lachwen Shimmerlight, dressed for the cold and wondering what the heck she's doing way up in Forochel. Surely those long-lost second age texts aren't that interesting!


Here's Lachwen looking a bit more typically like herself. I suspect if there were unicorns in Middle-earth, she'd probably be riding one. She's that type of gal.


And here's Lachwen's sister Rufaniel, looking stern and badass. I suspect Lachwen's just said something daft, and Ruf is interested in exactly none of her shenanigans.

I'm having a lot of fun with these two, and I have been getting the stirrings of ideas for a "Life Of a Bounder"-esque series of story posts with them, sometimes interacting, sometimes off doing their own thing. To do that, of course, I have to collect screenies, but I've got a fair number of Lachwen already and will pick up more with Rufaniel as she gets played. She hasn't made it to Mirkwood yet in-game, but when she does I suspect I'll pick up where Lachwen's tale once left off and start trying to blend them in.

I'm also jonesing to find a regular crowd to run with again. Back when it was Poppy, Pippin, Galdor, Nim, and me, running all over Angmar and Moria, those were fun times, and I want to find another group like that. Of course, they're all way up at the level cap, while I'm nursing a L50-ish and a L75-ish, but I'll catch up with time. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Last time I played Lachwen I decided that as I was re-learning the class it would be a good time to backfill some of the stuff she skipped, especially in Mirkwood, given that she did once have a character story that specifically involved being in Mirkwood for a reason-- and the Mirkwood quests, while still well below level, are still green to her and therefore worth some XP.

Today, sneaking in a few minutes of LotRO on my lunch break, I foolishly tried to level up some of her crafting skills-- only to discover that she had never gained mastery two tiers back, and therefore will not be able to gain mastery for her current tier either and will be throwing away craft XP if she makes guild rep items. Of course, the tier she's missing? Angmar.

Siiiiigh. WHY does this game keep trying to force me to go to Angmar? -.- Does it WANT to give me headaches?

Well, I have to finish off the Book I epic line with her anyway, and she does have a lot of junk cluttering up her quest log. When I was first playing her I was trying to get her to the level cap for the Enedwaith release over the course of a month, so whenever she out-leveled a zone, she simply abandoned it. So to start cleaning things up, I pulled out the lowest level solo quest I still had, and pointed her at it.

Turns out it's in Forochel, so there's a possibility that she might find the right level mats there, too, so that's where she is now. Gonna grind up some deeds too while I'm at it (Hooray for deed accelerator tomes!) and just get the whole zone banged out. Shouldn't take very long, but it also means she'll be sitting on level 71 for that much longer as everything there is gray to her. Then it's off to Angmar to finish off Book I and collect whatever other mats she still needs.

Rufaniel, on the other hand, continues to slosh around in the Waterworks of Moria. My favorite zone down there, so I'm not really in a hurry to leave, but I think Ruf herself is probably getting pretty tired of the smell.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Thanks to some tanking from Jamie, I was able to get Lachwen out of that dang swamp, and off to the more interesting parts of Dunland. I'm starting to get (some of) the hang of the class, having found that healing-traited, the runekeeper does a pretty good job of self-heal tanking solo, as long as they don't go up against anything with a really solid one-punch hit. Sadly, where I left Lachwen, puts her in the unhappy position of needing to go up against just such a foe, but I have to learn how to face it sometime, right?

Meanwhile Rufaniel, my mid-50s champion, is still just as crazy OP as the champions have been for a while. I tried her running in tank mode, and in AoE, and both work beautifully. AoE seems to be just a touch more efficient for landscape quests, at least, but switching trait lines on-the-fly is easy enough that I can jump into tank mode if I know a boss fight is coming or some such.

So I expect I'll be bouncing back and forth between these two for a while. Amusingly (at least to me), the two of them use almost the exact same character model and they're both from Mirkwood, so now my headcanon is that the two of them are sisters. I'm thinking of maybe tweaking their skirmish soldier cosmetics so they can run "together" that way; naturally I've come up with personality traits and how they interact in my head. I might even start doing story posts like the old "Life of a Bounder" series with them, although I'm not sure there's enough of interest to me in southeastern Middle-earth to support that. Maybe stuff in Gondor, if the game ever gets there; but Lachwen at least is a very urban sort of character and finds both Dunland and Rohan to be hick country.

I don't know why I'm suddenly interested in LotRO again out of the blue; it may be seasonal. Or maybe I just had a long enough break to be able to come back to it "fresh," I dunno. I do find it telling that I'm just not interested in playing Maedhroc or Galadhalion these days-- particularly considering that mechanically Rufaniel and Galadhalion are practically the same character, just at different leveling stages. But really, Maedhroc's story feels "done" to me-- his spirit was sorta crushed by what happened to him at Dol Guldur and then just ground into the dirt by his capture and imprisonment in Isengard. He has retired to his nice little home in the Shire to recover. As for Galadhalion, I'm sure he's still out there, probably raising heck somewhere with Shamat and Poppy in tales left untold.

It's time for new stories, with Lachwen and Rufaniel, to occupy my time off for a bit.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
So for whatever reason, last night I got the sudden urge to pull out my LotRO runekeeper Lachwen, and see what I could make of her. She never got her skills fixed after the Rohan scramble, but I was never very skilled with the class to begin with, so I figured I didn't have much to lose.

Tonight, I decided I'd done enough work that I could splurge on a little recreation and fired her up. Having messed with her for a few hours, mostly running a Mirkwood skirmish and doing a little bit of questing in Dunland ("Oh GOD, Lachwen is still in Dunland! *cry*"), I have come to the conclusion that... I'm still not very skilled with the class. ¬.¬

Basically, Lachwen needs a tank to hide behind. When running solo, she can -sorta- mitigate that with stuns, but the RK doesn't have their tanky healing rock any more (RIP, "Obvious Distraction," I loved you and you served me well), so I'm not sure where that leaves her in solo play. Presumably the RK is still supposed to kite like crazy, which is actually my least-favorite aspect of the class. I can't even imagine what mounted combat for RKs is like.

I don't really want to re-roll a baby RK and start over. Lachwen is level 71, which means she's past all that grindy, grindy, boring stuff in Lone Lands/North Downs that I really never want to do again. But I kinda feel like I might have to if I really want to understand how the class works.

Enh. Maybe I can get [ profile] jamesbarret to stand there and draw aggro for me and power-level Lachwen some while I get back in the swing of it. ;)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
*pulls out his Runekeeper just for fun*

*realizes he has no idea what he's doing*

I've forgotten what every one of these skills is for. O.o In as much as I ever really understood.


*signs off and goes to bed*

the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
Not actually a Rufanial screenie, but very close.Pursuant to yesterday's post about wanting some actual RP in my MMORPG, I started trying to give some thought to Rufaniel's character, for if and when some RP opportunities come along. Up to this point, I had very little to go on other than some vague impressions of a certain amount of arrogance. I tried to pick up queues from her outfits, but she hadn't really settled on any that she liked. She started out with the Helmingas set, but the bulky cloak seemed grandiose and just plain awkward. So next I pulled out the Moria champion's armor and dyed it scarlet ("Rufaniel" basically means "red maiden"). That worked fairly well, but still lacked a little something.

It turned out, the answer was very simple: go back to Helmingas, ditch the cloak, replace it with a more functional quiver. This makes the rest of the Helmingas set look like a durable, practical outfit that a warrior (who still cares about their appearance at least a little) might actually wear. Suddenly, BOOM. Character formed in my head.

Rufaniel is from Mirkwood-- they're the rednecks of elf-kind. But being Tolkien elves, this still makes them way more refined and spiritual than any human, and they're certainly not feral like Elfquest elves. (Interestingly, Thranduil {and by extension, Legolas} are Sindarin, rather than actual wood-elves. There's probably an interesting story of how Thranduil came to be in charge of Mirkwood... but I don't know what it is.) Combining that with her close-cropped hair and her bang-about outfit, and layering in the already-existing arrogance, and a personality begins to form.

Rufaniel is a tomboy, competitive and fierce, longing for exciting adventures. She doesn't aspire to power or "greatness," but she does want to experience amazing things. As such, she quickly becomes bored with small things or quiet moments. "Savor" is not a thing she does, not really. Even her most brilliant triumph would only be acknowledged with a lopsided grin and an enthusiastic "Ha-HA!"

She doesn't have the "antiquity fetish" that so many of her kindred have; she has a healthy respect for the great deeds of times past, but she is very much a creature of the moment. If a story from the First or Second Ages is applicable to the task at hand, she's keen to hear it, but she has very little interest in simply sitting around engaging in nostalgia.

This is also where her arrogance comes from: she tends to dismiss hobbits as "irrelevant" for instance, or common folk as not worth paying much attention to. It would be a mistake to think she doesn't understand them: just the opposite in fact. She's very perceptive and often knows all there is to know about a person after giving them a cursory examination. She also knows that such people can rise above the moment and surprise you, so she's ready for that when it happens. But it usually doesn't happen.

This, I think, is a personality I can work with. It's also more flexible than Lachwen, who really belonged in a much more urban setting than anywhere you might find on Middle-Earth. (Lachwen really belongs in a setting like Eberron or someplace like that.) Should RP moments come up, Rufaniel will be ready to go. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas Nah)
So as I've mentioned I've been working up a new champy on LotRO. "Why," you may ask, "are you spending all of the time necessary to grind up a whole new character to level bazillion or whatever the cap is now, when you've already have a champy near the top who's got gear and deeds and emotes and is mechanically identical to what the new character will be when you're done?"

It's a fair question, for which I don't really have an answer any better than "Because I wanted an elf maid champion." The constant class-scrambling has put me off both wardens and rune-keepers, which knocks out Maedhroc and Lachwen; Galadhalion, although he has a special spot as my first character, has a ton of mental baggage associated with him that I'd rather leave behind. I also kinda need to train myself how to play the class again, and I'd rather start with a clean slate than try to untangle the mess of buttons that is Galadhalion's tool bars.

However, going through LotRO after having been more or less absent from it for half a year or more, I can feel a significant change in the atmosphere of the game. Many of the LotRO blogs/podcasts have gone dark; there's nowhere near as much chatter in the zone channels. The MMO business in general appears to be dwindling and LotRO is dwindling with it. It's not dead, not by a long shot, but it's also not, I dunno, trendy, any more? LotRO has gone from being the new hotness to an old warhorse somewhere along the way.

It's not entirely a bad thing; the people I encounter in-game are more likely to be hardcore LotRO fans, who are there because they love the setting of M-E or the gameplay or what-have-you, which means they tend to be a bit more level-headed, a bit more friendly, and a bit more knowledgeable than a lot of the problem players of days past. But it does leave the lower-level zones of LotRO much lonelier places than they once were.

However, I did encounter something last night that put a smile on my face: a pair of elves and a dwarf standing around the Last Homely House in Rivendell, chatting in-character by use of "/say" commands and emotes, discussing what had in mind to do. I eavesdropped on them a bit while inventory-managing at a vendor, and was entertained by the pure RP going on. On a meta level, the players were choosing an activity for their gaming session (deciding eventually to do some of the Mirkwood instances); in-game however, they described lightly taking a stroll through the warg-pens, for which the dwarf said he would have to go put on his helmet, and one of the elves advised him to make sure the eyeholes were lined up this time, causing a groan from the dwarf and chuckles from everyone else around, self included.

It was just a tiny little moment of RP, and I wasn't even involved, but I loved it. It's the exact sort of thing I always wanted from LotRO and have almost never found from the groups I've hung around with. It's also what I meant way back when, when I said I'd had more pure RP in six months of the #TwitterPonies than in five years of playing LotRO.

By way of thanks, I headed for the nearest mailbox and sent each of the three players a mug of Forsaken Inn Ale, with an apology for not having a better brew, offering each of them a toast. (As of the time I signed off, none had replied, but I imagine they were all in Mirkwood by then.) If nothing else, they did rekindle the hope I once had that there actually is RP to be found in LotRO, you just need to be looking in the right place for it.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
So I haven't really played Lord of the Rings Online in any big way for the better part of a year now; basically, there was a short burst right after the release of Rohan, and then just signing on once or twice a month to pay for my character's house upkeep. Given how much I used to love LotRO, this gigantic "Meh" from me on the topic might seem odd. It certainly seemed odd to me, so I took a step back and tried to diagnose the problem. Here's what I came up with.

The World of Men

First of all, we're in the boringest part of Middle-Earth, and gonna stay there from here forward. Rohan and Gondor are where I lose interest in The Lord of the Rings (the books), and so it's hardly surprising that it's where I should lose interest in a game that follows the storyline. When I'm in Middle-Earth, I want to hear about elves first, hobbits second, dwarves third, and anything else (including humans) a distant fourth. Humans are there because they have to be, but they are boring, boring, boring, boring. LotRO has been to Rivendell and been to Lothlorien. The only place I want to go that it hasn't been yet is Northern Mirkwood... and having been to Southern Mirkwood, that's probably close enough to call it a day.

If there was a Silmarillion Online, I'd jump ship in a heartbeat. It'd be depressing, sure, but at least it would be interestingly depressing.

MOAR Levels, MOAR Mechanics

Every time they release a new expansion, they scramble the game mechanics, especially for my favorite class, the Warden. I learned the Warden when it was new, then I re-learned it when they shuffled it the first time, then I started to re-learn it when they shuffled it the second time and made all the stances do weird things, and now they've added mounted combat to the mix and... to hell with it. I don't care enough to re-learn the class a fourth time. -.- That leaves me with the Champion, and there's really no point to me playing a champ because in any group I'd be likely to join, [ profile] jamesbarrett's raid-gear-and-all-traits-ground-to-50 champ would make me superfluous anyway. It'd be all right for going through solo content, but since as mentioned that's all in the World of Men, that's hardly a compelling argument.

I did make a Runekeeper (my Badass Lightning Girl) and got her to a fairly high level, but I was never that great with the class, and it's another one that's constantly getting scrambled like the warden. Meh.

Time, Destroyer of All Things

The final element is of course my very limited leisure time. Even when I'm not trying to work on a comic, all sorts of junk keeps happening that I have to deal with, and so I have to be very choosy about what I do with my time. Right now, #TwitterPonies and Borderlands are way more fun than LotRO, so if I only have an hour in which to goof off, why should I pick the runner-up?

It is conceivable that I might become interested in LotRO again sometime; I go through cycles of interest all the time. That's why I've continued to sign on and pay my rent. But I don't know if/when that will happen. So until then, folks will just have to march against Mordor without me.

-The Gneech

PS: I totally typed "The Lord of the Rinds" as a typo in the draft of this post. Now I want to do something with that idea.
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
As a general rule, I like my fantasy played very straight; so when I'm in the mood to step into a virtual fantasy setting, my setting of choice is Lord of the Rings Online, which for the most part does a very good job of visualizing Middle Earth's "the real world (specifically Europe) in some forgotten pre-historic epoch" setting.

However, there are times when I'm in a mood for something a little more fantastical, with blasty wizards and glowy swords and blue hair and people riding around on shimmering frilled lizards. Then I play Star Wars. I created Lachwen in LotRO to fill that void, but the problem is that she's not really at home in that setting. So, since World of Warcraft is FTP up to level 20 and I knew [ profile] sirfox was a WoW player, I downloaded it and created a Draenei mage, named Akijo.

Akijo under a really fancy chandelier.

She's a perty thing. :) I got her up to level 9 (I think it was) before deciding I'd had enough for the night. It was fun, pretty standard click-and-pointy stuff, and certainly very colorful. :D I can't really say if I enjoyed it enough to make it worth paying for once it stops being FTP. I have a paid lifetime account on LotRO and I don't play that as much as I used to these days. On the other hand, it was just different enough to be an enjoyable diversion. (Plus there was a pirate cook named Cookie McWeaksauce, that was good for a chuckle.)

It's definitely candy to LotRO steak, but sometimes candy is what you want. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
So for the past few days I've put down a lot of other stuff and spent time running around in LotRO with my little hobbitey warden Maedhroc. I've had a hard time forcing myself through the current content until the day before yesterday... most of Dunland is Made of Boring, especially the central and northwestern sub-zones, and this is made doubly-tiresome since so many of the Book Quests (which are usually so wonderfully plot-heavy) have no story at all but are just "Go to hub. Go to next hub. Rinse. Repeat."

However, there is one shining bit of brightness in all the monochromatic brown, which I'm going to be cagey about to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say, your relationship with one significant chunk of plot isn't what you think it is ... and suddenly you're in Saruman's chambers, watching his robe do the many-colored thing and going, "Whoa, how did this even happen?"

It's a very cool twist that finally breathes some life into what has until now been "The Tale of Watching All the Rangers Die On the Way to Gondor." That, combined with the more interesting landscape of eastern Dunland, have combined to rekindle my interest.

Another factor seems to be Maedhroc (warden) vs. Lachwen (runekeeper), and the comparative difficulty level of the two classes. I don't know if the tactical damage scaling has been fixed since the last time I did anything with Lachwen, but she was having a real hard time being effective in Dunland, not doing anything like the damage she'd done in previous zones, while still being squishier than a marshmallow peep. Maedhroc, on the other hand, is all but unkillable against most foes, only really having trouble if he gets seriously overwhelmed or hit by chain debuffs (like one particular fight in the Cleft where he was stunned-disarm-stunned-disarmed-stunned-disarmed-dead). He has attempted to use the revised Never Surrender skill a few times in those "Gah I can't heal through this!" moments, but has not yet successfully pulled it off. Even so, Maed has been defeated a total of two or three times in this zone, compared to Lachwen's being defeated two or three times a night.

The net result of this is that I flow through areas more easily and feel like I'm following the narrative thrust, so to speak, rather than going through a slow grind of banging my head against the same fight multiple times. This makes my enjoyment level shoot way up, as "beating the game" is not the interesting thing for me. "Hearing the story" is the part that I like!

All of which said, I'm really hoping that the upcoming release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will take us back north. Northern Mirkwood, Dale, Erebor... I'm still hoping on you!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Despite what this video may claim, it's not actually auroras seen from space:

It's actually Lachwen hitting level 65. Here's a closer version:

Lachwen hits 65

The question now is, can she get to the previous end of Volume III in time to be ready to roll on Tuesday? To which the answer is, "probably not," but y'know, it'll be close enough that I won't mind making the transition.

In other news, one of the things I've been working hard on with Arclight Adventures is practicing what I preach, re: having a buffer built up. To wit, today I sent [ profile] wyatt1048 for coloring another page that will run in January. ;) At the risk of tooting my own horn, I've been quite pleased with how the Arclight pages are coming out. I've been working very diligently to put only my best work into them (which sometimes calls for a lot of erasing, alas!), and I can see (and feel) my art improving as a result.

Of course, there's nothing I'm doing with Arclight that a pro comic artist doesn't do better and faster, but still, for me at least it's a new and exciting feeling to not be intimidated by the thought of "Great googily-moogily, how could I ever pull off drawing that?" I commented once upon a time about how having Sue doing the art for NeverNever freed up my writing because I didn't feel like I had to worry about whether or not the artist could pull it off -- whatever it was, I knew that Sue could do it.

That's where I want to get with my own art, and with the results I've been seeing so far, I think I just may actually get there -- eventually. :) I'm not quite there now, I've got some pages coming up that frankly have got me nervous, but once upon a time the idea of doing even the first splash page would have felt like it was something totally out of my league. So I'm definitely making progress!

But for now, bed. G'nite, everybody, and have an awesome tomorrow!

-The Gneech

PS: Just for my own memory, here was my other LotRO achievement: "Lachwen scored a devastating hit with Epic Conclusion on the Tham Úmdúr Blood-warrior for 2,217 Lightning damage to Morale." :D


Sep. 24th, 2011 12:53 pm
the_gneech: (Party Guy)
So, this morning I watched My Little Pony and then played LotRO long enough to get Lachwen to level 64 1/3.

This afternoon I'm going to ink another page of Arclight Adventures.


-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
Yes, I know I've posted this before and it's made the rounds, but it's so awesome I just have to post it again.

It occurs to me that this was my first introduction to MLP:FIM, and it very well may have been the spark that gave me the idea for Lachwen in the first place. :D

-The Gneech

PS: Oh, and hey! Followup!

the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Lachwen arrives in Mirkwood

After all this time and effort to get home, Lachwen finds herself at the wrong end of Mirkwood, facing an army of orcs. Her first instinct is to beg, borrow, or buy a boat in Lothlorien and just head up the Anduin, but somehow knowing that all these Galadhrim are here fighting what must eventually be a lost battle against Dol Guldur, home of one of her own people's most dangerous enemies, is making it awfully hard for her to just pack up and hit the road.

In terms of game mechanics, she's L63 and racing to get up to speed for Rise of Isengard, releasing on Tuesday. I suspect that when she hits 64, I'll probably cut and run to Enedwaith so she can grind out the Volume III storyline as far as it goes and do her last bit of levelling at the same time. It depends on how the quest chain starts: she might not receive the starter message for the Prologue until she hits 65, in which case she might just stick with Mirkwood 'til the note arrives. There are deeds she needs in Mirkwood -- Enedwaith, not so much. There she just needs the storyline.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Big night for Lachwen tonight. With the help of some friends from the Valar Guild, she completed her L60 class quest in the 16th Hall of Moria, as well as picking up her last legendary trait and finishing a double-handful of deeds and quests in Moria. But before all of that started, she decided to celebrate having hit level 60 (the original Mirkwood expansion level cap) by getting a makeover in Lothlorien.

Lachwen's Makeover by the Elves of Lothlorien

As you can see, it's a softer, friendlier look than she was previously sporting, with flowers and highlights in her hair and an actual outfit designed by some of the finest crafters in Caras Galadhon, rather than a bunch of random pieces just tossed together. They couldn't get her to abandon the peacock color scheme, tho -- Lachwen just isn't Lachwen without the colors of the rainbow. Unfortunately, the outfit is a touch lacking in the yellow/green portion of the spectrum, so she compensated for that a bit by adding a touch of gold to her signature winged circlet.

All that said, she's still the same badass lightning girl under the skin -- some of the deeds completed involved slaying vast numbers of orcs. ;) And she hit L61 halfway through the instance run. It was actually the first time any of my characters had been through 16th Hall, despite [ profile] jamesbarrett's insistence that I'd done it before. It is conceivable that one or two of my characters might have stepped in the door and I forgot it, but I would have remembered those boss fights, they were definitely new to me.

Anyway, 'twas a fun night. Alas, likely to be the last major amount of time I can spend in LotRO this week -- I've got a con coming up this weekend that I need to prep for -- but now all of the major roadblocks are overcome and when I do get to go back into the game, Lachwen can just follow the Volume II quests on through to the end, and go back to catch up with deeds and other such things later.

-The Gneech

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