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MMOs differ from solo games in one main regard: they offer a social element. Whether working together and encouraging friends over their obstacles, bringing misery to your enemies and mocking them cruelly, or a little of both, Multiplayer games let you hi-five your buds and trash your opponents in a far more satisfying way than when they are nothing more than NPC AIs.
Sometimes, the social element even overtakes the game; chatting away with guildies helps pass the time when crafting, farming, or grinding, and you find yourself paying far more attention to the conversation than the gaming activity. Taking this to the next level, why not do something that is fun even if it doesn’t make you any stronger or wealthier?
LOTRO has always been pretty good about giving you silly things to do for fun with your friends, often offering rewards that don’t quite fall into the phat lewt category, but are pretty cool nonetheless; humourous titles, cosmetic clothing, even new emotes for those who went to dancing lessons, emote often, or are often the target of emotes. The freeze tag area east of the Bree Festival Grounds was also fun. They’ve even added a Hobby tab to the character sheet, though currently there is only one Hobby to pursue: Fishing.
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Learning to Fish
To get started, head to a Hobby Master in Michel Delving, Thorin’s Hall, Bree, and Rivendell. They will send you to a Fishing Supplier, and you are now ready to fish. Like any good hobby, fishing is easy to learn, but there is quite a bit to it once you get going. In addition to all the different fish, you can craft (or obtain crafted) fishing poles that increase your skill, or even catch fish that are specific to certain areas. The Angler’s Guide to Fishing in LOTRO, a Community Guide in the LOTRO Lorebook, is a great place to look for details on all things related to the Fishing Hobby. The most important thing to learn from it, or at least the one that would be pretty difficult to calculate on one’s own, is that there is currently no apparent benefit to using bait when fishing.
The most ‘useful’ rewards are some fish that can be used in cooking recipes for buff foods, but you can also get Trophy Fish, which can be mounted by a taxidermist in Bree to be used as decoration for your house, and you acquire titles as your Fishing skill increases. It also gives you something to do while you wait for an afk member, provided there is some water around.
In fact there are plenty of ways to enjoy Fishing. My kinship recently held a fishing derby: entry fees were collected, a raid was formed, and prizes were given to those catching the most Trophy Fish in 15 minutes. I wasn’t even in the competition (I was a marshal there to keep track of people’s catch) and it was still absurdly exciting to watch the clock tick down. There was even a tie that required a fish-off to decide the winner. We also found an awful lot of skulls and old weapons in the pond behind our leader’s house, resulting in many funny comments at his expense.
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Add Fishing Gear to Your Inventory
The only problem with the system is related to inventory, which is already a big issue. While carrying all the buff, potions, quest items, and crafting materials you either need or have yet to bank, you now get to carry a fishing rod (and some bait if you want). Equip your fishing rod, and your weapon and shield go back to your inventory, then you start catching a wide variety of fish and detritus. Obviously the rusty cutlery and weeds can be tossed, and you can practice a catch and release policy for run of the mill fish, but if you’re lucky it is possible to get several Trophy or cooking ingredient fish, which can fill your precious bags in a hurry. A catch bag to click on and have all of my fishing related kit and catch pop up would be lovely. Turbine uses a similar system for certain collectible items and gems in Dungeons and Dragons Online, so hopefully they will help out LOTRO’s angling population.
Considering the Fishing Hobby is a relaxing way to kill ten minutes and get some food and decor items while you’re at it, the inventory issue is a pretty minor gripe. Fishing is a nice addition to a game where atmosphere is key to enjoyment, and it will be great to see where they take it and the Hobby system in general with this fall’s Mines of Moria expansion.