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The End of the Beginning
Like anyone who plays any game, people get pretty riled up when free content comes down the pipe… make those people LOTRO fans waiting for Mines of Moria, and the excitement isn’t just palpable, it causes palpitations.
The Book 14 Expansion comes with the usual pages of release notes detailing little tweaks and fixes, but we’re going to focus on the new content and major changes, which still leaves us with plenty to do.
The Epic Book 14 quests themselves show off some of the systems that we’ll be seeing more of as we head towards Moria. Nothing new for the first few chapters: Chapter 1 features a lot of delivery work and a challenging, potentially very frustrating Instance (particularly if you try it without a Loremaster) followed by a really disappointing ending. Then there is some ‘fed-ex’ing around Rivendell. Finally things start to pick up, and we continue the Epic story not as ourselves, but as temporary templates we play for an instance; yup, session play ain’t just for chickens and PvP anymore.
The session play moves the story along well, but some players might get frustrated by some pretty tough fights on characters to which they aren’t accustomed. Most seemed to get through in a couple or three tries, and thought it was fun to play something else and try out some new skills for a change.
Shortly thereafter, a Chapter leads to something else Turbine plans more of: Event based questing. The Ring-Lore of Eregion sees Heralds being added to the NPC population of towns, handing out a quest to get 5 pieces of Ring-Lore. Tying into the Epic Story but available to all, the idea is that the North is under attack and Elrond needs to research how to fight it off. Once the repeatable quest is completed a certain number of times in total by the players on a server, the Heralds begin to give the next quest in the series, until that one gets done enough times, and so on. There is a banner behind the Heralds you can mouse over to check the server’s progress.
According to the dev’s, the point is to bring the War of the Ring to the players in a more vibrant way by letting them participate in achieving server wide goals that tie into major story elements. Some might balk at the 70 000 total completions required, though, and may feel that this is a pretty blatant time sink until the expansion shows up. The nice thing is that just about everything on two legs in level 35-plus areas drops Ring-Lore, so as long as you talk to a Herald before hitting the trail, completing the quest happens largely on its own. Also, you can only do the quest once per day per character, which will keep you from farming Ring-Lore until you are ready to kill Elrond out of spite. Chat was pretty vibrant, with RP types calling for the Free Peoples to go seek out the lore, and the number cruncher types trying to figure out how long it would take the server to get it done.
Some of you might be asking: Ring-Lore makes sense, who is Eregion? Eregion is a place not a person, actually it’s an area you can wedge in between Moria’s entrance and the Misty Mountains, which will likely have a few rest stops for beleaguered adventurers between what will be two rather challenging areas. From a story perspective it is important because this is were the Rings of Power were forged by the Noldor long ago (not the One Ring, that one comes from Mount Doom, just the 3 Elf rings and so on). Note that Eregion hasn’t been launched as a new area like Evendim and Forochel were with a whole new map to explore, but maybe parts of it will open as the server unearths more Ring-Lore.
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Onwards and Downwards to the Depths of Moria
The Expansion also includes the Forward to Volume 2 which involves helping the Hobbits get ready to go and a cute instance where you get to wave to the Fellowship on their way out of Rivendell. This created a pretty big issue; some people are ready to have the Fellowship be on their way, others still are nowhere near that point in the story and still have stacks of quests to turn in to members of the Nine, while most are somewhere in between. Turbine did a pretty good job with the elephant in the room; they led it to another room. The Hobbits and Gandalf were moved to a room to the right of the first floor of the Last Homely House and the rest of the Fellowship has taken up residence in the house in the south west corner of Rivendell. Not exactly perfect immersion, but at least everyone can still find them to turn quests in, and they aren’t standing in high traffic areas, which keeps attacks on your sense of continuity to a minimum.
You can do the Forward even if you haven’t kept up on your Volume 1 Epic Books, after all, a lot of people haven’t and obviously Turbine wants as many people to be excited about getting to Moria as possible. However, you might find it easier to get your Books done now as people who have already completed them can talk to a Sage of Eriador NPC (conveniently located by Reflecting Pools) to get a repeatable quest before jumping into the pool to help out. Rewards are barter items they can trade for consumables, crafting items, or other barter items for high-end armour sets. No longer will thanks be the only reward for helping out with a Book, which is great; it can be very hard to get Book groups together.
Furthermore, the attraction of armour one barters for has increased. The Annuminas set has been buffed, and there is now an Angmar set as well. Instances in these areas have been reworked for flow and playability as well. A new dressing room that allows preview of dye results rounds out the more significant additions.
With the Fellowship heading East and Angmarim openly attacking settlements in the North, there is a lot to get excited about, which beats sitting on your hands and waiting for Mines of Moria. Overall, Book 14 represents not only yet another juicy chunk of improvement and free content, as have previous Book Expansions, but also sets the stage for the first paid expansion this fall.
That’s not your heart, it’s the Drums in the Deep.
This series describes the changes that came with the Book 14 expansion, gives tips on the Epic quests and strategies on the new Battle Instance Quests.