Mar 27 2009

Life of a Bounder, Part XI

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“Hullo, my friends! ’tis Maedhroc, at your service. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to catch up with my correspondence, but since my initial foray into the Tomb of Elendil, it seems like it’s been a never-ending run with barely time to stop and smoke a little leaf from time to time. Where to begin?

I suppose it should be Rivendell, where I was given the singular honor of attending a ceremony of no small significance.

Maehdroc at the forging of Anduril

Lord Aragorn (yes, yes, I know, but I’m convinced now) invited me to attend as thanks for my part in delivering the elfstone needed. I notice with some amusement that there are more hobbits there than men.

While in Rivendell, I decided to do some sightseeing.

Maedhroc surveys Rivendell

By the order of Lord Elrond, I was allowed into Imlad Gelair, a kind of “secret valley within the secret valley,” usually only accessible by elves or elf-friends. I must say, while I was touched, I’m also a bit overwhelmed at all these important personages treating me with such kindness. I’m just a Bounder, after all. But I did make sure to dress for the occasion.

Maedhroc in Imlad Gelair

I also had a reunion with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for far too long. They seemed a bit reluctant to catch up on old times, tho.

Maedhroc with Merry and Pippin in Rivendell

Of course, it wasn’t all vacation in Rivendell. A Bounder’s work is never done, least of all mine. Lord Elrond asked me to find a gift for his daughter, the Lady Arwen, left by Lady Celebrian before she sailed to the West, which was hidden in a vault somewhere in the Trollshaws. Fortunately, the entrance to the vault was well-marked.

Maedhroc finds a well-labeled hidden doorway

Well, that’s handy!

From there, I found myself helping a hunter track down a most peculiar, rather smelly, and unprofitable beastie. My friend Galadhalion told me about this fellow; I’m surprised to see they’re still chasing each other after all this time.

Maedhroc, Wistan, and Gollum

What “we”? There’s only the two of us here, thanks to Wistan’s conveniently turned ankle.

Maedhroc chases Gollum

What ARE you going on about, you weird little man?

Maedhroc paddles after Gollum

He eventually managed to scramble up a cliffside and get away, after sicking an orc on me. Little pest!

Before heading back out to the wilderness, Gandalf asked me to have a chat with Mr. Frodo, who was feeling a little moody. I told him what news I had of The Shire, such as the restoration of the Quick Post, and rousting “the ghost of the Old Took” from the Great Smials … but he didn’t seem much interested.

Maedhroc regales Frodo with tales of the Shire

He rather surprised me with what I thought was a strange question.

Frodo calls Maedhroc an adventurer

“Adventurer?” I’m no adventurer, Mr. Frodo. I’m simply a keeper of the peace. Someone has to do it, after all!

From there, it was back out to the wilds. You may remember Longbough, the treeherder I spoke of in a previous letter? He asked me to join an expedition to help him destroy a huorn whose heart had turned black with hate. It was a sad job and a hard one — trees get mean when they’re mad — but we managed to put the poor creature down.

Maedhroc helps Longbough against the Twisted Heart

Not too long after that, I found myself in Angmar again (Wardens are always on the go!), where I confronted several … creatures … of a most unwholesome cast.

Maedhroc vs. Angmar Morreval

Um, Miss? You may wish to put on some clothes before you attempt to wage war upon the Free Peoples. Also, why does it look like you’re attempting to flourish the words “Root Vegetable”?

Upon returning to the Shire, I found myself with more coin in my pocket than I ever expected to see in my lifetime. And so I did something I once thought I would never do … I bought myself a lovely little burrow in the Southfarthing.

Maedhroc's new house

My old gaffer lives right up the road in Michel Delving, and I still visit him often and stop in at the Mathom Society House, or pop in to the Bird and Baby for a little something when I can. But these days, after so many harrowing experiences on the road, I find myself thinking that one of the most pleasant things in the big old world, is to relax on the porch with a good pipe full of leaf and watch the twilight come rolling in.

Maedhroc enjoys a pipe on his porch

There’s more, much more to tell you, but the hour draws late and I must return to Angmar come the morrow, so I’ll draw to a close here. I hope this finds you safe and well.

Your Friend In the Shire,
Honourary Shirriff Maedhroc Thornhollow”

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Mar 23 2009

Have I Mentioned I Love My Warden?

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This weekend was the first real test — could Maedhroc succeed where Galadhalion failed? And the answer was not just “yes,” but “#@%% YEAH!!!”

Specifically the “Goblin Fire” quests near Goblin-Town. You’re tasked with making your way into the goblin encampment, stealing five goblin-fire pots, coming up with a brew to sabotage them, then going in and blasting the camp to kingdom-come. However, this goblin camp is not what you’d call “sparsely populated.” In fact, there are goblins everywhere, not just standing in regular posts, but wandering all over the place. If you attack one, you’ll end up fighting five every time — the one you attack, the two that are in aggro range of that one, and the two that come wandering up to the fight 3/4 of the way through. Nevertheless, this is listed as a level 45 solo quest.

Uh huh.

Galadhalion couldn’t do it. He was defeated time and again, but every time he’d start to get anywhere near the fire-pots, he’d be swarmed with goblins and go down hard. He tried it at 45. He tried it at 46. He tried it at 47, 48, and 49. He tried it at 50. Same result every time, the only difference being that the repair bills got larger as his gear got more expensive. He did finally manage to do it at level 52, duoing it with a burglar, I think it was. (Been a long time.)

So last night Maedhroc, at level 46, decided to give it a go. It took care and effort — timing his pulls, watching for patrols and working out when it was safe to move — but he got all the way in, picked up the requisite fire-pots, and got all the way back out again, without a single defeat. He only had to flee once, and that was from a bad pull (”Curse you, tab key!”) — and even that was just running to a pre-discovered “safe spot” until the goblins chasing him gave up on it.

Same player, same strategies — the difference is all in the class. I’m willing to concede that I may just suck at playing champions; but since I’ve been playing Maedhroc, every other class seems painful. With the warden, I finally feel like I have a realistic shot at doing on-level content without getting wiped over and over again hoping for a lucky roll of the dice.

Warden FTW. 🙂

-The Gneech

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Mar 18 2009

Lowbie Zone Feedback

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I’ve been intrigued by the reports of lowbie zone retooling, so last night I started up an elf warden and ran him as far as Gondamon/11th level before hitting the hay.

Overall, I think the trend of changes was good, especially for new players. However, upon reflection, I think it may have been made a little too easy, or at least, easy for too long. In an effort to prevent people from having to “run around too much” (a worthy enough goal), you’ve ended up funnelling them from Point A to Point B to Point C in a very railroadey fashion that rushes them through and seems to discourage exploration.

A few more specific points:

  • Starting in Edhelion post-instance: Good. Having the meat of the story begin right there helped you feel like you didn’t have to go hunting for it, although keeping both the Edhelion area and the area at the top of the ridge as activity hubs seemed a little odd, and I notice that the Silver Deeps got dropped all together. There was no real reason to spend any time at either one once you finished the 5-10 quests they gave you, tho, and so there was no real sense of connection to either place.
  • Quest-giver being different from award-giver: Mixed. Like I say, I felt like I was being rushed along from one place to another — “Hurry up, get out of here, get to the good stuff up the road.” But all of the game is “the good stuff!” A bit more of leisurely approach would be appreciated. Certainly running all the way from Frerin’s Court to Edhelion more than two or three times could get tiresome, but not coming back at all? Made me feel like I was being kicked out when I just got there.
  • Caves and “deadly bloom” plants being moved: Meh. I liked having to fight my way through the goblins. Makes you learn to watch your step.
  • Lost Lore quest edited out: Not so good. One of the treats for me when going back to replay some other class is seeing how different bits of story tie together — encountering the troll turned to stone in the cave as an elf, and then going back and SEEING the troll get turned to stone as a dwarf was one of those moments, now gone.
  • Super-fast combat: Not so good. Creatures died so fast that my little lowbie warden barely got any gambits off, much less learned which ones where good for what. I started deliberately aggroing groups of monsters just so the combat would go long enough for me to check for myself that the fist gambit bug had actually been fixed. I’m worried that this will lead newbie players to develop poor playing skills, or at least lead to frustration later on as the difficulty of combat rapidly cranks up. (”Whoa! I turned 20th and suddenly combat takes FOREVAR.”) It’s fine in the starter instance — people expect a tutorial there anyway — but once you actually get out into Ered Luin, the challenge needs to go up a notch or two with every level of creature so that players will learn to use their skills.
  • Brothers Heading West subplot: Wow, this was really gutted. I didn’t like this change at all, especially having the quest to find the leaf of the red tree edited out completely. Yes, going back and forth from Duillond to Celondim was a little tiresome, but it wasn’t that bad. The two towns are barely three minutes’ run away from each other! I always thought this quest really captured the feel of Middle-Earth beautifully, and I hate to see it being slashed just to hurry players on to the next hub a little faster. Please consider undoing this particular change.
  • Stable at Thrasi’s Lodge: Good. Adding a vendor there would not be amiss, either.
  • Shuffling NPC positions in Gondamon: Buh? What was the purpose of this?

I guess what it boils down to is that I see what you were aiming for, and I think generally it’s a good idea, but it went a little overboard. Spoon-feeding is good at the very start, but it needs to be ended as quickly as possible so that the process of actually learning how your character works can start — and it definitely shouldn’t come at the price of losing the exploratory and storytelling aspects that make LotRO so distinctive. The starter areas aren’t just where players level up in order to get out, they’re also where you need to hook them and make them interested in the world and the plot. Right now both of those aspects are suffering as the newbie character is herded rapidly from place to place with no reason to do anything but chase the next ring.

-The Gneech

PS: Love the new warden backpack, which has nothing to do with newbie zones, I just wanted to mention it.

PPS: I also love that the songbird now actually sings.

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Mar 12 2009

Narnagol Defeated!

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Big thanks to my kin-mates who made a point of being available at the designated time, and to everyone who came along or offered to. I’m so glad to have this off my to-do list — Evendim is DONE until Book 11 for me now. 🙂

Great googily-moogily but that fight is insane, and the entire quest seems to have been written by somebody who hates the players. It’s most visible in the dialog of Blue Elf-Chick, who demands you “respect” her while she treats you like dirt, then berates you for waking Narnagol when the quest WON’T LET YOU GET THE STONE ANY OTHER WAY.

Gah. Annoying quest, that is. Being present at the forging of Anduril afterwards made up for it and was very cool, tho, so I won’t complain too much. And at least now I can say that I’ve done it … and look forward to helping out other folks who were just as stuck on it as me in the future. 🙂

-The Gneech

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Mar 10 2009

Fictionlet

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“Hmm,” said Greg. “It’s a lot of money to spend on it, but that is a beautiful replica.” He admired the rune-inlaid, leaf-bladed short sword Sting on the dealer’s table. “I just don’t know where I’d put it.”

“What are you even looking at that for?” said Alex, lovingly cradling a detailed light-and-sound model of a stapler-shaped gun from Space: 1999. “Who wants a sword when you can blast somebody from a quarter mile away?”

“Where’s the honor in that?” said Greg. “A true warrior should confront his foe face-to-face. Besides, I just prefer fantasy, okay?”

“Pfft!” said Alex. “Fantasy is dumb, a meaningless attempt to crawl back into an idealized womb-life that never really existed. ‘Oooooh, I’m a hobbit! I live a contented life in my little hole in the ground! Oh noes! Some goblin might get me!’ Bah! It’s for intellectual babies!

Greg shook his head. “Like SF is any better,” he said. “Sheesh.”

“Hell yeah it’s better!” said Alex. “SF is about things that are really possible, not a bunch of made-up magical-thinking shit. SF is about exploring the unknown, about using your creativity and intelligence to solve real problems. SF looks forward at the future that could be! Fantasy looks back at the world people wish was real. Look at the crew of the Enterprise, exploring strange new worlds. Look at how revolutionary it was for its time.”

Greg just raised one eyebrow. “You do realize, I hope, that Spock is an elf.”

Alex’s hand tensed violently around the grip of his facsimile weapon. “You take that back! YOU TAKE THAT BACK!”

Greg sighed and looked over at the dealer operating the booth. “I see this all the time,” the man said. “There’s a reason I keep the swords wired to the display case.”

-The Gneech

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Mar 07 2009

The Most Butt-Kickin’ Hobbit of Them All!

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o/`
In the middle of the Earth
in the land of the Shire
was born a scrappy little hobbit
who had a heart of fire
With a long pointy stick
and an aggro-grabbin’ yell
he gives The Boot to his enemies
and sends ‘em straight to hell, Oh!

Maedhroc!
Maedhroc Thornhollow!
Only three feet tall!
Maedhroc!
Maedhroc Thornhollow!
The most butt-kickin’ hobbit of them all!

Now hobbits are peace-lovin’
folk ya know
but sometimes there are monsters
and they’ve got to go
So Maedhroc hunkers down
and he chucks his spear
then he teaches all those goblins
’bout the Wages of Fear, Oh!

Maedhroc!
Maedhroc Thornhollow!
Only three feet tall!
Maedhroc!
Maedhroc Thornhollow!
The most butt-kickin’ hobbit of them all!

Well he battled with bandits!
He ambushed some trolls!
He riddled with Bilbo!
Some giants’ Lucky Stone he stole!
He chased down a Nazgul
beat up trees in Old Forest
Fought a giant turtle in a dead king’s tomb, Oh!

Maedhroc!
Maedhroc Thornhollow!
Only three feet tall!
Maedhroc!
Maedhroc Thornhollow!
The most butt-kickin’ hobbit of them all!
o/`

-The Gneech, with apologies to Leonard Nimoy

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