Archive for December, 2009

Tastes Great or Less Filling?

Posted in LotRO, Siege of Mirkwood with tags , on December 31, 2009 by koljarn

I was holding off on making any posts until 2010, but I’ve decided to wish everyone a pre-emptive Happy New Year and post something anyway.  So, with the pleasantries out of the way, let me present you with my views on the present tempest in a teapot in the small LOTRO Champion community: Dual Wield (DW) or Two Handed (2H)?

In the recent past, DW had an edge in DPS while a Champion using Flurry and 2H had an edge in power efficiency.  Then, the Siege of Mirkwood was released.  While I have mentioned the revamp of Champion legacies, they are not the major concern with respect to this discussion.  The single most important change of note in this comparison was the standardization of weapon speeds.  One handed weapons have a swing time of 1.9 seconds, while two-handers have a speed of 2.5.

Okay, so what’s the big deal of 1.9 versus 2.5?  It all comes down to attack rotations. Many Champions use Brutal Strikes and Feral Strikes, which have cooldown of about 4 seconds.  Attack with Wild Attack, Swift Strike, and Feral Strikes / Brutal Strikes.  Throw in an occasional Clobber for extra DPS.  Rinse and repeat.  A weapon speed of 2.2 or so is pretty ideal for that sort of rotation, as your attack timer is pretty much in sync with your cooldowns.  It just so happens that under the effects of Flurry, a 2H weapon is just a little bit quicker than a speed of 2.2 seconds.  Thus, 2H has had a significant uptick in popularity.  Additionally, Remorseless Strikes can do some absolutely terrifying critical damage using 2H, though it is not part of the standard rotation.

This is not to say that Dual Wield has just dropped off of the map for Champions.  With one-handed weapons being inherently quick, you can attack quickly.  This mean using Wild Attack, Swift Attack, and Blade Wall in succession in order to quickly build up fervor.  More fervor means more special maneuvers.  Also, any Champion will notice that while a maneuver will cost X amount of fervor, a 2H Champion must have X+1 fervor in their pool before they are allowed to use the selected move.  This means that DW can more quickly build up fervor AND can also spend that fervor more quickly.  Of course,  a DW Champion also goes through their power pool more quickly, but this translates into a slight edge in damage output.

There is a very basic numerical comparison of DW and 2H here.  Some people believe that this is slightly flawed.  I agree, somewhat – Relentless Strikes works quite well with 2H.  However, you can use it to break down what attacks work best with your style.  

Wild Attack, Feral Strikes, Bracing Attack, Blade Wall, Blade Storm, and Raging Blades all favor DW.  Note that the lion’s share of AOE attacks are in that list.  If you are an AOE fanatic, then DW should interest you.  On the other hand, Swift Strike, Remorseless Strikes (for the big crits), Brutal Strikes, Clobber, and Rend favor the 2H style of play.  With less of a focus on AOE, 2H would be very useful in grouping.  You can burn down individual mobs quickly.

There are also some good points here.  I agree that DW Champions tend to have more stats from their off-hand.  Thus, they also tend to have more melee crit, power, and morale.  Also, while DW can’t achieve the same massive crits from Remorseless Strikes, a DW Champion can use it more often due to quicker fervor buildup.  That means more chances for a crit.  Even though the crit won’t be as large, it translates to more damage over a sustained time.

So, DW beats 2H, right?  No.  Even in a Flurry build, 2H is more power-efficient than DW.  If you find yourself running out of power with any significant frequency, then you should consider going 2H.  You really have to think about DW and 2H as tools in your Champion toolbox.  You need to slect the right tool for the job.  AOE?  Go with DW.  Single mob with a lot of health?  2H will see you through that fight better than DW.  Nothing has really changed with the comparison since the pre-Mirkwood days, the comparison is just a bit more close, now.

Lastly, if you’re feeling particularly stubborn and refuse to use anything but DW or 2H (whichever you prefer), then there’s this piece of good news: the difference between the numbers for DW and 2H is relatively slight, so use what you prefer.  Yes, it may not be the ideal choice for a particular situation, but either choice is competitive in all situations.

One Down, Lots to Go

Posted in LotRO, Siege of Mirkwood, Skirmishes with tags , on December 23, 2009 by koljarn

I ground out the last of my Malledhrim  reputation last night, and was duly rewarded with… nothing special.  I know a lot of people are still drooling over the horse, but I’m not one of them.  If I were playing a Dwarf, I would buy one of the cosmetic dresses for him (few things are as amusing as an angry Dwarf in a dress).

I’m hovering around 9 Medallions of Dol Guldur, so I haven’t been able to buy any of the new lower-tier radiance gear, but that can be amended over time.  Last night, I took part in a 6-person skirmish instead of hitting an instance.  It was fun, so that’s all I really care about.  The mobs in those instances certainly hit hard, but a six-person group is very durable – we never wiped, and the only person who dropped once was yours truly (AoE does that).

Anyway, reputation is done.  My remaining goals in Mirkwood are: forge a new second-age weapon, acquire a set of radiance gear (just so I can claim to have done it), and unlock the rest of the skirmishes.  One down, a lot of stuff yet to go.

Hope Yule Pardon the Mess

Posted in LotRO with tags on December 17, 2009 by koljarn

So, we are one day into the Yule celebration.  I have some random non-productive thoughts on the matter.

Burhhelm demonstrates the true meaning of "holiday cheer."

Burhhelm demonstrates the true meaning of "holiday cheer."

Tokens: It’s ridiculously easy to gather a pile of Yule tokens with a minimum of fuss and effort.  The casual side of my applauds this.  Part of me wishes that there were more of a challenge.  After all, if they can make a skirmish engine that can scale its difficulty according to the character’s level, then they should be able to make some instanced content that also scales in difficulty.  Just an idea.

New cloaks: I like ’em.  Two of the three are permanently dusted with snow, giving them a holiday feeling.  Which is, of course, perfect for a festival item.

The beer fight: I never seem to be in thorin’s Hall at the right time, and I’m always running around on one errand or another.  However, I’m going to make it my business to try this out.

The horse races: Again, they’re a bit easy.  I wish they would give the horses a little more resilience, and scatter the racetrack with some hostile level 1 mobs or something, just to make the event a little more exciting without making it frustratingly difficult.

The Yule Tree quest in Hobbiton: I admit that I have some strong opinions about idiots.  Hobbits, sorry.  It is so easy to confuse those two.  I completed this quest, but I think that having Lobelia rule Hobbiton with an iron fist for a little while might do the Hobbits some good.  At the very least, I would be amused.

The new festival horse: I don’t know, really. I have had no urge to get a new horse since I earned my Forochel mount a few months ago (though the new Mirkwood horse is tempting).  I suppose it looks nice enough.

Despite it being a little on the quick and easy side (you can probably get most of what you want in a single day), I like the festival.  As a matter of fact, maybe being such a lightweight event is a good thing – it leaves us with more time to concentrate on Mirkwood.

Wearing Dead Animals

Posted in LotRO with tags on December 15, 2009 by koljarn

There is an excellent Yule Festival guide online at A Casual Stroll to Mordor.  There are some sweet looking fur cloaks, if you are the type to obsess over how your character looks.  Ahem.

The Cloak of Winter Night is especially intriguing to me, as it has some striking similarities to a classic dustjacket cover of The Hobbit.

A Bit of Local Color

Posted in LotRO, Siege of Mirkwood with tags , on December 15, 2009 by koljarn

One extremely nice thing about Siege of Mirkwood – the content is all going to be more or less on-level for whatever character you bring into it, because the expansion only added five levels to the cap.  So, you can fully explore everything without the fear of out-levelling the quests and instances that might exist over the next hill.

A bit gloomy... hey, could that be why it's called MIRKwood?

A bit gloomy... hey, could that be why it's called MIRKwood?

Burhhelm is creeping along through the quests and open-world PvE stuff.  As I stated previously, there is a very high mob density and respawn rate in these areas.  There are no safe places to stand in a corner while you let the dog out.  Frankly, most of your exploring is best done with one or two friends.  Outside of using stable routes, the roads are the safest method of travel.  That is not to say that the roads are safe, though.  You will encounter many ambushes along the road, especially as you head deeper into Mirkwood.

Burhhelm gives the locals a dancing lesson.

Burhhelm gives the locals a dancing lesson.

I’ve explored everything but the easternmost tip of Mirkwood.  Most of the forest is dark, dangerous, and dreadful.  By daylight, you may find a few rare areas of natural beauty which may remind you that this was once Greenwood the Great.  In other words, I think Turbine did an excellent job on the atmosphere.

Waterfalls are always nice. Even creepy ones.

Waterfalls are always nice. Even creepy ones.

Regarding the new legendary item system – I see no major reason to upgrade your “secondary” items (Champion runes, Captain badges, Guardian belts, etc.) if you have legacies that you really like.  Newer ones will have a higher primary legacy available (for instance, Champion runes increase your incoming healing), but it is still a gamble whether the other legacies will be worthwhile.  Weapons are a different matter…

As I levelled up, I was noticing a significant trend in my DPS not keeping pace with the health of the mobs that I was now fighting.  I was unwilling to stop using my old reforged 2nd age weapon, because it still had a +7.5% damage legacy.  However, the level 65 third-age weapon had about 12% more DPS, so I made the plunge.  I made a regular-sized sword for myself, and a two-handed third age sword for a Guardian friend of mine.  We were both pleasantly surprised by the legacies, and I have to say that I have not forged a level 65 weapon yet that did not have at least one redeeming legacy – most had at least two good ones to start.  So, legendary items may not be as much of an issue as I first thought they would be.  That’s a good thing.

Not bad for a starter weapon.

Not bad for a starter weapon.

So, those are some of the sights, and some of my experiences with the new legendary system.  Mirkwood continues to be an interesting place to explore, and I really can’t ask for more than that.

Reminds me of New Jersey...

Reminds me of New Jersey...

Dropping the Eaves

Posted in LotRO, Siege of Mirkwood with tags , on December 11, 2009 by koljarn

Last night, I made my initial foray into Mirkwood proper.  Sort of.

Let me elaborate.  Mirkwood is gated in the same way that Moria is.  You have a small zone (the Eaves of Mirkwood) where you must complete an introductory chapter before proceeding.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  The introduction gets you up to speed on the goings-on and important events that have led up to the Elven invasion of Southern Mirkwood.

I have to note a few things about the regular questing and open PvE in the leve 61+ bracket as a Champion.  First, the fights are punishing.  No, the mobs are not tougher, but there are many overlapping paths that the mobs takes.  You’re going to get adds – maybe two or three, and not all at once.  The mobs show up sequentially, which is the worst possible way for a Champion to fight.  These long series of fights will sap your morale and/or power, and you may end up falling back.  A bruised ego costs less to repair than a set of teal level 60 armor – do not be afraid to hit and run.  Also, the respawn rate is insanely high.  I had some mobs respawning next to me in under 15 seconds after I dealt with them the first time.  Second, at least half of the mobs you will face are ranged mobs which like to run away.  This is extremely annoying for an AoE class like the Champion.  You will not be able to gather three mobs up and hack them apart.  You will have to fight three or four at a time in groups of one or two while the others run away.  Third, be aware of the goblin scouts – they are stealth mobs who have the ability to reflect damage onto their attackers.  You may end up hitting yourself for more than the orcs and goblins are hitting you.

Since the fights are so drawn out, I can understand why some Champions believe that power is a problem for the class. I’ve been considering trying a greatsword at level 65, but the drop in DPS is a real kick in the crotch.  In order to make up for the loss of DPS, you’d need to be using Flurry – which consumes an inordinate amount of power when used constantly, and thus you are out of power again.  You can use the Ardour stance instead of Fervor – that way Flurry becomes a combat-persistant ability.  However, you lose a full one-third of your power regeneration when you switch from Fervor to Ardour – not to mention the loss of the damage bonus.

No, while I still believe that you should tote around a two-handed weapon for grouping, I still subscribe to the dual-wield school of thought.  The weapons are quicker, you need less fervor to pull off maneuvers, and the damage is higher.  The problem is not with the weapon choice or the traits used, it’s with all of the ranged mobs that you face.  I’m sure that can be overcome by good old-fashioned line-of-sight manipulation (shoot a goblin and hide behind a tree until the idiot runs up to look for you).

Aside from my trip to Mirkwood, I also got to try out the Tuckborough skirmish.  It’s one of the longer scenarios, but it is also a rewarding one.  It’s probably my favorite among the lower-level skirmishes.  In any case, Burhhelm is well into level 64, and will most likely hit level 65 by doing scenarios over the weekend.  Until next week – good hunting.

Some Reactions to Today’s Patch Notes

Posted in LotRO, Siege of Mirkwood with tags , on December 10, 2009 by koljarn

A small to moderate patch was installed this morning.  Most of it means little to me, because I have explored Mirkwood proper so very little.  However…


 Trouble in Tuckborough is now available!

Another skirmish available?  Awesome.  I can’t wait to try it.

•Skirmish Soldier Cosmetic traits should now display as intended.

Well, this isn’t a game-breaker, but I did notice it.  Fixing this is a good thing.

•The default appearances of Soldiers without cosmetic traits have been tweaked slightly. They will now be envious of their finely attired, cosmetically enhanced peers.

Heh.  If you play a Captain at all, you’ll remember the first herald that you start out with looks like someone wearing some old clothes they bought from the Gap circa 1980.  It makes me smirk every time I see someone using them.  So, apparently your soldiers will come from the same talent pool, which explains their foolish and sometimes berserk behavior.



•Removed the Sprig of Woolly Mint from the Dol Guldur 6-man & 12-man hard-mode chests.

Like I said, I haven’t really explored the new content that much, but I can only imagine the frustration you’d feel if you slogged through an instance, killed a boss mob after a long fight, and got a sprig of mint for your troubles.  I imagine that this is a good fix.

I saw no mention of Rune Keeper fixes, though.  A friend of mine plays a Rune Keeper, and she told me about an annoying skirmish bug with the class.  When she summons her soldier, her healing runestone despawns.  When she summons her healing runestone, then her soldier despawns.  I hope they get around to fixing that one.

XP Overdrive and Other Thoughts

Posted in LotRO with tags on December 9, 2009 by koljarn

Wow, I’ve barely been playing LotRO over the last two weeks because of hardware issues (which are, I hope, solved), and yet Burhhelm is already level 63.  I’d say that two levels came from just repeating the skirmishes available to him.

This actually concerns me.  Although I do enjoy not having to concern myself with levelling up, I want to enjoy the content.  I really hope that I’m not missing out on anything by doing so much skirmishing.  You could, however, look at this like another feature of LotRO: another choice in how to level up, should you get bored of questing or “deeding.”

Some of my friends are looking forward to the Yule Festival, and I suppose I am as well.  I wasn’t playing LotRO during the holiday season last year, so the festival content will be new to me.  I’ll try it out – worst case is that I won’t like it, so I have nothing to lose but a little time.

A New Look

Posted in Background Noise with tags on December 9, 2009 by koljarn

I felt that it was time for a new look. So, I made a few changes, and everything seems to be up and running just fine.

The Skirmish System: I Approve

Posted in LotRO, Siege of Mirkwood, Skirmishes with tags , , on December 8, 2009 by koljarn

Yes, the skirmish feature from The Siege of Mirkwood definitely has Burhhelm’s seal of approval.

Hold the line!

Burhhelm shows Elrohir how it's done.

Even with my hardware issues over the weekend, I was able to undertake many skirmishes with only minor issues.  There were a few minor bugs, but nothing that was a show-stopper (a few misspellings and a pathing issue).  I’ll break down my experience into a few categories:

The Good

Skirmishing has a bunch of very positive attributes going for it.  First, it’s quick.  My average skirmish lasts about 15 minutes, give or take a minute.  You can also initiate a skirmish from anywhere in the game.  So, if you have some time to kill, but you don’t want to get too involved in anything, you can play a few skirmishes.  You can also set the level of difficulty in the skirmish.  This is great – you can tailor the skirmish to skills of yourself and your character.  Heck, you can set the level to the minimum if you just want to learn how the skirmish scenario works.  Each scenario also has a daily quest which will afford you a bit more experience for completing it once each day.  Oh, and you get to summon a soldier to accompany you on the scenarios.  You can train this soldier in a role which you need, but do not have.  For instance, Burhhelm has a healer (Herbalist) running along after him and patching him up.  It’s quite nice, since it lets you solo very effectively.

The Bad

There are some downsides.  For instance, you can turn in the skirmish marks which you earn (which are essentially a form of currency) for some gear.  Armor, weapons, that sort of thing.  Unfortunately, this gear is quite sub-par.  The level 65 stuff is inferior to the crafted level 60 stuff.  I wouldn’t bother with it.  Also, some instances need to be unlocked by doing the epic quest, which can be a chore.  Burhhelm still hasn’t completed Volume I, because it is so difficult to find a group for it.  You also have very little control over your soldier companion, and that leads to them standing in bad places, pulling mobs, or worse, charging off after mobs (soldiers have an immense agro radius).  Overall, those are minor issues.

The Ugly

Good grief, it’s “Guardsman,” not “Guradsman.”  Yes, it’s minor, but it makes me squirm when I read it.  Also, not all outfits and attributes which you buy and equip on your soldier seem to work.  Yeah, it’s relatively unimportant, but that’s why it’s under this category.

There are some other things which no one could tell me about training a soldier, and I had to figure most of them out on my own.  First, your soldier will start off as a warrior – it’s part of the introductory skirmish quest line to train a warrior.  If you want to train them as something else, you need to visit the Skirmish Trainer an uncheck the box which hides all untrained roles.  Also, I mentioned Skirmish Marks above.  Other types of marks will also drop.  Some are level-dependant.  Some are scenario-dependant.  The First, Second, and Third marks are used to buy new skills for your soldier from the Skirmish Captain.  If you have all of the skills you need, you can turn in these marks for a handful of regular Skirmish Marks from the Curiosities vendor.  Also, the Guardsman, Footman, and Esquire marks can be turned in to the Curiosities vendor for a nice fistful of marks.  Finally, the campaign marks seem to be used for cosmetic purposes (at least for your soldier).

Oh, and while you can get gear, crafting items, reputation items, and other drops by purchasing them with Skirmish Marks, I found them all to be prohibitively costly.  It takes much less time to just go out and get these things the old-fashioned way.