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The Dead Marshes Zone Was Not at All What I Excpected

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2016 by koljarn

As I stated during my last post, I intended to go explore the Dead Marshes. I confess that I did not go into this with an open mind, and experience with previous products colored my thinking. Warning: RPG geek content ahead.

Once upon a time, when I was still attending High School, one of the games I played was MERP. That’s Middle Earth Role Playing, a long out-of-print ruleset which was a pretty good alternative to the usual TSR fare. Played isn’t really the right term – I ran the game, as a couple of parallel mini-campaigns in different geographic locations. One of the supplements I purchased for the Eastern campaign was “Dagorlad and the Dead Marshes.”

Dagorlad is just a dusty and rugged plain to the north of Mordor. Loosely translated, it just means “the field of battle.” It is where the primary fighting occurred during the War of the Last Alliance which brought an end to the Second Age. Many creatures fell here. Men, Elves, Orcs, Trolls; it was a massive Middle Earth mosh pit of death. The battle was so massive and took so long that many creatures were left to lie where they fell. Some were buried in shallow graves. A few of the fallen, we’re talking nobility or royalty, had full burial mounds erected over them. The point is, though, that Daglorlad is as much a graveyard as it is a battlefield. Graveyards are rarely nice places in most fantasy settings, but here is where it starts getting really nasty. The Anduin is close at hand, and over the centuries, the water percolated through the western side of Dagorlad, forming a ghastly swamp full of dead bodies and flooded graves. Take the Barrow Downs, and turn the “ick” factor up to eleven, and you get the image I’m trying to convey.

OK, enough about MERP. The point is, I had a pre-conceived notion that I’d be wading across pools with hidden, half-rotten wights lurching out of them, grasping at me, dodging will-o-wisp type lights which consume my power and health (similar to the Limrafn found around Evendim), and pushing through  muddy bogs which slowed my movement to a crawl when I left solid ground. What I found was a bunch of orcs, some insects, and a short story line. There was also a brief interlude which focused on the actual Fellowship characters, but overall I have to say that I was disappointed with the zone.

Turbine could have done so much more with the Dead Marshes, but don’t misunderstand me – I feel that this zone should not have been in the game anyway. I maintain that after the Shadows of Angmar and Moria storylines, we should have been hanging out with the Grey Company, not running off to one location or another in a haphazard way. The narrative does not flow properly when you travel all over like LotRO has been doing.

Anyway, I’ve pretty much finished out the Epic up to this point. I believe I’ll grind some reputation for the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll even talk to Bingo Boffin back in the Shire (I skipped that line in the past).

Festivus Minimus

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming, Uncategorized on August 1, 2016 by koljarn

It has been a slow week, as far as progress along the Epic quest goes. Festivals are a great distraction from grinding out quests, but when you are just returning to the game after an absence, they do tend to dilute your enthusiasm. I suspect this is due to simply trying to do too many things at once, instead of concentrating on just one.

Case in point: the Summer Festival fishing quests. They give decent rewards, but take 20 minutes each. That’s a major chunk of spare time on a weeknight. However, the fact that you can snag Anfalas Star-Lit Crystals with festival currency keeps me coming back, and it is starting to make me feel burnt out. So, I believe I’m going to limit my festival intake over the next week.

Something non festival related – a panicked Gondorian guardsman sent me into the woods to seek out the source of some drumming that he heard. I came across a Druedain village, which was entertaining and a bit of a quest hub, but it also got me thinking. What inspired Tolkien to dream up the Druedain? They’re part-Pictish and part-Aboriginal. Almost everything in Tolkien’s work seem to have roots in European history and mythology, but I’m not sure where these guys fit in.

Cities and Celebrations

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming, Uncategorized on July 25, 2016 by koljarn

Sometimes, you need to break your own rules. I had been avoiding the Epic quest line for a few weeks now while friends were catching up. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that they have been sidetracked in other games, and in real-world activities. So, I’ve decided to go ahead and start pushing my way through the Epic once again. If my friends are ever able to join me again, I can always use a reflecting pool, to assist with the instanced parts.

Last week, I voiced my displeasure with performance in Minas Tirith. Of course, the Epic takes you right back to the city on a long series of FedEx quests. The conspiracy theorist in me says that this was intentionally designed, to encourage player to buy Mithril coins so they can teleport between quest sites. Who knows, maybe it’s true. Not a big deal for me, since I’ve been piling up Turbine Points for ages, but it could be considered gouging to a Free-to-Play user. Once again, the Tower of Ecthelion is in my rear view mirror. I’m Pelennor bound.

In server-specific news, there was a in-game concert on Landroval. Actually, it was the eighth time this annual concert was held. Called “Weatherstock,” it is held at the summit of Weathertop (hence the name), and lasts quite a few hours. There was quite a bit of creativity on display, as well as the requisite griefing attempt which crashed the zone for a while (it isn’t an online game without an idiot showing up). Overall, it was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. I’m not a huge fan of in-game events, but they are important part of developing an online community. I will say that I enjoyed it enough that, should Warner renew the license for the Middle Earth IP, I would attend again next year.

Finally, the Summer Festival began over the weekend. I was pleasantly surprised that you can pick up Anfalas Crystals for legendary items using the festival currency. Part of why I sometimes avoided the festivals in the past is a sense that I should be working on content, levelling, or gearing up. This, at least, allows me to enjoy the festival and still work on my legendary items while I relax and go fishing. I approve.

The Road to Osgiliath

Posted in LotRO, Online Gaming, Uncategorized on July 11, 2016 by koljarn

So, a solid weekend of gaming. I don’t know if you could term this a serious return to LotRO, but I have certainly been enjoying the Gondor content so far. I think a moving to Landroval was a good choice. The people have been friendly, for the most part, and they even had a concert of sorts outside of Bree this weekend. I spent a little bit of time there, but a couple of my friends signed into the game, and I had to leave to meet up with them. The music system in LotRO is something that I wish other companies would emulate. It lends itself well to in-game social events, which is something missing from many other games.

The Gondor content has been enjoyable, so far. Aside from a few meaningless FedEx and Kill Ten Rats type of quests, Central Gondor feels right – it feels like LotRO used to feel. Pacing is slow, but steady and story-focused. Combat in LotRO is known to be slower-paced than other MMOs, but my Champion seems to deal with most opposition quickly enough that I can’t complain. I’m not up to Minas Tirith, yet; I only just finished exploring Pelargir. I completed the Epic Battle for the city, but I’m not a huge fan of the “Big Battle System.” To be perfectly honest, I feel like a third wheel in just about any Epic Battle; I found that I still enjoy a good Skirmish, though. Trouble in Tuckborough, Thievery and Mischief, and the Defense of the Prancing Pony all remain fun and atmospheric. I heartily recommend Skirmishing if you want to level up, or snag some new gear (it won’t be raid quality, but it will work fine for levelling and soloing).

Atmospherically, the game remains stunning. The environment is a major reason that I always kept returning to LotRO over the years. The graphical upgrades that came with 18.2 make the game even more of a feast for the eyes. Some of the images that I’ve seen, such as the view of the Beacons of Gondor near Calembel, the gulls wheeling over the ships docked at the quays of Dol Amroth, or the dark, foreboding skies that become more threatening as you travel further east, all of these are beautifully done and heighten the experience. Something I really miss, however, is the Chance Thomas soundtrack, which made the original zones, Moria, and Rohan even more enjoyable. I know more than a few people who play without music at all, however, so that may not be important to everyone.

I’m not sure how much life Turbine has in them, but I hope that we will at least get to the battle at Morannon. I suspect that they will add part of the Dead Marshes as well – I have mixed feelings about that, but it could be interesting.

So, This Is Volume III

Posted in LotRO, Uncategorized with tags on March 3, 2010 by koljarn

I’ve tried out and completed the first book of the new volume.  It’s a lot of running around, but such is life – you expect that from the epic quest.  IfI were to grade it, I would give it a C+. 

I’ve also had a chance to go back and attack old volume I quests.  Yes, a Champion can solo them.  The buff seems to quintuple my health, triple my stamina, and double my damage.  That’s more than enough to tear through any opposition.  I give this feature an A.

As to the new crafting patterns: while it is nice that new things have been introduced to the lower level items, no new level 65 items have come to light.  This means that the best crafted stuff is still the Lothlorien gear.  This seem to encourage a raid/instance grind in order to upgrade your gear at 65, one of which I will not partake.  I did that in WoW, I will not do it in LotRO – it burns you out and makes you hate the game.  I give the crafting “update” a D-.

A Little of This and a Little of That

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11, 2009 by koljarn

I hope everyone remembered to call their mother yesterday.  Yes?  Good.

I actually logged in to play a bit of WAR on Saturday morning.  No one on my friends list was to be found, so I made a Slayer.  Yeah, I know, Slayers have been around for weeks, now.  I had no urge to make one before, since I already had a White Lion and anIron Breaker.  Still, the Slayer was fun to play in tier 1 – even though there was absolutely zero RvR going on.  I ran around and did all the RvR scouting quests without seeing any players from either side.  I’m not sure if this portends anything – let’s hope not.  I hardly play WAR at all, but I’d like to see it succeed.

During our Saturday D&D game, we found out that  Pathfinder has gone to print.  Using the beta rules (which are a free download), we converted over to the system from D&D 3.5.  The conversion was fairly painless, and the game seems unchanged at lower levels.  I understand that the major differences kick in later on in the campaign.  Still, neutral-to-favorable reviews from me so far.

I could rant about my experiences with a local small business on Sunday, but I’ll leave that alone.  Start the week off on a positive note.

Shedding Tiers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 1, 2009 by koljarn

I’ve been through the lowbie meat grinder a few times.  A lot of people don’t know what to expect when leveling up and trying to participate in RvR.  I hear a lot of “my class is borked!” comments.  For the most part, it just isn’t so.

A character progressing through the different tiers faces new challenges, and there really are threshold ranks at which you should start going into RvR and lower ranks where you should hit PvE for gear and XP.  I’ll do a quick rundown of the different tiers as per my experiences.

Tier 1: At this low level, there’s not a huge difference in power between ranks when you compare the same ability.  The real issue is that a low level character just doesn’t have many of the basic abilities, yet.  I prefer to PvE up to rank 3 or 4, hit RvR or scenarios until I max out my renown, then PvE to rank 8 and finish the tier through RvR.  Keep an eye on the renown vendor – that’s the only gear I use, barring any lucky drops.

Tier 2: The RvR in this tier is much more difficult, due to the heroes at the BOs and the keep lords.  Keep lords can easily wipe out a poorly-prepared warband in this tier.  A few defenders will stop all but the most determined offenses at a keep.  Low cunning is your friend – pick your fights!  This is a very frustrating tier as far as RvR goes.  As far as ranks, I can say that on multiple characters, rank 18 has been the magic number where you get some very important abilities which make the whole tier much more enjoyable.  Grind your way up to 18 via quests and PQs (especially for the influence rewards) and finish the tier in oRvR to snag the RvR influence rewards, which are excellent.

Tier 3: Keeps now gain an outer wall.  This means that it’s more difficult to swipe a keep when your opponent isn’t looking.  However, with your abilities improving, keep lords are no longer the complete and utter monsters that they are in tier 2.  With Pick Lock working, you will now see MDPS classes enter through the postern door and cover the oil platform on the outer walls.  Watch yourself if you are entering a keep solo.  Again, I find that around rank 28, you get competitive with other players, so feel free to PvE and PQ your way to 28 before concentrating on oRvR.  This tier is much more competitive, as people frequently leave alts in tier 3 to grab a few more VPs to lock down a tier 4 zone (a tier 3 zone will contribute 3 or 4 VPs towards controlling a tier 4 zone).  Some people like tier 3 the best out of the tiers.

Tier 4: I prefer tier 4.  You really finish fleshing out your character.  While I think that you can’t start RvR in tier 4 early enough, you may want to rank up to 35, first.  At 35, your renown rank may exceed your battle rank.  This means that after 35, you can feel free to RvR to your heart’s content.  Of course, you may also just grind your way to 40 in order to get your last few skills and abilities.  Fair enough – ranking up from 32 to 40 really didn’t take me that long, when I concentrated on it, and having all of your skills really helps your damage output.  Still, I’d recommend getting to 35.  Personal preference.

So, when you get to 40, what do you do?  The best answer is: whatever you want.  PvE, RvR, scenarios, it’s all up to you.  However, you’re going to need to do some of each.  You’re probably going to need to do some oRvR, because you want to get your Annihilator armor set rather than grinding for your Bloodlord set.  You’re also going to want to do PvE, because getting your Sentinel and Dark Promise set is probably going to be easier than getting it through RvR (unless your faction is totally roflstomping the opposition).  And, of course, you want to keep gaining renown.  Renown gets you more skill points, more action points, and cool titles.

Rambling on about Guilds… Again

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 31, 2009 by koljarn

So, new server!  Well, mostly new.  I have been there for a little while, but I haven’t set foot out of tier 2.  Anyway, I am looking around at the different guilds, and I came up with a few thoughts on the topic of guilds in general.

Guilds in WAR are very different from guilds in WoW, CoH, and most other MMORPGs.  I’ll give you a moment to sift through those abbreviations… got it?  Good.  Guilds in WAR, much like DAoC, are much more of a political entity.  Your guild is  going to interact with other guilds, the question is: how?

Small guilds have a nice, cozy feel, especially if you form one with a circle of friends.  As they are a small  guild, they really have to form an alliance with other guilds in order to enjoy the PvE content of the game, or take part in large-scale organized RvR.  Being a small guild, they don’t carry a lot of clout.  Any alliance that they join is likely to drag a small guild along with them whether they like it or not.

Large independent guilds give you a feeling of autonomy.  They get as large as possible in order to have a player base so diverse and numerous that they can do things in a game without the assistance of anyone else.  It sounds good, but there is a downside: large guilds like this alienate all the other guilds on the server.  The large guild generally feels apathetic to the other guilds out there, and that apathy is returned.  Also, other guilds are very sensitive to comments made by large guilds, and it is very easy for an offhand comment to escalate into a full-blown feud between guilds.  (yeah, I know – childish behavior for a video game, but it happens)

Finally, we have to medium to large guild that joins, but does not necessarily lead, an alliance.  This is the sort of guild that I like in WAR.  It may not have the manpower to tackle everything like the uber-guild we just talked about, but you’re not ostracized, either.  As a matter of fact, other people from other guilds and alliances are probably happy to hang out with you, whether it’s doing RvR or PvE.  You may not have all the characters you need to run an instance or form a balanced warband on the spot, but you probably have most of them online when you want to start something.  This means that more of the game’s content is readily available to you.

Although I prefer the last type of guild, personal preferences do vary between players.  You’re going to have to decide for yourself what you prefer, but my point in this post is just that you have to be aware of the inter-guild politicking that is going to go on between your chosen guild and other guilds.  Determine what you’re comfortable with and stick to it.

Do They Serve Nuts on this Transfer Flight?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 31, 2009 by koljarn

They do, now.

I happened to get out of bed less than two minutes after Mythic made their post on the Herald about the availability of transfers.  Sometimes being lazy pays off, as I had decided to get an extra hour of sleep.  Stop looking at me that way, I’m on second shift until Friday!

Anyway, I snuck in and managed to transfer two characters off of Ostermark before the system became so slow that it stopped responding.  I guess the server is being bombarded by transfer requests.  However, Koljarn made it out!  As I write this, he is standing in the Praag warcamp on Vortex.  So, the first step of the transfer is complete – getting there.

Since the guild I had joined did not transfer to Vortex (indeed, most of Ostermark seems to have chosen to transfer to Phoenix Throne), I have to go through the whole process of finding a guild again.  Belus, of course, is in a guild on this server, but I am going to play it cautious.  I rather like the guild that Belus joined, but they apparently have a poor reputation among some people.  It’s time to get serious and determine  what the real story is behind the comments and rumors – a grain of truth or just sour grapes.

Postcard from Vortex

Postcard from Vortex

Get Your Tinfoil Hats Ready

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 30, 2009 by koljarn

It appears that Mythic is “postponing” transfers off of Ostermark “for one day.”

Admittedly, there has been a huge outcry on both Phoenix Throne and on Vortex about the transfers.  Both servers are afraid that it will turn things into an Order-dominated-zergfest.  I have news for them – having played on Vortex, things are already a zergfest, and the only thing that determines which side is dominating is the time of day.

So, Mythic has begun bombarding us with “you will not transfer” subliminal messages from their secret network of satellites.  It’s not working – I still want off of Ostermark!

In all seriousness, I don’t know why they are delaying the transfers.  I highly doubt that they are concerned about Phoenix Throne or Vortex.  They’ve never given a damn about the destination servers in the past.  I can only assume that there is a problem with the transfer mechanism on Mythic’s systems.

Update: it appears that the reason for the delay was to open transfers from Phoenix Throne to Vortex in addition to allowing Ostermark to transfer to either Vortex or Phoenix Throne.  The idea being that people who had their Destro toons on one RP server and their Order toons on the other can keep their characters intact by moving their PT characters.  All of which means that Vortex is going to get a lot more people.  Though queues are bad, I maintain that a high population is good, at least in WAR.