Monday, 23 March 2009


Few things are as frustrating as being told something is in the game when it isn't - particularly when those responsible refuse to clarify the situation by stating whether it has or hasn't been implemented. A classic case in point was the the Winter-tusk (mammoth) trophy which was supposed to drop from the time Forochel was opened up, but the drop was only implemented with Mines of Moria; the annoying thing here was the bland refusal of European GMs to state whether or not the damn thing existed.

For the last three months, many players have known of the existence of two new trophy (decorative) items which were added to the menu of the Bree taxidermist: a Whitehand shield supposedly dropped by the final boss in the School of Tham Mirdain, and an Uruk helmet (with stuffed Craban) supposedly dropped by the final Library boss (see details from the Lorebook, above). Unfortunately, nobody has ever seen these drop, and according to a depressing post from a Turbine developer on the US forums dated 13 February (!), "I'll look into this but I'm extremely dubious about them being (or getting) fixed for Book 7. I think this post is the first time we've heard of this bug. I'll bug it internally here and get the ball rolling." On the one hand, a shame it took them three months to notice, but on the other, kudos for actually responding to a valid complaint - something we on the European side almost never see...

As for the Egg of the Mistress, on the menu of the 21st Hall taxidermist but nowhere to be found as yet, the chances are this will drop from the new 12-man raid in Book 7.

Friday, 20 March 2009


I apologise to readers for changing settings so that all comments now have to be moderated. This is because some creep has been abusing the system by systematically posting commercial spam. It's obviously done by a person, since they are able to bypass the word verification... We will return to normal as soon as possible; in the meantime, please bear with me; your comments will usually be released within a few hours at most.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


Of course, there's no accounting for orcish tastes, and they no doubt have a great variety of weird items in their pocketses - half-gnawed hobbit bones, genuine "One Ring to Rule Them All" souvenir copies, spare metal clubs, bits of string and whatnot; but the orcs of Nanduhirion have a strange and to me inexplicable fondness for dwarven breastplates. Anybody hunting orcs along the banks of the Mirrormere will soon find their packs cluttered up with stack upon stack of these items, since two out of three orcs seem to carry them. The question is, why? If they dropped battered orcish breastplates, it would make sense; but for these extra-large orcs, a dwarven breastplate is of no practical use whatsoever. It would certainly take a psychoanalyst of unusual skill and persistence to ferret out the reason behind this sinister fetish...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


You will have heard of the famous "Nigerian scam", whereby the recently widowed wife of a Nigerian minister (or similar) writes to you suggesting you share her late husband's ill-gotten loot by providing her with a way of quietly exporting it - namely, the details of your bank account. Needless to say, once the scammers have these details they waste no time hoovering out your life savings. A similar internet scam involves sending out fake letters, purportedly from bona-fide banks, requesting your account or credit card details for purposes of verification. It's amazing how many people fall for one or another of these - never mind that your bank has told you time and again, in letters of fire fifty feet high, never ever to release such details, not even to their own employees.

Well, it's a sign either of desperation on the part of scammers or of the growing importance of online games that the Nigerian scam has come to LOTRO. In the last 24 hours, many players in Europe will have received the following email: "Greetings, It has come to our attention that you are trying to sell/trade your personal Lord of the Rings Online account. As you may or may not be aware of, this conflicts with the EULA and Terms of Agreement of Codemasters and Lord of the Rings Online. If upon further investigation you are indeed attempting to obtain monetary profit against the terms of the user agreement, your account can and will be disabled. Codemasters has the right to consider legal action if necesarry, based on the severety of the action. If you hope to avoid account suspention you should verify your personal possession of the account in question. We at Blizzard Entertainment take infractions of the user agreement quite seriously, and we must confirm the original ownership of the account. Please Complete the information in [link removed] you are the owner of the account in question. If you ignore this mail your account can and will be closed permanently due to suspicions of alternative ownership. We ask that during the time of the investigation you give approximately twenty-four hours of inactivity after sending a response email. This should provide enough time for Codemasters to confirm your identity and that the terms of agreement are being followed as is necesarry."

Well, everybody should have spotted the wonderful howler about "We at Blizzard Entertainment", but there are other clues as to the African (or more likely East European) origin of this message. One is the odd misspellings ("necesarry", "suspention", " severety"), the other is the rather more subtle errors of usage which indicate a non-native English speaker trying to sound formal: "attempting to obtain monetary profit against the terms", "give approximately twenty-four hours of inactivity", and so forth. And of course, like your bank, nobody at Codemasters is ever going to ask you for this information. So do not, under any circumstances, click on that link.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Once again, the vexed issue of flying mounts in LOTRO raises its gory head. Some want them, most don’t; the parties of the first part don’t see why they shouldn’t get the thrill of zooming above Middle-Earth like the Red Baron, while the parties of the second part describe the idea as the last nail in the coffin of the Lore. You can read just about every view on the subject here.

Personally, I have to say I’m against it – not because I am a diehard adherent of the Church of Tolkien (after all, if you think about it for a moment, the whole concept of a MMORPG based on Tolkien is about as anti-lore as you can get), but because a measure of respect for the basic parameters of Middle-Earth is what makes LOTRO different from other online fantasy games – and I happen to believe different is good. Look at it this way: wine is good, and so is coffee. Would you want them homogenised so that you end up with a single product called, say, wifee? Do we want all online fantasy games to be exactly the same, containing the exact same elements, so that you can no longer tell LOTRO from WoW from Product X?

For the moment, anyway, the issue is moot, since as LOTRO designer Scenario points out, “Flight is not something we support within our game mechanics (we totally fake our flying monsters)”, and “Even if it was supported, our existing landscape is not designed to support it (monster camp balance and just general terrain development)”. So that’s that as far as flying dromedaries in LOTRO are concerned.

However, there’s another fascinating parameter to the issue, namely the glaring hole in the Lord of the Rings plotline which almost every reader of the book has noticed – the fact that given the existence of friendly eagles in Middle-Earth, why didn’t the Council of Elrond have an eagle carry the Ring-Bearer directly to Mt. Doom? Tolkien himself was aware of the problem; in Letter 210, he noted, “The Eagles are a dangerous 'machine'. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness. The alighting of a Great Eagle of the Misty Mountains in the Shire is absurd; it also makes the later capture of G. [Gandalf] by Saruman incredible, and spoils the account of his escape.”

Sean Crist has compiled an excellent essay on this subject, “Could Eagles have Flown Frodo into Mordor?”, which you can consult here. He explores every argument, pro and con, basing his conclusions on hard evidence from the published sources. His final conclusion? “Once [Tolkien] has placed the eagles in the world of his sub-creation, the possibility of the ‘eagles’ scenario is open, and so far as I am aware, there is nothing in Tolkien's writing to rule it out. For this reason, I am calling it a hole in the plot.” But what a plot!

Monday, 16 March 2009


As befits a rather more mature online game, LOTRO has attracted a number of blogs devoted to the game, many of them both readable and informative. Some of these I have noted from time to time and added to the recommended links, but up to now it's been largely a matter of luck whether or not I stumble across one. Now,'s LOTRO Combo Blog has come online, its mission, like it says on the title bar, to "Aggregate LotRO Blogs Faster Than an Elite Aggregator Orc".

They must have found a really a hard-working orc, because it carries out its instructions perfectly: click on or, better yet, subscribe to and you will find a constantly updated list of feeds from the best LOTRO-related blogs, including, title, link and the first few lines of every post. Eight fine blogs are currently included. Service with an (orcish) smile...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


An old western libel, no doubt invented or at least perpetuated by French restaurateurs, would have it that Chinese banquets, though impressive in quality, quantity and variety, somehow leave the diner with a feeling of emptiness, as though he had partaken of an oddly unsatisfying fairy feast. I have often thought over the last few weeks that in that sense, the Mines of Moria have much on common with that mythic Chinese banquet…

Make no mistake: there can be no two opinions about the quality of the graphic design. Almost three months down the road, I still hold by the view I published here last December: “This is by far the most impressive game environment I have ever seen. For once, the pre-launch hype didn’t lie. The Mines of Moria are breathtakingly grandiose and wonderfully imaginative”. The problem is that after a few weeks, the game started feeling repetitive, and, like the aforementioned fairy feast, oddly unsatisfying. And judging by the comments of other players (thoughtful players whose judgements I respect), I was not alone in feeling disappointed.

Why? I don’t think there is any single reason for this sense of flatness, rather a whole series of minor reasons. First of all, perhaps, the almost universal disappointment provoked by discovering that the eagerly awaited legendary weapon system was nothing of the sort. Secondly, the absence of a good, meaty twelve-man raid involving a series of bosses – another and better Rift, in other words, which one could really sink one’s teeth in. Now I know that long-term raiding isn’t necessarily everybody’s cup of tea, but the thing about the Rift was that it kept an awful lot of players beavering happily away for well over six months. Third, the way reputation with the dwarf factions turned out to be, well, almost completely useless, with the exception of the Hunter and Warden quick travel skills. Fourth, the pointlessness of mounts in a dungeon environment, in which a rider gets knocked off his goat roughly every twenty paces. Fifth, the excessively fast levelling between levels 50 and 60, which meant that players stopped gaining experience points after completing no more than half the available quests.

At the end of the day, and despite the excellent Eregion prequel, this was, after all, largely a dungeon crawl. And the problem with that is that dungeon crawls are, by their very nature, overtly linear; despite the many nicely executed larger areas such as the Waterworks, one still had a sense of being herded along far too many dark, narrow passageways. As a result, the relief one felt at finally emerging into fresh air at the Dimrill Dale was palpable, and very real (so kudos to the designers for that!). On balance, I suspect that had MoM shipped, as originally planned, with all or most of the Lothlórien content included, it would have made for a much better balanced game. Hopefully, Book 7 will help restore that balance.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


After what seemed like several months of relative somnolence, those remarkable artists at The have sprung back into action with another brilliant hand-drawn map, this time of the Waterworks in Moria. Though crammed with information about locations, mobs, allies and items, the Brasse maps have an uncanny ability to make highly complicated terrain look simple and easily navigable; many a baffled player has owed his continued sanity to the Brasse map of the Old Forest. The Waterworks map can be found here; see the link, below, for a full list of all those currently available.

Thursday, 5 March 2009


I have taken to patronising the 21st Hall Auction House and Crafting Bunker almost exclusively, to the neglect of the Breetown facilities which offered such sterling service for many months. This is, of course, largely because they - and the banking facilities - are conveniently just footsteps away from one another. There's another reason, however; every time I wander past, I get hailed by those excellent dwarf guards at the entrance to the bunker area in terms of the most outrageous flattery - or at least, I have been since completing the long, long chain of quests they had bestowed on me. One of them was "Enemies of Lothlorien", which as far as I can remember involved killing lots of everything in the lower levels of Moria, including all the bosses. Since the actual reward for completion was insignificant (something like 50-odd silver and some small change), I guess flattery laid on with a trowel is the best I can expect...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Anybody rash enough to venture comment on matters financial should be prepared to eat their words, which is what I must do today. In my previous post, I said, referring to a l.60 Second Age Hunter's Bow on offer at the Laurelin AH that "just under 75G is way over the top for an unidentified item", gratuitously adding that 100G would most likely "represent both an actual and a psychological price ceiling" for some time to come.

Well, pride goeth before a fall. My conclusions held true for about 24 hours at best. Last night, with under two hours to go, that self-same bow reached a price of 140G, 175S, 98C - and for all I know, some lunatic may well have slipped in yet another bid at the last minute. This, remember, is for an unidentified item, which may well turn out to be an absolute lemon in terms of legacies.

It is small comfort to realise that I am not entirely alone in my mortification, since 99.9% percent of economic commentators in the real world have also had to eat their words in recent months...

Sunday, 1 March 2009


The price of top l.60 Second and First-Age legendaries is a matter of consuming interest to most advanced players, but the market is still extremely unsettled; sellers tend to be wildly optimistic, but buyers remain cautious. Apart from anything else, we still don't know enough about drop rates. The first image in this post, taken from the Laurelin AH, shows prices for three typical Second-Age legendaries (I am considering l.60s only; anything else is a stop-gap). The cheapest item is an identified Rune-Keeper' stone with five legacies, offered at an opening price of 15G with no offers as yet. In my opinion, this is far too expensive in view of the very limited demand for top-end RK and Warden equipment - after all, how many of these classes have reached l.60? Next is an unidentified Loremaster's staff, opening price 45G, buyout 70G - ridiculous on the face of it for an unidentified item, but a rich LM might just possibly take a flutter with a first bid. Finally, an unidentified Hunter's Bow, with no buyout and a current bid of 74.5G. This is the highest price I have yet seen offered for a Hunter Bow, and merely confirms the widely held belief that top-end Hunter gear continues to fetch the highest possible prices. I would argue that just under 75G is way over the top for an unidentified item (remember I acquired mine for 30G), but at least two Hunters disagree with me, and the market is king.

Turning now to Firs- Age items, which are beginning to appear on the AH with greater frequency, the first thing to strike one is the apparent preponderance of RK and Warden items. There could be two reasons for this: one is that the drop tables really are badly skewed in their favour, which would be bad news. The other, and more likely, is that if rolling for a First-Age item after a Watcher defeat is limited to players of the same class as the dropped item, then the great majority are hanging on to their prize. Whatever the reason, this does not make RK and Warden items with a 150G buyout very likely to move before hell freezes over; on the other hand, a first bid of 25G on the Warden's club, despite its poor legacies, is a distinct possibility. Finally, there is that Loremaster's Book offered for a first bid of 150G and a buyout of 180G, and once again no bids. This is a marginally more likely sale, but I somehow doubt it. My gut feeling, based on posts here and there on various forums, is that the small percentage of seriously wealthy players have savings which average around 100G, and that at least for some time to come, this sum will represent both an actual and a psychological price ceiling.