Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Instance: Garth Agarwen Cluster

Garth Agarwen is the "Fortress of the Blood-maid" in the north-eastern part of The Lone-lands. The story of the Red Maid is told in Volume 1, Book 2 of the epic quest. Radagast the Brown finds that nature has been twisted and the undead have risen around the Red Swamp. Originally the Red Swamp was a pure spring, protected by a river-maid, but war stained the spring with blood and the river-maid was lost. Ivar the Blood-hand is a powerful necromancer and gaunt-lord from Angmar who serves Sauron. He is responsible for raising the dead warriors of Rhudaur as wights, and raising the river-maid as the Red Maid, turning her from a nurturing life-force into a corrupting force of death and decay. 

The Outer Gates of Garth Agarwen

At the Outer Gates of Garth Agarwen, there is a campfire, a travelling vendor, an Eglain barterer and a quest-giver.

These instances are scaled to level 32.

Garth Agarwen: Barrows - 3 person instance

From the entrance of Garth Agarwen, the Barrows is located to the left and up a hill (to the northeast).

Once a burial ground for the Men of Rhudaur, Ivar the Blood-hand, a servant of Angmar, now inhabits the barrows raising an army of wights and Créoth fanatics loyal to the Red Maid.

Ivar's Crypt in The Barrows

You find Sara Oakheart cowering in the Barrows and begging for someone to save her and escort her to safety. After defeating Blogkritar (who heals himself 3 times and summons a wight to aid him each time, and spreads an aura of disease), the gate to Ivar's Crypt opens. He has banners which buff him and he summons minions throughout the fight. There is a challenge to defeat him without killing his banner-wights.

Ivar's Banner is an item obtained after defeating Ivar that can be taken to a taxidermist and turned into a housing decoration.

Temair the Devoted

Southeast of the entrance, within Garth Agarwen, Temair the Devoted (a Créoth priestess in service to the Red Maid) patrols around a bonfire on a raised platform. She heals herself and any Créoth near her. She respawns within 5 minutes after being defeated but has no special loot.

Temair the Devoted
Behind Temair's platform, The Arboretum is accessed through an archway, while to the left of her platform and up some stairs lies the heart of The Fortress.

Garth Agarwen: The Aboretum - 3 person instance

The Aboretum was once a lush garden, but the Red Maid's corruption has tainted it and its caretaker. Gloom-waters paddle in stagnant red pools, bog-prowlers doze and twisted tree trunks bend away at your approach to reveal hidden paths that lead around the edge of the garden and finally into the center where Grimdark, a corrupted tree covered in beehives, stands guard near some ruined stairs to nowhere. The challenge is to defeat Grimdark without destroying the beehives.

Grimdark

Garth Agarwen: The Fortress - 6 person instance

Near the entrance, Créoth soldiers train while the wight brothers Edan and Esyld guard the Garth Agarwen Gate which leads deeper into the Fortress. Esyld is a ranged healer while Edan is melee and they give each other a damage buff when close together.

Stairs leading to the Garth Agarwen Gate

To the right of the gate (south), stairs lead down to some ruins where Dúnlang has mind-controlled several Eglain into serving the Red Maid. The challenge is to defeat him without killing the Eglain who will attack the players to defend their new master. This may be done by holding threat on the Eglain and healing as needed until Dúnlang enters the fight, then burn him down with single target attacks. The Eglain are then freed of his control and wish to return to their families and homes.

Dunlang and his enslaved Eglain

Through the Garth Agarwen Gate, wights patrol around a large pool with stairs leading to an antechamber guarded by Vatar. He shows you a vision of how previous heroes who tried to free the Red Maid failed and then attacks. Once he is defeated, crawlers spawn and once they are killed the door opens to the Spring of the Red Maid. Taking the engraved stone from the Old Chest towards the altar will summon the boss. The challenge is to let her followers sacrifice themselves to make her stronger, then defeat her. Once defeated, she is cleansed of corruption and remembers that she was once Naruhel, a river-maid and sister to Goldberry of the Old Forest in Bree-land. She vows to restore Garth Agarwen.

The Red Maid (before)

Naruhel (after)

Naruhel's dress may be obtained after defeating the Red Maid and taken to a taxidermist to turn into a housing decoration.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Introducing the Minstrel: Level 1-20

Minstrels in LOTRO are one of the most unique classes I have ever played in a MMORPG - they wield a musical instrument as a weapon for healing or damage. There are lots of different instruments to choose from and each provide different bonuses, such as drums increase damage, theorbos increase healing, flutes reduce power costs of certain skills and bagpipes can increase critical chance. When you're not busy fighting or healing, you can also use those instruments to play music in-game and there are some amazing orchestras and bands that perform in taverns and towns across Middle Earth (there is even an annual concert called Weatherstock on the Landroval server). Musical instruments can be crafted by woodworkers, or purchased from a bard in major towns.

Minstrels also have three stances, Dissonance provides a DPS buff, Melody allows both limited DPS and healing, and Resonance provides group healing buffs.

Here I'll record my experience levelling a minstrel from level 1 to 20, talking about skills, specs and anything else that might be useful to know.

Level 1 Hobbit Minstrel

Here's our brand new minstrel and some information about her:
  • Wears light armour
  • Can wield one-handed weapons (e.g. mace, club, dagger, sword)
  • Primary stat is Will
  • Starting abilities are: Dissonance Stance, Melody Stance and Resonance Stance (only one stance can be active at a time), Minor Ballad (a ranged attack that also provides buffs), Dissonant Strike (Dissonance)/Hero's Strike (Melody)/Healer's Strike (Resonance) (a melee attack that heals you or your group depending on stance), Coda of Fury (a ranged finishing attack/heal that requires 3 ballad buffs active), and Raise the Spirit (a direct healing spell for you or an ally)

Minstrels have glowing hands! The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that contains a better weapon. At level 2 you learn Major Ballad, another ranged attack that also buffs (except in Resonance stance where it only buffs). You are also sent to the minstrel trainer who wants you to practice using your ballads. As a reward you receive another weapon and a basic lute instrument. The lute goes in your ranged weapon equipment slot. Now when you use your skills they will have sound effects specific to your equipped instrument.

At level 4 you gain Piercing Cry, a powerful ranged attack that also interrupts. This can sometimes one-shot weak mobs. At level 5 you unlock the passive ability to use Fiddles.

Playing the fiddle

At level 6 you gain two new skills, Anthem of War (a group damage buff that requires 3 ballad buffs active) and Perfect Ballad (a ranged attack that also reduces power costs for skills). So now you have three ballads which deal damage and provide buffs, an anthem that provides a damage buff (good for long or hard fights) and a coda which provides strong burst damage. This forms the basic combat rotation. For easy fights you will probably want to be in Dissonance Stance, but for harder fights Melody Stance will really help with passive healing. Resonance Stance is really just for healing so is more useful in groups and instances.

Also at level 6 you can choose a specialisation. The options are:
  • Blue = The Watcher of Resolve - focuses on providing strong heals. You also gain the skill Soliloquy of Spirit which is a heal-over-time skill, and increased Will and Fate stats.
  • Red = The Warrior-Skald - focuses on DPS. You also gain Call to Fate which is a strong ranged attack skill, and a buff to damage and range from which skills can be used.
  • Yellow = The Protector of Song - focuses on on providing healing and group buffs. You also gain Anthem of Prowess which buffs your fellowship's armour, evade and attack speed, codas give extra fellowship buffs and you can have two anthems active at once.

For questing and DPS, Red is the obvious choice. If you want to play a healer, both Blue and Yellow have a lot to offer and it may depend on your group for which will be most useful. At level 7 you get your first trait point that you can spend on your chosen specialisation. You get a new trait point every odd level.

After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed plus some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

At level 8 you gain Timeless Echoes of Battle, a damage-over-time skill that also debuffs enemies, but is only usable in Dissonance stance.

At level 10 you become eligible for Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled up to level 100, without all your equipment slots filled and with limited abilities, it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience.

Level 12 provides Invocation of Elbereth, a skill that causes a mob to run away in fear. At level 14 you gain Enlivening Grace, a skill for resurrecting defeated allies out-of-combat.

You learn how to use two new instruments at level 15: the theorbo and the bagpipes. You also receive a class quest, advising you to see the Minstrel Trainer at The Prancing Pony inn in Bree-land. The Trainer tells you the renowned minstrel Piper Prescott is in town and has heard of your talent. He has a challenge for you: Leland Underhill is a hobbit adventuring in Bree-land and likely to get into trouble. You should accompany him as he raids a bandit hideout then compose a song about the experience and perform it at The Prancing Pony. The crowd loves it and Piper Prescott says you deserve the title "Song Warrior" and a new club to help protect you on your adventures.

Perform at The Prancing Pony in Bree

At level 16 you gain some more healing skills: Bolster Courage, a direct heal with a long cast time, and Story of Courage, a cleansing skill that removes a Wound, Poison, Disease or Fear debuff from the target.

No new skills until level 20, but then you get a lot of changes! You get a group heal, Inspire Fellows, and Spirit of Freedom will break you out of most crowd-control situations. You can use shields in your off-hand and journeyman woodworker crafted instruments with bonus effects become available to use.

You can also take part in skirmishes and find gear at Skirmish Camps. Some of my questing gear was low level or non-existent (e.g. I never got a necklace), so after I hit level 20 in the Barrow-Downs I headed to the Skirmish Camp to find some upgrades.

Here's how her stats look now at level 20:

Level 20 Hobbit Minstrel

Then I headed to the Training Hall in Bree and tested Red spec's DPS (in Dissonance stance) with no consumable buffs active over 3 minutes or until I ran out of power, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. I repeated this three times and recorded the best result below. For virtues, I had two tiers of Innocence and one tier of Honour. With my 7 trait points, I had 5 points in The Fundamentals (increases Ballad and Coda damage) and 2 points in Discordant Cries (increases damage of Cries).

Here are my DPS results (collected with the CombatAnalysis plugin):
StatisticsRed (The Warrior-Skald)
Total Damage19172
Time3 m 0.2 s
Average DPS106.4
Minimum Hit48
Average Hit197.6
Maximum Hit891
Attacks97
Critical Strikes (%)17 (17.5%)
Power (%)534/1326 (40.3%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Minor Ballad
  2. Major Ballad
  3. Perfect Ballad
  4. Anthem of War
  5. Call to Fate
  6. Dissonant Piercing Cry
  7. Coda of Fury

General Observations

I really like how the minstrel has both sustained and burst damage and they can work together to make a really smooth rotation. Plus since all the skills are instant-cast, she can maintain great mobility and kill most mobs before they get near her. But wait there's more: great self-healing, especially in Melody stance. And while she didn't have any AOE skills in Dissonance stance by default, you can put a trait point in Call of Oromë for an AOE attack that hits 3 targets, or in Melody stance Coda of Fury becomes Coda of Melody which does AOE damage. She didn't have a lot of utility skills, but it seemed to be enough. Levelling the minstrel was a breeze.

At higher levels you gain some more heals, bubbles which absorb damage, AOE damage skills, threat-reducing skills and a combat resurrection. From Moria onwards, you will be able to get legendary melee weapons and a music book that goes in your class slot. You can also learn to mentor other players and teach them how to use various musical instruments.

Stats

  • Will - your main stat that increases damage and healing
  • Fate - increases survivability (morale/power regeneration), damage and healing (increases critical strike chance)
  • Morale and Vitality - increases survivability
  • Critical Strike Rating - increases damage and healing
  • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken

These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for light armour with will and maybe some jewellery with critical strike rating or fate. Morale is always helpful (vitality also increases morale). The best place to get mitigations and resistances at low level is probably from virtues.

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for Minstrels and how to get them by level 20:

VirtueActivityDeed
INNOCENCE

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
COMPASSION

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 15 quests in The Shire

Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
WISDOM

(will, in-combat power regeneration, resistance)

Explore Elf-ruins in Ered Luin

Explore the Old Forest in Bree-land

Find pages from the Journal of Cardolan in the Barrow-downs
Elf-ruins Exploration (Ered Luin)

The Old Forest (Bree-land)

Lore of the Cardolan Prince (Bree-land)
IDEALISM

(will, fate, resistance)
Find relics of the Dúnedain in Bree-land

Find flowers in The Old Forest in Bree-land
The History of the Dúnedain (Bree-land)

Flowers of the Old Forest (Bree-land)
PATIENCE

(physical mitigation, resistance, in-combat power regeneration)
Explore Dwarven settlements in Ered Luin

Retrieve spoiled pies in The Shire

Deliver mail between settlements in The Shire

Explore the ruins of Bree-land

Explore the Barrow-downs in Bree-land
Places of the Dwarves (Ered Luin)

No Place for Spoiled Pies (The Shire)

Restoring the Quick Post (The Shire)

The Ruins of Bree-land (Bree-land)

The Barrow-downs (Bree-land)
ZEAL

(morale, physical mitigation, armour)
Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
FIDELITY

(tactical mitigation, vitality, power)
Explore landmarks in The Shire

Explore Dourhand strongholds in Ered Luin
The Sights of the Shire (The Shire)

Scouting the Dourhands (Ered Luin)

Pros of the Minstrel Class

  • Good mobility
  • Good healing
  • Reasonable burst and sustained damage against single targets
  • Fun, unique playstyle using musical instruments

Cons of the Minstrel Class

  • Can be squishy
  • Limited AOE damage at low levels
  • Noisy - musical sounds effects and shouting may get annoying

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new minstrels below.

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Rune-keeper.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

LOTRO's Eleventh Anniversary

I've been taking a break from LOTRO for a few months because I got frustrated questing in Mordor. I've been playing Elder Scrolls Online and Path of Exile instead, but when I heard about LOTRO's 11th Anniversary coming up, Myndariel was quick to return to The Party Tree (a week too early). While I waited for the festival, Myndariel has been levelling in The Wastes instead of Mordor, finished off the last of the epic quests (now completed all four volumes) and bought a premium home in Belfalas because her personal home near Bree is full of decorations collected over time and across Middle Earth.

Myndariel's holiday home in Belfalas
Finally, the 11th Anniversary arrived and to my delight I found Myndariel had heaps of tokens left over from last year so she could buy the new mount and cosmetics straight away. 


Armour of the Waking Wood (front)

Armour of the Waking Wood (back)

I especially like the outfit - it looks beautiful and would probably suit an high elf or Northern Mirkwood theme. The outfit comes with chest-piece, shoulders, gloves and quiver.

Sea-ward Steed

I'm not sure what to think about this steed. It reminds me of Dol Amroth with the little wings around the face and shoulders and the ship on the blanket. I have a hobbit minstrel who really likes that bright blue so she'd probably like sitting on her Sea-ward Steed playing one of the new fiddles - the Bardic Fiddle or the Traveller's Trusty Fiddle. As far as I know, these new fiddles have a greater range of notes that can be played than the original fiddles that were released recently.

Myndariel also got an anniversary present - for playing LOTRO for four years she received the Festive Azure cosmetic outfit. Next year, she'll get the Festive Azure steed.


Festive Azure Dress and Cloak

Festive Azure Tunic and Cloak

The Scavenger Hunt continues! The reward for completing one of the Year 11 scavenger hunts is a Gollum Festival Mask cosmetic item and the Ent Horn emote. Below are some tips on where to go.

For more information about the previous 10 years of scavenger hunt quests and rewards, see my guide to LOTRO's 10th Anniversary.

Year 11 Tales: Gollum

  • Search for the Precious in Gollum's Cave - Goblin-town, Misty Mountains
  • Gather 3 Remembrances in Gollum's Cave - Goblin-town, Misty Mountains
  • Find the open shackles along the road west of Barad-dûr - Dor Amarth, Mordor
  • Find the cell where Gollum was held by wood-elves in Felegoth - Felegoth, Eryn Lasgalen
  • Visit the Memory of the Creature at Garbert's Cottage - Tâl Bruinen, The Trollshaws
  • Find the tree Gollum climbed in pursuit of Frodo on the edge of Lothlórien - Talan Haldir, Nimrodel, Lothlórien
  • Swim in the Anduin south-east of Floodwend - Nîn-stazg, The Wold, East Rohan
  • Gather 2 Remembrances in the Dead Marshes and the Noman-lands - The Dead  Marshes, Western Gondor (base camp and through portal to the Noman-lands)
  • Swim in the Forbidden Pool - Henneth Annûn, North Ithilien
  • Listen to Gossip in one of the markets of Dale - Dale, Dale-lands
  • OPTIONAL: Visit the Memory of the Ring-bearer south of the Camp of the Host and experience the session "The Precious, At Last" - North Ithilien

Year 11 Travels: Ruins of Middle Earth

  • Gather 24 Remembrances (remembrances available shown in brackets below)
  • Explore the ruins of Midgewater Marsh - Marshwater Fort, Midgewater Marsh, Bree-land (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of the Misty Mountains - Iskeld's Lookout, Bruinen Source West, Misty Mountains (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of Annúminas - Gwaelband, Annúminas, Evendim (x2)
  • Explore the ruins of the Barrow-downs - Ost Gorthad, Southern Barrow-downs, Bree-land (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of Emyn Lûm - Ost Galadh, Emyn Lûm, Mirkwood (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of Bâr Húrin - South Ithilien, Eastern Gondor (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of Haerondir - Noman-lands, The Wastes (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of South Ithilien  - Brangobel, South Ithilien, Eastern Gondor (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of Lebennin - Ruins of Ethillorn, Lebennin, Central Gondor (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of South Trollshaws - Ost Dúrgonn, South Trollshaws, The Trollshaws (x3)
  • Explore the ruins of the Trollshaws - Echad Gauradan, Tâl Bruinen, The Trollshaws (x2)
  • Explore the ruins of Kingsfell - Ost Lagoros, Kingsfell, The North Downs (x2)

Year 11 Trifles: Long List of the Ents

(I needed some help from Lotro-Wiki to find these ones)
  • Eldest of all, the elf-children - House of Celeborn, Caras Galadhon, Lothlórien
  • Dwarf the delver, dark are his houses - The Endless Stair, Foundations of Stone, Moria
  • Ent the earthborn, old as mountains - Wellinghall, Entwood, West Rohan
  • Man the mortal, master of horses - Meduseld, Edoras, West Rohan
  • Beaver the builder - Dale-lands (below waterfall NE of Dale)
  • Buck the leaper - High Moor, The Trollshaws (NW of hunter's camp site)
  • Bear bee-hunter - Buckland, Bree-land
  • Boar the fighter - The Greenway, North Downs (NW of the Tarkrîp Assault Camp)
  • Hound is hungry - Bree Mess Hall, Bree, Bree-land
  • Hare is fearful - Field of Cormallen, North Ithilien (near river)
  • Eagle in eyrie - Dómstoll, Misty Mountains
  • Ox in pasture - Starkmoor, Dunland (on a hill SE of Cartrev Andras)
  • Hart horn-crowned - Eryn Lasgalen (near bridge NW of Caras Tilion)
  • Hawk is swiftest - Torech Andraug, Eregion
  • Swan the whitest - Wyrmdenn, Rushgore, The Great River
  • Serpent coldest - Tyrn Fornech, Evendim (near border with Forochel)
  • The hobbit children, the laughing-folk, the little people - The Party Tree, The Shire

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The Blameless Burglar of the Yule Festival

My burglar finally left the shores of Lake Evendim for the chilly mountain retreat of Winter-home in Frostbluff and earned herself a Winter Elk and an Ornate Winter Dress. She also stood up to the corrupt mayor and saved the villagers from hunger, unemployment and poverty.

The Winter Elk mount


Ornate Winter Dress (original colour)


Ornate Winter Dress (dyed navy)

My burglar normally wears black but I like this outfit on her. The elk reminds her of Mirkwood and her hopes of returning to Dale soon, so I think she will keep this combination for a while.

There are some other new cosmetic items, such as a Woodland Crown, some puffy shoulders (the Fur Mantle), a tunic outfit (Ornate Jacket and Trousers) and the cloak (Ornate Winter Cloak) but I'm not too keen on them. The Snowball Arena looks like it would be a fun housing addition - it has a cooldown and the flavour text says "Gather your friends for a snowball fight" so I think it's interactive - if only I had a huge yard for it. It would be great for kin houses.

Been there done that, looks like Yule Festival is over for me. Well almost - a few other characters would like the elk mount too.

I was just reminded by LOTRO-Wiki that there are some Yule-themed quests in Thorin's Hall Inn and the Festival Garden in Ered Luin, The Festival Grounds in Bree-land, and the Party Tree and Hobbiton in the Shire. Some of the quests are once-only and some are repeatable, but if you need more festival tokens to buy some cool new items, check them out.

Have a safe and enjoyable Christmas and holiday season, and best wishes for 2018.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Developer's Letter: Beyond Mordor

We've just got a letter from the Executive Producer of LOTRO and I'm excited. We're going to Northern Mirkwood and Dale and Erebor and Laketown and Thranduil's Court! There's all these places on the map of Middle Earth we've heard about but never seen and maybe next year, we'll get to see some of them. I can't wait! I love exploring and visiting new places.

Also, I have a burglar from Dale who got caught stealing jewellery and brought shame to her family, so she got sent to live with an aunt in Bree. She's been trying to make up for her past but she never thought she'd get to see her hometown or family again. Now I'll have to level her up so she can go home a hero!

It's great to hear there will be new additions to the Anniversary event and Summer Festival and the quest-line that began with Bingo Boffin at Harvestmath will continue. I love holiday events but they need to keep updating so they don't get boring "been there, done that". It sounds like we'll be able to get an elk mount at the Yule festival, and if so, that will definitely be on my wish-list. First horses and goats, then reindeer and now elks - mounts are slowly getting more variety.

There's a new raid coming out before the end of the year, The Abyss of Mordath. I haven't raided for a long time, but it sounds like it has a really interesting story behind it that makes me want to see it.

One disappointment is that there are lots of new housing decorations being added, but many will be locked behind the raid and Gorgoroth lootboxes. Grrr. I'm grateful that housing is getting more attention, but I wish nice decorations were more readily available - they're mostly either gated behind limited time holiday events, high level content or the LOTRO store. Why can't low level characters enjoy decorating their houses too? The Housing Furnishers in the housing neighbourhoods have a very limited range. We don't all have the patience of elves for slowly collecting one piece of nice furniture now and then over years and years. I think I've been spoilt by housing dimensions in Rift, as no other MMO housing system I've seen has been anywhere near as comprehensive or accessible.

Musicians will finally be able to play the fiddle! Imagine the concerts as bards all over Middle Earth embrace the instrument and compose new songs! Will it have any special effects for minstrels? Will woodworkers be able to craft fiddles? Will this be the beginning of a new golden age for Middle Earth music?!?

Oh and Dwarves and Hobbits will be getting their avatar makeovers. Some of my women and elves weren't very happy with their new look, but I've either got used to it now or visited the barber to make small adjustments. Overall I don't think the makeovers were worth it; it's not like the characters went from looking awful to looking amazing. More appearance options would have been just as good as changing the base avatars. I guess it was something that players demanded for a long time and the developers felt like they had to do it.

Well, it seems there is a lot planned for 2018. I really need to get a few characters through Mordor so they can continue the journey beyond. And I need to level up my burglar - she's only 30. Maybe I can do a levelling marathon over the Christmas holidays? I can't believe this year is almost over!  

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Character-boosted Minstrel in Mordor Level 105: Udun

I decided to boost another character to level 105 so they could enter Mordor. It was a close competition between my champion and my minstrel. Both have their crafting professions up to Doomfold level and can make level 100 legendary items (my champ is a weaponsmith and my minstrel is a tailor). Both are enjoyable to play and can manage most content with ease. In the end, I chose my minstrel because my champ was having fun questing in Moria while my minstrel was parked in Enedwaith feeling a little bored. She needs more action!

Cantara the minstrel

Time to compose Cantara's new chant "Misadventures in Mordor".

Character boost package
Cantara opened the Aria of the Valar upgrade package, looked at all the new goodies then clicked on the Aria of the Valar. There was a loud ringing of the gong then she was whisked away to the Camp of the Host in The Wastes and found herself standing before Aragorn and Gandalf as a level 105 minstrel. She quickly equipped her new armour, weapons and skills.

Cantara's stats after being boosted to level 105

Aragorn had an epic quest for her, Volume IV, Book 8: The Black Gate. She got a glimpse of what was happening with Frodo, Sam and Gollum sneaking into Mordor by a secret path, while Aragorn and his host prepared for a more direct approach.

Playing the wardrums at the Battle of the Morannon

Since I'm playing a minstrel, I have to mention how awesome the background music for the Battle of the Morannon quest instance is. It feels so momentous, with the sense of frenzy and the direness of the situation - sometimes it sounds so ominous like disaster is imminent and other times it soars as though heroic deeds taking place across the battlefield are beacons of light and hope bursting out of the darkness. It sends chills down my spine and has me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next bar of dramatic music to unfold. Brilliant.

Finally, the epic quest was over and the victors celebrated and recovered at the Fields of Cormallen. Two out of the three legendary items Cantara got in the upgrade pack are due for reforging and her bags are almost full, but Cantara has been sent back to the Black Gate and a new adventure begins - The Black Book of Mordor.

At Cirith Gorgor, just inside the Black Gate, Cantara met some NPC adventurers who will also be heading into Mordor, for knowledge, treasure, memories and the desire for proof that Sauron is truly gone. At the Udûn Foothold, she hears that Captain Lachír is missing and rumours that the forgeworkers have a secret way of communicating via signal flags. So she has some missions to prepare for. Narthavron, the Master Smith at the Foothold, introduces the Ashes of Gorgoroth mechanic for deconstructing unwanted Mordor equipment into ashes which can be bartered for useful equipment.

Cantara called on my other characters to get some second age legendaries crafted. The symbols for a First Age were a bit too expensive (hopefully by the time she reaches level 115 she can obtain them) and she will need to level several legendaries to get the right legacies and enhancements. She also needed a new pocket item because that didn't come in the equipment pack with the upgrade.

The mobs in Udûn are at least level 106 and were certainly a lot more difficult to defeat than the mobs at the Battle of the Morannon. While Cantara was still level 105, I tried to mainly fight the swarm ones with the green portrait frame border, such as the gore-crows, slag-slugs and frenzied nurnhoth as they were much easier and had a smaller health pool. A lot of the quests are picked up from the landscape rather than from a quest-giver so you really have to look around and check everything to see if it is useful or interactive.

Gorgoroth wood and skarn were fairly common, especially along the road near Anglach, but hides are rather rare due to the lack of beasts around. I guess I will be relying on the crafting chests found in ruins and strongholds (although level 106 is required to open the Gorgoroth Crafting Bundles in the chests).

Rusty Small Chests contain Gorgoroth Crafting Bundles
with random Doomfold crafting materials
 
I got my first piece of Mordor gear from a quest, a ring with +2 Light of Earendil which will help counter the debuffs from the Shadow of Mordor which reduce your damage and healing. My quests took me into Anglach, where Captain Lachír was last seen, but most of the mobs there are level 107 and they do a lot more damage to me than I do to them. Buff food and consumables will come in handy in Mordor.

I also found several Gorgoroth Steel-bound Lootboxes. These require a special Black Steel Key which can be earned from max-level dailies (doesn't help me) or from the LOTRO Store (grrrr). They could contain some really good gear, but since I can't open them and they're not worth much on the auction house or in trade (because most other people can't open them either), I'll be throwing them away so they don't clog up my bags. Seems like a waste but oh well.

Cantara reached level 106 and has picked up quite a few quests. Hopefully she will get some more Mordor gear soon and can delve further into Udûn.

First verse:
The gloom, the gloom, the gloom of Udûn
Forges and slaves abandoned to doom
Shadows of Mordor drain all power
Till nothing can live, not even a flower.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Introducing the Lore-master: Level 1-20

Lore-master is my favourite class in LOTRO. They have everything - magic spells to cast from a distance, melee attacks if the mobs are close, healing spells, lots of utility, buffs and debuffs and a variety of pets to choose from that can tank, dps or heal. Like Gandalf, they wield a staff and a sword, and also like Gandalf, they are a powerful ally for any group.

Here I'll record my experience levelling a lore-master from level 1 to 20, talking about skills, specs, pets and anything else that might be useful to know.

Level 1 Elf Lore-master

Here's our brand new lore-master and some information about her:
  • Wears light armour
  • Wields a staff (can wield a sword in off-hand at higher levels)
  • Primary stat is Will
  • Starts with a bear as a pet
  • Starting abilities are: Burning Embers (a damage-over-time fire spell that also slows enemies), Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire (an instant-cast damage-over time fire spell that can restore some health if your pet has recently "flanked" the enemy), Gust of Wind (a frost spell that can spread Burning Embers to nearby mobs), Lightning Strike (a lightning spell that deals extra damage if the enemy is affected by Burning Embers), Staff-strike (a melee attack that deals extra damage if your pet has recently "flanked" the enemy) and Friend of Bears (summons your bear pet).
Starting pet is a bear

Your pet has a special skill bar:

  • Attack - tell your pet to attack your selected target
  • Follow - tell your pet to follow you
  • Stay - tell your pet to stay still unless it enters combat
  • Aggressive Mode - your pet will attack anything in range
  • Passive Mode - your pet won't attack anything unless you tell it to
  • Guard Mode - your pet will only attack if you or it is attacked
  • Assist Mode - your pet will attack whichever target you attack
  • Return to Master - your pet will instantly return to you (out of combat only)
The final three abilities are pet specific. Bears start with one ability and unlock the other two abilities at higher levels.
  • Roaring Challenge - your pet will taunt the target

Your pet can provide a special "flanked" debuff to mobs that make them more vulnerable and gives some of your attacks bonus effects - like restoring health or power. A chiming sound will play when the debuff occurs.

The flanked debuff looks like an open mouth

You can also rename your pets. Right click on your pet's portrait/health bar to open the pet menu and select "Rename [Pet name]". There is also an option to "Dismiss [Pet name]" which can be useful sometimes, for example to switch pets or when you level up. Your pet does not automatically level up with you if it is summoned (the "floaty name" over its head may turn blue, showing it is lower level than you), so dismiss pet and re-summon then your pet will level up too.

Right click for pet menu

The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that contains a better staff. At level 2 you are sent to the Lore-master trainer. They tell you how your bear will aid you with its strength and its ability to draw the attention of the mobs away from you (i.e. it can taunt and tank mobs), and asks you to practise summoning it. Once summoned, you can see your pet on the mini-map as a large blue dot. If it gets too far away from you, your pet will despawn and need to be re-summoned.

At level 4 you get a healing spell, Light of Hope. It can be used on pets or allies, but not yourself.

At level 6 you get Sign of Power: Command. This is a debuff that reduces the enemy's attack speed and chance to parry attacks. It can be used before combat without causing any threat/aggro (won't make the mob attack).

Also at level 6, you can choose a specialisation. The options are:
  • Blue = Keeper of Animals - focuses on the mutually beneficial relationship between the lore-master and their pet. Your pet gets increased health and stats and your spells become instant-cast when your pet delivers a critical strike.
  • Red = Master of Nature's Fury - focuses on your DPS. You do more fire damage and Lightning Strike has a chance to strike twice. Your pet gets a small buff to health and damage.
  • Yellow = The Ancient Master -  focuses on crowd control, debuffing enemies and providing group support buffs. You also gain the skill Test of Will which deals light damage and stuns enemies, and Burning Embers deals extra damage to stunned mobs.
Blue spec is great for soloing and has good survivability. Red spec is most popular in groups because it has the highest DPS. It has particularly good AOE damage. Yellow spec can be useful as support in groups for crowd control and buffs/debuffs, but it lacks DPS and pet synergy.

At level 7 you get your first trait point to put into your chosen specialisation. I normally play Blue spec, so I decided to try Red spec and put my first point in Master of Fire to increase fire damage by 5% (most of our damage will be fire). You get a new trait point every odd level.

After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed and some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

At level 10 you get Blinding Flash, a crowd control skill which interrupts and dazes a target for up to 30 seconds. You are now eligible for Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled up to level 100, without all your equipment slots filled and with limited abilities, it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience.

At level 14 you get an AOE fire skill, Cracked Earth, which also roots mobs in place.

At level 15 you get a new pet: Raven-lore lets you summon a Raven which debuffs enemies. The raven starts with two specialised skills - Benediction of the Raven which makes the target more vulnerable to fire damage, and Distraction which causes a light damage-over-time effect,  decreases a target's ranged damage by 50% and increases the target's miss chance. You can only have one pet active at a time.

The pet raven debuffs enemies

Also at level 15, you should get a quest to visit the Lore-master Trainer in Bree, who wants you to help Dorset Oakes who is near the Yellow Tree to the south of town. His father was a great Lore-master and built a library in a cave in Bree-land, but Dorset needs help finding a book "On the Hardiness of Animals in the Wilderness" before the library is overrun by invading goblins.

Benton Oakes' Library

Completing the class quest earns you the title "the Well-ordered Mind" and new robes.

You get two utility skills at level 16: Knowledge of Cures that removes debuffs such as poison, wounds, fear or disease from you or an ally (very useful!), and Power of Knowledge which is a channeled life-steal skill that reduces the enemy's health and power, and increases your own.

You get two crowd-control skills at level 18. Bane Flare is a short-range AOE skill that will daze up to 5 enemies nearby. Light of the Rising Dawn deals light damage to a single target and stuns them for 3 seconds. I find Light of the Rising Dawn is a very useful skill - it hits hard (especially against Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and Spiders), stuns, has a fast cast time and a reasonably short cooldown (30 seconds).

At level 19, your pets unlock some new skills. The bear gets Shatter Arms which is an armour debuff that increases the melee and ranged damage taken by an enemy by 10%. The raven gets Evasion which increases the raven's chance to avoid damage, especially shadow damage.

Level 20 grants many new passive and active abilities. Knowledge of the Lore-master is a debuff you can use before combat to inspect an enemy and find out more about their strengths and weaknesses, and also reduces their resistances to most types of damage. Wind-lore is a debuff which increases damage taken by the enemy. Clever Escape is a utility skill that frees you from crowd-control effects such as a daze or stun.

Friend of Nature lets you summon a new pet: the Bog-guardian looks rather strange but is quite effective at dealing ranged damage. It has three special abilities on its skill bar: Angry Bees (deals damage over time), Root Strike (a burst of damage that makes the enemy more vulnerable to critical strikes from ranged attacks) and Bursting Root (a burst of damage with a chance to stun the enemy).

The bog-guardian deals ranged damage

You also gain the passive ability to use books of lore in your class slot. A basic book can be purchased from the lore-master class trainer, and better versions can be crafted by scholars. These books reduce the power costs of certain abilities and are later replaced by legendary lore-master books which buff your character and make some abilities more powerful.

At level 20, there are three types of books of lore available:
  • Book of Beasts - decreases power cost of Sign of the Wild skills (these skills are now obsolete so don't get this book!).
  • Book of Nature - decreases power cost of Lore skills (such as Wind-lore and Knowledge of the Lore-master; these are useful debuff skills so this book may be some benefit).
  • Book of the Dúnedain - decreases power cost of Sign of Power/Battle (Sign of Power: Command is a useful debuff skill and Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire is a key damage-over-time skill so this book will give the most benefit).

You can obtain special pet food, either from the class trainer or crafted by cooks:
  • Bears like honey and oats to increase their armour, mitigations and threat (so they're more tanky). 
  • Birds like crumbs to increase their mitigations, melee damage and chance to evade attacks (so they can be agile while they peck their target).
  • Bog-guardians like water to increase their mitigations, ranged damage and power (so they can keep casting).

Jewellers can craft brooches that can be equipped in the ranged slot from level 20 onwards. There are two types of brooches: Brooches of Rage give your active pet offensive bonuses by increasing critical strike rating, while Brooches of Regrowth give your active pet more defensive bonuses by increasing their morale regeneration and chance to evade attacks. Jewellers can also craft talismans which change the look of your pet - for example, instead of a black raven you could have a white frost-raven, or, instead of a brown bear you could have a tundra bear cub.

After reaching level 20, I visited the Skirmish Camp and upgraded my questing gear. Here's how my lore-master looks now:

Level 20 Elf Lore-master

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's DPS with no consumable buffs active over 3 minutes or until I ran out of power, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. I repeated this for each test and recorded the best result below. I also compared the DPS of different active pets. For virtues, I had four tiers of Charity and one tier of Compassion. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

Normally I would try to use Sign of Power: Command and Wind-lore debuffs on my target, but for the training dummy I didn't because the Combat Analysis plugin reset if I wasn't dealing damage constantly. My rotation was Burning Embers followed by Wizard's Fire twice (the first Wizard's Fire debuff gets upgraded to a more powerful version called Searing Embers if the Burning Embers debuff is present), Lightning Strike then Wizard's Fire twice (to refresh DoTs and prevent Combat Analysis from resetting), Light of the Rising Dawn then Wizard's Fire twice, then Burning Embers followed by Wizard's Fire twice is repeated several times until Lightning Strike and Light of the Rising Dawn are off cooldown.

Here are my DPS results comparing each pet while in Master of Nature's Fury spec (collected with Combat Analysis plugin; LM = Lore-master):

StatisticsBearRavenBog-guardian
Pet Damage94101761423334
LM Damage9172953610298
Time3 m 0.3 s3 m 0.4s3 m 0.3 s
Pet DPS52.297.6129.4
LM DPS50.952.957.1
Combined DPS103.1150.5186.5
Minimum Hit121212
Average Hit47.149.951.7
Maximum Hit327314327
Attacks263252260
Critical Strikes (%)68 (25.9%)51 (20.2%)66 (25.4%)
Power (%)1058/1318 (80.3%)424/1318 (32.2%)924/1318 (70.1%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn

I was surprised to see how much my power dropped when using the raven pet. Is it using my power to fuel its attacks? These tests showed that the Lore-master has pretty low dps and the active pet is critical for our damage output.

Blue spec gains access to another pet, the Lesser Giant Eagle at level 17 (requires 6 trait points). The eagle deals melee damage, has a battle rez and provides a Nobility buff that grants both you and the eagle increased in-combat power regeneration. Its special abilities on the pet bar are: Fan the Flames (deals burst damage and has a fear effect), Beak Rend (a life-steal skill that deals damage and restores health to the eagle), and Sacrifice (can resurrect lore-master if eagle is still in combat).

The lesser giant eagle has a battle-rez


Here are my DPS results with the Lesser Giant Eagle in Keeper of Animals (Blue) spec:

StatisticsLesser Giant Eagle
Pet Damage19531
LM Damage6922
Time3 m 0.4 s
Pet DPS108.3
LM DPS38.1
Combined DPS146.4
Minimum Hit9
Average Hit37.2
Maximum Hit232
Attacks250
Critical Strikes (%)62 (24.8%)
Power (%)877/1318 (66.5%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn

DPS with the raven and eagle seems to be similar, so unless you really want the special features the eagle offers, it's not necessary to spend trait points to get it. As expected, combined DPS was highest when paired with the bog-guardian. I then compared each spec with the bog-guardian active:

StatisticsKeeper of Animals (Blue)Master of Nature's Fury (Red)The Ancient Master (Yellow)
Pet Damage217522333414998
LM Damage7473102987028
Time3 m 0.4 s3 m 0.3 s 3 m 0.3 s
Pet DPS120.6129.483.2
LM DPS41.457.139.0
Combined DPS162.0186.5122.2
Minimum Hit9129
Average Hit37.451.736.2
Maximum Hit315327315
Attacks262260256
Critical Strikes (%)64 (24.4%)66 (25.4%)50 (19.5%)
Power (%)617/1318 (46.8%)924/1318 (70.1%)422/1318 (32.0%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn
  1. Burning Embers
  2. Sign of Battle: Wizard's Fire
  3. Lightning Strike
  4. Light of the Rising Dawn

Red was clearly the best spec for damage-dealing. At higher levels, several new pets become available such as a lynx (ST melee damage and bleeds), a sabertooth cat (AOE melee frost damage) and spirit of nature (healing). It would be interesting to see how their damage compares to the pets shown above, although I suspect the bog-guardian would still be the winner.

General Observations


Some of your skills cost morale as well as power, so looking after your health is important. Little heals from casting Wizard's Fire on a flanked target, Power of Knowledge, Water-lore, Inner Flame and Wisdom of the Council can all help keep you alive. Increasing your Fate stat can also help with in-combat regeneration and increasing your Morale means you can use more skills with less risk of dying.

Lore-masters were originally the only class to have non-combat pets such as rabbits, sparrows, frogs, and turtles which could be obtained through special class quests, faction vendors or tomes that rarely dropped from mobs in Angmar. Now everyone can get non-combat pets, but some are still only available to lore-masters. 

Lore-masters have a huge toolkit of abilities and there are many more skills to add at higher levels, including AOE abilities, out-of-combat resurrection, more heals (Water-lore is a very useful heal-over-time skill that can be used on yourself or allies, while Inner Flame heals you and your pet and provide a fire damage buff), survival (Wisdom of the Council heals 50% of your morale, reduces damage taken, reflects damage and stuns those who attack you) and utility skills (e.g. slow mobs, detect stealthed mobs, restore power to allies, dispel corruptions, protect an ally from crowd-control or interruptions).

The trait trees also provide some iconic abilities, with Blue having Sic'Em which lets you summon a stampede of pets to attack your target, Red has Ring of Fire which spreads fire over a large area and Lightning Storm which deals a strong burst of AOE lightning damage, while Yellow has Warding Knowledge which places a ward on the ground that causes enemies on it to take more damage and miss more often.

Specialisations


Blue - Keeper of Animals: Look after your pet and your pet will look after you. You can solo a lot of content in Blue spec, especially with the bear tanking and you healing and cleansing debuffs from it, but it can be slow, like you're gradually whittling away at the enemy's morale.  If you're feeling squishy, blue may be a good spec to try because it has great survivability. I have had a lot of fun levelling as blue on other characters, and felt like my pets and I had been through so much together, they're like kin members.

Red - Master of Nature's Fury: I would recommend Red as the default levelling spec for lore-masters. It has more damage and feels faster, more exciting and dramatic, like an elemental mage with fire and lightning bursting all over the place like Gandalf's fireworks! It is also a lot of fun, but be careful not to take on too much because although you have great AOE and a pet, you are not a tank and can't take a beating.

Yellow - The Ancient Master: Buffs and debuffs and crowd control are great, but focussing on them instead of dealing damage makes levelling feel very slow and tedious. It is probably more useful at high levels when your role is supporting a group, or as a secondary spec once you've filled your main spec - i.e. once you reach the bottom of the Red or Blue tree, you might want to spend some trait points in Yellow on Fire-lore (melee damage debuff), Frost-lore (tactical damage debuff) and Mending Lore (increases healing).

Stats

  • Will - your main stat that increases damage
  • Morale and Vitality - increases survivability 
  • Fate - increases survivabilty (morale/power regeneration) and damage (critical strike chance and magnitude)
  • Critical Strike rating - increases damage
  • Mitigations and resistances - reduces damage taken

These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for light armour with will and maybe some jewellery with critical strike rating or fate. Morale is always helpful (vitality also increases morale). The best place to get mitigations and resistances at low level is probably from virtues.

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for Lore-masters and how to get them by level 20:

VirtueActivityDeed
INNOCENCE

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
COMPASSION

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 15 quests in The Shire

Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
WISDOM

(will, in-combat power regeneration, resistance)

Explore Elf-ruins in Ered Luin

Explore the Old Forest in Bree-land

Find pages from the Journal of Cardolan in the Barrow-downs
Elf-ruins Exploration (Ered Luin)

The Old Forest (Bree-land)

Lore of the Cardolan Prince (Bree-land)

IDEALISM

(will, fate, resistance)
Find relics of the Dúnedain in Bree-land

Find flowers in The Old Forest in Bree-land
The History of the Dúnedain (Bree-land)

Flowers of the Old Forest (Bree-land)
PATIENCE

(physical mitigation, resistance, in-combat power regeneration)
Explore Dwarven settlements in Ered Luin

Retrieve spoiled pies in The Shire

Deliver mail between settlements in The Shire

Explore the ruins of Bree-land

Explore the Barrow-downs in Bree-land
Places of the Dwarves (Ered Luin)

No Place for Spoiled Pies (The Shire)

Restoring the Quick Post (The Shire)

The Ruins of Bree-land (Bree-land)

The Barrow-downs (Bree-land)
ZEAL

(morale, physical mitigation, armour)
Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
FIDELITY

(tactical mitigation, vitality, power)
Explore landmarks in The Shire

Explore Dourhand strongholds in Ered Luin
The Sights of the Shire (The Shire)

Scouting the Dourhands (Ered Luin)

Pros of the Lore-master Class

  • Versatile - provides DPS, heals, buffs, debuffs, crowd-control, utility
  • Lots of pets to choose from (different types of pets and appearances)
  • Reasonable ST and AOE damage
  • Has ranged and melee abilities
  • Great at soloing and also very useful in groups

Cons of the Lore-master Class

  • Can be squishy
  • Low DPS without pet active
  • Complex class with lots of situational abilities to master

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new lore-masters in the comments below.

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Minstrel.