Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Scenic Tour: Mirkwood

Mirkwood is easy to miss out because it is not readily accessible. First you need the Siege of Mirkwood expansion, then you need to start the epic quest line in Vol. 2, Book 9 to be able to get a boat from Lothlórien across the Anduin, and finally you need to complete the Mirkwood Landing quests in the Mirk-eaves before you can enter the rest of Mirkwood.

Looking across the Anduin towards Mirkwood
The docks at Imlad Lalaith
The Mirkwood Landing camp at Echad Sirion

The story in Mirkwood is very well done and leads you through the zone. You really get the sense of the encroaching orcs, undead and corrupted beasts taking over the forest and bringing destruction wherever they go, and the elves fighting to hold back the invasion and disrupt the Necromancer's plans.

The elvish outpost at Ost Galadh is surrounded by healthy forest
The orcish fortress of Dol Goldur is surrounded by dying forest

There are some surprising and interesting places tucked away in the forest off the beaten path. The swamps of the Drownholt with the angry huorns at Sâd Meryrn; the stone circle at Hrigg Vidukuni in Emyn Lûm; the spider den at Gorogrod and the Shrine of the Ancient One in the Scuttledells; the Verdant Shrine in Taur Morvith, and Sâd Doldúr in the Ashenslades, to name a few spots that are worth exploring.

Blue sky is a rare sight in gloomy Mirkwood

Saturday, 20 May 2017

May Update

Good news! I got a new computer and now LOTRO is better than ever. On my laptop I was getting 10-30 fps, on my new PC I'm now getting over 100 fps! The graphics look amazing and animations are so smooth. I'm still using Linux Mint - I think I'm truly converted now and can't imagine going back to Windows - and now have a SSD and a 2TB HDD (lots of room for screenshots!), and a nVidia GTX 1070 8GB graphics card.

I've been pretty busy trying to complete all the scavenger hunt quests. They've been a lot of fun but they do take a while. I'm still updating my LOTRO's 10th Anniversary article as more quests become available, with tips on where to go and pictures of the rewards as I get them.

The view from Wellinghall (Year 5 Tales: Merry)
I really like the Fishing Creel backpack (Year 5 reward)

With levelling a champion to 20 and writing about the experience, I've been enjoying the class so much I'm now working on levelling one of my champs to 50 so she can get some legendaries and head into Moria. I've also been really enjoying my free-to-play (F2P) hunter and I have been inspired by a kin member who has a F2P character who is almost level 105 and is farming Moria deeds on an alt to get enough LOTRO points for the next quest pack. It's encouraging to be reminded that you can get to max level for free if you really want to.

My goal for the rest of this month is to keep up with the scavenger hunts, finish my scenic tour of Mirkwood and get my champ to 50. Hopefully I can also level a guardian to 20 for my Introducing X Class series. Which reminds me, I still need to install TitanBar and CombatAnalysis plugins on the new computer.

Bye for now. Have fun in Middle Earth!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Introducing the Champion: Level 1-20

When I think of champions, I think of Gimli swinging his axes and revelling in the thrill of battle, or Aragorn with his sword, slicing through foes at the Battle for Helm's Deep, the Battle of Pelennor Fields and the Battle of the Morannon (Black Gate).

Champions are strong melee fighters that are renowned for their ability to deal damage to many targets, although they can also duel toe-to-toe with a single enemy.

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

Level 1 Dwarf Champion

Here's our brand new champion and some information about him:
  • Wears heavy armour
  • Can dual-wield or use two-handed melee weapons
  • Can use a bow or crossbow as a ranged weapon
  • Primary stat is Might
  • Starting abilities are: Swift Strike (a single-target melee attack that generates 1 fervour) and Blade Wall (an AOE melee attack).

The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that gives you a sword and dagger to dual-wield. At level 2 you learn a new ability called Savage Strikes that does multiple attacks against a single target and costs 2 fervour.

Fervour is a resource that champions generate and spend during combat. Abilities that cost more fervour tend to be more powerful. Fervour disappears if you are out of combat for more than a few seconds.

Also at level 2, you are sent to visit the Champion trainer to practice building fervour and spending it on Savage Strikes against the target dummy. As a reward, you are given some better weapons to dual-wield.

The next ability becomes available at level 6. Wild Attack is like a better version of Swift Strike - it hits a single target several times, uses less power and has a shorter cooldown. So now you can use Wild Attack and Swift Strike to build 2 fervour then use Savage Strikes to spend it. Rinse and repeat until individual mobs are dead.

At level 6 you can also choose a specialisation. The options are:
  • Blue = The Martial Champion (tank) - specialises in survivability and lets you learn how to block with a two-handed weapon and gain Sudden Defence, an ability which costs all your fervour for an absorption bubble to prevent damage. You also have increased threat generation and morale and a small chance to gain an extra fervour "pip" and reflect damage back at your opponent.
  • Red = The Berserker (ST DPS) - specialises in dealing burst damage to a single target and relies on critical strikes. You also gain some abilities: Devastating Strike generates 2 fervour and debuffs your enemy so they take more damage, and Remorseless Strike which costs 4 fervour, hits hard and is hard to defend against (so is more likely to be successful). Your single target attacks may also increase the critical strike strike chance of Remorseless Strike.
  • Yellow = The Deadly Storm (AOE DPS) - specialises in dealing damage to multiple targets and AOE abilities have a chance to reduce your attack duration so you attack faster. You also gain some abilities: Rend, which hits several targets and causes damage over time, reduces their armour and generates 2 fervour, and Blade Storm which does several attacks to several targets, reduces your attack duration if you get a critical strike and costs 4 fervour.

There are times when you will be fighting one mob and there are times when you are fighting several mobs so it would be good to be familiar with both red and yellow specs. Both red and yellow tend to favour dual-wielding as some abilities involve attacking with your off-hand (also gives you more chances for critical strikes which is good for red spec, and one-handed weapons attack faster than two-handed weapons which is good for yellow spec). Blue is more defensive and relies on a two-handed weapon. However, dual-wielding or two-handed weapons are your choice so find what works best for you. I don't have much experience with blue spec so I will have to try it out.

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 7 you get your first trait point to spend in your specialisation. In the yellow spec, I started putting points into Might Increase which will help increase both ST and AOE damage, while in red spec I put points into increasing critical strike chance, again because it will benefit both ST and AOE damage.

Try to get a bow as soon as possible (I got one from a quest reward at level 8, but you could also buy one from a bowyer) as it is very useful for pulling mobs or shooting mobs that try to run away, using your auto-attack key (`).

At level 10 you get the ability Champion's Challenge, which is a taunt. You also get some passive abilities allowing you to use two-handed weapons and one-handed spears.

By this stage I was finding that yellow spec is a joy to play - fast, fluid and fun. You've got a basic single target rotation, but you've also got some solid AOE options. I took on 8 goblins in Orodost (5 to start with and then another 3 joined in) and my health only dropped to about 60%. Battle Frenzy in the yellow spec tree is great - activate it before you start fighting a group of mobs (or pull a few mobs so you have a group to fight) to boost your fervour generation and then you'll be able to use your spenders like Blade Storm more frequently and eliminate the mobs quicker. At least at this level too, you barely use any power and skills have short cooldowns, so you can plow into the next group of mobs and keep going with very little downtime. I really felt like a whirlwind of destruction wiping out the entire enemy camp in a few minutes.

I've also been trying out red spec too, and it's fine - it hits hard and kills single mobs quickly. But when there are a group of mobs your AOE is limited, so you have to kill them one at a time. I noticed I took more damage during multi-target fights in red spec than in yellow spec. Also, without Battle Frenzy, you have several fervour spenders to choose from, but it's slower to build up enough fervour to use them.

At level 14 you get Bracing Attack, which is a single target attack that costs fervour but also heals you. It has a 30 second cooldown, but this should be a useful skill - just don't save it for healing up at the end of the fight and then kill the mob before you've used it or you'll miss out.

At level 15 you get mail notifying you of a class quest sending you to talk to Ultan Foebane in Bree. He hopes a champion like you can help eliminate some troublemakers around Bree-land, namely: a goblin called Zurpukh of the Deeps who is patrolling the Midgewater Marsh east of Goblinhole Ruins; a half-orc called Fair Sherman who is standing lookout near Southguard Ruins in the Vale of Andrath; and a brigand called Morley the Fierce who is laying low in the Old Greenway Fort in the Northern Bree-fields.

Zurpukh of the Deeps

Fair Sherman

Morley the Fierce

Completing the quest earns you the title "Blade of Renown" and a one-handed axe.

At level 16 you get a basic ranged attack ability that uses your bow or crossbow called Let Fly, which hits harder than an auto-attack and as mentioned above, is useful for pulling mobs into combat or finishing off mobs that run away.

I tried out blue spec for a couple of levels with a two-handed axe. My rotation was basically using Blade Wall to reduce enemy damage, then the basic single target rotation (Wild Attack, Swift Strike, Savage Strikes or Bracing Attack if healing needed). It felt like a tougher but weaker version of red spec - tougher because I didn't take as much damage, but weaker because I didn't deal as much damage either.

I went back to yellow spec and dual wielding and I found that my gear needed upgrading because I felt a bit squishy taking on several mobs. I think good gear and weapons will be quite important for DPS champions because they don't have as many healing or survival skills that some other classes have.

At level 20 you gain the ability Blood Rage which lets you break out of stuns, dazes and knock-downs (very useful). You also gain some passive abilities - Horns of Valour lets you use consumable horns crafted by woodworkers to stun a group of mobs. Runic Use lets you use Champion Runes in your class item equipment slot. There are two types of runes - Striking Runes that reduce the power cost of single target attacks, and Vanquishing Runes that reduce the power cost of AOE attacks. Runes can be crafted by jewellers but the level 20 versions can be bought from the Champion trainer. Personally I think Striking Runes will be generally more useful but Vanquishing Runes may be helpful for yellow spec to swap in if you know you're going to be farming an area or doing instances/skirmishes where you'll be fighting lots of mobs. You can also now use Potions of Fervour which are crafted by scholars to give you a quick boost of fervour.

I finished the quests I was doing in the Barrow-downs and headed to the Skirmish Camp to upgrade my gear. Here's how my champion looks at level 20:

Level 20 Dwarf Champion

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, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. Or at least that was the plan (see below). For virtues, I had four tiers of Charity and one tier of Discipline. With my 7 trait points, I focused on general damage-boosting traits where possible.

I got quite a surprise when I faced the training dummies - for 20 levels of questing I never had any problems with power, but against the training dummies, I ran out of power quite quickly. I tried changing my rotation, but although it affected the DPS quite a lot, I still ran out of power. So, I repeated the exercise for each trait line 3x dual-wielding and 3x with a two-hander and recorded the set of results with the highest average DPS below in 3 minutes or until I received a notification: "Not enough Power."

Here are my DPS results while dual-wielding (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

StatisticsThe Martial Champion (Blue)The Berserker (Red)The Deadly Storm (Yellow)
Time1 m 41.6 s1 m 12.5 s1 m 30.7 s
Average DPS73.091.0135.4
Minimum Hit151715
Average Hit42.462.343.5
Maximum Hit115484248
Critical Strikes (%)29 (16.6%)22 (20.8%)54 (19.1%)
Power (%)35/1000 (3.5%)18/1000 (1.8%)11/1000 (1.1%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Blade Wall
  2. Savage Strikes
  3. Wild Attack
  4. Swift Strike
  1. Remorseless Strike
  2. Devastating Strike
  3. Wild Attack
  4. Swift Strike
  1. Battle Frenzy
  2. Blade Storm
  3. Savage Strikes
  4. Rend
  5. Wild Attack
  6. Swift Strike

Here are my DPS results with a 2H-sword (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

StatisticsThe Martial Champion (Blue)The Berserker (Red)The Deadly Storm (Yellow)
Time1 m 39.1 s1 m 9.7 s1 m 22.7 s
Average DPS59.889.5121.3
Minimum Hit364215
Average Hit68.1107.557.3
Maximum Hit145645332
Critical Strikes (%)21 (24.1%)11 (19.0%)29 (16.6%)
Power (%)16/1000 (1.6%)30/1000 (3.0%)40/1000 (4.0%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Blade Wall
  2. Savage Strikes
  3. Wild Attack
  4. Swift Strike
  1. Remorseless Strike
  2. Devastating Strike
  3. Wild Attack
  4. Swift Strike
  1. Battle Frenzy
  2. Blade Storm
  3. Savage Strikes
  4. Rend
  5. Wild Attack
  6. Swift Strike

I was interested to compare dual-wielding and two-handed DPS because there's an ongoing debate about which is better. At level 20, dual-wielding had consistently higher average DPS and maintained power for slightly longer than using a two-handed weapon. Yellow line maintained power for longer than red line, but I suspect the yellow line damage and DPS numbers are inflated because there was another training dummy next to the one I was attacking that also got hit by the AOE attacks. I might need to find a new location for testing in future.

General Observations

Champions don't get a skill to remove debuffs until much later, so potions to remove disease, fear, wounds and poison may be helpful to have on hand, and try to get some virtues to increase your resistances.

There seems to be few utility or survival abilities available before level 20, but more should become available at higher levels, such as a sprint, heal, power regeneration and interrupts.

At higher levels, it will be worthwhile investing some points in other trait trees. For example, Red and Blue lines will probably want to get Battle Frenzy (to boost fervour) from Yellow line, while Red and Yellow lines will probably want to get Second Wind (to boost power) from Blue line.

Good gear and weapons will make it much easier to survive and kill mobs quickly.


Blue - The Martial Champion: I did feel safer player this spec, but it was slower and didn't hit very hard. Perhaps if you're finding it difficult to survive in red or yellow, or if you're playing with someone else and want to be more tanky to protect them, this may be an option, but overall I wouldn't recommend it for levelling.

Red - The Berserker: This is a good spec for taking on bosses and elite mobs, but it seems to be more niche than yellow line. You could level in this spec, but fighting a group of mobs may be painful until higher levels when you have more abilities. Overall, I think this is a good back-up spec for situational use while levelling.

Yellow - The Deadly Storm: I love how fast and versatile this spec is. With Battle Frenzy, you build up fervour quickly and can use your heavy-hitting fervour spenders often. You can take on a single mob or a group of mobs with ease and it's satisfying watching them all fall at your feet at once. Just keep an eye on improving your gear and defensive stats so that you don't get crushed under your enemies' feet. Overall, this is a fun spec for levelling.


  • Might - your main stat that increases damage
  • Morale and vitality - increases survivability
  • Critical strike rating - increases damage (particularly valuable for red line)
  • Mitigations and resistances - reduces damage taken

These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for heavy armour with might and maybe some jewellery with critical strike rating. 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 Champions and how to get them by level 20:


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

(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)

(might, physical mitigation, resistance)
Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

Defeat 60 hendrovail in Ered Luin

Defeat 60 sickle-flies in Bree-land
Wolf-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Hendroval-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Sickle-fly Slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

(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)

(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)

(resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire

Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

(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 Champion Class

  • Good AOE damage
  • Various melee playstyles (DW/2H, ST/AOE, DPS/Tank)
  • Fast-paced combat

Cons of the Champion Class

  • Limited ranged abilities
  • Limited utility and survival skills
  • Power management

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

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