Lord of the Rings Online - Be a hobbit, elf, human or dwarf!
If you ever wanted to walk the paths of Middle-Earth...
If you ever read Lord of the Rings or watched the movies, then you might also have dreamed of being part of that world (I know that I always did when I read the books). And for a few years, there has been a great opportunity to actually be part of Tolkien's world without having to leave your house. If you have an internet connection and some time, you will be able to enter a world in which you can be dwarf, hobbit, elve or simply stay human.
Lord of the Rings online is a MMORPG, an online role playing game in which you can interact with other players from all over the world. In this lens, I would like to introduce the game to you. Best news first: It does not cost you anything to become a part of that world!
The beginning - your character
What you can do, what you can expect
If you have never played an online RPG before, then there will be a lot to learn for you, esp. because Lord of the Rings online (also referred to as LotRo) has been around for a few years and had a few extensions which made the world a lot bigger (you can know travel all the way from the Shire, through to Moria, through Mirkwood and even visit Isengard). Be warned: it will take you weeks or months of playing until you have seen all the areas (unless you play 24hours/7days a week).
Basically, the game is free to play, however, using only a basic account comes with a few limits (about which I will talk in a later section).
In LotRo, the first thing you will do after you have downloaded the game, created an account and chose a server to play on is creating your first character. You can choose between four races (hobbit, human, elve, dwarf), two genders (apart from when you choose a dwarf as they all look the same) and different classes (e.g. hunter, minstrel, champion, guardian, loremaster - how many classes you can choose from depends on whether you decide to be a paying player or a free player). Character creation is fun and you should make sure that you're quite happy with what you are creating - even though you can create a few different characters, your first character should be one you like.
Of course, your character needs a name. If you decided to play on an RP server, you need to make sure that your name fits into the lore. If you play on an RP server, you can't name your dwarf "Smash-it-all" because people will report you. You also can't use names of characters that are already known in the world of Lord of the Rings. So no elves called Legolas, you won't even be able to choose that name or variations of it. Fortunately, the game will give you some hinters on how you can create a name or you can simply use the automatic name generator until you come across a name you'd like to use.
You can change the face, hair and body measures of your character - and then your character will be ready to enter the world of Middle-Earth
Middle-Earth on Amazon
Here are a few books that take you to the world of Tolkien
The first steps
Getting started and choosing a profession
Depending on which race you choose, you will spend the first hours of your gaming time in a different area. What the start has in common for all four races is that you will gently be introduced to the world of the game. Boxes with explanation in them will make it easy for you to learn how to play the game step by step. Of course, you can also simply turn the boxes off if you have a lot of gaming experience and do not need any advice about how to play the game.
The first few levels will pass quite quickly, but the higher you get level-wise, the longer it will take you to reach the next level. Don't rush leveling, you do not need to be at a certain level after a certain amount of hours. The most important thing is to enjoy the game and take everything in.
During the first hours you will learn how to equip your character, how to navigate through the world, how to fight and you'll also choose a profession, i.e. an activity in which you will be able to produce equipment, food, potions, scrolls and other useful things for your character (or sell them on to other characters). Which profession you choose is completely up to you - however, some are more useful for some classes than others. For example: a hunter would find it quite useful to choose a profession in which he/she can be a woodworker and produce her/his own bows. A champion might want to have metal-smith included in his/her profession. The professions are all divided into three smaller jobs.
It basically works like this: if you choose a profession that included being a forester, woodworker and farmer, you will have the ability to collect wood (you will be able to active a skill that will enable you to see marks on the map where you can pick up wood) and then you can take that wood to a work bench (all bigger settlements usually have some kind of crafting hall in which you can craft, buy supplies etc) and turn it into wood that can be worked on. That wood can then be turned into different parts of weapons and you will then put those parts together. As a woodworker you can produce bows, staves, clubs etc. In the beginning, it will all be very basic, but as you gain levels in your profession, you will also be able to produce better and better equipment (and earn good in-game gold with it).
LotRo Isengard Trailer
Playing for free vs. paying
LotRo is free to play and you can indeed get through the game without ever paying a cent if you are willing to work hard for points. You have three options: play for free, pay a monthly subscription free or buy Turbine points every now and then when you need/want them.
Turbine points can be used to buy expansions, quest sets, more inventory bags, storage space, cosmetic items and many other things (some of them quite useful but not needed to be successful). If you pay monthly, you don't have to worry much about the quest sets because you will have access to them all.
If you are a free player, however, you will not be able to play all the quests in Middle-Earth. You will be able to follow the epic story arc, but you won't have access to most of the additional quests and leveling up can become quite a chore (i.e. killing hundreds of monsters). Killing monsters often is part of a deed and filling up a deed usually gives some Turbine points (usually 5points for the first tier, e.g. "Kill 60 monsters" and 10 or more TP for the second tier of the deed). So you could do deeds to collect TP and then unlock some quest packs (it can take a while to get together enough points though).
As a free player, you will also only have three bags in which you can store items (you can buy two additional bags with TPs).
One thing, I could recommend is to pay for one month, so your character will get quite a few things unlocked. Then you can simply become a free player again but will keep many of the things that have been unlocked (e.g. the extra bags, no gold limit etc.).
Before LotRo went "free to play", I was a paying member for years and I am now a free player because most of the stuff I had simply was carried over. When I need something like an expansion, I simply make a one-off payment and it works very well for me.
If you are simply curious about the game, play for free for a while and then make the decision whether you would like to spend any money on the game.
Lord of the Rings DVDs and games
You and other players
You won't be the only one who will be playing the game and you will run into many other characters. Different players have different approaches to playing the game (and you will also find some idiots, but that's just like in real life).
You can choose to play very much on your own and level alone - the game is quite solo friendly in most parts. However, it also is a lot of fun to play with other people, esp. if you like the role playing part. Hobbits often meet in the Green Dragon, elves meet in Elrond's home and all come together in the Prancing Pony in Bree to roleplay with each other. On different servers there are also different special events (RP servers are the best if you love RP). It will take you a while to get to know where to go at which time. To get help with all of this, you might want to join a kinship (i.e. a group of different players forming a "family"). There are many different kins, some only with hobbits, some only for humans, some mixed etc. Each kind usually has their own mission statement and values, so make sure that you have a look around and find a kinship that matches your character and gaming style (leave it until you have played the game for a while, so you actually know what you want).
Like in real life, it's hard to predict how other players with react to you. The simple rule is: treat others like you would like to be treated. Of course, you could always say that you are role-playing a grumpy dwarf. Get to know some people, see how things work.
You and the game
Are you playing LotRo?
Do you play the game? If yes, how happy are you with it? If you don't play the game, are you tempted to start? Or simply leave a comment about anything you would like to say about LotR(o).