Monday, April 28, 2008

Storytelling - Book 2, Chapter 2

The wizard waited patiently while I stood there wondering whether to dig deeper in to the poison of the Lonelands. Were it any lesser creature, a simple whiff of the caustic-smelling moss and a realization that further exploration would inevitably deal further with that cesspool would send them back to Bree. The Istari's gaze, and the way he seemed to fill the room with Hope, told me to merely nod at the request.

Radagast now wished me to kill the wights that stirred in Haragmar. I had stuck mainly to the natural side of the Bloodmire, where there were only beasts to rend my flesh. Nothing unnatural, unbidden. I had seen the wights from afar. They were farther south of the Circle of Blood and west to the ruins of Nan Dhelu, but I had kept my distance. I would do as the wizard asked and close that distance.

Maiden and I scouted the Dead that walked in Haragmar, and we (with some of Radagast's help) identified the Wights' species. Radagast called the particular Wights in Haragmar the Bile-Spewers. Most were fully armed and armored, and some of even had ranged weapons. The older Wights had become bloated, and they seemed like they were ready to pop open with puss and disease. The latter seemed also to lack the more human intelligence. Luckily for us, one stood not a hundred meters away while we hacked away at one of its Dead brothers.

The Bile-Spewer Marksman were weak once engaged, but their arrows from afar were perilous. I ordered Maiden to run ahead, our Banner of War held high, to divert some of the damage. The Wight's attention was quickly removed from her and placed on me once my heavy two-handed Wind-Raker tore through its sinewy body.

The most evil of the Haragmar Wights were indeed the Deadly Bile-Spewers. Similarly to the Ancient ones, these Wights chose to go unarmored and simply used their vile magics against Maiden and me. They seemed to call forth the poison of the swamp through their lungs. The unworldly roar sounded like the dark language, and my heart grew dreadful until the Dead was vanquished. The world grows so heavy and dark, and I am grateful that Maiden is always with me. I dare not tell her these words, though. I will never hear the end of it.

As we fought our way closer to Nan Dhelu, which I perceived to be the spawning place of the Wights, we were forced to slay some of the Ancient Bile-Spewers. Much of their bloat was caused by foul smelling gas, but they also carried a Foul Wriggler inside their stomach. A few would puke the thing out while we combated, and others would simply erupt upon final death. It was an experience I quickly would like to erase from my mind: the smell of decay, the ichor of the Dead, and the eruption of bodily organs to a worm the size of my leg. I long for days of killing the comparatively clean goblins.

I retirned to Radagast, and vowed a bath before I told him of our triumphant battles with the Bile-Spewers. He was most pleased, and gave me some money so that I could ride to Bree to take such a bath. The Istari wished for my swift return as he would have further questing for me as soon as I stepped foot again in Ost Guruth.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moondog: Gone Fishin'

Moondog, being a good Hobbit. Likes most of all 2 things... Food and Not Moving. So here we combine these two traditional pass-times by fishing. But Moondog cheated a little bit... He did move. Here's the filmstrip from his fishing trip, starting in the Shire.

Here we are in Bywater. Found a nice mossy rock away from the dock where all the other Hobbits were casting their lines. Found me a real swell goldfish here.

Found another place just across this quaint stone bridge. Some less clever anglers can be seen across the way.

Found a nice pool right smack in the middle of the Brockenborings market. Was hoping to bag a Koi but no dice.

So then I headed north across the Greenfields up through Oatbarton and found a niiice quiet beach (except for the Salamanders!) way up near the source of the Brandywine River.

Fishing in the Lake is better than fishing in the river of course. So on up to Evendim!

Borrowed the bow of a rowboat and joined this lass in a cast or two!

Finally decided to head even further north for some ice fishing in Forochel!

Ravric: Momentum

Book 13, an epic update, just came out, and the excitement and furvor of the Free People's bled into the mind of this humble author. Too many times did I forget to press the lovely screenshot button to tell the tales of Ravric, Captain of the Free Peoples.

Prior to the update, only the lowliest caste of people fished for the realms, but now these bottom-dwellers had figured out a way to get adventurer's to feed the masses. A progress bar and trophies. Ravric too was swept up in to the fury of draining the waterways of Eriador of all fishlife, and managed to deplete the pond near Staddle of goldfish, minnows, and pounds of lost rusty daggers. It was all but certain that the hundreds of murderers in Bree-land dumped their blood-stained weapons into the Little Staddlemire, daily.

The developers at Turbine really did well with the simple "hobby" of Fishing. It follows the progress bar of similar MMO's, but it is the small things that make the feature so well done. First, every pull (done at the correct time) will net something... even if it is just a 1 copper Ball of Gunk. Second, you can fish everywhere (some other MMOs forbid you to fish in higher level places until you get better at fishing). Thirdly, and best of all, are the graphics. As you fish you begin to see fish swimming under your line, grabbing your hook, and even leaping out of the water. The more fishing going around the pond, the more lively the graphics for the whole waterway. All-in-all, I consider this feature (that I once thought was a waste of time on the developer's parts) a success.

Ravric's travels took him from east of Bree-land to north of Bree-land, the North Downs. Whereas the Lonelands were lands poisoned by the Enemy, the North Downs were simply won by warring orcs and goblins. The largest human settlement of Trestlebridge, guarded in part by a huge wooden bridge spanning a deep chasm. Ravric's journeys mostly focused on fighting the orcs just north and northeast of Trestlebridge. Ravric slowly made himself northward towards where the accursed ghosts lay, but luckily, he found a small cadre of refugees in Amon Raith to keep company with through the night.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Storytelling - Book 2, Chapter 1

I returned to the Istari's temporary tower, unsure if I would be worthy of his task. Gandalf had been so sure his colleague would benefit from my help, but when I had first met Radagast he regarded me with disinterest. I hoped he would still be awake.

Radagast's purpose in the Lonelands was to determine what evil was corrupting the land. Of course the orcs and goblins were turning the ruins and areas they camped into cesspools, but Radagast was convinced some dark, ancient evil was darkening the soul of the land.

His first task for me was to check on some bog-prowler nests, and retrieve some of their moss. He continually referred to the freakish looking things as shepherds - tending to the trees. I don't think the gnarled trees in the blood-colored swamp really needs tending. Radagast innocently claimed he wished the bog-prowlers no harm, but I was going to slay any of the freaks where they stood if they attaked me. Who am I to argue with an Istari?

Maiden and I easily found the nests after killing a few orcs on our way to the swamp. Thankfully the bog-prowlers were all out hunting in the pre-dawn morning, and we only had to deal with a few overgrown bugs. I was surprised that there were no guards to the nests. Maybe Radagast was more correct than he believed. Maiden was little help when it came to rooting through the nests full of bog-prowler excrement, rat carcasses, and other decaying organic matter. She said that "it was not the job of a Herald."

Of course in an Istari's mind if he could get one adventurer to muck through shit, why not get two. I don't know how much ale it took to convince a stubborn dwarf, but I met Thorinnog, a dwarf guardian. He was well known in the Lone-Lands, however this was the first time our paths had crossed. Thorinnog greeted me with a soiled hand, which I returned in kind. We dug through some nests side by side, and he seemed to feel he was finished with the task before I. I needed just a few more samples of the moss, when Thorinnog told me he needed to see a man about a job and ran off. I felt our fellowship had ended, and had a hard time deciding whether I would again band with the skitterish dwarf.

Radagast greeted me kindly when I returned. The old man either did not smell my odor, or was polite enough not to care, but I dutifully handed over the small pouch of less-than-fresh moss. He seemed to just look at the pouch then toss it aside. I don't know whether he saw with his wizadry, or mucking through shit was just another initiation to help the Free People's cause. Still, I had seen the corruption of the land with my own eyes, and I knew there was work to do.

I didn't mention to the wizard the bog-prowlers I killed... two of them just because they looked weird and I didn't like them. Maiden did smirk a bit as Radagast and I discussed the completed quest. We are going to have a "talk" when we make camp.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ravric: I, Scholar

Yesterday was not worthy of screenshots. It was a day of pillaging the Midgewater Marshes of broken vases and exploding goblins with one fierce yell, of crawling the auction house for cheap crafting material deals, and running off to nab some fallen storybook being pooped on by wargs so that I could become an Expert Scholar (which I did).

The reason I like the Scholar job is because I was an herbalist/alchemist in World of Warcraft, and I enjoy creating buffs. Sadly, LotRO has nowhere near the amount of potion-type buffs that WoW has, but I still enjoy it. The biggest asset is the healing and energy potions to provide a quick boost in combat. This is especially good and almost necessary for risky solo play. I feel like burning through potions is not a big deal anymore because they are so easy to make. I can also make a small defensive buff and a small damage buff.

It's a decent Crafting System, and has some cool features, such as critically succeeding on a crafting roll to get more and better output. However, I really did not like their decision to choose a profression, each having three jobs, instead of just being able to choose three jobs. It would have been nice to customize a little more.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Moondog: Into Angmar

The North Downs represent the frontier of civilized Men in Eriador, but things were not always thus. The western plains of Fornost were once the capitol of the northern Numenorean kingdom of Arnor. Those days are long past now, and only the small outposts of Trestlebridge (on the border of Bree-land) and Esteldin (nestled in the hills to the East) hold the Orcs of Angmar out of the realms of Men.

To the East of Esteldin is a wild and beautiful valley known as Nan Amlung.

This area is uninhabited by Men but some of the creatures known as Earth-kin have small tribal villages here. Some of the Earth-kin are friendly to to the Free Peoples of Middle Earth... some are not.

This valley is primarily inhabited by the large docile (but dangerous) Aurochs. Disturbingly, Wargs have also been moving in... and it even seems that some of the Angmarim Hillmen who have allied with the fell army of the Eye are setting up encampments.

It was time for this humble Minstrel to make his way from the safe haven of Esteldin up into the dire chasms of Angmar.

This Warg things he has something to nibble on, but neither me nor my pony stick around to give him the chance.

One of the less hospitable Earth Kin taking a stroll. The hulking brute doesn't notice the Hobbit scoot past.Into the intimidating labyrinth of ravines in the Ram Duath we go!

The more noble sort of Earth Kin have a village here. I have exchanged aid with them in the past. Today I am just passing through on my way to the more desolate regions of Angmar where the defiant Hillmen make a stand against the Iron Crown of the Witch King.

This is a harsh landscape. Swooping chasms and tough vegetation.

The Earth Kin make a home here somehow. They must be wary of the spiders that haunt the canyon below, and the drakes that creep the crags above. Not to mention the ever-encroaching Orc forces of Angmar.

The harsh terrain of the Ram Duath was practically inviting compared to the grim landscape of Fasach-larran. Here the northron Hillmen are just barely surviving against the evil onslaught of the Witch King's forces. If it were not for their strength in defense of their homeland, the Free Peoples might not have a chance of breaching the Enemy's domain.

In Aughaire they lead a hard life indeed, and are not very welcoming nor trusting of outsiders. I will see if I can aid their cause and ease the pain of living on the brink of such desolation.

Ravric: Meet Kate on the Run

I have only been playing Lord of the Rings Online for a short time, but Disseminated has been playing the MMO since beta. His main is Moondog, the minstrel of small stature apparent in the many posts. Disseminated also has quite a few alts (alternate characters), and one of them is Kaetlyn Austyn, burglar on the run. The Lost (television series) fans should readily know who this character "portrays."

Kaetlyn was heading to the White Hand camps situated around Weathertop and asked for some company. Ravric was in the nearby Midgewater Marshes slicing apart goblins and stealing relics of a bygone age, so it was a quick hope across the Weather Hills to meet her. Maiden was a little jealous, and raised her overarched eyebrows more than once, but Ravric helped out the situation, mightily, by not crying like a girl.

We fought our way through Bleakrift, a White Hand command point. The orcs obviously had some intelligent backing because the ingenuity of their defense - rope bridges causing defensible choke points - was well above an orc's station. Kaetlyn helped readily with her backstabbing and ease of creating Fellowship Maneuvers.

We fought our way to the orc captain Uzorr, and the coward ran back to his tents to wake up his guards. A few came out but between my captain yells, Kaetlyn's excellent use of stuns, and our combined steel, the orcs were quickly vanquished. I also had killed enough crebans (evil crows) to make a feather pillow for someone at the Forsaken Inn. All in all, not a bad day for the Free Peoples.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ravric: The End of an Alliance

Being a Captain of some standing, I decided to see if I could go to Andrath to beat Sharkey's captain by myself. Sharkey's men are a very organized group of brigands backed by Saruman, allegedly. I had failed the quest before, and this was mainly because there is one choke point where you will aggro 5 level 13-14 brigand enemies. And even at level 21, with a herald, they wear you down pretty quickly. Luckily I made it through by sheer luck.

I went back to talk to Saeradan, the Ranger stationed in Bree-land, and he told me that Sharkey's men and a group of White Hand orcs were going to ally and possibly overrun Breeland! I had to go to the cave to stop it.

Moondog and I verily went to the cave, which I could not enter prior (due to permissions, bleagh) to stop this evil union. The cave was mostly filled with the same brigands I had been killing throughout Bree.

At the end the Sharkey leaders and the orc leaders were talking. The Sharkey leader ran away, and the orcs stayed to die. Lucky for Breeland we stopped the two forces from combining. However, the evil of the Barrow Downs remained. So we went to the south downs to kill some more of the Dead. Our first stop was Malin, a son of some ditch maiden in Bree. We found his body surrounded by half a dozen wights, and when I poked him he stirred. Verily, he was smote.

We ended the night killing the giant wight, the Boneman. He was the keeper of many lost souls, including the shield brother of a ghost in Bree. With the power of light behind my yells, and, moreso, Moondog's light-filled symphonies coming from his lute, the Boneman too was smote. The evil of the Barrow Downs, however remained.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ravric: Sightseeing on the Lonely Road

The inn, when I logged in, was full of hustle and bustle. There must have been at least 10 players just standing on the steps of the inn. I also got this weird error message from an icon of a broken chain saying that due to server strain, I would not be getting to see everything my graphics were capable of (mostly draw distance, I believe). That went away fairly quickly.

I had the Book 2, Prologue quest to go meet Radagast further down the east road, and I gained another one to meet the Eglain, or the forsaken men who got pushed out of their Ruin-Holds due to the White Hand goblin or orcs invasions. Along the way I caught sight of the great ruins of Weathertop.

I finally got to Ost Guruth, a Ruin-Hold with its own stable (basically a major quest hub in comparison to the Forsaken Inn). I got a couple new quests, and the problems seemed to be more of the same as what I heard from Forsaken Inn, but compounded. There were goblin and orc camps all over Weathertop. The swamps to the east were filled with dreadful creatures. And the wargs had come. I really liked the way the non-epic quest stories were moving. In Bree-Land most of the quests were all about local problems: brigands, wights in the barrows, etc. But now in the Lonelands, we are fighting The Enemy. I finally got to Radagast, who had taken over the one standing tower in Ost Guruth.

He said "Hmm... Gandalf sent you. Well you are clearly a noob and cannot start Book 2 yet." I was only level 20 when I met him. He then chose to stare at me for 5 minutes, before I realized the ancient Istari wanted me to leave until I was more prepared (level 21). At least I got the Stable travel point at Ost Guruth.

I then decided to check out the area north of the Forsaken Inn, west of Weathertop. It was filled with White Hand goblins, and crebans (large evil ravens). Far north, I finally fought a few orcs for a Forsaken Inn quest that wanted to take their battle standards and sew it into a baby blanket or something.

Just west of Weathertop (and probably on the other side as well) there are two goblin camps. I think the area is mostly meant for a buddy-play group because it is nearly impossible to get into the camps by pulling one mob. I was doing okay, but I must admit I am again unhappy with the old and worn usage of traditional mechanics that Turbine used. Things respawn once killed. This is not the problem. The problem is that things will respawn nearly on top of you without warning AND immediately attack. At least in WoW, the mob would be in a type of "stasis" for about 5-10 seconds or until attacked.

Basically I went to a sub-camp, killed the two goblins guarding it... went to go poison their food, and while doing so two more goblins respawned nearly on top of me and immediately attacked. I just feel it is a little too unforgiving, and since they chose that respawn style a grace period to gtfo would be useful. Something I will have to get used to now that I am getting in to tougher spots.

[soapbox]One of the things I pray for in future MMOs is the immersive feeling that you are accomplishing something. Right now MMOs fail at this feature. Guild Wars on paper came close, but shied away in the end. Tabula Rasa almost gets it, but you never feel like you are winning. Warhammer Online gets a little closer with RvR changing the landscape, but I am talking more about PvE. It just rips away immersion when you kill 100 goblins in a small camp, and they remain there... and "warp" in. I just feel that if it was a core focus (instead of being lazy, and I'm sorry but warping in mobs is lazy) of development, something beautiful could arise without the sacrifice of gameplay.[/soapbox]

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ravric: Into the Lonelands

I hit level 20 this afternoon while grinding orcs for a deed (and a quest). Level 20 is nice for a Captain because they can wear heavy armor and start to use banners on the ground (instead of heralds). I also got to customize my Herald, and Billdo decided he didn't like the armor I bought. A salty swordsmaid did, and now I have a new Herald who deems to call herself only Maiden. Maiden and Ravric get along nicely in the cold Loneland nights.

The Lonelands are due east of Bree-Land, and whereas Bree-land is full of crops and green-ness, the Lonelands are scrublands and desert. At least, from what I have seen. I took a saunter in to the Forsaken Inn, basically a whole community in one building, to find out the goings on of the land. This was a nice relief from running all over the actually forsaken Bree to merely repair items.

It seemed that the most pressing issue was that White Hand Goblins had overrun Minas Eriol to the southeast of the Forsaken Inn. This had completely stopped trade as the people of the land, that I talked to at least, were merely gypsies who scavenged the ruins of the Second Age. The shit they sold bought them food and underclothes from Bree, and the goblins had come up in their shit.

I did like what I saw when I did the first few quests, which involved killing a few goblins and rummaging through piles of shit for shit for the gypsies. There were wargs and wolves that used stealth, and the goblins themselves used varied tactics. It was all quite fun, and I cannot wait to start Book 2 this week.

Ravric: Great Barrow-Downs Romp I

While much was accomplished with the fellowship between Ravric, a captain of little legend, and Moondog, a minstrel of great legend (including saving a moronic hobbit woman in the Barrow downs from and saving some stupid brigand lover, again woman, from being passed around by brigands), we took a large romp through one of the dungeons in Eriador: The Great Barrow.

The dungeon is full of elite spiders, wights, and gaunt men (as far as I know men that have been so infused with evil Melkor energy that they became Evil). I was under-leveled for the dungeon, and Moondog was way over-leveled. That meant that Billdo and I, basically hit 50% of the time and did very little damage to anything, while Moondog, the minstrel, took most things out. It took us awhil to get our method, but I did the best by using the skill Telling Mark, that is supposed to increase damage done to the marked foe. And so we killed them...

Moondog was mostly the tank, and felt it many times... but his morale rarely got below 80%, no matter the swarm we pulled.

Our first boss fight was against Thadur the Ravager a gaunt man elite. He possessed one half of the skeleton key that I needed for the dungeon. Thadur came at us, and when lost so much of his morale, he would call his goon wights in and run away for a second or two. We were doing quite well until the goon wights in the last bit go really lucky and dazed Moondog for quite some time. I staggered (ready to retreat), but Moondog made it out of the event before he too fell (he ran out of Power). The next time we faced the boss (minutes later and more readily buffed), we were much better prepared for the goon wights. Thadur went down quickly.

We made it quickly to the bosses that had the next half of the skeleton key (having been through nearly the whole dungeon and enemy patrols to find Thadur. Unfortunately, Moondog ran out of juice really quickly, and we had to retreat to the end. I will save our triumph over evil for another day. We ran out of the Great Barrow, and found ourselves face to face with a fellowship that most likely would triumph.

We had a great play session, and while we could not complete the dungeon, we did accomplish much. I tried out some new software that would take screenshots every 30 seconds. It worked out quite well, and it gave me tons of screenshots I would normally not get. I just have to remember to also take screenshots manually as well. Here is my favorite timed screenshot: