Finding the Magic in LotRO

I’ve written 22 posts about LotRO on this blog (this being the 23rd,) even though, to be fair, I’ve not played it all that much and have never managed to get into it for even the duration of a 14-day trial. One of the things I’ve mentioned, though, that’s kept it relatively high on my list of quality MMOs, is that it offers the potential to experience Middle-Earth. As a big Tolkien nerd, this is a significant draw.

How big a Tolkien nerd? Well, I’m glad you asked. Tolkien’s works get their own bookcase in my house. Not just The Lord of the Rings, but The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, which I’ve read cover-to-cover multiple times. I own the complete Histories of Middle-Earth, which is a record of Tolkien’s writing from the very beginning until his death, and have read them all – even The Lays of Beleriand, which is all epic poetry. I not only have Tom Shippey’s J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, but went to see Shippey himself speak on the subject. I have two biographies and several volumes of commentary. And a book of Tolkien’s letters, which contains some real gems.

I own both the theatrical and extended versions of all three Peter Jackson films, and the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit and The Return of the King (which I think beats out Jackson’s RotK in some regards.) I own some (not all, alas) of the old ICE Middle-Earth Role Playing tabletop stuff. I lament the loss of my copy of ICE’s Middle-Earth poster map, which showed all of Middle-Earth, not just the western lands where the story takes place.

So yeah, BIG NERD. Perhaps, then, it is not a surprise that LotRO never really lived up to my notion of “experiencing Middle-Earth.” I confess to being somewhat snobby about it, but I’ll maintain that I’ve kept my expectations realistic. If I’d kept playing I might have had some magical moments where I felt a part of the place – I’ve had friends tell me that about Weathertop, for example. But I never got that far.

Until yesterday.

One of the game’s newer quests sends you to some farm in Bree-land to inquire about a mount. Turns out that you have to spend some money (in the form of Turbine Points) to get the riding skill that unlocks the mount. A bit disappointing, but until recently you had to be level 35 or somesuch to get one, so no real biggie.

To get there from Ered Luin, unless you want to walk, you take the horse ride to Bree, where there’s a quest to go see the mayor, who in turn sends you on a tour of the town, talking to various personages thereabouts. That’s where the magic happened.

See, LotRO’s Bree is better than Peter Jackson’s. More true to the spirit of the place, which wasn’t a scary place where Dracula might live, but a folksy hamlet where Men and Hobbits dwelt in relative peace, amid dangerous wilderness crawling with the servants of the Enemy. I was jumping with excitement when I entered the Prancing Pony to talk to Barliman Butterbur, and even more when I found Strider lurking in a corner of the inn, waiting to give me a quest. Awesome, even if I’m a bit low-level for the quest.

Now, I’ve had “magical moments” in other games, specifically Vanguard and EVE, when I came on something that touched my sense of wonder. This one was just as good as those. It was the first time that LotRO really clicked for me. Now I want to do it again.


9 responses to “Finding the Magic in LotRO

  1. Glad it’s clicking for you. When I first started playing LoTRO I morphed from a moderate Tolkien nerd to a much more hardcore one. I expanded my book collection to the Silmarillian, Lost Tales, and Unfinished tales. I also bought the Sons of Hurin when it came out and really enjoyed it.

  2. We’re definitely of similar minds here. While I’m not the officiado you seem to be, I’m still quite a Tolkien nerd.

    Two things keep me coming back. One is the intersection with the main story line in a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead sort of way. The book quests can be quite satisfying in that way.

    The other is the truly wide world that is Turbines Middle Earth sprinkled with Tolkieniana. I was always enthralled by the maps in the books and wanted to know what was “over there” or over the edge. Lotro let’s me scratch that itch and go see.

    With faster horse travel available at lower levels now it easier and more enjoyable to just explore.

  3. The Hobbit areas of the game really strike that chord with me. You should really do the Inn League quest. Its pretty funny and you get to see most of the Hobbit area.

  4. Even though I’ve read Lord of the Rings three-and-a half times, the Hobbit twice, played Melbourne House’s “The Hobbit” (never finished it though), bought ICE’s MERP on release and ran a campaign with it and have seen Peter Jackson’s trilogy once and Ralph Bakshi’s single movie three times, I don’t particularly like Tolkein. Or Middle Earth.

    Consequently, I didn’t really get any friissons while playing LotRO. Certainly nothing even close to when I found Haddon bemoaning the loss of his earring in Vanguard. Even so, I was, and remain, heartily impressed by and fond of LotRO’s Bree.

    I just wish someone would make an MMO based on Tolkein’s old pal C.S.Lewis’s work. That really would be magic.

  5. One thing LOTRO does have are plenty of magical places and moments. Well written quests and backstory. Moria is my favorite place in all of Middle Earth, followed by Evendim. I never tire of either place.

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  7. Wonderful that it hit a ‘click’ point for you! Since you’re in Bree, I have to chant “Old Forest, Old Forest” over and over in the hope that you’ll find another place that clicks.

    There’s also a blog that retraces the first part of the Lord of the Rings using screenies from LOTRO. Might be spoilerific in terms of ruining the first time seeing-it-in-game experience but a nice look at places and small nods to the background material that players often miss while dashing on horseback to the next boar or wolf or spider mass genocide area. 🙂

  8. @Jeromai: Yeah, I hit the Old Forest this morning – it’s pretty neat. See today’s post for more on that, along with some screenies.

    I did peek at that blog and it looks neat, but I was careful not to look too closely. I’d like to see those places for myself.

  9. Landroval/Crickhollow as you probably know are non official RP servers. While this isn’t pervasive, it still leads to some interesting encounters. (you really must stop by Crickhollow for elevensies sometime – held twice a day and at all other hours, because its always elevensies somewhere)