Of the iconic locales of The Lord of the Rings, few are as iconic as the Mines of Moria. For me in particular they have always held a mystique; it helps that I tend to strongly favor Dwarves as far as fantasy races go, but there’s also an element of the unknown and possibly unknowable, of vastness beyond one’s ability to delve. The scenes in Moria are my favorite in the first volume of LotR, and one of the very few old ICE MERP books I still have is their treatment of the place. My long history with tabletop RPGs have left me with the indelible notion that Moria is in some sense the Ultimate Dungeon.
I won’t exactly be an earthshaker if I tell you that getting to the Mines of Moria, LotRO’s first and by far its biggest expansion, has been a major in-game goal of mine since I started playing, and especially since I started playing regularly with the switch to freemium. Now, I haven’t been a very regular player — I’ve drifted in and out — but I’ve been inching toward level 50 and Moria for a good long time. Finally, not too far off five years after I first played the game post-launch, I made it.
Level 49 seemed to take ages, but level 50 went much faster with adventuring in Eregion, and major hurdles tend to come pretty fast once there, what with getting the first Legendary Weapon and potentially wrapping up some class quests. The Legendary Weapon makes a big difference. Wrapping up the beginning of Book II I had hit 51, and halfway through that I first ventured into the lost halls of Khazad-dûm.
I’ve heard people speak of Moria as a dreary and tiresome grind, but right now the new smell is still on the place. It’s vast — several zones each of which are pretty big on their own. The great Dwarf landmarks are all there: The Chamber of Mazarbul, the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, the Endless Stair… it’s really very well done. The word I thought of immediately was grandeur, something most dungeons frankly lack.
You can head for Moria around level 45, but in retrospect, I’d say to hit Eregion, the lead-up zone, around halfway to 49. Do most of the quests there along with the Epic Book II and you ought to get there right into 50, which is where you want to be. I’m not ver far into it yet but it sure looks like there’s plenty to do, even just sticking to the questing. I’m curious to see where it starts to drag for me; it’s my notion to do every last scrap of content in the place including the instances, but we’ll see if that sticks. For now, my Dwarf is, in some sense, home.