Carcerariphobia — Fear of Wardens

I rolled an elven warden, Aelondwe, and leveled him to 10 tonight. This isn’t my first warden: There was a failed experiment with a hobbit who never made it out of Archet. The gambit system was interesting but looked too mechanically alien compared to the other classes. I feared that one could not master the warden without complete devotion and religious zealotry–the kind EMACS requires.

This time around, the mechanics don’t seem as disruptive. Gambits feel more intuitive; they allow for flexibility that I don’t associate with meat shields like guardians. My attempt at a dwarf guardian was almost as big a failure as the hobbit warden: It took too long to kill things! Wardens don’t seem to have that problem. They also feel more forgiving than champions at lower levels by having a ranged attack for pulling and self-healing for the aftermath of an overly-ambitious impulse. I’m still worried about memorizing all those gambits since I plan to give at least equal time to the latest reroll of my elven runekeeper, Banhorn, but I think I’ve conquered my carcerariphobia–for now.

It’s probably no coincidence that I’m settling down with the two Moria classes. In the early levels at least, they feel more flexible, inventive, fun to play than the original LOTRO classes. Both classes appear to be a good compromise between versatility for grouping and solo viability; I’d like to fellowship more but not become stranded on a leveling plateau if I can’t find groups. In fact, I joined a runekeeper in Limael’s Vinyard tonight. The runekeeper wasn’t particularly aggressive about healing or DPS, but we meshed well enough that Aelondwe brazenly waded into the midst of the goblins. The classes complemented each other, and I wouldn’t mind a regular pairing with a runekeeper. It’s ironic that Aelondwe and Banhorn would make a great duo.

Some of the web chatter about wardens that got me curious  …

The most important thing from Blogmoot

LOTRO bloggers met for the 3rd time last night, and for the first time I was counted among them. After introductions, our lovely host Linett started the lively discussion with the most important thing I took away from the Blogmoot:

http://my.lotro.com/_tags/feed

This RSS feed is like the new “Player News” widget on the my.lotro homepage but much more powerful. Finding great blogs–especially new ones not yet featured by Turbine–isn’t just luck anymore. Making it easy to discover blogs is a huge missing piece to making my.lotro a vital online community, and that just got easier.

Not sure what RSS is or how to use it? It’s a way for websites to publish a list of what’s new, and it allows special programs called RSS readers to bring what’s new directly to you. Some browsers and email programs support it, but the Google Reader website is my favorite tool by far. It works everywhere, including on my iStone iPhone.  Check out this video for the best jargon-free explanation on the web:

RSS in Plain English

I wouldn’t know about this feed if not for the Blogmoot–despite being an RSS junkie and vocal advocate of the technology. That’s why our Blogger Manifesto includes publicizing and enhancing features like this. Want to help shape the my.lotro blogging community? Blog about it: I’ll be watching the feed for you!

For more on the Blogmoot:

Beast of Burden

Banhorn rides back to Bree-town in style after a long walk out to the Bree horse farm!

Barley isn’t the fastest horse in the stable but still faster than travelling on foot–marginally so even if you’re a hunter or warden–for an affordable 220 silver coins. On the way, a wolf decided that a late night horse (or elf!) snack was just the thing: Fortunately, Barley was barely faster!

Banhorn rides Barley

Private Message Notification: It LIVES!

I posted a suggestion in forums.lotro.com about adding private message notification to the my.lotro interface. I’m overjoyed to report that the my.lotro refresh added something close. Unfortunately Add media is a little broken right now, so please enjoy my text rendering:

Logged in as banhorn |  My Profile | [V] 1 unread | My Admin | Logout | Report this site

The [V] is actually an envelope icon. You may not have noticed this since it only shows up if you have unread messages. Most people don’t check or don’t even know about the functionality, so it’s not very likely you’ve got any unread messages to be notified about.

Was my suggestion responsible? I’ll admit to squealing like a schoolgirl at the possibility. However, it must have been an often-requested feature, and–I don’t mean to sound ungrateful–the implementation falls a little short of my suggested design:

Logged in as banhorn | Messages (3) | My Profile | My Admin | Logout | Report this site

My design had a permanent link to messages that would highlight and display the unread message count as needed. People could discover the private messages functionality without requiring the serendipity of somebody sending them a private message first. The original problem of being a concealed function is unchanged if you don’t have unread messages but you want to send a message.

And now for a moment of design OCD: My design had the notification coming after the “logged in” item. I can’t say why, but putting the inbox notification between ‘My Profile’ and ‘My Admin’ feels wrong. It may be as much about workflow as grammatical parallelism with the unread indicator splitting up the two “My …” links.

These are minor improvements that I’m sure will appear soon. (Hint, hint.) Having the same messaging system in my.lotro and forums.lotro.com would be really nice but a little harder to implement I’m sure. Still, one can hope!

Off to the forums to report the Add media bug …

Experience good and bad

Goldenstar has a great post about the Assist Experience Penalty over on A Casual Stroll to Mordor.  Go check it out. It touches on some things that fascinated (sometimes frustrated) me about LOTRO from the beginning and went from a few lines in a comment box to this:

Assists happen. I don’t mind when it’s help. Sometimes that’s real “Oh crap!” help, but it might be noob zeal or pro role-playing. It’s all good. I can forgive when it’s an accident. It’s easy for ranged classes to attack my target if they see the mob and not me.

However, I doubly hate obvious kill-stealing. First, I hate it because it flies in the face of proper etiquette and the spirit I think many in LOTRO have. Second, I hate it because it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how experience works in the game. So they cause harm and get no benefit for it. Mean AND stupid!

I’m torn when I’m the one in the position to give assistance. The RP’er in me wants to charge in and help if that’s what my character du jour would do. The gamer (or maybe the urban hermit) in me doesn’t want to intrude or ruin what might be a really triumphant moment.  So I check the relative health, power, and level before doing anything, then position myself to help. I jump in when I would be reaching for an “Oh crap!” button if I were in the other person’s elven boots.

One thing I’ve started doing lately that is assist-ish is pulling nearby mobs to make sure the person I’m helping doesn’t accidentally pull them and get into real trouble. That avoids the penalty and keeps me close enough to help if needed.

There’s a related problem: Many people don’t understand the math behind fellowship experience either. It’s not a straight division; there’s a bump for every additional member, the group experience bonus. A large fellowship clearing an area will make far more experience over time than the same members working separately.

How much? A 6-member fellowship gets a whopping 116% experience bonus, so each kill is worth over twice its solo kill value. A fellowship member gets 36% of what the solo experience would have been–not the 17% you’d expect from dividing the solo experience by 6–and you kill mobs much, much faster. That’s a higher “XPS” for individuals and a huge bump to the total experience awarded. (All else equal–your mileage may vary based on level disparity in the fellowship.)

Turbine did a brilliant job engineering this. It discourages power leveling and kill stealing while promoting teamwork. The shame is if people don’t understand or even know about it, they will continue to make bad choices that end up hurting everybody.

Related Lorebook articles


Update: I adjusted the numbers based on the Lorebook articles above. My original figures came from the Experience Mechanics article on stratics.com. Lacking evidence either way, I decided to go with the Lorebook numbers.

Alt Wars: The Minimalist Strikes Back

The observant reader may notice that my character roster is down to three from six. It wasn’t repetition or resource management that burned me out, it was the classes. Keeping track of skills, keyboard layouts, and general capabilities isn’t going to work while my gameplay is limited by my day job and other things.  We’re back to the 2+1 model: Tinker and Historian plus one wildcard vocation.

Banhorn: Rune keeper / Tinker

Aeluinros: Minstrel / Historian

Eohan: Lore master / Explorer

Tinker and Historian cover each other perfectly; they supply both worthwhile equipment for all classes and valuable goods for the auction house–Eru knows how much silver I’ve wasted on dyes there! Eohan will round things out, probably as an explorer. Let’s see if that plan lasts a week!

So far the minstrel has been an extremely positive experience. Reports of it being a bad class to solo don’t match my experience, but that might be old news from web pages written before tweaks in the last few updates. The down side of an active player base documenting the game is the updating lag when Turbine changes the game. Old web pages in search results don’t help, but now Google provides filters for how old a page is; make sure you click on Show options and check it out.

But now back to bards minstrels. The ballads stack up nicely; they damage blue mobs enough that a quick Herald’s Strike dispatches them on contact. We even held our own against a mob of mobs in Limael’s Vinyard after my lore master companion’s raven decided to fetch every goblin in the valley! I was sure we were dead, but careful morale management combined with lore master mezzing and my Cry of the Valar saved the day.

However, this is the first class where I’m using celebrant potions. I’ve logged more time on rune keepers and lore masters and never ran into power management issues with these spell caster classes. Champions were a problem when chaining lots of single mobs under constant flurry, but that’s nothing compared to the power I blow through with ballads and cries.  As long as I keep my eye on both green and blue, the minstrel’s turing out to be a top-notch solo class–at least at 14 so far.

To deal with some of the class/context switching problems, I’m going to run Ael through the rest of Ered Luin and perhaps up to level 20 before switching to Eohan. It’s a new class to me, I’m enjoying it, and I really want to get a feel for it. Then I’ll run Eohan up to the same level before rebooting Banhorn (again). That should get me to December 1st before having to choose my main and experience the new and improved Lone Lands.  (crossing all appropriate appendages)

Camenecium.com

I didn’t post last week because I’ve been working on a separate gaming blog which is now available as Camenecium.com. The blog isn’t LOTRO-specific; expect posts about other MMOs like Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic as well as computer games and good old-fashioned paper-and-pencil RPGs. Volume will be low for now since my two other blogs about home and work still require attention. I’m also on Twitter as @camenecium which will tend to be a little more active throughout the week.

I’ve been struggling with the value of my.lotro.com as a blogging platform with its old version of WordPress MU and the restrictions on features and layout. That said, the LOTRO-specific features are great, as is the tie-in with the forums and the LOTRO community. For now, anything I post on my.lotro.com will cross-post into the LOTRO category on Camenecium.com; I think the value of new people seeing posts here makes it worth originating content on my.lotro.com. Other well-known blogger/podcasters like LOTRO Reporter and Casual Stroll to Mordor don’t have to troll for attention like I do!  By the way, they’re great: Check them out!

Last Week in LOTRO: 18 October 2009

Spreading my week across six alts makes for lots of work and low levels. A big help was getting Banhorn to 15; that means H-O-U-S-E and no longer keeping the LOTRO post office in business single-handedly. After getting all six through their starter areas, I dropped and releveled three.

Eohan had a defeat at the hands of the Blackwolds near Combe. For some reason I really want Undying for him, so it was back to the drawing board after dropping off all the outfits, potions, and materials at Chez Banhorn. Yes, I am a completionist AND an altholic. Hmm, I wonder if they correlate.

Camenecium the Minstrel became Camenecium the Captain so Aelenras could become the minstrel. Aelenras was my first original character on the NWN persistent world, Return of Middle Earth (RoME). He was a Cleric/Champion which I originally mapped to a Champion as my first LOTRO character. I didn’t really like the Champion gameplay much, then tried him as a Hunter before going back to basics with Banhorn (my first D&D character EVER) as a rune keeper.

Much to my surprise, the Minstrel felt true to the character given the ability to wield a sword, buffs, and ranged light attack abilities. After some reading about martial builds, I think I could get to like the Minstrel. Part of why I added a minstrel and a captain to the Gang of Four was to have fellowship-centric alts who are also explorers. Historian fits Aelenras’s backstory better though. I almost feel like making him my primary, but maybe leveling everybody to 20 first and taking stock before (crosses fingers) the revised Lone Lands become available.

From ALTholic to ALTastic!

Giving into my Altcessive-Compulsive Disorder (ACD) has allowed me to treat it as a process, not a problem. And I LOVE process. In my limited experience, two things really improve alt-play:

Spreadsheets. Despite potential ridicule from kinmates, the spreadsheet is an essential tool for managing who needs what, who is where, and what needs to get done. Professionally I’ve become a bit of a RDBMS/table hater because most complex, interesting things are better modeled as objects. Not here though. The alt management spreadsheet (yes, there are others, but that’s another topic) should have the character’s basic stats, the last HOME location, any materials or items needed–particularly for crafting quests–and any key shareable items on the alt’s person. I’m guessing as inventory management becomes a bigger issue, I’ll also assign alts to vault particular cross-class goods like dyes or class/craft-specific items based on who is the primary when there’s duplication. Another handful of rows solve that problem nicely.

A House. Port alts back to your house at the end of a session. Dump all the class-appropriate non-gatherables at the homestead merchant and into the vault, then dump all the items for other things in the house chest. Since all of your alts are home, it’s easy enough (despite the annoying logout timer) to shift things around. When starting a session with an alt, port to the home location. I use the cooldown timer and/or the blue XP bonus bar as a way to limit my time on alts. I also only burn destiny points on XP bonus for the main (Banhorn) and secondary (Eohan–for the moment). Still time to play? Port to the house, follow the procedure, and fire up the next alt in the queue.

Good Idea Gone Bust

One thing that isn’t proving to be a good idea is covering all the professions based on the crafter interdependence system. Since producing professions require quests to level, it’s impossible to work crafter levels without also working class levels.  Kudos or raspberries to Turbine for making it so difficult to be a one-account crafting powerhouse without being online and leveling 24/7. Four primaries in a kinship would work, like the article suggests.  Otherwise, expect alt burnout pretty quickly.