Archive for the Roleplay Category

Lost trails of LoTRO: Vol X

Posted in Roleplay, Virtual Tourism on September 21, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

The lonely ride of Redwine Eardwrecca, exiled Rider of Rohan, concludes. Retrace his hoofbeats from Vol I through II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX!

It occured to me that it’s been nearly four months since I started this series, and that was just a while after I launched The Iron Dagger as well! I can’t help but feel a trace of wistfulness.

As such, while I know there’s plenty more ‘lost trails’ out there in Turbine’s Middle-earth to snap and show, I’ve opted to wrap on an especially nostalgic note by sharing my old screenshots of a place I’m sure many LoTRO veterans feel wistful about too – the Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu.

Lava keepI don’t recall much lore around the Eldgang in-game, so I have no idea who those statues represent, if indeed they represent anyone at all. But they do make for a pretty grand backdrop, and the lava helps further.

Drake-haunted townArguably my favorite view of the Rift’s interior. The forlorn, crumbled feel of the city streets, shadowed by that enormous coliseum and with drakes gliding eerily overhead, screams evil. Turbine will have quite the task, if they want Mordor to beat this for sheer sinister magnificence.

Unreachable buildingsSome of the Rift’s unreachable buildings. From this distance, they look almost ghostly – and occupied. First time I was here, I imagined the raid was being watched by dread eyes from way over there.

Colosseum exterior“Have you ever seen anything like that before? I didn’t know men could build such things.”

Colosseum interiorSadly, I think this is the only part of the Rift many post-Shadows of Angmar LoTRO players have seen – Norbar, where the Rescue in Nûrz Ghâshu Skirmish takes place. Oh well. At least Turbine repurposed it.

Fall of ThaurlachNeeds no introduction, eh? A dead Balrog is something you don’t want to miss screenshotting.

This was taken during the one and only time I found a raid that managed to slay Thaurlach. With all the water and the beautiful Elvish statues casting their light rays, this is really not that bad a place for eternal imprisonment.

Ferthu hál from Redwine

And with that, Redwine’s ride is at an end – on this blog at least.

(I wanted to snap him riding into the sunset, with Weathertop as a backdrop. Seemed appropriate, and doubly so given Imladris is going down soon. But you know what? That symbolism is far too cliched, so enjoy this pretty pink foredawn sky instead.)

What’s next for me in LoTRO? Honestly, I have no idea. Even though I have a surfeit of Turbine Points remaining – enough for an expansion and several quest packs at that – I no longer have a surfeit of time or interest. Returning full-time to play through the content is therefore as out of the question now as it ever was.

I could still log in now and then to look for roleplay, but on that front, I have no reason to expect anything different from the garden-variety stuff I’ve grown inured to over the years. Unless I join a guild, that is, and I don’t imagine most RP guilds want folks who only turn up sporadically. But who knows? Perhaps sometime in the future, when the mood strikes, I’ll get Redwine moved to Laurelin and look into fulfilling that age-old dream of finding him some dedicated Rohirrim RP. If you’re on that server and you spot him trotting around, give him a holler.

Ultimately, I can’t bring myself to uninstall the game and consign it to the trash can of memory, like all the friends who used to play with me have long since done. I remember talking about the good old days in Bree-land with one of them once, and mentioning how I missed running around on foot in cheap, vendor-bought hauberks and backpacks – and him answering that he thought I’d miss the teamwork (that you can get in any MMO) instead. They lack the predisposition for attachments to virtual worlds.

I don’t. And that’s why The Lord of the Rings Online is staying where it is on my desktop. Turbine’s Middle-earth is a part of me now as a gamer; not merely for the hundreds of hours I put into it, but for the enrichment all that playtime gave my gaming life.

The road goes ever on and on. Ferthu gamer hál!

Lost trails of LoTRO: Vol IX

Posted in Roleplay, Virtual Tourism on September 7, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

The lonely ride of Redwine Eardwrecca, exiled Rider of Rohan, continues. Retrace his hoofbeats from Vol I through II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII!

For this penultimate entry, I considered delving into Moria, but I don’t have to go back there to remember that the whole blessed place is a ‘lost trail’ in its own right. I figured I’d be finding something to screenshot around every other corner, and just end up stuck on which one to use. (Probably some corner of the Water-works. Always loved that place.)

So I chose three other zones I haven’t ridden through yet – none of which would involve me tramping through pitch darkness. Come to think of it, a man of the Rohirrim exploring Moria would be a delicious irony, given the lore has established that horses hate the place…

View from Saruman's front door (2.2W, 79.2S)

View from Saruman’s front door

Nan Curunír (2.2W, 79.2S)

I know – who the hell roleplays in Isengard, right? But I’m including this shot for the rainbow show alone. I figured I’d be wasting my time in Saruman’s backyard, only to find something I liked on his porch.

I’m not sure if I noticed it the first time I set foot here, but the different shades of smoke grabbed me. Clearly a reference to Saruman of Many Colors, no? Not what I was expecting from a place the novels’ author imbued with his own animosity towards industry.

The mere mention of roleplaying in Isengard reminded me of this RP initiative from some years back. Well worth a read for the contrarian element alone!

Campsite near the Bitter Stair (2.9W, 19.1S)

Campsite near the Bitter Stair

Misty Mountains (2.9W, 19.1S)

Here’s one of the vanilla LoTRO zones I never experienced, being a Premium player who happens to be exceptionally stingy with his Turbine Points. Therefore, I never experienced Helegrod either – apart from a short venture inside one of its wings during the couple of months I was an active subscriber.

Doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the zone’s beauty, however. It’s almost Forochel sans the foggy look, and the exterior of Helegrod itself is a thing to behold. This little camp sits in a snowy nook a short ride from the (itself dizzyingly scenic) Bitter Stair. I can easily imagine it used as a forward operating base for an assault on the Corcur, or for any RPed Helegrod raid.

You’ll have to share it with a pair of mute Dwarves, but who doesn’t prefer more company in such a cold and hostile land?

Flet near Brochos (69.3W, 17.5S)

Flet near Brochos

Lothlórien (69.3W, 17.5S)

I’ll say it: I don’t like Lothlórien. It’s no better than Mirkwood – the perpetual fairy fog and saturated look kills my attempts at decent screenshotting. I make do, though.

I’m aware that the Golden Wood is full of flets, and there seem to be a few different designs between them. This one, however, deserves special mention for its tight, train carriage-style layout (great for a small council!), as well as being unmarked on the map. A ‘lost trail’ indeed.

If only it was unoccupied! Would that LoTRO could adopt TESO’s murderous ways, and you could just punt that annoying Elf off the edge…

Lost trails of LoTRO: Vol VIII

Posted in Roleplay, Virtual Tourism on August 24, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

The lonely ride of Redwine Eardwrecca, exiled Rider of Rohan, continues. Retrace his hoofbeats from Vol I through II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII!

After going as far as the banks of the Anduin the last round, I couldn’t stop thinking of the last time I had played for real, there in the Great River, and all the things that had contributed to my retirement from LoTRO: absent friends, game burnout, the telltale signs that Turbine wasn’t so ‘into it’ anymore. I remembered the sinking feeling, and the feeling of liberation as well.

For a moment, I felt more like Redwine than I ever have. The exile long abroad where the stars are strange, knowing he can never go home again.

Then I did something I thought I would never do. I stepped back into the role of the active LoTRO player, and pushed on to a place nearly three years old but which I had never seen – the Argonath. The content border between those who bought Riders of Rohan and those who didn’t.

I sat on the bank for a little while, admiring the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. And then chuckled to myself and rode on back.

From that ride came more shots harking back to my last active weeks in LoTRO: shots of Dunland and the Great River, back when the high-levels partied in those places.

Water under the bridge.

Desolation of the Gardens (48.0W, 32.7S)

Desolation of the Gardens

Great River (48.0W, 32.7S)

I wish there was another, mob-free instance of this place to RP in, but too bad – the only way you’re getting in here is through a group of Signature-difficulty trolls.

Hands down, the Desolation gets my vote for Most Fairy-Tale-ish Place in Turbine’s Middle-earth. Look at that – way out in the Brown Lands, tucked away on the very edge of the map, it looks like something out of a Tim Burton production.

Turbine lore says this used to be a garden of the Entwives until it was ruined by Sauron during the War of the Last Alliance. Well, the last I heard of the Entwives was in the Old damned Forest, and this is a damned sight better-looking, so I’d say we need more of the Entwives in LoTRO.

Cliffs of eastern Pren Gwydh (13.0W, 79.5S)

Cliffs of eastern Pren Gwydh

Dunland (13.0W, 79.5S)

Dunland looks so much like Enedwaith, I feared I wouldn’t find anything worthy of inclusion in this series. The land proved me wrong. Not far from the uphill road to Tâl Methedras – itself a lovely little walk I almost snapped as well – the Dunlending cliffs offer sights to rival anything further north.

This spot, in particular, is a fine, flat slab of land where I can easily imagine Redwine pitching a tent and stoking a fire (if only such mechanics existed in LoTRO). Or perhaps keeping watch on that little cartrev down there…?

Weatherway (41.2W, 29.0S)

Weatherway

Bree-land (41.2W, 29.0S)

This lonely Arnorian bridge in the Weather Hills stands as one of the game’s finest examples of world & quest design. It sits in an area I’ve always thought to be one of LoTRO’s most neglected, just like Nen Harn up north. And it was that very remoteness that struck me.

What better place to take ownership of and enjoy a spot of secluded roleplay or screenshotting? Plus, being on the border between Bree-land and the Lone-lands, one can easily make a case for traveling in either direction.

I still wonder how many (or how few) have bothered to come out this far from Bree. Those who do will be rewarded with a small hub of repeatable quests, targeted at the Orc-infested ruins of Ost Alagos a short distance northeast. Skyrim much?

Lost trails of LoTRO: Vol VII

Posted in Roleplay, Virtual Tourism on August 10, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

The lonely ride of Redwine Eardwrecca, exiled Rider of Rohan, continues. Retrace his hoofbeats from Vol I through II, III, IV, V, and VI!

So most of LoTRO’s servers are seeing the sunset, and I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Imladris was among them. It was my first server, a small-town sort of server, and I remember folks saying proudly in world chat how they preferred these small communities to big-city ones like Elendilmir or Brandywine. But that also means they’re first in line to get the axe.

Imladris also happens to be the server Redwine dwells on – and the one all my friends who played LoTRO with me in the beginning have characters on. We have our own little kin, now full of mains and alts abandoned years ago by their owners – a graveyard on a dying world.

Redwine’s ride nears its end. Of course, I could just drop-kick his Rohirric ass onto another server, but it wouldn’t quite feel the same. With that, I think Vol X will be the last in this series. I’m going to enjoy myself in these last four entries. Onward!

Flowers of the Gloomglens (21.5W, 64.6S)

Flowers of the Gloomglens

Enedwaith (21.5W, 64.6S)

Yeah, I know you can find these flowers all over Enedwaith. But you know what? There’s a difference between flowers on flat ground and flowers on slopes. There’s a visual romance to the latter I can’t deny.

Nowhere else in Enedwaith do I see this romance so prominent than the Gloomglens. Not far from Maur Tulhau, you’ll find this knobbly patch of land – a tad claustrophobic thanks to all the trees and elevations, and swarming with bugans, but a pretty place in a pretty land, nonetheless.

Munudh Dûv (13.2W, 70.9S)

Munudh Dûv

Enedwaith (13.2W, 70.9S)

A short hop from Harndirion, this slice of paradise takes my cake for lakeside strolls. I’ve posted shots of lakes before, but this one blows them all out of their own water: I’ve never seen one so crystal-clear, and so picturesque, even in Evendim – the land of picturesque lakes.

And here, you get the added benefit of having no ruins, for once. Just mother nature. Some folks need to put together a kin and establish a frontier settlement here. Or, you know what, just designate this a AONB.

Now, if only someone would tell me what Munudh Dûv translates to. I thought it was Welsh, but Google Translate is coming up blank…

Ost Celebrant from the Wyrmdenn (54.7W, 28.3S)

Ost Celebrant from the Wyrmdenn

Great River (54.7W, 28.3S)

This is really not a place to be doing any casual roleplay in. The Wyrmdenn, in case the name wasn’t clear, is a nest of bloody avancs. But I just came for the sights, and boy, was I not disappointed.

The Great River was where I stopped playing LoTRO, but I did remember the lovely fields of Parth Celebrant with all the striking purple flowers. (It’s heather, isn’t it?) It was great seeing them again, but since I’d already snapped the flowers of Enedwaith, I decided to head further east into the Rushgore. And there, coming across this lonely little boardwalk with the swans, I turned around and got my picture.

Gondorian architecture doesn’t look so nice from a distance; what is it with all the candle-holder style towers? Still, through the light fog, you get a sense of the grandeur that was.

On getting powergamers into roleplaying

Posted in Opinions, Roleplay on July 29, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

I read this article at Roleplaying Tips with some degree of amusement. Dealing with powergamers has been, if not the bread and butter, then certainly the morning coffee of both my gaming and roleplaying careers – and it’s always good to see folks thinking of ways to get them involved in the finer things.

It’s a good piece, and one I wish I had read during my return to tabletop roleplay some years back. The all-munchkin group that spurred my prompt un-return could sure have used some of these tips. (My own pro tip: don’t use the WoW soundtrack for scene-setting. Makes folks start jibing about WoW, and before you know it, the thrill is gone.)

But as I read it, I found myself thinking of what would happen if I really did try to use them in a local context. I’m sure this applies elsewhere too, since powergamers are the same the world over.

The article’s thrust appears to be that GMs should “make character identity integral to the plot”, mandate in-character ‘sideline activities’, and dole out in-game bonuses to players who comply with both. Straightforward enough. It scratches the rewards itch that keeps powergamers going. But it’s also predicated on that very itch, which subverts the intention entirely.

Grind in MMOs is incentivized by nature because even with rewards, it’s a chore. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect powergamers who don’t RP to find RP any less of a chore with rewards.

More often than not, I think, they’d simply approach ‘character identity’ the same clinical, min-maxed way they approach their rollplaying. Encouraging them to put the story first calls for an approach that doesn’t penalize them materially, enabling them to pay more attention (and hopefully interest) to roleplay.

One example is collaborative writing game Storium. In Storium’s card-based system, narrators drive their plots by creating Challenges for players to spend characters’ Strength or Weakness cards on. For instance, a Challenge representing an armory guard might be addressed with a silver tongue or an intimidating personality (a Strength card), or with a naïve or chicken-hearted nature (a Weakness card).

The great thing is, whoever ‘completes’ a Challenge, akin to the ‘last hit’ mechanic in MOBAs, wins narrative control on how it turned out. So what’s to stop them from ponying up only Strength cards, and writing that they talked their way past the guard and made off with the armory’s best gear? This is one very simple case, but it makes my point. Whether the rest of the story would be better served by the party not being armed to the teeth was probably not a consideration when the powergamer made his move.

Fortunately, there is a counterweight: ‘weak’ outcomes are not synonymous with losing. An obstacle overcome with a ‘weak’ result is still overcome – just with interesting side effects. Perhaps the guard grew suspicious and attacked the party, wounding someone before he was taken down. Or he managed to escape and raise the alarm. Either way, the way into the armory is clear. This way, GMs can spice up encounters and plots without putting off munchkins.

If we’re looking for compliance alone, incentivizing works. But in the long term, it might take more than rewards for powergamers to prioritise the story over conventional gains. The GM’s own ability to make losing out, or undesirable outcomes, interesting is what counts.

Lost trails of LoTRO: Vol VI

Posted in Roleplay, Virtual Tourism on July 27, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

The lonely ride of Redwine Eardwrecca, exiled Rider of Rohan, continues. Retrace his hoofbeats from Vol I through II, III, IV, and V!

Inspired by a recent return to LoTRO RP, in the humble persona of a Bree-lander, this fortnight is a Brandy Hills edition. I’ll put the western swath of the Bree-land forward as one of the most idyllic settings in Turbine’s Middle-earth, easily rivaling the beauty of Evendim and Enedwaith – with an added, picnicky air those far-off places lack.

Which makes me wonder anew: with such places near at hand, why don’t more folks get out of the damned Pony?

Brandy Hills from Ost Barandor (59.2W, 26.4S)

View from Ost Barandor

Bree-land (59.2W, 26.4S)

Ost Barandor, in the Brandywood (not to be confused with Ost Baranor in the Chetwood), is arguably one of the most striking of the Arnorian ruins in the Bree-land.

Its very location and environs call to mind legends of the Dúnedain of the North and their wars with Angmar; as you climb the steep track to the precipice on which the fortress stands, you can almost picture arrows and flaming logs raining down from above.

The view from the fortress itself is quite stunning. Without panoramic trickery, it’s quite impossible for me to capture the Brandy Hills in all its glory from that dizzying height. But this shot should serve. It’s lovely roaming these rolling green hills under the sun, with small stubs of ruins almost everywhere for rest or shelter.

Starmere Lake (58.1W, 24.6S)

Starmere Lake

Bree-land (58.1W, 24.6S)

A tad too fanciful a name for a Bree-land locale, I think, but I like it nonetheless. It only occurred to me after I left that I should have stayed until nightfall to take this shot, and see if the stars really do shine in the water. There’s a thought: what if a Bree-lander traveled as far as the Dimrill Dale, and saw the Mirrormere? Budget version right here!

There’s actually a small ruin on the far bank, but some draw distance bug prevented it from showing up in my shots. Fine place to make camp if you’re coming here for a swim or some fishing.

Girdley Island (63.5W, 27.9S)

Girdley Island

Bree-land (63.5W, 27.9S)

Those boardwalks clear any doubt. Right smack in the middle of the Brandywine, this pretty little rock exists for one reason only: fishing. And with fishing still LoTRO’s only Hobby after 8 years, I’m surprised it doesn’t see more traffic from folks who like to mix RP and leveling.

There’s nothing else here but trees and a fauna or two. Given its proximity to the Shire, this could work as a hangout for (slightly more) adventurous hobbits who get a kick out of glimpsing the country of the Big Folk.

It’s safe, right? After all, the Bounders at the Brandywine Bridge are just a short hop south… wait, do you feel the ground shaking…?

Lost trails of LoTRO: Vol V

Posted in Roleplay, Virtual Tourism on July 13, 2015 by The Iron Dagger

The lonely ride of Redwine Eardwrecca, exiled Rider of Rohan, continues. Retrace his hoofbeats from Vol I through II, III, and IV!

For this fortnight’s shots, I decided to attempt the dreariest regions in Turbine’s Middle-earth: Angmar and Forochel. My memory begged me not to, but I blew it off in the name of photojournalism and vaulted into the saddle… and, hours later, clip-clopped back to the stable covering my ears against its tut-tutting.

Until we see Harad, these two will have to qualify as LoTRO’s deserts. And serves me right for taking them on.

I may return at some point, search harder, and revenge myself upon my own memory. But for now, here’s the bounty of my latest tour.

Ruined elf-dome in Haudh Lin (91.8W, 19.9S)

Ruined elf-dome in Haudh Lin

Ered Luin (91.8W, 19.9S)

Not really a dome, but oh well. I haven’t the foggiest why this would be here. Maybe it’s linked to the nearby Talath Ondren, which itself has some nice Elvish ruins.

It’s a neat little setup for a wilderness rendezvous, or a staging ground for an infiltration of Kheledûl.

This is not the only dome in Ered Luin: the first one I found was at 92.0W, 18.5S, but it contained a rather talkative NPC, so go with this one if you need solitude. There might even be more that I missed.

Foggy pool outside Rath Teraig (94.2W, 23.2S)

Foggy pool outside Rath Teraig

Ered Luin (94.2W, 23.2S)

I don’t know if the fog is a result of weather, or if the zone is always like that. But I’m calling it as I see it.

The look of the land immediately surrounding the pool gives it a certain pastoral feel I didn’t expect to find much of outside the Shire. If not for it being so damned close to a huge goblin nest, this would be a nice place for Duillond-dwellers to chill.

Fort of Fumes in Duvuinen (27.3W, 2.0N)

Fort of Fumes in Duvuinen

Angmar (27.3W, 2.0N)

Hardly a ‘fort’, but the half-moon arrangement of those… vents?… around a large central one certainly has a defensible ring to it. (No, you can’t jump into the pool. That’s Redwine trying to up there.)

After concluding that outside of the Rift, Angmar has nothing to snap for this series, I doubled back to the easiest place on the eyes in this boring old zone: Duvuinen. The lake itself is probably worth an entry too – out in the center, with nothing in sight in all directions, you can just lie down in the shallow water and contemplate the starry skies.

Or at least you could, before Turbine plunked down a goddamn Roving Threat nearby…