LOTRO: 10 weeks, 10 years

I thought it was fitting that the final week of LOTRO’s anniversary scavenger hunt quests started out for me on a hillside above the Party Tree, watching fireworks erupt up to about eye level. Small thing, but it was cool to me and I enjoyed watching for a few minutes.

So! 10 weeks of doing the new anniversary scavenger hunt cards, and we’re finally at Year 10. There was a pub crawl — Gondor, this time — but I went with Bilbo’s scavenger hunt instead. It seemed more thematically appropriate, plus most of it was bunched up conveniently in Eriador.

I applaud the devs for wrangling enough targets for the Bilbo, considering how little he is actually in the game and trilogy. It all started with an envelope on the mantle at Bag End that once held the One Ring, and I couldn’t help but get a chill at the floating text description when I clicked on it.

Of course we were going to have to head back to Gollum’s cave (didn’t we do this one already on a different week?). I keep forgetting just how dang far this cave is in Goblin Town, but I shouldn’t complain seeing as how all of the mobs are too afraid of me to attack. Plus, I always enjoy checking out the wall art when I visit. My four-year-old saw the painting of Gollum up there and shuddered: “UGH! I don’t like him!”

Probably of greatest interest to me, personally, was that the hunt sent me into the Dale instance, which I think I had only ever visited once, during a press tour a long time ago. I wasn’t aware you could just scale this dungeon down to level 20, but that made it a nice cakewalk while I went around gathering up rememberances.

If nothing else, the scavenger hunts have reminded me that I really do need to dive into more dungeons, even if I’m in carebear “tourist” mode to see the sights instead of taking the real challenge on headfirst.

With the final week done, I received a flood of rewards. There were a couple of neat housing items (I really do like the cloak rack), but then apparently just doing one of the cards each week was enough to trigger a final batch of rewards that included a deer pet, a mount, and a full set of silver dragon armor. Hey, I’m not complaining! I am glad I didn’t kill myself trying to do each and every card, however.

Following all of that, there was one last surprise — a bonus mission of sorts that was uncovered by the community by piecing together the “scraps of paper” we’d been awarded over the weeks to figure out map coordinates. This led to a rarely visited lake in Bree-land where the new Standing Stone Games logo was made manifest. Well, most of it. I got a laugh out of the fact that the devs had said in an interview that they put floating stones around their main pillar to keep it from looking too phallic, but of course you can’t just have floating stones in this game. Doesn’t fit the world. So phallic pillar it is.

There was a brief quest to do a chain of five emotes, after which I got my own phallic pillar for my house. Now my bags are bursting and I need to go do some decorating before turning my attention back to Bingo Boffin!

LOTRO: I like turtles

It’s hard — or perhaps weird — to believe that we’re already at week nine (of ten) in LOTRO’s anniversary scavenger hunt. I’ve been faithfully knocking out at least one of these hunts every week, and to tell the truth, I’ll be a little sorry when they’re gone. Of course, there will always be next year, right?

So out of the trio of options this week, I went with what I thought was the one that looked both the most interesting and the easiest to do, which was Middle-earth curiosities. This is why I signed up to do these quests (well, that and the rewards), because I want to be shown things I’ve never seen before or missed in this game. And while I knew about two or three of these, the rest were complete surprises.

A snowman in Ered Luin. An ice skater in Forochel. OK, yawn. The cat lady’s house… everyone knows this one, although that lady never seems to come home. But then things started to pick up when I had to find the turtle guy’s house. I’d never even heard of the turtle guy, which is because I didn’t do his short quest series. I had to rectify that, because there was no entering his house to get the quest update if I didn’t, and ultimately I was glad I did. It’s an amusing series of quests around Bree that are totally turtle-themed, leading into a house decked out with turtles everywhere. Even had their own open exhibit.

“Well, that’s no ordinary rabbit. That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on. Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide, it’s a killer! He’s got huge, sharp — he can leap about — look at the bones!”

Probably the one locale that really caught me off guard was the Three Little Bears house. I’m guessing this is one of those easter eggs that everyone else probably knows about by now and has escaped my attention, but I was cracking up when I found it in Rohan. Garden gnome, three bears, three beds, sleeping Goldilocks, porridge, the whole works. And it doesn’t look that out of place in this game world, even so.

While the quest was entertaining, I have to say that I’m becoming a little let down with the rewards. Actually, in eavesdropping in our kin chat, I think this is a shared sentiment. Every week you do a fairly complicated quest with these scavenger hunts and are then rewarded with at least two objects — usually pets, housing items, or cosmetics. I’m all down for that, but apart from the pets (I love the cow!), nothing’s really amazed me. A big spoon? Another raggedy cloak? I was kind of hoping for something a little more amazing here.

I did make a point of stopping by the anniversary vendor in Bree last night, seeing as how she’s returned for a limited run for those of us still racking up tokens from the hunts. I spent as many as I could, buying mostly housing items (I wasn’t that thrilled with the dragon-themed outfit and horse armor).

LOTRO: Dead man’s party

Hi-five there, Mr. Skeleton! Keeping it jaunty and friendly in your old age, aren’t you?

Year Eight of the scavenger hunt is upon us, and this week there were a couple of decent options available. I pushed Gimli aside in favor of a relatively quick jaunt around the local haunts and tombs of Middle-earth. Start to finish, it took me about a half-hour, with most of the locations in Bree’s Barrow Downs.

Again, this is why I love these scavenger hunts, because they take us to places I either have never seen before in the game or back to a place long forgotten. I’m having fun being a total tourist, taking pictures left and right. Feels a little… wrong, doing this in all of these tombs, but since the residents are walking around, I think they probably like the attention.

OK, maybe I’m a little weird in MMOs, but one thing I like to do when a mob isn’t aggroing me (if I have stealth or am much higher level than it) is to get really close and take examine it without worrying about it thrashing about in combat.

Here is a side view of one of the decaying walking corpses. It’s an older model, but check out the internal organs of that guy. Wonder what was going through the artist’s head the day her or she made this. Probably, “I could really go for some liver and onions tonight!”

This zombie model really amused me. Lots of sagging skin which makes it look like a mole. Really, what did he look like in life? Probably not much better, I can tell you that! Also, he has a combover, and I cannot be afraid of anything with a combover.

My four-year-old got offended at this guy, saying that he was “naked.” I think he was referring to the patches of skin that were missing, not so much the loincloth. Show some modesty — you’re dead, not buried!

There are so many great tombs in this game, and yet I don’t remember a lot of quests taking me into them. Nice to explore them at my leisure.

True story: I had some lowbie message me, asking me what was up with all of the level 105s running around the place. Apparently this player didn’t know about the anniversary scavenger hunt (or at least this week), so it was really bizarre for him to witness.

I was captivated by whatever dark ritual these ghouls were performing in one of the tombs. Is that blood? Grape-apple juice? Vaporized evil? Or maybe they’re just cooking a stew.

LOTRO: Pub crawls and wayward Hobbitses

Rohan pub crawl

For Year Six of the LOTRO anniversary scavenger hunt, I elected to go with the Rhovanion tavern crawl. It seemed to be the most straight-forward of the three options (no, I am not going to hunt down animals across this entire continent to pet), and besides, I always loved the taverns in Rohan the most out of all of the regional inns.

I mean, look at that picture above! So much more detail and atmosphere in these later additions than you’d find back in the Shire or Bree (although those have charm). Maybe I just like the “log cabin” design and decor. Makes me think of summer camps and woodland lodges.

There’s also something amusing about racing my character around Middle-earth for the sole purpose of getting tanked on hearty ale. I don’t usually drink in-game, so I’d forgotten about the screen effects and — for a minute — thought the game was glitching out on me.

It was probably one of the fastest scavenger hunt cards I’ve done to date, thanks to most of the towns being close enough to offer direct horse rides. The only problem I had was in trying to find the taverns in specific towns, since there are no markers on the city maps to indicate where they are (and I don’t have that great of a memory for this region.

Puffy sheep

I’ll tell you what, between the anniversary gifts, the scavenger hunt rewards, the Bingo Boffin barter items, and the Wastes quest lines, I’m swimming in pets. I’ve gone from having one or two to trying to choose which four of a dozen or so in my collection will get a coveted space on my hotbar (I went with puffy sheep, Faroth the dog, Bill the pony, and Ithilien fox).

I kind of wish that LOTRO would add a “pull out random pet” button. I like that a lot when I see it in other MMOs. Saves space, gives me a surprise every time.

Where is Bingo Boffin?

After swimming lessons, treasure hunting, and lynx befriending, I thought I was ready for anything in Bingo Boffin’s storyline. Then the little fool of a Hobbit went and got himself kidnapped by Dwarves, and when I finally came to his rescue, I found that he had escaped and promptly fallen into a crack in the Misty Mountains themselves.

When you’re lacking GPS and a competent search-and-rescue squad, how do you rescue someone who was literally swallowed up by the earth? You start moseying your way toward Moria, that’s how.

I felt like this stretch of the quest line in Eregion largely felt like a pointless intermission. It’s really obvious that I’m going to have to head back into Moria and there’s nothing productive to be done in this zone. Yet the game wants me to romp around with secondary characters in this quest line to kill time. I really don’t like that feeling when a game is obviously treading water and making me do pointless busy work until the real narrative can continue.

Plus, as weird as it is to say, Bingo’s presence was growing on me, and not having him around feels like a TV show that just removed its lead character for several episodes.

LOTRO: Legends of the fall

More screenshots of my LOTRO journeys today, hope you don’t mind! Let’s start out with a picture of Bilbo’s trolls. Out of all of the scenes in LOTRO that haven’t changed over 10 years, this one kind of makes the most sense. Although maybe we could’ve had some moss growth?

My vote for most beautiful location in the game? Easily has to be Dunhollow. It’s like the most ideal camping spot in Middle-earth, with flowers, pine trees, and majestic mountains all around.

I was particularly proud of this picture of the Last Homely House. Just a good angle, good lighting, lots of foliage in the shot. Naturally, I’d be OK with someone bombing this whole elf village into dust, but there’s no harm in taking a “before” shot, right?

Taking a quiet moment for myself out on the porch. Seriously, this game is still so very beautiful.

The scavenger hunt quests can really try my patience, especially as they send me to places I either have never been to before, haven’t been to in a long time, or don’t remember how to get to. The in-game map isn’t always helpful.

After a long time trekking through the Entwood, I finally rediscovered Treebeard’s cave. I like the subtle glowing of the tree leaves above.

The Hall of Fire. Probably the best MMO fireplace I’ve ever seen, and it amuses me how many trees suffer and die at the hands of elves to make it roar.

Just kind of liked this shot. I always have a thing for pictures where the top of a hill seems to kiss the sky.

Willem Whisker, as corny as that name is, has to be one of the best additions to the game’s large cast of characters. As a Lore-master, I can understand why someone would want a loyal pet.

LOTRO: Dragging my butt all over Middle-earth

Between scavenger hunts, kinship parties, Bingo Boffin, and general wanderlust, I’ve been bouncing around in Middle-earth like a deranged tourist over the past month. Even after 10 years of playing this game, I’m still taking tons of screenshots, so I’m going to unload some of them this week in a bit of a random travelogue.

The above? Kin party with giant oversized shrews. I don’t know how they got these shrews so big, but they definitely threatened to ruin LOTRO’s famed immersion. Me? I didn’t mind so much.

Looking and acting like a doof, I could see Bingo Boffin getting on people’s nerves, but for me he happens to land on the side of endearment. I think it’s because he’s so helpless and enthusiastic about it, and also because going on his quests is like babysitting a small death-prone child. I’m very familiar with that by now in real life, so why not in MMOs?

Here, Bingo goes “swimming.” It’s pretty funny.

The cow on the roof of Buckland’s great hall never ceases to amuse me when I swing by this town. Cows aren’t meant to be so lofty, but this one does not look very concerned. Maybe he’s a spy for Sauron and this is the highest vantage point he could find.

The interior of Tom Bombadil’s house is so sumptuous and warm, I wish it was my player house. This just exudes “home” to me.

Meanwhile, Bingo gets totally smashed and starts dancing on plates of duck and ribs while singing. He’s in danger even in a tavern, but I’m too hungry to care.

Welcome to Hogwarts! Today we’re going to learn a curse that will turn you into a wraith and make you serve the Dark Lord! Or it’ll summon licorice. Both are pretty evil.

In my opinion, you can’t really take a bad screenshot of these statues, although my preference is a good nighttime picture.