Almost every fantasy MMO offers some variation on a non-combat activity. Whether you're investing in one of the numerous styles of crafting, the unique negotiation minigame in Vanguard, or just /dancing the night away in an NPC city ... there's always something to do. For myself, I've always enjoyed the idea of fishing in-game. It's always relaxing, often lets you enjoy some quiet time in beautiful natural spots, and usually nets you some kind of tangible benefit.
The problem with fishing is that it's often boring. In several games, you really have to really grind away at it to 'get anywhere'. Often the mechanics are needlessly complicated, and some games just aren't that pretty to stand around in for an extended period of time. That's why I've grown to love fishing in Lord of the Rings Online so much. The game is beautiful, the mechanics are simple, and the developers don't force you to stand by the side of a river for hours on end. Read on for a few words on why casting a line might be something you'd enjoy thiscoming weekend.
Fishing is called a Hobby in LotRO. It is the first of its kind added to the game, back in the Book 14 patch to the Turbine title. It was added in at the same time as the Forochel area of the game, and most of the handful of quests that support fishing are in that area. There is a single low-level quest to introduce you to the hobby at big city Hobby trainers ... but otherwise the only purpose to fishing is to fish. It's not content meant to drive your level advancement at all.
What makes hobbies in LotRO so enjoyable, and the simple design choice that makes hobby fishing my favorite implementation, is that you can't grind at it. There's a skill bar, of course, ranging from 0-200. Your fishing skill raises very quickly to start with, and it gradually takes longer to gain a skill point. In any given day, though, you can only gain 10 hobby points.
Once you're finished, your skill up bar turns yellow and you're done. You simply can't gain any more points, and there's no further 'reason' to fish. You can if you want to – to seek out rare fish for the handful of hidden fishing deeds associated with the hobby – but you won't advance any further on that given day.
Additionally, this is an absolutely gorgeous game. With DX10 enabled and all the little sliders turned up, LotRO is arguably the most beautiful MMO currently on the market. Age of Conan may be more graphically advanced, and Guild Wars may have better art direction, but no title blends the two disciplines in quite the way that Turbine's Middle-earth does.
In order to get started fishing in-game, speak to one of the Hobby Masters scattered throughout the game's starting areas. There's a trainer in the Bird and Baby Inn at Michel Delving, one on the right-hand side in the central chamber of Thorin's Hall, and Men of Bree can find one at the Scholars' Stairs Archives. After that, all you'll need to do is buy a pole from one of the Hobby Suppliers; a quest from each of the Hobby Masters will lead you right to them.
There are a few different fishing poles you can buy throughout the game, with the Lebethron Pole being a very wise investment; it's craftable by an Expert Woodworker. Poles actually do improve your fishing, but community testing has shown that purchased bait has absolutely no effect on your success. Save your money from the get-go to buy a better pole.