Part of the appeal of LotRO to me is that it isn't just all about killing and leveling; it's also about exploring and living in this virtual Middle-earth. Life for the Free Peoples means celebrating even in the midst of oppressive evil, and it's in keeping with the spirit of the enterprise to throw a shindig now and then.
Turbine's given us quite a few tools and resources to use when assembling a party, and I thought that today we'd take an unusual detour from the Road to Mordor and go through the steps of throwing a memorable and enjoyable soirée. Ready to cut loose? Footloose? Good! Let's tear up the dance floor!
Where to hold your party is a very important detail. First things first: You have to establish size. Is this going to be a small gathering of a few friends? A kinship get-together? A come-one-come-all hodge-podge? A massive Weatherstock-type event? If you pick a venue inappropriate to the size of the crowd of guests that arrive, you might end the party before it even gets started.
There are plenty of places in the game that are perfect for parties. Private homes and kin halls offer maximum customization and control, as long as your crowd isn't going to be too, too huge. It's good to get some use out of the player housing in the game, and decorators can go nuts by modifying the look of the place. Consider using as many interactive decorations, such as the tentacle pool and the ale kegs, as you have on hand. Housing chests are also terrific tools that allow you to stock up on food, beverages, and other goodies for your guests to plunder.
Unfortunately, sometimes it's hard to get the word out just where the party is held due to the nature of the instanced neighborhoods and the longer traveling time that it takes people to get there. If you choose to hold your party in the public game world, then you'll have an advantage of easily communicating where it will be, although you'll lack the ability to tweak the environment, and you'll probably have to have a few people do the job of handing out consumables.
There are plenty of places I can think of that are perfect for parties -- most of LotRO's inns and taverns, for instance, or the stage in the Shire, the Elf gardens in Ered Luin, Bree-land's "tag" ruins, Elrond's house's Hall of Fire, and especially festival instances like Winter-home and the Haunted Burrow. Just make sure that you're not throwing a party in a zone that will make it difficult (or impossible) for low-level guests to attend. The Shire, Ered Luin and Bree-land are perfect potential areas because of this.
Give yourself enough time to properly promote your event. Announcing it two days before isn't going to get anyone there! Have a catchy name, specific details, and a clear purpose to the party that you can communicate to others. "We're just getting together" isn't that enticing, but "Come to our costume party blast -- music, prizes and games provided!" is.
If you're fortunate enough to have a party-planning committee, divide the promotion duties between the members. Make sure you let your kin -- and any allied kins -- know, and see if your kin leader will put a note up in the message of the day.
Announce it on your kin's forums, but don't stop there! You'll definitely want to trumpet the party on the official LotRO forums. I'd recommend placing a notice at least on the In-game Player Events forums and your server's forums and perhaps the general discussion one as well. Many LotRO blogs and podcasts would be willing to give your event a shout-out as long as you appear organized, so make sure to tap those for your advertising as well.
Parties are a great time to take full advantage of the cosmetic outfits in the game, and while most folks will probably show up in their finest, if you have a party theme that begs for associated outfits, it's good to let people know ahead of time. Do you want to throw a pirate party? A formal dance? A Christmas bash? Each of these calls for entirely different sets of outfits. Of course, I wouldn't make a dress code mandatory, but it is helpful for attendees to know that you'd love it if they could add to the festivities with a specific look.
The number one enemy of in-game parties is boredom. Guests show up, hop around, and then realize that there isn't really much to do. Guess what happens next? You're standing alone in a big room, feeling foolish and contemplating drinking from that tainted cask of ale in the corner. Oh, the shame!
People usually love to socialize and show off, but you'll want to stack the odds in your favor by having as many activities and refreshments on hand as you can to get the good times rolling. Alcoholic beverages such as wine and ale can loosen up a few of the stiffer partygoers and offer the rest of the crowd an opportunity to check out the game's "drunk" effects (personally, I love the mutterings that your character does when you're tipsy). Food isn't as essential, since it usually has no social function, but I would definitely collect as much pipe-weed as you can find so that folks can have fun making different types of smoke rings and smoke objects. Fireworks? Yes, please! Even Gandalf knew that a good party required lots of unlicensed explosions.
The player music system and the variety of dance emotes are perfect for any party. If you don't have a band in your kin, then it might be worth hunting down a player band on your server. Its members might even consider it an ego-boosting honor to be asked to play your party!
And while some folks may just have fun on their own, it really helps to have a loose schedule of events to keep the ball rolling and to give guests a reason to stay. Trivia games, costume contests, races, short skits, joke telling, hide and go seek, massive fireworks displays... the sky's the limit on what you can do at a party. Just make sure you have backups for when a few of your events fizzle.
Lastly, just enjoy yourself! A good party has a life of its own, and some of the best memories may come from completely spontaneous actions or ideas. Don't be a party dictator; be a gracious host that knows when to intervene and when to step back and give everyone room to have a wonderful time.
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.