But it's perhaps the title gained on reaching Kindred that tickles me the most, as I can thus be called Purveyor of Odd Things. LotRO has a lot of weird titles, but this one takes the cake. It says that I'm just as likely to go jaunting off if a sparkly stone catches my eye as I am to fight that big dragon you guys are struggling with over there. It says that I am to be shunned at parties and talked about to children in a low, urgent tone.
In the spirit of collecting odd things, this week's column will be a hodge-podge of topics instead of one overarching theme. Minstrel melodies, buried treasure, and Mithril Editions lurk just around the corner. Are you prepared in mind, body, and soul to hear what I have to say about them?
I've long been a fan of bardic life in MMOs, and early on in my LotRO career I did fiddle about with a Minstrel for a period of time. I didn't stick with it, as the allure of pet-wielding classes (Lore-master, Captain) proved too strong a pull. Fortunately, now I'm back in the saddle, and what little I knew about the class is so archaic as to border on useless now.
Let's just say this: The last time I played a Minstrel, War-speech hadn't even been added to the game yet.
With Rise of Isengard came a huge revamp of the class, rendering the old system of ballad building and anthem finishing obsolete. Instead, the devs replaced the core combat rotation with a choice of three balads (minor, major, and perfect) that could be applied in any combination of three on a mob to produce a beneficial effect (minor increases damage,
Between the ballad system, the trait lines, and the three stances (neutral, Harmony, War-speech), Minstrels have become remarkably flexible and adaptable to different situations. If I'm soloing and want maximum DPS, I'll shift into War-speech, toss minor ballads out like they're candy, and watch the big numbers fly. Healing, buffing, and balancing between it all is just a matter of a few clicks to shift the numbers to my advantage. That's cool.
It's weird that Minstrels can no longer use medium armor, but I'm OK with that. Heals and a shield are a good enough defense against the dark arts, so I'm not terribly worried. The red line does look tempting, although Harperella made a convincing case for a hybrid yellow/red spec that I may try when I get further along in the game.
This weekend, Turbine is fully promoting the third Buried Treasure event after keeping the first two on the low-down. If you haven't done this yet, I highly recommend it, as it's got the feel of a mini-festival, is kind of fun, and has a lot of nifty rewards.
It's not terribly complicated to get into, either. Just find a special stable master at one of the major cities and hitch a ride to Ered Luin. Once you're there, go through the introductory quests to get a set of picks, a cave-claw, and a dowsing rod. After that, it's simply a matter of looking for glowy dig sites in the special field and going nuts.
There's some basic strategy to it, of course. The cave-claws and dowsing rods can help you find the bigger treasure troves (large are very much desired, and one "huge" dig is hidden in every game). At the very least, you'll get a token for a dig, but if you're lucky, you can find cosmetics, mounts, and more.
As I've gone through this a couple of times already, I have a few words of advice. First, do not spend money in the LotRO store to buy picks. They're just outrageously priced, and you can get four picks every 15 minutes for free just by doing two easy repeatable quests. Second, save up your tokens and spend them at the barter NPC only when you're completely done. You want to wait because some of the items you're looking to buy may turn up in a dig site for free!
You can't get everything from the barter, unfortunately. The three mounts -- two horses and a goat -- are the big prizes, as they all have the +68% speed boost and 250 morale (plus cool designs). As far as I know, they can be found only in huge dig sites, so it's a matter of perseverance and luck. After a full day of doing this, I found two mounts within five minutes of each other, so it can really happen at any time.
Finally, I've been asked by a couple of people whether the new boxed Mithril Edition of the game is worth picking up. It goes on sale next week, but if you pre-order it from Gamestop before then, you can get an extra 500 TP to spend (so quick, read the rest of this article and then decide!).
Turbine claims that this is a $50 value in a $30 box, and that's more or less true. In it, you get 2000 TP (let's call that $20 of the value right there), an in-game mount for every character, and quest packs for Trollshaws, Eregion, Moria, and Lothlorien.
It's not a bad deal, per se. It would've been an incredible deal if, say, Mirkwood were thrown in as well, but it's a solid choice depending on your personal situation and level of interest. If you've already purchased more than one of these zones, it's probably not a good buy. If you already have a mount with each character (such as a PAX East mount code), then the mount is just cosmetic.
Think of it this way: It's a good bundle for someone who's gotten into the game, enjoyed playing it up to and including Lone-lands, and wants a one-time purchase that's going to get her through the first expansion and level 60. Turbine's more marketing this toward people who might still be store-shoppers rather than current players of the game, methinks, but that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of it.
I will say that it is indeed nice to have a mount come standard with every new character (right now all of my characters get five upon creation), and the 2000 TP gives you some flexibility depending on your needs. You could spend it on another region quest pack, use it as partial payment toward an expansion, or unlock some of the restrictions (bag space, currency cap) that F2P entails.
When I was talking with Turbine this week, the devs brought up an interesting point: the Mithril Edition was successful in Europe because the game discs included meant that people with bandwidth restrictions didn't have to worry about blowing bandwidth on downloading the client. I'm not sure how much this applies to people in North America, but it's something to consider.
That's it for this week in Odd Things. I'm your Minstrel Syp saying, "Goode old tyme phrase to you!"
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.