Now that the kinship has been formed and we have a regular group going for the Choose my Adventure: LotRO project, we're really starting to find our rhythm. As was voted upon last week, the Massive Hobbits completely dominated Book 1 and are working their way to Book 2 eligibility. These first few Epic Book questlines are made so a group can't plow through them at an early stage in the game, but at the rate we're going, it shouldn't be much longer. We also made our way through some southern Barrow Downs quests, including one that I seem to remember being much more difficult before the recent changes to the area.
So for this week, there's a whole new set of choices for our adventurous hobbits, as well as an amazing video of our adventures through Book 1.11. Throw us a vote to determine what we do next and read along for my (and Gibbi the Hobbit's) impressions of the latest adventures.
Gibbi's meeting with Strider at the Prancing Pony was quite an odd experience. The young hobbit couldn't help but notice the experience and determination in the man's eyes as he told them about a great shadow stretching across these lands from the east. Gibbi and the other members of the Massive Hobbits kin knew that they needed to listen to this ranger, even if others, like that unpleasant tavern keep, didn't trust him.
"Just one more, and I'll be right with you." Capeo mumbled through a mouthful of Polly Leafcutter's famous rhubarb pie.
It turns out, these Blackwold men were into a bit more than we first imagined. They're in cahoots with what Strider calls the Nazgul: those black riders Gibbi saw on his first day of adventuring. What's worse is it seems some unsavory dwarves, named the Dourhands, are in on it too.
But perhaps the most interesting part of Gibbi's adventures so far was the news he received upon his return to Strider. It seems that while the Massive Hobbits were out chasing evil dwarves, the Nazgul had attacked the Prancing Pony in search of a small group of hobbits! No, not Gibbi and his group, but a different group that Strider admitted he was awaiting. Gibbi realized that this entire journey had just hit closer to home. This is much larger than collecting hides for townsfolk or defeating a small band of rebellious men, this is about protecting some fellow hobbits!
Luckily, Strider had a few connections around Bree-land and he knew where the nine Nazgul were at all times. Well, mostly. He asked the band of hobbits to seek more information on the whereabouts of these nine Nazgul and report back to him.
With more specific news of what the black riders were after, Gibbi and the Massive Hobbits made their way back to Strider in Bree. They told him what they learned in Buckland, and that Fredegar Bolger may have tipped the Nazgul off to the location of a great ring and a hobbit named Baggins. Why, Gibbi knew of the Bagginses, and quite adored them. In fact, he once received a small book from the infamous Bilbo Baggins that indexed the fish in the nearby streams. It was always a favorite book of his, until the day he accidentally dropped it in the Brandywine!
Now that Strider knew a bit more about the intentions of the Nazgul, and when he should be expecting the fellowship of hobbits to reach Bree, he asked Gibbi's group to head into the Old Forest to meet a peculiar man by the name of Tom Bombadil.
Peculiar wasn't even the word for it, really. This bearded fellow agreed to board the weary fellowship for the night, but his tales of wights and evil undead almost made Gibbi lose his appetite. Almost. But the next day, Tom directed the group to an evil underground crypt known as the Great Barrows to get to the bottom of the Dourhands' involvement with the Nazgul. Or at least they think that's what he wanted them to do. They couldn't quite tell.
Their victory in the Great Barrows was not without consequence, although they were all able to make it out alive. When hope seemed to be lost, and the Wight-lord seemed unable to die, Tom showed up to finish it off in a flash of lightning. Where he gained such power, the adventurers could only speculate, but for now, they're glad that he was able to save them. They also learned a valuable lesson about working more as a group and strategizing against stronger enemies.
Following another night's rest at Tom's wonderful home, the Massive Hobbits set off to find Strider once again. Of course Kabbage had other ideas.
"We're a stronger kinship now. Surely we can handle what lies south, deeper into the Barrow-downs!"
He was right, the group agreed, so it was southward they went. Never before had they seen so many undead walking aimlessly through foggy fields of gravestones and ruins. Strangely enough, not all of them had evil intentions. A kind shade approached the cautious group asking for some help finding his brother.
"Seek you he,
beyond the border
south towards stone
the land of Cardolan
his Bones there still roam."
"Can we head back to Bree yet?" Andyna asked. "I'd sure hate to be caught out here when the sun sets."
The group agreed that Andyna was right, and the trek back to Strider began. Despite the fact that Tom Bombadil's house was ever-so comfortable and his cooking was quite grand, they yearned for what they've grown to love in the Prancing Pony. They couldn't wait to get back to the security -- and lack of undead -- of the wonderful town of Bree.
The new kinship certainly had its share of fun this week as we made it through Book 1 (and we even started using in-game voice chat!). Book 2 will be another story as it begins at Ost Guruth: an area of the Lone-Lands we're not even close to yet. For this reason, we anticipate much more questing this week as we make our way through our early 20s and outwards from Bree-land.
One thing I took particular notice of during my adventuring with Gibbi this week is the changes to the Barrow-downs and Bree-land quests. A few months ago, this entire area was changed to make leveling easier for characters. This streamlining process was made to get newer players into the higher-level content more quickly (even if they won't admit that's the reason). Being an old hat at this game, I appreciate the ease of play now, but do miss the challenge that once existed. NPCs have been moved to 'easier' locations and the difficulty level has been significantly toned down.
One such example of this is the Bone Man quest. Before, I remember taking a few stabs at this with a group of 3 of 4 others before actually getting it finished. With our current band of adventures (3-4 levels below the quest's suggested level), we literally defeated Mr. Bones in about 3 seconds. Anti-climactic? You could say that. But not fun? Nah. We still enjoyed ourselves. We just were a bit unsure of what just happened when we expected so much more from a fellowship quest.
So that's why I named this week's article "Et Tu, Bone Man?" Paying homage to Shakespeare's interpretation of Julias Caesar's death and betrayal from Brutus, we couldn't help but ask, "And you, Bone Man? You are in on these streamlined questing shennanigans, too?"
In all, we had an absolute blast though. I'm very thankful for this group of readers who join me each week in this project, and am especially happy to see the numbers continue to steadily grow. The kinship currently consists of:
If you'd like to join our ranks, simply send an in-game tell to Gibbi on the Brandywine server, and I'll send the invite. These are the tentative organized play times for this week:
- Thursday at 3pm EDT
- Sunday at 9pm EDT
- Monday at 9pm EDT
Now for the poll this week. As Book 2 is still beyond our grasp, we have a few other options to keep us busy and help us level.%Poll-33735%
These options are explained as follows:
- Venture to Trestlebridge. This would have us heading towards the North-downs to do the quests there.
- Venture to the Forsaken Inn. This would have us heading towards the Lone-lands to do the quests there.
- Try that run to Rivendell. We're a few levels higher now, and while we're still way beyond the levels needed to successfully fight our way to Rivendell, it might be fun to see if we can just run it.
- The Great Barrows. We've ventured in there once already for Book 1.11, but now we'd be doing it as an instance. Most of us are around level 20-22, so this would be a bit of a challenge, but not one we're unwilling to face!
Thanks again to the members of the Massive Hobbits and you, the readers. Special thanks goes out to Jaxom92 (Kabbage) for the amazing video he shot (shown below) of our Book 1.11 run. Feel free to shout at us in-game at any time to show your support. We always appreciate it!