Every Friday, the Road to Mordor brings you the latest in Lord of the Rings Online news, guides and analysis.

Turbine's Lord of the Ring's Online has just announced the Volume III, Book 1: Oath of the Rangers free content expansion and the patch is already up on their test server, Bullroarer. And with a test patch, comes patch notes. I have to give the normal disclaimers about test notes changing before going live, but given that, let's dig in.

Two highlights are listed in the notes right off the bat with little explanation other than a promise of a dev diary to come at a future date. Those two new changes are:
  • Duo mode now available in Skirmishes
  • Extensive changes to the original Shadows of Angmar Volume I epic quest line
Players have been gimping the Small Fellowship (3-man) system by significantly dropping the level of the mobs when creating their Skirmish. That costs them Skirmish marks. Hopefully the new system will fix that.

The changes to the original epic quest line are probably to make it more solo friendly. It's very hard to complete it now that most players have leveled past it. If you are new to the game, you are probably begging higher level guild members to help you or skipping it altogether. Skipping it, though, is cheating yourself out of some of the best lore-based content in the game. I hope Turbine is changing it to make it more accessible for newer players who don't have access to groups at their level.

New level 64 player skills, Skirmish changes and new crafting after the jump!
There is a third major change which will get a dev diary soon. Every class is getting a new level 64 ability. I don't know if this is in response to the disappointment players expressed over their new 60+ abilities that came with the Mirkwood expansion and its level cap raise. But we'll check in on the player response to these new skills as the month progresses.

In addition to small class fixes and some major PvP changes (diminishing returns on conjunction stuns and revamped racial traits for Creeps), there are some pretty big changes to Skirmishes.


Skirmish changes

Skirmish Mark rewards have been increased for all but solo runs, possibly to entice players into grouping more. Raid Skirmishes get the biggest boost with a 50% increase in Marks rewarded, and Tier 2 and 3 Skirmishes not only reward more Marks, but more Special Marks as well.

For those of you saving up Skirmish Marks to buy equipment off the Skirmish vendors, you may want to hold off until the patch hits the live servers. The cost for Skirmish Mark bought equipment is dropping for Light, Medium and Heavy Armour as well as Weapons, Jewelery and Cloaks.

A few Skirmishes will have the boss loot no longer drop off the boss, but instead in a spawn chest. Lieutenants across the board will drop more Bounty items (which now sell for more) and bosses will drop less gold. This will average out to the same amount of money gained per instance, but will make the acquisition of coin from Skirmishes less dependent on killing the final boss.

Fourth Marks and Veteran's Fourth Marks gained from doing level 60 through 70 Skirmishes on higher difficulty settings are being eliminated. Any items that can be purchased with them will be bought by Third Marks instead. There will be a new vendor in the skirmish camps strictly for Mark upgrading and downgrading redemption. This used to be done by the Curiosities vendor.

There are a large number of minor fixes to Soldiers and individual Skirmishes, but the only other stand out is that slows will no longer work on bosses in 6-man and 12-man Skirmishes. You've been warned.


Crafting changes

Farmers are getting new recipes for Tomatoes, Shire Apples, Golden Shire Taters, and Green Peas. These will be autogranted to Farmers of the appropriate tier.

The Cook profession is getting a bigger revamp which affects everyone who uses food (which is all of us.) First, it looks like Turbine recognized that players weren't buying cooked food that only increased morale or power over time, but only food that increased both. So now all cooked food will increase both, but in different ways. From high regeneration in-combat and low out-of-combat to medium for both to low in-combat and high out-of-combat. Also, all cooked food will have its duration extended. All 30s duration food will now last 5 minute and 5 minute duration food will last 10 minutes.

In addition to the cooked food changes, trail food is getting new recipes that grant Fate and Will boosts. And trail food using fish as a component will not only boost Will, but Vitality as well. But this only affects trail food made after the patch goes live.

Jewelers are getting better stats on their recipes, Weaponsmiths are getting new Superior Hunter traps and Burglar tricks while Woodworkers are getting new Superior Champion horn recipes and the previously drop-only horn recipes will be available on vendors now.

As players delve into the test server, we'll report more in-depth on many of these changes. Expect the patch to hit the live servers before mid-March when the Spring Festival goes live.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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