I wish to preface this week's column by saying that I'm not advocating just one way to play a game. I think it's equally valid to explore at your own pace, team up as a duo, maximize TP revenue, or set whatever goals you like and pursue them. But after leveling one character to the cap and playing several others, I've begun to develop a roadmap, if you will, that helps guide my progress somewhat efficiently. It's this roadmap that I want to share with you today.

The thing is, for all I love about Lord of the Rings Online, the game is definitely littered with timesinks of epic proportions. It already takes a long, long time to get your character up to 65 and through the two expansions, and that's only going to increase as the game grows. There are a lot of distractions and unnecessary grinds (such as virtues you will never use) that can bog you down too long and perhaps dishearten you.

So when I created a Minstrel in LotRO a little while back, I decided to map out his progress from level 1 through 65 by creating a broad framework -- an outline, really -- that serves to keep me on track so I don't have to backtrack as much later on to get these goals done. I have a very "two birds with one stone" mentality, so if I'm doing one task in a zone, I'd rather be accomplishing two or three at the same time. So for example, if I'm grinding out a deed, I'd rather do it at level at which I'm getting XP than 20 levels later when I'm not (although the latter has its merits for rapid deed completion).

Hit the jump and I'll give you the rundown of how to eliminate some of the confusion and speed bumps of leveling.

Step one: The epic storyline


If you're skipping the epic storyline (for instance, if you've done it a billion times before and hate Sara Oakheart with an undying passion), then go on to step two. Otherwise, begin your character's roadmap by listing all of the books in Volume I according to level and zone, starting with the prologue. The epic storyline, while lengthy, is generally worth your time for both XP and rewards as you get a lot of great gear from it. Plus, the quests are generally more interesting than what you'd pick up from Elf-Head over at the camp.

No matter what, make sure you add Volume II, Book 1 to your outline at level 45, as this opens up legendary items for you and gives you your first pair. Good stuff!

(Note that for the sake of this guide, I'm only going to map out the epic storyline through Volume II, Book 1, as it is pretty straightforward from there on out.)

Step two: Virtues

Love them or hate them, virtues are a fact of your character's life, and it behooves you to master them as quickly as possible. Figure out which six virtues are best suited for your class and aim for those -- the forums and BergZerg's class pages are invaluable for this homework exercise. For my Minnie, I'm going with Loyalty, Idealism, Wisdom, Empathy, Valour and Honesty.

Then it's just a matter of figuring out which are the 10 easiest deeds to do for these virtues (although some deeds grant +2 to the virtue instead of +1), see what level and zone they're at, and add that to the outline. Note that some virtue deeds are pretty tough to do at level -- they may require taking on signature or elite mobs, or they may take place in dungeons. If you're mostly soloing, you might want to avoid these.

Remember, you'll need 60 virtue points total. This may seem like a huge mountain, but you'll get there a step at a time.

Step three: Riding in style

Back in the day, you had to wait all the way for level 35 to roll around to get your mount, but no more! Now you can get a sweet ride much earlier -- or much, much earlier if you're willing to pay. You can snag the riding skill for Turbine Points as soon as you're done with the intro, or get the starter pony (which doesn't require a riding skill) and wait for level 20 to earn the skill without using TP. Either way, make sure you add your mount ambitions to your outline, as travel is a key component of your adventures. Mmorsel has a great guide on mounts if you have more questions.

Step four: Other deeds (optional)

Suffice it to say, you should always be working on class and racial deeds whenever you have the opportunity. Class deeds give you great traits that enhance your skills, and racial deeds give you a few skills that can be fun or highly useful (including a free map to your home city). I put this under "optional" because you don't really need to include it in your outline -- just as you can when festivals and whatever other goals strike your fancy, you can diverge from the main path to do optional deeds when the whim strikes.

Step five: Legendary traits

Unlike class deeds, legendary traits are something you'll definitely want on this list so that you don't forget to work on them when the time rolls around. The time in question is level 39, when you can purchase three uncompleted books from your class trainer. Each of these books needs to be filled with the missing pages, which can be farmed from various mobs in level 40-50 zones. Because the drop rate on these pages is so low, you'll want to get the books ASAP so that you maximize the time spent gathering pages while you're questing in level-appropriate areas.

At level 45, a series of class quests will open for you, quests that will eventually lead to a fourth legendary trait, so make sure to include that on the roadmap as well. The final three legendary traits are granted via a Moria quest chain, getting kindred with the Iron Garrison Guards, and by completing Volume II, Book 6.

Step six: Skirmish boost (optional)

Although this roadmap isn't meant to be a speed-leveling guide in any way, I do want to mention one cool trick. At level 20 when your first skirmishes open up, it may behoove you to drop everything and run a few in a row. The reason is that a handful of skirmishes at 20 will pretty much give you a quick level, and I usually spend levels 20-22 doing a series of skirmishes for that boost alone.

My Minstrel's roadmap

After completing the above six steps, my Minstrel's roadmap looks like this:

  1. The Shire – Epic Prologue (level 1)
  2. Buy riding skill and first mount
  3. The Shire – 40 quests (Empathy +1), Goblin-slayer (Valour +1)
  4. Ered Luin – Explore Elf ruins (Wisdom +1)
  5. Bree-land – Vol I, Book 1 (level 10)
  6. Bree-land – 45 quests (Loyalty +2, Empathy +1), History of the Dunedain (+1 Idealism), Flowers of the Old Forest (+1 Idealism), The Old Forest (Wisdom +1), Lore of the Cardolan Prince (Wisdom +1), Orc-slayer (Valour +1)
  7. Skirmish break! Do skirmish quests, get a couple quick levels
  8. Lone-lands – Vol I, Book 2 (level 22)
  9. Lone-lands – 45 quests (Idealism +2), Explore Weathertop (Wisdom +1), Goblin-slayer (Valour +1), Orc-slayer (Valour +1), Craban-slayer (Honesty +1), Troll-slayer (Honesty +1)
  10. North Downs – Vol I, Book 3 (level 34)
  11. North Downs – 45 quests (Loyalty +2, Empathy +1), Explore Western Ruins (Wisdom +1)
  12. Trollshaws – Vol I, Book 4 (level 37)
  13. Trollshaws – 30 quests (Loyalty +1, Idealism +2), Worm-slayer (Valour +1), Explore Tal Buinen (Honesty +1)
  14. Purchase legendary trait books from trainer
  15. Misty Mountains – Vol I, Book 5 (level 43)
  16. Misty Mountains – Explore High Passes (Wisdom +1), 20 quests (Empathy +1), Explore Forbidding Heights (Honesty +1), Explore Goblin-town (Honesty +1)
  17. Angmar – Vol I, Book 6 (level 44)
  18. Angmar – 30 quests (Loyalty +1, Idealism +1, Empathy +2), Amgmarim-slayer (Wisdom +1), Worm-slayer (Valour +1)
  19. Class quests for legendary trait
  20. Eregion – Vol II, Book 1 (level 45 – for legendary items)
  21. Eregion – 10 quests (Honesty +1), Explore the Fellowship's path south (Honesty +1)
  22. Angmar – Vol I, Book 7 (level 46)
  23. Angmar – Vol I, Book 8 (level 49)
  24. Angmar – Vol I, Book 9 (level 50)
  25. Evendim – Vol I, Book 10 (level 50)
  26. Trollshaws – Vol I, Book 11 (level 50)
  27. Evendim – Vol I, Book 12 (level 50)
  28. Forochel – Vol I, Book 13 (level 50)
  29. Forochel – Guaradan-slayer (Idealism +1), Explore battlegrounds (Wisdom +1), 20 quests (Empathy +1)
  30. Eregion – Explore ruins (Wisdom +1), 60 quests (Empathy +1)
  31. Trollshaws – Vol I, Book 14 (level 50)
  32. Trollshaws – Vol I, Book 15 (level 51)
  33. Moria – Explore Nud-melek (Loyalty +2), Explore western Durin's Way (Idealism +1), 60 Central Halls quests (Idealism +1, Empathy +1), Explore Redhorn Lodes (Wisdom +1), 40 Deeps quests (Empathy +1), Spider-slayer (Valour +1), Worm-slayer (Valour +2), Explore Great Delving (Honesty +1), Explore Zelem-melek (Honesty +1)
  34. Moria – Final three legendary traits
  35. Lothlorien – Explore Caras Galadhon (Valour +1)
  36. Mirkwood – 30 quests (Loyalty +1, Honesty +1)
Generally, I try to do all of this in sequence, although some of the tougher deeds may need to be put on the backburner until I get a few levels up on the zone and can come back without worrying about insta-death.

Again, I want to stress that this isn't the only way or fastest way to level, just (hopefully) one of the more efficient paths. I diverge from this roadmap all the time and don't feel enslaved to it, but if you feel that it's too restricting, by all means ignore this method. Happy leveling!

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 justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

This article was originally published on Massively.
Wasteland Diaries: Serendipity tour