About 99% of the time I'm in Lord of the Rings Online I never think about the LotRO Store. Ever since the store came online last year, it's been adventure as usual in the Olivetti household. Sure, I mock the "You got 5 Turbine Points! Now you can retire in the Caymans!" popups like everyone else, but I've always felt that Turbine does a good job balancing the store presence between the polar extremes of obnoxious and invisible.

That isn't to say I haven't used the store at all; on the contrary, I've been a sporadic if loyal customer of sorts, trundling my shopping cart through the aisles of Shire-Mart looking for a good deal. Thus far I haven't dropped any additional cash into the game, choosing to subsist on my monthly allotment of TP with whatever I earn through deeds. Every once in a while I'll boot up the store and see what niceties I can give to my character as a reward for slaughtering his 5,000th Neeker-beeker.

The LotRO Store has two categories of customers: the free-to-players and the upper class. Does that sound snooty? It's not intentional -- all I mean is that some folks use the store to provide basic necessities for gameplay (like quest packs, riding skills, class unlocks) while others are already well-off in the game and shop for luxury items. I'm in awe of the F2P gamers who can get a good chunk of their content by methodically knocking deeds out so they can purchase the next zone, but I'm fortunate enough not to have to do that.

So today I wanted to give myself an audit of what I've spent in the store so far and analyze whether they were wise purchases, wasteful frivolities, or overpriced insanity.

Storage and wardrobe slots

In my opinion, one can never have too much storage, especially in a game like LotRO where one's bags have a fixed number of slots and can be filled to the brim with five or so monster kills. Or so it seems.

So I'm all over any way to expand my storage in the game. I ponied up for 10 spots of shared storage as a way to quickly transfer items between characters without having to use the atrociously limited mail system, but I don't switch between alts enough to justify going to 20. I have shelled out quite a lot to max out both my vault and my wardrobe storage, because those are always at max capacity. What can I say? I'm a packrat.

What does rankle is that vault storage is character-based, whereas wardrobe and shared storage are account-wide. Account-wide purchases always trump individual character options, because you know you'll never have to buy that again. You can go seriously broke fully upgrading your vault alone, and on multiple characters? You'd have to mortgage your house.

Cosmetics

Now anybody who knows me knows that I'm all over cosmetic items like a journalist with punny headlines. So much so, in fact, that I'd easily say that how my character looks is far more important to me than his or her stats. The wardrobe system is a ton of fun for me, so of course I opted for the two additional account-wide outfit slots as soon as they became available.

And while I haven't bought all of the cosmetic items and outfits, I've gathered up quite a few of them. What I like about the store cosmetics is that many of the pieces are designed to go well with just about everything. The Campaign Backpack looks like something any adventurer would take with him on a journey; the Lawgiver's Robe is perfect for dyeing; and no internet geek's collection would be complete without the Cloak of the Mountain Wolves.

Really, if there's any area of the store I'd urge Turbine to keep expanding, it's this one. Cosmetics are neutral territory in the great store debate; they offer no stats, they aren't necessary in the least, and they are the very definition of luxury purchases. They're just fun, and I'd rather want to buy something fun than feel as though I have to buy something necessary.

Class items

The only class items I've purchased are for my Lore-master, a class that I feel gets the short end of the stick in the store. Yes, it's great that you can get all of your vanity pets and exclusive store skins of your combat pets in one place, but it seems a little unfair that LMs are mined heavily for these when the other classes aren't. Oh well, my snowy Bog-guardian will help take the edge off my discontent in this area.

Virtues, tomes, and kill accelerators

Here's where my ire against the store model is raised, mostly because I still have a beef with LotRO's virtue system as a whole. It's a good idea, but it's flawed in execution because there's so much imbalance between how various virtues are attained. Some can be snagged if you simply walk around to two or three places, while others require hours and hours and hours of grinding on mobs. The virtues that are attained by kill deeds are stupidly tedious, and instead of fixing them, Turbine's used our dislike of them to pump more money into its coffers.

So, no, I'm not going to spend money bypassing the deeds by simply buying the virtues. For one thing, it's far too expensive; buying all 10 ranks of each of your six chosen virtues would cost something like 17,700 TP and your dignity. For another, buying the virtues makes me feel as though Turbine's won some sort of moral victory.

But even though I've disliked doing so, I have purchased a few kill accelerators (and to be fair, it is nice that Turbine gives you a couple of them free per character). For kill deeds, the accelerators are a much more economical option, especially if you get into a group and slaughter a zip code's worth of intelligent beings within 15 minutes or so.

As with buying virtues, I can't bring myself to plunk down TP on the stat tomes. Yes, they're probably important if you're a min/maxer who wants to be at the top of his game for raiding, but that doesn't fit me, and I can think of better things on which to spend my virtual money.

Travel and legendary items

I like to be able to enhance my character's options, especially in the area of travel. For just about everyone, I strongly recommend that you buy the riding skill as soon as you're done with the tutorial. Running everywhere sucks, and fast travel is essential as a result.

I'm not as avid a mount collector as others, so I haven't paid for any special mounts in the store (I think they're too pricey, and the 250-morale mounts can be picked up by reputation grinding if you're smart about it). However, I did get a second milestone binding on one of my characters so that I could have a permanent teleport to the Twenty-First Hall while still binding my way around the map as I quested.

Something else that I recently splurged on was a pair of legendary item slots. With the overhaul of the LI system, it really pays to be leveling up as many items to 30 as possible, so I figured I'd give it a try on one of my characters as I head into the endgame areas.

What I'll never buy

There are plenty of categories in the store that I avoid altogether. I'm firmly against most temporary buffs and unlocks, because once they're gone, you're left with nothing to show for it except a lighter wallet. I also won't pay for anything that I can get in the game, such as any consumables, festival items, recipes, and anything I could get through Destiny Points. It just seems like a waste.

So with my self-audit complete, I'd love to hear from you -- what have you bought from the store, if anything, over the past few months? Are you satisfied with your purchases or do you wish that you could have your money back?

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.