The Road to Mordor: The ins and outs of LotRO's mithril coins

Even though mithril coins have been in the game for the better part of a year now, we haven't really had a discussion about them in this space. I think it's time to do that, especially considering how Turbine keeps expanding the reach and utility of this handy-dandy (and expensive-wensive) currency in Lord of the Rings Online.

Mithril coins were added in March 2013's Update 10, and their purchasing power expanded in subsequent updates. Basically, the mithril coin was a new type of currency that offered a quick and clean solution to buying goods and services in the game without the player's having to go through the LotRO store. Think of them as video arcade tokens, obtained with real money and used on the entertainment that you desire. Turbine saw these coins as a way to streamline certain pay-for-service portions of the game that had their own separate currencies (such as revival tomes and stablemaster writs). One unified currency for a variety of uses.

I haven't seen a lot of chatter on these coins as of late, leading me to believe that their inclusion in the game is more or less accepted now. Some people find the coins irritating and an abuse of free-to-play moneygrabbing tactics. Others find them very useful and welcome in the game. I have a foot planted in both camps, and today we're going to look at the ins and outs of using mithril coins.

Where do I get mithril coins and what do they do?

As far as I know, there are five ways of obtaining mithril coins. The first was various item conversions into mithril coins when Update 10 hit. I myself netted around 200 coins when that happened, and I'm still using coins from this batch today. The second is to win them from Hobbit presents (I've won 50 mithril coins twice so far), the third is to find some in a lockbox, the fourth is through a giveaway (such as a store promotional coupon), and the fifth is to simply buy them from the store.

Depending on the rate of exchange for both Turbine Points and mithril coins, the value of such coins may vary. A good rule of thumb is to think of a mithril coin as costing somewhere around $0.10. Again, the actual rate may vary, but it's not going to be terribly far off of that. So mithril coins aren't exactly super-cheap, but they're priced at a rate that a person can purchase several of them for a buck. And since Turbine Points can be obtained through gameplay and with the monthly stipend that subscribers and lifetimers get, mithril coins don't necessarily require a cash purchase.

So now that you and I have a pocket full of practically indestructible coins, there are plenty of things to spend them on, including:
  • Cosmetic items and sets from the manniquins and Lalia's Market
  • Instant travel to a quest NPC
  • Swift travel (as an alternative to paying in-game currency)
  • Repairing gear (also as an alternative to paying in-game currency)
  • Reviving from defeat (following the free revive you get every hour or two)
  • Increasing the size of your housing storage
  • Resetting the daily limit on tasks and daily quests
  • Increasing task limits
  • Various festival events
  • Accellerating deed and reputation gains
  • Opening additional Hobbit presents
  • Pay for housing upkeep (also as an alternative to paying in-game currency)
  • Purchasing stat tomes
  • Purchasing the riding skill
  • Purchasing certain mounts
  • Purchasing milestone cooldown reductions and additional milestone skills
  • Purchasing landscape soldier tokens
  • Some class options (Hunter travel skills, Lore-master pet cosmetics)
  • Some skirmish options (such as resetting soldier points)

The illusion of free spending

Here's where I straddle the line between being fine with mithril coins in the game and finding them, well, uncouth. On one hand, they're really just giving us another avenue to buy the same things from the LotRO store for the same prices without being super-intrusive about it. Using the "mithril coin" image instead of "$5.99 for a revive!" helps to preserve immersion and the store functionality that the game needs to financially survive.

Plus, I've found them incredibly useful, particularly in the instant-teleport arena. I don't use it often, but every once in a while I get to a place where it'll just be a pain to hike all of the way back to a questgiver and my milestone is on a cooldown. Then it's a nice way of saving me a few minutes.

But on the other hand, mithril coins are not there to be your friend; they're there to get you to pay. For all intents and purposes, when you spend a mithril coin, you are spending a small amount of Turbine Points without seeing the TP exchange. Yet because you're not spending a currency that your mind instantly associates with real money (as Turbine Points do), it's easier to accept the illusion that spending this coin doesn't matter. "That cosmetic outfit is just 50 mithril coins, yo," my mind says, when in actuality it's a five-dollar dress that I'm about to buy.

Be careful about spending them is all I'm trying to say. Once you start, it's very easy to get into a routine habit of blowing coins on stuff you don't need and then discovering that you've spent a lot of real money out of laziness.

A sale too far

I also feel that in some areas, the use of mithril coin pricing has gone too far. Housing storage is a little crazy, and there's no way you're going to catch me coughing up that much to give me a few more slots in my chest. As with some other options in the LotRO store that are there to catch folks who don't know any better, there are some mithril coin purchases that can and should be bought with in-game gold and silver that costs you nothing.

And what about this jump from one to five mithril coins for teleporting inside Helm's Deep content? Nobody likes that at all, yet Turbine's response to the obvious community disapproval was to throw a single player under the bus and absolve itself of all responsibility. "It wasn't our call, it was this guy! Blame him!" Stay classy, Turbine.

Mithril coins can be seen as a sneaky sale tactic, a legitimate effort to streamline payment, a convenience to those who wish to use it, or a combination of the above. Personally, I try hard not to use my coins unless lengthy travel time necessitates it, and I don't have the overall impression that these coin services are being shoved in my face. I mean, they are ubiquitous, but in a similar fashion as the rest of the UI.

I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on the pros and cons of mithril coins and how LotRO's handled them so far. Is Turbine striking a good balance here? Are these coins spreading too far? What, if anything, do you use these coins to buy?

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.