Massively hands-on LotRO Book 12 tour

Recently I was taken on a tour of the Lord of the Rings Online upcoming content patch, Book 12 "The Ashen Wastes." And I came back with exclusive screenshots, lewt info and more video than you can shake a Balrog at.

Joined by LotRO developer Aaron Campbell and Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel, I was first taken to the new public PvP dungeon, The Delving of Frór. This is a new design concept for LotRO. One side in the Player vs Monster Player war must take and defend three of the five control points in the Ettenmoors to be able to enter the new dungeon. Once inside, there is a wealth of content for PvE play: solo mobs, more than fifteen group mobs and five raid mobs.

But here's the hitch: if the other side gains control of the majority of the control points, their side can flood into the dungeon and attack you while you are hip deep in a raid encounter. At the same time, your side is shut out from helping if they aren't already in the dungeon. So not only do you have to coordinate your raid, you have to coordinate the defense of the zone at the same time. Gives a whole new twist to the raid strategy, eh?

Read on for seven videos and a full tour write up.

Book 12 Delving of Fror Fight

The benefit of holding control of the Delving and defeating the creatures within is the new barter items the denizens of Frór will be dropping. For Creeps (gamers playing as Monsters), these items can be turned in for new corruptions, items and racial skills being introduced in the patch. For Freeps (regular players participating in PvP) the items can be redeemed for new armor sets, weapon sets, jewelery sets and other items to aid them in their battle against the forces of Angmar. The new class armor sets have stats geared toward PvP play and are currently previewed on the test server, Roheryn, right now.

I have yet to try PvMP in LotRO, but after seeing the changes coming to the system in Book 12, I'm going to give it a spin. My main isn't high level enough to fight as a Freep, but going in as a Creep I can jump right into the fray. Creeps will even be getting new looks to their avatars as well.

The New Outfit System

Next, I was given a number of clothing sets to try out the new outfit system. This system was created to deal with the patchwork look many adventurers get from mixing and matching different armors for optimal stats. With the new outfit system, players will now have two extra tabs on their Character page which they can drop in armor or clothing that will show up as texture, but not grant any stats. This way, players can wear a set of armor for stats and two more for looks. It's only a matter of time before there's a Balrog raid done by men in dresses, mark my words.

I'm also excited about this new feature. I play my Lore-master like a Druid, so I already turn off the feet, hood and cloak graphics to get a nature man look. But I still have mix-matched armor showing. Now I can get the look I want regardless of the armor underneath. There's also new options to turn off hands and shoulder graphics.

Book 12 Outfits for Men

This new system won't work in PvMP zones since it's important for the Creeps to be able to see what the Freeps are really wearing. That way a plate wearing guardian can't disguise his armor with cloth items.

Book 12 Robes on Man

The other cool thing about the new outfit system is the customization options it gives players for combat and for roleplaying events. You can now place cosmetic quivers on your back if you are a Hunter (and even if you're not) or various styles of backpacks if you are on a long journey. There's many new outfits to wear including jaunty pirate wear if you are heading to the Party Tree for a festival.

The Outfit system won't work for anyone under level 20. This was done to avoid confusing newer players with too many options.

The new Barbershop system

Hand in hand with the new outfit system is the new Barbershop functionality. For a small fee, players of any level can change their hairstyle, hair color, facial hair choice or facial scars. Fifty new hairstyles have been added to the game including a secondary set of facial options. Though I was taken to Rivendell to try out the new avatar customizations, Barbers will be available throughout the lands of Eriador.

Book 12 Barbershop Hairstyles for Man

Book 12 Barbershop Facial Hair for Men

The new Epic quest line

Next, I was taken to Angmar for the continuation of the epic quest line. I was shown the battle necessary to complete Chapter 10 and obtain the gorgeous new cloak from Elrond himself. Amarthiel continues to cause problems for the Elves of Rivendell and you must thwart her once again.

Book 12 Chapter 10 Boss Fight

New Fellowship Maneuver instructions

During the clearing of the trash to this quest target (yes, you must clear trash on a dev tour, too!), I was shown another new bit of functionality to make it easier for groups to pull off Fellowship Maneuvers. The leader of your group can now set the button sequence he wants the group to follow. So the next time a Maneuver is triggered, the pre-set button order appears on screen and you are shown what has already been clicked. Theoretically you can click the next button in sequence, but another group member can do the same, so there is still room for error. But even if your group pulls off a different sequence than intended, you'll still get an effect. And with the new Burglar skills that are available when a successful FM goes off, really good things can happen.

New boss trophies

After claiming our shiny new cloaks, I was whisked away to an Elven housing neighborhood to get a look at the new boss trophies that can be mounted inside and outside player housing. Outside we saw two trophies that could be planted in front for all to see including the giant wyrm skeleton from Thorog, the first raid boss introduced in the game. The other was a giant sword from the second raid encounter introduced to LotRO, the Balrog.

Inside the guild house, I was shown some of the new functionality in housing decoration. You can now rotate items you have placed. This way you can go for the messy Hobbit look or arrange items at any angle that works with the rest of the items in the room. Also, you will be able to light or put out the fireplaces.

I also got a look at some more boss trophies. Many of them have small animations such as the twitchy Tentacle of Helchgam. We also saw flaming particle effects on a pair of swords on the wall.

Book 12 Rotating Decorations in Housing

Book 12 Tentacle Trophy Animation

Revamped Angmar

FInally, I was taken back to Angmar to get a look at the new polish the zone has received. Not only was the area tuned for smoother solo quest flow, but the boars were removed from the region. After all, should players be fighting simple animals in one of the most dangerous areas of solo play in the game? We met Crannog, the leader of the nomads who are struggling againt the Witch-king of Angmar. As you gain the trust of the people, more quest lines he opens for you.

That concluded my extensive tour of the content of Book 12. However, I also got a glimpse of a sweet reward from the upcoming Spring Festival which I'll reveal closer to the Festival date with, you guessed it, more video.
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