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The Road to Mordor: Walking the virtuous path


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

LotRO's character building system is at once both flexible and a little intimidating to the new player. It combines several systems from other games -- including an achievement system (the Deed Log), collectible traits, skills that improve on use, easy reslotting – into a funky new beast. Frankly, I love being able to constantly tweak my build without having to scrap the whole thing and start all over with a maximum of fuss and funds.

However, what always confused me when I was new to LotRO were the Virtue traits – honestly, I had no idea what they were or that they were even there until my third month of playing. The game doesn't give you a huge tutorial on Virtues, and when you do give them a solid glance, they're somewhat underwhelming: seemingly minor stat boosts in a variety of packages. So why bother getting them? Are they too much trouble for what they're worth? What's the best way to accumulating Virtues if not?

That's what we're here to help you with. Speak, friend, and enter.

The Whats and Whys of Virtues

I'll admit, Virtues could be clearer to understand. For starters, there are 20 of them, and each is given a flowery but descriptively useless name, such as "Honesty" or "Determination." Thematically, that's smashing, but it doesn't help me as a player. Do I want my character to be more honest? More loyal? Why is there what appears to be a calculus problem in the tooltip?

The most important thing to understand about Virtues is that each of them boosts three of your stats. A Virtue is comprised of a primary stat (the greatest one), a secondary stat (middling) and a tertiary stat (the smallest one). If you like spreadsheets, Lotro-Wiki has a nice chart outlining the stats associated with each Virtue. If nothing else, know that the more ranks of an equipped Virtue that you have – up to rank 10 – the more that Virtue boosts your stats.

A Virtue is acquired by completing a certain deed in a zone, usually either a kill deed, an exploration deed, or a "finish X quests in the zone" deed. The higher up in zones you go, the harder a Virtue is to get.

It seems like common sense that you would want a fully-decked out array of Virtues on your character, to get those nice stat boosts, but there is a contingent of players who argue against it. The debate goes like this: Virtues, they say, are only really needed by end game raiders, and are too grindy and unnecessary for the rest of the playerbase to pursue.

Hogwash, I tells ya. Hogwash! I won't deny that acquiring Virtues comes with a lot of grind and annoyance, but they're certainly worth it whether you're a casual player or a hardcore raider. How come? Because five rank 10 Virtues (the max you can equip) essentially equals a second set of armor for your character, in terms of stats. Sure, you could play through the whole game without getting a single Virtue -- just like you could play through the game without wearing any gear -- but you'd be intentionally gimping your character.

Case in point: my burglar is pursuing Valour, Justice, Innocence, Loyalty and Determination Virtues. They might not be what every burglar chooses, but those are my picks. Now using the awesome BergZerg Virtue calculator, once I get rank 10 in all of these, my stats will be boosted as such:

  • +8 Might
  • +30 Agility
  • +30 Vitality
  • +150 Armor
  • +105 In-Combat Morale Regen
  • +676.9 non-Combat Morale Regen
  • +487 Max Morale
  • -5% Incoming Melee Damage
  • +1014 Poison Resist Rating
  • +230 Shadow Defence
  • +62 Max Power

Explain to me again why I wouldn't want all of these stat boosts on my character? Yeah, I thought so. Like it or not, Virtues give you a serious edge, and you'd be a fool to ignore them.

Virtues: Don't Gotta Collect 'Em All!

The good news is that you don't have to collect all 20 Virtues, unless you're far more masochistic than I. A good five Virtues will do you just fine, as long as you do your homework ahead of time.

In fact, before I start a new character in LotRO, I always make it a point of figuring out what five Virtues I'm going to chase. Now, there are many different Virtue builds for each class, so I'm not here to tell you which one is better than the other, but if you hunt around on the class forums enough, you'll start to see the same ones pop up over and over again for a class. BergZerg also did a brief survey for each class, asking folks which Virtues are most important, and that's something to take into consideration as well.

The next step to your pre-character homework is to make a simple checklist of the Virtues you're going for in each zone, along with what you have to do to get them. Again, Lotro-Wiki's Virtue page is great for this – just scroll down and cut 'n paste the "By Regions and Level" sections into a document.

Finally, you can do a bit of selective editing to make your Virtue hunt a lot less painful. Seeing as how there are just 10 ranks of any one Virtue that you can acquire, but often more available ways to get ranks than just 10, you can afford to ignore some of the more difficult Virtues and still get your full 10. I recommend doing all of the ones in the earlier zones (they're by far easier to get) and all of the Moria Virtues (since they're packed in together). Some of the Virtues require you to grind signature mobs (which is tough without friends), so pay attention what they're asking you to do.

Once you're done with all of this and in the game, make a point to get your Virtues done in each zone before you progress to the next area. Sure, it might feel like a big speed bump to fun, and you'll be tempted just to skip ahead and come back when you're a higher level and can do the Virtues fast. However, you'll be missing out on the sweet, sweet XP that comes with Virtue grinding, which accounts for more levels than you'd imagine.

Because Virtue grinding (particularly on the "kill 300 foozles" deeds) can cause your brain to atrophy, always put a message in regional chat inviting other players to grind with you. Not only do you get the Virtues way quicker, you also make friends and stave off boredom.

It's also a good idea to do Virtues only when you're about ready to leave the zone, and not at the beginning. Why? Two reasons: one, you're going to be a higher level than you started, which means you can do the Virtues faster, and two, you'll have started on many of the Virtues already by just doing the quests that the zone gives you.

One final note on Virtue attainment: if you are truly hardcore, you can achieve an 11th rank in certain virtues by achieving a faction-awarded racial trait, which adds one rank to three given virtues if you slot it in one of your racial trait slots.

Tavern Talk

Tavern Talk is the part of the column when we kick back with a pint of ale and highlight what's going on in the LotRO community this week:

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