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The Road to Mordor: Putting the "lass" back in "class"


With the not-so-recent NDA lift on the beta, LotRO players are fast at work discussing, analyzing, dissecting and pouring over all of the information coming from testers. Like a double Shire rainbow, the main question on everyone's lips is, "What does it mean?" We want to know how this is going to impact us, our future, and our gameplay, and the massive scope of this change is both unsettling and heady.

Last week we sifted through the LotRO forums for testimonies about several aspects of the beta, which was treated with a stony silence from the lot of you. Oh, I kid! Nothing gets the tongues wagging around here like a good mouthful of free-to-play, although I've been informed by the leaders of the Global Conspiracy Against Gamers Having Fun that this topic has three days left on the clock until it's locked away in a vault forever.

So even though I tried to touch on the relevant points of the beta last week, there's simply so much of it out there that I had to leave some behind. It's easy to forget that this fall's update contains more than the LotRO store, like a whole barrel of additions and fixes to the game -- including class tweaks. Grab my hobbity hand, and we will venture into the land of the unknown... the land of class changes.


For better or worse, burglars aren't going to see a lot of changes with the update. Instead, they get a few quality-of-life improvements, such as fixing Disable, being able to turn on Mischief stance while mounted, and increasing the scope of Ready and Able's resets. For Gambler burglars, their Gambler's Strike capstone will guarantee a tier 4-6 damaging gamble instead of the iffy tier 1-6 gamble that it previously provided.


With the update, captains are on the receiving end of much-deserved love from the dev team (and I don't say that because my main is a captain... OK, maybe I do). The biggest news for the class is a reshuffling of two of the three trait lines. Lead the Charge is now a full-on DPS tree, which gets all of the herald improvements, the oathbreaker armaments, an extra 5% crit, and a drool-worthy 50% damage increase skill at the capstone. A couple of the previous Charge traits were given to Leader of Men instead, which becomes the tanking line. Groups will totally appreciate the new ability for Leader of Men captains to hand out fellowship-wide shield brother buffs (to a lesser degree than the actual shield brother).

Captains are going to have to choke down a pretty painful nerf to banners (they get a static rather than scalable bonus), which most agree is Turbine's way of making heralds viable once more. To counter the nerf, there will be new high-level armaments available. The class also gets a new level 1 attack skill to add more variety into the attack rotation and can both summon and apply shield brother while mounted.


Champions are generally concerned with one thing -- doing metric tons of damage -- and should then be pleased with the way their class is going this fall. They get a nifty new skill called Fear Nothing which simultaneously adds two fervor points while removing up to three fear effects every five minutes. Hedge can be traited to allow you to parry even in fervor mode for 15 seconds, and Rend now stacks with other champion rend effects.

If you're shopping for new legacies, champions have a handful to choose from, including one that improves the new Fear Nothing skill. All in all, it's going to be a good patch for champions, and there was much rejoicing (yay).


The stalwart tanks of LotRO are due for a decent round of fixes, with a couple new tools at their disposal. There's a spiffy Heart of Fire trait, which will add a hefty amount of crit defense across the board, and a new skill that will remove up to three wounds every five minutes (similar to the champions' fear removal). It's nice to see that guardians can use Protection and Shield Wall while riding a mount, and I imagine that teams of guardians are going to love the fact that Hemorrhage now stacks. And even a disarmed guardian will still be useful, as Litany of Defiance (AoE taunt) is usable without a weapon.


Turbine is betting that hunters everywhere will fall in love with a new attack called Blood Arrow. Blood Arrow costs three focus, 5% of morale and no power, and does OK damage with a sizable crit when it procs. Of course, healers might not like the fact that hunters can now bleed to death doing damage, but such is life.

Another cool tool at their disposal is Dazing Blow, a melee attack that dazes a target for five seconds while removing up to three corruptions on the target. Any skill that has multiple effects is a keeper in my book, and hunters should be pleased with this. The class forum is also dancing over the addition of an interrupt to Blindside. Really, there are few tears among hunters tonight.


As fairly squishy casters, particularly in the earlier levels, lore-masters should be happy to hear that their life expectancy will improve by at least two or three seconds longer. Turbine's reshuffled the order of skill attainment for the class, pushing butt-saving abilities such as Inner Flame and Sign of Battle: Wizardry a lot sooner. They're also getting their Test of Will stun at level 6. A few other appreciated tweaks include changing Gust of Wind to do frost damage, moving Harmony of Nature's trait effects to Burning Embers and Lightning Storm instead, and allowing the class to use Ancient Wisdom while mounted.

Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any pet improvements or fixes, and that includes the pesky "pet appearance necklace" issue that's bugged the lore-master community for years.


Minstrels have seen a similar reshuffling of skill acquisition like the lore-masters, although nothing too drastic. Other than a few tiny changes, the biggest news for the class is that the DPS-friendly War Speech mode is being shifted from level 20 down to level 10, making the class even more soloable at lower levels. Overall, it's a bit underwhelming for LotRO's dependable musicians, but it's a sign that Turbine thinks the class is more or less doing OK.


Rune-keepers should just move along -- there's really nothing to see here. Whether you consider the class to be overpowered, underpowered or Goldilocks' "just right," the fall update has pretty much zilch for these rock-lovers. If we're not counting a couple bug fixes, the only notable change is that the legendary trait You Shall Fall to our Wrath is getting an impressive 25% bump in damage.


One of the biggest complaints of this class -- how fast wardens blew through power -- is being addressed in the update. Warden carvings will now affect builder skills in addition to gambits, which should help keep that blue bar from bottoming out too quickly. One tester said that it's certainly enough to be noticeable, and hopefully this will be well-received by the warden community.


While we still are in beta and everything is subject to change™, most of the classes are due for nominal upgrades, with captains and hunters getting the bulk of the love this round. All classes may rejoice that new armor sets will be available from the scalable instances, so at least there's something for everyone in this patch.

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