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The Road to Mordor: A guide for returning players


Coming back to an MMO that you used to play is a whole different ball of wax than getting into it for the first time. While you have less to do and absorb than beginners, it can be just as overwhelming in its own way. What are all these skills again? Why do I owe some Hobbit mortgage company a zillion gold to unlock my house? Why is the screen throwing a fit with a non-stop parade of deed announcements?

Recently, I returned to another MMO after a half-year or so absence (it's RIFT, if you must know), and I was almost frozen with apprehension over all the changes. Because the world I used to know had changed in so many ways, I didn't know how much to rely on my memories and where to go to figure out what these changes were. Fortunately, an enterprising member of the dev team created a wonderfully handy post that quickly outlined all of the changes over the past year so that returners could get caught up quickly.

I like this idea so much that I decided to do the same for Lord of the Rings Online. Ever since free-to-play hit, it's become so much easier to drift in and out of this game, and as Turbine's been ramping up the changes, it's possible to feel the same apprehension upon reentry that I did with RIFT. Freak not, fair friend, for I am here to guide the way.

Update 1: LotRO goes free-to-play (November 2010)

  • Game transitions to a hybrid F2P/subscription model
  • Lone-lands made free
  • Barter wallet introduced
  • Reputation mounts beefed up
  • Elf and Dwarf starting areas improved
  • Vault and shared storage are reworked
  • Task system added
  • Rune-keepers and Lore-masters receive class passes
  • Ingredient packs added
  • Crafting window retooled, Farming made simpler
Winter-home released (December 2010)
  • Upgraded winter festival to include new Winter-home zone
  • Frostbluff Theatre features interactive drama
Turbine offers a paid undelete character service (February 2011)

Update 2: Echoes of the Dead (March 2011)
  • Radiance is removed from the game
  • Volume III: Book 3 of the epic story added
  • Instance cluster added: Northcotton Farm, The Town of Stoneheight, The Lost Temple, and Glacier Fortress
  • Ost Dunhoth raid added
  • Ettenmoors creep starting area revamped
  • Evendim is revamped to be a level 30-40 zone
  • Minstrel, Burglar, and Hunter receive significant changes
  • Character panel reworked
  • Legendary item system revamped to be more flexible and less random
  • Volume II of the epic story made soloable
  • Moria battle instances converted to skirmishes
  • Map home becomes a skill instead of an item
Update 3: Lost Legends of Eriador (May 2011)
  • Two scalable instances added: Halls of Night and Inn of the Forsaken
  • Two skirmishes added: Attack at Dawn and the Icy Crevasse
European players come under Turbine's domain (May 2011)

Update 4: Rise of Isengard (September 2011)
  • Added the regions of Dunland, Gap of Rohan, and Isengard
  • Level cap raised to 75
  • Volume III: Book 4 of the epic story added
  • Draigoch 12/24-man raid added
  • Skirmish traits raised to 35
  • Tier 7 crafting introduced
  • Monster play opens up to free players
  • All classes receive a pass
  • Stats consolodated and itemization tweaked (Finesse stat added)
  • Mounts summon faster
  • Virtues increased to rank 12
  • Fellowship maneuvers return to boss fights
Mount emotes added (October 2011)

Server transfer restrictions removed (November 2011)

Update 5: Armies of Isengard (December 2011)
  • Five Isengard instances added
  • Volume III: Book 5 of the epic story added
  • Instance finder implemented
  • Can now track nearby quests
  • Skirmish and instance currency unified
  • Reputation system improved
  • Lua manager added
  • Farmers can grow coffee
  • Barter wallet upgraded to hold all skirmish marks and tokens
  • Lockboxes added to the game
  • Turbine sells low-level statted gear in the LotRO store
Riders of Rohan announced (January 2012)
Sporadic Buried Treasure event released (February 2012)
  • Hunt for treasure in Ered Luin, prizes included cosmetics and mounts
Mithril Edition retail box released (February 2012)
  • Includes game discs, mount, zone packs (Trollshaws, Eregion, Mines of Moria, and Lothlórien), and 2,000 Turbine points
Update 6: Shores of the Great River (March 2012)
  • Great River region added (level 75)
  • Volume III: Book 6 of the epic story added
  • Enedwaith retooled to be a level 61-65 zone
  • Skirmish soldiers can be used in the open world (via tokens)
  • Instance finder adds more options
  • Virtues extended to rank 14
  • The premium barter wallet upgrade is made available for $10
  • Big updates to Warden, Rune-keeper, Warg, and Weaver classes
  • Universal currency in Ettenmoors (commendations)

LotRO 5th Anniversary (April 2012)
  • Overhauled anniversary festival (now with fireworks!)
  • Loyalty rewards added
Update 7: Shades of the Past (May 2012)
  • Moria revamp begins: Better lighting, travel, quest flow
  • Fornost revamp: Split into four scalable instances
  • New skirmish: Storm on Methedras (level 20-75)
  • Star-lit crystals added to legendary item system
  • New maps added
Forthcoming in 2012
  • Farmer's Faire
  • 6th inventory bag
  • Riders of Rohan pre-order and launch
That's it! Hopefully that will bring you up to speed if you've taken some time off between the launch of free-to-play and now.

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 or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

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