In my Lord of the Rings Online career, I've played two classes far more than any others: the Captain and the Lore-master. Both scratch that "pet class" itch that I have in MMOs, both are quite group-friendly, and both seem to be somewhat unorthodox picks (at least compared to the plague of Hunters and Champions infecting the game).
I'll leave a discussion about Captains for another time, but today I felt like talking about the strangeness that is the Lore-master. It's such a unique class in feel and execution, and it's captivated me such that I'm actually leveling up my second Lore-master because I was dissatisfied with the way I handled my first one.
Maybe you've never tried one. Maybe you picked one up and just couldn't get a feel for what it was supposed to do. I'll admit that the LM is an acquired taste, partially because its skillset is all over the map and it doesn't settle into an expected template. However, it may just be the coolest class in the game. Here are six reasons why.
1. A stable of diverse pets
The Lore-master is perhaps best known for its array of animal pets that can be called out to do their master's bidding in combat. Depending on the player's level and traits selected, this menagerie can include ravens, bears, bog-lurkers, sabercats, lynxes, eagles, and "spirits of nature." Personally, I'm partial to the bear; its ability to debuff mobs' armor and off-tank for periods of time is always useful.
Instead of being an all-around useful pet, each one of these creatures has a specialization and caters to a different type of playstyle. It's not uncommon for Lore-masters to be swapping pets in and out depending on the situation. Some pets are very group-friendly (the raven and spirit of nature), one provides death insurance (the eagle), and one is the butt of every Lore-master's joke (sabercat). If you love having a combat companion out and love even more an entire stable of them to choose from, this class has you covered.
2. Sword and staff
As the poor man's Gandalf, the Lore-master draws heavily upon Middle-earth's most famous wizard for its inspiration. This is why the LM is the only class in the game that can use a staff; in fact, at level 40, it can dual-wield a one-handed sword and the staff. It's a dual-wield combo that I have never seen anywhere else, and while it might sound silly, it's pretty awesome to see in action.
You are forgiven for assuming that the Lore-master is a typical mage class, all long-range damage and incredibly squishy up close. While it is squishier than some other classes, pumping out a decent amount of DPS requires the LM to whale away with her sword-and-staff. Frankly, it's one of the most satisfying parts of playing this class to see those damage numbers fly as I'm flailing about with 15 feet of weaponry.
3. Non-combat pets
I'm still puzzled over why Turbine hasn't made an effort to get universal vanity pets in the game, especially considering the studio's love for the cash shop. As it stands, if you want a cute little critter to follow you around, you have to be a Lore-master.
The Lore-master can acquire the ability to summon a variety of non-combat pets (such as turtles and squirrels) at level 29. Unfortunately, if you have one of these pets out, you can't have a combat pet at the same time. It keeps non-combat pets from being a part of adventures, but these are pretty cool when you are walking around town and want to show off.
4. Crowd control
"No you don't."
I'm often saying that to mobs as I hit one of the Lore-master's many, many crowd control skills. Locking down enemies with dazes and stuns is deeply satisfying, particularly when it results in their death and your coming out of the battle unscathed. Crowd control isn't just a luxury, either; in situations where you're battling groups, it's what will take a three-on-one fight and make the odds even.
5. Group utility
Lore-masters are fun to solo, but they're also very welcome in groups (even if many players have no idea what we can bring to the table). On top of their pets' useful buffs, Lore-masters can heal, severely debuff enemies, throw down CC, and serve as a "power battery" that drains enemies' power bar to refill an allies'. Plus, damage.
6. Awesome animations
Someone once gushed to me how much he liked the Lore-master's skill animations and felt that they were far and above what he'd seen in other classes. I think I might agree on this point. There are so many fun animations, including flipping through books, creating burning ember packets, calling the Ents, and summoning lightning. It makes for a fun class to watch as well as play.
The Lore-master is not perfect. Its blue line is all but useless (and this coming from a guy who played a blue-specced LM for a year), it can die quickly if you don't watch out, and its scattershot skill selection feels fragmented rather than cohesive. Still, it's a joy to play for the variety, pets, and unique aspect of it all.
For Lore-masters out there, sound off! What do you like about the class?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.