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The Road to Mordor: Six reasons why Minstrels rule


In the gaming world, you're either a bard person or you're not; there's no middle ground. For some, the concept of a character attacking with music and "inspiring" fellow adventurers with top 40 tunes is incredibly weird, even though armies used to employ musicians all the time for tempo and morale. For others, using music to help and hurt is a refreshing change of pace from fireballs and 70-pound impractical swords.

Over the five-plus year adventure that I've had in Lord of the Rings Online, I've rolled many-a Minstrel, although I've yet to make one my main. I've always loved the concept of the class, especially within Tolkien's IP, where music fills an important niche in the books. Music has power in Middle-earth, and the Minstrel is the one with the skills to defeat Sauron with mad lute skills.

As a tribute to this awesome class, here are six reasons why Minstrels rule -- and why you should try one out if you haven't already.

The Road to Mordor Six reasons why Minstrels rule
#1: Minstrels are a traveling Red Cross aid station

Everyone loves healers. Everyone. Even those who don't, do. And Minstrels are the original LotRO healer. Oh, sure, those vain Rune-keepers and multi-tasking Captains think they can horn in on the action, but Minstrels remain a popular choice for group runs. Their heals have heals.

And you know what's even better? As a Minstrel, you're almost invincible since you can heal yourself with some on-the-go surgery (I'm assuming lute strings make good stitching thread). It's one reason why it's an absolutely terrific soloing class.

Maybe healing isn't as "special" in this day and age as it once was, but it's foolish to discount just how useful it is to be a class that can pump up the green bar even as it pumps out the DPS.

#2: Paralyzing screams

We all know that screaming and LotRO have this weird symbiotic relationship. Personally, I like to imagine that Middle-earth is full of folks who randomly shriek at top volume because of post-traumatic stress disorder and night terrors. The cool thing is that these screams have purpose beyond keeping pesky neighbors away.

While Minstrels have a lot of great skills, Piercing Cry is by far my favorite. Traited up and used in War-speech, it's an instant attack with a good critical chance that also causes a stun. And there's just something satisfying about doing all that merely by yelling at mobs as if you were scolding a dog.

"NO! BAD MOBBIE!" (Mob dies of fright.)

#3: The variety of instruments

Seriously, any game will let you pick up a sword, or axe, or staff and let you go at it. How many say, "Here's a Theorbo, now go raid"? Minstrels not only get to handle normal weapons but have their pick of an orchestra for a second set of offensive tools.

LotRO lets me go out adventuring with drums, cowbells, and bagpipes. Let me say that again: You can attack your enemies with bagpipes. This tickles me so much that I just have to thank the amazing confluence of IP and developer brainstorming that led to my charging at wargs with Scottish dirges.

While there are bonuses depending on the instrument used, it's nice that the game allows you to have a say in this and to exercise a little personal preference instead of making you a one-note band.

The Road to Mordor Six reasons why Minstrels rule
#4: They can transform to fill three important roles

The new and improved Minstrels that we see today are virtual transformers. Turbine's retooled the class so that players can shift in and out of different modes (null, Harmony, and War-speech) based on the situation and needed skills.

Thanks to the modes, trait lines, and overall toolkit, Minstrels are capable of handling three important roles in the game. Healing is the most obvious and perhaps the most requested in a group. War-speech not only makes for glowy hands but turns the Minstrel into a death-dealing package that should not be taken for granted. However, the most overlooked role of Minstrels is as a buffer.

We usually think of classes like the Captain as being "the" buffing class, but Minstrels can contribute wonderful buffs to fellowships thanks to anthems. Trait and slot right, and a good minnie can juggle several group-buffing anthems at the same time.

#5: They still get a sword-and-board

Maybe this isn't a huge selling point for some, but I've always liked the fact that Minstrels are allowed to handle swords, clubs, daggers, and maces along with a shield. Sometimes it's about looks. It's about doing a variety of activities and not being only bound to a flute for damage. And I love that my character can look pretty tough with a sword and board.

#6: They can teach music to other characters in the game

LotRO's music system gets a lot of praise, and all of it is deserved. It only makes sense that the musical class would have a special relationship with this non-combat system, which is why Minstrels have a couple of advantages in this regard.

First of all, Minstrels can handle any instrument in the game, no problem. If you're looking to join an in-game band and don't want to deal with the hassle of figuring out how to train a specific instrument, just play a Minnie.

Even cooler is the ability to be a mentor -- that is, to teach other characters how to play instruments. Minstrels can do this either in person or by scribing a book (with a long, long cooldown) to pass on their knowledge. Do this enough times, and the Minstrel will even earn a special title that's perfect for the class.

Six reasons -- but that's not all!

Every class has its own strengths and selling points, and these six are only the start of a long list of why Minstrels rule. For the minnies out there, pipe up and tell us why you think this class is the bee's knees!

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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