PB

PB

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Lore-mastery: Back on the (war) horse

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Well, first of all an apology for dropping off the scene completely like that. I decided to take a break from the game in August because I was a bit burned out in the pre-expansion lull, and wasn’t sure if it’d just be a short term or longer term thing. In between the expansion being delayed and a general lack of motivation with no new end game content, it turned into a longer break than I was expecting but eventually I ponied up and bought the expansion. This is just a short note to outline some of my initial impressions of the expansion and outline where I hope to take the column in the new year.

RoR – first impressions

After logging into the game for months and starting to explore the new landscape, I was once again struck by the thing I most like about the single player aspect of the game which is the beautiful landscape. The engine is very long in the tooth by now, but it still looks fantastic and they keep finding new ways to present the scenery so that it stays fresh. Admittedly, this is one of the few things I like about the single player aspect of the game, but at least it does seem that they’re trying to make you interract with the story a little bit more than you have in the past and the new method of bestowing and providing rewards for quests on the run is very, very much welcomed.

The big (only real?) change with the expansion, of course, is the war horse and I’m very much reserving judgment on this at the moment. I do appreciate the prospect of a whole new game system to learn, I’m just not yet at a point where I’ve explored it enough to pass judgment. My initial impression, as it is no doubt with many people, is that the controls are clunky and cumbersome to the point where I’m still using my old horse and fighting mobs on foot the majority of the time. But I’m sure that’s in part on purpose – it probably isn’t intended that your massive war horse for riding around town, and giving the horse poor fine motor control is a good way to achieve that. I’m sure the horse will find it’s place a bit more in the wide open plains of Rohan proper. one thing is for certain though and that is that I’m not at all looking forward to levelling up a whole new legendary item when it comes time for that… ugh :(.

I haven’t had much of a chance to play around with the lore-master’s new skills. I must say that I’m a little surprised that they made water lore the first of our new skills. It doesn’t seem particularly suited for soloing – why not give it closer to when we’ll be using it in end game content? Also from my limited testing it seems that pet damage STILL isn’t scaling with level, it looks to me like our pets (other than the bear) are still doing the same DPS as they were at level 65. Sigh.

Anyway, given that I’m so late to the party with the expansion, I don’t intend to cover a lot of the basic stuff that people have probably already figured out well before me, like basic combat techniques for the war horse, and RoR soloing strategies and the like. My plan is to get to max level and start working my way through the new end game content, when it’s eventually released, and work on guides through them. Until then, happy hunting and/or merry Christmas!

 

Lore-mastery: RoR Class changes – the good, the bland and the bad

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I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the lore-master dev diary so I can see what direction the class is going to be taking in RoR. All of the class changes announced to date have very much been in the vein of “incremental improvements”, with a slightly improved version of a skill here and a quality of life clean up there. Certainly nothing on the scale of the RoI Minstrel or Champion overhaul, in fact most classes haven’t even had their traits touched at all. There’s also been no new fundamental change to the trait system announced – no 6th class trait for example, or new legendary trait.

Well, the lore-master diary is now up and I’m pleased to say that the changes go a bit beyond most of the other classes. As far as I can tell, we’re the only class that’s actually getting a new skill (technically two, though one’s basically an optional alternative version of an existing skill). I’m not going to re-iterate all of the changes here because if you’re reading this column you should really just go and read the (short) dev diary yourself. Go on, I’ll wait.

Ok we back? Good :). Here’s my thoughts on the changes.

The good

First up is a change that many lore-masters have been asking for ever since RoI did away with a lot of the genus restrictions on cc skills. Yes, bane flare will now hit any type of mob. This is a straight up buff, and a big one. Anyone who has used ents go to war as a crowd control/damage reduction skill can appreciate the power of even a short duration AOE stun on with a long cooldown. Bane flare is a longer duration, shorter cooldown combo stun/daze which can be chain-cast with Call to the Valar and hit up to 10 targets with the 2 yellow line trait bonus and book legacy. The induction on the skill can make it tricky to use correctly, but if you do it right then you’ll be able to do a lot of good things with this skill.

The second good change is a brand new skill – water lore. This is a heal skill that gives a “medium” sized HoT and a 5% healing buff on the recipient that is stackable up to 3 times. Obviously there’s a lot of details we need to know about this skill before we can evaluate it, but it has the potential to get pretty powerful especially if the HoT is decently sized. We’ll have to reserve judgement on this until we see it in action, but it has the potential to give lore-masters a much more solid healing potential in smaller group content and to give us a powerful tank-buffing role in raid content.

Finally, there’s a few good quality of life improvements – pet level increasing to the player’s level (hopefully they remember to scale their damage too this time), WoTC heal moving up front and changing to a flat 50% of morale and the “excessive delay” after casting back from the brink and our melee attacks has been removed. The latter has the potential to significantly increase our DPS which is interesting.

The bland

I’m a lot less excited by our other two “new” skills. Improved power of knowledge is a bug fix disguised as a new skill. For whatever reason the amount of power gained from power of knowledge stopped scaling at level 65, which meant that a skill which used to almost fill up our power pool at 65 became about a 30-50% fill at 75. Well the good news is that they’ve made the skill fill up our power pool again. The bad news is that they’re calling this one of our three new skills.

Share the power – fellowship is an answer to a problem no one was having. With the big boost to fellowship wide power regen that captains got with RoI, and a number of class changes which meant that power management was much less of an issue at 75 than at 65, it’s a very, very rare fight that more than one or two people need any significant amount of power sharing. Sure, you can get in a lazy group where the DPS players are using inefficient rotations, and people can be undergeared, and some people are selfish and don’t like using power potions, but in a reasonably competent group you won’t find yourself needing to top up multiple people’s power outside of obscure raid mechanics like the Lieutenant of Dol Gudur. Yes, it’s possible that there’s some new group content that does have some raid mechanics like that – in which case this skill will be niche but welcome – and it’s also possible that they break something with class scaling that makes power regen much more of an issue at 85, but based on current group dynamics, this skill is pretty worthless.

Finally, I’m also not really getting excited about the change to our legendary sword and staff trait. First of all, sword and staff should still be mandatory for soloing lore-masters. The survivability and big DPS boosts are extremely valuable to a soloing lore-master. And in group content, we just don’t have many good legendary trait options. We will almost always want ents go to war, just for the stun option, and will usually have a capstone. But Noble Savage just isn’t an interesting trait to use, especially in group situations where the pet does a pitiful amount of actual damage. And having the possibility of using the eagle pet is kind of nice, but I can’t think of many group situations where I wouldn’t prefer to have either the raven, bear or spirit pets. Anyway, this is a straight up buff and kind of nice, but it’s just not very exciting.

The bad

And then you get to the bottom of the developer diary and realise that that’s all. I’ve long maintained the position that the class is in a good place, and I still believe that, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues with the that should be addressed, and an expansion is the ideal time to do so. These are issues which were raised by many people in the class feedback thread and which have been completely ignored. The biggest outstanding issues to me are:

  • The mess that is the blue traitline, including the capstone legendary (bog-guardian pet). As I discussed here, this was the #1 issue raised by lore-masters in the feedback thread. The traitline is confused and in desperate need of an overhaul, but hasn’t been touched at all.
  • No interrupt skill. We are the only class without a true interrupt skill and it’s a big gap in the class’ toolbox.
  • Many of our legendaries are worthless, more than any other class that I know of.
  • Multiple lore-master’s don’t stack well in a group. Something like ancient craft stacking would have been great.

It would have been really nice to see some of these issues addressed, particularly the blue trait line, but I guess that goes beyond the “tweaking” mandate that the relevant devs seem to have been given with the class changes in RoR.

Anyway, I’m interested to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the changes, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about the water lore skill.

 

Lore-mastery: Those first few desperate seconds

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I’ve been doing a bit of T2 ToO progression runs recently and I’ve come to the reaslisation that I enjoy the trash pulls more than the boss fights. I think this mainly comes down to my class role, but there’s just SOOO much to do in trash fights and so many opportunities to respond to random or unplanned events that they just end up feeling more fun than the more scripted boss fights. I’ve also realised more and more that what the lore-master does in the first few seconds can have a fairly big impact on the overall fight, which is the subject of today’s post.

3… 2… 1… go!


Most trash pulls, particularly on T2, should begin with some sort of crowd control. Putting mobs to sleep before the room is woken up can have a number of beneficial effects. Some mobs have dangerous or annoying special attacks that activate instantly on wakeup, such as the lightning wing’s taskmasters (burrow, healing puddle) or the F&F wing’s ruffians (disease, “mark” corruption). CC-ing before wakeup also has the advantage of locking mobs in theit tracks, avoiding positional issues. So pulls are usually best started by having someone counting down so multiple cc instigators can hit their targets in a coordinated way. A problem with this is that if you are the first to wake the room up, you often get all sorts of unwanted attention, particularly if the tank is a little sleepy on the pickup or if there’s ranged attackers in the room, and I’m pretty sure that some special attacks (particularly diseases) have a higher chance of targeting on the first aggro target. So if you’re involved in the initial cc, the craziness starts instantly.

But the opening of the fight is the time when the lore-master has the biggest opportunity to make a difference to the whole group’s chance of success. There are a lot of things that can be going on:

  • You need to make sure the initial cc has all stuck and that you don’t need to do any emergency cc to recover from a miss. Also if you’re double-mezzing (with either call to the valar or a minstrel’s call to greatness), you need to make sure to lock down your second target as quickly as possible.
  • Something will be getting DPS-ed down very quickly. It’s good to put your incoming damage debuffs on this target.
  • A tank will probably be picking up one or more hard hitting mobs and moving them out of the way of the rest of the group (possibly kiting). These mobs should have your -damage debuffs put on them.
  • In many ToO fights, someone’s going to get diseased. And this is the time people are most likely to be very busy doing other things so a disease cure here can be clutch. Some diseases will also stack on a single target, making a LM cure necessary to clear it.
  • People are going to be taking big damage. The tank picking up the dangrous mobs is going to start getting hit by those dangerous mobs. The hunter’s gonna pull threat on the DPS target cause they’re trying to kill it super fast. The healer’s quite possibly going get some stray or summoned mob pop up on them. There’ll be green bars dropping all over the place, at a time when the group’s incoming damage is high because all mobs are awake – your big spot heal can be very important here.
  • Your pet can normally do something good by targeting the DPS target, whether it be pseudo-revealing mark from the spirit pet, shatter arms or a clutch force taunt from the bear or benediction of the raven.
  • If stuff is being kited, sticky tar can be useful.
  • March of the ents can do a big AOE stun on a bunch of mobs, greatly reducing the group’s incoming damage. Storm lore and other stuns/roots can also be useful.
  • Doing some extra DPS on the thing that’s getting killed extra quickly, particularly if it’s some stuff that’s getting AOEd down in a big hurry which you can throw a big lightning storm on, can be helpful.

That’s a lot of things to do! And of course, it’s all while making sure you keep yourself alive, move away from stuff that needs to be moved away from, use potions etc. And I haven’t even got to the 15sec mark yet, when you’ll usually need to be looking to reapply cc, or cc a second target that got feared initially. And the process of picking up a feared target for mez can be quite fiddly – ideally you want to be applying cc before the fear runs out (otherwise the mob gets a chance to cast its skill), but you also want to maximise the time that the mob is cc-ed because adaptation means you can’t reapply any cc. This usually means that you have to not only find the mob (which might be running on the other side of the room, feared) but look at its debuff bar timer to see how long the fear has remaining.

Even as someone who’s been doing this for a while, all of these different things to do in the very opening moments of the fight can sometimes be overwhelming and I’ve certainly found myself in situations where I’ve been so busy trying to watch everything that I’ve forgotten to do something. This often ends badly, usually with a dead healer because that troll over there woke up and run towards them or a tank that’s dying way too quickly because he’s getting hit by non-debuffed mobs or got stunned from his triple disease bomb. Also another danger is that quite a few of your actions can take a few seconds of game time, either in an big induction (ents, lightning storm, tar, ward circle), or an uncancelable animation like frost lore.

I’ve found that it’s important to plan these pulls and be really methodical in your execution. First of all there’s a few things you can usually do pre-combat, including both signs of power debuffs, sticky tar, ward circles and stun protection if necessary. Also use your knowledge of the lore-master pre-combat to reduce resist chance on cc targets (particularly ones that are going to be feared by a minstrel). Then set yourself a firm debuff plan, foregoing some of the slower or less important debuffs like gust of wind and wind/frost lore. Priorotise who you’re going to consider healing – usually it’s more important to try to save a tank or healer than a dps. And above all, make sure you very quickly tunnel vision on your cc re-application or pickup after a fear – using static tooltips on your cc targets (setup pre-combat) can really help you select the mob quickly during combat here. The default hotkey for them is “h”.

And don’t forget that you have the tools to help the group recover from something going wrong, although this will normally require communication. If someone breaks the cc on a non-adaptation target then try to let people know that they should leave it alone while you root/stun it before you can get your mez cooldown back (this might require people to reposition away from the mob), assuming CttV is on cd. Also, if you’re using the bear, its force taunt can be a great way to save a healer from a stray mob while a tank picks it up but again, it’s not going to do much good without some communication because after 10sec the bear will lose threat (or it might die before that). You can usually cure someone’s double disease, but if you’re on cooldown then you might need to tell them to run away from the group because there’s nothing you can do. All in all, communication (preferably by voice) is pretty important to the lore-master’s role.

Anyway, that’s all for today. Just regarding future columns, I could do guides to the T2 wings that my group has completed (F&F and lightning), but I’m not sure that there’s much use for them by this stage – I figure that most groups who are going to try these have done so by now, especially given how close RoR is (there’s also these great video guides available). If people are interested in them though then I can put some together, otherwise I have a few other ideas up my sleeve :).

 

Lore-mastery: The pre-expansion lull

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Soo, I think we’re officially in the pre-expansion lull. The new expansion and level cap increase is now less than 3 months away, which means that there’s very little point for Turbine to push out new content because it’ll be obsoleted before having a decent amount of play time. But at the same time, all of the existing content is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. The (excellent) Update 5 Isengard instance/raid cluster is now about 6 months old and the somewhat thinner (from a group content perspective) Update 6 has been out for three months, which I think is more than long enough for people to grind out the rep dailies and conquer the Roots of Fangorn. And, unfortunately, in my experience Update 7 has been a bit of a flop – after the first couple of days of excitment, I’ve found it basically impossible to get a group of people interested in running Fornost because they’re tough fights to learn there’s simply no loot incenctive. And for all of the above content, any loot incentive “pull” for people is going to decline more and more as they see level 85 approaching, knowing that all of their carefully grinded LIs, raid armour sets and star-lit crystals will be obsoleted by quest rewards and random landscape mob drops shortly after release is a little disheartening.

So what’s an end game character to do in this time? Rolling an alt or levelling a neglected one up is obviously one option, although not one I’m personally that interested in. And I’m sure I’m not the only person whose raid group is still trying to move beyond the first couple of wings in T2 ToO, so that’s definitely something that will keep me interested from a sheer “beat the challenge” perspective as long as I can keep dragging 11 other people along with me. But outside of raid nights, what is there to do? Luckily, quite a bit and I actually find content lull periods like this can be relaxing in a way, because you don’t have any specific grind that you want to get out of the way as quickly as possible to gear up. It gives you the opportunity to do things in game that you might not otherwise do.

5 things to do while waiting for RoR

1. Deeds

There’s all sorts of deeds you can do in the game, most of which are soloable, which have a variety of useful or just fun rewards. The most obvious reason to do deeds is for virtues. If you’ve neglected your virtues since the latest two cap raises then now’s the perfect time to address that and get your character up to scratch. My two part guide on how to get 14 ranks in the 7 most important lore-master virtues (pt 1, pt 2) might be a good place to start, but you could also think about working up some of the more situational virtues like honor (good in a fight with mixed tactical damage and resist-able effects) or patience (when you really want to go all-out ICPR) to give you some additional flexibilty. We haven’t yet had confirmation that there will be a virtue cap increase with RoR, but if there is going to be one then it might even be worth getting some of your virtues up to 15 or 16 to save a future grind when you might have new content you want to be playing.

The ability to earn turbine points is another undeniable reason to finish off some deeds. Sure, it’s a pretty slow way to earn virtual currency but you’re usually getting something else in the process (even if it’s just the satisfaction of having a clean deed log!) and all those little bits of TPs really do add up. I calculated a little while back that I’ve earned over 8,000 free TPs which is nothing to sneeze at; you could even save up . And of course, there’s some deeds which give unique cosmetic rewards and titles, like the Skirmisher of Middle Earth (that’ll keep you busy!) or various festival deeds.

2. Do older raid content

If you can get a group of like-minded people together, you can still have a lot of fun messing around in older group content. There’s lots of reasons to go into some of these obsoleted spaces, from simply experiencing fights you may not have played through at the time, seeing how few people you can kill the watcher with, unlocking meta deeds or getting genuinely relevant experience at a variety of different raid mechanics. If your group didn’t do OD or BG raids on level, for instance, going in there at level 75 (you don’t need 12 people) can give you useful exposure to a variety of interesting mechanics and fights which have parallels to current raid fights and most likely future ones too. While the level of damage your group will take is obviously way more easy to handle at the current level cap, it’s still not possible to just completely zerg these fights and so you can get some valuable group experience.

From a lore-master’s perspective too, I should point out that OD actually still gives you some gear which quite possibly will never be obsoleted except by duplication on later sets. The 3-piece set bonus on one of the T2 OD sets gives you a 30sec HoT on your beacon of hope which is equivalent to doubling it over a 30s duration, or increasing it by 66% if you recast every 20sec. How big is that bonus? Well taking the smaller of those two figures, it’s worth about six thousand points of will, which is pretty insane making this level 65 armour awesome if you’re trying to main-heal a 3-person instance or something. That bonus has been replicated on a level 75 PvMP armour set, but if you don’t PvMP then it’s currently irreplaceable. Also irreplaceable is the 5-piece bonus from the same set, which gives you a full fellowship wide AOE flank heal effect. The Improved Flanking trait duplicates this to some extent, but being able to get the effect without the trait gives you more options and it’s obviously a bigger effect. In addition, level 65 first age books (which only come from OD) are excellent choices for DPS books because they can slot the top-tier true relics and also have +tactical damage passive legacy (maximum of 5%).

3. Finish off “unnecessary” grinds

In addition to some of the meta deeds mentioned above, there’s a few “stretch” rewards in the game which you might not be looking to do while you’re in the first phase of content and gearing up, but which you might like to get at this time. In that category for me is the ToO raid horse, which costs 99 sigil fragments. I’ve finally managed to save up enough sigils to get this after using my first 100 on a couple of necklaces, and it’s a cool reward to work towards. There’s also things like the Return to Stangard skill (20 gold tokens), the Stangard horse (also 20 gold), or a second ToO armour set with a unique bonus that you’ve been meaning to try out but don’t really need. Personally I’m looking forward to getting enough seals for the 5-piece blue line set (40 more!) which has an interesting looking bonus to continuous air lore, which might be nice to slot while doing the next item on the list…

4. Soloing challenges

As I’ve outlined before in a couple of soling guides (Pt 1 and Pt 2), lore-masters are an excellent class for soloing old group content. Personally, I find this a pretty enjoyable fun thing to do and there’s a few tangible rewards from doing so, including LI relics and runes as well as unique cosmetics, deeds, crafting material and items to sell on the AH. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, then do check out those previous guides and I might have some more in the coming weeks.

5. Stock up for the next LI grind

There’s quite a few things you can stash at the current level cap which will be useful even at level 85, barring a major overhaul of the LI system. Most of the major LI consumables at level 75 will work on level 76+ LIs, including relics, IXP runes, shards, star-lit crystals and legacy scrolls (from level 75 LIs). It’s probably a good idea to have a set or two of the most useful legacy scrolls ready to go, and a good collection of other consumables will never go astray. Shards in particular are something that’s good to build up over time – the various crafted relics are your best option for earning them, most give you a decent chunk when refined down. And while there will no doubt be a new tier of scrolls of empowerment/delving, and I have a pretty strong suspicion that we either won’t be able to keep our existing seals or they’ll be automatically traded down with RoI, stashing up on a few regular marks and medallions will no doubt alleviate some of the grind for those items at level 85.

Conclusion

So, as you can see, if you still want to spend your game time with lotro there’s still quite a bit to do in this pre-expansion lull. In this time of less content though, I’ll probably be cutting back on this column a bit, maybe putting it out every two weeks unless there’s particular news or issues to cover. I’ve still got quite a few more column ideas though, including additional soloing challenges, a discussion of DPS stats and hopefully some Fornost guides (if I can get people to run it!) so I won’t be totally going away!

 

Riders of Rohan Community Q&A

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Aaron “Rowan” Campbell has posted a short community Q&A on the official site. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but the short highlights are:

  • Three new or improved skills for each class, along with both generic and class-specific mounted skills, possibly including a full fellowship desperate flight.
  • A varied end game with solo and group combat and non-combat options.
  • Tier 8 crafting, including new tools at last.
  • A “substantial” PvMP content update focussed on killing players not NPCs.
  • An instance cluster “later this year” (unclear if this is referring to before or after RoR).

Is it just me, or could full fellowship desperate flight be a recipe for absolute disaster and griefing?

 
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