Posts tagged skills

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.

 

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?

 

Lore-mastery: User interface, plugins and screen layout tips

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This week I’m going to look at something I’ve been meaning to cover for a long time – user interface (UI). UI customisation is a very personal thing and there’s a wide range of setups which will work well for different people, but there are some good general principles that you should think about. I’ll discuss some of these principles and go over my personal setup which might give people some ideas. The main areas of UI customisation are toolbar layout, plugins and screen layout and I’ll look at each of these in turn.

Toolbar layout

I believe that an effective toolbar and hotkey layout is one of the most important things to playing a successful end game character. Being able to hit your skills quickly, indeed automatically, while being able to process what’s going on around you in the rest of the group/raid is vitally important. I know there’s some mixed opinions about whether to use mouse or keyboard to activate skills, but from my perspective there’s not much of an argument; while it takes a little time to learn, using keyboard shortcuts for all commonly used skills is clearly superior.

There’s a few reasons for this. First of all it’s simply quicker. Yes, it’s only a question of fractions of a second but it all adds up (particularly for instant skills such as mezzes, self-heal panic buttons and interrupts) and the simple fact is that moving a mouse around takes time whereas hitting the keys that are already underneath your fingers doesn’t. Second, it’s more accurate (once you learn your hotkeys) – there’s no danger of a panicked misclick once you’ve got the muscle memory in for your hotkeys. And third, rotating your camera and moving around the screen is far faster with a mouse than a keyboard, so if you’re using your mouse to click skills then it’s going to be harder for you to multitask movement and skill use. I’m not saying it’s not possible for you to be a good player if you don’t use keyboard shortcuts, I’m just saying that using the keyboard for commonly used skills (once you’ve learned it) is always going to be an improvement. And it’s not that every single skill needs to have a shortcut key, just the core ~10 or so that you regularly use.

As for lore-master skill layout, you can see my setup above. Essentially I will use keyboard shortcuts for the first 5 or 6 skills in each of the four rows, and click everything else – except for a few key skills such as sop:r and share the power which I’ve got specific hotkeys setup for. My primary debuffs are from 9 to = on the keyboard, given they are only cast every 1min I will often mouse click these, but can also run my fingers along the keyboard. I won’t go into this setup in too much detail, other than to say that as a general rule I find it’s not necessarily a good idea to group all of the same kind of skills together, which is the natural temtation. The most important slots are 1-5, because they’re the easiest to hit, and so these should be your most common skills which for me are blinding flash, staff strike, sop:c (which I like to use on landscape mobs as I run into them), burning embers and LoTRD. On the second toolbar, I have sop:wf, pet attack (it’s very important to hotkey this one close imo), pet skill #1 (this will be swapped around depending on the pet – I pick the most important one for each pet, eg. benediction of the raven, fan the flames, flank, taunt), staff sweep and then pet skill #2 – I don’t think any of the pets have 3 skills which you really need to manually activate. This screenshot is slightly outdate, I’ve subsequently put the sage’s set clicky in place of the house summon there (although I actually don’t use the pocket in raids, as I have a ToO recipe pocket which has a huge chunk of morale which I find more useful than the extra will).

I also have toolbars 5 and 6 vertical and to the right of my screen – on there I put a bunch of things that I don’t use as much or which I’ll manually click (or which have specific hotkeys like potions). This includes alternative LIs, pets and summoning skills. I recommend putting extra toolbars like this verticlaly, as otherwise you lose a lot of key screen real estate to toolbars.

Plugins

Again, plugins can be something that people have mixed feelings on and again I have a pretty simple opinion on them – using relevant plugins correctly will always make you a more effective player. The most important plugin type is a debuff notification. Buffbars is the gold standard here, although Palantir can do a similar job quite effectively – while it won’t show you what debuff you have, the potion cure lightup in the middle of the screen is usually a good enough notification. Palantir has the additional benefit of giving you the useful health/morale brackets in the middle of the screen which I personally find quite handy.

The key to using plugins is to set them up correctly so that they tell you what you need to know when you need to know it. You can see how I’ve got mine setup in the screenshot to the right. I have two buffbars notification for pottable effects – a popup bar to the lower middle of my screen which ONLY has debuffs (buffs are in a window to the side of the screen which I usually only look at out of combat), and an effects slider to the top. I also have the potion popup on in both buffbars and Palantir. So basically my screen lights up like a christmas tree if I get hit with something I need to pot. This is a Good Thing. My raid group has a pretty shifting list raid with a lot of newer raiders and occasionally pug people. I can say from a lot of experience, that reliably potting negative state effects is one of the least common skills in the game. And in a fight like Saruman, it means that every time you take a new person in there you either better be confident in your mic skills or get ready to wipe a few times because of bombs going off. That’s not surprising in a way, the default interface (ie that tiny little square under your character portrait) does an unequivocably terrible job of notifying you that you need to do something. So do yourself a favour and setup Buffbars and/or Palantir to help you with this skill.

The other plugins I use are Combat Analysis, which can be seen taking up far too much screen real estate in the above screenshot. I don’t use it much in combat but it’s a great out of combat review tool with a lot of powerful features nowdays. I also love Raid Rolls which I use when handing out loot at the end of a fight. It looks through the combat log and sorts out /rolls (you specify when to open and close rolls for the data capture) and it’s a wonderful tool for raid leaders. I highly recommend it to anyone using master looter. I’ve also in the past used Kragenbars, primarily to have a scrolling pet toolbar button, but something broke it in a past update for me and I haven’t got around to updating it. I’ve also been meaning to setup LoTRO Alerts which scans your chat log for specific phrases, eg. “[player name] has freed [mob name] from a daze” or “shock [playername]” and pop them up as a text billboard. You can also set it up to popup timed alerts, eg. for reapplying debuffs or mezzes. It seems like a really good idea, but I just haven’t yet got around to using it.

Screen layout

There’s a few key principles you want to keep in mind when setting up your screen. First is that it’s easiest to see stuff in the middle of the screen, so try to keep that area for very important things. Second, you’re a lore-master so you need to be able to easily scan your group and raid for morale/power levels and curable effects. The most important thing to help you do that is to go into the UI options and on the social options (under combat, strangely) there’s two options which should both be ticked – “show dispellable effects only” and “show effects cast by me”. The former will clear off all the junk that fills people’s buff/debuff bars in a raid and only leave behind curable effects. This lets you both see what you need to cure (wound/diseases) as well as any fears or poisons which you could either cure with a salve or tell the other person to cure over a mic if you’re using voice software. The “show effects cast by me” option is mainly useful to let you keep track of your stun immunity.

As for what to put in the middle of the screen, as shown above I like both the christmas tree lightup of pottable effects and the palantir health/morale bars brackets. For a long time I also had both my and my target’s portrait, along with my pet and the “target of target” portrait in the middle, as you can see on the screenshot to the right. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do. These portraits certainly have a lot of relevant information (what debuffs are up on the mob, has the hunter pulled threat, is your pet dying), but I’ve moved them recently to the positions in the above screenshot mainly because they were obstructing my view of the Great River too much :). They do tend to add a bit of screen clutter in the middle, but it’s something to think about if you want.

Finally, there’s chat bar setup. One tip I’d give there is to have /say text (where most boss callouts appear) in a highly visible colour on your active chat window (I use bright red). That can help you notice certain important callouts.

 

Lore-mastery: Riders of Rohan class changes wishlist

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The announcement of a new expansion is always exciting, as expansions bring a new level cap, new skills and new possibilities for character advancement and design changes. The lore-master has done pretty well out of our last two updates (in Isengard and the Nov 2010 update), gaining a bunch of useful new skills and some good trait refinement. So the announcement of Riders of Rohan has got me thinking about possibilities for new skills, traits and other changes to the class that could come with the expansion. While I think the class is fundamentally in a great place, and doesn’t need a major overhaul along the lines of Wardens or Champions (all our traitlines already have a well designed flavour and we are fairly effective in most of our roles), there’s certainly room for improvement and new interesting skills.

New skills

We are gaining another 10 levels with RoR, which should equate to another 5 skills if Isengard is anything to go by. I also appreciated the Isengard design of the new skills which didn’t just result in our skill bars being cluttered up with more new skills which either don’t get used or which obsolete old skills, so most of the new skills I propose here aren’t completely new skills.

  • Level 76: Commune with nature (passive)pet damge scales with your will and matches your weapon damage type. This is something that lore-masters really need imo. I was debating whether to suggest this as just a class tweak, but I think it’s a big enough increase in power to a fundamental part of the class to justify an entirely new skill. I would expect the scaling should be about 3% per 100 will, so if you had 1500 will at level 76, your pet would immediately get a 45% damage boost in addition to doing non-common damage. Given current levels of pet damage (around 50-100dps) this wouldn’t be overpowered, but it would be noticable, especially as we move towards 3000+ will by level 85.
  • Level 78: Improved gust of wind – increased damage and 4s “freeze” (stun). This seems like a natural improvement for this skill. It already does cold based damage, it’s already primarily an AOE debuff, this just gives it an extra bit of utility.
  • Level 80: Staff thrust - New melee skill. 15s cooldown, fast skill, low damage, interrupts. The biggest tool missing in the lore-master’s arsenal is an interrupt, this fills that hole. Lore-master’s technically already have a ranged interrupt (though it’s almost unusable), I think it’s appropriate that this be a melee interrupt given our hybrid melee combat nature.
  • Level 82: Improved test of will - increases ICPR for next 30 seconds. On current cost/power/ICPR ratios lore-master DPS starts to get unsustainable after about 2min, especially if you’re debuffing at the same time. This gives lore-masters a way to manage their power in longer fights without having to gimp their damage output by using draw power. The rate of power increase shouldn’t be enough to replace draw power if you’re doing serious power sharing in a raid (although it would be useful to use the skill in a raid environment), but it should go a long way to making our DPS sustainable if the buff is kept up.
  • Level 84: Improved ents go to war - Is a regular skill (no longer requires a legendary trait to slot). 2.5 second induction. This is probably my most radical suggestion. I think we would all like a new legendary trait, but Turbine is probably reluctant (for good reason) to open up a 4th legendary trait slot. This gives us the ability to have a new legendary trait without making the decision as to what existing legendary to drop quite so painful.

New traits

Traits are fun to play around with. Lore-masters are well used to mixing and matching and changing their traits around, because we have generally good legendary capstones going deep into our traitlines gives a lot of benefits. With RoR, I think turbine should give all classes a new class trait slot (probably at level 80), which would be the first trait slot added since Moria, giving us some much needed fundamental character advancement. Just making that change on its own would seriously unbalance the existing system of traitline bonuses and capstones, so I think all traitline bonuses should be moved up one (ie a 2-trait bonus becomes a 3-trait bonus, leaving no additional benefit for merely having 2 of a trait slotted) and the prerequesite for legendary capstones should be increased to 6 of the associated traits. This would preserve the existing balance while giving people more opportunity to use a few more traits, including these new ones:

  • Master of nature’s fury: Blinding light - your light and lightning-based attacks have a +5% critical chance and +25% critical multiplier. Most of our existing DPS buffs are geared towards our fire skills, this would enhance a number of our non-fire tactical skills (lightning storm, light of the rising dawn, test of will and storm lore) in addition to improved staff strike, which does light damage.
  • Keeper of Animals: Focussed attacks - the cooldown of your pets skills is reduced by 20% This has a huge variety of benefits, many of which are quite powerful. It certainly benefits some pets more than others; the bear and limrafn gain substantially more utility and the lynx and sabertooth a lot more damage. The raven and eagle would benefit less, but I don’t think that’s a fundamental objection to what would be a pretty interesting skill.
  • Ancient Master: Critical debuffs - the magnitude and duration of your fire-lore, wind-lore, ancient craft, sign of power:see all ends and frost-lore debuffs is increased by 25% on critical hits. If you look in your combat log you’ll see that debuffs currently have the ability to critically hit. Unfortunately these crits do nothing and so fate/crit rating are fairly bad stats for a raiding lore-master. This is a way of making that stat count when you’re AM traitied, at least somewhat.
  • Legendary: Raging waters - Grants the skill “Raging Waters”. 4min cooldown, 4 second induction, high damage 6-target cold-based AOE which slows affected mobs for 20sec (with a “broken leg” debuff). The skill is a nice thematic DPS cooldown, based on Gandalf/Elrond releasing a flood on the ringwraiths at the Ford of Bruinen. Lore-masters also don’t have much in the way of slow debuffs (only tar), so this is another slow debuff option. I would love it if this could do an AOE knockback, but that would probably break the game engine (eg. knocking mobs off cliffs causes all sorts of silly things to happen).

The new legednary trait should be earned by doing an epic level 85 solo quest that takes you all over middle earth and culminates in a new skirmish encounter. All classes would do this quest, it’s just that they would obviously get different trait rewards at the end.

New class items

We’ve received a dev hint that our long promised class item is coming soon – perhaps in Update 6 – but whether we get them soon or with RoR it would be nice to use them as an opportunity to resurrect some of more exciting raid amour set bonuses, in part because they’re good bonuses but also to stop us having to keep equipping very old armour to get these unique and powerful bonuses.

  • Parchment of Nature’s fury: +10% fire damage. Flat out DPS boost (it works out to approximately 2.5% in a normal hybrid melee/tactical DPS rotation given diminishing returns). This just brings back the moria 6-piece bonus.
    Parchment of Animals: Your beacon of hope gains a 30s HoT (would not stack with OD set bonus). The OD 3-piece bonus is so ridiculously powerful (a 33-50% increase in beacon of hope is equivalent to literally thousands of will) that I can see us still wearing it at level 85 if we don’t get a way to replicate the bonus.
    Parchment of the Ancient Master: Your blinding flash has a +5sec duration (cannot be further increased). Again, this is such a powerful and unique bonus that in situations where you need to double mez or deal with cc mechanics like Adaptation, it might still be optimal to wear the level 60 DN set at level 85 if we don’t get another way to replicate this bonus. Already they’ve felt the need to duplicate this bonus on a level 75 armour set, it would be a shame if they had to do that again at level 85.

General tweaks

There are also a few things about the class which could use a bit of tweaking:

  • Inner flame changed to work like this – channel duration is 6sec, if channeled for the full 6sec it gives all recipients a HoT for the next 10s equivalent to the inner flame heal. As much as I want to like it – especailly because if channeled for the full duration with improved inner flame equipped it’s equivalent to an additional beacon of hope on your whole group – in practice the current 16sec channel is completely unusable. This still means you need to sacrifice 6sec of doing nothing to get the full heal, but it might make the skill usable.
  • Call to the valar resets cooldown on improved frost lore and staff sweep. These newly introduced skills aren’t reset by our skill resetter.
  • Ancient craft from multiple lore-masters stacks. I can’t see any real issue with this change seeing as reveal weakness (which is more powerful) from multiple burglars already stacks. This still won’t make it totally optimal to bring a second lore-master to a group or raid, but it would certainly help the situation.
  • Bog-guardian pet gains Angry Bees skill as a passive/automatic skill, and this is replaced with a toggle skill for ranged/melee stance. One of my biggest annoyances with the bog guardian is that it does so much more damage and flanks in melee, but it’s a real pain to position a lot of the time. Angry Bees is already up 100% of the time if you autocast it, so it’s a logical choice of skill to replace.
  • Eagle ICPR scaling. This currently hasn’t scaled since SoA – 60 ICPR was respectable at level 50, but it’s laugable at 75 let alone 85. Bump it up to at least 100 ICPR, if not 200.

Various lore-master legacies could also use a substantial cleanup and consolidation:

  • Staff major legacies – Remove: Light of the rising dawn crit multiplier and damage removed. Add: Staff thrust cooldown (max of -5sec) and Draw Power cooldown (max -15sec).

  • Staff minor legacies – Consolidate: Lightning skills crit rating and lightning storm damage into a single “lightning skills crit rating and damage” legacy. Add: “Light of the rising dawn damage and critical multiplier”. Change: Gust of Wind damage to “Cold skills damage” and increased in magnitude by 25%.
  • Book major legacies – Consolidate: Burning embers and Wizard’s Fire pulses into “Fire skill damage over time pulses”. Add: “Inner flame cooldown” (max -20sec).
  • Book minor legacies – Remove: test of will devastate damage. Add: Increased damage absorption and reflection on air lore (max +50%).

I realise that all of the above is very unlikely to happen, but it’s fun to speculate and think about ways in which the class could be improved in interesting ways. There’s lots of options, lets hope the devs get creative!

 

Plethora of Secret World Hands-On Previews

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Funcom recently allowed a whole ton of press to get some hands-on time with The Secret World and their previews have been trickling out over the past couple of days.  For the most part they were given a chance to create a character, start their experience with the Templar society, head over to Kingsmouth, run the Polaris Instance, and check out some PvP.  Each of the writers then picks up on their favorite (or least favorite) aspects and either focuses on that or tries to give an overall feel for how the experience went.  I’m not going to go in-depth on all of them, but just pick out the main idea or major tidbit I picked up from the articles.  I really enjoyed checking them all out, but it will take a bit of time ;)

For the most part the game received good reviews for the portions they were shown, and many of them mentioned how they actually had to think and work out puzzles.  I think this will be an important aspect of this game going forward with how Funcom handles this and almost more importantly how the community handles it.

All I can say after reading all those is when do I *cough* I mean we, get beta access? ;)

 
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