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alt="Hands-on with LotRO Free-to-Play"

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those of us who have been playing the Lord of the Rings Online for a while
now, F2P has been something of an amusing spectacle. Take your level 65
to West Bree if you need an example of this. Regional channels are
flooded with colorful language, and dynamic layers mean you are either
elbowing your way through teeming hordes of lowbies or sauntering
through a ghost town as though the game were being directed by Sergio
Leone. Everyone and their dog is running GB, auction house prices are
even more ludicrously-inflated, and nobody can seem to find tin
anywhere. But what is it like for these new players taking their first
steps into a well-established world and experiencing it all for the
first time? There's no better teacher than hands-on experience, so in
the interests of research, I made a free-to-play account, joined one of
the brand-new servers and rolled a new toon.

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Day 1: Character Creation to Level 10

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 375px; float: left;"
alt="Slitha, Hobbit Burglar"

Subject X422-n, Codename: Slitha

I decided on a Hobbit Burglar for this experiment for a number
reasons. Firstly, the Shire is a much gentler starting area than
Bree-land, with more quests involving running around collecting stuff
and fewer involving raw slaughter. Secondly, the Burglar is an
excellent exploration class - stealth can overcome many obstacles. Thus
was born Slitha of the Stoors, Hobbit Burglar extraordinaire, the (very
apropos) name chosen at random by the brand-new name generator on the
character creation screen.

first thing I noticed is that F2P accounts have limited inventory space
- only 3 bags as opposed to the 5 for VIPs and unlocked Premiums. This
is not that big of a deal during the introduction through the attack on
Archet, but once the player gets past the newbie intro and into the
core game, it plays a bigger part. Especially because of the freebies.

player gets a "letter of commendation" when they complete the intro,
a special gift in the mail. These gifts are tiered "care packages,"
with more stuff being given to the player as higher levels are reached.
Plus, the player gets a few quest items from the intro that he will
want to keep - the home map, some dyes and a few potions. These things
add up quickly, and by level 10 fill up a full bag and a half. Here's
what you get:

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 188px; float: left;"
alt="Inventory half full of free stuff"

bags used for freebies and essentials.

Also berries.

  • Battered Horn of Disruption, a cool tool
    similar to a Champion's horn, that can be used from level 3 - 8. You
    only get one of these per server, and at level 9 it is no longer
    usable. It cannot be sold to vendors.
  • 5 dyes of a single color
    that do not stack. They come in 2 mini-stacks of 2 and 3, and will not
    stack with each other or with crafted dyes of the same color, and
    consume 2 inventory spaces until used.
  • tiered gift boxes; open
    one at level 7 and you get a handful of items usable immediately, plus
    another gift box for the next level. At level 10, you get a level 15
    tiered box, which contains a housing itemn abd at 15 you get one for
    level 20.
  • a Tarnished Whistle which summons an average steed and
    lasts for 24 hours. More on this later.
  • 2 Hearty Breakfasts - low level power and morale regen food.
  • Writ of Special Passage, which unlocks swift travel and
    grants free passage for a limited time
  • Tome of Initiate Vigour - +95 maximum power, lasts 30
  • Tome of Initiate Resolve - +149 maximum morale, lasts 30
  • Tome of Initiate Offence - +3% to ranged, melee and
    tactical damage, lasts 30 minutes
  • Tome of Burst of Swiftness - +5% non-combat run speed, 30
  • Tome of Initiate Fortitude - +27 common defence, 30 minutes
  • 3 Lesser Draughts of Power - restores 15-30 power every 2
    seconds for 10 seconds
  • 3 Lesser Draughts of Morale - as above, but for morale
  • 2 each of wound, poison, fear and disease remedies, for up
    to level 10 debuffs
  • 2 Tomes of Lesser Deed Acceleration, which give double kill
    counts for deeds (e.g. killing 1 wolf for the Shire deed counts as 2
    wolves) for 15 minutes
  • Tome of Burst of Resilience - reduced item-wear in-combat,
    no item-wear from defeat
  • Tome of Accelerated XP - the exact same as the destiny
    point perk for enhanced XP from monster kills
  • 2 each of Minor Draughts of Morale and Power - restores
    20-40 every 2 seconds for 10 seconds
  • Housing item for level 15 - "Above Weathertop" painting

the dearth of player inventory, this is a lot of stuff to carry around.
Some of these items are bound and some are not and can be sold if the
player can find a willing buyer. Items that the player wishes to save
can be stashed in the vault until later, but remember that the vault is
limited to 30 spaces (the same as 2 inventory bags), so space is at a
bit of a premium. Running with limited inventory space is certainly
possible, but it's similar to traveling with a person with a tiny
bladder - you will need to make numerous rest stops to unload.

what the player can do is simply destroy the giftbox or any of the
unwanted items. Only a few of them are really useful and worth keeping
anyway. But free stuff is free stuff, and it's hard to justify turning
away gifts. The deed accelerators alone are worth the space cost.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 246px; float: left;"
alt="inventory space vs quest pack"

pack vs. Inventory - you can either carry stuff or go places, but not

more inventory space with Turbine Points is a costly endeavor.
Unlocking bag number 4 costs 495 points, which is more than the cost of
the Lone-lands quest pack (which the player will want to buy after
running through the low-level areas). Vault space is similiarly
cost-prohibitive, and very new players will not be able to buy the
upgrades with points for quite some time - though at later levels, more
vault space can be unlocked by spending in-game coin rather than
points. These extra slots are fairly cheap at lower levels, but at
higher levels the cost to unlock more vault slots exceeds the F2P gold
cap. It is also worth noting that
free players do not start with access to shared inventory or the
wardrobe system - the options to view these storage systems are
available from the vault-keeper, but the player must unlock them with
points to use them. It is also important to note that inventory bags,
shared storage and wardrobe space are tied to the account (meaning
that, when purchased, all characters on that account have access to
it), while vault space is limited to one character. Quest packs are
available to all characters on that account.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 220px; float: left;"
alt="Points earned from a deed"

to popular belief, delivery men are good earners. This is from being a

typically pay out 5 - 15 Turbine Points upon completion. For example,
the first part of Shire slayer deeds pays 5 points for killing 30 mobs,
and the second part pays 10 points. The three-part deed for completing
quests in the Shire pays 10/10/15, and those 35 points represent a
considerable amount of time invested into the game. Exploration deeds
in the Shire pay 5 apiece, and completing all 13 Quickpost
mail-delivery quests pays another 5. By the time Slitha reached level
10, she had round 30 Turbine Points. And her bags were chock-full.

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alt="Hands-on with LotRO Free-to-Play"

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Day 2: Level 10 - 16

to my dismay, I learned that the Tarnished Whistle, which has a 24-hour
duration, continues to count down while the player is logged off. This
is not the case with the Writ of Special Passage - a player can log out
for days at a stretch and still have all the time left on his counter
that he had when he was last online. Slitha's Tarnished Whistle only
had a few hours left on it, so I determined to make good use of it
while I could.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 200px; float: left;"
alt="Selling virtue slots in the store"

slots for sale at the store. If virtue is cheap, is it really virtuous?

Upon reaching level 11, a third Virtue slot
becomes available. But it costs points to unlock and use it. The cost
is not large, but it will be rare for most new free players to have 95
points by level 11, or to have a wide selection of virtues from which
to choose. This is something that can wait until much later in the
game, when the player has accumulated enough points to burn on
less-important items than content packs.

Slitha's Tarnished
Whistle expired while she was riding around the Shire. While she was no
longer able to summon a pony, she was not immediately dismounted when
the timer counted down, and was able to stay on horseback more or less
indefinitely, barring any unforseen incidents. As soon as the whistle
vanished from her inventory, she got a letter from Hengstacer Farm in
Bree-land encouraging her to visit. So she visited. And accidentally
got dismounted by an unanticipated deep, watery dip in the road just
south of Budgeford. If I had seen that coming (and I really
have), I could have ridden all the way to the farm and back... but it
was not meant to be. Sadface.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 350px; float: left;"
alt="Riding a horse"

riding and a mount can take time to earn. Especially when you
hit lag spikes during awesome poses like this one.

The quest at Hengstacer Farms
tells you straight-up that free accounts must purchase the riding
skill, and only subscribers can learn the skill at level 20 without
spending points. Luckily, this is a very affordable skill - 48 points
with the current limited-time discout - so Slitha killed a few wolves
and slugs and
bought it. Now she is saving up for a horse, which costs 500 silver
rather than points. Interestingly, only the standard mounts are
available for free players - the cheap, slow Bree pony, which is now
almost entirely trivial except for its lower cost, is only available to

New players will face some stiff competition for
low-level deeds, and for quests that require the player to kill mobs
with associated deeds. The Wolf-Den north of Waymeet, for example, is
prime wolf territory for deeding, and undertaking Dora Brownlock's
quests there will require extra time to compensate for the sheer number
of people camping the area (and others like it) for the deed. It may be
possible to group up with the deeders just long enough to complete the
quests, but don't count on player charity. There is a fine line between
deeding and griefing, and some players do not recognize the
distinction. Some deeds will be nearly impossible to complete during
peak hours - Sickle-fly slayer in Bree-land and Bog-lurker slayer in
Lone-lands spring immediately to mind. The mobs for these deeds are
disappointingly rare, and having more than one or two people farming
the mobs for the deeds wipes out the populations faster than the
respawn rate can create new ones.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 262px; float: left;"
alt="Sadface" src="">


The spiders in the quarry at
Scary and the slugs in Rushock Bog are similiarly due for the endagered
species list. While attempting the spider cave to complete 2 separate
quests, a pair of level 20 guys came in and cleared the place out,
tagging creatures that were attacking me that I had not yet tagged
myself, thus depriving Slitha of the kill credit but not relieving her
of the poison damage. Again, this is the kind of behaviour that crosses
the line between deeding and griefing... but in their defense, I had
lagged out while in there and when I came back they had already started
clearing the place. I lagged out again shortly after, while stealthed
in a spider-infested area, and when I got back in, Slitha had
experienced her first defeat, 203 XP from level 15. Once again,
Sadface. I was gonna get to level 20 without a death.

finally attaining level 15, Slitha received a few more freebies: the
painting for the house she does not yet own, 2 more each of Minor
Draughts of Power and Healing , and a Gift for an Adept, which is
locked until level 20. The painting seems kind of pointless for F2P
accounts - since this level of access has a cap of 2 gold and a house
costs at least half that, and it costs around 7 gold to buy all the
trainable skills, it is unlikely that many F2P people who are
determined to play for free will ever own one. It seems more like an
incentive on Turbine's part to encourage players to spend money on the
microtransactions, buy more points, unlock more of the game.

is rather more difficult for F2P - or for most new players without
kinships, for that matter, and most new F2P players fall into this
category as well. Each profession has built-in dependencies,
requiring trade with others for necessary materials. Slitha, in her
infinite wisdom, elected to go with Historian, with the goal of making
battle scrolls and potions, and the ability to craft her own weapons
when needed. Scholar is a self-sufficient craft, as that craft is both
resource gatherer and production, but Historians cannot mine or process
ores, and need to barter or trade for ores to make weapons with the
Weaponsmith component. On a subscription account, the solution is
simple: roll an Explorer alt, swap mats through shared storage or mail.
F2P cannot do this: they do not have access to shared storage until
they purchase it for 995 points (for 10 slots, 1295 points for 20
slots). They can swap crafting materials and gear through the mail, but this can get expensive. If the F2P player doesn't make a few
friends, his crafting will suffer for it.

By the end of Day 2
Slitha had completed 75 quests and 12 deeds in the Shire, and earned
Acquaintance standing with the Mathom Society for a total of around 100
Turbine Points. There are still 6 deeds left in the Shire, plus the
racial enmity deeds for spiders and wolves, for another 65 earnable
points, and 8 class deeds worth 5 each, though these will take
significantly longer to finish.

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alt="Hands-on with LotRO Free-to-Play"

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Day 3: Level 16 - 18

F2P players have their work cut out for them. Expansions and
upgrades are expensive and points are slow to earn. It took me 2 days
of full-time playing to earn that first 100 points in the Shire, and
now that the Shire is basically tapped (except for deeds, which can be
completed at any time), it's time to move on to Bree-land. But it got
me thinking... 

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 325px; float: left;"
alt="Sly idea"

got an idea... an idea so smart that my head would explode if I even
began to know what I was talking about...

Free accounts are limited to 2 character slots per server.
This is great news - you have your main and an alt. The main is the one
you do everything with, and your alt is your points farmer. Since the
points are bound to the account and not the server, you can roll a new
alt on any server, rip through the Shire/Ered Luin/Bree-land for a few
days and earn 100 points, then delete that toon and have those points
to spend on stuff for your main. This is something to consider when you
hit a point-earning wall - each area has a finite number of points that
can be earned there, and each class is limited to 144 points from class
deeds and a small handful from racial deeds. Skirmishes have the
potential to earn more points, but after the initial "Kill Lieutentant
Type X" deeds are completed, the subsequent ones require vast numbers
that take significant time and have low point-payouts. If you want a
4th inventory bag for Lone-lands, roll a point-farming alt.

Because of the scarcity of tier 1 Scholar materials in the
Shire, I decided to switch Slitha's profession to Explorer. There are
very few scholar nodes in the Shire, and only slightly more tier 1
nodes in Bree-land, and nobody wanted to trade hides and scavenged gems
for these precious commodities. The only way to get anywhere with a
Historian is to make loads of friends and wait several levels until you
can quickly gather materials without a lot of fighting. Explorer is a
better option for new players as it allows them to craft their own
armor and harvest and process wood, hides and ores, which can be more
easily traded for needed goods. I'm not going to worry too much about
crafting for this character - other players will need the resources
more than I do and I'm doing fine with quest reward gear for now. While
it's not as great as crit crafted gear, it works well enough and costs

Finding a deed-grinding group made the last few Shire deeds go
by quickly. Something that a few people do not seem to appreciate is
that having a group working together to complete a slayer deed makes
the deed go much quicker than soloing, and that one person soloing a
deed needed by many costs the many extra time. And again, there is a
fine line between deed-grinding and griefing - refusing to join a group
working on the exact same deed you are working on, and then
range-ganking mobs when they are the obvious targets of that group
falls under the "griefing" category. Sure, some people prefer to run
solo, but that is not a license to behave in a selfish manner. Also
griefing: camping the same farming spot for extended periods of time
when lower-levels are obviously trying to complete quests there. Move
on, do something else for a while, find a different camp site or ask if
the other people in the area would like some help and join the group if
they do. Don't be a jerk about it.

Speaking of griefing and jerks... if I have to hear another
poorly-coded "Stairway to Heaven" or "Through the Fire and
Flames" played on a lute as an unwilling part of a captive audience
again, I'm
probably going to break something. The ABC music system is fun and
awesome, and it's often amusing to hear popular rock songs in a
hilariously incongruent setting, but there is a time and a place for
it. The music system is currently broken - the volume sliders do not
work for ABC music or for skirmish alarms, and these are
ear-shatteringly-loud with no way to quiet them except to turn down the
master volume in Windows. For your consideration, here are a few
etiquette guidelines for playing music in LotRO:

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 300px; float: left;"
alt="The wrong way to play music"

mas! Por favor!

  • Stand off to the side of the road to play music, e.g. by
    the rock fountain across from the Prancing Pony in Bree, rather than
    right in front of Barliman Butterbur inside the inn, or while standing
    directly behind someone in the crafting hall. You can stand in a place
    where people can still see you and choose to stand nearby and listen or
    ignore and continue on their way. Playing music in a place where people
    cannot elect to ignore it is simply abusive.
  • If you see someone else playing music, do not run up to
    them and start playing a different song while they are still playing.
    That's just dumb. At least wait for the song to finish. Or if you want
    to jam with that person, see below.
  • Find another song besides "Through the Fire and Flames."
    Every existing ABC version of that song sounds horrible.

One of the cooler aspects of the ABC system is the ability to form a
band and play synchronized songs. It's really simple to do:

  1. Join a fellowship with your bandmate. Determine who will be
    Bobby, who will be Bootsy, who will be Clyde and who will be Catfish.
  2. Pick a song with multiple parts; there are several websites
    where you can download multi-part songs and many different versions of
    popular songs, so make sure everyone is using
    the same version from the same site. To check what songs you have in
    your music library,
    type /playlist. This will show you all the
    .abc and .txt files in your Documents/The Lord of the Rings
    Online/music folder.
  3. style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 220px; float: left;"
    alt="Sample playlist"

    example playlist with different styles of multi-part songs. Neil Young
    and RUSH bring Can-con to LotRO.

    Each player types /play filename sync
    There are 2 different
    ways this works:

    • If the song is made of multiple files, each person
      use the file name. For example, if the song is called Disco, and there
      is a file for the lute called disco_lute and one for the theorbo called
      disco_bass, lute guy would type /play disco_lute sync
      and theorbo guy
      would type /play disco_bass sync
    • If the song is mutilple parts in a single file, each
      person would type the file name and a corresponding number. These files
      show up on the playlist like the picture at right. In order to play the
      lute part for Heart of Gold, I would type /play
      heartofgold 1 sync
  4. Once everybody is ready to go, the bandleader types
  5. ???
  6. PROFIT!

Right about now I am beginning to question Slitha's gear. She
is getting destroyed in the Barrow-downs and needs a few upgrades. At
this point, non-crit tier 2 armor (Tough Leather Armor) is better than
what she is wearing, which is a little bit sad, and almost all of her
jewelry is rather weak quest reward stuff. On my mains, this is just a
matter of switching to alts, gathering up a few resources, slapping
together some critted gear and shoving it in the shared storage, or
bartering with friends and kinsmen to make the items for me. However,
since Slitha has very few friends, does not belong to a kinship, has no
alts to fall back on, her options are
severely limited. A viable option right now is to burn through to level
20 as quickly as possible and start skirmishing, spending skirmish
marks on gear before upgrading my soldier.

By the end of the night, Slitha is midway through level 18,
has done most of the North Barrow-Downs quests, has 334 silver pieces
in her pocket and has a juicy 121 Turbine Points in her account. She is
able to craft tier 2 tailor recipes (though not yet crit them), but
because of her slow start she is only able to mine tier 1 ore nodes.
And my seething hatred for the Old Forest continues unabated. There are
quests for the place that I very badly want to skip, and absolutely
will if I can complete the Bree-land Adventurer deeds without them. The
place fills me with rage and loathing - I unfailingly get lost and die
at least once trying to find the way back out, and I skip it entirely
whenever possible. All I need to do is get another level and a half and
I can start skirmishes and Great Barrows runs with groups.

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alt="Hands-on with LotRO Free-to-Play"

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Day 4: Level 18 - 21

First off, it would not normally take me 4 days to get to
level 20 on my VIP account. On those characters, I can push harder and
level faster with the help of friends and kinsmen and a stable of
crafting alts to keep me well-equipped. I can tackle more challenging
content earlier and not worry about needing to complete deeds
to  earn enough points to unlock new content. I don't need to
take so many trips to the vendors to unload, and I can send myself
money and get a horse early on. Level 20 takes 2 days on my VIP
account, depending on the class; maybe 3 if I spend any time crafting
or if the class plays slowly at low levels (like burglars). For poor
little Slitha, who has none of these resources at her command, progress
is slower; I can't chase the levels like I can on a VIP account, but
must take the time to earn points to open up more of the game. Instead
of chasing levels, I'm chasing points, and that takes longer.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 375px; float: left;"
alt="Ponderous Hobbit"

wonders why people who already bought content have to buy it again.

I would also like to address a particular point of concern for
former subscribers who have recently logged in after their accounts
have lapsed, only to find that everything they had once "owned" is now
closed to them. This seems like poor judgement on Turbine's part, and a
lot of people are unhappy that the things they paid for are not
available to them. The href="">FAQ

When LOTRO Free-to-Play becomes available you will
still be able to access the content and features of any expansions you
have previously purchased. Whether you are a VIP or a Premium player,
the content and features of these expansions will be available to you
in their entirety.

This is the sticking point. People who purchased parts of the
have access to them 'in their entirety." What about the people who
purchased the original Shadows of Angmar? Or the Collector's Edition of
Mines of Moria, which came with Shadows of Angmar included? The people
who bought the original game, who helped to build the player community
and paved the way for future expansions by paying money for that
content, are being unjustifiably penalized. I strongly believe that
this is an issue that needs to be corrected; people who paid for
content should own it, and not be subjected to the same limitations as
those who did not.

Anyway, enough soap-boxing. Slitha has some bandits to kill.

I think if I weren't pushing this one character for this
article, I would be spending today on a disposable alt, burning through
the Shire at a rabid pace to farm Turbine Points.
She is going to need those points soon enough when Bree-land quests
start becoming trivial. On a VIP character, I would be in the western
Lone-lands by level 18, running the quests out of the Forsaken Inn and
that area. But on Slitha, I am still almost 300 points short of
unlocking Lone-lands. She will need to kill a lot of bandits, orcs,
neekers, sickle-flies and spiders in the next little while if she wants
to get to the Lone-lands any time soon. But my goal for today is level
20 and skirmishes, so instead of farming points, I'll be tearing
through some quests in Adso's camp and the Barrow-Downs.

Level 20 was a w00t moment: skirmishes, Great-Barrows
instances, 3 trainable skills and 3
trainable passives. Unfortunately, I have to choose between training
skills and buying a horse - buying all these skills will cost almost
half the money I have. I went with skills. Mischief stance improves my
Riddle, and Startling Twist adds another level of crowd-control to the
arsenal. Since I'll be skirmishing soon, I won't need a horse for a
while. Horse can wait.

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 315px; float: left;"
alt="Slitha on a horse"

digs her shiny new blonde sorrel horse.

While I was grinding through the bounties in the Barrow-downs,
the Lone-lands
quest pack went on sale at a HUGE discount: 87 points marked down from
395. North Downs and Evendim were likewise marked way, way down. It's a
24-hour sale, so I have to act quickly. I
snagged up Lone-lands right away, and need another 60 points for North
Downs. I have a few more Barrow-downs deeds to finish, and that will
get me close to enough. Also, it didn't take long to make up the money
spent on skills, and now Slitha can afford a horse. But only just
barely, and she has no scratch left over to slot her racial skills at
the bard.

With the help of a traveling buddy, I tore through a bunch of
exploration deeds in Bree-land and Ered Luin, and did a couple of quick
slayer deeds (spiders in Ered Luin is super-easy when you know where to
go) and scraped together the last few points I needed to buy the North
Downs quest pack. I now have options for when I get bored with
skirmishes and Great Barrows-grinding, and more places to earn yet more
deeds. Which I will need for the points to buy the Evendim and
Trollshaws expansions later. Hopefully those go on sale at some point
like these ones did today. And since those areas are now unlocked, I
don't have to worry about buying new ones for a few more days. I can
work on accumulating points, maybe buy a 4th inventory bag or save them
up for Evendim/Trollshaws. If I can somehow earn another 148 points by
tomorrow night, I can possibly buy the Evendim quest pack at the
current 75% discount. But that's not looking likely. I've burned
through all the easy deeds now and have only slayer deeds left, and
some of those I haven't yet started.

After the relentless grind for points, Slitha relaxed a bit
with some orc-slaying quests and then crafted herself some new duds
from recipes she got from the Barrow-Downs bounties. Tomorrow will be a
big day for her - Great Barrows runs and skirmishing - and she's going
to need the good gear and all the rest she can get.

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alt="Hands-on with LotRO Free-to-Play"

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Day 5: Level 21 - ??

On the final day of this whirlwind tour, my plan is to run GB
and skirmishes until I puke. Slitha is as geared as she is going to get
for a while, since she is completely broke and can't even afford to
repair the mediocre gear she is wearing. 

When I logged out, she was smack-dab in the middle of the Bree
skirmish camp, and it was very late so there was little activity.
Logging back in, the "chatter" chat window was filled with LFF requests
for Great Barrows runs. It took no time to find a group - though the
group was rather less than ideal. This is going to be an issue for a
lot of people, particularly new folks who do not yet understand the
capabilities and complexities of all the different classes. Slitha's
first Great Barrows group (indeed her first 6-man fellowship) consisted
of 2 Burglars, a Captain, a Minstrel, a Hunter and a Champion. The
group leader decided that the Champion would tank for us, despite the
fact that the Champion did not have a shield.

At this level, most pick-up groups are like a colorful
rendition of Lord of the Flies, but with hobbits, dwarves and elves
instead of prep school kids, and dungeons full of undead instead of
deserted tropical islands. Leadership depends on who can speak the most
convincingly, and is generally determined by who has the most
experience. He who has the experience holds the conch. In this case, it
was Slitha, and she managed to guide her first group of low-level noobs
to a sloppy, high-casualty brand of victory before anyone got fed up
and rage-quit. Though it was a close call; the fight against the giant
worms is hard, especially when running with inexperienced new players
at that level.

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alt="Slitha and another F2P friend"

with her F2P running buddy Acera. Note the use of Great Barrows armor,
which is ubiquitous among F2P players.

This is when the player starts to get into the real "meat" of
the game. Questing is all well and good, and it's a fine way to level
and get money and quest rewards, but the thing that makes MMOs great
and fun and compelling is the MM part. Grinding quests can mostly be
done solo, and there are loads of other games for that sort of thing
that don't suffer from things like griefing from over-competitive
players. The reason to play any MMO is to run with groups of people, to
enjoy an otherwise solitary pastime with other like-minded folks.
Running Great Barrows with a group of 6 strangers takes me back to my
very first online gaming experience - the little rush I felt when
experiencing something new and exciting, not knowing what to expect
from these other folks. That's the real quality of F2P. Anyone can
experience that, 100% free of charge.

From this point, Slitha has options. She can continue to run
quests in Lone-lands or North Downs while the XP is still good, or she
can grind skirmishes and instances for gear. The general skirmish gear
is rather mediocre - some of it is better than her current equipment,
but the skirmish marks are better spent on soldier upgrades or saved
for the Great Barrows level 25 gear, which is pretty good. I am
reasonably certain that there will be other quest pack sales as the
game continues to grow and develop, so she can keep on grinding deeds
and saving up points to get things like inventory bags without worrying
about having to choose between that or more content. And with the
Lone-lands and North Downs packs, there will be plenty of content to
keep her busy as she gets to higher levels. I'm going to be keeping a
close eye on the launcher messages to watch out for such
bargain-basement sales in the future.

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In Summary

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 240px; height: 500px; float: left;"
alt="Slitha at Weathertop"

looks forward to more to come for her F2P experience.

Though Slitha the Burglar was created for the sole purpose of
this article, I will definitely keep her and revisit her from time to
She's certainly no less fun to play than a low-level VIP toon, and the
challenge of chasing the Turbine Points rather than the levels is a
fresh experience.

The bells and whistles that come with VIP are great, and I
absolutely recommend subscribing for any player who wants to enjoy
LotRO for longer than a month or so. But VIP is not the only way to get
a good time out of the game. F2P is a solid gaming experience, and not
all that different from a full subscription. There are different kinds
of challenges - scraping together points, more focus on completing
deeds early on - but Slitha's experience with the Great Barrows was
essentially no different than those of my VIP toons of a similar level.
And if I had joined a good, newb-friendly kinship instead of just
soloing everything, her progress would have been much faster, and
closer to the VIP experience. 

Basically, if you're looking for a casual visit, want to try
an extended trial before you decided whether or not to subscribe, or
are on a tight gaming budget, definitely check out LotRO Free-to-Play.
If you want to get a little deeper into the game without a monthly
commitment, the Turbine Point packages are good value and will add a
lot to the game. But if this is a game you feel you could play for a
long time - like us lifetimers on VIP - absolutely get a subscription.
While there is a lot to the F2P version, a VIP subscription opens so
many more doors.

For the record, Slitha ended day 5 at level 24.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016