Updated Wed, Oct 05, 2011 by gunky
The Lord of the Rings Online's third expansion, Rise of Isengard, officially launched Tuesday, September 27. That was the official launch, but it actually went live Monday afternoon, and while some of us waited (im)patiently for the updates to finish downloading, loads of people got an early start in Dunland. In my own experience, the patching process took around 8 hours or so, but many of my friends assured me that their patching only took 30 minutes. I was finally able to log in just after midnight - technically, Tuesday morning.
I decided that the first toon I would run through the new content would be my Hobbit Hunter, Gunkydoc. He's been my main for a long time and is my most "familiar" and complete character. He required the least amount of preparation according to our Preparing For Launch Guide - he has lots of money, plenty of potions and other consumables, excellent gear, and all but 4 of his Virtues are already 12 or higher (12 being the new cap for Virtues). Just before the servers went down Monday morning, I parked him at Nar's Peak in Thror's Coomb in Enedwaith, which is where Volume III, Book 3 finishes.
For his first login, Gunkydoc mysteriously received several thousand XP, auto-completed all the newly-split Moria deeds, and had a bunch of Skirmish Marks refunded. Several skirmish traits have been consolidated to reflect the changes to stats, and the ones he had equipped for his Herbalist soldier were refunded.
Step One was refitting his Legendary Items, all of which had their points reset. Gunkydoc has an amazing level Second Age crossbow that he got well before the standardization that came with Free-to-Play - it has 7 legacies instead of 6 (four Majors, three Minors), and I prefer that one to the level 65 First Age crossbow he has as a backup (four Majors, two Minors).
Step Two was visiting Harndirion to pick up the new mid-level skills, Split Shot and Hunter's Art.
Split Shot is... not great. It's an area-effect induction skill that hits several targets within 2m for modest damage. 2m is a very small area, and the lengthy induction makes it not particularly suited for a mid-combat skill while soloing. It's more useful in a group setting where mobs will be tightly-clustered around a tank and the Hunter has time to pull back and make a long-induction shot. On the one hand, it's nice to have an option for AoE attacks that build focus. On the other hand, a 2m radius is of limited utility.
Hunter's Art, on the other hand, is awesome. This one uses 3
Focus and does moderate damage, but the real magic is the
self-stacking buff it applies according to the Hunter's stance.
In Strength stance, it adds +5% to ranged damage; Precision
stance causes this skill to add ~+730 Finesse (at level 65); and
Endurance stance causes it to add ~+200 in-Combat Power
Regeneration (at level 65). This buff lasts for 20 seconds, and
the skill has a 10-second cooldown, so Hunters can stack the
buff twice by using this skill in regular rotation (meaning +10%
ranged damage in Strength, ~+1500 Finesse in Precision, ~+400
ICPR in Endurance).
These skills, and all the other new skills, tweaks and changes,
will be discussed in greater detail in our (soon-to-be-updated)
Step Three was to retrain my Skirmish soldier by buying the newly-consolidated skills. I could have left this until later, but the skirmish camp was right there, so I went ahead with it. Once I was all straightened away, I started Volume III, Book 4 - back to Corunir at Nar's Peak, then on to Lhanuch.