Updated Mon, Apr 04, 2011 by gunky
Orc-waylayer, meet Hobbit-traplayer. He's been expecting you.
LotRO is a very solo-friendly game. While there are many instances and raids that require running with groups, most of the "core" stuff (general quests, epic books) is soloable, and Hunters seem ideally suited for this.
For soloing, survivability is of tantamount importance. There is slightly less emphasis on maxing out things like Ranged Offense, and more on improving morale and power and damage mitigation. Raw DPS can be exchanged for crowd control power, though most solo Hunters still prefer to use Strength stance to hit the big numbers more often. A Hunter's mobility and speed move him quickly from one fight to the next when unencumbered by lumbering tanks and doddering healers and buffers.
A good skill rotation is easy to figure out for soloing: toggle Strength stance, start with Focus, lay a trap with Set Snare (and/or a crafted trap), pick a target and throw a vicious combo like Swift Bow - Penetrating Shot - Barbed Arrow - Quick Shot - Merciful Shot. This is a brutal assault against on-level, normal mobs, and enough to outright kill many of them by the time they get into melee range. If they do survive this onslaught, they can usually be quickly dispatched with a few melee attacks or auto-attacks before they have a chance to do any serious harm.
Tougher mobs (elites, over-level normals, etc.) will require a slightly different rotation. Burn Hot plus Needful Haste plus Heart-seeker makes a fine "power-pull" in these cases, dealing massive damage on the very first shot and unleashing a rapid stream of big, brutal hits. In most cases, tougher mobs will close into melee range while still relatively healthy, and the Hunter will need to throw some melee skills into the mix, foregoing some of the long induction shots in favor of speedy attacks. A rotation starting with Swift Bow - Quick Shot (for the slow) - Penetrating Shot - Barbed Arrow should be enough to soften the enemy by the time it closes to melee range. At that point, a melee rotation like Swift Stroke (defense buff) - Scourging Blow (extra damage from the Barbed Arrow bleed) - Blindside - Penetrating Shot will deliver a solid blow to the enemy's morale. But you may want to hold that Blindside in reserve, as it can be used to interrupt troublesome enemy inductions - self-heals, frontal area-effect stuns, etc. And you may want to work Dazing Blow into the mix also, as it can dispel up to 3 corruptions and give you a brief moment's pause to open up some distance.
When fighting multiple mobs, Hunters have few area-effect skills, but the ones they do have are quite powerful. Rain of Arrows delivers a shower of higly-damaging arrows to up to 5 enemies within a radius of the target creature, and is usable every 10 seconds provided the Hunter has enough Focus built up to use it. Low Cut is a sweeping blow with both melee weapons that applies a useful slow effect in a frontal arc, and is useful if the Hunter needs to retreat a bit to get off some induction shots. The legendary skill, Rain of Thorns, is almost exactly like Rain of Arrows, but it roots up to 5 mobs in place, allowing the Hunter to more effectively control the fight by selecting favored targets and fighting them one at a time. One point to consider, however: Hunter area-effect attacks, particularly Rain of Arrows, can break carefully-planned traps, mezzes and fears, and can accidentally aggro nearby creatures.
Of course, area-effect skills are not the only way to deal with multiple mobs. This is when crowd-control skills come in handy. The Hunter has at his disposal 2 fears (Cry of the Predator for beasts of nature, Bard's Arrow for everything else), 2 stuns (Distracting Shot for ranged, Dazing Blow for melee), 3 slows (Low Cut, Quick Shot in Strength stance, Set Snare), and 4 roots (Set Trap, Crafted Trap, Rain of Thorns, Penetrating Shot when traited). The Trapper of Foes trait line, while damping overall DPS, may make some fights much easier, as it makes traps stronger and more readily-available. And when things get really hairy, there's always Desperate Flight - when the going gets tough, the Hunter DFs.
Power consumption can be a real issue when soloing, particularly when using Strength stance, which consumes more power than other stances. For prolonged fights against mobs with very high morale, it will be important to be well-stocked with both power and morale potions. It may be possible to throw down a crafted trap in the middle of a fight, or use a fear or daze to buy a few precious seconds of "quiet time" in which to use Strength of the Earth to regain some power, but having potions handy is generally more reliable.
It is usually a good idea to have lots of potions and crafted food for soloing. The Hunter's Purge Poison skill - which is instant and has no cooldown - negates the need for poison pots, but he must still rely on external means to combat fears, wounds and diseases. For crafted food, look for the highest level food you can use that restores both morale and power in-combat. Most morale- and power-restoring food has two sets of values: in-combat and out-of-combat. Out-of-combat regeneration is basically meaningless, as a Bright Campfire and a moment's pause does the very same job and doesn't require expensive crafting materials. Trail food is another great thing to have, particularly trail food that buffs Vitality or Agility. Of those two, Vitality-boosting foods are probably the better choice, as a Hunter's Agility should already be quite high.
Crowd control plays a significant role for the solo Hunter. Traps, in addition to being just plain awesome, can be life-savers. Cry of the Predator can shake off those pesky warg adds long enough to finish off your main target. Distracting Shot, Dazing Blow and Bard's Arrow are great for temporarily disabling potentially troublesome adds, and Rain of Thorns allows the Hunter to put a little distance between himself and the swarming hordes of baddies.