RUNE-KEEPER CLASS OVERVIEW
Not satisfied with all the beige, ecru and taupe rocks lying around, he brought his own bluish-grey rock to add a little flair.
There is great power in words, and no-one knows this better than the Rune-keeper. Drawing on the power of poetic imagery, from ancient texts carved into stone, the Rune-keeper constructs verbal illusions that seem all-too-terribly real to the recipients, much like Galadriel shows Frodo the horrifying visions in Lothlorien that set him on the path to greatness. The might of the Rune-keeper's words has (literally) shocking power. And unlike the Lore-master, whose powers can be attributed to natural sciences (in a loose, allegorical kind of way - lightning striking targets coated with magnetic filings, e.g.), the Rune-keeper uses bona fide magic to accomplish his goals.
The Rune-keeper is a premium class, only available to VIP players or Premium players who have unlocked the class through the LotRO Store. It is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful classes in the game, able to out-DPS Hunters on single targets, and arguably able to out-heal Minstrels.
In a group, the Rune-keeper is a healing machine, dishing out loads of stackable heals-over-time. While Minstrels may have the Rune-keeper beat on burst-healing (delivering big-number heals in an instant), the Rune-keeper excels in building long, constant streams of smaller heals, which require slightly less focus to maintain over a long battle. The Rune-keeper can build up a solid stack of heals-over-time on a tank, for instance, and switch off to the champion for a moment, knowing that the tank will still be receiving heals for a few seconds while his attentions are elsewhere.
The solo Rune-keeper is a dangerous adversary, harnessing the elements to rain destruction on his foes - or at least poetically alluding to the elements in such a way as to make the recipients of his skills feel as though the elements are truly being harnessed, and to suffer the full effects thereof. The damage dealt by a full-DPS-spec Rune-keeper can be staggering - enough to make even jealous Hunters claim that the class is "overpowered." Of course, those Hunters probably don't understand the drawbacks of armor restrictions and attunement meters that serve as a balance for hitting the big numbers.
The Rune-keeper class is available only to Dwarves and Elves. At low levels, Dwarves are physically sturdier than Elves and can take slightly more of a beating. At higher levels, neither race has a distinct advantage over the other, and either is an acceptable choice.
When fully attuned and traited, Rune-keepers can hit some devastating damage numbers, out-nuking Hunters in terms of single-target DPS. Level-capped characters can hit big, 4-digit damage numbers fairly consistently, and can do excellent damage on the run with no inductions. And they can increase their combat effectiveness while moving, building up battle attunement with instant, on-the-run lightning attacks. This gives them a distinct advantage over Hunters, who must remain stationary (or at least pause momentarily) to use any of their ranged skills.
The bulk of Rune-keeper healing is heals-over-time (referred to hereafter as HOTs), most of which stack with one another, and some of which can be tiered up for greater heals. Throwing a stream of stacked HOTs on the party's tank means that his morale bar should barely budge. With Minstrel heals, health bars tend to dip and spike suddenly, and when Minstrels are incapacitated or getting attacked, no one gets healed. When a Rune-keeper gets incapacitated, it takes a few seconds for the HOTs to wear off. Furthermore, this means the Rune-keeper can switch healing targets often without worrying over-much that specific group members are not getting the heals they need. Additionally, several healing skills cause the recipient to take less damage while active, meaning healing is not quite as rushed as it is with the Minstrel.
And let's not ignore the zen-like Middle Path. These utility skills and buffs are usable at any attunement, and can be used to change from one "mode" to the other - if the Rune-keeper is all the way into battle attunement and suddenly needs to switch to healing mode, throw down some Middle Path skills and get to healing. The buffs and debuffs from this line can be very powerful, and include the Rune-keeper's in-combat conditional revive skill, the most interesting and tricksiest revive skills in the game. Many of the skills in this line are affected by the Rune-keeper's elemental affinity, which changes according to which rune-stone he wields. So if a particular element is giving the Rune-keeper or his allies trouble, it may be a simple matter of swapping stones.
Rune-keepers are a high-Fate class. Fate affects in-combat power/morale regeneration and tactical critical rating, and these are the lifeblood of the Rune-keeper. Tactical critical rating affects healing as well as damage-dealing, so having a high rating means hitting for exceptional heals more often.
Rune-keepers are powerful, and in order to keep that power in-check and balanced with the other classes, they need some checks and balances.
The first check (or balance?) is the restriction to light armor. A fully-battle-attuned Rune-keeper is a glass cannon, dealing out big numbers but unable to withstand much punishment himself. While the ability to switch to full-healing mode makes the Rune-keeper slightly less squishy than a Lore-master, they are still less durable than many other classes, and physical combat can be quite dangerous. Staying at a range is optimum.
Switching from one attunement to the other, be it from DPS mode to healing mode or vice versa, takes time. The Steady Hands legendary trait allows for a quick switch every 5 minutes, but it may be inconvenient to trait this skill and, even when it is used, building up attunement still requires time and/or resources. Since the most effective skills require high attunement, miracles cannot be expected on-demand. While exceptional in both areas, the Rune-keeper can either heal or DPS, but cannot effectively do both at once.
Like the Minstrel, Rune-keeper healing has 2 primary drawbacks: inductions and threat. With proper aggro management, running with a Rune-keeper is not all that different from running with a Minstrel, but there are times when the Rune-keeper's specific style of healing will require altering strategies a bit. For example, if the Rune-keeper drops a Rune of Restoration prior to a big fight and the tank rushes in and engages enemies while still within the healing radius, the enemies may disengage the tank in favor of the Rune of Restoration. The same applies to HOTs applied to the tank prior to a fight - if the tank rushes in while under the effects of a Mending Verse and/or a Prelude to Hope, the threat from each healing pulse may draw mobs off the tank and onto the Rune-keeper. Threat management will require some practice and patience to master.
Additionally, because the Rune-keeper's heals typically have longer inductions and smaller numbers spread out over time, Minstrels are the better full-group healers. This is not to say that Rune-keepers cannot heal full groups - they can do quite well when spec'ed for it. But Minstrels can spread out big burst heals quicker, whereas Rune-keepers spread HOTs evenly, and these generally take longer to build up. Also, Minstrels can heal big right out of the gate, while Rune-keepers must ramp their healing as they build up higher attunement to use the more powerful skills.
Power consumption may need to be carefully managed, particularly when spec'ed for DPS. While the Rune-keeper has lots of skills, tricks and toys that reduce power costs of particular skills, the essence of the class is his power pool and how quickly it replenishes.
Many classes in the Lord of the Rings Online are hybrids of genre archetypes, and the Rune-keeper is no exception. This premium class combines the Nuker with the Healer and can perform either task with great aplomb. He is the tactical DPS king, and some would argue the best overall DPSer in the game, hitting massive damage numbers with alarming frequency. Healing-wise, he is on-par with the venerated Minstrel, with a seemingly smoother flow of delicious healing juice than the spiky, irregular bursts of the Minnie. The sheer power of this class bumps it into the Premium category, so F2P players looking to hit damage numbers that make all the Hunters green with envy, save up your points and unlock the Rune-keeper.