One of the nicest features of the Lord of the Rings Online is the inclusion of tons of features that have nothing to do with questing, leveling, grinding or other such things. You can get drunk and party your pants off, or farm pipeweed which has no other use than to smoke it and blow cool smoke rings, you can lounge around in inns and taverns playing music... or you can go exploring for the weird little spots that have nothing to do with anything.
Some of these spots have no real "reason" to be in the game. They don't necessarily advance the lore, there are few or no quests attached to them, and they're just kind of there. Some of them are located in remote, unpopulated spots. Others are smack-dab in the middle of things but are so below-the-radar that you have to know they are there and actively look for them to find them. All of them, in one way or another, add that ineffable "flavor" that sets LotRO apart from other games. And there's at least one such place in every region.
This spot is located inside a door between the entrance to Thorin's Hall and the skirmish camp. Obviously, the Dwarves need a place to grow their own food and such, and probably don't want to have to import everything from the elves living to the south. But there's an air of tranquility in the greenhouse, a serene ambiance that belies the imposing and austere stone structures surrounding it.
THE SHIREMethel Stage
This one sees a bit more foot-traffic on RP servers, where large musical events can be organized for characters of all levels. On non-RP servers, the stage largely sits empty, waiting to be filled with the Hobbit versions of Sha-Na-Na and the Jimi Hendrix Experience while the barefoot, pipeweed-smoking organic farmers from all around gather to watch.
The Mess Hall
Bree-land has the most "hidden gems" of any region, and it's hard to narrow down the choices. The Mess Hall, one of my personal favorites, is located more or less centrally in Bree-town, just north of the boar fountain. There are no NPCs inside, and no quests associated with it. It's a cozy little place with lots of seating and plenty of food laid out, but no one to eat it. It seems to be custom-designed for roleplaying purposes - there's a nice big window overlooking the streets of Bree, a couple of ovens you can use to cook low-tier food, and a counter to stand behind to sell it to customers.Ost Alagos
So you're roaming around between Nen Harn and the Midgewater Marsh looking for sickle-flies for the slayer deed. Everything is around level 20 or so, and it's been going well. All of a sudden, this crazy jagged ruined fortress looms before you. You approach cautiously and discover that the place is crawling with level 50 elite orcs. Looking around, you find a small band of stranded campers (just below the I in "Weather Hills" on the map) with a handful of quests for the place. Bree-land just got crazy.
Freeze Tag Arena
This is an old favorite, located just southeast of the Bree-land Festival Grounds and not marked on the map. There are two arenas - the one set of ruins nearest the festival grounds is for regular tag, and the one further southeast is for freeze-tag. Take a group of friends and head in - you'll find an NPC and a Tag Beacon. When the beacon is used, the tag match starts, and anyone inside is in the game. One player will be designated as "It" and be marked with an arrow over his head. Run speed buffs are disabled here, but you can totally cheat by finding hard-to-reach places along the tops of walls. The matches last as long as there are people inside still playing the game. There are no rewards, deeds or titles associated with the tag games, so the only real incentive to come here is to take a break from the grind and have some fun.
An interesting side-note: these ruins are located next to the
Hobnanigan field. Hobnanigan was apparently something like soccer, but
played with chickens and sticks. It hasn't been seen since the Summer
Festival in 2008, but the Hobnanigan field has remained in place,
abandoned, ever since.
The Wolf Pack
This is pretty much on the border between the Lone-lands and Bree-land, up in the Weather Hills. Just northeast of Weathertop is a river, and on the north bank of the river you will find Gondrinn - a little rotunda of stone columns that looks like some ancient Roman was planning on building something important there and then bailed. Follow the pass leading west from Gondrinn, up the hill a ways, and you will see a pack of wolves begin to gather. They all run up and cluster together in a group, guarding the upper entrance to the pass. Against what, no one knows, but it's cool to watch.
There is one quest from someone, somewhere, to head into the Etten Caves for some reason. Just the one quest. And the place is huge and kind of awesome. It's not marked on the map - head to Taur Gonwaith, south of Esteldin where all the trolls are, and look for a hill marked with standing stones forming arches. Etten Cave is at the top of that area. It's crawling with trolls, so go in prepared.
Annuminas - Ultimate Fighting Trolls
This one is kind of entertaining. Head to Annuminas, battle your way through Tirband and Clorhir and look for the bridge leading to Tyl Annun. Just when you reach the end of it, look for a set of stairs on the left leading down. There's a bunch more ruins down there, filled with trolls and Angmarim. Clustered away in there, you'll find a couple of brutes going at it with clubs while the Angmarim cheer them on. I imagine it's something like larger-scale cockfighting - one of the Angmarim wearing a leather vest and a porkpie hat, taking bets and writing wagers in a little black book while shouting out the odds through a haze of pipeweed smoke.
There's one quest out of Echad Candelleth that has you scouring the ruins in the south for Gauredain casters. This quest is the end of a long and rather tedious chain, and can be completed by running around the ruins and waiting for respawns. But there's a cool cave at the very back of the ruins with winding, circular paths, crazy blue-green-purple lighting and a lot of man-hours in design work. It's worth exploring just because it looks cool.
This one takes some effort to find. It's in the bottom of the third layer of tunnels in Goblin-town. Just outside the cave, there's a crazy mural depicting, presumably, Gollum menacing a bunch of cowering stick-figure goblins, painted by some unknown hand. Inside Gollum's cave, you'll find his tiny, vacant island bathed in eerie green light, way out in the middle of a pool surrounded by giant salamanders. The salamanders were not mentioned in the book... but one can easily imagine how living on that tiny rock for hundreds of years, eating nothing but cold, slimy, blind fish snatched out of the nasty water (and the occasional strangled goblin), and with nothing in the world except one awesome gold ring, could potentially drive a person somewhat stir-crazy.
Basically Anywhere In Forochel At Night
There's not really any secret caves or anything in Forochel that qualify as a "hidden gem." Basically, the whole night sky, with the constantly-shifting Aurora Borealis effect, looks epic no matter where you are in that frozen wasteland.
Gate of Gath Uior
This one falls more under the category of "lost treasure" than "hidden
gem." Back in the days before the Instance Join Panel, when the level
cap was 50 and the Rift of Nurz Ghashu was something people actually
still did, you had to run this crazy gauntlet of giants, cargul,
gaunt-men, uruks, trolls and other horrible things just to get to the
base camp, where you could summon anyone not brave or foolhardy enough
to make the run themselves. Now that you can just form the group and
join from wherever, this madhouse dash is no longer necessary. And since
hardly anyone runs the Rift on-level anyway, the death march through the
Gate of Gath Uior is a thing of the past, a relic of a forgotten age.
Sadly, the same can be said for much of Angmar's content.
The Peak of the Hollin Ridge
I've always liked the simple, rugged beauty of Eregion. Makes me nostalgic for some reason. Anyway, this location unlocks a hidden title deed if you can make it there. You start at the east end of the Hollin Ridge, look for a couple of choice jump spots along the southern face, and run along the secret path to the hilltop gazebo on the western peak. When you reach your goal, you earn the title "Ridge-runner," and you are rewarded with a grand vista overlooking all of Eregion.
The Tavern Above 21st Hall
I call this one "Tavern On The Beam." As far as I know, there's only one way to get here: drink from the Moria Keg and cross your fingers. Much of the time, you will end up in more mundane places throughout Moria - Chamber of the Crossroads, asleep on the edge of the well, or stranded on some rocky ledge somewhere dangerous. But if you're lucky, you'll find your way to the most exclusive tavern in the game. If you have no milestone or other travel skills available, there's only one way down: plummet to your death in front of the Auction House waaaaay down below.
Caras Galadhon - Galadriel's Garden
At the end of Volume II Book 6, you hang out in Galadriel's Garden for
a few minutes, talking with the Lady as she foretells your future by
looking into her fabled mirror and having a brief chat with Gwaihir,
Lord of the Eagles. You have to poke your head in to complete the Caras
Galadhon exploration deed later on, sometime after you've earned Friend
standing with the Galadhrim. After that, the beautiful garden remains
largely ignored, which is a shame because it was clearly a labor of love
for the builders. The golden glow of daytime infuses the place with a
comfortable summer afternoon vibe, and the purple twilight colors of the
night sky give it an air of deep and profound mystery. Regardless of
time of day, it's a breathtaking place.
Ost Galadh - Minas Glorelloth
There's a hidden deed associated with finding this spot, as well as the
opposite corner of the ruined fortress. You have to be a master of
parkour to reach Minas Glorelloth, picking a circuitous route along the
high walkways and leaping across long gaps to reach the northeast corner
tower. From the top, you command a nice view of Mirkwood's treetops, and
when you find both tower tops you gain the title "Master Ascender."
Mirkwood is no less gloomy and dark up here, but there are no
tree-trunks blocking your view, and that's worth something.
The Fishing Hole
Tucked away in a corner of the Gloomglens, just beside the entrance to
Maur Tulhau, you'll find a buch of rocks you can climb. Scamper up
there, edge your way around the boulder up top and you'll find a quiet
little pond where the Stoor anglers hang out. You won't catch anything
especially noteworthy in the pond (nothing you won't find at any other
prime fishing hole, anyway), but you will earn the title "the
Fisher-king" for finding the place. A detail I find particularly
endearing: the little sparrow on the dock that flutters away for a
moment and comes back to hang out. There's also usually a couple of loot
Tal Methedras - Snow Village
There are a lot of awesome little corners in Dunland - my own personal favorites are the Pit of Avardin and the Peaceful Glade in Dunbog - but this one is particularly cool (lame pun intended). The first time you go to Tal Methedras, take a detour off the path and head up the hills to the right to find the village of happy snowmen hanging around their igloos and Lossoth-themed snow forts. All is happy and well. Later on, after things take a bad turn there, you can return to the snow village to find it all smashed up with broken snowmen. Back when Rise of Isengard launched, they talked a great deal about the phasing technology that went into the villages of Dunland as you adventured along - this is one of the best things they did with that.
Found any weird, lesser-known spots that you would like to share? Let
us know in our forums!