The Road to Level 75
There have been a few server-side changes made to the
Lord of the Rings Online since its latest expansion,
of Isengard, went live last Monday. On Day
1, my Road to Level 75 was paved with riches - backpacks and
corpses and random treasure chests spawned in mad abundance around
the landscape, and despite the heavy first-day traffic I ended up
making somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 gold without really
trying. Apparently, the treasure spawns were a bit too abundant,
and were turned off by the second day.
After meeting with frustration in Day
2 of my Road to Level 75, I made a decision to try to earn
some levels through skirmishes. On paper, this seemed like a dandy
idea, but in practical terms, it turned out to be not so great. My
soldier had fallen behind and the skirmishes were slow and
painful, and didn't reward very much experience for all the work.
I stopped doing that after 2 skirmishes and decided to change my
gameplan a bit. I'll go back to skirmishes when I hit 75 and fast
XP gain is not a priority.
Tweaking the Build
My new attack plan involved tweaks to my build and a weapon
upgrade. I swapped out Determination and Fidelity
in favor of Zeal and Wisdom -
this bumped up my base Morale and Power and added some extra
defense. I also swapped out the class trait Barbed Fury
for Critical Eye - slightly less damage from Barbed
Arrow in exchange for a much higher Critical Rating,
which improves DPS overall.
I also swapped out my aging Second Age crossbow for a
higher-level Third Age bow:
I was loathe to do this. That crossbow has been my weapon of
choice for a long time, and I prefer it over my First Age
crossbow, which isn't finished:
At first, I wasn't sure that this would count as an "upgrade,"
despite the +20 DPS of the Third Age bow. The new bow has poor,
low-tier legacies, and all my good relics are slotted in the
Second and First Age items, so I only had some mediocre Tier 4 and
5 relics to put in the new one. But when I tested it out on some
yellow mobs, it showed its worth. I'm a Hunter, after all, and
cannot argue against bigger numbers.
Still, it broke my heart when I had to decon my Second Age
crossbow. Kruklak Akashuga-ob (Black Speech for "Crossbow of the
Halflings") was an epic killing machine, having spilled the blood
of thousands of enemies. Its name was surely whispered among the
orcs of Mirkwood in hushed, frightened tones, and among the
Draig-luth of Enedwaith and the twisted denizens of Ost Dunhoth.
Its retirement from service was the end of an era, and I
personally felt that it should have had a lot more ceremony.
Here's an item on my wishlist - when we deconstruct a maxed-out
Legendary Item and can pick one of the legacies as a scroll, give
us the option to turn it into a housing trophy. Some of these
weapons have a great history - Kruklak Akashuga-ob has been used
to destroy epic villains (the Lieutenant of Barad Guldur, the
Mistress of Pestilence, the Watcher in the Water, Gortheron and
all his Gaunt-lord minions - just to name a few), and it would be
great to be able to mount such an historic weapon over your mantle
rather than simply recycle it.
Anyway, when I hit 75, I already have my new weapon picked out:
This one is a crossbow, which I prefer to bows for a variety of
reasons, and it has the starting legacies I want. It's a good
platform to build on, and I may get one lucky reforge and end up
with 4 major legacies. Time will tell. I may end up hanging on to
my Second Age spear for a while though:
Having 5 Major legacies and 2 Minors makes this bad boy worth
keeping around. The DPS is lower, but melee DPS is not a Hunter's
strong suit anyway, and I've never even spent points on increasing
it. It's the Hunter's equivalent of a class item, and the fact
that it does any damage at all is a bonus. If anything, I may end
up getting some scrolls of empowerment to buff up some of the
Once I was more or less satisfied with the tweaks and upgrades, I
headed back to Gravenwood and tackled the
instance that had me stymied the day before.
Okay, it needs to be pointed out: this place looks epic. This is
the first forest setting where it's all about the trees rather
than the mood lighting. Old Forest in Bree-land is all gloom and
oppressiveness, Lothlorien has eighties porn lighting and Mirkwood
was just as dark and claustophobic as the mines of Moria.
Gravenwood feels like a forest for adventurers - you can clearly
see what's around you, and it's mostly big trees, Dunlending
tribesmen and orcs. So far, this has been the strongest point of
Rise of Isengard. Area design in general has been outstanding, and
the general look and feel of Dunland makes you want to keep going
and exploring new, amazing things.
I headed back to do the Tribune of Shadows, the instance that had
so badly defeated me the day before, and this time it was much
easier. Whether that can be chalked up to a better character build
or better planning the second time around is debatable, but there
was a clear difference this time. I smashed through it and
advanced the storyline with the Rohirrim.
The next set of quests sent me out into the forest to deal with a
handful of Dunlending and orcs camps. Some of the fights were
pretty tough, but I found an adventuring buddy - a Hunter friend
kinship - and we powered through these quests together.
There were a few rough spots (one named enemy mob kept respawning
practically right on top of us), but for the most part it was
standard adventure stuff. There was another instance involving
helping the Rohirrim defend one of the giant trees in the forest -
this one was duo-able, making it a rare exception.
Eventually, we advanced the epic book to the point where it
required a return to Tal Methedras, the snowy
Dunledning town in the northeast corner of the map. This is where
the epic story really picks up, around Chapter 18 or so. Up until
this point, it's been mainly "Go to region X, help people there as
much as you can and then move on," which, to be perfectly honest,
felt a bit lazy. The non-epic quests have been good, but the epics
felt phoned in. Well, stick with it, because the epic line gets
awesome at the end. Spoiler alert!
Lheu Brenin, the Dunlending equivalent to the mayor of Tal
Methedras, seems like a pretty cool guy at first. He strides
around the frigid mountain peaks without a shirt on, showing off
his awesome fat belly and doesnt afraid of anything. Turns out,
though, that the fat man can't be trusted - he sells out the Grey
Company rangers and even his own Falcon Clan to Saruman, and ships
you off to Isengard to be thrown in with the
This became one of my new favorite things. The uruks put you
straight to work in the ring around the tower, both above and
below the surface. And this is not fun work like you get from
hobbits in the Shire or the hillmen in Angmar. No sir, this is
proper menial toil. Mop up slop in the mess hall, haul heavy
barrels of weapons and armor, all under the supervision of a
whip-cracking personal quest NPC who follows you around and keeps
you "motivated." And, to add insult to injury, there's even a "go
kill 10 rats" quest. To the rest of the world, you're a powerful
hero of legendary status, but to the uruk-hai, you're just another
nameless n00b grubbing for XP and coppers.
It sounds kinda horrible, but it's actually kind of hilarious and
fun. There are "Surly Uruks" scattered around among the
non-interactive ones, and these will attack you if you get close.
You can kill them - for whatever reason, the uruks don't take your
weapons or gear when they force you into slavery - and when you
do, you get a massive boost to run speed. You get the same boost
when ordered to haul stuff, so you'll be zipping around like mad a
lot of the time. Your personal quest uruk may lag behind during
these speed boosts and get lost/despawn, but if you rattle the
cuffs in your inventory he will respawn.
The layout of the underground part can be confusing, but it's
less confusing than the above-ground area in the ring. Quest NPCs
there have a tendency to wander, and you may not find your guy in
the same spot he was when you picked up the quest. It also helps
immensely to actually read the quest notes - a lot of them are not
marked on the map. Doing the quests here earns you a natty
prisoner cosmetic outfit with a big white hand of Saruman on the
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/193706" alt="LotRO Rise of Isengard - Isengard - prison outfit back" />
The long-term goal here is to escape the dungeons of Isengard,
and with the help of a couple of prisoners down in the dungeons,
eventually you do. Speaking to Acca, one of the prisoners down in
the dungeon, you learn that he was once Saruman's steward, and
there's a rather awesome no-combat session-play instance where you
take on the role of Grima Wormtongue during Gandalf's visit to and
eventual imprisonment within Orthanc. Wormtongue slinks around
when he walks, and he has only one skill, but that one skill is
Using Acca's knowledge of Isengard's layout, and the sheer pluck
and determination of your other companions, you stage a daring
escape and earn yourself a nifty housing item:
Once you're out and back among the rangers and the Rohirrim, it's
time to plan your revenge against Lheu Brenin and the traitorous
Falcon Clan. Your goal is to rescue the imprisoned members of the
Grey Company with the help of Theodred and his kinsmen. In the
end, you succeed, but the book ends on something of a sour note.
I've given enough spoilers already, so I won't ruin the ending for
Crafting and Inventory Management
I spent a good deal of Day 5 catching up on my crafting. I kinda
had to in order to clear up some inventory space. My bags were
getting pretty cluttered, and my vault is almost completely
stuffed. This is an issue I brought up in the Preparing
For Launch write-up - there's a whole ten levels' worth of
new stuff to hoard, and vault space will be at a premium. My own
vault is upgraded to 120 spots (the most I can get without
spending a huge amount of Turbine Points to unlock more space),
and it's jam-packed with old gear, consumables, bound barter
tokens and other stuff I can't bear to throw away. My personal
inventory is also limited, because I carry a full raid-ready
"package" at all times (and this is fairly extensive for Hunters:
4 or 5 different kinds of crafted traps, stacks of 3 different
kinds of bow chants, 2 kinds of oils, Focus potions, extra
traveling rations, curatives, morale and power potions, food,
battle and warding scrolls, hope tokens, a bunch of "trash" LIs
that I'm leveling for relics, a few store items), which takes up
two and a half bags. Honestly, I probably don't need to carry all
of this stuff all the time. I mostly only use the Breach-finder
scrolls and fire oil, and I could probably ditch most of my traps
since they're kind of outdated now anyway - I'll probably donate
them to a lower-level kinsman working his way through Moria,
Lothlorien and Mirkwood.
Anyway, the new Westfold crafting tier is a little different from
previous tiers. Here's a bullet-point list of differences:
- There is only one ore type for metalsmith, weaponsmith and
jeweller recipes - skarn, which can be refined into calenard
- Each of the node-using gathering professions (prospector,
forester, scholar) can refine their gathered resources into
three usable materials. For example, prospectors can make
low-quality, medium-quality and high-quality calenard ingots,
and foresters can make three kinds of birch boards.
- The third refined material type requires a recipe that must be
purchased from the Dunlending reputation vendor in Galtrev,
and requires Friend standing with the Dunlendings. This is
fairly easy to earn (I got Kindred with them on day 2 or 3), but
it effectively level-gates the Westfold crafting tier. Low-level
crafting alts will not be able to craft top-quality Westfold
stuff (like level 75 LIs)... or, at least, not easily.
- Crafters do not need to assemble components to make a finished
item. All they need is the proper ingots, boards, hidwwes, etc.
- The new tier doesn't use raw, found crit items like
whetstones, rock salt or the like. The new crit materials are
crafted from rare resources dropped usually from rich nodes, and
refining the crit items is a good way to earn crafting XP.
- The Cracked Rhi Helvarch Sigil occasionally
found in rich resource nodes is the "new mithril flake,"
required for crafting the top-quality one-shot recipes and LIs.
I haven't yet found any rare elites that drop them, but I've
found 3 of them so far in ore nodes.
Gunkydoc is a member of the Tailor's Guild. In the old ranking
system, he was Kindred with the guild, and in the new system that
translates to Artisan of the Guild. The next rep tier is Master of
the Guild. I had him make one each of all the guild rep items,
from Expert to Westfold (which requires Friend standing with the
Dunlendings, as it requires the teal item for the Westfold guild
recipe), and when I turned them all in, I filled half the bar. If
I had really been planning ahead, like a bunch of my kin-mates and
friends did, I would have stockpiled the rep items for a few weeks
in advance and turned them all in at once. This strategy allowed a
bunch of my friends to earn Master of the Guild standing the very
first day. I'll be able to get it by next weekend when all the
recipes are cooled down again. It will be slower going for my
alts, who do not yet have Friend standing with the Dunlendings and
can't make the teal items needed for the large rep items.
On To Isendale
When my inventory situation was handled (I ended up spreading a
bunch of stuff among my alts and donating crafting mats and random
LIs to my kinnies), I headed out to Isendale.
This region, in the narrow southern pass that is the Gap
of Rohan, is the temporary home of the Rohirrim, who
are in a long, protracted military engagement with the Draig-luth
Dunlending tribe. The Draig-luth are at war with everybody, so
that's not really a surprise. You are sent first to Forthbrond,
where the Rohirrim have set up a military encampment with a good
range of town services. Beware of the other settlements here that
look like Dunlending towns - they are Draig-luth towns, and the
inhabitants will not welcome you warmly.
The Heathfells is a kind of neat area - its
central feature is a broad hill crowned with a ring of purple
The area is spotted with little caves, and the hills are crawling
with hostile Dunlendings, orcs, hunting dogs and other nasties.
Much of the questing here involves helping out the Rohirrim in the
two camps, Forthbrond and Grimbold's Camp,
usually by killing Dunlendings and taking or destroying their
I ran a few quests out of Forthbrond before ending Day 5 at level
73. The gates of Isengard lie just ahead, and Gunkydoc is knocking
at the door of level 75.
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