Riders of Rohan - Riding to 85, Part 1

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When Riders of Rohan went live on Monday, I couldn't wait
to fire up the Lord of the
Rings Online
and play. I had put hours and hours into beta in
the name of research for Our
of the expansion, and I was very pleased with the changes and
new stuff. Couldn't wait to try them "for real" on my characters on live.

Before the expansion went live, I did some preparation work. I whipped up a
bunch of crafting guild rep items, two full batches for each of my guilded
crafters. I made plenty of consumables with my Scholar. I spent a couple of
hours earning Lothlorien silver branches. Then the servers went down for the
patch, and it was a waiting game.

Day One: Launch Day

LotRO servers came back up at noon, and lots of players were able to get
patched up and logged in by 12:15. Some of us took much longer to patch - I
started patching bright and early in the morning, and didn't finish until
late in the evening. Rural internet connections are awesome.

Unfortunately, launch day was tarnished by some rather nasty glitches.
Launcher errors prevented many players from entering the game at all, and a
lingering memory error caused the game to crash repeatedly for some others
who did manage to get in. These errors are severe and consistent enough that
Turbine put together a hotfix for Wednesday morning.

For those of us who could get in and play without the errors - and I don't
mean to rub salt in any wounds here - Riders of Rohan is pretty badass. My
Hobbit Hunter, Gunkydoc, started out in Caras Galadhon, where I had earned
enough silver branches to be able to afford the new Hunter skill, Guide to
Caras Galadhon. It's one of the smaller updates to LotRO, but it's
definitely about time we finally got a port to Lothlorien. I also got the
new travel skill to Hrimbarg in the Misty Mountains, though this one is less

I decided I wanted to get a war-steed fast, so I entered Rohan via the
bridge at the southern edge of the Great River area rather than following
the epic books. The epics also earn you a war-steed, but it takes a book and
a half to do it, and I didn't feel like climbing all over Caras Galadhon. I
got my war-steed within about 2 hours, and encountered my new favorite
enemy: the Wold Draug.

Riders tof Rohan - Ride to 85: Wold Draug

These guys are located in a cave across the swamp from Langhold. They start
out normal-sized, but they get bigger and bigger throughout the fight as
they keep taking damage. When they finally die, they swell up and burst in a
green goo-splosion. The Draugar are named like Skyrim monsters and look like
Deadites from the Evil Dead movies. Awesome.

By the time I had finished getting my war-steed, a friend of mine, Khaurin
Quickbow, announced on glff that he had already reached level 85. It took him
10 hours, 54 minutes, and when he reached 85 he was still wearing pretty much
all of his level 75 raid gear. I have a theory about how he did it this fast,
based on what he told me after he did nearly the same thing in Rise of

  • Pre-launch, he would have loaded up on quests - repeatables, region quests
    from the Great River area, whatever he could find - and completed them all
    without turning anything in.
  • He would have bought the Enhanced XP Destiny Perk, plus the store
    equivalent. I have a bunch of those myself that I won in lotteries, etc.
  • On launch day, he turns in every completed quest in his log.
  • Then he heads to Rohan and tears through the region quests, probably with
    a group. It's unlikely that he did the epic quests at the same time - they
    are slower paced and he would have gotten more XP from killing mobs.

Khaurin's kind of bloody-minded blind rush to level cap is not going to be
for everyone. There's a lot to experience along the way, and taking the
occasional pause to absorb the fantastic scenery, listen to the epic score or
read the quest dialogue makes the game a lot more enjoyable for some. For
Khaurin, who is a raid-leader type, the accomplishment is a rush, and he now
has time to take in everything at his leisure, while still being in good form
for the new endgame and leading his troops to success.

Once I got my war-steed, I wanted to tackle some war bands with my kinsmen.
I'd been greatly looking forward to that since beta testing, and it was pretty
much exactly what I had hoped it would be. We did a sweep of all the war bands
in the Wold, charging from one to the next and watching for respawns when we
got to a location too late to join in.

Riders of Rohan Ride to 85 - War Steed vs War Band

This is one of the reasons the new Open Tapping system is great. If we
arrived at a war band location to find another group already engaged with it,
we didn't have to just sit around like a bunch of dummies and queue up for the
next repop. We could get in there, tag the leader, help take out the adds and
make a meaningful contribution, and gain all the benefits of taking the boss
down as if we had been there from the start. For this reason, Rohan feels a
lot more co-operative than other areas.

Of course, no launch would be complete without launch-day bugs. The Monday
bugs called for a Wednesday hotfix to patch up some memory errors, but some
lingering glitches yet persist. Players are being told that the vendors in
their housing instances are "restricted areas" and being shuttled out. Some
players are experiencing issues with the chat servers, or the
willfully-persistent lag spikes that have been problematic for a while now.

Riders of Rohan Ride to 85 - Mounted Combat

Lag is especially problematic when dealing with mounted combat. I typically
run at fairly high network latency normally, and when I get slow days the
latency spikes up to 400 - 700+ milliseconds. In other words, it takes around
half a second for a mouse click or twitch to have an effect in game. For most
stuff, this isn't a big deal. I can make compensations with my mouse clicking
while fighting, and most fights aren't live-or-die competitions where half a
second makes the difference. Even normal riding is usually fine. I can swerve
or jump in time to avoid obstacles, and I can even win festival races with
latency that high.

But mounted combat is a horse of a different color. It is far more sensitive
to lag of any kind because the system makes a lot of calculations all the
time. Speed and Fury meters are variable, and steering requires complex math
equations that must be performed with every micro-adjustment you make to your
trajectory. Lag of any kind - graphical lag, server lag, network latency lag -
causes strange, elastic stuttering in the war-steed's movement. It's not quite
the same thing as "rubber-banding," where the running character bounces back
and forth between two spots over and over. It's more like the camera keeps
switching back and forth from high speed to low speed. The horse will slow
down, then flash forward, then slow way down again. This isn't a huge issue at
lower speeds, but in a top-speed cross-country charge, or during a long fight
against a powerful war band, high latency can make mounted combat nearly
unusable. You have no clear idea where your rider is on the map or in relation
to your enemies.

Riders of Rohan Ride to 85 - Latency and Graphics options

Fixing lag can be pretty simple. If it's the graphics that are stumping you,
open up your Advanced Graphics options and disable Frill Distance and Distant
Imposters. These two items alone should improve mounted combat performance if
you find your framerates are suffering. In the case of network latency, which
can have a much more profound impact on performance, try turning off all
background programs and applications that use up your bandwidth. Internet
browsers, media streams, torrent clients and other such bandwidth hogs can
ramp up your latency, even if they are running on other computers sharing your
connection. Turning these off on my game rig and my laptop made a significant
change to my game's performance, changing mounted combat from an unplayable
mess to the exhilarating thrill-ride it's supposed to be.

Because of this lag-sensitivity, however, there are a lot of situations where
the old-style standard mounts are a better choice. Riding through town, for
example, can be a choppy obstacle course nightmare on a war-steed, even at
lower speeds. And if you experience high network latency (over 100 ms or so)
on a regular basis, a standard mount might be a better choice for
cross-country travel. So don't pull those premium goats and class steeds off
your skill bar just yet.

Day 2: Epics

On day 2, I focused mostly on the epic story. For a lot of people, this is
the preferred introduction to Rohan because it's the continuation of the story
that we have been waiting for since the Great River update.

Book 7 - the first of three that come with this update - focuses on the
breakup of the Fellowship of the Ring. The story picks back up at Caras
Galadhon with the Dunlending warrior-woman Nona, the elf Corudan, and Horn the
Rohirrim, and follows a breadcrumb trail to Nen Harn to discover the fate of
Frodo and his crew. Through session play, we see the dissolution of the
Fellowship through different perspectives.

Riders of Rohan Ride to 85 - Wearing the One Ring

As Frodo, we get an intimate look at his decision to part ways with the
Fellowship. He reflects on the counsel of the wise as he wanders aimlessly,
until he meets up with Boromir, who illustrates the corrupting influence of
the ring in a very personal way. The cool thing about this session is that you
actually get to put on the One Ring (by means of a skill) to escape.

The next sessions involve Boromir, and we are given a glimpse into the
thought processes that drive him to madness. We also get a glimpse at his
opinion of his traveling companions:

Riders of Rohan Ride to 85 - Boromir's POV

But don't worry! In the next play session, he heroically defends The Halfling
and The Other Halfling to his dying breath. In the last of these epic
sessions, you play as Samwise, who has but one skill, which he uses to
determine that Frodo would make a bee-line for the boats.

The other thing I decided to do was to use some of the store-bought XP
enhancers to accelerate my trip to level cap. For 600 TP, you get five 100% XP
Boost (1hr) buffs, which doubles the amount of XP you earn from kills and from
quests. If you're working on fast leveling, this is almost like cheating,
especially if it's paired with blue-bar enhanced XP. I burned through a level
in about an hour and a half with this setup.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016