A while back, Turbine teased us with an announcement about a new character class coming to the Lord of the Rings Online. This is fairly big news - the game is nearly 7 years old, and the last new classes to be added were the Warden and the Rune-keeper with Mines of Moria back in fall of 2008. Naturally, everyone is curious, and there's a lot of speculation about what the new class might be: guesses ranging from shape-shifting Beornings to Dunedain Rangers to more realistic options. For the most part, Turbine has been quite tight-lipped about the details. For good reasons, it turns out.
Luckily, I was able to organize an early-morning phone interview with Leo Tan, Digital Communications Manager, and Aaron Campbell, who has just returned from a stint with Dungeons & Dragons Online and is once again Executive Producer for LotRO.
"Some big changes are coming with Update 14," said Leo Tan. "We're not yet ready to discuss most of it. We'll be starting Volume 4 of the epic books and adding a new class - that's about all we can tell you at this point."
Aaron Campbell was rather more forthcoming, though he seemed a bit fuzzy from his time in the DDO offices.
"We can go ahead and talk about the new class," he said. "The speculation is getting out of hand, ad I think it's time to nip it in the bud. It's going to be Cleric of the Silver Flame."
I pointed out that this didn't really fit the lore of the Lord of the Rings - there being no mention of clerics in any of the books, and the Silver Flame being a holy order from the Eberron setting - but that suggestion was shot down.
"It absolutely fits," Aaron explained. "The people of Middle-earth had churches and worshiped the Ainur as gods, or sort of angels. Clerics are the leaders of these faiths. These ones follow the Silver Flame of Anor - Gandalf, who is a Maiar, or lesser Ainur, tells the Balrog in Moria that he is the wielder of the Flame of Anor, likely making reference to the light of the Two Trees of Valinor. That bit of lore never pops up anywhere else in the books, so we kind of went with that, more or less in the same way that we extrapolated all of Enedwaith and Dunland from just a few sentences in the books. So what we have is a priestly order that reveres the Silver Flame of Anor.
"They will be a healing, buffing and damage class, similar to Rune-keepers but focusing on divine magic, and able to use heavy armor and shields. In a sense, they're like Captains, but more magic-focused. They'll use a lot of 'reversible' spells like Cure Light Wounds for healing, or Inflict Light Wounds for damaging enemies, and Bane and Bless to debuff enemies or buff allies, respectively. They are especially powerful against wights and other undead."
When I asked if this might be related to Clerics of the Silver Flame in DDO, he was silent for a moment.
"I can see where someone might make that kind of connection," he said. "But... no, it's totally different. Two totally different IPs. Anyway, the guys upstairs at Warner Brothers thought it sounded perfect."
However, as the conversation continued, his confusion became more and more evident.
"As the Justice League gets closer and closer to the Underdark, the Eye of Nightmare Batman is going to be watching them much closer than ever before. Volume 4 of the epics is going to focus more on the journey out of Eberron and into the Forgotten Realms. Now that Sinestro has been dealt with by the Treants and we no longer have him as a major villain, we're going to be seeing a lot more of Nightmare Batman. Moving forward, we're going to really focus in on how the Steward of Giantreach has lost so much to the armies of Warforged invading from the east, how it's driving him to grief and madness and how he no longer believes he can trust Elminster. And, of course, we're going to be following Green Lantern and Robin as they continue their journey towards Mount Doom to destroy the One Power Ring. Mostly through session-play."
"And, as per usual, we're really going to be sticking closely to the events as described by Ed Greenwood himself in the books. The movies are great, but our focus has always been the classic, pre-New 52 universe."
Stay tuned later this April when Aaron Campbell delivers his Producer's Letter. Hopefully, he has taken his meds by then.