Guide to LotRO's Mounted Combat, Part 2: Battle & Build
|Part 1||Part 2||Part 3|
|Fighting from Horseback | The Build|
Now you can head out into the Wold and find some stuff to practice on. You're going to need it - fighting from horseback is very different from fighting on foot.
Obviously, the biggest difference is movement - even if you have a very dynamic fighting style, you will be covering a lot more ground when fighting from horseback. Attacks backed by speed do more damage, and standing still while fighting means your horse is getting hit. If you feel the battle is better fought from a standstill, you're better off on foot than mounted.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this style of fighting, and they will be the determining factors for whether you want to fight on horseback or on foot. Firstly, in areas with dense mob populations, it's likely that you will end up pulling additional enemies during long charge attacks. Blasting past your initial target can carry you right into another warband or past many single mobs clustered nearby. Situational awareness is more important than ever in mounted combat.
Second is the tendency of melee enemy mobs to pursue their attackers. This requires some fine-tuning in combat strategy - you have to increase to top speed during the charge to blast past after the initial rush, then reduce speed drastically to turn, then increase it again for the return charge. Otherwise you just end up running around in circles getting attacked a lot, because the enemy mobs are not worrying about momentum-versus-speed and tight cornering. They just stay right on your ass and keep hitting.
This tendency for melee mobs to pursue their targets also leads to a lot of "resets." Since you need to run farther to open up distance for the return charge, you may accidentally move beyond the "tether" distance, where the pursuing mob reaches the end of the tether and then rushes back to its original position at full health. This can happen with any kind of mob, and it does not seem to be limited solely to distance - if the enemy chases but doesn't hit its target for several seconds, even if it hasn't gone more than a few linear meters, it will break off and reset. Again, this stresses the importance of situational awareness - know where you are and what limitations you are facing.
There are situations where mounted combat is the best option, and others where it makes more sense to fight on foot. Here's a little chart to help you make that distinction:
|Enemy is:||Best Method:|
|Normal mob in high-density area||Foot|
|Ranged, singly or in a group||Foot|
|Near deep water||Foot|
|In a valley, forest or other obstacle-filled area that restricts maneuverability||Foot|
|One strong mob ("Alpha") with a group of normals following||Mounted|
|Single melee mob of any sort in wide-open area||Mounted|
|In the middle of an enemy camp||Foot|
|On any map other than Rohan||Foot|
|Encountered in a Mounted Combat instance||Mounted|
Your war-steed's morale works the same way as it does for regular mounts - once it hits zero, the rider is dismounted. There's just a lot more of it. When the mounted player is attacked and damage is done, the damage is split roughly 70/30 between the rider and the mount. Some enemies have special attacks that deal damage differently or have varied effects (such as dismounting attacks), but the general split is 70% for the rider and 30% for the mount.
There are three mounted combat stances, which echo the themes of the rider's three class trait sets. The red one, Red Dawn, typically emphasizes DPS the same as red class trait lines. The blue stance, Riddermark, typically emphasizes the same things as the blue class trait lines - for example, on Hunters it emphasizes speed, on Lore-masters it emphasizes healing and on Guardians it emphasizes tanking. The yellow stance, Rohirrim, emphasizes yellow trait line stuff - CC for Hunters and Lore-masters, and threat generation for Guardians.
Mounted attacks can be queued up during the charge, and these queued attacks will automatically fire when you enter attack range. This has slightly more importance for melee attackers than for ranged attackers, who can circle wide and keep the enemy at a distance while peppering it with ranged attacks.
Ranged attackers can use the fleet hooves of their mount to keep a steady distance from their targets, steering wide circles around the enemy and firing in. Melee attackers will need to take a different approach - tighter circles at slower speed or long, straight charges at high speed. There is, however, a technical issue with the long, straight jousting-style charges - the mobs will pursue the attacker, but will reset past a certain range. For melee fights against multiple mobs, small, slow, tight circles seem to work best.
Power management can also be an issue in larger fights - the war-steed's initial power pool is rather small, and most attacks use the mount's power in addition to or instead of the rider's power. Mounted attacks also use a new combat "currency" called Fury, which is essentially the war-steed's version of the Hunter's Focus or the Champion's Rage. Fury is built up over time by maintained bursts of speed, and very powerful attacks will require large amounts of Fury.
|Part 1||Part 2||Part 3|
|Fighting from Horseback | The Build|
After getting into a few fights in the Wold, you'll have the basics of mounted combat. But the system is deceptively large and complex, and if you want to make the most out of it, you'll want to focus on the details of your war-steed's build.
War-steeds level up pretty much the same way as LI's do - they gain partial experience from each kill, and some quests reward mount experience. However, unlike LIs, war-steeds do not have crapshoot random legacies to level up. They have skill trees, separated into three distinct roles - Heavy, Medium and Light.
Skill trees are fairly straightforward. Pick one tree and spend a point in it, and the other two trees become unavailable. Skills are tiered - you must spend points on lower-tier skills to unlock higher-tier skills. In each tree, there are three "branches," which accentuate the mounted stance of the same color: the red DPS branch (Red Dawn), the blue support branch (Rohirrim), and the yellow "flow-of-battle" branch (Riddermark). Dumping points into one branch makes the rider more effective with that related stance. At the top is a row of upgrades - Agility, Strength, Power, Endurance, Armor - which increase the base stats, but do not affect the tiered skills in the branches below.
The role of your horse is not dictated by your class. There's no reason, for example, that a Rune-keeper can't use a Heavy horse to bulldoze his enemies under hoof, or that a Guardian can't use a Light horse to evade his enemies for swift control of the battlefield. There will be situations where, say, a Guardian wants his mount to be more fleet of foot, or where a Hunter wants his horse to be sturdier and more heavily-armored for increased survivability. This is where trait specs come in.
Each spec contains all three trees - Light, Medium and Heavy. Pick a role and spend a point, and that trait spec gets locked to that tree. Players will start with two trait specs, and can unlock up to five more through the LotRO Store. Each of the trait specs can be renamed to make selection easier, and renaming a spec is free. Re-allocating points in a trait spec costs a bit of silver, but doing so allows you to completely change that spec - you can move all the points from Light to Heavy, for example, rather than being limited to just the Light tree again.
What this essentially means is, you can have a spec for every situation. You can have a fast, agile Light horse that accentuates your DPS, and a second Light spec that has all its points in the yellow branch for improved crowd-control, and a heavily-armoured Heavy spec that allows you to do some front-line fighting. Swapping specs is as easy as clicking one button, meaning it is easier to do for your character's horse than for your character.
War-steeds earn one trait point per level, plus an additional 2 every 5th level and a handful of bonus points along the way, and have a maximum level of 50; by the time your war-steed reaches level-cap, you will end up with 77 points for each trait spec. It would cost 84 points to buy every skill in one tree, so each trait spec will be somewhat "focused." Essentially, 77/84 points means you don't buy the high-tier and capstone skills you won't be using from the off-spec branches.
Of course, switching from one tree to another means you will likely also have to swap your Legendary Bridle.