About Last Night

December 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Posted in LotRO, Minstrel, Mirkwood | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I went into Dol Guldur.

I’m not sure that I really should have been there.  I started off the night a quarter of the way into level 63, and I am woefully under-geared.

Yes, I know I keep saying that one of the things I love about Lord of the Rings Online is that it isn’t gear dependant (apart from the radiance gated things that make me look like a farty-poo-pants liar) but I don’t think I suffered *too* much from being woefully under-geared.

Apart from being inspected to death upon joining my lovely kin-mates at the entrance, that is.  It was a tad embarrassing being informed that some of the gear I was wearing dated back to level 40s, but in my defence I’d not realised how old some of it was.  It was a useful experience though, and I did get the offer of a new set of assorted geegaws and baubles, which is a bonus.

And I do realise that whilst the game may not be as gear dependant as some, good gear does make a difference, and whilst it may not make hard content a nice stroll through a park on a balmy summers’ day, it does make life easier.

So, yet another reminder to improve my gear.  This time, it was similar to being told by a doting parent to go and put a warm jumper and scarf on, because it’s cold outside.

Kinships.  Sometimes they’re like families.

As to the instance itself?

Well, I don’t want to ruin the sense of discovery for anyone else, so rather than comment on specifics, I’ll try to keep to concepts and themes.  I may well put in a more detailed post some point in the future, when I’m less likely to spoiler the ares off someone else’s fun.

Big fun.  Admittedly, the rest of the group I was with had faced these bosses previously, and had figured out how to defeat them, so I just had to follow instructions and stand in the right places.  But I had big fun. 

Visually, Dol Guldur is dark, gloomy and depressing.  Sort of like Preston but with orcs.  If anyone’s spent any time in Preston, they’d agree with me.  The only thing Preston has of note is a really, really big bus station, and Dol Goldur reminds me of that bus station at 6:30 in the morning. 

I think what surprised me most is that someone had taken the time to make the Trash fights interesting.  I hope that this is a purposeful thing, as opposed to random accident. 

As it was, many of the fights seem to have been designed to be more technically interesting.  Positioning, even as a healer, was more important.  It wasn’t a case of me hiding at the back and spamming the big heal on the tank; there’s a measure of Area Of Effect damage and some fun interrupt abilities being thrown out by the monsties that made life interesting, to put it mildly.

It’s as if Turbine want us to feel like it’s the whole experience of the instance that counts, and that’s more than a little refreshing.  With each fight feeling a little like a mini-boss encounter, it makes travelling through the tower feel like a journey, rather than an exercise in time-wasting thanks to a procession of Tank’N’Spank time-fillers.

We faced off against three bosses.  I’ve no idea how many bosses there are in the 6-man instance, but they were tough challenges.  If I’m completely honest, I’m a little relieved that I wasn’t high enough level to be a part of the learning process, because they are technical fights, where I found myself going through a lot more skills than I did even in The Rift.

It was only at the third Boss that we wiped, and after a second attempt and wipe we called it a night (it was bed-time for Minstrel Hawley), but in that time I’d gained an insight into Dol Goldur.

Maybe it’s the novelty that makes the place seem really cool, and that familiarity will dull that excitement; I’ve been informed that multiple runs will be needed to get armour sets.

But it looks promising.  In a way that Preston Bus Station doesn’t.

Cheers,

Hawley.

Hawley, destroyer of amphibians

October 29, 2009 at 7:56 am | Posted in LotRO, Minstrel, Moria, raiding | 5 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Recently, I killed a turtle.

Admittedly, that’s not the most impressive-sounding of feats.  And it’s a turtle that many others have defeated before me.

At first, it even looked like a particularly weedy opponent (especially for a raid), but pretty soon I discovered, in true Father Ted stylee, that this was because the turtle was Far, rather than Small.  This turtle was a big turtle.  So much so that it went from being “the turtle” to “The Turtle” pretty rapidly.

I’d not faced off against The Turtle previously.  It’s a one monster, one room fight.  It’s a test of dps, where the idea is to race between the amount of damage we can kick out, against the rapidly increasing amount of dot damage the monsty kicks out.

In an age where fighting raid bosses seem to be more a case of performing random crazy acts at the same time as tanking, damaging and healing, this was a refreshing change.  After time spent in Ulduar, this was a fantastically straight-forward fight for a healer;

Can I keep healing fast enough, and cleverly enough, to keep everyone alive?  Or am I going to blow my power so fast that we all end up dying?

It was also a reminder of why I love raiding.  I love pitting my wits and skill against a situation, and constantly wondering if I’ve got it right.  Especially when I’m in a situation that I’ve not encountered before.  Because I’m targeting other raid-members rather than the monsty itself, I have no idea how much longer I need to keep things together; feeling like it’s just about to unravel when the raid boss drops is the best feeling in the world.

It was the first time I’ve been involved in killing Nornuan.  Probably won’t be my last.

Cheers,

Hawley.

Now we are 60

October 20, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Posted in LotRO, Minstrel | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

The Poppets have a reason to be proud of their slacker son.  Hawley Poppet has finally got to level 60.  It happened a few days ago (thanks to the vagaries of scheduling, and the fact that I’m a slacker), there was a small amount of “Woohoo”, and a celebratory brew was partaken of.  A tea well-earned, I felt.

It’s no speed record; I don’t really mind about that.  I got there on my own time, and got there because I wanted to, rather than felt like I had to.  All in all, it was more than worth making the effort.  For all the times I spent lost in the dark, crying into my tea at the unfairness of making someone who gets lost on the way to the toilet in his own house have to navigate Moria’s rather labyrinthine zones, there was a moment of wonder, of beauty, and glorious technicolour.

Eregion, Moria and Lothlorien are great places to visit, great zones with plenty of content.  They’re also packed to bursting with atmosphere; some of that will be hold-over from the books and films, but most of it comes from the fabulous design and stunning vistas that the developers have put in.  Levelling through them has been great.

But it did make me start to ponder a few things about what happens next.

I’ve not looked into it fully, but I do believe that next comes the Radiance Grind.  Getting enough of the right pieces of radiance armour set to be able to go and play with the other big kids in the big kid’s adventure playground.  This might have filled me with fear in the past; with so many people already fully geared up, would I be able to persuade them to go back to somewhere that they’re already sick of going to?

Burnout is something that’s endemic in MMOs.  We don’t *have* to run the same content again and again, but if we want to get to the Mad Hatter’s tea party we have to follow the White Rabbit.  And the White Rabbit likes repeating content.

I like instancing and raiding.  For me, it’s the joy of working together as a team to defeat the obstacles placed in our path rather than gaining trez, so I can be pretty tolerant of going and repeating content.  I tend to burnout on an instance when the content and challenge become trivial, rather than through overdoing it.

Of course, I’m now ready (just in time) for another 5 levels of the levelling game when Siege of Mirkwood comes out.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Overdue at the Library

October 19, 2009 at 4:02 am | Posted in LotRO, Minstrel | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I am a voracious reader.  When younger, my parents were constantly worried that I’d end up some sort of freak because in any possible moment, when not told to do something, I’d have my nose in a book.

Of course, they needn’t have worried.  I am a perfectly normal and well-adjusted individual, as anyone can tell.  Normal.  Very.  Me.

So it is with a certain sense of irony that I can report that when it comes to completing the Book quest lines, which play such a large part of questing in Lord of the Rings Online, I am completely rubbish.

Completely.

It’s almost embarrassing.  I know why the rot started though; my dislike of PUGs.  And because so many chapters required groups, I just sort of ignored them.  And as many were unrepeatable at first it meant that getting into a group with kin-mates was more difficult than it needed to be.

The last straw was a particularly torrid tour of the Trollshaws in the company of Legolas, two other hunters, and three other minstrels.  I still look back on that run, and giggle hysterically.  Least said, soonest mended.

I also have a habit of being ocd enough to only want to do them in order.  So apart from the prologue to Volume 2 which is compulsory if you want to go into Moria, I’m stuck at Volume 1 Book 8.  Chapter 5.

However, I am going to change this.  My new resolution is to have ALL books in both Volumes completed by the time Siege of Mirkwood comes out.  I shall!  I shall!

Why?

Well, they’re a large chunk of the Lord of the Rings Online gaming experience that I’m missing out on.  And when I do partake, it’s no longer a challenge.  I like challenge in games, so by spending the next few weeks catching up on the books, I can at least get to the point where I am making the most of the Book experience.

They are also a fantastic way of making the most of the Middle Earth setting; the Books are grand stories, epic in feel.  Defending Trestlebridge, hanging out with Gimli whilst he takes on most of a zone by himself, witnessing the departure of *the* Fellowship from Rivendell.  Moments in time, that take me from being just another player to someone that’s a part of what is going on.

Despite my neglect of the Books, they have done a fantastic job of drawing me into the game that Turbine have created; Minstrel Hawley feels far more a part of Middle Earth than Shaman Herewerd ever will in Azeroth.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Bandwagons Part 1

September 14, 2009 at 4:44 am | Posted in Captain, LotRO, Minstrel, Runekeeper | 6 Comments
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Wotcha everyone

Siege of Mirkwood, eh?

There’s going to be a scary amount of leakage, comment and Prophecies of Nerf and Doom about what’s coming up for Lord of the Rings with the next paid expansion, so why should we be left out, eh?

Well, apart from the Prophecies of Nerf and Doom.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in Middle Earth so far, and whilst there are things that I wouldn’t have put in the game if I were one of the almighty developers, I feel I can look back, judge them by the content so far, and be pretty sure that they’ll continue to put more fun in the game.

Besides, I have a lifetime subscription, so I’m unlikely to be going anywhere soon.

What will this new and exciting expansion mean for Minstrels, Lore-Masters, Runekeepers and *cough* Captains?

I’ve no idea, really.  But I think I’ll be following the leaks with some interest.

Cheers,

Hawley.

Half-Brick Heroes?

September 5, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Captain, healing, LotRO, Minstrel, Runekeeper | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I do wonder if I get a little too jealous of Minstrels at times.  I can’t help feeling that Captains are made of purest evil because they have the odd healing skill.

Let me explain in a little further detail.  I get jealous of the skills and abilities of my chosen class, and I hate it when other classes can do something that my chosen class can do.  I could probably try and dress it up so that I sound very reasoned and learned, but it all boils down to the fact that I want to be as much of a special snowflake as online gaming will allow.

A belief I adhere to is; “Do whatever it is that your class alone can do, and do it well”.  In Lord of the Rings Online, Minstrels used to be the healing class of choice.  In fact, one of the things I really like about Lord of the Rings Online is that with so few classes compared to other games (ten for World of Warcraft, two hundred and seventy-four for your average SOE game) you could have quite a cool amount of individuality in a group.

So, apart from Captains and their evil healing ways, Minstrels were somewhat alone in that whole healing thing.  And yes, I’m ignoring the fact that the Lore-Master has a heal every half-hour or so (it feels like that when you’ve no Minstrel in the group, at least).

But then Moria gets released and the Rune-Keeper appears on the scene.

Boy, did it look like a threat.  In fact, it felt like every time Hawley even thought of chucking a heal, I could hear a flick-knife *snick* from a Rune-Keeper grinning in the shadows.

Paranoid?  Nah…

Now I might sound like someone who only ever plays a Minstrel, but there are times when I do like to get out a stick-hitter, and go and hit things with sticks.  And I’ll never be a stranger to low-level alts (it’s having the patience to get them to high levels that’s the issue).

So I decided to see what these here little fellers are like.  Do they really hide out in shadows with flick-knives, ready to shiv up Minstrels?  Time to find out.

A couple of fences needed climbing first, though.  The first was race.  Yeesh, playing the race card in online games…  I’m (generally) a humanist (is that a real term?  Does it apply here?).  It’s rare that I play a race that is not human.  It’s a deep-rooted thing of long experience, but it largely boils down to this; Elves are bow-wielding super-beings, whilst dwarves are the boiled down essence of dour and doughty.  But humans fighting huge, evil monsters?  That’s a struggle that real people could be facing.  It could (it never would, though) be me.

However, Humans can’t be Rune-Keepers.  Bah humbug.  Dwarf or Elf only.  So I went for…  An elf.  Why?  Well, I don’t like short in online games.  It makes the perspective look all wrong to me, and I’m easily confused at the best of times.  Oh, and those beards scare me.

So, an elf it is.  But then again, I find it hard to act all refined and posh at the best of times, so I named him a good barbarian name, and I’ll probably offend many players of elves by being far too common.  Thus Ataulf the elven Rune-Keeper popped into existence.

From here, it’s having a look at the starter zones, and extremely low-level rune-keeping.

I didn’t see much healing to begin with.  Starter zones seem more of a soloing thing to me anyway; you don’t particularly need to group up to complete any quests, and there are no instances that require you to group up.  Time flew by.

And it was only at level 14 that I realised that it might have been some time since I last visited a trainer.  Only to discover that yes, it had been eight levels since I’d last visited a trainer.

This was possibly because I was having fun playing a low-level Rune-Keeper.  I had one heal that was a small heal over time, and I could drop a rock that looked like something that bad guys should impale themselves on at the climax of the movie (surprisingly sharp and pointy), that healed a small amount every few seconds, but did it for some time.  A bit like a Shaman’s Healing Stream Totem.

Only more rock-like.

And I also had a few ranged damage spells.  Some fast casting light damage, some mid range damage over time, and a lightning spell that was a lovely fast hitter, but only once I’d “attuned” during the course of a fight.  It looked great, like a miniature version of the Loremaster’s lightning, and was a fantastic way to finish a fight.

It really did get to the stage where I had to resist the urge to shout; “The power!  The POWER!” and then laugh maniacally.  In point of fact, discovering I had all these extra powers somewhat diluted my power-crazed trip into DPSland.  Suddenly I had a bigger heal over time, and some utility spells.

So now I’m close, but not at, level 15.

How was it?

Well, with a lack of heals and quite a bit of ranged nastiness, levelling was pretty easy.  It’s a strange feeling seeing mobs hit the deck half way to me, but I could get used to not being clawed half to death every fight.  The effects look pretty cool, and are a lot more obvious than the Loremaster, which at times seems almost ashamed to be a spell-flinger.  Yes, Tolkein’s world doesn’t have wizards as a rule, but there has to be a game somewhere.

Not having a big stick, or even a weapon of any kind, looked very different.  Runes seemed a strange choice to me, but they’re quite a funky and different choice.  And there is also the fun of running around unleashing all sorts of malarky with what amounts to a couple of half-bricks.

Will I continue playing Ataulf?  Aye, I think I will.  I’ll see about getting him to the point where instancing starts, and then see about joining a few groups so I can see what he’s like as part of a group.

I like the Rune-Keeper.  It’s combined two elements which I rarely get to use; heal over time, and damage over time, and put them in a fun and funky half-brick brandishing package.

Using hots and dots is novel and interesting enough for me to make the whole package seem fresh and fun, especially when taking a break from playing direct heal chuckers.

Are they made of the same purest evil that Captains are made of?  Well, they don’t have all the really useful mini-buffs that Minstrels can cast, and I can’t tell if they can heal as well, so the jury is still out.

Cheers,

Hawley

The Secret Lives of Healers (or, how we met)

September 3, 2009 at 4:28 am | Posted in Captain, Grouping, healing, LotRO, Minstrel | Leave a comment
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A long long time ago, when I was still playing Dark Age of Camelot I think, I read a piece somewhere about how the best healers were those who could chat in group/raid while healing. As a multi-tasking test more than anything else. Since I’m horribly chatty, I took this as gospel and as a validation of the fact I’m just as likely to be chatting as healing someone at any given situation!

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that the way me and Hawley met was via chat, during a raid where were were the only healers. Our kin ‘borrowed’ Hawley from our allied kin to boost our minstrel numbers for the 12-man Rift raid in LotRO. I am even relatively sure he offered himself up for this. We didn’t have enough minstrels to regularly go twice a week, and his kin had plenty of healers and weren’t actually raiding as seriously as us. So Hawley became ours for the nights we needed.

Me, I played a minstrel up to 50 so I could also bolster the numbers of real healers. But I quite often went as Captain healer anyway. And of course, we introduced ourselves on the way to the first fight, had a little chat about strategies, who was most likely to die first, what order we tended to heal people, etc etc. Just in way of a professional greeting.

But, by boss no. 2 we’d kind of moved to chit-chat, and jokes. I’ve always chatted to the other healers on raids, during the raids. We share tactics. That’s good. In some MMOs we have to take care of overhealing, so discussion is very important. But, in other cases, it’s just nice to hang out and chat with people who face the same strategic choices and stresses as you.

Let’s face it, we all know healers get yelled at a lot. Whether right or wrong it’s basic human instinct to want to not die! Especially if there’s someone there who can prevent it by pressing a few buttons. But, there are times, when fights are going well.. when healers are really just on stand-by mode. And we can spot those times, and break out of them when needed. In those times, I’d say I generally exchange some kind of chit-chat, mostly via page. Teamspeak makes raidwide chatter easier, but often, in a new raid, the talk needs to be kept down a little. So typing offers me that release. And I was glad to find, in Hawley, a fellow chatterbox.

No-one died unnecessarily on our watch, and we continued our conversations every friday and sunday at the Rift for many months. It helps to be friendly enough to de-brief after a rough fight also, or to reassure that nothing could have gone differently (or discuss how healing could have been better). I chat with most healers I raid with.. sometimes I think it’s just me, but they always join in and seemingly enjoy it! I think it helps build a healer support structure, since the only people that really know how it feels to heal and to be yelled at are the raid healers. And to support one another and be sociable is the main reason I play MMOs. I’ve made a lot of healing friends, and no-one’s ever told me to shut up and get back to healing!

In other games, I have been told off for typing in group while healing, I guess that’s why I page people mostly these days. And because I don’t think my healing suffers in any way from the chatter. I’m no fool, I pick my moments, as do the people I chat to. In fact, we need the behind-the-scenes chat to let off steam. It can be a little stressful, and anything said in a raid in private chat, stays in private chat and is forgotten afterwards. Honest!

Arbitrary

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