LOTRO Legendarium: Eight tips for leveling up in Lord of the Rings Online

It's Lord of the Rings. There's your elevator pitch.

Typically around this time of the year, I’ll offer up my wish list of features and changes that I’d like to see happen in Lord of the Rings Online in the new year. However, I realized that my list would be hitting on things I’ve said many times in the past (better housing, restructured business model) or that Standing Stone Games has promised is coming (legendary item revamp, 64-bit client).

So instead of that, this week I want to pass on a little advice to those working their way up through LOTRO for the first time. I’ve seen many questions about how best to level in the game and what players should be doing in general as to not be wasting time or falling behind.

That seems to be a more worthwhile use of my time, so here is a list of eight tips for leveling up the best in LOTRO, no matter where you’re at in the game!

Tip #1: Don’t worry about the XP

Unless you’ve rolled on one of the legendary servers (and even then), LOTRO throws gobs upon gobs of experience at you. The problem is never having enough XP to level up and tackle content; usually the issue is over-leveling zones before you’re ready to move on. This is why the XP reduction of the legendary servers and the store-bought Stone of the Tortoise (which arrests your XP gain until you unequip it). You can even speed things up with XP accelerators and rested XP, but honestly, they’re cash shop traps and you don’t need it.

This is merely to say that gaining XP and hitting levels shouldn’t worry you at all. This list isn’t here to help you level the fastest but to guide you in other ways you should be progressing.

Tip #2: Follow the epic storyline

LOTRO’s epic storyline can best be seen as a railroad track that takes its passengers across the whole world while paying out in narrative, XP, and gear. You’re going to need to play it to progress at points, and while you could skip Volume I (which I wouldn’t recommend), it’s best to view Volume II onward as mandatory. This way you’re never at a loss as to where to go and what to do, and since the epic takes you through many quest hubs, it won’t be long until you accumulate more to do than you need.

Tip #3: Map out your virtue strategy

Virtues are basically permanent stat bonuses that you can collect by performing various achievements in the game. They’re not absolutely necessary, but I still go for them since every last little bit helps and virtues are an excellent source of otherwise hard-to-get defensive stats.

My advice? Pick the five virtues you’ll be pursuing for the character, make a list of what deeds to do in each zone (I like grouping them by zone), and then after you’ve finished with a zone’s quest, double-back to mop up any of these virtue-bound deeds while you’re still on-level to receive XP rewards. Unless, that is, it’s a slayer deed, in which case I’d recommend waiting until you’ve greatly overleveled the mobs so that you can come back and one-shot them quickly.

Tip #4: Keep an eye on your class trait points

The trait trees are LOTRO’s version of talent trees, and you’ll want to get as many points to invest in your build as possible. While there are 91 points right now that you can get in total, only 54 of these will come from leveling up. The rest are obtained from completing class meta deeds, collecting legendary book pages (which starts at level 39), completing special quest chains, and hitting one particular reputation in Moria.

You don’t have to get all of these points (my main character only has 89), but they are a huge help especially in the first half of the game while your build is coming together. Getting those class deeds done and legendary book pages collected are useful in this regard.

Tip #5: Don’t torture yourself with zones you dislike

One of the great benefits of the XP bonanza in the game is that it gives you more freedom and choice as to your progression. In the early game, you can pick and choose between certain zones (such as North Downs vs. Lone-lands or Forochel vs. Eregion) for leveling needs. Additionally, if you ever feel like you’re getting bogged down in a zone or a (non-epic) storyline that you dislike, it’s usually OK just to skip it and move on to somewhere else. Note that this gets less true as you get into higher regions (which are more linear), but even still, I never completed Mordor before I evacuated to Northern Mirkwood.

Tip #6: Know your “oh crap!” buttons and have them at the ready

While LOTRO isn’t always a challenging game, there are tougher areas and occasionally fights where you find yourself in over your head. Every class has various abilities to help weather these situations or even escape them, and I recommend that you always have a stock of on-level healing potions on hand for an instant burst of morale. Personally, I try not to use these skills unless the situation really calls for it, because there’s nothing worse than blowing an important cooldown on a trivial mob and then really needing it a minute later.

Tip #7: Explore off the beaten path

Middle-earth is insanely huge now and quests will only take you to a portion of its landmass. The rest is all frontier and there for the explorers to enjoy. So every now and then, take some time off and simply see what there is to see. The devs have delighted in putting interesting vistas and details from the books all over the place.

Tip #8: Get a good collection of milestones and stable masters

After a while, LOTRO will have you jumping all around the world — sometimes unnecessarily so. While Hunters have it easier than the rest of us with their extra map skills, we can all be smart about unlocking as many stable masters as we can and placing our milestones to greatest effect. Even one extra milestone can be extraordinarily helpful, and in the first 60 levels, I’d recommend positioning one at Esteldin, Rivendell, or the 21st Hall in addition to the milestone you’re using for questing. Don’t forget that all races eventually get a free milestone to their own main town — and that one is off of the milestone cooldown to boot.

Those tips are always helpful no matter where you are or what you’re doing, so I hope it gives you a boost! And if you have your own advice, please sound off in the comments!

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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