LOTRO Legendarium: Five essential roleplaying tools for living in Lord of the Rings Online’s Middle-earth

    
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While you can and will find roleplaying active in many MMOs, there’s something very conducive to Lord of the Rings Online’s design and community that makes the scene especially robust in Middle-earth. Many players don’t wish to merely visit the game; they want to inhabit their characters on a deeper level — and LOTRO accommodates this desire.

Lest we get too restrictive in our definitions, let me just say that when I refer to “roleplay,” I simply mean acting and interacting in the role of your character. This can come in many forms, from two people having a quiet roadside chat to large-scale player events and everything in-between. Heck, even a lone Hobbit cresting a hill might have a moment of genuine roleplay that is witnessed by no one other than her player.

And while roleplay doesn’t need more than a chat interface to happen, LOTRO provides many tools to support and supplement such activities. In today’s column, I want to examine five such tools that have given roleplayers a lot of joy and functionality over the years.

Memorable locations

Not every nook and cranny of Middle-earth is there just to provide quest locations and places to plop down enemy mobs. In fact, if you slow down and look around, you might notice that there are many towns and locales that exist just for the sake of world-building. And many of these are terrific for roleplay.

Taverns, stages, and the Last Homely House seem to be favorite gathering spots for roleplayers, although they are not the only spots where you might find a knot of in-character avatars putting on performances or swapping stories. Many player groups delight in traveling to different specific places that set a perfect mood for RP. That might be a dark inn with a flickering fireplace or a tranquil meadow, but whatever the desired scene may be, there’s a spot in LOTRO to make it even better.

Emotes

I had thought about devoting an entire column to the collection and use of emotes, which is something I’m just now starting to pursue. That might be too skimpy of a topic for a full article, but I think it’s perfect here, as emotes are wonderful tools to use while interacting with others. Not only can they be amusing, but emotes also help inject live into your stock-still character.

After all, at the core of roleplaying is communication, and emotes are a non-verbal way to communicate with others. Plus, they can be highly entertaining and convey emotions and attitude!

As of the writing of this column, there are 198 emotes in the game, which is far greater than I had assumed when I first looked. While you get a chunk of those as default emotes, the rest are collected through quest rewards, deeds, festivals, and store purchases. Some of these are a lot of fun in group settings, and I enjoy making my Hobbit faint or sitting down for second breakfast to amuse those around me.

Items and costumes

Along the lines of non-verbal communication is the use of items and outfits to get into a certain mood or present a particular posture for your character. Maybe you like to roleplay a mischievous Dwarf who likes to shoot off fireworks at inappropriate times or a solemn Gandalf-like sage who is always sucking on a long pipe. Creating a tailored look can adjust the attitude of those who interact with you and works on the same subliminal level that such visuals do in real life.

While I am not an explicit roleplayer, I do have a full array of outfits for my character that I will switch based on the situation and whom I’m with. Even if I’m alone, I will pick a practical adventurer’s getup for swamp stalking, a Yule festival costume for tromping through the snow, and an outfit with a miner’s helmet for when I go underground. It gets me into the mood and helps me identify with my character more. I think that’s roleplay in a way, don’t you?

Housing

A combination of personal expression and roleplay-conducive locations, player housing can be the most idea places to stage elaborate RP events. Maybe you want to throw an in-character party, have a murder mystery, or woo that cute Elf down the street. Fixing your home just so can add that extra level of immersion and interaction, especially if you are able to populate it with props to admire and use.

Music

Yes, once again we return to LOTRO’s vaunted music system. While you may not think of player music as being part of a sphere of roleplay, it often is. Again, at a basic level, roleplay is slipping into a role where you act as that character would in the world setting versus just playing him or her as a game.

Music is a part of our life, and it feels very natural in Middle-earth to have bands form and bards set up shop at taverns. The music system here may be long in the tooth, but it’s quite robust and still being expanded with new instruments. Player concerts are in character more often than not, and I’ve witnessed many story nights where characters punctuate their tale with short bursts of song for all of us to enjoy.

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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Jersey

Please let me throw in a sixth point to add to this list: The setting.
At least for me, knowing the world of Middle-earth fairly well after reading the books (and not just the trilogy, mind you) does a lot to make me want to get in-character, and a lot easier to do so as well.

As for emotes, I’m going to mention custom text emotes. While there’s no /smile emote in the game, one can type “/em smiles” which will print “YourCharacterName smiles” as emote text to the chat. And one can also customize the text for animated emotes, for example “/drink empties his mug in one long draught”. This will cause the normal /drink animation to play while “YourCharacterName empties his mug in one long draught” is printed as emote text. I’m sure other games do this as well, but still it gives a lot more freedom to make your character come to life in the way you wish to than if you’re limited to a fixed number of pre-defined emotes.

And I can’t give the music system enough praise. Often times I have more fun with the music system than the rest of the game combined. And yes, it fits great with roleplay, especially for my Minstrel ;)

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Viktor Budusov

Thanks Justin for this coverage.

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François Verret

LOTRO is definitely a good playground in which to role-play. It’s that virtual world feel, even though it’s a theme park.

I appreciate the RP coverage on the site.