Or you could become a chicken.
LOTRO’s chicken play sessions have delighted and fascinated the game’s community ever since their inclusion. By thrusting players into the shoes (er, talons) of a defenseless chicken and giving them a goal to navigate the world, Middle-earth transforms into a completely different place indeed. So how do you go on a poultry journey and survive to tell the tale? And why is chicken play so addictive? I’m here to help you strange folk out.
Getting started with chicken play
LOTRO doesn’t exactly make a big deal out of chicken play, but chances are that if you’ve quested in the Shire, you’ve stumbled across the start of your rooster road trip at Sanderson’s Farm. Initially, it seems like this is a pretty normal farm-related quest, but before long the game shifts into chicken play sessions during which players are asked to run farther and farther distances without dying.
With very low health, no attack, and few defenses of which to speak, a chicken might feel completely exposed to the hostile world around it. And while this is true to a degree, there are some tools to help players survive to make the next leg of their journey without becoming a tasty snack. The few skills at one’s disposal include a 30-second speed boost, a “possum impersonation” ability to play dead, stealth detection, and a “bob-and-weave” skill to evade ranged attacks.
The first few road trips are relatively short, with adventures to Bree-land and Ered Luin. But before you know it, you’ll be trying to do a suicidal chicken run all the way to North Downs, Trollshaws, and Minas Tirith. By completing the initial series of quests, players will get a chicken-themed cape, while the Minas Tirith run gives a highly exclusive title that only a handful of players will ever be seen sporting. Make no mistake: These are very long, very tough journeys where one death means game over, man, game over!
Feeling as if all of this isn’t enough of a challenge, some members of the LOTRO community have devised the ultimate challenge: The Mordor Chicken Run. It’s a chicken run from the Shire to the slopes of Mt. Doom, where the finish line is jumping right into the boiling lava of Sauron’s former home. Too hardcore for my blood, but it amuses me to no end that others have made the trip.
Tips for life as a chicken
To be up front with you, I’ve only gone through about half of these quests in my LOTRO career. I don’t know if I have the patience for most of them, but what I do know is that to really make it as a chicken, I’ll need some pals.
Most successful player chicken runs happen in groups, usually with a bunch of flapping player poultry and one or two “escorts” that accompany the group and act as bodyguards. Classes with instant-fire ranged abilities, such as Hunters or Minstrels, are especially desirable for these escort positions. And why not go with a group anyway? The whole event becomes much more festive and fun!
Obviously, keeping out of aggro range of enemy mobs is highly important in any chicken run. Patience, planning, and sometimes sheer luck is needed to get a run done without a single death. Knowing which skill to use in a given situation can literally be the lifesaving move. Remember that paths aren’t always mob free, especially when you’re a level 1 chicken broadcasting a giant aggro beacon to any enemies in range. When in doubt, play dead and then wait for the cooldown to reset.
There are also a small handful of teleporting chicken nests to give you instant travel between Nen Harn and Malenhad, Trestlebridge and Duillond, and Oatbarton and High Moors.
A perspective shift
So really, what’s the point? While there are some nifty cosmetics, titles, and even a couple of Zeal points to earn with these quests, I think most people would say that there’s an inherent fun to the challenge and experience of being a lowly chicken in this world.
I am always a huge advocate of whenever developers or players come up with ways to encourage the rest of us to develop a different experience and view the game world in a new way. Sometimes we are so focused on getting from Point A to B for our quests that we start to develop tunnel vision and ignore all of the sights, details, and general sense of world all around you.
As weird as it might seem, stripping players of their natural defenses and weapons has that effect in LOTRO. Forcing chickens to play defensively is a completely different experience, one that’s sort of like a taste of permadeath with breading and special dipping sauce.
Many guilds routinely schedule chicken runs on their calendar, so if you’re interested in getting that cloak and learning what it is to be covered with feathers and fear, then sign up for one of these and go into them completely expecting to die!