LOTRO Legendarium: Returning to LOTRO after seven years away


It’s a strange feeling, returning to a place that holds a special meaning to you after many years have passed. When my high school class celebrated our 20-year reunion, a tour of the school was arranged as part of the festivities. It was a surreal experience. Some parts of the building were exactly as we’d left it back in the ’90s. Others had been renovated to the point that I would have gotten lost had it not been for the tour guide coaxing us along.

MMOs can offer a similar feeling of mixed nostalgia and bewilderment, but unlike with school, you can go back and experience the game again in a different time and life phase. Years ago, I started writing for a different site covering the MMO Lord of the Rings Online. LOTRO was my first and still favorite MMO, but after logging in every day for two years straight, I was ready to put it down for a bit. That was in 2014, and I’ve only recently begun to revisit the iconic locations and stories contained therein.

Logging in this time, I found my character perched upon Weathertop, probably due to my last visit occurring during a Weatherstock music festival. First order of business: inventory management!

Somehow, both my bags and my vault were completely full. One would think that seven years of distance would make throwing stuff out easier, and this did turn out to be the case. I no longer held any memory of the time I’d spent looking for certain essences or harvesting crafting materials. Neither do I have any intention of crafting in LOTRO ever again, so all these things were easily trashed. I had some third age legendary items I’d been hauling around, so those were also pitched. This decision would come back to bite me later on.

Once I’d made some room, it was time to look over my character build. This character is level 95 and has been carrying around a second age two-handed sword and captain’s emblem since before the first legendary item rework. With the first rework, players were not forced to upgrade to the new system. But with the most recent LI system redesign, the necessary components for item leveling were removed from the world, so upgrading is a must.

Since I was presented with no in-game tips on how to migrate from my old LIs to new ones, some outside research was required. Luckily, where Standing Stone falls down, the LOTRO community picks up the slack. I was happy to see that there is still a small but vibrant content creation community focusing on LOTRO and keeping players updated on the most recent developments. I found a YouTube video that explained trading old LIs for a barter currency that was used to barter for new LIs and associated items. That’s when I realized my mistake: I’d forgotten that the original LI system required the retention of multiple LIs for the purpose of relic leveling and deconstruction. That’s why I had so many third-agers in my bag. As it turns out, you can turn all those LIs in for the new LI barter currencies. Unfortunately, I’d trashed mine to clear up bag space.

While my new LIs may not be as powerful as they otherwise would have been, I was able to trade the second-agers that were equipped on my character for a brand-new shiny two-handed sword and captain emblem. I did my best to follow a Captain build I found on the internet, but to be honest, I’m still not sure which traceries and whatchamacallits are better than others. So after spending no small amount of time in one of Elrond’s libraries bartering for legendary items, I set back out into the world, hopefully better equipped to take on Sauron’s goons.

I wasn’t too far outside of Rivendell when I scrolled down on the Captain build webpage that I’d been using to forge my legendary items and noticed something else I’d completely forgotten about: virtues. Even when I was playing regularly, I didn’t pay much attention to virtues. Much to my dismay, some of the virtues in the recommended build had been highly neglected. So off to the LOTRO wiki I went, seeking the deeds that would enhance the specific virtues to properly enhance my captain build. I found a simple slayer deed in Breeland that seemed doable, so off I went to the Barrow-downs.

After only 20 minutes of slaying, I completed said deed, only my virtue didn’t level as I’d expected. The reason, I discovered, is that SSG has changed the virtue system since I last played, and for the better. Instead of completing a specific deed to enhance a specific virtue, players can now select a virtue to level and choose a deed they wish to complete. Most deeds offer some sort of virtue point as a completion reward, and those points will be applied to whichever virtue has been chosen to advance. Considering I’d never paid virtues much mind in the past, this change has enabled me to return to many of the older areas of the game where my deeds remained uncompleted. In fact, I’ve cleared a deed log (Breeland) for the first time in my LOTRO existence.

Returning to starter/vanilla areas has produced some unanticipated benefits and allowed me to experience the strongest aspect of LOTRO: the environment. On the initial playthrough, players are overwhelmed with attempting to absorb new content, systems, and areas. Subsequent playthroughs tend to be rushed.

But with the distance of seven years, I no longer feel compelled to rush toward a goal. I’ve truly been able to re-experience some of the content that hooked me on the game initially. Exploration deeds have reminded me of places I’d forgotten about, and in some cases they brought me to places I never knew existed!

More than anything, the Chance Thomas score has hit me right in the nostalgia. The phrase “it was a simpler time” is overused, but in this case, I’m reminded of the days of playing only one MMO and playing it every night after the kids were in bed, and it does indeed invoke memories of a time when games were fun and studios were invisible.

Revisiting old areas of LOTRO for the purpose of deed completion has become less about the deeds and more about the experience. I barely feel like I’m playing a game at all; it’s more like wandering around. But as a wise person once said, not all those who wander are lost.

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, while Ben has only just returned! If you have a topic for the column, send it their way at justin@massivelyop.com.
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