LOTRO Legendarium: Making sense of LOTRO’s virtue system


If you look at how your character gains power and progression in Lord of the Rings Online, you’ll see four major categories. There are levels, which automatically bestow stats upon you. Then there’s the acquisition of gear (including legendary items and essences) to bolster those stats. We can look to talents for additional ways to kit out a build.

And then there are virtues.

Ever since launch, the virtue system has been a little overlooked, a little misunderstood, and a little underrated. In recent years, it’s become more important for the overall strength of your character build and should not be neglected. So today we’re going to take a look at virtues — how you get them, which ones you should pursue, and why they help you out.

Virtues overview

The virtue system is another way for you to beef up various stats on your character — and you should, since every edge helps, and a fully leveled-up virtue can make a significant impact on you. By level 23, you will have five slots on your virtues tab that you can equip with any mix of the 21 virtues available in the game.

Each virtue is a bundle of various stats arranged in primary (the most stats given), secondary, and tertiary (the least stats given) strengths if that virtue is slotted in one of your five slots. For example, Honesty is made up of tactical mastery (primary), will (secondary), and critical rating (tertiary).

In addition, each virtue also contains passive bonuses that are “always on” even if you don’t have that virtue slotted. In this way, every virtue benefits your character in some way — just some more than others.

To level up virtues, you have to accrue — get ready for this — “virtue XP.” This type of XP is mostly gained through completing deeds, although you can grab more from quest wrappers and store boosts. At any given time, you’ll have one virtue that’s toggled as “EARNING,” meaning that any virtue XP that comes in goes to that virtue’s rank. You’ll want to manually change this every so often so that you’re not accidentally dumping XP into an unwanted virtue after you max out a virtue’s rank.

The virtue rank cap increases with your level, eventually climbing up to 85 as of spring 2023. From experience, I say that doing at least half of the deeds for any given zone that you’re questing through will more than enough XP to stay on top of the virtue treadmill.

Virtue strategy

The first thing you’ll want to do is, by level 6 or 7, choose your first virtue to pursue and start cranking out those relatively easy deeds in the newbie zones. You really don’t have to hardcore this or anything; it simply helps to get a jump on it right away. Remember that you can rank up virtues even if you don’t slot them (or have the slots available for your build yet).

So which are the five that you want to pick? Everyone has Opinions on this, naturally, and my own is pretty simple. You’re going to want to focus on your primary stat, either physical or tactical mastery (based on if you’re a physical weapon user or a “spellcaster” type), and then one survival-focused virtue (i.e., extra morale) or crit-focused (especially if your build depends on crits to proc abilities).

The LOTRO Wiki offers an amazingly useful matrix that can help you sort through all of the virtues to find your core five. Remember how every virtue typically has three stats? That also means that every stat typically has two, three, or four virtues associated with it.

So let’s spec out my Minstrel as an example here. Using the matrix, I first look up what virtues add will to my build. That would be Honesty and Wisdom. Next up is tactical mastery, and I can see that this is also Honesty and Wisdom as well as Wit. That gives me three of my five right there. Critical rating is pretty important to Minstrels, so adding Confidence and Patience boost that while also giving me an extra measure of evade, finesse, and power. Alternatively, I might swap Patience for Loyalty to get a chunk of extra armor and morale.

I find it very easy to max out all of my virtues while leveling, so I make sure to have a few secondary virtues that I want to also rank up because of their secondary stats.

Some of the best secondaries you can get are ones that confer physical and tactical mastery. Remember that these are always active, so that damage boost is more helpful than a sliver of extra health (which is what the other half of virtues offer in their passive section).

It honestly never hurts to check out your class’ forum to see what others choose for that class or even a specific build, as there are occasions where a certain stat is much more desirable than others. This might be true if, say, you’re building up a tank build and need as much defense rather than offense.

That’s it for virtues! Just don’t neglect them, especially if you’re new to the game. Getting to the mid-game only to realize then that there’s this whole progression system in play will make for a headache of backtracking. Best to get on that right away, I say.

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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