LOTRO Legendarium: Hobbits (and River Hobbits) are the heart of Lord of the Rings


I don’t care if you want me to be objective when it comes to Lord of the Rings Online’s races, because in my book, it’s not even close. Elves are banished to the bottom of the rankings, and Dwarves and Man can dwell peaceably in the middle, but the spot at the very top is reserved for the best of the best: the Hobbits.

As a short guy myself, I have a strong affinity to height-challenged races in MMORPGs. You’ll often find me rolling, say, Gnomes in World of Warcraft or Asura in Guild Wars 2. But as fun as those flirtations are, my heart is always with LOTRO’s Hobbits and has been since launch. And now that we’re on the cusp of seeing a new Hobbit race introduced, I couldn’t be happier.

You’ve seen many of my Hobbits over the years because I’m positively obnoxious about shoehorning my own character screenshots into columns and posts about this game. While I have rolled some of the other races for class-related reasons, the number of Hobbit characters I’ve had in LOTRO since launch is staggering.

Since Hobbits were at the center of Tolkien’s four best-known books, it was vital for Turbine to get the race right when developing this MMO. I could envision many ways that the studio could’ve botched it — after all, we’ve seen some pretty cringe-worthy examples of badly made “small” races in other games — but by and large, the original team did a good job. These Hobbits looked like the simple farmers and villagers that they are, yet they also contained a hint of that adventuring spirit.

Or maybe I’m just projecting onto the character creation screen!

To me, there’s always something thrilling about watching something small persevere and triumph. Frodo and Bilbo were unexpected heroes, even in their own minds, and not taken as seriously as the more martial, athletic, or magical people in the world. But Gandalf saw what many did not, which is that Hobbits contain a certain tenacity and unique skillset that helps them succeed even when everyone else is doubting their ability to do so.

That’s the kind of character I wanted to play, and it’s this fantasy that’s powered many of my adventures through Middle-earth.

I also like that Hobbits are less serious than all of the stoic figures that we frequently encounter. Sure, their bumbling innocence might be good for a laugh or two, but it’s their cheerful optimism and passionate love of food and nature that tend to win people over.

A great example of this is Bingo Boffin and his adventures. This 54-part quest series initially underwhelms most players with Bingo’s childlike viewpoint and a clear lack of preparation for his great journey to come. I think that’s deliberate because the devs want you to underestimate him and think him the bumbling fool. It makes the gradual discovery of his character — unfailingly kind, diplomatic, and positive — all that more satisfying.

It does seem like the Shire and other Hobbit-related questing areas are somewhat divisive among players. You either seem to really groove with the vibe or find it irritating, with little middle ground. And that probably is informed by whether or not Hobbits as a race and culture click with you. If not, then their petty squabblings and more limited worldview will probably be infuriating.

Clearly, I love this sort of content. Hobbits as presented in LOTRO feel more “real” to me as characters because of their sometimes trivial pursuits. They wear their emotions on their sleeves and care deeply about things that may not be as globally important as the One Ring but still matter to them. I would adore having Hobbits as real-life neighbors in truth.

It’s been a good couple of years to be a Hobbit fan, too. Last year we got two new Hobbit questing areas — Yondershire and Swanfleet — with lots of fun storylines and characters. And now we’re on the verge of getting a Hobbit racial variant and a related neighborhood.

I’m jittering with excitement over River Hobbits. Even though all we’ve gotten so far is some concept art and hints, it’s still enough to tell me that I’m going to be paying through the nose for some race changes come later this summer.

For starters, I’m so glad we’ll be getting some new faces and hairstyles for Hobbits. We’ve had the same batch for well over a decade now, so it’ll be good to have that variety. And then there will be the joy of finding out the new racial abilities, possible animation tweaks, a possible new starter zone (my money’s on a retooled Lindelby), and the aforementioned River Hobbit housing and decor.

I also wouldn’t mind hearing that River Hobbits are getting one or two more class options, as the Captain and Rune-keeper are still denied to basic Hobbits.

Hobbits may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or mug of ale), but they’re one of the most realized small races in all of fantasy fiction, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to play one myself – and I hope to be doing so well into the future.

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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