This is a guest post sent into us by Malhirviel about some very useful information he found about Skirmish Marks and he was kind enough to give us a little write up on what he found.
When it comes to LOTRO patch notes, I am not exactly what you would call a connoisseur. On the rare occasions that I actually read them, I often find my eyes glazing over reading discussions of improvements being made to end-game dungeons I have yet to run, and minor fixes to game mechanics I didn’t know existed. So I was a little surprised when I found myself reading the latest patch notes at all, and even more surprised when I found something of personal interest in them. Tucked deep in the notes, about halfway through “Town Services, NPCs, Vendors,” is this terse explanation: “Soldier rank traits have had their prices significantly reduced.”
Now, I enjoy skirmishing, and so even without hearing any details, the promise of a cost reduction was pretty appealing. Plus, I’d been unhappy with the way my Protector was working out in skirmishes lately, and so I signed into LOTRO to see if skirmish marks had been refunded, allowing me to retrait my soldier for free. No such luck – my points remained exactly the same. How major a change could this have been, I wondered, if there hadn’t been a skirmish mark refund? I realized I needed more information about the exact nature of the change before I could decide what to do about it. I did some searching in the forums and finally located a patch note thread which didn’t actually mention the skirmish change until about the 14th page (perhaps not surprisingly, given the low profile the announcement had gotten in the notes).
What finally caught my eye in the thread were a few people’s experiences which sounded very promising. More than one user reported purchasing a Scroll of Skirmish Refund (available in the LOTRO Store for 295 Turbine Points), getting all their marks back, completely retraiting their soldier, and – presumably due to the new lower cost – ending up with a huge surplus of marks left over. Having experienced frustration at the increasingly ridiculous prices of skirmish ranks, I decided to give it a try. After all, who wouldn’t want a huge pile of skirmish marks to play around with?
Now, at this point I ought to pause for a moment and confess that I am not intimately familiar with all the ins and outs of every aspect of LOTRO, and skirmishes are no exception. For example, just this past week I learned that training skirmish skills costs more if you’re trying to raise a skill above your current level. So for example, at level 66, it would have cost me 222 marks to upgrade my skirmish soldier to level 67. However, once I reached level 67, the cost was just 148 marks to make the same upgrade. (Presumably this is intended as a kind of built-in limiter for people trying to over-level their soldiers and run high-level content for increased rewards.) I also didn’t know until recently that Skirmish Captains sell special soldier skills above and beyond what the Skirmish Trainers sell. (I’m sure this is probably referenced at some point in the skirmish tutorial and I just missed it. Nevertheless, it was a big revelation for me – shiny new skills!)
With these two things in mind, I decided to bite the bullet and retrait my soldier. Here’s how it went down:
I started off with 2,395 marks in my barter wallet, bought and used a Scroll of Skirmish Refund which returned 19,854 marks to me, giving me a total of 22,249 marks – quite a princely sum! As I went to buy skills, however, I noticed something a little odd. As you can see in the screenshot, not all of my skills were reset completely by the scroll. I had previously traited a Warrior (during the in-game skirmish tutorial) and a Protector (after completing the tutorial). Immediately after the reset, those two soldier attributes are still listed as being at level 2, while all the others are listed as being at level 1. Weird, but not a big deal – it must just be something funky with the coding of the skirmish traits, or the way the reset works.
Anyway, this time I chose to level up a warrior instead of a protector. I started by increasing just his level (no Skills, Training, or Personal attributes yet) and soon he was even with me at level 66 … and it only cost me 1,093 marks! I began to think that this strategy might actually pay off.
Then I decided that I wanted to try purchasing one of the “Ultimate” skills from the Skirmish Captain to see if they really were any better than the regular skills available from the Skirmish Trainer. So I spent 523 marks and 111 medallions for the skill “Ultimate: Blood-Seeker.” A little pricey, to be sure, but it was worth it for the sake of experimentation. While I was there, I also purchased the skill “Whirling Wounds” for 70 marks and 16 medallions. Having slotted my new skills, I then began to level them, taking my soldier from 98-pound weakling to Buff ‘n’ Brawny Brawler in about five minutes.
And when my soldier was completely retraited up to level 66 (plus one skill accidentally increased to level 67), and my Training and Personal attributes were all at the same level they’d been before, my barter wallet contained a total of 16,369 marks. Wow!
Let’s take a look at the math: pre-update, the cost of all of my skirmish skills was 19,854 marks (the amount I was refunded upon using the scroll). Post-update, I spent 5880 marks retraiting my soldier, but 593 of those marks don’t count because I spent them purchasing the super-duper special skills that I hadn’t had before. So, in the end, what formerly cost 19,854 now costs 5,287. That’s a savings of approximately 73%! (Keep in mind, YMMV. I have no idea how much of that difference is due to the recent reduction in cost, and how much of it is due to the times I unknowingly overpaid by leveling my skirmish soldier beyond my toon’s current level. Even taking that into consideration, though, I think we can safely assume that the real reduction is at least in the neighborhood of 50-60%, which is still pretty huge. Also, the Ultimate skills cost a bit more to level up than the regular skills do, so the total amount I paid to retrait is even a bit higher than it would have been to go back to my exact trait setup from before.)
This episode brings up two related questions:
#1 – Why has this change not gotten more publicity? Did Turbine intentionally downplay the change for some reason? Or is it just that not enough skirmishers read patch notes for it to get much play? It certainly wasn’t hidden, but a change this significant feels like it should have been more prominent, or at least had some additional description, such as a comparison of the new prices against the old prices.
#2 – If the changes in skirmish soldier cost are this significant, why didn’t Turbine reset everyone’s skirmish marks for free? It feels kind of nickel-and-dimey to force players to purchase scrolls in the LOTRO Store to get the benefit of what was, essentially, Turbine’s mistake of overcharging for skirmish ranks. We don’t have to pay to take advantage of any of the other routine fixes in the game, so I don’t see why this should be any different. This is especially irksome to me as a Premium player, since my TP is limited, and is therefore quite precious to me. Even if I were VIP, though, I would probably still be annoyed at having to spend over half of my monthly allotment of TP to fix a problem that was not of my own creation.
This is purely conjecture, but given the recent news about the upcoming Riders of Rohan expansion – and the more significant role that skirmish soldiers will be playing there – the cost reductions may be merely a prelude to additional larger changes which will be coming soon. (Perhaps the new mechanics will make it advantageous to have several fully-traited skirmish soldiers available to you, for use in different scenarios?) In fact, it’s entirely possible that Turbine chose not to implement a skirmish mark reset now because they know they will be doing so when RoR launches in the Fall.
In the end, although I’m annoyed at having to spend TP to get my soldier in order, I really do appreciate the huge reduction in cost. While I enjoy the skirmish mechanic, the old pricing structure was very steep, to the point where I was considering abandoning skirmishes entirely because it required too much time and effort to upgrade every time I dinged a level. It’s definitely nice to be able to coast for the moment and not be forced to run skirmishes for the sole purpose of continuing to be able to run skirmishes.
So, I encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy the new cheaper skirmishing! If anyone needs me, I’ll be over at the Curiosities vendor using my thousands of marks to finally buy my missing major class items from about 20 levels ago…