I’ve got ninety thousand pounds in my pajamas,
I’ve got forty thousand French francs in my fridge,
I’ve got lots of lovely lire,
Now the deutschmark’s getting dearer,
And my dollar bills would buy the Brooklyn Bridge
I have two pet peeves when it comes to MMOs: spawn-campers and gold beggars.
Spawn-campers are generally jerks.1 Gold beggars are generally lazy. Both deserve to be slapped.
Seriously, if you’re taking to the general or kin chat channels to ask people for money, you are either lazy, really lazy or just too darn lazy to figure out how an MMO economy works.
Yes, I know that at low levels, money can be tight, but that’s what low levels are for. When I started playing, a buddy of mine hooked me up with what I thought at the time was a king’s ransom: 500 silver. What I found out later was that he was selling crit Lothlorien waybread at several gold a stack. Still, this initial start-up capital helped me get some better gear, but it wasn’t really necessary.
The bottom line is that making money in an MMO isn’t much different—or more difficult—than in real life.
If you search the interwebs, there are all sorts of guides out there which will tell you how to make money in a game. They’ll also charge you real money to tell you how to accumulate not-real wealth. Don’t bother. Here is Vraeden’s Guide to Making a Ton of (Fake) Money in an MMO.
The Easiest Route
Buy gold over the interweb. There are sites you can go to where you will pay real money so that someone will meet up with you in game and give your character(s) fake money.
Seriously, don’t buy gold off the internet.
You are opening yourself up to all sorts of credit card fraud. You are supporting child labour in Third World Countries. You have more (real) money than sense. Some MMOs will ban your account for buying or selling fake money for real money. You will grow hair on your palms. Chicks don’t dig guys who buy gold over the interweb. Your draft stock will drop. You’ll shoot your eye out. Every time someone buys gold via the internet, God kills a kitten. They will hack your account. Dealing with gold farmers is illogical. Mr. T will pity you, fool.
Whatever rationalization you need to tell yourself, buying gold from a site on the internet is a bad idea.
Earn it in game.
If you like money in real life (and I suspect you all do), and you want to accumulate more, there are two basic strategies which will maximize your bankroll:
- Increase revenues.
- Decrease expenditures.
That’s all there is to it.2
The people who have a lot of MMO money are the ones who are selling stuff, but not buying stuff.
Where is Your Money Going?
Near the end of some (but not all) pay periods, my wife will say something to the effect of, “We’re getting close to pay day. Don’t buy any [action figures, new cars, computer equipment, etc.] until Friday.”
What’s strange about this is that in the fourteen years or so we’ve been married, we’ve never had lower fixed monthly expenses and we’ve never made more money. So where does all our money go? The fact of the matter is that up to a certain point, you will spend as much money as you bring in (sometimes more). You might buy a bigger house, a nicer car, eat out at more expensive restaurants, buy a pair of Darth Maul Force FX lightsabers which can be combined into one double-bladed lightsaber to go with your Star Wars Celebration costume, play more golf, or use that money on whatever your particular hobbies are.
You may have that same issue with your MMO characters. What are you spending money on?
Trail food? Fire-oils? Health potions? Crafting materials? Pie?
There are some expenses in LOTRO that are fixed. Crafting costs money. Refining relics and breaking down LIs costs money. There is an expense associated with training new skills. You cannot change these.
But there are some things that you don’t need. The Winged Circlet or Gossamer Dress at the AH. A house (and its upkeep).
Where is your MMO money going? How can you reduce your expenditures?
If you are a new player, you might find yourself spending money on crafting materials, consumables or items you cannot make yourself. Generally speaking, the best items in the game are crit crafted items. I think this is good, and the way it should be.
The problem comes in when you need/want hope tokens, fortifying food, bling, off-hand weapons, scrolls, etc. and you 1) don’t have anyone to make them, or 2) you do have toons who can make them, but you don’t want to spend an afternoon of your real life watching grass grow as you farm the black barley or running all over the Misty Mountains looking for ancient iron and ancient silver.
If you fall into the second category, all I can say is this: The AH is the price you pay for convenience. More on this later.
For those of you who don’t have crafters, here’s where you will have to invest some time and patience, but in the long run, it pays off.
It takes four toons to have complete crafting independence from the auction house. That is to say: With four characters, you can have all seven of the crafting skills and all three of the gathering skills. If you want a character in each guild, you will need seven toons, but you can make yourself almost completely independent of having to buy things from other people with four characters.
If you have a Woodsman, Tinker, Historian, and Armourer, you will never need to go to the AH for crafted items except for things that can only be made with guild recipes (ie—Sealed Symbol of Morale).
The caveat is that since RoI, they have gated some of the Tier 7 crafting recipes so that you need reputation that can only be earned in Dunland. This effectively eliminates the Tier 7 master craftsman who are of absurdly-low levels,3 but that is a new issue, and that’s where the time and patience comes in. I think they just want to make everyone into an alt-oholic.
So if you find that the majority of the money you are spending is going to crafted items, the quickest way to eliminate this expenditure is to start making your own stuff.
What else are you spending money on?
Sometimes, the items that are going off for the highest amounts are the super-rare drops that are needed for the best LIs currently available. When they first came out, I think I saw a Symbol of the Elder King at the AH for something like 500 gold. Before you could buy them with skirms, a Symbol of Celembrimbor might run over 100 gold. Greater Scrolls of Empowerment aren’t cheap, either.
The question then becomes, do you buy these items, or do you earn them yourself? If you want to stop paying others for their hard work, then get grinding!
Basically, take everything I told you above and look at it from the other perspective. If there are things out there that you want, there’s a good chance that other people want them, too.
The key to making money (real or fake) is to find something other people want (or that they think they want) and do a better job at giving it to them than other people.
Use this same approach to making money in an MMO.
MMO players, especially those who have things like kids or spouses or jobs or social lives and other out-of-game commitments, can only devote a finite amount of time to playing a computer game. I’d wager a fair chunk of someone else’s paycheck to say that those people are willing to pay for the convenience of not having to stand around farming or making khazad-gold ingots because they want to play in the limited time they have and not spend that time making tokens.
Yes, they may have a KSM farmer and cook, but if they’ve only got two hours to play when their daughter takes a nap on Saturday afternoon, I think they’d probably prefer to squeeze in a Draigoch raid or a Barrow-Downs Survival run than spend it crafting.
Use this to your advantage.
Find out what is in high demand. Fill that demand.
Here’s a quick recap of macro economics:
- Decreased supply = Increased demand
- Increased Demand = Increased Prices
Like eBay auctions, the prices at the AH are determined by what buyers are willing to pay. If someone lists a stack of dwarf-iron ore for 3 gold and someone else lists a stack for 2 gold, the price just went down. If someone lists a stack of dwarf iron for 3 gold and it goes off in 10 minutes, they probably could have gotten 4 gold for it.
Before you list any items, you should see what the going rates are. Charge about the same (maybe a little less) as your buyout price and see what happens.
In my experience, the things people need/want the most, and are therefore the things they are will to pay the most for at auction, are mid-level crafting materials. Alt-oholics typically have a bunch of low level toons at various stages of leveling. They also tend to have a couple or five max level toons, but not much in between. This is typically because after they leave the starter areas, they power-level their toons and don’t take much time to smell the flowers and do things like level crafting. So they might gather up a bunch of tier 1 and tier 2 crafting materials, but not much for items from tier 3 through 5 (and now 6). Max level toons often have tier 7 drop and node materials out the wazoo.
So spend some time farming dwarf iron or ancient iron/silver. There’s a circuit I run through the Angmar, Misty Mountains and Eregion I run where my level 65+ toons won’t aggro any mobs and there are lots of ore nodes. While there, I also sweep through Eregion looking for khazad-copper (which you can never have enough of). Find the places where there are lots of scholar nodes or concentrations of animals which may drop two hides at a time. If you can’t find a location, search out on the interweb and you’ll find them.
One of the nice things about LOTRO is that for the most part, all of the professions can be lucrative, although it is true that some are more than others. Find out which crafted items are needed the most, and concentrate on those with your toons. Have them join the guilds for the best recipes and such. You should be aware that some professions will cost you more to level up front, but in the long run, they may pay off. Cook comes to mind.
Know that there are some items which will cost you money to make. In instances like ore or hides, there really is no upfront cost to you, other than item wear. With these, I charge whatever I think I can get for them.
However, there are other items which have a substantial cost to the seller which cannot be avoided. Cooked food usually falls into this category. Many recipes required farmed items plus vendor items, and some even require lower-tier crafted items which use both farmed items and vendor items, too. In some cases, tier 6 and tier 7 food may cost the crafter 7-25 silver (or more) in vendor materials alone.
If you are selling these items, know what your costs are so that you don’t sell a stack of 100 for 1.5 gold, but the actual cost to you was 1.75 gold. That’s bad business.
No one begrudges people who make a profit at auction. What people hate are the price gougers. You know, the people who buy up the three stacks of gold ore that were listed for 1 gold each, then re-lists them for 2.5 gold per. When this happens, the only thing I can tell you is to wait for prices to come down (because they eventually will).
I’ve noticed that prices are the lowest on the weekends because that’s when the most people are on. Yes, that also means there are more people buying, but you will also have more sellers who will undercut other sellers. Yes, their profit margin may be lower, but if they are moving more product, their overall profits are higher (this is Wal-Mart’s approach).
Other Ways to Make Money
For those people without high-level crafters or without the inclination or time to wheel-and-deal at the AH, there is another way to make money in LOTRO: vendor trash.
This has been somewhat offset by the use of taskboards, but simply selling vendor trash is a very underrated way to make money in MMOs.
Basically, you sell everything that drops for silver. At low levels, this isn’t very lucrative, but once you get to Moria and beyond, the value of simple drop items goes up dramatically. In pursuing slayer deeds in Mirkwood, I ran around until my inventory was full, then sold everything that dropped for over a gold. The prices of vendor trash went up in Dunland. You can easily make two gold in a couple of hours just by selling crap that has no other use in the game.
Or maybe you’ve got an inventory full of tier 6 hides that aren’t selling well at auction and your tailor already has them out the wazoo. Just sell them.
What may throw a monkey wrench into the gears on this is that the taskboards have taken some money out of the game. Items you may have previously sold as vendor trash are now being turned in for tasks with an associated reward of XP and/or faction reputation. This makes it your call as to what’s more important. Of course, if you and all of your toons are kindred with Theodred’s Riders already, then there’s no reason to go to the taskboards any more.
In all skirmishes and raids, bounties are dropped by lieutenants and some mobs. These are turned in for money. Part of the intent is to compensate the skirmisher for item wear, since normal vendor trash doesn’t drop in skirmishes. I remember doing the three parts of the Helegrod run and getting a couple of gold worth of bounties.
In addition, during skirmishes, you’ll be accumulating skirmish marks in addition to bounties (and accumulating kills towards slayer deeds), so that’s like eating several pies with one spoon.4
When Income > Spending, You Win
There will come a point when money will not be an issue for you. The fourth of my toons to get to level 65 was an RK, and by the time I did, he had about 70 gold in the bank, and I really wasn’t trying to make money. That was from quest rewards, skirms and vendor trash. I was at the point where I simply wasn’t spending money because everything he needed, I could make myself.
At this point, because I don’t really need anything, when I buy things at auction, it’s for the convenience of not having to do it myself, but the fact of the matter is that if I had to, I could.
Just try not to forget the macro economics lessons your social studies teachers tried to pass along.
And don’t buy gold off the internet.
- This is a wholly different rant for another day. ↩
- Now if only our government could figure this out. ↩
- My kindred supreme master tailor was level 17, and my KSM woodworker was level 15. ↩
- How’s that for a LOTRO metaphor? Your next question should be, “What’s a metaphor?”, and the answer is, of course, “Cows”. ↩