If you’ve been playing MMOs for any length of time, you probably have noticed that there is a segment of players who live to raid. They don’t care about leveling or role-playing or story or anything other than mustering for raids, taking down bosses and hoping that item drops.1
On the other side of the spectrum are the people who enjoy other aspects of the game and don’t know the difference between DN, OD, BG, OT or any other combination of letters that you want to throw together.
This is the first of probably four articles in which I’m going to talk about my experiences of going from a casual player to an active raid participant.
This is not a guide to specific raids, nor is it meant to give any assistance or advice to people who are experienced raiders. I do not pretend to be an expert raid leader or know about all of the LOTRO classes, nor would I presume to tell people how they should enjoy the game.
In this first article, I’m going to talk about getting into the general mindset of going on raids. In the second, I’m going to talk about getting your character(s) ready to go on raids. The third article will discuss ways to connect with other folks as you start out as a raider. Finally, the fourth article will be the dumping ground for anything I have forgotten in the other three articles, and to discuss points CSTM readers bring up through the comments or by emailing me directly. I am expecting to get these out over the next month, but that may be subject to how crazy my holiday schedule gets.
As always, the views expressed here are my own, and your comments and insights are welcome.
The lead-in question to this series is pretty simple: Why do you want to raid?
There are some people who play MMOs and couldn’t care less about raiding.
Maybe they like role-playing. Maybe they like to level a bunch of different toons. Maybe they like festivals, music and cosmetics. Maybe they just want to hang out in kinchat and have fun with other players. Maybe they are solo players. Maybe they like PVP. Maybe they like crafting.
But then there are some players who don’t want anything to do with the above, and all they want to do is endgame content.2
I’ve heard on the forums, in kinchat and in one of the CSTM roundtables the sentiment of, “the game begins at the level cap.”
While I don’t completely agree with that statement, it is absolutely true that there is certain content which is not accessible until you are at the maximum level.
Can you enjoy LOTRO without ever setting a foot in Helegrod or the Rift? Of course. You can even advance into the highest level areas (Rohan at the time of this writing) wearing landscape and crafted gear.
There is a lot of available content in the game which is very enjoyable, if only for the view. The first toon I leveled up was a hunter. I played mostly solo and I did a lot of the area deeds and quests. For me, it was nice to see a game that looked good and played well. Especially since I am not a hardcore Tolkien fan, it was interesting to see how the developers approached building, lighting and populating Middle-Earth.
On my second toon (my minstrel, since I could never seem to find a group for my hunter), I spent a lot of time running around with a champ, and we muscled through the areas to get up to the level 65 cap. It was only later that I went back in to some of the low level areas with a stack of slayer deed accelerators to make up on virtues and deeds that I missed.
For my third toon (my captain, since my kin at the time had a shortage), I grouped up a bunch with a rune-keeper, who was new to the game and is a huge Tolkein nerd. That experience made LOTRO fun and new for me again, since she got great enjoyment out of seeing all of the things from the books for the first time.3
Now, though, since I have four toons that are level 65+, and a couple more in the high-40s/low-50s, I really don’t spend a lot of time in each zone. I power level through an area, then go back when I’m over-level and can one-shot most of the mobs to fill out my slayer deeds. Surely, there is something more than just leveling, right?
The answer for some folks is raiding. For others, it’s other the stuff (see above).
The bottom line is this: LOTRO is a game. It’s there for you to enjoy.
If it becomes a “job”, do something else. I just got my minstrel to level 85 and have been doing the Hytbold quests. It’s a grind.4 Many of the later areas feel like the quest chains are on rails.5 I’m leveling my captain next and on a couple of occasions, I’ve found myself thinking, “Self, didn’t we just do this quest?” So I take an evening to run my champ through the re-vamped Moria or roll a lowbie instead of grinding the grind.
But if you like a challenge, raiding is for you.
When I first started playing, I joined up with a kin that was pretty casual and made a lot of good friends. A core group of us started running around doing six man instances and a few of the 12 man raids. We didn’t have a schedule and no one was hardcore about it.
To make a long story short, there was some drama involved, the leader flaked out, and the kinship dissolved. The membership scattered across Elendilmir; some people took a break and went to play Rift or Mass Effect 2, some formed another kinship, and some joined other kins.
After meandering around for a month or so, through one of my friends, I plugged into a group, The Osgiliath Guard, which is a casual social kinship on Elendilmir.6 TOG raids on a reasonably regular basis, although we do not run some of the harder tier 2 raids as a kin. The emphasis in our kin is having fun as casual players, and successfully running tier 2 raids requires a level of devotion and a commitment of time that most of our members do not have.
To be sure, there are several people in TOG who like and want to run the harder raids. We’ve had people leave our kinship to join some of Elendilmir’s big raid kins because that’s not the direction our kinship has taken.
For a little while, I joined up with another kinship on Elendilmir, which was heavy into raiding. I ended up leaving this kinship because I am a much too casual player. They muster every weeknight at 8:00 and if you missed the mustering time, they’d fill your spot in a heartbeat. They also use a DKP loot system, which means that if you’re not around for all the raids, you are further down the list to get the prized loot drops.
Due to circumstances in my personal life, I was not able to commit the level of time and energy into raiding that they require, but their system works for them, and I still speak regularly with some of them. I’ll talk more about this in part 3 of this series.
Whatever your reason for wanting to raid, understand that if you are serious about raiding, you will need to commit yourself to learning your class front to back. You will also need to be able to set aside a lot of time and energy into learning the raids and getting the best gear you can even before you set foot into the raid.
There is a common belief among MMO players that the “best” gamers are the most hardcore raiders. Without splitting hairs over what “best” means, let me say that it’s a generally true statement (although I would also argue that the “best” could also be the highest ranked PVP players, but that is a whole different skillset for an entirely different series of articles).7 Raiders tend to know the most about their classes and how they fit into the group dynamic.
To complete the harder tier 2 raids, you will need lots of practice at your class and your skills. You will need to know exactly what each skill/trait/virtue/legacy does. You will need to know generally (if not specifically) what the other classes can do, especially if you want to get into leading raids. You will have to spend lots of time grinding out slayer deeds and running all over the place for explorer deeds. I’ll talk more about this in the next article.
Raiding can also be viewed as a never-ending grind. My RK friend that I mentioned before doesn’t like raiding because she hates doing the same instances over and over and over. Let’s face it, we all know people who will tell you, “I spent every Friday night for a year running the Rift” or “Don’t forget: Draigoch runs on Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday; sign up on the kin calendar.”
If that’s not your cup of tea, don’t do it.
Is raiding for everyone? No.
Is it a lot of fun? It can be.
It can also be frustrating and exhilarating, often at the same time.
Since I started running around with TOG, I’ve gotten to know some of my virtual friends to the point that we don’t talk about the game in some instances/raids because everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and just does it. Instead, we fill our voice chat by asking about each others’s kids, telling bad jokes, sharing recipes for pie, and making fun of the division captain’s age. Other times, I’ve gotten so creative with my cursing that a kinmate called me a linguistic Picasso with the F-bomb.
If you are unsure as to whether you want to start running some of the cooperative content, whether it’s some of the 3 or 6-man instances or the full raids, try it. You may like it. You may not. Either way, it’s a part of the game that is out there for you to enjoy. Or maybe, like Forochel, you’ll avoid it at all costs.8
- For purposes of this series, I’m going to include the tier 2 3 and 6 man instances in the term “raid”. I know there is a difference, but the fact of the matter is that the six-mans can be as hard as the full 12 person raids. You may disagree, but this is my article, so I get to make the semantic rules. ↩
- In my experience, most players like some combination of all of these activities, although they generally prefer a couple over the rest. ↩
- She loves LOTR like I love Star Wars. When we got to Rivendell and Caras Galadhon, she spent about an hour in each place just riding her horse around, “geeking out”. It was like going back to Disney World with a 5 year old kid who has never been there before, even though you have been a million times. ↩
- Dear Mr. Grind, Why are you so grindy? -V. ↩
- I will rant about this in a later post. ↩
- Not to use this as a recruiting plug (which I am shamelessly doing right now), but The Osgiliath Guard is the LOTRO division of a larger group called The Older Gamers, which spans all sorts of games from MMOs to first-person-shooters to strategy games and everything else along the spectrum. The basic rules are that you have to be at least 25 years old and don’t be an ass. Our friend Sig from Warsteeds is also a TOG member. ↩
- This also only carries cachet among players who value raiding skills. For people who enjoy role-playing, music and social activities, a hardcore devotion to raiding might be looked down upon. As I said before: different strokes for different folks. ↩
- At heart, I’m still a Florida boy, and I take every opportunity–both in game and in real life–to avoid snow. ↩