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November 19th, 2007

Music So Bad, It Kills Monsters

I've been playing around with various alts on LOTRO and finally found one I enjoy, a hobbit minstrel named Tristello.

Minstrels fill the "healer" role in LOTRO [1], which is not exactly the character conception I had in mind, but the closest thing the game has. My original idea was a kind of dotty professor who finds himself out adventuring more or less by accident and uses his scholarly talents and his wit to get by. Probably in D&D I would make him a bard, a wizard, or maaaaybe a cleric with scholarly domains. But Tolkien explicitly mentions in the text somewhere (I forget the exact reference) that no hobbits can do "magic" as such, so that kinda lets that out. The closest thing to a wizard class in LOTRO, the Loremaster, is forbidden to hobbits (and I think to dwarves as well).

So what I finally went with was basically a younger version of the idea; Tristello is something of a nerdy and idealistic young hobbit, who is inordinately pleased to be one of the Bounders (the Shire equivalent to rangers, something of a public service/para-police organization) and who has started to discover a strange new kind of "magic" in the power of his songs.

Of course, even LOTRO is at its heart a game about killing monsters and taking their stuff. So minstrels' songs, besides healing yourself and your allies, do damage to your foes. Minstrels also get a shout attack, which apparently consists of yelling so loud it fries monsters' brains or something. :D It's a silly mechanic, but given just how much silly stuff there is in the MMO context, it's hardly a deal-breaker.

The main thing I'm enjoying about Tristello, however, is actually just adventuring in the Shire. Having Galadhalion tromp all around and see places of grandeur, beauty, or dark terror works well on an epic scale, but after doing that for a while, coming back to Tristello delivering pies or rounding up lost hens is strangely relaxing. The makers of LOTRO really did a good job on making the Shire feel like the Shire, a green and pleasant land where danger, while present, is generally only on the periphery and comes mainly from the outside. In many ways, playing a hobbit who's content to stay in the Shire (as long as he can, anyway) is a very different game from playing a crusading elf, and considering how linear most computer games are, I've really got to give them points for that.

I can't wait for the Book 12 character customization options, tho -- Tristello needs a red woolen waistcoat, not this baggy yellow "armor" he's currently got on!

-The Gneech

[1] One of the conceits of the game is that you don't get wounded so much as "lose morale" -- and when your morale is gone, you "retreat" instead of getting killed. So minstrels "heal" you by restoring your morale. A bit of a kludge, but also kind of a neat nod to the importance of song in Middle-earth (the world was created by music, etc.).

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