(Now editing and updating as of 4/27/2016 on returning to the game. I’m also writing a leveling guide. If you’d like to add anything, please leave a note. Thank you.)
Lord Of The Rings Online was launched in the spring of 2007 by Turbine, and after years of further feature development including multiple expansions, LotRO has become an epic campaign that is well worth playing for any fan of fantasy RPG’s, MMO’s, or the Lord of the Rings.
LotRO is distinguished by friendliness to solo players and solid graphics and performance with modest system requirements. This newbie guide to playing LotRO is meant to be a concise, essential overview for a new player, but may also be helpful for more experienced players. Let’s jump into account status first, but feel free to skip to the next section if you’re ready to bare your blade and get into the game play.
F2P, Subscriptions, And Your Account
In the fall of 2010, LotRO changed to a hybrid F2P (Free-To-Play) subscription model, the goal of which was to offer choices to you as a player. (Original FAQ and links are gone, so I have removed them. See the comment below by Wumpus on April 30th, 2016, for more notes on account statuses.)
- Free–You haven’t paid anything to Turbine and you’re playing free as a bird, accepting the limitations. You do have the opportunity to earn TP (Turbine Points) by completing deeds in the game. This is a viable way of buying yourself things in the store if you have lots of time to play, especially if you play multiple alts. You can play an unlimited amount of time and complete the main quest lines, but you will be very restricted while doing so. If you wish, you can purchase features as you go. Stretching the limits of F2P is a complicated topic.
- Premium–Premium status means that at some point you paid real money to Turbine–whether you purchased TP (Turbine Points), a month VIP status, an expansion pack, or something from the store. Many premium players are former VIP players who let their subscription drop. It’s important to note that any characters that you create while in VIP status will retain unlocked VIP perks, such as all bags, if you drop back to premium. You will also be able to complete deeds and quests in zones that you do not own but accessed by virtue of VIP status, but you won’t be able to pick up more, including advanced levels of deeds, unless you purchase those zones.
- VIP–This status means you are subscribing. You get access to the full game and all content except for the expansion packs and related content, which you must purchase separately. See the above-linked table.
Choosing A Server
After you’ve downloaded and patched the game, you’ll first need to select a server (world). Recently LotRO merged servers. European players are now connecting to servers in the U.S., so it matters less which region you choose to play in.
LotRO character creation is designed to be self-explanatory. A few things to keep in mind:
- Unlike some other MMO’s, some classes in LotRO can only by played by the races that are lore-appropriate. Starting bonuses of the races will be mostly insignificant later in the game when your main character stats will increase up into the hundreds. More significant are the level-locked racial traits you can earn later in the game. Hobbits receive a racial stealth and ‘feign death’. Dwarves and Elves receive a short-duration resistance or parry skill. Men/women receive a substantial heal that can be used once an hour.
- The Rune-Keeper, Warden, and Beorning may be locked when you first start playing LotRO. These are ‘premium’ (and advanced skill) classes and need to be purchased separately. The RK is a healer/DPS hybrid that wields rune stones (yes, you will have rocks in your hands). The Warden uses spear, shield, and javelin for a sort of classic Greek (“This is Sparta!”) approach that involves fun console-like key combos. The Beorning is a bear-shifter with a rage mechanic.
- Note that you will be able to change your hairstyle and color later at the barber in the Prancing Pony in Bree-town. A name change can be purchased at any time in the LotRO store. You cannot change your race or sex . You can get facial tattoos via the Beorning premium class.
- Class/Race Distribution 2016 – LotRO has a tool to find how many players are playing different classes. Open the social panel (O key). You’re on the “Fellowing” tab. In the top right section, enter a range of levels to search. Use the dropdown list to select which class or classes you want to search for. Clear/delete the area filter below that. Now you can see a list of everyone on the server who is playing the classes you selected, in the level range you selected. At the time of this writing, Burglars and Beornings are the least played classes, while Hunters and Champions are probably the most played classes (and are also the easiest DPS classes.) For more information on class effectiveness, try searching the LotRO forums, since that information is always changing.
The Starter/Tutorial Section
So you’ve created a character, and you’ll end up in a starter area that will take you from level one to about level six. Completion of the final story quest in this area will teleport you into the main game world to join the other players and access worldwide chat channels.
As an elf or dwarf, you’ll be in the Thorin’s Hall area. Here you will assist the good dwarves of Dwalin, who are investigating the rise of the evil and corrupted Dourhand clan of dwarves. You will meet a few big-name bad guys–Skorgrim, old leader of the Dourhands, Ivar the Gaunt-Lord, and some big-name good guys–Dwalin, king of the dwarves, and Elladan and Elrohir, elf sons of Rivendell.
As a hobbit, man, or woman, you’ll be questing in the town of Archet, where brigands are threatening the safety of the good folk of Bree-land. You’ll assist Strider and a few other local rangers.
Go ahead and take your first quests and complete them. You can refer to the indicator at the edge of your mini-map to help navigate to the quest objective. You can choose which quest to track by right-clicking the little ring icon at the right edge of your tracker/screen. Left click the little ring to open your quest log (L).
When you’ve completed the quests, hover the mouse pointer over the rewards in your inventory (I) to compare them to what you are currently wearing. To equip, right-click. To view your character sheet, press (C). Soon you’ll acquire new skills, and you’ll be directed to a trainer. Once you gain a LotRO skill, it will automatically become more powerful as your character does.
More Starter Tips And Info:
Many players like to set up their interface when they start a new character. To do this, press [esc] and click Options. Under UI Settings, “Always Loot All” is a good checkbox to activate if you want to save time looting your enemies. “Enable Static Placed Tooltips” is also popular so tooltips don’t pop up at the mouse pointer and hide things. “Show Connection Icon” will show whether your internet is having any issues.
Use the two small arrow gadgets on the left side of your toolbar to directly pull up a panel, or to set one of your lower toolbar buttons to the panel of your choosing. Important panels for example are Character, Traits, Skills, and Social. You can search for players in the social panel. LotRO does not have a really used group finder. You’ll want to try World chat. LotRO is very solo-friendly and not as group-oriented as other MMOs.
You can also press Cntrl-\ to enter a basic interface re-arrangement mode. Scaling sliders for individual screen elements are available down at the bottom of the UI Settings in Options. Also note under the Misc section in UI Settings there is a Current User Skin option. To find community-created interface skins, visit LotRO Interface. LUA Plugins are mixed with interfaces at this site. Try Downloads -> Complete Sets and Compilations if you’re looking for a complete re-skin.
Around L6, you’ll get a Cosmetic Outfit popup. If you press (C) to go to your character sheet and click the cosmetic tab at the top, you can create a cosmetic outfit. At first only two are unlocked. This screen will take some fiddling to figure it out, but the LotRO cosmetic system is one of the best and most restriction-free. You can also click the small eye icons to show or hide whatever parts of your outfit you like.
Upon completing the final (solo) quest in the starter area and graduating to your first actual low level area in the main world, you will celebrate the achievement by receiving your Milestone (map) skill, and you can now pick up any gifts and incentives from the nearest mailbox. You can then use the nearest stable to Swift Travel to any of the other low level areas, where you will then want to click a milestone and set the bind point for your map.
This fast travel via stable is how you will join a friend, by the way, if they chose another race and ended up in another low level area. Moving on.
First Low Level Area Choice
There are three areas available to quest from L6 to about L16: the Shire, Ered Luin, and northeast Bree-Land (Archet/Combe area). If you’re a fiercely devoted elf or dwarf, you will prefer Ered Luin. Bree-land might have the edge if you mostly want to bash things in the face. The Shire is the choice if your idea of a good time is delivering mail and pies. Each starting area offers a different starting main quest, all of which will eventually come together in Bree-town by interacting with Aragorn and Gandalf.
Note that if you use Swift Travel to switch starting zones, you’ll have to find your way from the stable to the quest that starts the zone storyline. As an example, this author loves the Shire, so I’ll be doing the Shire as an elf. Upon exiting the tutorial area, I swift-traveled from Celondim to Michel Delving, then ventured north to Little Delving (where hobbits exit their tutorial) to get the first Shire “prologue” story quest from Mundo Sackville Baggins, along with a few others. I dropped my prologue quest for Ered Luin.
The main long-term differences to choosing a specific lowbie zone over another (throughout the game as well) are the different deeds in that zone that you will be able to unlock and complete, and thus the virtue rewards for those deeds. If you press shift-J you can see your traits panel. These will all be grey at first, but as you level up, you’ll be earning traits and slotting some of them here as an array of character buffs and additional abilities.
On the Virtues tab you can see all of the available virtues and what they can do for you. You can research on LotRO Wiki, which has an in-depth explanation of traits.
Pressing Shift-L will show you your Deed Log and your progress towards unlocking new traits. With a new character, this log will be mostly empty until you start doing things in Middle-Earth and triggering deeds which you can then track and work to complete.
LotRO’s version of Middle-Earth has become very, very large after multiple expansions. Many new players feel alone when they enter LotRO for the first time, so let’s look now at social aspects.
I Think We’re Alone Now (Chat Channels)
The World Chat channel was added to the game relatively recently, and that should connect you quickly to other players. If the World Chat channel is dead or very unhelpful with questions, maybe you might rethink your server choice. This author plays on Landroval.
LotRO also offers user-made channels. LotRO server communities. Before the World channel was added to the game recently, players used global user channels as free-for-all world chats. Most servers used the GLFF channel, and some may still do so. Access this channel by typing /joinchannel GLFF. /leavechannel GLFF will exit. You type in a user channel with a number, not a name. So to speak in GLFF, for example, you might type /1 (Your message.) To list your user channels, type /listchannels.
A final note: you can select what channels you want to appear in a chat tab by right-clicking the tab and selecting change filters. You may need to put a check mark next to User Chan 1 for GLFF to appear.
The Beating Of Our Hearts Is The Only Sound (Activating Voice)
Unlike most MMO’s, LotRO has always offered an excellent in-game voice system that allows you to talk with the other members of your fellowship or raid once you’ve invited them. To activate the system, go to Options -> Audio, the Voice section, and check the Voice Enabled box. Gain and Volume are normally maxed. The most common problem players have is the wrong devices enabled, so make sure they are correct. You may also need to adjust your microphone settings in your Windows/OS.
To speak, press the key you have mapped to voice activation. A popular choice is Z, and that should be the default.
When And How Do I Get A Mount?
The answer to when is about Level 5, or right out of the starter zone, but the how depends a little bit on your account status. Lower-level mounts were incorporated with the F2P conversion in LotRO. At the F2P level, you will have to pay something for a horse. VIP supposedly gets a quest to get a free horse, but not until Level 15-20.
There should be a vendor NPC (non-player character) at the location where you exit the prologue/tutorial area and enter the real world. Here is a list of these “Mithril Traders”. From that trader, you can buy a riding skill, and a basic mount. Special mounts can also be earned in festivals, so that’s something to look for.
Other Things To Consider Buying
Besides a starter mount, the first Mithril Trader also has a piece of pocket gear for +25% experience. This author bought one in my most recent playthrough. Another very convenient item is a crafting Multi-tool. This is found in the LotRO store, crafting section, for around 150 Turbine Points (the main meta-currency in LotRO, which can be used to buy the lower tier of currency, the mithril coins.)
This tool is super useful if you plan to do any crafting or gathering.
You’ll see Bard NPCs around Middle Earth. We used to have to visit them to change traits, but now we have the big Trait panel. These bards sell instruments. The Minstrel class can teach others to play instruments.
A Dungeon Overview
You can play Lone Lands: Inn of the Forsaken and Great Barrow: Maze at level 20. These smallish starter dungeons should show up in the classic tab of your Instance Join panel (cntrl-J). Do not fear–the later dungeons in LotRO (Fornost, Carn Dum, and Moria dungeons for example) are much larger and impressive in size. The lower level Great Barrow and Garth Agarwen dungeons were originally large dungeons, but they were broken into piecemeal “clusters” to be more accessible for lower level players and smaller groups.
LotRO also has a few public dungeons, one of which (Haud Iarchith) was also recently broken up into little pieces for more playability. Sarnur and Goblin-Town, however, are big and fun multi-area spaces around L45-50 that are often farmed for fun, deeds, quests, reputation barter items, and class quests. Moria could also be considered an enormous public dungeon around level 52-60.
When Is The First Skirmish?
Skirmishes are unique, dungeon-like instance adventures in LotRO. These involve building a custom companion for yourself to assist you–whether you need healing, tanking, or just more damage. You can create skirmishes via the skirmish tab of the instance join panel, selecting level, difficulty, and group size. The higher you set these options, the greater the rewards.
Skirmishes are available at L20 in the form of the Trouble In Tuckborough and Seige of Gondamon encounters. At this time, you will receive a quest to speak with a Skirmish captain in one of the many Skirmish camps around Middle-Earth. There is one just south of Bree-town and another just outside of Esteldin.
Take your time with the intro quests, read the instructions, and work through hiring your first skirmish soldier, buying skills for your soldier, and doing your first skirmishes. Check out the various vendors in the camp to see what you can buy with the rewards from the skirmishes. The addition of the instance finder to LotRO in spring of 2012 means you’ll be joining skirmishes using that tool. To run solo, choose a group of one. If you choose a random skirmish in the instance finder even if you’re solo, you may gain a bonus to rewards.
Lower-level skirmishes can be difficult, especially if your soldier isn’t the best for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types, especially before you put too many points into one soldier class. As of 2015, LotRO is not making more skirmishes. Instead, your soldier will be used in Big Battles in Rohan.
Friending, Guilding, And Grouping In LotRO
Your social interactions are tracked on your Social Panel (default key ‘O’). To add a player to your friend or ignore list, right-click their name or vitals and select the option, or use the command /friend add or /ignore add. To communicate via tell/whisper, type /t playername. To respond immediately to a tell, press ‘r’. LotRO also features a very nice tell tracker tab in the chatbox that you can use to manage multiple tell conversations.
A guild of players in LotRO is called a Kinship. You can start a kinship by seeing a Clerk of Kinships. Different racial kinships are distinguished by different thematic titles given to the leader and officers. Once you’ve joined a kinship, you will have access to kinship chat, accessed by typing /k in the chat box. You can invite to kinship using the /kinship recruit (playername) command.
A party/group in LotRO is called a Fellowship. You can invite someone to fellowship by selecting them and right-clicking their vitals bar, right-clicking their name in the chatbox, or via your friends list or kinship roster, or with the /invite (playername) command. To access fellowship chat, type /f in the chatbox.
Special Gameplay Mechanics In LotRO
At some point while adventuring in a fellowship, you will encounter a special feature in LotRO called the Fellowship Maneuver. A color wheel will pop onto your screen during the battle (or a button offering a change of targets to participate in the maneuver), and you’ll be invited to press one of four colors to join the maneuver.
The goal of the Fellowship Maneuver is for the party to coordinate their color selections to best effect in the battle situation. Green is for healing, red is for direct damage, yellow is damage over time, and blue is power restoration. Your selection will not only provide a personal contributed effect, but also create a sequence together with the contributions of the other party members for a compounded effect.
See the LotRO Lorebook FM entry for a more detailed explanation of FM’s and a list of the possible combos and their effects. As an additional tip, the FM color wheel can be bound to keys, and the up/down/right/left arrows on the keyboard offer an intuitive way to do this. It is often easier to hit a key in the heat of battle than target the correct color disc with your mouse pointer.
Another special mechanic in LotRO is hope and dread. J.R.R. Tolkien was a master of representing in literary form the heights and depths of the spirit, and these extremes are reflected in LotRO as an ever-changing stat that represents your character’s mood, whether the mood is cheerfulness or despair. This stat can be easily found as a small moon-like gidget on the mini-map frame.
Hope is gained by abiding in happy places and being near heroic individuals. Dread will afflict you when you’re in grim, cheerless places and confronted by horrible evils. What do hope and dread do? They affect your morale, heals and damage. Morale loss will be shown on your vitals bar. Note that if your dread is too great, your map will change an eye, and your character may cower and be unable to act. That is bad–often fatally bad.
The dread affect can be countered, however, by using Edhelharn token consumables (more commonly called ‘Hope tokens’ by players.) These resplendently comforting curiosities are crafted by the Jeweler profession. For more information, see LotRO Wiki.
Last but not least, LotRO offers a music system, whereby players can play their own music and even form bands to play with each other. Basic instruments are purchased from vendors (these are different from minstrel battle-instruments, which are crafted by woodworkers.) Casual Stroll To Mordor offers an excellent guide on this topic.
Crafting in LotRO
When you leave the tutorial and enter your first real starting zone, you should find a quest that will lead you to choose a craft. LotRO uses an unusual system in which you will select a Vocation, which is a three-Profession combo. This choice restriction encourages cooperation and creation of alts (alternate characters).
Should you bother with crafting? It isn’t necessary, especially if you plan to be doing difficult group and raid content in the game someday for gear sets. LotRO has always been highly flexible in how you play, and generally offers advancement opportunities for both solo and group-oriented players. On the other hand, recent LotRO design has strongly encouraged even raiders to craft by adding crafted, bind-on-acquire best-in-slot legendary relics.
A heap of gold is always good in LotRO also, since high-end legendary item components are typically for sale on the AH (auction house), and consumables can be expensive. If you don’t want to bother with crafting, at least pick up the Explorer vocation. The products from Forester and Prospector will sell well on the AH, but note that you will need to manually process the harvested materials to advance your skill to the next tier.
What professions are best? All can be useful. A Jeweler is afforded mathematically the most slots for her products on the character sheet, while dungeons and quests rarely cough up jewelry sets. A Scholar can create valuable potions, buff scrolls, and dyes that will sell on the AH. Metalsmiths can make armor and crafting tools for all professions that will sell at high quality in all tiers. Like Metalsmiths, Tailors compete with dungeon and raid gear sets to sell their products, but they can also make Captain banners and a few housing items.
Woodworkers can make a nice variety of weapons, especially for Hunters, Wardens, and Lore-Masters, but they also make housing furniture and minstrel instruments, the critical success versions of which tend to sell for a profit. All professions can craft some types of legendary items, but Weaponsmith can make among the widest array. They can also make tricky and trappy consumables for Burglars and Hunters, but these items aren’t particularly powerful or much-used, and will rarely sell.
Cook is perhaps the easiest profession of LotRO. Everyone needs food, but it can often be difficult to turn a profit due to the number of cooks. Cook recipes require ingredients purchased from an NPC and/or gathered by a Farmer. Only the Yeoman vocation has both Cook and Farmer. Farming products can be purchased, however, so a Tinker who cooks on the side is viable. On the other hand, Farmers can also harvest flower petals and other saleable reagents useful for Scholar dyes.
This gives you an idea of the strategy you can get into when choosing crafting vocations.
PvP In LotRO
PvP in LotRO is called Monster Play and is accessed via a button on the character selection screen. This will take you to your monster creation and selection screens. PvMP occurs in a zone called the Ettenmoors (a new zone has been discussed but has not appeared at the time of this writing.)
As of the Isengard expansion, free players can play a Reaver for free in the Ettenmoors, although there is a population cap to the zone.
You will not receive your first legendary item until around level 48-50, but a common new player question is where and when to get it. Legendary items released with the Moria expansion, and you’ll receive your first via quests in Eregion, near the ruins of Echad Dunann, before the Moria gates. Talk to the dwarf here to start the volume II (Moria) main quest line. The earliest you can do this quest is level 45.
Legendary items are build-it-yourself weapons and class items. You may equip one of each type at a time, and develop six or more at once on the side. Features of legendary items include: leveling and gaining experience as you do, slotting relics to increase the item power, and allocating points in various “legacies” (item bonuses/special attributes).
If you like the idea of building your own custom weapons and items, the LI system in LotRO is a game-changer worth looking forward to. Up to level 100, your legendary items will need to be replaced with higher level items. At level 100, a different system was introduced to keep your items for the rest of the game.
This has been a basic guide to getting started in LotRO. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a note so we can make this guide better for future players. Please note that this guide is a work in progress at this time, as of the fall of 2011. Special thanks to Mallika for assisting with additional information. Happy adventuring, and we’ll see you in Middle-Earth!
Appendix I: Helpful Links: