Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 02, 2007
 
The classes of LotRO

I'm late to the party, there are already some excellent description of the playable classes in Lord of the Rings Online out there, for example at Wikipedia and LotROvault (/wave Bildo). But meanwhile I managed to play all classes and races myself, just past the newbie areas, to get my personal impression on how the classes play.

I recently discussed why it was difficult to add new classes to an old game, like World of Warcraft. But of course if you make a totally new game, even if it is similar to WoW, you get an opportunity to make all the classes a bit different. Lord of the Rings Online has 7 classes, but the only one that is instantly recognizable is the guardian in his role as tank, playable by all races. He wears the heaviest armor and shield, and has "taunting" abilities to draw the monsters attention towards himself.

Now in the holy trinity of tank-healer-damager you'd search for a priest, but priests don't exist in Lord of the Rings. Even health points don't exist, there is only "morale". If your morale goes down to zero, you "run away" and find yourself back at the nearest rally point. Which plays exactly the same as if you would "die" and come out at the nearest graveyard. But by renaming your health to morale, you don't need somebody with divine powers to heal you, you need somebody who can boost your morale, which is the minstrel, a bard type character which is LotROs main healer. That gets us nicely past the usual stereotype priest abilities, and gives Turbine the opportunity to have a healer in the game who plays a good deal differently than a WoW priest. The minstrel not only has healing songs, but also cries and ballads that damage the opponent. At least in the low levels where I played him that worked quite well for soloing, and the song system with different layers was quite interesting. As I often play a healer in MMORPGs, this is probably the class I'll play as my main. All races can play minstrel, but I'll go for hobbit.

Now looking for a damagedealer the closest thing is probably the hunter for ranged damage. All races can play hunter, but I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of them being elves named some variation of Legolas. Even my hunter was an elf called Legostein (Lego brick). :) While being non-magical, the hunter has some of the typical glass-cannon properties, being able to deal a lot of damage from a distance, but being easily overwhelmed when fighting several foes. The hunter also has traps for some minor crowd control. Interestingly he can keep firing his bow in melee combat, and while he'll get interrupted at first, he is gaining "focus" over the duration of the combat, which I assume prevents interruption.

There is no mage, because there are no playable wizards due to the Tolkien lore. But there is a lore-master which more resembles a warlock in WoW. The lore-master has a pet (animal, not demon), abilities that deal fire damage, and later some crowd control. Only humans (technically they are called "the race of man", but that includes female "men", so I use the term humans instead) and elves can be lore-masters.

If you are looking for melee damage, your best bet is the champion. This is a very good soloing class, because the champion is nearly as well armored as a guardian, but his abilities are tuned towards damage-dealing instead of defence. He even has the best area-of-effect damage in the game, being able to hit several enemies around him. All races except hobbits can play this. I'll probably play a couple of alts in LotRO, and the champion is top of my list for a second character. I'm not saying that he is a better damage dealer than a hunter, its just that I like melee damage more than ranged, and the champion has better survivability in a pinch.

Of course you can also deal melee damage with a burglar. I'm currently reading The Hobbit, where the dwarves hire Bilbo Baggins as a burglar, so this is vintage Tolkien, the first character class ever mentioned in the lore. As you would expect from a burglar, he can sneak and attack enemies from behind. He can also debuff them with various dirty tricks. I haven't tried it, but apparently a burglar has abilities to start "conjunctions", which are LotRO's chain attacks for groups. Conjunctions can start without a burglar, but he has the skill to start them at will, which should make him useful in groups. Humans and hobbits can become burglars.

The last class in the mix is a really special one, the captain, playable only by humans. The interesting feature here is that most of his abilities affect his whole group. He has pets in the form of heralds carrying a banner which give a AoE buff. And whenever the group kills a foe, he has a selection of buffs he can cast triggered from that event, including a limited heal. So in some way he resembles a paladin. You can still solo play with him very well, but the full extent of his abilities only come into play in a group setting.

Humans can play all classes, the other races are limited to 4 to 5 classes each. I think it is a good idea to enable all classes to play the tank class and the healer class. LotRO is not revolutionizing MMORPG combat, and it is to be expected that groups will want to have one guardian and one minstrel, although for easier encounters a champion and a captain might suffice. Lord of the Rings Online has a good mix of classes, covering all bases, without just copying previous MMORPGs.
Comments:
Very nice write-up, Tobold, and thanks for the link to the Vault. :)

Hehe... everytime I think of death in LotRO as "running away" I'm immediately reminded of Python. They should make a Monty Python's Camelot MMORPG.
 
Thanks for the info, I was in the beta, and had such a hard time trying to get people to tell me what the classes were in "WoW terms".

90% of the people were snotty and said, "there is no hunter", "there is no priest" without simply explaining which was closest to what I wanted.

Honestly, I found the Lore-master to be not very much fun, because the first raven you get seems to die even fast than my imp did in WoW.
 
The raven becomes quite like the imp later on. You end up using the bear for solo-work, and the raven for its buffs later on. Thank god you only have to stomach the raven solo-ing until... 12 or 14?
 
So there is only one main healer, the minstrel? I really think MMOs should make several classes that can serve as a main healer. It just seems they are the rarest class whenever you are forming a group. I hear the captain can heal - but can the captain serve as a main healer?

But why are main healers so rare? Is it because healers are not fun to play or just that no one wants the responsibility?
 
Actually you'll find that the Captain, and in a pinch the Lore Master are capable of healing groups as well. The Minstrel's just the best at it. But make no mistake, I've seen groups in LotRO roll through some tough areas without a healer at all. Just a good amount of DPS and debuffing, with stops to recharge in between.

I think you'll find Minstrels necessary for the raid and group boss encounters, but even then, the Captain with his/her group healing skill (after an enemy dies it can be triggered) will be able to keep groups rolling without "Guys, please wait up, I need to sit and drink."

It should make for a lot less dawdling in dungeons and whatnot.
 
I'm pretty sure I'm gonna buy this game. I don't think it will replace wow, but will be a good distraction from wow. Running away is pretty lame. Songs that boost your morale is pretty lame too. Hopefully the game is good so I wont pay attention to that.
 
The champion sounds like a fun class. A warrior with melee AOE? Sign me up!

I'm not sure I like the whole play a tune to keep us alive deal, but who knows, after a few hours, I may be humming the tunes.

I like what I am reading about LOTRO and with a new computer just around the corner, this may just be the first title I add to my hard drive. Other than WOW of course ;)
 
As long as mob aggro works more or less the same in every MMOG, you are going to have and look for the trinity types of characters.

E.g., a tank is useful as it is because mobs are stupid enough to go for the player characters that generates most aggro, not the weakest link in the group, especially if that is a dmg dealer or healer.
It would have been nice to see a bit more evolution here, but I think Turbine is not going to try too much new with LoTRO.
 
"while he'll get interrupted at first, he is gaining "focus" over the duration of the combat, which I assume prevents interruption"
Focus decreases misses with bow and also can be used for some instant bow attacks. I do not believe it reduces interruption at all but instant attacks can't be interrupted. Focus is gained while fighting but also a skill can be used before entering combat to bring it to full. Another skill on a fairly long timer will grant some instant focus while in combat. Moving lowers focus. If at full focus moving ten feet will bring you down to about half. Hunters have a number of melee weapon skills and do wear medium armor so are not what I would consider a typical glass-cannon.

The other hunter role not mentioned is traveling. Hunters might be only class with a run buff. Even more unusual as the archer class is hunters have the group teleport and evac abilities.
 
The "morale" metaphor is really stretching the suspension of disbelief. I can just picture it:

Man, I just got stabbed in the chest by some orc. It left no visible injury, but I am feeling really depressed. If I get stabbed one more time, I'm going to have to run away and regain my composure.

Or:

I just fell into a pit of lava. This is really disheartening. I guess I'll just swim back to shore and run back to my rally point, good as new.
 
Perhaps better to think of morale as just another word for HP, if that helps. When you hit zero, you're effectively dead and have to revive. Having played 1 character to 35 and two to 15 since Xmas, it never once occured to me that I was "running away" until Tobold mentioned it. :) Trust me, the concept of "morale" is just a rebranding of HP and won't/doesn't detract from the gameplay in any way.

The class concepts are also a refreshing change, once you do a little reading and get your head around what they are about.

And while some may still be more in demand that others, at least, imho, there's no "dead wood" as in other games - where groups fall apart just because XX has to log and there's no replacement.

All in all, very enjoyable - especially if you're a fan of the great JRR. ;)
 
I played everything except the burglar. Have never had an interest in rogue type classes. The LM is really slick and once it dawned on me that I could cast even close range - why switch to melee that takes 3 whacks when I can sustain another blow to the face but get off a cast. Basically stuff died very quickly ala WOW Warlock. lol If there was standard PVP, people would be having a fit I think over the LM.

But my absolute favorite is the Captain. Very interesting play style. I was soloing multiple mobs 1 to 2 levels over me routinely - and that's before I got my Herald. It's better than the WOW Pally because he has better damage and seems to kill as quickly as any other melee class. His morale buff lets me get a heal over time while finishing off a second opponent. And now with my herald, I can walk in on 3 mobs and safely kill them all. Yep, hot stuff there.
 
Hey, where are you from, knowing "Legostein"? :=
 
Wewex: I was thinking of getting the game and paying the 200 for unlimited play but then someone told me that its only available durring the pre-order stage and after that you will have to pay by month. could someone tell me the truth of this statement. also there has been alot of negativity tward this game so I ask if I have to pick LOTRO for 250 and never pay again (save expansions) or buy WOW and pay the 15 bucks a month, both sound very good but im looking for "bang for buck" value not just the best altho that opinion would be nice as well.
 
The offer to get a lifetime subscription for LotRO expires on the 24th of April. So if you get LotRO now, you can pay once and never again. If you get LotRO later, you will have to pay a monthly fee, just like WoW.

15 bucks a month is 180 per year, so a "lifetime" for 200 sounds like good bang for buck to me. Get it while its still available.
 
thx i think i will
 
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