Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
LotRO Journal - 17-April-2007

I was reading the LotRO forums, and several people there were loudly complaining about the high repair costs. With several other players responding that their repair costs are very low to insignificant. So what's going on? It turns out that LotRO has a hidden death penalty, in the form of repair costs.

Now I'm a very careful player, and as long as I solo I rarely die. I observed that by playing like that the repair costs are relatively low, not having a big impact on my finances. But you know how things can go, you take on a quest, underestimate the danger, you die, and then instead of doing the sensible thing and running away you suddenly get stubborn and try again and again, dying several times in the process. I did that once and ended up with a nasty 20-silver repair bill, after doing a quest that paid only 3 silver or so. Obviously if you play LotRO in a hotheaded way, dying often, you'll run into serious money problems. As long as you are aware about this form of death penalty, this isn't such a bad thing. LotRO has no xp loss or xp debt on dying, and only a very minor form of rez sickness, which only becomes significant if you die repeatedly in a short time. You don't even have to run as a ghost or otherwise to your corpse, you come out instantly alive and fit at the next graveyard. So having at least one form of death penalty in the form of repair costs is probably necessary, otherwise there are no consequences of failure.

My hobbit farmer is still making money growing Sweet Galenas pipe-weed at master expert level, with the mastery option turned on. But then I went and blew most of that money on my other two yeoman crafts: cooking and tailoring. Tailoring is interesting in being more typical of the LotRO tradeskills. Tailoring uses lots of leather, which comes from light hides dropped by various furry animals. You need a forester to turn the hides into boiled leather. But LotRO doesn't have a level limit on tradeskills, so I just sent a dwarf alt through the dwarven starting area until he got level 6 and finished the intro instance. Then I made this dwarf a woodsman, so he now has the forester profession to boil my leather. And as woodworker he can make campfire kits, which I need for cooking on the hobbit. My hobbit already had a lot of light hides from his advanced wolf-slayer deed, but then bought even more of them cheaply on the auction house, sent them all to the dwarf and got them back processed. I love how LotRO's mail arrives instantly, without the stupid 1 hour delay that WoW has. So now I got the mats, how does tailoring work?

First you need to turn the boiled leather into leather pads and leather bindings. These you combine either with vendor bought bolts of cloth into light armor, or with boiled leather into medium armor. As apprentice tailor you have one series of recipes for light, and one series of recipes for medium armor. But you can get another series each for light and medium armor from dropped purple recipes. As the drop rate is relatively high (compared to WoW where recipes drop very rarely), it is easy enough to pick up the complete series of recipes at reasonable prices from the auction house. Now once you are master apprentice you get the mastery option. That means you can add a purple monster body part, like a "dirty bat claw" to your recipe and have a 50% chance of a critical success making an even better item. Again the mob body parts drop often enough to be priced reasonably on the auction house. So already at the apprentice tier you have 4 different levels of light armor, and 4 different levels of medium armor you can make: trainer recipe with and without critical success, and drop recipe with and without critical success, with the drop recipe items being better than the trainer recipe items. So now I'm running around in a mix of yellow drop recipe cloth armor and purple critical successes.

But all in all getting there cost me a fortune, for the hides, the recipes, the added mob body part component, and the relatively expensive NPC vendor bought cloth component. And all this for armor with a minimum level of 7, which I'm now replacing with the quest reward items I get at level 13. So as a way to equip yourself tailoring is far too expensive. There is no way to make money by selling items to vendors, as the armor you produce sells for less than even just the cost of the vendor bought cloth. Without the money I made farming I could never have afforded my tailored armor. And it gets worse. To get past apprentice and into journeyman tailoring, you need medium hides. These drop from level 18ish mobs, but the armor you can tailor from these is minimum level 10. So anyone who can gather the medium hides is probably already wearing better armor than the best armor he can tailor with the hides. So right now I'm not impressed with tailoring. The only nice feature of tailoring is that in spite of the better tailored armor being yellow or even purple, with magical bonuses and everything, it isn't bind on equip. Thus when I got a quest reward replacing some tailored armor I was wearing, I was able to hand down my old armor to a lower level guild mate. Which is nicer than having to vendor it for a fraction of the cost to make it. I guess my purple critical success items might stay in the economy for quite a while, until somebody accidentally vendors them.

Cooking is also a tradeskill that destroys large amounts of money. Many ingredients are vendor-bought, and the resulting product sells only for a fraction of the cost. I didn't even reach apprentice proficiency yet, but I got close. Up to now I've been mainly growing pipe-weed when farming, but ultimately I hope to grow more vegetables, and concentrate on the recipes that I can cook using mainly grown vegetables, and few bought ingredients. Up to now I only cooked 10 hard biscuits and 10 eggs and onions to do a quest in Bree twice, which brings me back to farming:

In farming I had up to now only used the recipes I received automatically when skilling up. But there are other recipes being sold by the farmer vendors. For some of these recipes the farmer vendor also sells the seeds. For other recipes the seeds can't be bought. One of these recipes where you can't get seeds is another pipe-weed, called Sweet Lobelia. As different pipe-weeds blow different smoke rings when being smoked, having exotic pipe-weeds is of interest from a role-playing point of view. This is purely for show, smoking has no positive effect on your character stats, probably to get the game past the censors. :) Sweet Lobelia seeds apparently can be found in supply crates, a kind of treasure chest, but I'm not high level enough to go to regions where supply crates appear in monster camps. In the Shire I only found backpacks, which work the same way, but give lower level treasures. The only other way to get Sweet Lobelia seeds is to do a quest where you hand in 5 hard biscuits and 5 eggs and onions, created by cooking, and receive 6 seeds, just enough for one field of Sweet Lobelia. So I did that quest, and managed to get 3 more seeds from the auction house. But unfortunately I wasn't lucky with my Sweet Lobelia fields, and never got a critical success producing lots of poor plants, thus lots of seeds. I was taking care to grow the fields without the mastery option, because apparently then your chance to get poor plants is slightly higher. But I only got 3 poor plants once, and then a series of 2 and 1 poor plants per field, below the rate of self-replacement of the seeds, until I ran out. So I cooked another batch of biscuits and eggs and onions, sent them to my dwarf, had the dwarf travel to Bree, and did the quest again. I also bought more seeds from the auction house. Right now I have 11 seeds, as soon as I get at 12th seed I'll try again. I hope that by starting with enough seeds for 2 fields I'm more likely to keep going until I get lucky and multiply my seeds.

But first I'll need to do another day of Sweet Galenas mastery farming, to replenish my money. I spent several hundred silver on tailoring and cooking, without much to show for it. If I didn't have farming, I wouldn't know how to pay for all of this.
Aren't almost all of the trade skill professions in WoW like that as well? My 43 Gnome Warrior is a Miner & Blacksmith and without buying him mats from the AH there's no way he could gather enough raw mats in the wild to level up Blacksmithing sufficiently where he could make items are better than his current gear. Quest rewards and dungeon drops are far better than anything he can make for himself. I'm sure when I get closer to 300 (or 375) in Blacksmithing or Armor or Weaponsmithing then I could make him some decent items but the cost in getting there would be outrageous. As it is, I currently only use Blacksmithing for the +Dmg Weapon Stones and for the Skeleton Keys. Now I don't need to look for a Rogue to open locked boxes because I can do that myself, and if I ever Solo-farm Instances and come across locked Chests I can unlock them as well.
This reads like grinding to me.
All very well when you are a beginner, but I wonder if you will be bothered to do all this stuff once you have played the game for a few months.
Death penalty in LOTRO = heavy-handed punishment for exploration and risk-taking (btw, a mob higher than you damages items faster than even or lower. Even more reason to avoid risky battles and just grind.). Hits players who don't have time to "farm" money (in both the literal and figurative sense) the hardest. Just a bad system.
It only works for a few levels. I make almost as much silver running my lvl 15 guardian around killing mobs and mining to sell ore than having my little hobbit farm for sweet galenas.

Rumor is even that won't work in the upcoming patch on wednesday. Because, as you mention in your next post, for some reason people think it's "wrong" to be able to sell crafted items back for a small profit that's appropriate for that level.
Just for your information, there are supply crates in the marshes east of Bree, although I've yet to see a supply crate drop a single useful item.
I'm going to have to disagree that the repair costs only affect those that 'play LotRO in a hotheaded way'.

I'm a fairly cautious and methodical player, but defeats still happen. Items also take damage through use. My main character is a champion. He melees and has no defenses, so takes a beating constantly. I'm a weaponsmith, not a farmer, so I'm losing money trying to level my skills, not making money.

After one defeat at level 12 I had a 19s repair bill. I had 26s at the time. Multiple items had a higher repair cost than their vendor value. This is simply not a reasonable way of handling 'defeat'.

There is no death penalty in LoTRO because there is no death, characters don't die, they run away. The penalty is dread (which reduces stats) and lost time. The massive repair costs in an already poor (for non-Farmers) economy is unjustified.
I agree with Graktar that even a fairly level-headed and methodical player can be thwapped over the head pretty harshly by repair costs. I'm a veteran MMORPG player but from level 8-9 onwards I've died regularly in LotRO. This could have been mostly avoided if I was constantly in a fellowship, but that's not always feasible and at times you just try something with 1-2 people and get whacked.

The repair posts become very high indeed for a lower level character when you have been lucky enough to find some nice (colored) loot. I also noticed in LotRO items in your inventory get damaged upon death. So there I was, having five nice uncommon items in my inventory that I was waiting to sell at AH or for minimum level requirements to be reached... only to find out they were on 50% duration and therefore worthless to vendor/AH and too expensive to repair. The obvious solution is to store them in your Vault, but at least in the case of my dwarven self the Vault is usually a 5-10 minute single journey stroll away.

Hence I find myself grinding low level mobs for money at my current level (13) already to pay for skills. I have died a total of 6 times since I started playing and it has had a profound impact. I'd love to make use of fast travel options, but they are currently very expensive.

I think most of this will be solved by struggling to level 20-25, for then grinding will become more profitable. But I think Turbine will rebalance this soon, as it's rather harsh between level 8-15/20.

As said LotRO's setup is mainly for grouping (fellowships). The higher level you get, the more dominant this will become. I think this is a great idea to encourage more social behavior and people really getting to know each other. At the same time there's periods of time it's hard to find a group, which could leave you bored. And frankly, a few months down the road when the novelty wears off, many starting and medium level areas will have a relatively low-density of players, leaving it very hard for them to find groups. Whereas now I just raise my hand and have one, by then it could be a serious issue. So again I expect Turbine to come around on this eventually and ease things up to where there's more solo content.
The cost of materials to craft up to higher levels is fairly prohibitive, but at some of the highest levels you can actually make reasonable money selling to vendors [e.g.; prospector, forester]. Also, there are a huge number of harvesting nodes in the world with a relatively short respawn time.
To be honest, I'm not sure about the repair cost issue. It didn't seem expensive to me at all. I brought a couple characters up to grand master at low levels during the open beta by harvesting in Angmar and Misty Mountains, and you die plenty of times in both areas.
Perhaps since the game is extremely quest oriented, if a character tries to level by kill-grinding, they will probably lose a bunch of money if they die during such an endeavor.
LotRO overall seems very solo oriented. All of the classes are very easy to solo and although there are many group quests, you don't really need to do many of them in order to progress.
20 silver not much if you get down to it... (one rift run cost me 700s repair bill) but you got it right threw crafting.. once you hit 50 you should see that anything under 1g shouldn't be stressed so bad :) cause you can make 6g+ on most crafting crits :)
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