|The ruins of Gwingris, Eregion (click for slideshow).|
Having been in-game since shortly after launch in 2007, I am a tried LOTRO veteran. Back in the day before Turbine white-washed the classes and made many of them indistinguishable from each other, having numerous characters made some modicum of sense. The thought was you could a) experience the game from multiple angles with a fresh perspective because the classes were all very different and b) you would be a hot commodity among your fellow players since you would have multiple classes to draw from, thereby filling whatever void the group assembled happened to need for whatever task lay at hand. In this manner, I have successfully played through every instance in the game to date with victories too numerous to recount. Because I rarely name my characters in a way which readily identifies me, however, many people never know who it is they are working alongside. This is deliberate for two reasons: 1) I have a soft spot for Tolkien's legendarium and it simply wouldn't do to give any of my characters absurd names and 2) this construct allows me to operate largely incognito, which grants me the opportunity to see how other players treat those with whom they are (they assume) unfamiliar. I very rarely use a mic for the same reason. It is a great way to get a feel for how you might be treated were you to join a particular kinship.
Joining a kinship is not something I take lightly. LOTRO is a game and, as such, it is meant to function as a distraction from the annoyances of daily life. As anyone who encounters Life on a regular basis knows, these annoyances invariably come in the form of other people. Ergo, a game should be as free from these annoyances as possible while still allowing for an enjoyable social experience. A drama-free kinship, then, is very important to me.
|A view of Celondim by night.|
After a couple of years of soloing, I finally joined up with the Seekers of the Seven Stars. I was with them for (I think?) around three years and even served as an Officer alongside Qendimir, Poet, Stilwell (who went on to found Of Ale and Pink Oliphaunts), and others until they finally collapsed due to the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic. I went solo again for some time before finally landing with the Dawnbreakers, and they have been my kin-home ever since. I wonder how many other people could say they've been with two kinships in eight years? Oh, sure, I had toons to spare, so there were times I moonlighted with a kin here or there. I briefly had second- or third-tier characters join up with Talath Dirnen, Whisperers of Hope, Whiskey Tango, Defenders of the Innocent, and Tolkien's Legacy, but those were just trials to see how they operated and treated their members. As far as I'm concerned, Seekers and Dawnbreakers have been my only two homes.
|Pren Gwydh at sunrise.|
As for play-style, it's pretty simple: I still aspire to be a master of every class at all times to better serve my kinmates. I jokingly nicknamed myself "Master of Toons" because I have leveled every class to cap at least once and have at least two characters in every class except Burglar. The rest of my characters function as crafters, low-level toons to run old content with the Dawnbreakers, and as protectors for my wife's characters as she runs around Middle-earth.
With regards to the details, I always try to ensure my characters vary their skill sets. Specifically, if I have two guardians, one will run mainly in red line while another runs mainly in yellow or blue. I make a conscious effort to experiment and understand all trait builds available to every class so I know which will best serve my teammates in any given situation. This goes well beyond simply running red line when soloing and something else in a group -- should my raiding minstrel by operating in blue? It depends: if there is a healing rune-keeper around and no captain, yellow might be the best use of my abilities. If there is plenty of DPS in the group but no lore-master, then a burglar focusing on debuffs might be the order of the day. This flexibility requires a deep understanding of all the different class skills and how various trait builds and stances affect them. My personal goal is to be a power player with a broad base of skills who can function effectively and help bring about victory in any circumstance.
|Michel Delving, the Shire.|
Finally, I enjoy the crafting system. Sure, it's gotten less interesting the more Turbine has monkeyed with it, but I still enjoy the feeling of satisfaction I get when I manage to hunt down a shard-dropper, collect all of the required materials for a recipe, crit that bad boy, and ship it off to a kinnie or an alt to equip. Or post to the Auction House for someone else to enjoy. Naturally, I have at least one fully guilded Super-duper Supremely Awesome Grand Master (or whatever they're called now) in every vocation, and I brand every significant piece of craft-work with "THE ARTISANS' CIRCLE," so you know from whence it came.
That's me in a nutshell! If you run across someone with The Artisans' Circle under their name, chances are it's me (or Mrs. Pad). I hope you stop and say hi!
Master of Toons