IronWoman LOTRO – It ends here

(Listos version: Blah blah blah DID NOT BLOODY GRIND ANY MOBS ANYWHERE blah blah enjoy questing blah blah blah all things in moderation blah blah.

Some days I wonder why I bother blogging.)

This is where it started, the foolish notion to play an MMO for a week and not do a single (standard) quest.

Then there were updates. One update, ah! ah! ah! And then I updated a second time-ah! Then, after throwing une vache over the battlements, I did some more updating: three and four. Gosh, is that all? It feels like I’ve written Moby Dick meets War and Peace this last week, but I guess it doesn’t really weigh in much over a single Gravity’s Rainbow.

Either way it was a very interesting week, and for the most part a fun one too.

(Wall of text warning!)

Ysharros the Quest-Averse Captain made it to level 18-almost-19, has almost 4 gold in her pocket and a house and the starter horse (for when she hits level 20), and just finished the Journeyman-to-Expert tailor quest. Her gear is average, or probably distinctly below-average for an older server where most everyone under 20 is a purple-clad twinked-out alt (at least the ones I inspected) — but I don’t really care. Gear has never been a particular focus for me other than to make sure I’m not using crappy common-level stuff dropped by drunk goblins.

Captain Ysh’s quest log is pretty sparse for someone who has spent most of her levelling life in the Shire, where you can’t sneeze without tripping over a quest-giver or five:

The big wodge of “quests” in the bottom half is Quick Post quests and possibly a Pie or two (though I don’t think I did those on Captain Ysh). Mostly I just wanted the Quick Post Restoration deed, though some people have told me I was masochistic for it. Bear in mind that when you haven’t done a quest in almost 4 years it regains some of its freshness in the meantime.

Captain Ysh’s house is shown below — just a plain old hobbit hole (with embiggened ceilings) and no furniture yet. I did sneak in a furniture-item quest and… the big old bear rug reward won’t fit on the hooks in the weegie little house. Bah.

By yesterday — Sunday — however, I was starting to feel a little bit at a loose end. Nobody from The Ministry Of Silly Pies was on (yes, we’re recruiting), which is part of the problem when you recruit those silly upside-down Aussies — that’s him on the right there. Bet you didn’t know Aussies look like dwarves.*

Not sure what to do with myself — which in all fairness also happens to me on questing chars — I logged over to Landroval and started the lengthy process of checking in on each of the alts.

The first thing I did, gasp! was delete the Captain I’d made there. That’s one thing I’ve learned this week: a few alts is good. Too many alts is bad. We’ll come back to that one, but I didn’t delete her because she was a captain – just because she was superfluous to requirements.

Then I emptied the mailboxes I invariably fill up with little crap I send from one char to another (scholar bits for the scholar, cooky bits for the cook, crit-chance items for just about everyone). It’s expensive to mail stuff like that in LOTRO, but the problem is… I can’t afford a house on Landroval.** Of course, part of the reason I can’t afford a house — and its shared storage — on Landroval is because I keep mailing little crap back and forth. A not-even-that-big pile of ore can cost 5+ silver to mail and that’s a lot of money.

So while Captain on Elendilmir Ysharros is swimming around in moolah, my Alt-mad lot on Landroval look pinched and down-and-out.

What they have, however, is quests.

Having done all the checking-in stuff and still unsure what to do, I took Hunter-Ysharros out for a spin. I don’t care that they’re an “easy” class in most games and that they’re perfect for soloing and thus that most hardened raiders look down their noses at them in MMOs everywhere. Hunters/rangers are just plain fun — if you ask me that’s part of the reason people bitch and moan about them so much. (Spare me the “they’re easy to play so every moron plays one, ergo everyone who plays one is a moron” argument, I’m not ready to have a shouting match today.)

As it happens, Hunter-Ysh’s quest journal was also empty:

This is because at some point last weekend I thought I might be using my Landroval character(s) for this experiment. I didn’t, but those characters didn’t get much if any playtime this week, so the journal stayed empty.

Long story short: I took Ysh back to the Shire and QUESTED MY ASS OFF.

I hadn’t really intended to. It started with taking some of the Quick Post quests, and continued with me realising I wasn’t playing IronWoman and thus could turn the overhead and radar quest icons back on. That was the slippery slope: they were everywhere! Hunter-Ysh had gone straight from Ered Luin to Bree, so basically every hobbit and his aunt were clamouring for her help in fetching, delivering, eludicating or incendiating.

Basically, I binged. *buuuuuurp!*

Here’s the more interesting conclusion-y bit

1. Alts – do want! This remains true, but I need to watch out. I’ve become so accustomed to making a quintillion alts that I’ve stopped noticing the inconvenience. For one, alts take time. Pretty obvious, but we all have limited time these days and I no longer play all-day or even all-night every day. 25 minutes spent clearing out the mailbox on Alt Abby is 25 minutes less “real” playtime (as in, actually doing something other than emptying a mailbox and sorting out one’s bags).

Also, alts really do pull you in too many different directions — that’s the downside of being able to try out many/all the classes. You can’t separate those two facts.Being able to play lots of different classes means I have to adjust to whoever it is I’m playing every time I log on, and remember what they hell they can do. It doesn’t take long… but it’s a little added head-space I wouldn’t mind clawing back.

Nor can you separate those from the fact that, if you make a million alts, you will be repeating content, and if you play them all at the same time (as I do) you’ll be repeating content over a very short span of time. Even I seem to have a limit as far as that goes. I was getting distinctly surly with quest-givers and their stupid quests by the end of the 8th time through Elven Ered Luin (counting F2P beta chars).

So here’s my new deal with myself. While I can’t bring myself to callously delete Landroval chars just yet — though I might if hubby decides to give LOTRO a go when F2P launches at the end of next week — I’m not making any more, nor am I actually going to play most of them. And I’m going to allow myself one alt on Elendilmir, just because otherwise I’ll start twitching and shaking and muttering gollumy things under my breath every time my friends & guildies mention their alts.

2. You don’t need to quest to progress. This is still true, but. Actually, several buts. But — I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up into the 20s, 30s and beyond. But — it’s a damn sight easier if you have a full rest-xp bar (and I didn’t). But — it depends on how many deeds you have available to help structure your combatty time, so in the end it’s really just a wannabe-quest system.

And the biggest but (shut up you in the back!): but it’s not as much fun.

This is what I discovered throughout the week and reinforced when I binged out on quests with Hunter-Ysh yesterday. More on this at the end.

3. You don’t need quests to get good gear. Well, that much remains true, especially on older servers where people have a plethora of crafted goods for sale. What I couldn’t make for myself I could buy. On a younger/just-launched server? That’d be a real bitch.

Don’t cut off your quests to spite your face

So yes, the whole quests are FUN bit. The quest-hub and quest-driven game progress mechanic has taken quite a beating in the last year or two, and I’ve certainly been on that bandwagon*** myself — and then on the other side of that fence you have those who say “Well DUH, quests are fun!”

It’s really neither one nor the other. Here’s what I’ve discovered in the last week relative to my own playstyle. Your mileage may vary.

First, I have become too good at doing quests. Even when I read the quest text (which is fairly often, especially if I’m making an effort) it’s mostly a rather vague thing. Like someone who’s only half listening to you when you talk to them on the phone. “Yep, mmm-hmm, okay, kill ten rats, yep…” And then when I’ve gone round and acquired all the quests I can, I go into Terminator-questing mode.

I have a great memory for where stuff is — even 4 years down the line I was able to do the Bree-land Dunedain markers and historical places deeds without looking any of the locations up; I mostly do not forget where mobs spawn and where obscure named mobs and/or NPCs might be lurking.

Terminator-questing mode is basically where you mentally figure out what the shortest, most efficient circuit is that you can run, killing everything you need and speaking to everyone you need (including new quest-givers) to get the most bang for your questing buck.

There are two problems with that. One, it’s not spontaneous at all. You stare at the road under your feet to get stuff done as efficiently and effectively as possible and forget to look at what’s all around you – literally and metaphorically. It all becomes very mechanical. Two, it can get pretty stressful if you’re doing it over half a dozen alts and coordinating with a spousal unit who couldn’t navigate his way out of a paper bag. (I sure hope he’s not reading this.)

Before anyone gives me any helpful advice on relaxing while playing — the above is hyperbole, to some extent. Of course I don’t sit at my desk with my hands like titanium claws while I compute the most efficient way to achieve A, B and C. But I did fall into the habit of questing a little too much on the hardcore side.

There is no time limit. There are no points for rushing through stuff. Stop and smell the damn flowers!

In the last couple of years, I’d started logging in and almost immediately checking out my quest log. It’d be like a mental checklist — do this quest, go there, kill those, hand this in, kill more of these, go here… All quest and no play makes Ysh a dull gal. Even worse, it got to the point where if I wasn’t completing quests or at least achieving some part of the goals for a quest (killing, picking up) I’d feel as though I were slacking off.

Whoa, wait a minute. I am a slacker. What the hell?

Exactly.

Not questing at all with Captain Ysh let the questing reservoir drain out. That sort of cleared my head, and quest-bingeing with Hunter-Ysh yesterday reminded me that just because I have eleventy-million quests in my log doesn’t mean I have to obsess about them. In fact, they: a) can be any damn colour I please (including grey, which most of the Shire quests were); b) do NOT have to be done in order or indeed done at all until I’m in the mood and c) can be done accidentally as I happen to be running by. Wolf aggroes you while you’re getting a node? Yay, one wolf down! Just don’t then go hunting down every wolf you see — just move on. Harvest it and they will come.

My playstyle with Hunter-Ysh yesterday ended up being an interesting mix. She’s an Explorer too, so I ran about the Shire gobbling up everything in sight. If a quest was nearby, I did it — or a bit of it for the kill deeds. If I was in the mood I took mail or pies from one place to another. I explored all the farms and wondered why, with every other damn thing growing wild on the ground, you can’t seem to find any pickable mushrooms in the Shire. (I guess Farmer Maggot has some kind of Mushroom Mafia thing going and breaks the legs of anyone who tries to grow unsyndicated fungi.)

So here’s my deal with myself

1. Alt Diet. It’ll be tough, but I’ll lose a bit of dead weight and feel a lot better for it. If I’m really Jonesing I’ve decided I’ll have to make excess alts on different servers. It’s not quite the same thing if you’re logging in somewhere else — there’s more of a mental break for me, anyway, which is how I can have Hunter-Ysh and Captain-Ysh and not be at all confused about who is who.

2. No Terminator-questing. The alt thing may be tough but it’s subject to active decision-making (hit char select, hit make new char, etc etc); Terminator-questing is a little more insidious and I can have fallen into that mode before I realise what I’m doing. I’m really going to try to avoid it though.

What I really want is the benefit of structure when I want it, as provided by quests, while remaining spontaneous enough to just go running that way across the countryside if I feel like it.

I actually did just that with Captain Ysh late yesterday. I’d logged in while dinner was doing dinnery-cooking things, but I just wasn’t in the mood for much of anything. Then I remembered that there was a whole hilly section of Bree I hadn’t visited in a very, very long time (north of the Old Forest) — so that’s what I did. I found a place to climb into the hills — the Brandy Hills —Ā  and I wandered about. Actually, I spent a bunch of time looking for a fortress I was sure I’d seen from the Shire side; it wasn’t until long after I’d logged out that I remembered that fortress is actually seen from Ered Luin, across the Lune., and so is north of the Shire somewhere (No, don’t tell me what that is. I’m going to go find it!) I didn’t find the fortress, obviously, but I did run almost smack into a large, irritated-looking giantish creature living in the side of the slope overlooking the Baranduin river. I backed away cautiously, glad he hadn’t spotted me (especially since he’s level 30 elitish something or other) and unwilling to stop and ask him whether he was friendly; his nasty-looking fire and the reddish cast to the whole place weren’t very reassuring.

So there you have it. I’m looking forward to questing again — not because I have to, which clearly isn’t the case, but because I actually want to.

I leave you with some slice-of-life pix from Buckland. Hobbits — gotta love ’em!

Okay, I do have one more thing I need to get off my chest.

I WAS NOT GRINDING MOBS!

Sheesh. Nowhere during this week did I sit in one spot and grind bloody mobs. Everyone has been assuming that all of last week and I’ve just hit my tolerance limit with it. I thought I’d made that clear… presumably not.

Is this all we’re capable of imagining for play these days? Most of the time I was TRAVELLING. During those travels I would kill stuff if I a) wanted to, b) needed the hides or c) fancied incrementing a kill-counter.

I repeat. I did not sit in one place killing the same thing over and over. EVER. Unless they were already grey because I’d forgotten about them in my travels. (Shire slugs, I’m looking at YOU.)

Makes me wonder why I even bloody bothered — not doing it, but blogging about it.

Hrmph.

~~~

* You lot know I’m pulling your leg, right? Don’t be mailing me any saltwater crocs or what have you.

** I should add that lovely fellow bloggers/friends have offered to sugar-daddy me till I get myself going, but I declined for the time being.

*** I’m not being all conceited and self-referential here. I do have some new friends who — for their sins — have started reading this blog. A couple of links when there are 500+ posts won’t hurt. If you’re a long-time reader you’ve seen all these before.

8 thoughts on “IronWoman LOTRO – It ends here

  1. So you had fun grinding them mobs then. ^.^ (I kid, I kiiid)

    I’m glad though, that you’ve had a chance to get a new perspective on what it is you really enjoy and want to be doing. I’m all in favor of people getting new things to introspect over.

  2. Comments are a wondrous thing: they let you know that people have read your post, while at the same time proving that they didn’t read it.

    1. Eh, I know they did, and I’m grateful to those who actually read the 2k+ word wodges of text too.

      But as Dickie pointed out on twitter, it just goes to show that for some things we have very clear ideas what said thing means — in this case no-quest = mindless grinding — and short of a kick in the pants we don’t really read anything other than what we *think* it’s saying.

      Human nature.

      I’m short on sleep and excessively crabby — that’s Ysh nature, that is.

      1. Ah, I was sympathising. M’colleague and I have often joked about the fact that comments are a part of what makes blogging worthwhile, but at the same time we have to marvel at some of the comments we’ve had, where one can only think ‘Are we talking about the same post here? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not what I wrote’.

        As I say, it’s a curious observation that while comments are a good indicator as to whether other people ‘read’ one’s posts, those same comments can sometimes make you wonder whether the commenter read the post at all before replying.

  3. I still want to gain XP for exploring, healing and crowd control. Maybe thieving, too. FedEx quests and killin’ stuff gets old eventually, even if it is incidental, not mindless grinding.

    I hear you on alts, though. I love me some altitis, but at some point, it just sort of collapses under its own weight. If I could control more than one of my heroes at a time, though… *that* would be sweet.

    1. OMFG. My bints would spend ALL their time arguing.

      Seriously. I’ve played more than one char at a time in tabletop games* — I know very well how argumentative I can get with myself.

      *Which ironically is another of those subjects where no matter how much I explain and no matter how often I say “I can compartmentalise, even in my RP” people only hear “Aaaagh! heresy! playing more than one char! aaaaaah! Burn the witch!” šŸ˜‰

      1. Heh. I understand your pain. I wonder if it comes with the tabletop territory… and fiction writers. It seems to me that any sort of story that has more than one character really *needs* its author to be able to compartmentalize like that.

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