I never set out to raid in LOTRO. I’m not even sure what I exactly set out to do with my shiny new lifetime subscription, aside from hang out and just enjoy the game world from time to time.
But with much encouragement and help from Arb and friends, a few hints on how the dailies work, a lot of help with crafted gear, and being patiently brought along on a couple of 6-man instance runs, my burglar now finds herself with 50 radiance on her gear.
I am lucky to have guidance, because the endgame of LOTRO still feels vast and oblique to me. There are several 6-man and 3-man instances which give different types of token as reward. There are also a variety of 12-man raids. But these instances and raids don’t get outdated as quickly as the Warcraft ones (in which people are mostly just interested in the latest tier). Moria and Lothlorien (still, confusingly, in Moria) instances still give tokens which can be exchanged for useful endgame gear. In fact, some of that gear is best in slot pre-raiding.
So there’s not really a clear order in which you need to run these instances. All of them give useful tokens. And this is without even getting into Moria hard modes – which I haven’t yet touched. Anyhow, some of the raid leaders in my kin were also starting an ad hoc group to encourage newbie raiders to dip their toes in the water – literally – beginning with a raid on The Watcher in the Water. The Watcher is an Onyxia-style raid, with a single multi-phase boss, and no trash. The requirements: 50 radiance. So I signed up.
Our raid leader had the patience of a saint. I am very grateful to everyone who came along, both newbies who wanted to learn, people on alts who wanted to try some raiding, and more experienced players who came to help anyway. We didn’t kill the beast on this occasion, but a lot of learning was done and we got through to the final phase of the fight a few times.
I have (briefly) attended previous LOTRO raids, but this one shows that the devs have been learning. It was a step up from anything I have seen previously in that game.
So, a fight in several stages. People needed to run around and be aware of where they were standing. Lots of adds, which were dealt with differently in the different phases. Random water spouts which meant that everyone had to stop what they were doing and run to the sides of the room. If you want to see a rundown of the watcher tactics, check here. But this could easily have been a WoW boss fight. And I think it would be a fun, popular one if is it was. There’s plenty for everyone to do, and who doesn’t like being picked up and waved around by a naughty strangling tentacle? (Yes, shades of Yogg there although I believe this came much earlier.)
One big difference is that classes have more distinct roles in LOTRO. A champion, for example, isn’t interchangeable with any other melee dps. My burglar can put out decent melee damage but she doesn’t have the AE capability that a champion would. And so in this fight, I have a different job to them for some of the time. There are debuffs/ corruptions to be removed, lots of different adds to be dealt with, combat buffs/ debuffs which need to be kept up, and if you get bored you can always throw in a Conjunction. Another difference is no addons. You’re stuck with the base UI and so is everyone else.
The Watcher has been criticised as a fight for the reliance on ranged dps. It’s not actually all that reliant on ranged dps other than, “Yes, bring some. There are a couple of adds which need to be taken down by ranged.” But this was an issue earlier in a game which didn’t have many ranged dps classes and only 12 slots in a raid.
Again with LOTRO, Turbine weave the title/trait/achievement system far more tightly into all aspects of the game than Blizzard ever have. Most achievements have two stages – stage one will reward with a title and stage two (more of a grind) will improve a trait. And these are currently balanced so that stage one is very accessible. My character got a title for fighting Watcher tentacles in our one night of efforts, for example. And this goes a long way towards encouraging you to feel that a wipe night wasn’t a waste of time.
And if any more inducement was needed, Arb informed me that it is possible to get a trophy from The Watcher that lets you put a pool in the garden of your in-game house. Complete with tame tentacle that might pick people up if they walk too close. Now I realise that first age weapons and radiance gear are all very desirable loot drops, but the notion of a tame pond-tentacle motivates me much more than any gear ever could!