Fireworks are fixed!

The patch on January 17th was really only a couple of bugfixes.

A new Yule fest horse was released, as were a few new Yule cosmetic items (two cloaks, a dress and a tunic):
You can find screenshots of the new outfits on CosmeticLotRO and LotROstylist.

Perhaps even more momentous than new cosmetics (though less important than a new horse) is the fact that the fireworks bug has finally been fixed. Fireworks can again be sold, traded, mailed, stored in vaults and housing chests, and generally tossed around between characters.

My storage alts are revelling in their newly freed inventory slots, and my main characters are delighted to be no longer short on fireworks while the storage alts are sitting on mountains of them.

HUZZAH!
*sets off hundreds of celebratory fireworks*

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Minstruments

The Lord of the Rings Online provides players with nine different instruments to goof around with; three stringed instruments (lute, theorbo and harp), four wind (bagpipes, clarinet, flute and horn) and two percussion (cowbell and drum). I wanted to figure out just what my minstrel was actually playing and so I researched the real life counterparts of each of the nine LotRO instruments, this article is the essence of my findings.
It seems that the inspiration for the instruments comes predominately from the Renaissance period, with some influence from the Middle Ages and Baroque era.

If you would like to hear real life music using these and other related instruments, find any band which plays Renaissance or Medieval music or “music of Shakespeare’s day”, preferably one which uses period instruments. Some of my favourites are The Broadside Band, Ensemble Galilei, The Folger Consort and Piffaro.

Lute

The lute is (literally) the iconic LotRO instrument. Minstrels are denoted by a lute icon and every character, minstrel or otherwise, begins life with the ability to play the lute.
When most people think of Shakespearean or Renaissance music, the lute is the instrument which comes most readily to mind. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign all the cool people were writing for and playing the lute. John Dowland, one of the most popular composers at that time, wrote primarily for lute and voice.
During the Middle Ages the lute was often played with a quill plectrum, but later, during the Renaissance and nowadays, it is usually played with the fingers. The LotRO lute looks to be of Renaissance design and is played without a plectrum.
The guitar and lute are similar instruments and music written for one plays nicely on the other. However, the guitar is not descended from the lute. They developed simultaneously and both enjoyed a good deal popularity during the Renaissance and the Baroque era, but the lute died out while the guitar retained its popularity and continued to evolve throughout the last few centuries.
Sometimes I think the LotRO lute sounds too much like a guitar, but one has to remember that the guitar and lute do sound very similar and that LotRO instruments are midi approximations and not actual instruments; that considered, the LotRO lute is close enough to the real thing.

Theorbo

The theorbo is possibly the most interesting of the LotRO instruments. It sounds roughly like a bass guitar (it often takes the place of that instrument in ABC music files) or like a LotRO lute brought down a few octaves. What makes the theorbo so interesting, though, is that most people have no idea what it is.
The real life theorbo was developed in the early 17th century for use in orchestras and string ensembles. The first theorbos were modified lutes; stick an extension on the neck, add a few bass stings and presto! a new instrument.
A theorbo has two peg boxes in the middle of the neck for the shorter, fretted stings and one at the end of the neck for the unfretted strings. The unfretted strings are used much like the drone pipe on bagpipes, they make one note each and are used as a sort of foundation for the rest of the music.
Like the lute, the theorbo is usually played with the fingers.
The archlute is roughly the same thing as a theorbo, only smaller. Perhaps the LotRO theorbo is actually an archlute. Our theorbo is about as tall as the character, while the real life theorbo is quite notably taller than its player.

Harp

The harp has been a very popular instrument for a very long time. Harpists have been popular in royal courts and country inns since as long as there have been courts and inns.
Harps come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, the most familiar being the concert harp (the gigantic thing with all the scrollwork which you see in orchestras) and the Celtic harp (the smaller and simpler instrument you see in Irish folk bands).
The LotRO harp looks a good deal like a Medieval or Celtic harp, and is about the size of a lap harp. I don’t believe any harp could possibly be played held in one hand the way the LotRO harp is played, but perhaps it could be played standing up if the player used a shoulder strap. Lap harps are played sitting down and are held, not surprisingly, in the player’s lap.
Of all the LotRO instruments, I think the harp has the nicest sound. It’s a midi approximation of a harp, and a rather pleasant approximation at that.

There is a Lossoth reputation woodworker recipe available for a harp called Satakieli (Finnish for nightingale, all the Forochel words are Finnish or modified Finnish). I do not have one myself and so cannot verify this, but I found this thread on the official forums which purports that the Satakieli looks like the basic harp when being used for minstrel skills but has a fancy, blue Lossoth skin which shows up when the Satakieli is being used for player music.

Bagpipes

The varieties of bagpipes in real life are nearly innumerable. It’s as if every country in the world came up with the idea of sticking a flute on a bag of air to produce a continuous, loud sound.
The sort of pipes which come most readily to people’s minds are the iconic Scottish Highland pipes, which are gigantic and very loud. LotRO minstrels, however, are clearly not using highland pipes. LotRO pipes are small, the bag is hardly bigger than the character’s head and the sound is much softer and less harsh than Highland pipes.
I was going to try to figure out exactly which sort of pipes LotRO minstrels are using, but in the interest of getting this article published before MMOs are obsolete, I confined myself to a cursory search. I looked only at European pipes and didn’t bother with the ridiculously obscure ones, which means I sifted through pictures and descriptions of a few hundred different types of pipes. Within these parameters, it seems that LotRO minstrels are playing something very similar to Welsh bagpipes or the German hümmelchen.
LotRO bagpipes don’t sound like any real pipes I’ve ever heard, instead they sound like a Casio 2-octave keyboard. Because of this, they are ideal for annoying the heck out of everyone in earshot, and they pair nicely with the cowbell for impromptu nonsense parties.

Clarinet

The mouthpiece of a LotRO clarinet does resemble that of a real life clarinet, but the resemblance ends there. A real life clarinet is covered with a complicated mass of metal keys, whereas a LotRO clarinet is a simple tube of wood with holes drilled in the top and no keys at all; it looks very much like a recorder. The Clarinet dates from the early 1700s, later than most of the inspirations for Tolkien’s stories and Turbine’s game. The recorder, while thought of today as a children’s instrument, was incredibly popular during the 1500s and early 1600s, and we see much influence from this time period in the game, notably in some fashions (such as the ridiculously awesome brimmed hat) and in the technology of the Shire (the styles of the mills and ploughs, for example).
The sound of the LotRO clarinet is an electronic approximation of some sort of woodwind, and could easily be either a clarinet or a recorder.
For these reasons, I have decided that the LotRO instrument isn’t a clarinet at all, but a misnamed recorder.

Flute

The flute is one of the very oldest instruments in the world. In fact, some of my sources claim that the flute is the oldest instrument in the world (although drums are another contender for that honour). There’s nothing fancy about a flute, it’s just a tube with holes in it.
Many woodwinds are actually types of flutes. In fact, the recorder discussed above is a kind of flute, and the bagpipes are flutes with trappings.
The LotRO flute is some sort of wooden transverse flute (meaning the mouthpiece is on the side of the instrument instead of at the end) and has no keys; it looks roughly like a non-keyed version of the standard concert flute. The sound is an electronic approximation of some sort of high pitched woodwind (it’s the same sound as the clarinetrecorder, only much higher), at its higher ranges it could very well be a piccolo, but the LotRO flute is much too large to be a piccolo so I’ll leave that be.
Taken all in all, and considering that the LotRO “clarinet” is a recorder, I conclude that the LotRO flute is a Renaissance or Medieval wooden flute.

Horn

The LotRO horn looks like a very tiny, extra curvy alpenhorn with holes down the front and sounds like that same toy keyboard from which the LotRO bagpipes borrowed their voice (although it could be argued that the LotRO horn is supposed to sound like a saxophone, and I think it sounds like a very bad shawm).
The real life instrument known as the horn is a brass instrument, it’s a coil of tubing with plenty of valves and keys and it looks and sounds nothing like the LotRO horn. The LotRO horn is a wood instrument and I was hard pressed to find its real life equivalent. If I set aside the word “horn” and looked for large, low pitched woodwinds, the basset horn, alto clarinet, oboe, bassoon and shawm were all plausible candidates. But the basset horn and alto clarinet have far too many keys, the shawm is straight instead of curved, the oboe has keys and is straight, and the bassoon is straight, has keys and doubles back on itself in such a way that the mouthpiece projects from the side of the instrument.
After a great deal of digging, I was able to turn up a rather obscure instrument called the cornett or cornetto (the more familiar cornet is a completely different affair). The cornett is actually a type of shawm and is sometimes straight, sometimes a bit curved and occasionally S-shaped like the LotRO horn. It was a popular woodwind during the Renaissance and then, like so much else, it faded into such obscurity that even someone like me, who enjoys Renaissance music, didn’t know what the thing was. I have to thank Turbine for introducing me to the cornett (although I suspect it was an unwitting introduction).

Cowbell

Real life cowbells are bells which are worn by cows so that a herder can tell where his cows are from a long way off.
In music, cowbells are a novelty instrument. You just take a cowbell (or several cowbells of various sizes and tones) and ring it in time to the music.
Some cowbells are clapperless, meaning they don’t have the bit of metal suspended inside, and are hit with a stick instead of rung. This is the sort used in LotRO.
Of all the LotRO instruments, the cowbell is the closest in sound to its real life counterpart, they both sound like hollow clanging metal.
A real life clapperless cowbell has a short range of pitch, different tones can be produced depending on where the bell is hit with the stick or where the player’s hand is one the bell. The LotRO cowbell, however, only produces a single tone.
The moor cowbell looks and sounds just like the other cowbells but is held above the character’s head whereas the basic and Lothlorien cowbells are held at the character’s chest.
The LotRO cowbell with its signature atrocious din is a staple for annoying your fellowship and reminding them that they have a minstrel in their midst.

Drum

The LotRO drum is a small, hand held drum with the drumhead on one side of the shallow frame and a crossbar on the other side, it is played by striking it with a double-headed drumstick. This is also a description of the bodhrán; a quick glance at the LotRO drum shows that it must be bodhrán, there aren’t any other contenders.
The bodhrán is the traditional drum used in Irish Folk Music, it’s the drum you see at ren fests and hear in almost any recording by an Irish Folk or Celtic band.
Oddly, although drums have been used in traditional Irish music since forever, and the bodhrán itself is a good few hundred years old, it did not become a staple of Irish folk music until the 1960’s (The Chieftains helped with that, my thanks to them); before then it was merely a noisemaker.
Most real life drums create a sort of pounding din, but the bodhrán has a remarkably smooth and almost lyric tone. The LotRO drum, regrettably, sounds like an assortment of percussion instruments and noisemakers including a bass drum, a tambourine, a gourd and a pounding din.

Update 5 addendum!
(added 16th December 2011)

Pibgorn
Update 5, released only a few days ago, gave us a new instrument to play around with, the pibgorn.

If you thought theorbos and shawms were obscure, well, theys are obscure but they’ve got nothing on pibgorns. I like to think I know a good many obscure and archaic instruments, but even I only found out about the pibgorn earlier this year. I stumbled across it while I was researching obscure woodwinds for the horn section of this very article.
The pibgorn is a Welsh hornpipe, and the word means simple “pipe horn” (leeks, pibgorns, the Dunlending language — someone at Turbine has been reading a lot about Wales). The instrument looks like a wooden flute with cattle horns stuck on either end. The smaller horn is a mouthpiece, you blow into it and it funnels the air through the reed. The larger horn serves as an amplifier.

A real pibgorn  sounds somewhat like a bagpipe with not unpleasant hints of kazoo and harmonica.  As for how the LotRO pibgorn sounds,  lotrostrategery  said it “sounds part synth, part violin, part stepping on cats”. There’s also something screwy with the scale, a few of the notes are not the notes they should be, but I’ve bug reported it and I’m hoping it will be fixed soon.

New Player Hints

Preface
Here are a number of hints, tricks and bits of advice to help the brand new player find his feet. Most of these are specific to Lord of the Rings Online, but I also cover the very basics of grouping in an MMO. Many new LotRO players will probably be familiar with the material under the heading “The Basics of Grouping”, but even so, you may find the rest of this article helpful.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of anything; it is merely a handful of advice which I believe will benefit the newcomer.


Keyboard Shortcuts

Alt
+ F4 is a Windows shortcut which closes the current window. Do not believe anyone who tells you that alt f4 is the command for anything in the game, pressing alt F4 will instantly force-close your game client. Don’t be the poor sod who falls for this one.

The personal torch, however, is activated by pressing alt + F10. It doesn’t work in all areas, but in the places where it does work it is very useful. The personal torch surrounds your character with an aura of light which makes things easier to see. It is only visible to you and not to other players.

F12  will toggle off all of the game’s user interface, which is nice for sightseeing and for taking screenshots. To toggle it back on, simply press F12 again.

F11 will take a screenshot, Screenshots are by default saved to “My Documents” in a folder titled “The Lord of the Rings Online”.

F9
will target the nearest player character other than yourself.

F10
will target the nearest NPC, be it a live monster, a dead monster, a vendor, a quest-giver, a Captain’s banner, a Loremaster’s pet, etc.

Tab or Backspace will target the nearest attackable (that is, living) monster.

U will “use” the targeted item; this can be used to loot corpses, speak with an NPC, pick up quest items, etc.

F1 will target your character as will the backslash key (\).

F2, F3, F4, F5 and F6 will target the other members of your fellowship.

CTRL
+ O opens the options pannel, where any number of settings can be changed.


Gameplay and Settings Hints

Pets can be renamed
Loremasters, Captains and Runekeepers all have pets which can be named. To name your pet, simply target it and type /pet rename Name. The Pet’s name will instantly be changed to Name.
Loremasters, you can also name your pet by right clicking the pet itself or by right clicking it’s vitals (by the way, you might think it’s witty to name your raven Poe or Nevermore, but it really is old hat. Sometimes I feel that if I see one more raven named Poe or Nevermore I will simply scream. If you must name your raven after Poe’s works, try and make it something a tad less pervasive, like Ligeia or Eleanora).
Captains, your herald can be named by right clicking the herald or its vitals; your banner can be named by right clicking it’s “vitals” (really just a white box displaying the banner’s name), the banner will be difficult to select by clicking, so it’s probably best to use F10.
Runekeepers, your Rune of Restoration can be renamed by right clicking its vitals; right clicking the stone itself results in an error message.

Pet names follow the same rules as character names (spaces and characters other than the 26 letters of English alphabet are not supported, profanity isn’t allowed, and names already existing in Tolkien’s novel will be summarily rejected), except that more than one pet in the game can have the same name and that any capitals letters used in the name will be retained. A Raven named BobTheRaven will display as BobTheRaven, but if you try that name for a character it will be reduced to Bobtheraven.

The profanity filter can be disabled
Lord of the Rings online had a built-in profanity filter will automatically changes dirty words to a string of nonsense characters. However, profanity filters aren’t infallible and will filter out words like cockpit; it also filters out milder swear words, such as damn. And then there are the people would rather not be left wondering just what Offensive Bob is saying about their mothers. I believe that most people prefer not to have a profanity filter in place, but turbine has the filter toggled on as a default (better safe than sorry, right?).
So to turn it off. In the options panel find the button marked “Chat”, one of the toggles here is labelled “Profanity filter enabled”. Uncheck this box and viola, no more random nonsense characters.
Remember that the profanity filter only filters incoming chat, not outgoing. If you have it toggled on and type the word “cockpit”, other players who have it turned off will indeed see what you typed. Also, toggling the filter off does not exempt you from the TOS. If you’re being offensive you can get yourself banned, filter or no.

All skirmishes and some classic instances can be scaled to different levels
When you open the instance join panel and select an instance, you will see several lines of information at the top of the panel. One of these is level. The instance will default to your level, but you can select the number and type whatever level you please, as long as it’s within the listed level range for that instance. If you are in a group and wish to run an instance at a different level than your own, there is no need to hand leadership to another player of a different level, simply type a different number in the box.


The Basics of Grouping

A fellowship in LotRO is composed of six people, not five.
If you are running content marked as “Fellowship”, this means that it was designed for six players. I suppose other games have five-player groups and many people have gotten it into their heads that “group = 5”, but in LotRO, if you have five and you’re about to start a quest, you need a sixth.
That said, “small fellowship” means three players. if you set a skirmish as small fellowship, you will not be able to bring a fourth person into it.

Healers
are important; they heal you so you stay alive. Almost without exception, every single fellowship quest will require that one of the number be a healer. Minstrels are healers, as are Runekeepers (Runekeepers can either heal or deal damage, but not both at once; make sure your Runekeeper is aware of what he should be doing). Captains and Loremasters both have some small healing skills, but neither are actually healers and should not be called names for being bad at healing if the group failed to bring a healer.

Tanks are as important as healers. “Tanking” means making the monsters hit you instead of the rest of the group. Guardians and Wardens are tanks, some Champions can also tank (but always ask your Champion if he’s comfortable tanking). The tank holds aggro so that the others in the group are free to do their jobs. A group with no tank will have monsters running wild and hitting whoever, and this is a recipe for unhappy players and a failed quest.

Aggro is a bit difficult to define, and it can be a verb or noun. I’ll explain it by example.
Enkidu here is a Guardian, so he has skills which encourage or force monsters to hit him; we call these “aggro skills”. If a monster is targeting Enkidu, we say that Enkidu “has aggro”. When monsters continue to target and hit Enkidu instead of running off to kill the healer, we say that Enkidu is “keeping (or holding) aggro”. If Hunter Gilgamesh deals a great deal of damage before Enkidu gets a chance to walk up to the monsters, the monsters might hit Gilgamesh and give Enkidu a hell of a time “pulling aggro” off of Gilgamesh; in this case we could say that Gilgamesh has more aggro than Enkidu.
As for its use as a verb, monsters are said to aggro when they run to someone and begin attacking, and players are said to aggro monsters when they cause them to attack.
P.S. Please don’t be Gilgamesh. Let the tank aggro the monsters first.

Minstrel 102

Note:
Minstrels were changed extensively with the Isengard update in Fall 2011. This post is now obsolete, and remains here for posterity’s sake.

 

This article is in response to Turbine’s Minstrel 101: New Player Class Guide.
Turbine has been coming out with these 101’s lately, and they’re supposed to be helpful tips and pointers for absolutely brand new players who’re bumbling their ways through the first ten levels. Up until now, that is what they have been. The guardian guide has said “this is what aggro is”, the hunter guide has said “trap things so you can shoot them more” and the champion guide has said “AOE is your friend”. Minstrel 101, however, is a little different. Minstrel 101 says “Warspeech is great!”

Now, Warspeech is great, don’t get me wrong. I love Warspeech, and soloing would be terribly boring without it. But telling brand new players to just toggle on warspeech the moment they hit level ten, and then saying “Make sure to re-toggle War-speech when logging back into LOTRO or after reviving!” just sits wrong with me. Minstrels are healers, that is their primary purpose in life. Warspeech cuts your heals in half. When you’re soloing it’s great to be able to kill stuff that much faster and not have to heal yourself, but if you try to group with Warspeech turned on, people will laugh at your shoddy healing as they scream and die.
As a general practice, drop Warspeech when you join a group.

If you’re soloing and things get tight, go ahead and drop Warspeech as a last-ditch measure to stay alive. The 50% reduction in heals lasts for ten seconds after you drop Warspeech, but if you time things right you can drop it, DPS for another ten seconds and then heal yourself and not have to die.
At level 12 you’ll get another skill, Cry of the Valar, which sends enemies running away from you for 15 seconds. Once you have Cry of the Valar, you can use it to chase something off, drop Warspeech, wait out the ten seconds, heal yourself full up and wait for the monster to come back to you and meet its death.

Many of your damaging skills (Piercing Cry and your Ballads) can be used while you move, so you can also try running around in circles and damaging a monster while it chases after you trying to get a hit in edgewise. This is known as kiting, and is something minstrels should be familiar with.

At root, Minstrels are healers. Warspeech is a wonderful skill which makes their lives easier, but minstrels should never forget that they are healers.

And that concludes Minstrel 102.

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