I am the Lord of the Ring said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all to your DOOM, said he.
As Sydney Carter might have composed had he been ruminating on the ominous calling of the Dark Lord of Mordor rather than The One Lord™. Still, I have indeed been ruminating on rings, and the lords of them, mainly impelled by my continued enjoyment of adventuring in the lands of Middle Earth, having returned recently for another look at Lord of the Rings Online, on the recommendation of many people.
I’ll avoid any verbal Karate Kid impersonations by not waxing lyrical on the joys of goblin hewing (wax on), or the simple pleasure there is to be found in hats when there is an outfit option in the character pane which is designed purely for the joy of creating one’s own outfit out of assorted parts, with no need to take heed of item stats (wax off); for certain, LotRO’s customisation is the poor distant cousin twice removed of the City of Heroes character creator, but compared to World of Warcraft its standing on the character customisation social ladder can be considered as that of the Earl of Wessex compared to a small snail on social benefits.
What I’d like to talk about today, and what I am in fact going to talk about today, is my horse. More specifically my lack thereof. Traveling around Middle Earth when one is a fresh eared, wet behind the face adventurer taking their first steps into a wide and wonderfully deadly world is, to be blunt, expensive. And to be not so blunt, it’s hideously expensive, not so much injurious to one’s wallet as a ganking, corpse run, corpse-camped-reganking and tea bagging of it. Painful in ways that is hard to describe or imagine, like being blindfolded and having a loaded mousetrap pressed to a bare nipple, only the mouse trap is switched for a bear trap when you aren’t looking.
Suffice it to say that it’s quite expensive, though I may have exaggerated somewhat.
Where was I? Nipples! No, wait! Horses! Basically LotRO implements your standard ‘jump on to the back of an improbably well-trained animal’, which will then without question and not so much as a ‘giddyup’ carry you along a predefined route that it somehow has been programmed with as though it were a car navigation unit. Thankfully it isn’t actually like a car navigation unit, otherwise far too many adventurers would end up being dropped off at the Black Gate of Mordor when they actually wanted the Prancing Pony in Bree (use the postcode, you fools!). We take these sentient taxi cabs for granted in our fantasy travels, but they really are probably the most marvelous and inexplicable magic there is to be found in any kingdom. Just pray that they never decide to go on strike, or worse work for some malignant power intent on taking over the world
“You know, I don’t remember the trip to Celondim ever running quite so close to the edge of this clif…”
Considering these marvels of the magical age, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise or an issue that it would cost a lot to make use of the service, but it is. LotRO implements a dual travel system, where you can ‘fast travel’ to certain locations for very little money (say one silver) but you are stuck going to that location only, or you can travel in real time for vast amounts more (about fifteen silver) but are able to dismount at any point between where you start and your destination. Essentially you pay through the nipple for the option of being able to get to a destination somewhere along the route post haste. The problem comes from the fact that one rarely wants to jump off mid journey, they actually want to get to the destination itself and would be very happy with the inflexible swift travel option if it meant that they only had to pay one silver to get there.
In the dwarf starting zone (after the tutorial zone) there is a quest that makes my head hurt from the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of the traveling required and which unless your character has won the Gondor Lottery, or has a very rich albeit slightly creepy uncle, who likes to spend too much time brushing your hair but nevertheless gives you lots of pocket money at the weekend, you won’t be able to afford to pay the extortionate travel costs even if you wanted to. Trying to avoid describing the entire ordeal in detail, the quest starts with Bavor in Thorin’s Hall, who needs you to find a number of gears for a mechanism he’s discovered and is trying to repair. The first gear is a short trot away, and little problem to recover. The second gear is a fair old distance away, but there are no towns between Thorin’s Hall and the location that the gear resides, so there’s nothing for it but to stretch the ol’ legs again. There and back again, indeed. The third gear is miles away, and although the town of Gondamon is fairly close, the price to ride from Thorin’s Hall is five silver. If you have five silver to fritter away on travel at the point you’re asked to do this quest, then you’re doing rather well for yourself. Or your hair is really, really well brushed. The fourth gear is further on from Gondamon still. So again you run yourself ragged on your ‘quest’ for it, and then you have to run all the way back (assuming your map of recall is on cooldown) to hand it to Bavor. Bavor then asks you to get the fifth and final gear which, oh yes he just remembered this, is in a small ruins RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE THE FOURTH GEAR WAS.
I never bothered getting the fifth gear because I wasn’t going to be able to recover the first to fourth gears again from where they resided in Bavor’s backside.
It’s difficult to judge where to draw the line with travel in the virtual worlds we wander. In World of Warcraft flight routes are prevalent and although not instantaneous like LotRO’s swift travel, still require no input from the player, and therefore are a perfect opportunity to go and make a nice cup of tea, or play an exciting game of something or other. This means that although travel still takes time in WoW, it’s time that needn’t be endured, and therefore Azeroth quickly becomes a series of compartmentalised theme park zones that one hacks and slashes their way through before jumping on to a trained taxi and moving on to the next zone. LotRO feels more like a coherent concurrent world, but this is at the expensive of having to trudge your way across landscapes that, once you’ve seen them a few times, becomes like driving to work day after day along the same route, and it quickly saps the sense of awe and wonder, instead clobbering you with the branch of antipathy.
As you can imagine, I’m quite keen to get my mount in LotRO, but a mount is still many levels away, and besides, mounts are most certainly the topic for another post.
So for now, I’ll forgo the rather expensive chauffeur service and instead stick to running from place to place. I just wish my dwarf legs weren’t so short; I’m wasted on all this cross country travel, we dwarves are natural sprinters! Very dangerous over short distances.
Admittedly that’s because that’s usually the distance from the bar to the toilet.