Our regular Monday night group in Lord of the Rings Online, spearheaded by Messrs Van Hemlock and Shute, tackled the tenth book from volume one of the game’s epic storyline content. It was, as usual, an enjoyable evening, but this was due exclusively to the company of the fellows present, and certainly couldn’t be attributed to the game content that we were playing through.
Book Ten suffers from Yet Another Wandering Narrative Safari – a condition not uncommon in MMO design and certainly not exclusive to LotRO – it is categorised by large amounts of exposition with little-to-no action or adventure until the very end, and possibly occurs because the content designer spent the night before overdosing on re-runs of the X-Files. YAWNS is easily identified, but for those who may yet be unsure, I will outline a typical example for you now.
For an entirely accurate representation, the following should be played at twice normal speed to the tune of Yackety Sax, preferably with the PCs running line astern while flailing their arms in the air above their heads, although freedom is given to allow the PCs to be on separate parts of the quest at any one time and therefore have them running in opposite directions and occasionally bumping in to one another and falling on their bottoms, before getting up and continuing on their way.
- You are presented with a wall of text from Colin your current quest NPC that essentially translates to “Go and speak to Bob”.
- Bob is either standing next to Colin, within the same building or possibly in the general area.
- When you speak to Bob he gives you a two line answer and sends you back to Colin.
- Returning to Colin he then asks you to go and speak to Neville, who is half a continent away in a location with no convenient travel routes and which requires a fellowship of players to negotiate.
- Upon finally reaching Neville you are asked to perform a mundane chore including, but not limited to, collecting local flora, killing local fauna, examining inanimate objects in hard to reach heavily guarded places, or grovelling on the floor at his feet until he sickens of your pathetic spineless nature. Bitch.
- Neville sends you back to Bob, who tells you that he doesn’t give a toss, go and speak to Colin.
- Colin tells you to tell Harold (who is standing next to Neville) to tell Bob to get over himself.
- Upon finally reaching Harold he tells you to tell Neville that Colin is bossing him around.
- Neville waits for you to grovel on the floor a bit before telling you to tell Colin that if he wants to tell Bob something, then he should jolly well get off his lazy arse and get a bunch of pathetic loser PCs to do it for him.
- Neville swings a kick at your rear as you leave.
- Colin concedes that he probably should have got you to tell Bob in the first place. He asks you to tell Bob to get over himself, to tell Harold that he’s sorry and to tell Neville that he loves him.
- Bob cries at the harsh reprimand and can only be consoled by you killing fifty boars.
- Harold is delighted by Colin’s apology and rewards you with one piece of tattered goblin wang, a barter item that can be traded for amazing gear. Unfortunately you are required to trade fifty pieces of tattered goblin wang to get one solid goblin wang, and you need ten solid goblin wangs to get the “I ran repeatable daily quests for three months and all I got was this lousy goblin wang t-shirt” t-shirt.
- Neville looks with deep concern at the message Colin asked you to bring, then spits on it and slowly wipes it over your face before giving you a wedgie and sending you back to Colin.
- Returning to Colin he is excited to inform you that your quest is nearly at an end, all you need to do now is go and speak to Geoff who needs to go the Castle of Death and Blood and be protected while he wanders around aimlessly for a bit.
- Geoff doesn’t know who the hell you people are, and isn’t going to trust a bunch of strangers to escort him around the Castle of Death and Blood until they prove themselves to him.
- After killing fifty boars you return to Geoff who grudgingly agrees to go, but first he needs his sword and shield and he can’t remember where he left them, you are to ask his wife where she put them as she’s always moving his stuff around.
- When you get to the location where Geoff’s wife is supposed to be there’s a note pinned to the door which reads “Geoff, have eloped with Neville to Far Far Away Land, am not coming back. Your dinner is on the fire.”
- You return to Geoff who is, understandably, inconsolable. You tell him that you really need his help, and he sobs that actually there is something you can do to make him feel better.
- After killing fifty boars you return to Geoff who snuffles that he is feeling a bit better and that – good news! – he has remembered where he left his sword and shield!
- You speak to Colin and ask him for the key to the room that has the chest that contains the key to Geoff’s room that has a chest containing a key to the vault in the crypt that has his sword and shield in.
- Colin says that he did have the key but he can’t find it, but he’s fairly sure that Neville will know where it is…