Recently I’ve been doing a spot of farming: chewing on a stalk of barley, tending my fields, singing songs about combine harvesters, applying for subsidies and enforcing outdated stereotypes. And in Lord of the Rings Online, ah! I confounded your expectations, and from thence… oh, never mind. I rolled up a Dwarven Runekeeper for Hobbington Crescent: The Next Generation and was considering being a Tinker to make jewellery, but every time our little group ran past a shattered pitcher, unable to plunder its scholarly contents, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say I was gripped by profound sense of melancholic loss over what might have been. Actually that’s a massive overstatement, but it seemed a bit of a shame that nobody in the party was collecting them so I forswore Tinkering and signed up to be a Historian instead.

Of course when running around solo now I’ve never seen a shattered pitcher, but can’t go three steps without falling over a vein of tin or copper that I can no longer mine, and the other queue always moves faster in the auction house, and toast always lands butter side down, but never mind.

As a Historian, in addition to being a Scholar able to piece together fragments of aged texts and relics to produce potions (“here, drink this solution of old pot with some paper in it!”) the Runekeeper is also a Weaponsmith (sometimes, after reading a load of old books, you just have to hammer out a bit of metal into a sword) and a Farmer (presumably from the archaeological aspects of being a Scholar; after digging out a trench, if you don’t find any old artefacts you might as well plant a few parsnips). I wasn’t really planning to use the other professions, but the paltry collection of scraps and fragments found while adventuring only made a small dent on the Scholar-o-meter, and obtaining more via Combat Archaeology was proving tricky. I’d head off to some old ruins and usually find one or two other ever-so-slightly-too-high-level adventurers wandering around, looking very casual, pretending they weren’t staring at their mini-maps…

“Morning”
“Morning”
“Morning”
“Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Isn’t it, though?”
“Isn’t it?”
“Up to anything much?”
“Oh, you know, just wandering around, taking the air, enjoying the scenery”
“Really? Me too. You know, walking and this and that.”

And then there’s a flash of blue arrow on the mini-map as a vase spawns, and an unseemly scramble as the three characters all hurtle towards it, but the first one there turns out to be a bit too keen as five goblins all jump on him, and the other two snigger as he runs off trying to fight them, both frantically clicking on the vase, the quickest swipes the contents and does the I Got Two Scraps Of Text And A Worn Fragment victory dance while the other one swears vigorously, then the first adventurer runs back past them trailed by five goblins plus a couple of others on patrol who got in on the fun, swearing even more vigorously…

At some point I’d found a recipe for Pea-Green Wall Paint (Scholars being well known for dabbling in interior design between research projects), the key ingredient of which is Lily-of-the-Valley leaf, so I decided to try a spot of Farming as a more reliable method of generating Scholarly resources. Farming is a fairly straightforward process: learn the appropriate recipes, find a suitable field, buy some seeds, fertilizer and water, plant the seeds (by clicking a button and waiting for a progress bar to fill), harvest the crop (by clicking a button and waiting for a progress bar to fill), and you end up with Poor crops that can be turned back into seeds (by clicking a button and waiting for a progress bar to fill) and/or Fair crops that can be turned into the desired vegetable/flower/pipeweed (by putting on a hat and performing a one-man production of Beckett’s Catastrophe in the original French) (sorry, no, I was thinking of something else; you click a button and wait for a progress bar to fill). There’s also a small chance of finding a rare bonus item like Allspice to help with cookery.

It’s a curious thing; on the one hand it represents the worst of MMOGs, the “barely even a game” aspects, Farmvillian clicking, mindless making-bars-go-up for the sake of it that I’ve probably railed against in podcasts or posts. On the other hand, it’s one of the attractions of MMOGs; not necessarily the activity itself but that the option is there, that you can take time between heroic adventures to plant and harvest crops, that working farms are a part of the game alongside rats and magic and dungeons and boars and hats. Option is the key word, it would naturally be seven shades of arse if you wanted to band together with a group of bold warriors and set about evil only to be forced to first plant crops for half an hour. If you’re not really in the mood for more engaging action, though, you can farm away while watching television, chatting on the phone, listening to a podcast or something, it’s quite relaxing. Course you could always just watch television, chat on the phone or listen to a podcast without farming pretend crops instead, but then you wouldn’t end up with a load of really good pipeweed and the ingredients of Pea Green Paint.

Speaking of the paint, there’s a small chance when harvesting a field of Lily-of-the-Valley that as well as the crop of (almost completely useless) flowers you’ll get a leaf you can make paint from. A very small chance. In the hour or so it took to master Journeyman Farming, I found… one leaf. Not a fantastic rate of return, even compared to racing other Scholars to shattered pitchers around the world. On the plus side, achieving mastery in the first tier of Farming meant I could use some deluxe soil while planting the fields for a 100% critical success chance, dramatically increasing the chances of getting those elusive leaves, so I fairly quickly got another four or five, but I was pretty much farmed out at that point.

Relaxing as the farming process is, I think Middle Earth is ready for mechanisation. I have this great idea, it just needs an old cart, a steam boiler and a large set of rotating blades…

Posted by Zoso at 4:25 pm