Where do consequences lead? Depends on the escort.

There was I in LotRO, hero of the North Downs, Orc Hewer, Known to the Men (and women; thanks Stan) of Bree, Hunter of Dark Beasts, Protector of the Free People, Foe of Night, Ally of Rivendell, Troll Slayer, and all manner of other titles. So many titles. They’re a bit like war medals I suppose, you point to one and proudly state ‘I got this for defeating undead in Haudh Iarchith, you know’ and the random stranger at which you’ve shouted, nods with a strained smile and slowly backs away. They’re generally congratulatory badges for being on the winning side of one particular genocide or another.

“Mr Warden, you have killed one MILLION orcs. Well done you. We hereby bestow on you a new title! You may now be known as Mr Warden, He Really Doesn’t Like Them Orcs Much Does He?”
“Uh, thanks.”
“Well, it’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it? Couldn’t I be called Orcslayer? Or Greenbane, or something?”
“You don’t like your new title?”
“Well, it’s just that…”
“No, no. That’s fine.”
“I mean, I…
“No, really. It’s fine. We’ll come up with a different title for you, seeing as this one clearly isn’t good enough for someone as special as you.”
“Oh really, I was just trying to…”
“Never mind, I can see you have your arms crossed now.”

[Later, back at an orc camp]

“Mother, when is father coming home?”
“I’m sorry Anthony, father won’t be coming back.”
“You mean…?!”
“Yes dearest, I’m afraid he was killed recently by that greatest foe of our people, slaughterer of a million orcs, the one the humans call ‘Whinypants’.”
“I will avenge my father!”
“Of course you will dear.”
“You really think so? I thought you’d be all ‘Oh no, don’t leave me, Anthony! I can’t bear to lose you too!”
“Well, you’re a young only child whose father has been killed be a notorious genocidal maniac. Clearly you’re a hero in the making. Just bring me back something nice when you’ve finished laying waste to your foes, okay dear?”

[Later, at the home of a strange wizened old orc]

“Very well young one, I will train you.”
[Fist-pumps the air] “Yesss!”
“Let us begin. First, I need you to paint this fence.”
“What?! Paint a fence? What sort of… ohhh! Ah. Ah ha ha, wait, I see! This is like some sort of mysterious training ritual right? Where I paint a fence and do a bunch of other menial chores and I’m all like ‘WTF gramps?’ but it turns out to have been secretly teaching me the ancient fighting art all along, which I then use to destroy my sworn enemies! Right?’
“Don’t be daft, I’m just an old orc and I want you to paint my fence.”
“And when you’re done there, wax my horse will you?”
“Well what do I get out of it?!”
“A thick ear if you don’t get on with it. Oh very well, I’ll give you a gold piece. IF you do a good job; that means I want to be able to see my face in the horse’s arse.”
“If you want to see into a horse’s arse just look in the mirror.”
“What was that?!”

Actually, that’s probably more of an accurate analogy for titles isn’t it? It’s a bit like bob-a-job week for Scouts, where you do a bunch of random menial tasks for complete strangers for money. In the rest of the world it’s called slavery, but in the UK Scout Association it was called Character Building[TM]. Of course the reality of it was that once a year you’d have a bunch of kids knocking on doors, risking abduction, only to be a) Told to bugger off, b) Given a pound coin in order to get them to bugger off, or c) Worked harder than a lone prostitute on a prison ship, given a pound coin, and then told to bugger off. Which is why you always find those grizzled eight year olds sitting around camp fires at jamborees, pointing to badges on their jumpers and saying ‘Got this one back in ’97 after washing the corns of a hundred and fifty old ladies at the local nursing home’ while wide-eyed newcomers stare with awe and admiration, and other veterans whistle through their teeth, or sit quietly hugging themselves with tears gently welling along the bottoms of their eyes.

So, being the Bob-a-job King of Middle Earth, it shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise that when I rolled-up to the dwarf encampment in Moria the first job I was given was to escort an old lady across a road. Or an old dwarf through a treacherous mine full of danger and death, same difference. Oh how I’ve loved escort quests in MMOs in the past (and I use ‘love’ in its sarcastic pejorative participle), and escort quests in LotRO are no exception. We all know how escort quests work: you speak to an NPC and then they run off and try their damnedest to get themselves killed while you try to keep them alive, with the judges awarding bonus points if the NPC manages to take you down with them. The dwarves of Moria seem particularly keen on this sport, and despite being doughty warriors and fearless explorers, they always seem to be getting themselves into situations that require you to escort them to safety. Personally I think they’re faking it; I think it’s a game they play amongst themselves because they’re bored, and if you check closely you’ll see they have Scout badges displaying columns of crossed-through lines for the number of heroes they’ve killed this way.

“Oooo. Ooooooooo. Help me Adventurer! I’ve… uh… I’ve sprained my beard and can’t get away from this…. [looks around] large… [looks around some more] small… mushroom, here. Ooooo, I think you’ll have to escort me out of here [sneaks a glance sideways at the adventurer]. I’m sure there will be a reward for safely returning me to my kin.”
“Can’t you just make your way past the… uh…”
“… past the mushroom yourself?”
“I’m afraid I’ve sprained my beard quite badly, I really can’t move without aid. I can barely muster the energy to speak [fake cough] I’m so… w-weak. [sobs unconvincingly]”
“[mumbles] Fine.”
“Okay! Okay. I’ll do it, alright? I’ll escort yo…”
“HUZZAH! I’M GONNA KILL ME SOME HERO… UH GOBLINS. CHARGE! I’M AN UNSTOPPABLE AGGRO MACHIIIIIiiiinnnnnneee [runs off into the distance at breakneck speed] COME ON WHINYPANTS!”
“[sigh] I’d better get a new title for this.”

I mean, these dwarves attack everything, including the stuff that’s just standing around minding its own business. Poor innocent gredbyg, eating rock, oblivious and uncaring about the world around it, and suddenly BA-CRUNCH! and there’s this crazy dwarf taking a few wild swings at it with his axe before running off to do the same to its mates. For the player it’s like being the designated driver on a pub crawl which includes amongst its members ‘permanently embittered Frank’, who always manages to get his pint spilt and then demands righteous vindication because fifteen pence worth of beer has slopped from his glass onto the floor. So you’re dragging Frank from the bar shouting “Leave ‘im Frank, ‘e’s not wurf it!” while Frank flails about trying to break your grip, and subsequently manages to spill the pints of several other ‘permanently embittered Franks’ from different pub crawl groups, who all start lashing out at random as well. It’s like popping a balloon next to a box full of nervous feral cats.

What’s worse is that, as a Warden, I’d easily grab aggro from the crazy dwarf and keep myself self-healed, so he’d get bored at this and bugger off up the road to see if he could find a troll and spill its pint. And as we carried on in this fashion, I began to worry that he was going to chain-aggro his way right back to Thorin’s Hall, only stopping when he mistakenly thocked Dwalin on the nose. It got to the point where he was attacking stuff that didn’t even have a pulse, as long as it represented some way of getting me killed he was determined to fight it, or die trying, hopefully taking me with him. “An unstable rock fall?! Attaaaack!”, which was when I ended up trying to force him not to attack “No, you don’t need to attack the cave lichen. Jus… just… no… just… look… stop it… stop… it… STOP!”, and that was when I slipped and accidentally stabbed him through the neck.

Thankfully there were no witnesses because we’d killed everything in a seven hundred mile radius, so I gradually back-heeled his corpse under a nearby outcrop of rock while whistling innocently, tip-toeing and craning my neck to look up and down the path every now and again to make sure no one was coming.

I slowly made my way back to the dwarf camp, having to take a few detours to avoid several desperate dwarves who pleaded to be taken to safety after becoming stranded with devastating fractured toenails, crippling severed eyebrow tendons, or catastrophic girdle failures. When I arrived I put on my best ‘I’m so sorry, he didn’t make it’ face, but imagine my surprise when I entered the office to find myself staring at none other than the King of the Aggronauts himself, with a bandage around his neck and a look that could fry bacon at fifty paces. I exclaimed how glad I was to see that he had made it back safely, and asked whether I could have my reward now. However, I got the distinct impression that the mood had turned sour, so decided to quickly vacate the room full of angry dwarves that like nothing better than to incessantly pick fights with anything that can be vaguely considered to be a carbon-based life form.

I never did get paid, but I did get a new title. You can call me Mr Warden, Hated By Escort NPCs. Best title ever.

5 thoughts on “Where do consequences lead? Depends on the escort.

  1. darkeye

    It’s not as if Turbine can’t make decent NPCs to tag along with the player, like Orchalwe in Annuminas (who can pretty much save the player from death with huge heals), or even the dwarves in the Moria skirmishes are quite able to deal decent damage, heal the player and they don’t break mezzes either (it seems these NPCs have the same AI as the skirmish soldier). I just wish that they’d be consistent about it and give the skirmish soldier AI to all of them, because you never can guess how useless the NPC will be.

    To be honest the dwarves in Moria are nothing like I’d imagine from reading the books, they are all a bit useless really, loitering about or getting into trouble, most of them aren’t even wearing armour (the dwarf guard in the Balin’s tomb session play is more like it, maybe warhammer dwarves are colouring my perception). They should have used escort quests as a way to show the strength of dwarves, but with the way the quests are you can’t take them seriously, no wonder the iron garrison fails.

  2. Helistar

    Ah yes, I think I know which quest you’re referring to. Well, there are many but they are so similar that even if I’m wrong, I’m not wrong by much.

    Anyway, I did it some time ago on my hunter, together with a RK friend and we just obliterated everything on the path of the NPC. And also not on the path of the NPC, you never know. Went just fine.

    Then I did it recently on my warden, but I made the mistake of FOLLOWING, which means that when the idiot pulled 4 mobs (+ pets) at one time, I didn’t have enough time to aggro them all before he died. I also had to run away (note to self: starting moria at level 48, with level 42 crafted stuff is not a good idea). I went back one level later, and this time I was careful to pull ahead and aggro first. I pulled everything in sight, just in case. It’s fun how wardens can survive mob groups, since the self-healing scales with the number of mobs. Actually, it’s not really the healing which scales up, but the life drain…. for all their skills “Powerful Strike”, “Killing Slash” “Really long gambit which does massive damage”, all you need to lay waste to a pack of mobs is “Restoration”…..

  3. Jonathan B

    This is absolutely hilarious. I am only up to level 32 on my highest character, as I have mentioned before, so the dwarves are yet ahead in my future. I think my ‘favorite’ quest so far is a toss-up between Lalia in the barrow downs (I’m going to randomly decide to stop cringing mid-fight and run ahead and aggro those other wights while you’re still fighting these, okay? It’s boring cringing here.) or escorting the Hobbit past all those endless neeker-beekers into the bandit cave to see if the bandits are all wiped out. I hate neeker-beekers. They take forever to kill unless you out-level them, and keep popping up in twos and threes and smacking you around while you try to keep their attention off the Hobbit.

  4. Capn John

    Lalia: “Oh, a brave hero! Please sir, help me get back to Bree. Oh, but first *malicious giggle* I need to find my cloak. Father will be simply furious if I come back without it. Better that I should stay here and be eaten by wights than return without my cloak.”

    Brave Hero: “In that case, you’ll need this.”

    Lalia: “A bottle of perfume?”

    Brave Hero: “Actually, it’s a marinade. Secret family recipe. Bye!”

    Escorting a turtle all the way across Tanaris or saving a robot chicken from gorillas & yetis was a walk in the park compared to keeping Lalia from being eaten by wights.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    @darkeye: I think I’d be happy with the Skirmish AI if it weren’t for the fact that my soldier stops pathing every time it has to go around a tiny object “Ohh, help, I’m stuck trying to get around this ant hill, come back and help me or I’ll despawn!”

    @Helistar: Going ahead of the NPC is fine until you meet the sort who won’t bother to stop and fight anything that you engaged in combat first. It’s like they only want to start a fight, but can’t be bothered to finish it.

    @Jonathan B, Capn John:

    “You’ve been running and hiding much too long
    You know it’s just your foolish pride

    You’ve got me on my knees, Lalia.
    Begging darling please, Lalia.
    Darling, won’t you ease my worried mind?

    Of course Clapton was advised to re-write it to be more comercial, but that was the little known original version.

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