Part One: Character Creation
“I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though, I do not know the way.” -Frodo Baggins
Yeah. Deciding to play an Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG, or MMO) can feel that daunting. Trust me, I know. Before I started playing LOTRO, I’d never played a single MMO. But, fear not! It’s not as great a burden as you might think. Most of all, MMOs are supposed to be fun. That’s why you’re giving over your precious time (and often your money) to this endeavor, right?
Most potential Lord of the Rings Online players come to the game because they have a great love of Middle-Earth. Whether this was discovered through Peter Jackson’s films or J.R.R. Tolkien’s books does not matter. LOTRO is something that can be enjoyed by anyone who has even a basic understanding of Middle-Earth. It’s a big virtual world out there, but the game starts small.
Once you’ve downloaded the game from Turbine you’ll need to set up an account. This is an easy process and Turbine does a great job of guiding you through step-by-step. Now you’ll get logged in and select a server. A few servers have reputations or were designed with specific things in mind. Landroval focuses very much on playing and character interaction, for example. Imladris and Vilya were added for new players when LOTRO went free to play. I ended up on Imladris for this reason and if you’re concerned about which server to choose, take a look at the official LOTRO site or the LOTRO wiki. So, you’ve got your server and you’re ready to go.
Now, if you’ve ever had even peripheral experience with MMOs before, you’ve undoubtedly heard terms like “DPS” or “Tank” when people have talked about their own characters in almost any game. Put these terms out of your head completely. Do not worry about making a “good” or “effective” character. Make something you’re going to have fun with. Even the most effective character is worthless if you’re not having fun. Your character will become more effective as you play them and grow more comfortable with the game. I promise.
You’ve got two considerations when deciding to make a character in LOTRO: Race and Class. Now Turbine did a fantastic job designing both aspects of the character, though I am particularly impressed with the appearance of the races. Not only do you get to play a Dwarf, Elf, Man or Hobbit – but you can have a character who is from different parts of the world. Want to be a Dwarf from the Lonely Mountain? Done! A Man of Gondor? Go for it! Perhaps you’d rather be a Shield Maiden of Rohan? No problem!
The point is, that the designers of the game have gone out of their way to make sure that when you’re making a character, that character really has a sense of existing in Middle-Earth long before you ever set foot in the game.
Next, choose your class. Each class has a collection of unique abilities and powers that make them very distinct. Read the class descriptions in the sidebar, and see what feels right to you. Especially helpful is the last part of each class description is examples of these classes within the setting (Examples include Samwise as a Guardian and Elrond as a Lore-Master). If you’re concerned about how complicated a class is, note that each class lists a difficulty. Go with something of Average or Moderate difficulty if you’re intimidated, but don’t be afraid to dive right into an “Advanced” class, if you’re feeling froggy.
Now, you’ll notice as you’re doing this that each race has racial descriptions on the side that talk about modifiers to various statistics. (Hobbits have “Resist Corruption”, Elves have “Sorrow of the First Born”, for example.) These things will mention such confusing terms as ‘Shadow Midigation’ and ‘Reduced Morale’, etc. Again, don’t feel daunted or confused. Just continue making your character the way you want to. The racial traits you receive can have an impact on your character at low levels, but pretty soon they don’t particularly matter.
OK, so you’ve got your race and you’ve got your class. Now you get to play with the cosmetic aspect of the game. Deciding where your character is from has an effect on this, determining the limits regarding hair an eye color, as well as skin tone. Also, keep in mind the cultural differences. A Man from Bree is going to have a different outlook than one from Gondor, after all. Take your time here. Once you’ve set your character’s features they’re permanent for the most part. You can change your hair at various barbers through out the game, but other than that once you’ve made your choice, you’re going to keep it.
Finally, decide on a name. There are naming ideas listed on the left hand side of the character creation and they’re good. Don’t feel bound by them, but instead look at them as inspiration. With that said, you don’t want to be playing “FatHobbit4” the Minstrel. It’s also important to note that the game itself does have a name reviewer that will not allow profane names or names of canonical characters. (Sorry, would-be Hobbit Burglars, you are not Bilbo).
So, now you’re ready to take that plunge and click the shiny “Enter Middle-Earth” button. We’ll make that leap together in Part Two.