Shamus Plays

Shamus Plays: LOTRO, Part 7

Shamus Young | 3 Mar 2010 21:00
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We're drifting pretty far from my mission. Wasn't there something about "needing lumber"? I remember being told that this was the place to go to "help the people of Archet rebuild." Where did this all go wrong?

Perversely, old man Pickthorn hid his ill-gotten gains under the tree from which he was hung. I have no idea how he accomplished this, although I give him full points for audacity. When they put him up to swing, he died just a few feet over the riches for which he was being put to death.

Ted gives me the directions, a pick-axe, and sends me on my way. He lets me know that if I recover his family fortune, he'll kick a whole 90 coppers my way. I don't actually know why he gave me a pick-axe. Don't you dig holes with shovels? Moreover, why is he having a stranger go and dig up treasure that's just over the hill from his house?

But the plot thins:

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The hangin' tree has been chopped down. Remember that the logging camp is chopping down trees like a legion of dire beavers because they're trying to get enough wood to rebuild the town of Archet. This place has been clear-cut.

There's no way to know where the treasure might be. The hanging tree was marked with an 'X', and that part of the tree is gone. I dig around a few of them, and manage to come up empty. Oh, and I'm attacked by a bear in the process.

Just for the record, I want to say that digging holes under trees with a pick axe is a tough job even when bears aren't trying to eat you. As a result, I have a lousy afternoon.

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I return to Ted and give him the bad news, "I can't find your father's stash of stolen loot, so it might be time to consider looking for honest employment."

Now, if I was in Ted's shoes and I stupidly told an armed stranger where my family fortune was, and if they had reason to be mad at me - like maybe they just did some hard labor and got mauled by a wild animal - and if I was paying them some really insultingly small sum for their trouble, then I might suffer some small, nagging doubts when they told me the treasure wasn't there.

Ted has no such doubts. Instead he sends me to see Mason Thorne, who is in charge of the logging camp. Ted thinks that maybe Mason... keeps a record of the trees he cuts down?

Why would anyone record the appearance of the trees they chop? Are they worried they might want to put them back up again at a later time?

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The only thing more absurd than Ted's suggestion is the fact that he's right. Thorne actually does keep a tree-chopping diary. Unsurprisingly, he no longer has it. Mason Thorn keeps a journal of cut trees, but he lost it when he was run off by brigands. He suggests I track down a brigand leader and recover the journal.

Yes, I'm sure a hot item like a book titled, "A Painstakingly Detailed Account of All the Trees I've Ever Cut Down, By Mason Thorn" would naturally end up in the hands of a chief. Why, he'd have to keep it for himself just to keep his men from killing each other over it!

This quest is what they call, "Attempted murder of your character by the game designers". It's supposedly a level 8 quest. But to get the logbook you have to assault a Brigand leader, who is grouped with other guys. Here is the camp you have to knock over:

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I was level ten here. If I was level 8 - which is supposedly the level of this quest - I'd be looking at a group with two same-level guys and two guys that have a couple of levels on me. And all four of them are linked, so you can't pick them off one at a time without playing a dangerous game of hit-and-run. Also, some of the mooks hide on the other side of the hill and pop up after you attack, increasing the chances that you'll start a fight you can't finish. Add in the fact that there's a wandering level 10 elite in the area, and you are very likely to die hilariously in the service of Ted Pickthorn.

There's another quest like this in the Shire, where killing a single Dwarf on the edge of the Dwarf camp is a level 10 quest, but assaulting the entire camp and killing everyone in it is supposedly a level 8 quest. Not a "group" quest, just a regular level 8 quest.

I don't mind a challenging mission, but the game needs to signal to the player "this one is a handful." It sucks getting pancaked by something under your level. It sucks hiking out into the wilderness to find something that's just too dang hard for you.

I think it's a really good policy to have a tough mission in there once in a while for advanced or daring players, as long as you get a little extra reward for the extra effort and risk. But this mission gives out the same 90 coppers you get for most other quests. At the end, Ted gets "several" gold coins as part of his dad's treasure. Just one gold coin is worth 100,000 coppers. So he gets (say) 500,000 coppers, and you get... 90. Yeah. F#@% you too, Ted.

And the same goes for you, quest log.

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