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Hey, Happy 3rd anniversary to Lord of the Rings Online. There’s a bash going on in-game, although I won’t be covering it here in this series. As a rule, I avoid seasonal / holiday quests in my series like this one. There’s usually a few weeks of delay between my playing and your reading, so by the time it got to you the event would most likely be over. Worse, I don’t want to have to worry about having the event ending and the quest givers all vanishing when I’m halfway through writing about it.

Anyway, happy 3rd to LotRO and a round of applause for the developers at Turbine. I know I make fun of the game here, but they’ve got a robust game with a healthy and friendly userbase. They’re a talented bunch, even if they do have some disturbing anti-bear aggression issues they need to work out.

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Otho Broadbelt has a spider problem. He was delivering a cart of mushrooms when his cart was suddenly “boiling over with spiders” from out of his bags. He figures he must have accidentally picked up some spider eggs along with the mushrooms. He ran away from the cart, leaving his goods behind. He wants me to recover them.

He warns me that there are likely spiders all over the place, and that I should be careful.

Clearly I should not take this job. He’s even warning me up front that I’m going to have to fight a lot of spiders. The last guy promised one bear and I got twenty. If I do this I’ll probably find the cart is guarded by infinity spiders.

But! The cart itself is on the way to the next town. It wont hurt to just look for it on the way. Off I go.

There are Goblins prowling around the woods here. I avoided them earlier today when I was murdering bears, but as I cut through the woods I run into one that is sort of in my way. He’s just a bit too close to the cart and I don’t want him jumping me when the spiders start pouring out of the woodwork. I stride over and poke holes in him until he stops being a problem.

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After that, I head the rest of the way down the hill and arrive at Otho’s cart. I don’t see any spiders.

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I have some pies here that are invigorating and can give you extra energy and courage to get through a fight. I scarf one down before I get any closer. Finally I take a deep breath and take a few steps towards the cart.

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I brace myself for the spider ambush, but no ambush is forthcoming. Hm. Maybe they won’t attack until I get next to it. This is going to be bad.

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I have a few potions in my pack to help me resist injury and poison. I down a couple of those and take a few more steps forward.

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Still nothing? They must be waiting for me to grab the bag. Okay, I can do this. Gathering my courage, I draw my sword and aim it in the general direction of the woods. I set my other hand on the bag. Nothing happens. I close the hand. I wait a few seconds. Still no spiders. I glance upward. Maybe they’re in the treetops, lowering themselves onto my head while I scan the woods in vain? No? Okay then. I gently tug on the bag. Then I grab it and sprint away.

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Hmph. I’m actually kind of disappointed now.

I return to Otho.

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He decides that the spiders have escaped and must be tracked down before they become a danger and spiders overrun the Shire. Now, I’m tempted to point out that there are already spiders throughout the Shire, but Otho is offering to pay me to go and tell the Shirriff about the problem. Which is a pretty good deal.

The nearest Shirriff is in Hobbiton to the South. I’m not crazy about going there since the whole pie debacle, but this should be quick.

I jog southward over the hill into the center of Hobbiton, making sure I avoid Holly Hornblower and her Pie Shop of Suffering and Anguish.

Hm. I don’t see the Shirriff about town. There’s no watch office. The post office maybe? No. I don’t see where…

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Oh.

I find Shirriff Robin Smallburrow bravely protecting the inside of the Ivy Bush Inn. He’s got a nice little clutch of empty mugs by his side, and he’s working on another while he gossips with the barkeep.

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I get his unsteady attention and explain the problem.

Robin’s glassy eyes slide over in my direction. “Well! Otho is right to be concerned!” He surprises himself with a near-flammable belch before continuing, “I have reports of a spider nest-”

“Wait. You knew about this already?” I ask, looking at the field of empty mugs.

“Oh yes. I have a very reliable report of a quite large spider nest-“

“Are you talking about the giant web city?” I ask. I’m thinking back to when I ran into the huge spider nest a few days ago. “Yeah. I know about that too. I was there getting a barrel of supplies for the bartender at the Green Dragon. Who I assume is the source of your ‘reliable report’? Like, I told him, and he told you?”

“Well, it can’t hurt to double-check,” he says sleepily.

“You’re asking me to go confirm my own eyewitness report!”

“Off you go! Come back after you’ve scouted the place out.”

“Not without someone getting paid I’m not!” I growl.

Robin shakes his head and hiccups, “Oh, nonsense. I can pay my own way, thank you very much.”

The look I’m getting from the barman seems to indicate that this isn’t really true. In any case, it looks like I came all this way so that the Shirriff could tell me to take care of the problem for him. For free.

“Big spiders are probably dangerous! Be careful,” he shouts after me as I leave.

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YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH

So, back up to Overhill. I manage to get jumped by a goblin on the way.

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I return to where I was a few days ago and sure enough, there it is. Just like I said it was. A big old spider nest. I’ll have to remember to congratulate myself later for giving such reliable reports.

I stomp a few spiders but I can’t explore deeper into the nest due to two important factors:

1) There is a huge impassable wall of webbing blocking the way.
2) I am not an idiot.

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So, I have discovered the source of the spiders in the Bindbole wood. Again.

I fill my bug-killing quota and then march all the way back to Hobbiton. I tell Shirriff Smallburrow about the nest we both knew was there, and he actually drops 90 coppers on me.

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“Weeeell,” he says putting down his ale, “That nest has got to go. Go talk to Gammer Boffin about some sort of concoction to get through those webs.”

“Sure thing!” I lie. “I’m going to go there right now and toil away so you can keep drinking.”

“That’s a good lass,” he says, raising his glass to me.

Right. So I’m going to let the whole spider problem go. I feel bad for them eventually being overrun by spiders, but not bad enough to assault a spider nest for 90cp while the Shirriff converts the entire ale supply of Hobbiton into Hobbit piss. I make a note to avoid Overhill in my future travels.

Before I go, I reward the Shirriff with a merry song:

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I see your mugs
and bar-tab go up.
While I fight bugs,
and sometimes throw up.

It must be hard
to watch this town.
Appoint me guard,
and I’d burn it down.

Want my advice?
Get the spider nest!
I found it twice.
You do the rest.

I know you’re sloshed,
But I’ll tell ya honey:
You want bugs squashed?
Cough up more money.

Skip this bit if you don’t actually care about the details of this quest and we can get on with the story. But if not knowing how this quest turns out will haunt you forever, then:

This is an odd quest line. It’s actually a chain of a few quests. After talking to the Shirriff, the next step is to go to the town herbalist and have her whip up some hocus-pocus juju stuff to dissolve the web walls so that you can enter the heart of the spider lair. (Apparently the webs are too tough to cut, and one of the Hobbits points out that burning through would most likely cause a forest fire.) You have to do a little side-quest and kill some stuff to get the ingredients for the magic Web-B-Gone, and then you can – if you’re crazy – assault the nest. I don’t think it’s a group quest, but I remember it being a bit of a challenge to solo at the proper level.

You hack your way through a bunch of spiders and eventually find a walking tree (not an Ent, this looks like a regular tree except that it can uproot and walk as needed) that has been caught in the webs. The real goal of the quest is to free this tree and escort it to safety. It’s not a bad quest, although it feels like it loses the plot in this last step. You ostensibly came here to stop a spider invasion, but you leave after rescuing a tree and the quest line ends. Hmm.

I skulk out of town and head through the woods to the town of Brockenborings.

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It’s a nice town. Hobbits usually build in the sides of hills, but this lot has dug into the face of a cliff. A large windmill groans sleepily from atop a hill overlooking the town. Beside the windmill is a huge statue carved from the remains of a once-immense tree, which depicts a Hobbit gleefully knocking the head off of a Goblin. Beyond the windmill and the statue is a sea of rolling green grass. It’s quite pretty here.

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“Hi! You’re an adventurer, right?” Bodo Goodbody greets me. He’s spotted me looking out over the grasslands and struck up a conversation.

“Sure am!” I say with enthusiastic sarcasm that sails right over his head.

“Wonderful! You see, out on the Greenfields we have this problem and I really need someone to kill ten bear- OW!” He pulls back, rubbing his left ear. “You hit me!”

“Sorry, I thought you said you wanted me to hit you,” I reply.

He frowns, “No. I didn’t say anything that even sounded as such. I asked you to help with a bear- OW!” His ear is ruby red this time. He looks at me furiously. “What did you do that for?”

“You asked me to,” I reply calmly.

“I did not. I only said I wanted help with b-,” he stops himself short as he sees me raise my hand again.

“Help with what?” I prompt him. “You were saying something?”

“No,” he says meekly.

“You sure?” I say helpfully. “You didn’t say you had some sort of ursine problem you wanted me to solve?”

“No! Nothing! Thank you, but I’m fine,” he says rubbing his ear gingerly.

“Good day then,” I say. He flinches as I wave goodbye.

This exchange has earned me a few dirty looks, but it saved me from killing more bears. I’m starting to suspect that all of this ill treatment is leaving me slightly twisted. Maybe? It’s hard to tell.

I head a bit further to the east and find myself in the town of Scary. The two towns are so close that calling them “two towns” seems like a bit of a stretch. If it had been my job to name the places I would have called them, “Brockenborings” and “the part of Brockenbornings that some daft Hobbit built a bit too far from the tavern.”

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As I arrive, I am greeted by Wilcome Tunnelly. “Hullo then! It’s about time you showed up!” Wilcome looks tired and annoyed.

“About time?” I say, cocking my head to one side.

“My aunt Lobeilia sent you along days ago, didn’t she?”

Whoops. I do seem to remember her saying something about going to Scary.

“I apologize for showing up late like this,” I explain, “It was my intention to never show up at all.”

“Oh,” he says, slightly put out.

“Ever.”

“I see.” There is a long awkward pause before he tries again, “Since you’re here, maybe you could have a talk with my sister anyway? She’s got it in her head she’s seen a goblin. A goblin! In the Shire! Can you imagine?”

I consider telling him that I killed a goblin just an hour ago, but if he’s willing to pay me to talk to his own sister, then he deserves to lose some coin. To me.

How about that? We’ve returned to the main quest line. We could have done this seven entries ago, but then we would have missed out on all the… fun?

Next Time: Tall Tales from Short People!

Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.

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